(3) Experiencing the Haridwar Prayer Ritual Pooja - The enthusiasm of the pilgrims and the entertaining rituals were astonishing.

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(3) Experiencing the Haridwar Prayer Ritual Pooja - The enthusiasm of the pilgrims and the entertaining rituals were astonishing.

6:30 pm. After taking a rest and recovering my energy, I left the inn to go see the evening puja. Although I was in a state of shock after having only toured the city during the day, this is the main part of Haridwar. The main attraction of Haridwar is the puja, a nightly prayer ceremony held in the main ghat. I was looking forward to seeing it.

There are obviously more people there than during the day. And the darker it gets, the more atmospheric it becomes. The people on the street conveyed a unique kind of enthusiasm, or perhaps a sense of exuberance.

The following video is another example of the excitement that can be felt before the puja. Everyone raises their hands and speaks in response to the call that is being broadcast. The ritual has begun even before the ceremony starts.

The crowds finally began to increase as we approached the main ghats.

We followed behind the guide and gradually made our way to the front.

We came to an area quite a bit in front of us. A group of people were settled right next to us, sitting on seats with their shoes off. Their colorful saris dazzled my eyes. A middle-aged man who seemed to be leading the group was giving an impassioned speech and collecting money. This passionate speech was also very impressive, and I could feel the passion of the Indian people. Indians are famous for their eloquence, and so it should be.

I think you can feel its eloquence and passion by watching the video below.

Then, around 7:00 p.m., when the music began to play announcing the start of the ceremony, everyone rose to their feet at once and rushed toward the front. I, too, was swept to the very front. I didn't know what was going on while I was being pushed, but I thought I was on a seat!

What?" Are you sure? You're in a place like this! And with your feet in the dirt?

It's okay. Don't worry about it. It's just the way it is. See, isn't everyone like that?"

Yes, there are people all around and no one cares about such things. But where do the shoes of the people sitting on these seats go...I don't know. But everyone is pushing and shoving their way to the front, not caring about such things. Chaos with no regard for rules. That's the kind of place, Indians. ・・・・

Finally, the Brahmins (religious figures) arrive and begin to build a fire in front of them. They manipulate burning ritual implements to the accompaniment of loud music. Their movements are slow, but the wild flames have an undeniable power. The smell of the heat and smoke from the fire wafts up to us.

The pilgrims who had gathered were in earnest. They too were shouting and singing loudly along with the music. What a sense of unity! Even I, a gentile, felt the same way. I think that my fellow Indians must have felt an even greater sense of togetherness than I did.

And this is where I was taken aback. At the moment the puja music ended and the ceremony was about to end, I felt a kind of a stir. I immediately realized that I was in the presence of a huge crowd. The huge crowd here was flocking towards the fire that was burning in front of me!

As you can see, it was the very riverbank where the fire was being built. This huge crowd of people began to push and shove each other toward the riverbank, creating an unbelievable battlefield. One wrong move and they would have been drowned in the muddy water! I was also shocked by this.

It doesn't matter if you are male or female. If there was even the slightest gap between them, they would twist their bodies into it. Those who made it to the riverbank would hold their hands over the sacred fire, receive the heat, and carefully caress their heads to let it sink into their own heads.

In this way, pilgrims purify their sins. They bathe in the Ganges to wash away their sins, and then purify themselves with the holy fire to wish for a happy life and the next world. In the book "What I Thought in India" by Zen-ei Hotta, he wrote about the "scary faces" of Indians. I was horrified to know how they could be so serious. Is it because they are aware of their guilt, or is it their insatiable desire for happiness? Let's get out of here as soon as possible.

It was a challenge to get home through this huge crowd. It was like going home from a fireworks display. And this is the off-season of the rainy season, so the place is fairly empty. During the peak season of the dry season, it is said that it is so crowded that you can't move at all.

It is hard to say that this is the case every day, even if it is only a few times a year for a fireworks display. And it is even more so in the off-season. Haridwar is a town with a festive atmosphere all year round.

Then, as I slowly and slowly made my way back, I heard what sounded like ceremonial music along the way.

However, I was more fascinated by the woman playing the drum in the back of the room, who seemed to have no interest in the ceremony itself. I wonder if this is the Indian way of doing things, and I am no longer sure if I am being religious or appropriate.

I managed to get back to the inn.

Looking back, I can't help but ask, "What was that all about?" I am still being hit by the heat of the puja.

And strangely enough, I could not get that puja music out of my head. This is despite the fact that this was the first time I had heard the melody. It was so catchy and unforgettable.

This video was shot the next day, but I think you can see the whole picture more clearly. The music may also be more audible.

Listening to this, you may feel the same way. It is true that the music is very Indian, but it is very modern.

That is so. This place has long been famous as a Hindu holy place, but this music is clearly modern. And it's blasting out of the speakers. It was like a live concert hall. In front of me was the holy Ganges. The buildings are also religious facilities far removed from everyday life, and the rituals using fire have a very strong sense of entertainment. The fire rituals are highly entertaining. It is well known that modern live concerts also produce this kind of extraordinary and festive atmosphere, and I strongly felt it here in Haridwar as well.

However, entertainment is not the exclusive domain of modern live performances, plays, and shows, and people have been using and enjoying them in a variety of situations since ancient times. Not only the audiences of kings, parades, poetry readings, and theatrical performances, but also religious ceremonies are one of them. Religious ceremonies and festivals have been the receptacle of people's desire for such festivity. Religions without attractive rituals are doomed to decline sooner or later. The fact that Buddhism declined and Hinduism flourished here in India is probably not unrelated to this. Buddhism in India tended not to emphasize such rituals.

In contrast, Buddhism, which was introduced to Southeast Asia and China, fused with the soil of each region, created its own distinctive rituals, and took root in those areas. The appeal of teachings is certainly the foundation of religion. But that alone is not enough. It is definitely not enough.

I felt that acutely here in Haridwar's pooja. I don't know why the music here sounded so modern. It is possible that this music was really recently composed. (*In fact, during my stay in Varanasi in February, I came to know the reason for this. I will tell you more about this in due course.)

In any case, the pujas here must be a powerful experience for pilgrims. People who want to come here, even if they have to travel a long way and go through a lot of trouble. People who wish to come here at least once in their lifetime gather here from the bottom of their hearts. And that energy is concentrated in that "scary face.

Although I was exhausted from the unusual heat of the puja, I am certain that it was an exciting experience that I would not have been able to replace in any way. It was a night in Haridwar where I experienced with my whole body the importance of the rituals.

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