Ganga Arati – a term synonymous with places like Haridwar, Hrishikesh and Varanasi has in recent years become quite an integral part of us – the people of the city of joy.
Over the years evening prayers have been started at quite a number of Ghats along the Ganges.
But probably the only place in Kolkata where you can perform the Arati and not just witness it is the Chhote Lal Durga Prasad Ghat – almost adjacent to Asia’s largest flower market – the Mullick ghat flower market.
Workers ‘Weaving’ Garlands inside the market
Every Saturday sharp at 6 in the evening, people from near and far come together at the Ganga Seva Samiti to perform this Ganga Manokamna Arati ( Manokamna in Hindi means getting what you sincerely wish for) .
People believe that whoever performs the Ganga Arati continuously and with utmost dedication for 7 consecutive weeks shall have their wishes fulfilled.
Although the Samiti is almost half a century old, this weekly Arati started roughly 4 years back when a group of local business men and residents accompanied by the pahelwans (Mud wrestlers, who practice their art at the Akhara adjacent to the ghat) came together with a simple mission of creating awareness among the masses regarding cleanliness of the Ganges.
They were concerned with the amount of waste that was being dumped in to the Ganges in the name of religion, in the name of development and industrialization.
“Aap aarti karoge kya? “ (you want to perform the Arati ?) enquired an elderly man who was looking over the entire arrangement for the evening.
A bit hesitant, I replied in negative.
With the magnanimous Howrah bridge at the backdrop, the handmade diyas (made of shaal pata) floating beneath it and the reflection of the diyas on the gentle waves is quite a treat to the eyes as it is to the soul. I did not want to miss this opportunity trying to get some good shots.
Post Arati, delicious Prasad – samosa, jalebi, bonde etc is distributed among all the volunteers as well as any guests and to all those unprivileged living on the ghat itself.
Quite a novel gesture.
As I prepared to head home I wondered what’s next … !!
So going ahead what’s the plan ? ( Curiosity got the better if me )
“With no help or promise of help from the government or anyone, all we can wish for is the people themselves become more aware and responsible. Do you litter garbage all around your homes .. Definitely not .. you use a dustbin .. So why make your surroundings and rivers dirty .. this is also your home… people should realize this simple thing “
– claims Mr Shukla, a senior and active member of the Samiti
“ kal koi minister idhar ayega to sab saaf ho jayega .. lekin phir dodin baad jaise ke waise”
– ( Tomorrow if any minister comes to this place it will be all cleared up .. but again after a day or two things will be back to being this messy and dirty. )
says another volunteer Mr Tewari, a bit disturbed, a bit angry but hopeful that Bengal will soon catch up the cleanliness drive and hopefully a clean Bengal and a clean Ganga may not be a distant dream.
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