Sarve bhavantu sukhinah
Quote from the Parmarth Niketan website
The sanskrit symbol of OM (AUM) engraved on the streets of Rishikesh, India
With curiousity and joy, I watched fellow yogis toss flowers into the fire pit. Along the Holy Ganges River, in this ancient Aart ritual, we came together in a spirit of humility and gratitude to be immersed in the elements, God’s divine form. The flowers represent the Earth (prithvi), the Ganges River is the Water element (jal), the fire pit and lamps represent the Fire component (agni), singing is the precious quality of Air (vayu), and Divine presence is the Space (akash) contribution.
“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” (Parmarth Niketan)
In the holy city of Rishikesh, in the Indian Himalayas, over one thousand yogis from one hundred countries around the world gathered at Parmarth Niketan Ashram for this thirty-second Annual International Yoga Festival, during the first week of March 2017, to share our experience with this practice called yoga. The word yoga means to yolk or unite. When we practice the yoga poses or asanas, we are striving to unite our body through strength, flexibility, and balance, but the full practice of yoga aims to unite our minds with our body, each other, and divine consciousness.
In this ceremony, light from wicks, soaked in ghee (purified butter), and set on fire, are offered to the Divine presence. It involves the circulating of an Aarti lamp towards the holy river and is generally accompanied by the congregation singing songs in praise. The purpose of performing aarti is coming together in a spirit of humility and gratitude, to become immersed in God's divine form, the elements.
From the Parmarth website, “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.”
This divine light ceremony is filled with song, prayer, ritual and a tangible sense of the divine, through the elements. Aarti is a time in which we break free from the normal stresses of everyday life and gather together in joy, reverence and peace. As the bright yellow sun dips into the water we are filled anew with a deep sense of bliss, reverence and spiritual connection. Our beliefs don’t have to divide us, they can unite us.
This National Geographic video shows an Aarti cermony in other holy city called Varanasi in India.
“We all share the wonder and gratitude that we are here at all.”
Back at home in San Diego, a group of yogis joined me at Natural Connection, Women’s Yoga Camping Retreat to explore our connection with these five elements. Each evening at sunset, we gathered around the fire to share our connection with the spiritual world through discussion about how we relate to the elements. Everyone opened up to chance to connect through questions like:
Throughout the weekend, we connected with Earth by hiking and drawing details of the natural world. With each step we felt grounded, safe, and stable.
We connected with the Air through Pranayama exercises like Breath of Fire, Lion’s Breath, Pursed Lip Breathing, Alternate Nostril Breathing, and Expansion through Counting.
We connected with water when we hydrated ourselves and washed the dishes and our bodies as well as performing cleansing twists and thought purifications.
Finally, we connected with the spacious consciousness through yoga inversion poses and chanting Om as well as absorbing the chimes from the singing bowl and birds chirping.
Parmarth Niketan Swami Chidanand Saraswati sends his blessings to all
Do you perform a ritual or ceremony of offering thanks for the light and all of your blessings?
Please share as a comment below.
Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
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Lessons from Abroad