Poem: ‘Ganga Aamar Ma’ – Ganga is my mother

Photo: dw.com

By Umang Kumar

As you came tumbling down the mountains
freed of Shiva’s locks
at Hari’s Gates we celebrated you,
fever-pitch bhakti, shahi-snans, royal baths –
In kumbhs we carried your nectar, amrita, home
offering you our sins, pestilences and poisons instead.
What a journey, yours, O Ganga – from the fire
of the yogi’s tapas
in the Himalayas
to the fire of the blazing aarti
at your ghats at Hari’s Gate
and then far below in the plains
the fires at Manikarnika –
this time they said like never before
burning endlessly, crowds just like at the mela
at Hari’s Gate, for their last darshan of you,
offering up their diseases and anxieties
for a chance to ascend to heavens,
their atmas, like so much smoke, curling up
towards moksha, the cosmic life-breath prana
leaving their bodies
as the earthly prana ran out,
yet, to breathe
one’s last, so to say, by your ghats
in Benaras, is
the highest goal, the final purushartha,
priceless –
but for those not fortunate enough
to find rest and release by your banks –
wood, gheebrahmin,
all unattainable –
O Ganga,
for them a quiet immersion
in your waters
is blessing itself,
the final shahi snan, royal bath,
rid of the disease of life in
your holy waters,
seeking deliverance for that
which fire cannot burn,
nor water wet –
what need of ceremony,
when the ritual of life
is over?

(With apologies to Bhupen Hazarika)

Umang Kumar is a writer based in Delhi NCR.


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