At times, life throws up some of the biggest ironies. For all the highway love that we have, it is ironical that we lost a parent in a road accident in Rajamundry last November, a hit and run case by an under age rider on a speeding bike. All we can say is, while on the road, be responsible.
The key to facing a tragedy or any thing that doesn’t go your way, is accepting it. Life goes on and so do the journeys. November and December, saw us travelling to Rajamundry to wind up the affairs there.
Thanking the River Goddess
On one such trip to Rajamundry (now officially renamed Rajamahendravaram, its ancient name), we took a stroll on the banks of the Godavari, just to get some fresh air after all the stressful weeks. Evenings are the best time for a walk along the road bordering the river. The last Pushkaram festival saw the inauguration of the Godavari Nitya Harathi, a daily event at the Pushkar Ghat. We decided to stay on and witness it.
Rivers are the lifeline of every civilisation, they are the source of our existence and hence, have come to be considered sacred and worshipped. The evening Harathi to these rivers is an important religious event in cities that have thrived on their banks. The Ganga aarti at Varanasi is one such event and now the Godavari Harathi at Rajamundry.
The event was started as part of the 12 day Pushakaralu festivities in July last year and since then every evening at 7 PM, the Harathi is performed in reverence to the Godavari. When we reached the Pushkar Ghat around 6.30 PM, people were just taking their places on the steps leading to the river. We sat down and did some people watching.
Though the 12 day Pushkaram festival is over, the purifying effect of the river water is believed to continue throughout the year and people were taking a holy dip, some were floating oil lamps in the river while boatmen went about their business.
We weren’t carrying our camera, all pictures are courtesy our mobile phones.
We could hear the trains pass through the Arch bridge, it was dark and we could only see the reflection of the train headlight in the river below, like some magical, mystic light floating across the river !
On the Harathi pedestal, priests were busy with their preparations, the loud speaker played some songs in praise of the river, especially the song “Uppongele Godavari”, a beautiful Telugu song from the film “Godavari”. There are some songs that make you feel fortunate that you understand a particular language, this one makes it to that list.
There is a small shrine for Godavari Mata on the Ghat where a puja is performed before the actual Harathi.
The Harathi fire is then taken near the water and another is puja performed.
We thought that was all about the Harathi, when at 7 PM, the pedestal came to life and the lights lit up.
Seven priests sat on the altar as Vedic mantras were chanted on the loud speaker. A voice over began narrating the mythological story of the Godavari and the importance of the river in shaping our culture and civilisation.
There are 12 different types of Harathi, each one is preceded by a narration about the type of Harathi and its significance. Then there are Vedic chants and the drums beat, the 7 priests turn towards the river and perform the Harathi, a spectacle that must be witnessed !
Why 12 Harathis? We have no idea, may be because the Pushkaram festival is associated with number 12? 12 important rivers, 12 zodiac signs, once in 12 years !
Whether you are a believer or not, the rhythmic drum beats, the bright lights, the fire and the ambience of the might river are sure to give you an electric, trance like feel !
The picture below is of the Simha Harathi. The Harathi fire is mounted on figures of lions, similarly you have the Nethra Harathi, Bilva Harathi, Nandi Harathi and so on.
Here is another type, Karpoora Harathi.
Usually, one would get bored after 2-3 rounds of the Harathi but somehow, this event kept us engaged, we were curious to know what type of Harathi would be performed next and every time they started one, it would be as exciting as the first.
The final one is the Nakshatra Harathi.
Here is a video:
When we took our place at the start of the Harathi, they was a sparse crowd but the time the Harathi ended and we turned back to leave, we were quite surprised that the ghat was packed.
As we saw the crowd disperse, we began to think how our culture teaches us to revere our rivers and natural resources, if only we understood the symbolism and understood the intention than blindly folding our hands and closing our eyes in prayer !
These practices were meant to instil a sense of respect towards our resources and not take them for granted. That is probably why the rivers and the earth are regarded as Goddesses, the Sun and the five elements as Gods. But, while we try to rid ourselves of sin by taking a dip in the river we consider holy, we don’t think twice before spitting in the river or throwing our empty chips packet in it. One minute we are filled with spiritual fervour, the next minute we grow two horns and say “we don’t care” ! Funny people, we are !
Things like Harathi and holy dips are all fine but the best way to thank our rivers is to stop polluting them.
Here’s hoping that some day we will learn to value our natural resources.
We were tempted to attend the Harathi again the next evening but chose to take a walk along the newly built Saraswathi Ghat. We caught some pretty views of the Godavari at sunset, with the rail-cum-road bridge in the background, that’s a sight to behold, every single time.
We watched the launch boats take people on a fun ride across the river and the sun take leave for the day.
As usual, we wandered along the Kota Gummam market, the market is always buzzing with activity in the evenings, we even shopped a bit for pens and bought a Hero Pen after close to 2 decades. Students of the 1990s know the feeling of pride in owning a Hero Pen !
Winding up the trip with Bajjis and Rosemilk goes without saying, this time, we added two more items to our regular food fest. One is the Milk shake stall near Akshaya Residency, they have a wide variety of milk shakes. Their Black Currant Milk Shake topped with ice cream and cashews is a milk shake like no other ! The other one is the Gangaraju Pal Kova, the ultimate destination for the Pal Kova fan !
If you are a foodie, Rajamundry is the place to be.
- Godavari Harathi begins at 7 PM every evening. The entry is free. We were there on a weekend so it got crowded once the event started, we have no idea how it is on weekdays. The Harathi is conducted only at the Pushkar Ghat.
- If you are taking kids along, be alert in the crowd, it is dark and a huge water body looms close by.
- The entire takes about 45 minutes and is a nice way to spend an evening by the river side.
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