On the bank of river Ganga, Richard (now Radhanath Swami) resolved to sit in silence and prayer from sunrise to sunset for one month. Richard also decided that a carrot a day would be his only food for the month. Mother Ganga taught Richard many lessons. He was particularly struck by the beauty of the river and felt no human artist could ever capture even a moment of the unending display of the sparkling waves of Ganga that rippled and swirled as if intoxicated by her own beauty. The Himalayas appeared majestic and inspired awe in Richard’s heart. It was here that a man gave Richard the robes of a sadhu, monk, who has forsaken worldly attachments to pursue a divine life. This was two unstitched pieces of white cloth, one to cover the lower part of the body and the other one for the upper part. Richard prayerfully cast his western clothes into the river’s sweeping current and the man also whispered to Richard that the Ganges would be his mother and that she would reveal this in due course of time.
Radhanath Swami’s description of Ganga is mesmerizing. It has to be read to be relished. I couldn’t help reading it over and over again. My appreciation for mother Ganga is growing and now I am reminded of her unlimited glories.
Ganga is the only river in the world that has a history rich in legends and also forms an integral part of the terrestrial, cultural and spiritual life an entire Nation. Mother Ganga is providing irrigation, fertility of soil, source of water, communication and transport, scenic beauty and at the same time carrying the rubbish and human wastes, including half burnt bodies in her sweeping flow beyond pollution. Although most moderns are unaware and ignorant of her utility, her spiritual power remains still intact. Not surprisingly she has struck the minds of writers, poets, painters and sculptors. I once read a dramatic story of Jagganath Pandit, court poet of Emperor Shah Jahan and a devotee of Mother Ganga, who fell in love with a Muslim princess. He married her and was ex-communicated. He took shelter of mother Ganga and composed a famous poem, ‘Ganga lahiri’, ‘the waves of Ganga’. The legend says that while being persecuted, he sang the glory of Ganga, and mother Ganga opened her arms and took the lovers in her bosom. The poem has been translated into many Indian languages.
Besides the romantic story, Ganga has given spiritual shelter to millions. That’s what Radhanath Swami experienced while meditating on her banks. Even today Ganga water is carried to all parts of India to be used on occasions to ward off evil spirits, mixed in water tanks, put in the mouth at the time of dying, sprinkled in marriages, birth ceremonies and other auspicious and inauspicious occasions for spiritual benedictions. The demand for Ganga water was so much at one time that it became a commercial item sold by a Calcutta businessman Baishnab Charan Seth in the mid nineteenth century. Mr Seth sold Ganga water in sealed earthen pots and even noblemen and kings purchased Ganga water from him.
Radhanath Swami’s spiritual realizations and lessons that he learnt on her banks are simply unforgettable. I am eagerly waiting to devour each page of this classic, ‘The Journey Home.’