A few weeks ago read an article in the newspaper, with the headline -‘Ganga now a deadly source of Cancer’. The holy Ganga; Ganga who washes away all our sins; our mother Ganga- it is a poisonous river today.She’s a dead river and who does she have to thank for her sad demise? Her own sons and daughters- the people of this land, who on one hand give her the status of a Goddess, performing puja and Maha-aarti and on the other hand dump all the poisonous wastes, garbage, and worse, dead bodies, in the name of religion- have murdered her. And this is not the condition of the Ganga alone. Take any river of this country- they are either dead or dying a slow painful death.
I have an incident to narrate. Soon after our marriage, my husband and me, along with my parents-in-law, went for the customary pilgrimage to the holy lands of Lord Krishna- Mathura, Vrindavan and Mt.Govardhan. Holy river Yamuna- beloved of lord Krishna- flows through these lands, and is revered by the people just as equally as the Ganga.
One day, after performing puja on the banks of river Yamuna, the priest asked us( hubby and me) to take some river water in our hands and put it in our mouth( Aachaman). Looking at the water infested with floating garbage, plastics, mosquitoes and other insects, I was horrified at the idea. All the pious feelings flew out of my head. I could not put that water in my mouth and on the other hand did not want to look bad in the eyes of my in-laws so early in the marriage. I stole a glance at my husband and was relieved to see him equally disgusted. We both made an act of putting our hands to our lips and completed the puja. And this was 22 years ago. I dread to think what its condition might be now.
Not going very far- we live on the banks of the River Sabarmati. As I mentioned here ,(its looking clean in those pictures because that was just after the monsoons when the river had a lot of water flowing. Now with the lower levels of water the garbage has all come to the surface), its being developed as a river-front, and that’s where I go for my morning walks/jogs.The cool morning breeze, the variety of land and water birds that I get to see, all give me joy, but the condition of the river distresses me. The other day just as I was warming up for my jog, I saw two polythene bags filled with garbage land in the river, thrown by someone on the bridge.
Now, people of my country believe that anything that has been used for puja must not be thrown into the garbage bin but into a river or a major water body. So the river is full of floating flowers(at times, neatly packed in plastic bags), coconuts,pieces of fabric and all other kinds of materials- all in different stages of decay. making the river look like a giant dumping area.
I don’t claim to be a scholar of our holy texts, but I would really like to know where our religion tells us to use our rivers as a refuse dump.
During the last occasion of of Ganesh Festival, the government initially put a ban on immersing the Ganesh idols( mostly made of poisonous and non-biodegradable POP) into the river.Immediately all the Hindu outfits rose up to protest, to allow them to exercise their religious rights. The government had to relent but thankfully they prepared huge tanks on the river banks , filled with river water, where the idols could be immersed without causing too much damage to the river.
But I ask, is it also not the duty of the Hindus to take care of their rivers, to keep them clean and pristine, so they can really be called ‘Holy’.
And we can’t just leave the responsibility of keeping our rivers clean on the governments or the civic bodies. They can only do so much.We, each of us, as the sons and daughters of the rivers, have responsibility towards them. They give life to people,they nourish and sustain us. If all of us do our little bit towards keeping them clean, they will once again regain their glory. I have vowed never to throw anything into the river again.
So this Diwali, I simply collected everything after the puja and instead of throwing them into the river (as I did every year), I threw them into the bin. Feeling satisfied having done my bit, even if that means I have to burn in hell for eternity.