Ganga Maiya ki Jai
Ganga is the most holy river of India. A river is generally holy for the mythological association it has but also because how it forms the lifeline of a place and it's people. The mother river, Ganga Maiya embodies all that. There are songs written, hymns sung, temples built in its praise and the donations galore for even a stone in your name. From birth, to mundan, to thread, to marriage, to death, lives are lived around this holy river.
Holy water of Ganges has gone all over the world, on foreign journeys, for ancient rituals, for purification, for association, for certification. So what if you can't come to the river, the holy water can come to you to cleanse you of the sins and make your path to heaven rosy.
The Bridge and Clock Tower
The multiple holy dips, surya namaskar, the cleansing, the prayer, the shlokas, each dip for each wish, as many dips as sins - erasing any wrong done. People have their current accounts opened in God's Bank and assign themselves rewards or penalties as per mutual understanding they hold with God or sometimes God's men.
Religion is just faith, but faith is not religion. Faith is what I get when I believe my parents, when they pass their traditions to me, to belong to a community, which gives me strength of belonging, to know my roots. You get a lifetime membership on basis of your birth. You understand and believe the basis of this faith, or blindly follow others interpretations and misinterpretations, of Gods and religions.
For me faith is just faith. It's part of my identity and that's where it stays. Just like my gender or facial identity. I consider it a part of me and my inheritance and I accept it.
Visits to Ganga and other pilgrimages reminds me of the surroundings and small things we did there. They were not typical holidays of fun and play, they were ritualistic and warm. You do the difficult climb/ walk, wash yourself, buy prasad for offering, stand in long queues (if you couldn't manage a govt acquaintance to get a VIP quick pass), the hasty darshan, pulling and pushing (no wonder people got lost in kumbh ka mela) and out done with it in a jiffy. Years of planning, worship and commitments and done in a moment. Some people feel immense peace by visiting and that makes the journey beautiful. Others just do a good deed of remembering upparwala while making a picnic out of it.
I remember these small shops around the holy places selling knick knacks, prayer accessories, idols, images, and artifacts. From Stone chakla and Chandan wood (it's said that these have artificial fragrance) and rudraksh beads (even they are considered coloured and fake, original being much more expensive) and other knick knacks like lockets, rings and beads. Souvenirs for family and friends and for your temple too.
I loved buying bangles and all the girlie stuff you got here. Mata ki chunni gote wali, red glass bangles, and chains or lockets which I saved and used later while playing with dolls. Sometimes there were imported toys, audio cassettes (genesis of T-series) instant photograph dressed in traditional pahadi dress, and many more shops.
Traditional Banta drink
And not to forget the prasad. Halwa, chana-aloo-puri, pede, ladoo (motichoor or besan), batashe, faliyan, gud, misri, Banta drink, badana and even coconut. And the full vegetarian affair with ever popular Vaishno dhabhas offering daal makhani and tandoori roti. I loved them all. Yes pilgrimages are fun!!!
Jai Ganga Maiya!
Jai Ganga Maiya!