Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, paid an official visit to Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh as the first destination of their nine-day visit to India on 6th Nov 2013.
Arriving just before sunset, the royal highnesses took part in the sacred evening ‘aarti’ ceremony (ritual of lights), which is an internationally-renowned highlight of Parmarth Niketan’s daily activities. Prior to the ‘aarti’, they observed the final offering of a ‘yagna’ (fire ceremony) for world peace and environmental preservation, led by the president of Parmarth Niketan, Swami Chidanand Saraswati. Offering traditional herbs and seeds into the fire to the rhythm of ancient Vedic prayers, the royals took part in one of the most ancient rituals of the Indian tradition, performed on this occasion as a prayer for a healthy environment and peaceful world.
Following the yagna ceremony, they took part in a water blessing ceremony, led by Saraswati, in which waters from the world’s sacred rivers were offered onto a large globe, symbolizing a prayer that all people across the world should have access to safe and sufficient water. Explaining the ceremony, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati of Parmarth Niketan said, “Water is life. Tragically today, many of our brothers and sisters are living without access to safe and sufficient water. The Water Blessing Ceremony signifies a prayer and blessing that all beings and all creatures on Earth should have access to sufficient and safe, life-sustaining water.”
Chidanand Saraswati is also the founder of Ganga Action Parivar, an environmental organization of scientists, engineers and activists working to clean the waters and banks of the Ganga, and the co-founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, an international, interfaith coalition of faith leaders working to bring water, sanitation and hygiene to all. In alignment with his life’s work, Saraswati offered the royals a sacred tree sapling as a symbol of the trees being planted in the Himalayas, and a beautiful container of water from the source of the Ganga. Pujya Swamiji presented them with a sacred sapling, rudraksh malas and shawls made by Uttarakhand’s tribal community.