It is my belief that no river has been talked about or written about so much as the Ganges or the Ganga as it is also known and as I would like to call it.
An online comment by someone named Max Smith stated,
“Beautiful place. Great sight of starving children and public cremations.”
His words ‘beautiful place’ and ‘great sight’ ooze with sarcasm.
An offensive comment indeed when you read the rest of his statement.
But then, India has always been tolerant.
Damaging comments roll off it like water on a duck’s back.
India may be tolerant but I am not sure about myself when I hear comments passed by people who have seen some corner of some place and then think they can make sweeping statements.
Starving children indeed!
Doesn’t America have starving kids?
An online source states, “1.16 million American kids struggle with hunger each year. …..about 1 in 5 children go hungry at some point during the year.’
Max Smith, would you care to elaborate?
To move on …..
It is true, sometimes it can be most worrying when you read about the Ganga.
One source says “India's holy Ganges River is devastatingly polluted. Untreated sewage flows directly into the river where people cook, bathe, and perform burial rites for the recently-deceased”
Another source says, “People who use this water risk hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, amoebic dysentery, other waterborne diseases, and a variety of skin afflictions.”
Certainly it seems like India has not seen nor will ever see, a healthy person!
I believe that sometimes people forget that the Ganga is not contained within a small area.
It is a 2,725 km river that flows through India and Bangladesh.
It is constantly flowing.
Yes, it carries all kinds of impurities. Yet the very fact that it is constantly flowing is what gives the Hindu what it takes to dip in its waters - faith.
The waters of the Ganga are believed to have healing properties.
It provides drinking water for over 400 million people.
Going by previous worrying information about pollution, India should be totally inhabitable by now.
However, India is not only growing; it is thriving!
For a Hindu, the Ganga is sacred.
Yes, in Kasi, also known as Varanasi, an ancient city on the banks of the Ganga, bodies are cremated and one can see burning pyres day and night throughout the year.
Many years ago, I had been there to immerse my mother’s ashes.
I had seen the pyres burning at different spots some distance away.
I could have walked over to see them closer but I wanted to complete the heart-burning ritual of sending my mother off.
Made a mental decision to visit Varanasi once again when I have come to terms with my grieving, if ever.
Strangely, I did not feel depressed at the sight of the pyres.
I felt spiritually moved.
They touched a chord within me.
I felt transported to an almost ancient world.
Traditional as well as orthodox Hindus believe that if one was cremated here and had the ashes immersed in the Ganga, it would free one’s soul from the cycle of birth and death and all the trials and tribulations that came with them.
That belief took viswaroopam here.
It made me realize what my parents and their forefathers had inculcated in me.
This was a spiritual heritage; my spiritual heritage.
It was as much mine as it was of the countless devotees on the banks of the Ganga.
An exhilarating thought indeed.