Bharti Briggs powerfully evokes the mystery and magic of the sacred Ganges, and its capacity to heal and transform
The river seemed to open her eyelids at dawn, her veil fluttering in the morning air. Her veil of pale blue silk, made of undulating waves and woven by the hands of God rippled in the shimmering light of dawn. Her voice, like a caress, sang in silence of a world before time. Her voice seemed to call me as I boarded the simple wooden boat… I remember even now how the oars of the boat kissed the surface of the water, and then sank momentarily into the translucent folds of soft blue silk. The divine Ganga did not mind the touch of the wood upon her body. Like a woman who willingly bears all burdens, the waters yielded to the slow rhythmic pressure of the oars as the boatman plied his way forward to the rising sun. The voices of prayer coming from the ardent devotees who lined the bank of the river rose and fell like the gentle waves murmuring in the unbounded ocean of silence pervading everything. I saw the straight-backed women carrying puja pots of brass bend low before the waters. They pressed their foreheads to the sand before their holy Mother Ganga."
This passage, taken from my new book, Pilgrimage on the Path of Love, expresses the essence of my feelings for Mother Ganga. The first time I stood on the banks of the River Ganges was in Varanasi in 1992. I’d come to Varanasi to study Sanskrit for six months. One morning just before dawn, I joined a procession of devotees who were moving quietly towards the river.
There was only the pitter-patter of our footsteps on the long winding dirt road. As we approached the river, the atmosphere was vibrant with a quiescent pulse of peace. Above the yellow-blue waters, black crows circled, their cries piercing the silence with staccato notes. I stood near the shore line beside a group of women pouring water from their copper vessels poised above their heads; they stood facing the first rays of the morning sun as it ignited the waters with light. At that moment, I felt that the Ganga was more than just a
river _ this river was the embodiment of pure consciousness. Her fluid waves were a representation of the waves of the Atman, ever-flowing in fullness within Itself. This feeling has been reiterated many times since then in numerous baths taken in many different places. This feeling is magnified when I immerse my body in its waters, so soft like velvet, so nourishing, the touch of outer stillness meeting and melting into one’s inner
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