TTC/April/2012 - Mother Ganga

A Sadu crossing one of Rishikesh's bridges across the Ganga
Every morning, every night, and seemingly all day long... people gather at the river Ganges, cup her water in their hands, lift it, and let it fall back to her. Since arriving in Rishikesh, we have seen men in loincloths gather at the edge of the river to bathe and give blessings, women washing their faces and saris in reverence to the water, and even children swimming out in the depths, refreshed and laughing upon their return.

The beach in Rishikesh
The Ganges is a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course - it is obvious that many depend on it for their daily needs. In Hinduism, it is worshiped as the goddess Ganga and seen as the most sacred river on Earth. Moving water, as in a river, is considered purifying as it both absorbs impurities and takes them away. The Mother Ganga restores order from disorder and purifies the soul.

A woman drying her headscarf along the riverbank
Before traveling to India, my mother and I visited a travel clinic for immunizations and advice. As the nurse warned us about all the possible diseases one might contract anywhere in the world, she implored my mother not to get in the Ganga. In certain areas, such as in the city of Varanasi, the Ganges suffers from extreme pollution levels, highly toxic to humans - those from whom she has absorbed so many impurities. However, in Rishikesh, the water is fresh, clean, and cold - straight from the Himalayas.

Flowers released into the Ganga
On our first day at Rishikesh Yog Peeth, we discussed, "What is yoga?" As we all began to try and explain our experiences in practicing mental, physical, and spiritual yoga to varying degrees... I realized that this program would result in much more than a teaching certificate for each of us. Instead, something would cleanse and purify us, absorb the impurities and take them away. That afternoon, a group, including my mother and I, headed to the river, and let ourselves go, one by one. It was cold, it was refreshing, and I suddenly felt yoga. Thank you, Mother Ganga.

My mother and I in the Ganga

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