Ganga as Perceived by Some Ganga Lovers

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    land of rishis, sages and saints, Her worship is seen as normal and natural. Of course

    the Ganga is worshipped by so many, a devotee may say. When has She not been?

    The Sacred Origins of the River Ganga

    In times of ancient lore, there was a mighty ruler named King Sagara. Proud and

    strong, he wished only to become even mightier. Given the protocol of the time,

    he arranged for a horse yajna, in which a healthy steed is set forth to freely roam.

    For as far as the horse may journey, the King may claim the land as his own.

    Potentially, he could thus become Emperor of all.

    It is said that the God, Indra, didnt like this plan. Hence, he stole the horse.

    King Sagara, in his state of distress, dispatched all of his 60,000 sons to find theanimal. Having been snatched away by a heavenly being, the stallion was nowhere

    to be found. Yet, being dutiful sons, far and wide they searched until they reached

    the underworld hermitage of Sage Kapila.

    Of all sages, says Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, I am Kapila. Yet, the

    sons saw only a meditating derelict a potentially felonious one at that. For right

    there, next to the sage, was tied their fathers missing horse.

    From the mouths of 60,000 men came tremendous shouts of insult. So loud did

    they raise their cries of outrage that the deeply-meditating sage opened his eyes for

    the first time in many, many years. With one powerful glance, all sons were imme-diately reduced to heaps of smoldering black-gray ashes.

    Their bodies were gone, but their souls were trapped to wander without peace

    until the proper funeral rituals could be performed rituals which would need a

    river within which their ashes could be submerged. Such a river, at this point in

    history, did not exist in this world.

    Learning of this, the King became inconsolable, as would any loving parent who

    loses one child, much less 60,000. His boundless sorrow was such that it crossed

    the generations, compelling a lineage of descendants to try era after era to bring

    down a river from the heavens, so that their ancestors could finally rest in peace.Centuries later, King Bhagiratha ascended the throne. By now, his land was tor-

    mented by natural disasters that were attributed to the fact that his ancestral uncles

    yet roamed as tormented ghosts. Abdicating his royal post, he set forth to the

    Himalayas, where he practiced ground-shaking spiritual practices for 1,000 years.

    At the conclusion of the millennia, Lord Brahma, the creator, appeared before the

    king to offer any boon.

    My Lord, my only request is that you bring the River Ganga down to Earth,

    said the saintly king, so that my ancestors can finally be free, and our world can

    become safe once more from the disasters that plague it.Touched by his sincerity, Lord Brahma said his request would of course be

    granted, but first, the king would need to please Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva was the only

    one who could slow down the descent of Mother Gangas heavenly waters, so that

    She wouldnt inadvertently flood and destroy our planet at the same time.

    Mother Gangas Rights Are Our Rights

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    Living only on air, King Bhagiratha performed more penance until he attracted

    the loving glimpse of Lord Shiva, who agreed to cushion Mother Gangas descent

    in His free-flowing hair.

    Thus, Ganga came to this Earth. Called forth by Lord Brahma, She became a

    creator in Her own right. Cushioned by the hair of Lord Shiva, She became an

    emancipator. With love knowing no bounds, She freed the princes souls. She fed

    the lands. She became our Mother.

    The Wisdom of the Sages

    As Mother Ganga steadily flowed, lovingly nurturing planes, valleys and mountain

    sides, ancient teachers of ancient times saw Her intrinsic importance to the lives andwell-being of all. As they sat alongside Her peaceful shores, wondrous visions

    would unfold, bringing them to blissful admiration of the Divine. With eyes held

    shut, they saw. And they realized the Godly bonds that forever fused together nature

    and humanity as one. Where there is nature, they realized, and they wrote, there is

    God. Where there is humanity, there is Divinity. A man. A flower. The wind. The

    sun. All are the same: all are glorious embodiments of the one loving, nurturing God

    who creates and pervades everything.

    Understanding this, they implored the masses to see nature as a holy gift from

    and of God. Rituals thus were developed entailing the worship of plants, rivers, the

    sun, the wind. Everything of nature was seen for its holiness and meditated upon

    for its grace.

    Even today, one can witness remnants of such ancient traditions: in the Tulsi

    plants that are worshipped every morning in millions of courtyards; as the threads

    of prayer that are tied to holy trees; as the lamps that are illuminated and then floated

    on the Ganga for Her nightly embrace.

    Such love for nature established a pattern in life. In Vedic times, only what was

    needed was taken. What was taken was replaced. Thus, without realizing it, the

    ancients established a sustainable lifestyle that resulted in plentiful yields of crops and

    sparkling, ever-present waters. In such a culture, famines and water-borne diseases

    would have been rare indeed. Nature which is revered is not simultaneously exploited.

    Sadly, history changed. Mother Ganga and nature didnt.

    The Changing Times and the Paradox of Today

    The population grew, and in its haste for development, ancient ways were discarded.

    Factories, in their enthusiasm to manufacture, poured foul toxins into our waters.Tiny creatures, such as insects and indigenous plants, became pests to be destroyed

    by chemical warfare. Forests and mountain tops were leveled by mighty machines

    so that building materials and fuel could be harvested. Our lives became more and

    more isolated, as open doors were replaced with walls of glass and steel.

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    Thus, our natural resources began to sicken and disappear, so slowly at first

    that it was barely perceptible. Then suddenly, history sped up, and people started to

    die in enormous numbers.

    Every day, about a billion liters of chemicals are poured into the Ganga alone.

    Some substances, which issue forth from industry, are so toxic that they can cause

    convolutions, shock and death. Agricultural run-off furthermore carries the pesti-

    cides and chemical fertilizers of numerous farms and fields into our sacred River.

    Just recently, a study determined that those living alongside portions of the

    Ganga are some of the most prone in the world to contracting certain cancers. Much

    of this is simply due to the chemicals that are used by humanity to make the items

    we believe will make our lives better. Instead, these items are killing us.

    Adding to the burden, approximately two billion liters of sewage pour into Gangas

    waters every day. In the holy city of Varanasi, where people have come for millennia

    to take their last breaths and to scatter the ashes of their loved-ones, Gangas watersare darkened by human waste. Nearly 70 % of the people who use Gangas waters will

    become sickened by waterborne diseases caused by the sewage upstream.

    There was a time in which the Ganga had the ability to self-clean, to remove many

    of the toxins that threaten and take millions of lives. Sadly, much of that ability has

    been removed. Upstream, hydroelectric dams and barrages channel Her waters away.

    Sometimes, they are diverted for over 20 km into dark underground tunnels while the

    natural riverbed aboveground is left dry. Like the ashes of King Sagara sons, the

    lives that depend on Mother Ganga are once again crying for drops of water.

    Making matters more difficult, Gangas waters are also diverted so that they mayquench thirsty cities and farms. Yet, sadly, much of this water is lost to evaporation

    and to poor public infrastructure.

    Without enough water, the Ganga, quite simply, cant wash away the tons of

    waste heedlessly dumped by blinded humanity. Thus, Her waters are becoming

    more and more polluted, toxic and sparse, day by day, bringing more sorrow, more

    disease and more pain.

    Can India Think Like Ecuador?

    In 2008, the South American nation of Ecuador ratified its constitution, and included

    the first injunction in the world granting inalienable rights to nature. Said the New

    York Times, the Constitution includes a novel set of articles that appear to be the first

    in any Constitution One passage says nature has the right to exist, persist, maintain

    and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.1

    According to the Christian Science Monitor, No other country has gone as far

    as Ecuador in proposing to give trees their day in court, but it certainly is not alone

    in its recalibration of natural rights. Religious leaders, including the Archbishop of

    Canterbury, the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop of Constantinople, have declared

    1Andrew C. Revkin, New York Times, Ecuador Constitution Grants Rights to Nature, September

    28, 2008.

    Mother Gangas Rights Are Our Rights

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