Rickety stalls line a busy road that points me in the direction of Prayag Ghat leading to the banks of The Ganges. Street vendors are crying to the flow of cars, push-bikes, cows and foot-traffic that’s congesting this gateway. They’re hoping many will buy their fresh fruit and vegetables or crispy samosas that have just been strained from the oily depths of wok-shaped cauldrons. Their expectations are enthusiastic – it’s sunset and an early dinner rumble in many tummies needs to be satisfied. More motorcycles and auto-rickshaws jerk their way through the bedlam. Horns bleep wildly.
As I snake through the chaos I suddenly reach momentary peace. The hustle and bustle is left behind once the expanse of The Ganges comes into my full view. Men and women are found splashing in the dark liquid, smothering their bodies with this holy water. Hindu priests sit cross-legged under skull-cap shaped umbrellas; their eyes are squinting as the sun’s peachy round descends slowly behind their mother river. I arrive at the water’s edge and my boat driver takes my hand as I step aboard his wooden vessel. He reaches for two long oars then manoeuvres us out. His oars are dipped into and pulled through the waters in time to a silent rhythm of the ancient depths beneath us.
Our rowboat stops to float for a while and I’m handed an offering for the gods. It’s made of maljhana leaves fastened together with twigs. This dainty cup is the size of my hand and cradles marigolds, rose petals and aromatic camphor. The wick is carefully lit and sheltered from a light muggy breeze. I’m told to make a wish before setting my little raft free. I’m also told that I must promise to return should my wish come true. I close my eyes to envisage my one wish.
I open my eyes and I discover that the sun has set further; darkness starts to drape itself over The Ganges and me. I lower my offering gently into the water that’s lapping at the side of the boat. Delicate light from the wick flickers as my little beacon bobs about playfully, acting free and fanciful. I sit back into the boat and I watch my offering float out into the distance. Eventually, it disappears out of sight. Hopefully, I will return.
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