Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall have begun their nine-day trip of India participating in an evening “Aarti” ritual on the banks of the Ganges River near the holy city of Rishikesh in Uttarakhand.
The couple arrived at the famous Jolly Grant Airport near Dehradun, in the foothills of the Himalayas, on Wednesday evening and were received by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and British High Commissioner David Bevan.
The prince led his wife by the hand to the banks of the sacred river where they joined Hindu worshippers conducting the Aarti ceremony.
It is performed by devotees every sunset who wave oil lamps burning ghee - a symbolic thank you to God for lighting the world.
Clarence House quoted the Prince as saying: “It is my first visit to the Ganges, so from that point of view it is a very special occasion for both myself and my wife.”
The Prince also alluded to the devastating floods in the state earlier this year that left more than 5000 people dead.
'We wanted just to stress how deeply we felt for all those people who suffered so dreadfully as a result of the awful floods in June - our thoughts and prayers were so much with those families who have had to suffer the appalling catastrophe.'
Charles and Camilla were hosted at the pooja by guru Swami Chidanand, a renowned activist who campaigns against pollution of the holy Ganges River.
The Prince praised the Swami for his work and educating people about the importance of “working in harmony with nature”, a matter that has become even more important since Charles became a grandfather earlier this year.
“It seems to me the key to our future is to rediscover our connections with nature, for too long we seem to have ignored the services that nature provides us”, Charles said.
“And now that I've just recently become a grandfather, I think it means even more when you have a grandchild to think of their future and all the futures of other grandchildren around the world, we owe them I think something a great deal better for their futures as well.”
Dehradun will be the most important leg of their India tour as they visit three world renowned institutions in the city: The Indian Military Academy and India’s institute for forestry research, a subject that the heir to the throne is passionate about.
The royal couple’s visit ends 14 November when Charles and Camilla will travel to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, representing the Queen, the head of the Commonwealth.
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