The Mother Divine
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Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji
(Parmarth NIketan Ashram, Rishikesh,
The sunset Ganga Aarti at Parmarth Niketan draws between hundreds and thousands of visitors each day from all cultures, all languages, all religions and all walks of life. Regardless of one's religion or ability to understand Hindi or Sanskrit, the power of the Aarti is universal. Ganga Aarti transcends the borders and boundaries of language and culture, diving straight into one's heart, carrying one to Heaven.

Ganga is not only a river. She is truly a Divine Mother. She rushes forth from the Himalayas as the giver of life, carrying purity, bliss and liberation in Her waters. Ganga is not only water. She is nectar - the nectar of life, the nectar of liberation. She is a source of inspiration to all who lay eyes on her ceaseless, boundless, rushing current. She irrigates not only our farms, but also our hearts, minds and souls. She is the Mother Goddess - giving freely to all with no discrimination, hesitation or expectation. Her waters purify all who bathe in them, all who drink from them. In fact, She is the remover of contamination. Each evening as the sun's last rays reflect off the boundless waters of Mother Ganga, we gather for Ganga Aarti. This divine light ceremony is filled with song, prayer, ritual and a palpable sense of the divine. Aarti is the beautiful ceremony in which diyas (oil lamps) are offered to God. Aarti can be done to a deity in the temple, it can be done on the banks of the Ganges to Mother Ganga, or it can be done to a saint. It is performed to God, in any manifestation, in any form, and by any name.

In the Aarti ceremony, the devotee waves the oil lamp burning with ghee and camphor from the eye to the feet, back to the eye and back to the feet of the Divine.

The essence of the Aarti ceremony is that all day long God offers us light – the light of the sun, the light of life, and the light of His (Her) blessings. Aarti is a time when we say, "Thank You," and we offer back the light of our thanks, the light of our love and the light of our devotion.

We realize that the small deepa is nothing compared to the divine light which shines on us all day.  So, Aarti is a ceremony of humility, a time in which we acknowledge that “God, you are everything.  I am nothing.  All day you shine upon the world.  All I can offer you is this small deepa, a flame which will be blown out by the passing wind.  But, I offer it with devotion and with love.  Please accept my offering.”

One of the meanings of Aarti literally is "remover of pain." There is nothing inherent in the name of the ceremony that says which form or name of God it should be performed to. It should be performed to the Divine Remover of Pain in our life. Ganga Aarti is a time in which we break free from the normal stresses and strains of everyday life and gather together in joy, reverence and peace. As the bright yellow sun dips into the water and the reflection of its rays brings tears to our eyes, we are filled anew with a deep sense of bliss, reverence and spiritual connection.