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Guide to the Ganga Aarti in India


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Haridwar Ganga Aarti

Ganga aarti at Haridwar.

Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images.

The Haridwar Ganga Aarti is held at Hari-ki-Pauri ghat. The name of this famous ghat literally means "Feet of the Lord". A footprint on a stone wall there is said to belong to Lord Vishnu. In terms of spiritual importance, Hari-ki-Pauri is considered to be equivalent to Dashashwamedh Ghat where the aarti takes place in Varanasi. Legend has it that some nectar (amrit) landed there after falling from a pot carried by the celestial bird Garuda.

The Ganga Aarti at Haridwar is possibly the most interactive of the three Ganga Aartis in India and will have the deepest appeal to pilgrims, particularly those with an Indian background. It has a location of spiritual significance the same as the Varanasi Ganga Aarti but isn't as flamboyant and staged. Yet, it's quite the spiritual circus: people, pandits, babas, idols of various gods, loud speakers, clanging bells, singing, incense, flowers, and flames! All this combines to create a very sensory experience. Some people say that it's too commercial, crowded, and noisy. However, I found it to be one of the most-awe inspiring things I've ever witnessed in India.

How to Attend the Haridwar Ganga Aarti

There are a couple of options for attending the aarti, depending on how you want to see it and what you're prepared to pay. It's possible just to sit on the steps and watch it from a distance, like most people.

However, if you're staying in a decent hotel such as the Haveli Hari Ganga, a guide will most probably be available to take you to the aarti. This way, you'll be able to get in amongst the action and participate in it. You'll be blessed by a pandit, and ushered to the front steps of the ghat, right where the lamps are circled. If you're fortunate, you'll even be able to hold one of the lamps. The evocative chanting coupled with the billowing flames, and the holy water lapping at your feet, makes it particularly moving and unforgettable. You can really immerse yourself in this ancient ritual. It's highly recommended.

Of course, at the end, when the pandits ask for money, it can be a rude shock. They're known to be greedy, and if you're a foreigner they've been known to ask for thousands of rupees. It's definitely not necessary to give this much though. An amount of 501 rupees (for a couple) is more than sufficient, if you're feeling generous. Tip: If you're a woman, do take a scarf to cover your head for religious reasons. Don't worry too much if you don't have one though. You'll be issued with a thread to perform the same function.

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