Defiling River Mantra
Nowhere in the world rivers are as worshipped and revered as in India. From birth to death, we need rivers. We need them to live and prosper and even have the right place assured in the heavens for ourselves and for our departed ancestors. Marriages in rural areas in the vicinity of rivers are connected through various rituals to the river’s flow and thousands of folktales and sons are woven around them, including the one in Bhojpuri which says through a lovelorn woman that she will offer a silver if her beloved returns this Sawan (Monsoon month). The Vedic civilization grew around rivers and Vedas are full of praise for them. Aryans set up their best centers of learning as well as cities and trade ports on their banks and so were established age-old pilgrim centers. Krishna would be an incomplete deity without Yamuna and heavens wont admit a departed soul unless the ashes were immersed in Ganga.Adi Sankara’s beautiful poem on Ganga-Devi Sureshwari Bhagwati Gange… remains as mesmerizingly enchanting as Ganga herself. A famous song of a super hit Raj Kapoor film even relates the hero’s national identity to river Ganga—hum us desh ke vasi hain jis desh mein Ganga behti hai!!
Still none would be as cruel and careless to the perennial waters of our sacred rivers as we are. We simply do not connect to them. They exist and some rituals are done because they have been in vogue since long and we do it mechanically, feeling relieved and return home. That’s the end of the matter. We hardly reflect on the banks of Ganga or try to visit the Yamuna in Delhi, so dirty it looks like a sewer, and think about our relation with that flow, which had been nursing and watering a soul called India since ages and when the flow itself in its dying state, never does a thought occurs in our mind why is that happening and is there a duty for me to stop its decay, a duty that I have inherited from my ancestors?
No. It never happens. We try to hide our religious, cultural or umbilical relation with the rivers, till we are dead and it becomes imperative to immerse ashes in the waters. Millionaires, billionaires, rulers and generals and heads of state, have had their ashes immersed at Hardwar and Prayag and in Kaveri and Krishna. They might have written odes to these rivers in beautiful magical sounding words. But none of them, not a single great soul has decidedly worked to secure clean, hygienic flow of these rivers plugging all holes contaminating their flow. Rajiv Gandhi did began a much hyped and ambitious plan to clean Ganga but nothing is heard of it except a few unsustainable claims and blames.
Not only Ganga has become completely unusable for any purpose at kanpur, even nearer to its source, Rishikesh, the Ghats are dirty and the worshippers andf saints and the government departments keep on emptying all the dirt and garbage into the sacred river.I was at Gaumukh last month, the glacier which gives birth to the eternal flow of Bhagirathi and was stunned to find plastic bags, polythene sheets, half burnt incense sticks and other puja-samagri in imperishable packing left by the devout close to the source . New shops and selling points are coming up fast to meet the ever increasing demands of pilgrims and nature tourists, a good number of them being students from urban city centers.
Further north two important rivers of the city of Nirvana, Varanasi, named Varuna and Assi, have almost dried up. As is evident these two rivers gave name to Varanasi and in Shiva Purana, Lord says, whoever takes a bath at the confluence of Varuna and Assi, he gets instant moksha and is verily close to my heart. But while Varuna has been turned into a petty trickle, like a municipal drainage, Assi is invisible now and religious ashrams, sweetshops and residential colonies have come up right in the riverbed.
This happened while the Hindu nationalists ruled Varanasi Municipal Corporation and the city also returned a BJP M.P. to Parliament.
In the land of Gandhi, the river which once witnessed Gandhi ashram, Sabarmati, too has dried up like Gandhian thoughts and the builders mafia is eying to use the river bed as their next colony.
In Kerala, Rajiv Srinivasan has written in his incisive report that once a beautiful river Bharat Puzha (also known as Neel river) has reduced to trickles with a dry bed and many other rivers and water sources in the state are facing a grave threat in this land believed to have been created from water itself.
May be politicians are to be blamed or the corrupt and lethargic bureaucracy or a lack of social leadership. The list of those to be blamed for such a crisis may keep on increasing but ultimately it’s the will and the character of the common citizen that decides the course of such happenings. If the people are lazy and careless and totally dependent on he political and the administrative machinery while they keep on desecrating the river and throwing all the garbage and the chemical wastes into the ‘holy’ river thinking it’s the duty of the state to clean it up, we shall never get a clean Ganga.
After all who messes up with the rivers? The common citizen is as much to be blamed as the unwilling politician. In Delhi, govt. has put huge fences on both sides of Yamuna on Noida Bridge with billboards requesting the devout not to throw Puja articles into the river. Still I have seen people trying to throw their plastic bags full of puja waste into the river. The irresponsible worshippers themselves are to be blamed for desecrating the holy rivers.
Once we were the people who created the best of monuments and reached great heights in art, culture and science. Now the same people are unable even to protect what they have inherited. A society which invented Zero, spread its message of love and peace to the whole world, created wonders like Ang kor wat and Borbodur,is showing signs of a severe cultural decay, only colonized minds display. Ends.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org