Justine Amodeo 2017-06-08 07:04:46
In India, the myth of Ganga, the benevolent river goddess who resided on earth to purify the sins of all she came into contact with and who sanctions the ascent from earth to heaven, is the source of many of the country’s sacred festivals—traditions and holidays that, unfortunately, have also led to massive pollution of the holy Ganges river. Referred to in Hindi as “Ma Ganga,” the sacred river—which flows for 1,569 miles from the Western Himalayas to the tiger-rich swamps of the Bay of Bengal—is responsible for the survival of 10 percent of the world’s population, its waters a lifeline to millions of Indians who depend on it for their daily needs. But in Rishikesh, where the viridian green river rushes down to the plains from the Himalayas, the water flows cleanly along a landscape dotted with the ashrams of holy men, yoga and meditation retreats, ayurvedic health centers, devotees praying on the banks and immersing themselves in the water, and the lights of the Ganga Aarti, a ceremony performed every evening at dusk. There, Hindu priests chant in praise of the goddess Ganga as flowers and fire from lamps and candles are offered in reverence to the river, devotees lifting the flames to the skies in order to receive the goddess’ blessing. The banks of the Ganges is also where, at Chaurasi Kutia, the recently reopened ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, The Beatles reportedly wrote 40 songs in seven weeks. Their extended stay there in the late 1960s to learn Transcendental Meditation produced many of the songs featured on “Abbey Road” and “The White Album,” most notably “Dear Prudence,” John Lennon’s playful call to Mia Farrow’s sister, Prudence, who allegedly had locked herself in her room in the ashram in deep meditation and wouldn’t “come out to play.” Like millions of other residents of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, asked for some of his ashes to be thrown into the Ganges, which he described in his will as “the river of India, beloved of her people, round which are intertwined her racial memories, her hopes and fears, her songs of triumph, her victories and her defeats. She has been a symbol of India’s age-long culture and civilization, ever-changing, ever-flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga.”
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