‘Holy Ganga’, ‘Har Har Gange’…yes, that’s what it is called here in India. This is world’s third largest river that flows from the Himalayas mountains to the Bay of Bengal in Northern India and Bangladesh. And, it’s my next exploration.
River Ganga is often associated with words like ‘pure’, ‘sacred’, ‘holy’ and since ages, it has woven deeply itself into the culture, flora and fauna of majority of Indians. It is a lifeline for the millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. Bathing in the river is still thought an important part of Hindu pilgrimage. And, the ashes of the cremated are discharged into its serene and calm waves.
My curiosity and the mystery that shrouded this mythical and beautiful Ganga made me delve deep into its history. One of the sacred texts ‘Mahabharata’ describes Ganga as “the best of all the rivers, born of all the sacred waters.” In Hindu mythology, Ganga river was created when Hindu God, Vishnu (Lord of Creation), took two steps to cross the universe and on the second step his giant toe accidently created a hole in the wall of the universe. This spilt some of the waters of the River Mandakini. Besides this story, there are many other mythological stories of Ganga’s origin.
Science of Sacred Ganga:
Apart from the myths, I went on to explore the reasons of its purity, the science behind.
Scientists say there are two major reasons of self-cleansing quality of Ganges. Firstly, it contains Bacteriophages. This is a kind of virus which feeds on harmful bacteria and prevents from its spreading further. These Bacteriophages could also provide a useful alternative to antibiotics in the form of phage therapy.
Others are also of opinion, the river bed of Ganga contains calcium phosphate which helps in water purification. The source of these calcium phosphates is the dispersing of mortals, practised since ages.
Although the Ganges is the heritage to millions of Indians, its waters are said to have been polluted over the years. Cleaning up its shores is a real challenge for the Indian government today. Lack of environmental concerns among the public is another challenge. River Ganges is a pious and pure Goddess but it is powerful and immune to the threats of contamination and environmental degradation.
The government promised to invest millions of dollars and set an agenda to clean it up as a three-year plan. Recently, 10 IIT (India’s renowned IT college) students were asked to adopt stretches of Ganga river to undertake cleansing plans. Laws are passed under Modi government to take strict and quick measures to make their plans effective. There is an amazing Yoga center in Rishikesh along the banks of the river. For more information just check its website.
My journey of exploring river Ganges will end soon. But when I look back, I shudder at the thought of the Herculean task of the people and Government- to clean up the sacred watershed. While I was strolling lazily the other day, I wondered this mammoth task can be vigorously and successfully accomplished by joint cooperation of the Government and the people. It is easy to criticize the snail’s pace of the authorities but difficult to put in efforts. Well, if we talk about ‘efforts’, small and simple efforts by the people can do wonders. Don’t have to do any mammoth task. Prevention of overuse and environmental degradation by the people can help them revive the sanctity of Ganga. It won’t ever die, it won’t ever be under any threat.
I dream of a clean and pure Ganga…just like what its name means…sanctity.