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The Ganges: India’s sacred river

Ever heard of The Ganges? If you’ve ever been to India or always wanted to, you probably would have heard of it. But did you also know that besides being the most popular river in India, it is also the country’s most sacred?

People flock daily to the banks of the Ganges to attend aarti (ceremony of lights and song) and perform their own personal pujas with candles and boats made of leaves and candels. The Ganges is believed to be the mother (Ma Ganga) and also to have the power to wash sins away. The same people that believe her waters are curing, also bring tremendous environmental pressure to the river, inadvertantly, creating the Ganges paradox: those that love it, are killing it.

Third largest flowing river in the World

The Ganges despite being India’s most popular and sacred river is also the world’s third largest river by discharge. This refers to how much water flows through it and to all the regions that it flows to, including all the many smaller rivers it breaks down into.

This holy river, interestingly, also partly flows through Bangladesh as well. The Ganges flows through the Himalayan region and all the way till the Western Bengal area before splitting into smaller rivers which then flow all over the country!

The river also bears a direct link to Hinduism which is also the country’s  predominant faith and religion that is widely practiced throughout the country while differing just slightly from state to state. The Ganges is linked so closely to the religion that it is personified as a goddess in Hinduism as ‘Ganga’.

While bathing in The Ganges is said to rid you of your earthly sins, another part of Hinduism also uses the river to release the cremated ashes of an individual believing that doing so sends it straight to Lord Shiva, one of the principal deities of Hinduism.

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Health issues

Despite being the most sacred rivers in India that sees literally thousands of worshippers submerge in it on a day to day basis, there are a number of health issues that persist. The most pressing of health issues is the presence of fecal bacteria in the river.

Surprisingly, the amounts of this bacteria is so high in the river that is surpasses the Indian government’s safety limits. However this does not seem to stop worshippers from continuing their holy rituals!

Pollution

Since The Ganges flows through many cities and coastal towns, there has always been discharge of materials into the river as a means of disposal and convenience. With the rise in use of plastic and non-biodegradable material, these items are also being dumped into the river, inevitably polluting it.

Pollution is at an all-time high in the river despite its widely acknowledged sacredness. The pollution also harms the thriving wildlife and water species that are dependent on it as a life source.

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Hence, The Ganges is not just India’s popular and sacred river but is also one that is most visited by Hindu worshippers on almost every day of the year. From attempting to wash away their sins to fulfilling the last rites of an individual, the river is seen as an important part of the Hindu way of life. Health issues and pollution persist despite the Indian government’s efforts to contain it. Nonetheless, The Ganges is always worth a visit while in India but as with visiting any natural feature, leave only your footprints and take away only memories!

 

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