A few sunrise photos captured on the phone camera of the important Ganga whose significance to Hindus is as deep as its waters.
This may seem obvious – but it did strike me – that the river is very different from the sea.
The sea is always churning and ever wave looks so different from the other. The motion is intermittent – after a wave crashes the sea takes a moment to catch its breath and then swells into a new wave that comes hurtling at the shore. The active energy – noise – motion – visuals – are all packed in and despite the moments of low activity between waves, there is never a sense of peace – one is always anticipating the next wave and preparing for its crash.
On the contrary, the river was quiet. It was vast. Being able to see the other side made clear the extent of the vastness.
It moved in pin drop silence. Constantly. Unidirectionally. No regurgitation or back & forth like the waves of the sea – just on & on – without a moment of stopping. Right to left – on & on & on. I remember thinking “The patch of grass that was floating with the water that was in front of me just this moment has now moved away 100m away and before I could complete this thought – its further away 500m – and now it is so far away that I cannot even see it anymore”.
Just flowing unidirectionally.
There IS NO GOING BACK.
Exactly like life.
It is said one washes off one’s sins when we step into the Ganga. If only it were that easy for a physical action to cleanse one’s karma. But I firmly believe that those who made these rituals had a deeper meaning – and with respect to this my conjecture and personal experience is this:
Being at the river banks in solitude allows space for contemplation and given the ethos of Benaras and all the other holy cities along the Ganga, the question of Life & Death is never too distant. And so the self-time naturally veers towards, the meaning of life, about things that are important and things that are not. And in an informal examination and evaluation of one’s life, it is easy to see the mistakes one has made in life. It is this realisation that sows the seeds for the cleansing of the soul. Because once the realisation sets in, then the conscience guides one to make things right … and through the subsequent attempts or acts of correcting one’s wrongdoings, one cleanses one’s soul.
Maybe that is what was meant by washing off one’s sins in the Ganga.
p.s. No doubt any river is good enough – but here the spiritual ethos in Benaras is conducive to this sort of thing. (for that matter even one’s armchair is good enough too right?! we have never really needed churches and temples to be contemplative / reverent / grateful!)