The Ganges Ghaats At Rishikesh


The final rites – anthesti.
This one of a swami –
He who renounced the world
Now renouncing the body
Cremation of that body
On the ghaat - banks of the ganges
Near the ashrams spread along the softly flowing river.
Sitting on the steps watching the burning pyre,
Watching the anxious teary crowds watching the burning pyre,
Moving my vision along the spirey silhouettes of ashrams,
Raising my eyes to the cloudy skies, the morning-misted mountains,
So firmly rootedly solid, so seemingly permanent.
And then watching the swirling flames ascend
Accompanied by softly chanting voices.
We offer prayer filled handfuls of black sesame'd water
To calm the raging fire
To give peace for the departing soul.
A witness
Of sure death, and immediate transformation.
A body alone aflame in the crowd
Telling of the false permanence
Of what we accept
As real
Only an illusion
Only maya.

(photo by L. Arya)