Ganga Sagar, one of the historical ponds in Janakpur, is situated near to the Janak Mahal. This pond is named after the famous holy river in India – Ganga Sagar. It is said that the water of this pond is brought all the way from Ganga Sagar of India, so it is also considered as a sacred pond. It holds an important significance among the Hindus, where homage is paid to different gods and goddesses. This pond is regarded as an important tourist destination and cool place of the Janakpur along with Dhanush Sagar.
Until seven years ago, this pond used to look like a pile of wastes; however, the initiation brought by the villagers and the cleaning campaign launched by them have now changed Ganga Sagar into a crucial tourist destination in Nepal. Every local believes that the beginning of the campaign changed them a lot as they totally avoided throwing garbage in the pond and they still stick by this rule.
Ganga Sagar is referred to as a historical pond because the name of this pond was found in the Hindu scriptures of Janakpur Dham since the ruling period of King Janak.
This pond is also a central point for those visitors who love to read the books and newspapers as one can find the huge 70-year-old Ganga Sagar Library just a few meters from the pond. Every morning a plethora of locals stroll around the pond, perform puja, practice some exercises, refresh themselves and visit the library to read newspapers and spend time discussing with other fellow locals.
Aarti in Ganga Sagar
This pond is worth seeing at night, when prayers are being performed on the riverbank with special chanting, music, and instruments. Aarti is organized every evening at Ganga Sagar. To enjoy it, one can find crowds of locals as well as foreign tourists. Internal and external tourists flocking Janakpur seem to be attracted by Ganga Aarti. The Ganga Sagar, which used to be dirty and smelly, has also become clean since the beginning of Ganga Aarti.
Nowadays, even high-ranking politicians, officials of the diplomatic mission, and foreign guests are found to be enjoying the Ganga Aarti. This aarti is as mesmerizing as aarti held in Haridwar and Banaras in India. On the banks of the pond, three pavilions are built for Aarti. The three priests recite the Aarti together with the tune of the music. The burning lamp used in the plate for Aarti is rotated around the idol in a special way. At the end of Aarti, prasad is distributed to the visitors.
During Aarti, not only Ganga Stuti but also the mantras of all the deities are chanted. There is a belief that if you participate in Ganga Aarti, you will be forgiven for the mistakes and your wishes will be fulfilled. Besides these, one can also enjoy the boat riding in Ganga Pond, while listening to aarti.
How did Aarti in Ganga Sagar begin?
To mark the Ganga Sagar as a beautiful place in Janakpur, locals initiated different policies to maintain its cleanliness. However, they were in a maze that they would not succeed in keeping it clean for very long. So, they came with a new idea of linking the religion with tourism. As a result, Ganga Aarti started to take place at the bottom of the pond every evening. From that day, Ganga Sagar became a popular destination to worship instead of piling garbage.
Many priests were hired from Banaras and some local priests were also given training to conduct the Aarti. Currently, Ganga Aarti has become a model for this region. Ganga Aarti of Janakpur has also become a source of inspiration for other places. After the Aarti started here, daily Shiva Aarti was started in Mahottari, Jaleshwor and Siraha district.
Chhath Celebration in Ganga Sagar
Ganga Sagar is decorated heavily during the biggest festival, Chhath. Devotees from different districts flock here to pay homage to the setting sun. The pilgrims fast for 48 hours without even drinking water and offer homage as per the method. Chhath is also regarded as a very strict festival because dishes, and other offerings prepared to offer Sun God should be done strictly.
Every year the statue of Chhath Goddess is installed in Ganga Sagar. Pilgrims sit on the banks of rivers all night by lighting lamps and chanting hymns after praying the setting sun. Different tents are prepared around the pond to keep worshipping materials and for the stay of the pilgrims. It is said that many women fast and take bath in this pond for the long life of her husband and son.
Matkor Celebration in Ganga Sagar
To celebrate the wedding Panchami of Lord Ram and Mother Sita, Matkor festival is organized every year. During this celebration, the procession is taken from Janaki temple to Ganga Sagar. Devotees enjoy throughout the way by dancing and singing. The soil is dug and collected from the Ganga Sagar, from which an altar is made. Therefore, even the soil of this pond is considered sacred.
Ganga Sagar has become the main destination for locals in Janakpur, whether it is to relieve anxiety or to go for a morning walk, or for religious purposes. Besides locals, people from India also frequently visit this pond. Save Historical Janakpur has been established to continue the sanitation campaign. So, I hope that every local will perform their part of responsibility towards protecting and promoting Ganga Sagar.
-Article written by: Kusum Kharel for Land Nepal