Culture, Musings, Travel

Tales of Ganga #1: Ma Ganga’s Children

Three hilltops huddled together a long time ago. To pay their respects like a devotee, to watch her beauty like a lover, to care for her like a parent. Looking up at these first adorers of Ma Ganga from this particular spot on her Rishikesh banks, it appeared as if this passage between the mountains led up to another world in the skies hidden by those surreal, swirling clouds.

Ma Ganga’s indescribable flow here – neither feeble, nor fierce – mesmerises one into yielding to her beautiful meditative rhythm. The air vibrates with her gentleness and it feels as if all of the surrounding nature is singing her praises. Watching her vibrant waters intently, I reflected on how much the destiny of our land and peoples has been shaped by Mother Ganga. How she has nourished and provided for us, caring for our bodies both in life and death. But not only on the physical level is her involvement in our lives apparent. Her energy has purified us, washing our minds and illumining it with knowledge and wisdom. Holding the hands of the sages, she has revealed the universal love she embodies.

But who today looks at her with the gratitude she deserves to be shown, I wondered as I walked down her narrow beach. Some people were busy emptying all kinds of religious paraphernalia littered with plastic packets, into her waters. She didn’t seem to mind – all was fine, all were her children. A Western man who was pensively gazing at the river suddenly bent down and picked up a stone to throw into her. Perhaps that is also OK with her, I thought. Seemingly enjoying the sport, he continued with more stones. A group of three young flower-selling boys gathered around him and joined in the sport.

All is OK with Ma Ganga, I thought. Each one approaches her according to their wisdom. Somehow it wasn’t feeling OK to me. But that is perhaps just my soppy sentiment, I reflected.

I noticed then a little local flower girl who had been standing next to me for some time, watching the scene along with me. I turned to her to ask in Hindi “Is this something you all do around here? Throw stones in the Ganga?”

“No didi…” she said quietly, sounding a little agitated. “Ganga is like our mother. How we feel hurt if someone throws a stone at us? The same way Ganga Ma also feels the pain…” I was deeply touched hearing these words. Such beautiful sentiments still lived on in their simplicity, I was heartened to know. There were no rules or injunctions given to anyone for enjoying Ma Ganga’s presence. Still the love of simple folk had been transmitted down for generations through simple understandings and devotion. A feeling of oneness with the river, but not possessiveness.

Who were really Ma Ganga’s children, I wondered as I walked up to the boys to ask them to reconsider their stone-throwing. Ma Ganga put it into the hearts of some to throw stones, but she also put into the hearts of others to feel hurt by that. Maybe it was her way of playing with us on her banks that spring afternoon…but I hoped that in me, she would always choose to put the love.

See also: Sounds of Ganga: Ganga Waters Meditation and
Ganga: River of Heaven
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