YOGART STUDIO :: Nothing Beats Bliss
On my first night out of Delhi I found myself standing on the footsteps of God. I had emailed my entire class a few hours after arriving in Haridwar desperately hoping that someone else was planning on hiring a pre-paid taxi for the long road to Netala. We were all due at the ashram by 5:30PM the next day -which was also the time the gates closed for the night. My month long yoga teacher training course was scheduled to begin and since the moment I had arrived in Delhi 3 days prior, I was nervous in anticipation of reaching my destination. Both Michael and Lindsey responded to my email. They were also in Haridwar and invited me to join them in the morning. In case we couldn’t meet up to plan and sort out the details, I purchased a bus ticket. To my relief, I found Michael at the Coffee Day Cafe -just as we had planned. Broad shoulders, very muscular arms and light green eyes warmly greeted me. I now had my necessary confirmation to rip up my bus ticket and relieve myself of an uncomfortable, 7-hour, rickety bus ride up a narrow and crumbling road.
Michael explained that he had been practicing yoga for the last 20 years. He told me that when he was 12 years old, he got his hands on books about yoga and fasting. To his parents bewilderment, he would fast every Friday and shortly thereafter, he began to study and practice yoga. Now at 32, Michael poured himself into health and wellness. A masseuse by trade, vegetarian for over 6 years he was also certified in Asian massage therapies and Ayurvedic medicine. I told him about myself. My excitement for the course, my exhausting experience in Delhi and my Polish background. Michael knew some Polish himself and we exchanged a few words before realizing it was almost time. Sundown was approaching and evening worship was about to commence. We were in Haridwar after all -literally the door (dwar) of God (Hari). Also known as the place where the Ganges river leaves the Himalayas for the plains. The cafe was directly adjacent to the Hari-ki-Pairi temple -which oddly enough resembled a railway stationed adorned in candy colours. I followed Michael towards the Har-ki-Pairi ghat (bathing place), which marked the precise spot where the river leaves the mountains -also known as the “Footstep of God”. We checked our shoes and began making our way through the crowd. Although the air was cool the ground beneath our bare feet was still heated from the days’ relentless sun. Ganga Aarti was about to begin so we purchased a basket made of leaves filled with pink and orange flowers and a candle in the centre. This was to be our offering to the goddess Ganga. A Hindu priest led us towards the very bottom of the ghat. As we stood on the very last step of the ghat with water up to our knees, we repeated prayers in Hindi – praying for health, peace, and a long life for our families. After each prayer, we stated a monetary offering. After paying the donation, the candle was lit and I laid my flower basket in the water. The strong current quickly swept the light downstream and that’s when Ganga Aarti began. The priests began to preform an elaborate ceremony complete with choreographed movements and swinging torches to the accompaniment of gongs and music. We raised our arms and hands over our heads in prayer along with the thousands of people gathered along the river front. Dozens of lights floated past me and the air was filled with an incredible energy. Ganga Aarti, is a ceremony dedicated to the life bestowing goddess Ganga. Preformed daily, it is a testament to the devotion of Hindu dharma.
When the ceremony ended, people began to move towards the river for ritual ablution. Some wet their hands and sprinkled water over their heads, and others went in for a full dip. Michael looked eager to do the same so I offered to hold onto his wallet and phone. He passed me his belongings and ducked down into the river 3 times -each time emerging with a smile on his face. He suggested I do the same and I agreed. I handed my backpack to him and stepped down. The water was cool and crisp. I took a deep breath in and submerged myself. I came up for air and dipped down again. This time I came up shaking. I literally shook with joy. The adrenaline ripped though me like the current tearing through the river. I smiled widely, elated in happiness. This was the India I had imagined. I had finally arrived.