We Indians have a strange way of showing our respect to the things (places) we worship. In the name of religion, we build cemented structures in our rivers to install large idols of gods & goddesses. In the name of devotion, we clean our feet, dispose off ashes and run mechanized boats in the same water that we regard as the purest to drink. Such is our relationship with the River Ganga in Rishikesh, and while the river continues to be a timeless beauty, it’s hard to say how long it can sustain our ‘religious’ offerings. From an evening spent in the land that I remember to be almost magical 12 years ago, a photo essay on how our prayers show both love & hate for this magnanimous river.
She meanders down from the Himalayas of the west
With her icy cool touch & golden hues at sunset.
In large numbers we gather, we sing, we chant
We make big promises should she our wishes grant.
Our holy men offer prayers on her shore
Asking for wisdom and so much more.
On foil-coated bowls, a prayer lamp we light
On her waters we float it, mindless of its plight.
Along her current, it floats and ebbs
It won’t degrade, laments the river bed.
And in her waters, we dip our feet
What better way to beat the heat?
And in her waters, we toss our waste
Who cares that plastic shall never degrade?
Then from her waters we satiate our thirst,
Never once doubting the purity or dirt.
Nothing’s as strong as our faith in the river
Never shall we doubt it, never shall it quiver.
Some of us quietly contemplate on her banks
For all it endures, we offer our thanks.
With such love, she turns a bright red
She knows we think with our heart, not our head.
Have you been to Rishikesh? What are your impressions of the mighty River Ganga?