Saturday, October 20, 2007

Haridwar...

Dear River...


Saffron...


The girl in pink...


Ganga-mayyaa ki jai ho!...


Haridwar. Another place i fleetingly dipped in, in transit. There are so many places like that. That i managed to pause, take a look, before moving on (When you are on a highway, and you see these narrow lefts with jaded signboards announcing obscure names, do you wonder about that place and the people there, and have the urge to take that turn?). And almost all of them have left indelible marks behind. Because of the brevity, maybe. Had a day to kill and i had to choose between Taj Mahal and Haridwar. Laziness and the Delhi-heat helped me settle for Haridwar.

I wanted to take a dip in the Ganges(Har-ki-paudi) and witness the Ganga-aarathi. When i go to a place of prominence for the first time, i always do the things people typically go there for. Explorations of 'beynond the typical' would happen on future trips. So i took a Rickshaw to Har-ki-paudi. I would've normally walked.But walking was all i had done for an entire month. So decided to pamper myself a bit.

I got off at Har-ki-paudi. Saw the Ganges rushing by. Wandered around aimlessly. A 'Sadhu' walked upto me, put a Tilak on my forehead, chanted something in Sanskrit. Then he asked me for money. I smiled at him in response. He had a very serene face. He smiled back and walked on. I regretted not having parted with some money. But i wouldn't have liked it if i had paid him either. So it was alright. Then i decided to take a dip. The water was quite cold. But not unbearably cold. What hit me was the speed, the swiftness of the flow. Was in the waters for a while, letting the Ganges cleanse me(for me, only in the literal sense)...

And then it was time for Ganga-aarathi. Happens twice a day. At 7 am and 7 pm. It was a frenzied affair. I was unprepared for the kindof collective energy being vented out. It was impossible to keep myself from feeling one with the things around me. There was a moment's envy when i saw people whose faith was so nakedly visible. There were uniformed guys hawking wishes from Ganga-Mayya, 100 bucks per wish. There were quite a lot of buyers. There were a couple of firangs capturing Indian mysticism for other firangs. And then there was this little girl in pink, holding a pink and green camera. She was a darling. She befriended me with an array of curious questions. And then she asked the firang about his camera. And for every response of his, she claimed her camera could do that too. I actually felt paternal. Took me by surprise. The actual aarathi was a visual treat. The darkness and the fire. It ended with the entire crowd singing a Bhajan on Ganga-mayyaa in chorus (the tune was that of the Bhajan 'Om Jai Jagadeeshahare', which i love). I got a high.

I sat by the river for some more time. I walked back to my hotel room rather slowly. Original plan was to go to a bar, get a drink and then crash. But i wanted to stay in a totally conscious state. Didn't want the blur of alcohol at that point. So i went to a restaurant instead, ate, spoke to M (who was on vacation in Delhi), and got back to 'English August'...

This experience increased my resolve to see Allahabad's Kumbh Mela atleast once...

5 comments:

Balai said...

Great photos to go with a great travelogue. That photo of the girl with the pink camera is just awesome. These posts of yours have only increased my resolve to take at least a couple of months (a sabbatical would be even better) off to just travel across small towns in India, once I get done with my studies.

Parth said...

Excellent write up and photos. I especially liked the first photo as well. I liked your momentary incident with the sadhu as well. No write answers for a conundrum like that.

frissko said...

Balaji - Thanks...

Parth - Thanks...And the first pic is my favourite as well...

TS said...

Having a blast huh?

Hardwar has a way of washing you clean, with or without the ceremonial 'dupki'.

frissko said...

ts - yeah, good times...and for a water-phile like me, a dupki-less haridwar would be an incomplete haridwar :)...