Evening aarti, as soon as we hear these words, visuals of oil lamps circled about by the priests in praise of River Ganges in Rishikesh, Haridwar or Benares come to our minds. The extravagance, the opulence and the sheer serenity of the daily ceremony appeal deeply to the pilgrims as well as the travellers. But on my last visit to Mathura, the land of Lord Krishna, I witnessed a calming experience while attending the Sandhya (evening) aarti of River Yamuna.
The longest tributary of River Ganges, Yamuna is also revered as a goddess in Hindu mythology and has deep connections with Lord Vishnu and his incarnation, Lord Krishna.
Vishram Ghat is the most important and renowned of the 25 ghats in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. As per legends, it is here that Lord Krishna rested after killing Kansa, his crooked uncle and saved the people of the city and nearby villages from his atrocities. The ghat is also important because the traditional parikrama (circumambulation of all major religious places of Mathura) starts from and ends at this place.
Just before the sunset, I enjoyed a boat ride of the river. As the sun was going down the horizon, the temples and structures lined on the banks of Yamuna looked amazing. The water splash with the paddle worked as a prism splitting the light of setting sun in multiple colours. Though I wanted to absorb the beauty a little longer, it was time for the aarti and we had to go back to the bank. As time favoured, I found a good spot to witness the ceremony.
The sun was already set and the cool breeze of the receding winter started flowing. The huge oil lamps shone brightly in the otherwise dark evening. It was a sight to behold. No matter what your religious or spiritual inclination is, you are sure to be amazed by the visuals. All the priests circled the lamps in perfect synchrony.
As the day came to an end with the ritual, the boats lined up together to call it a day.
Text and images by Supriya Aggarwal