Did you ever hear the story of Ganga?
Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a little girl who was born in a water pot. And not just any water pot! This was a pot filled with holy water, way up in heaven. The little baby girl grew up into a beautiful girl named Ganga. Ganga was a little bit naughty, and liked to play pranks. One day she saw an old wise saint called Durvasa and she sent a whirlwind. Durvasa got caught in the whirlwind and his garment flew off. Ganga could not stop laughing.
Old Durvasa frowned and looked over at Ganga. ‘Now you made me angry. You can’t stay here. I’m sending you to earth! As a river!’
‘Oh no! Please!’ said Ganga, who now realised she was in big trouble. ‘Please let me stay here!’
When Durvasa saw that Ganga was truly sorry, he said to her: ‘This is what I can do for you. You will go to earth as a river, but you will be a blessed river. When people bathe and swim in you, you will make their hearts clean and wash away their sins’.
And off she flew, down, way down, through the stars and the clouds, with a beautiful river behind her like a tail. Finally she landed in the nation of India on a mountain top. From there she flowed down into the valleys and became the holy river Ganga (or Ganges). This is the story parents still tell their children about India’s most famous river.
THE RIVER GANGES
The Ganges (or Ganga) starts from a height of almost 8000 meters (25.000 ft) and is over 1500 miles long. That is eight times the length of the Thames (215 Miles). It flows through three countries: Nepal, India and Bangladesh. The Ganges ends in the world’s largest delta: the Bay of Bengal. The Ganges banks are lined with fertile soil. The farmers by the riverside grow rice, wheat, potatoes and sugarcane. The river is also used for fishing.
To Indians, the Ganges is a holy river. They call it the ‘mother of India’. Varanasi is India’s holiest city, and it lies at the banks of the river.
When you come to Varanasi at sunrise, you quickly know that you are not in an ordinary city. The first thing you notice are the temples. Hundreds of Hindu temples. And all the traffic seems to go down to the Ganges. As you follow the crowd and walk towards the riverside, you see Hindu priests sitting near the water side. Some of them have beards and long hair, some are dressed in orange or white garments. The worshippers go to the priests and the priests bless them and put some powder on their foreheads.
While you walk by the Ganges, you can see hundreds of people dipping, washing, boating, even swimming in the water! Some are praying or putting leaves with candles into the water. Grandmothers and little children wander in between goats and cows towards the river side.
You walk on over the steps and stone platforms, and suddenly you see smoke drifting up. You are near a cremation place. Every day, hundreds of bodies are cremated or burned on piles of wood near the river. Hindus believe that those who die at the Ganges will go straight to heaven.
The biggest Indian religious festival comes to the Ganges every 6 years. As many as 70 million people come to the river to be purified.
People come to the Ganges to be cleansed. The sad thing is that the great river has become one of the dirtiest in the world. There are several reasons for this.
Sewage. Tens of millions of gallons of untreated sewage are dumped into the river every day. The River’s pollution can mainly be blamed on sewage.
Cremation Sites. Hundreds of human and animal remains are dumped into the river every day.
Chemical Waste. Over 40 industries in the Varanasi area dump their waste into the river constantly. Much of the waste is chemical and dangerous. The Ganges water is turning black.
One local resident says: ‘Twenty years ago we used to drink this water. Now it is so filthy; we can not even bathe in it’.
How can these problems be solved?
1.Sewage needs to be treated
2.Trees need to be planted at the river side to stop erosion, and
3.The government must stop the industries from spoiling India’s most famous river with waste.