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rhythm of life is dictated by water and Hindus
hold rivers in great reverence. India is a country that not
only nurtures the resources nature has bestowed upon her, but also worships them
for the all-round prosperity they bring in their wake. Rivers are one such gift
which are considered highly sacred throughout the length and breadth of the
country. This is primarily because these mighty rivers have perennially been a
source of livelihood to millions of people living in areas lying along their
courses. No wonder people see in them a manifestation of divine female power (shakti).
"Sindhu in might surpasses all the streams
that flow.... His roar is lifted up to heaven above the earth; he puts forth
endless vigour with a flash of light .... Even as cows with milk rush to their
calves, so other rivers roar into the Sindhu. As a warrior- king leads other
warriors, so does Sindhu lead other rivers.... Rich in good steeds is Sindhu,
rich in gold, nobly fashioned, rich in ample wealth.'' - Rig Veda
devitame, Sarasvati"- "O best of mothers, O best of rivers, O best of goddesses,
About 4,500 years ago the Sarasvati was eulogized thus in the Rig
"The Ganga is a living symbol of an
ancient culture's way of life and of the sacred dimension of nature itself. The whole Hindu world still comes to her banks, to sing, to pray, to wash, to
ask favors and blessings, to barter, to die."
"The Ganga is India’s ecological, economic, cultural and spiritual lifeline."
have always believed that water from
has extraordinary powers and prevents disease. The Indian emperor Akbar called
it the "water of immortality" and always traveled with a supply. The
British East India Co. used only Ganges water on its ships during the
three-month journey back to
, because it stayed "sweet and fresh."
The rivers are generally female
divinities, food and life bestowing mothers. As such, they are prominent among
the popular divinities represented in the works of art of the classical period. The
most holy of rivers, the best known and most honored, is the Ganga or Ganges.
She is personified as Goddess Ganga. The sacred river Ganga not only provides
water for the land; the water is itself the symbol of
life without end. The river rises from an ice bed, 13,800
feet above the sea level in the Garhwal Himalayas.
traverse long distances to partake and procure the "Gangajal" (water
of Ganga), as it is almost thought to be divine. Because the Gangajal procured
from the "Har ki Pauri" in Hardwar perennially remains fresh! In
mythology, Ganga is depicted as a beautiful young woman, holding a lotus in one
hand, cascading down the tresses of Lord Shiva The story of Goddess
Ganga is one of the most important themes in Indian mythology which has inspired
the artists and sculptors. The doorway of every temple in India is guarded by an
anthropomorphic representation of river Ganga.
Ganga, may your water,
abundant blessing of this world,
treasure of Lord Shiva, playful Lord of all the earth,
essence of the scriptures and
embodied goodness of the gods,
May your water, sublime wine of immortality,
Soothe our troubled souls.'
The story of
the descent of the Ganga is an ecological story. The above hymn is a tale of the
hydrological problem associated with the descent of a mighty river like the
Ganga. H.C. Reiger, the German Himalayan ecologist, described the material
rationality of the hymn in the following words:
scriptures a realization is there that if all the waters which descend upon the
mountain were to beat down upon the naked earth would never bear the torrents…
In Shiva’s hair we have a very well-known physical device which breaks the force
of the water coming down… the vegetation of the mountains”.
The ancient city of
Allahabad (formerly known as Prayag)
lies at the confluence of the Ganga (Ganges) and the Yamuna, two
sacred rivers that have been cradles of the Indian civilisation. The city is
mentioned in the oldest Indian literature such as the Vedas, Ramayana,
Mahabharata and the Puranas. According to Hindu tales, Lord Brahma, the
creator chose a place where three of the holiest rivers on earth could meet in
harmony. The city is also referred to as `Tirth Raj' or the `king of pilgrimage
"The Ganga is a living presence, a protector, a
healer of ills. The Ganga is as alive as it ever was with the hopes and dreams
of an entire culture.
Even Jawaharlal Nehru,
that arch-modernists, asked that his ashes be cast into the Ganga at Prayag.
"I am proud of this
noble heritage which was and still is ours, and I am aware that I too, like all
of us, am a link in that uninterrupted chain which finds its origin in the dawn
of history, in India's immemorial past. It is in testimony of this and as a last
homage to the cultural heritage of India that I request that a handful of my
ashes be thrown in the Ganga at Allahabad, so that they may be borne to
the vast ocean that bears on the shores of India."
India I Love - By Marie-Simone Renou p.128). Refer to
If the Ganga lives, India lives. If the Ganga dies, India dies - By Vandana
Kashi is the holiest place
for Hindus. It is considered holier than the sky.
It is at Kashi that Count
Keyserling describes the ecstasy that Hindu devotion means.
"The whole Hindu world still comes to her banks, to sing, to pray, to wash, to
ask favors and blessings, to barter, to die. The Ganga is a living symbol of an
ancient culture's way of life and of the sacred dimension of nature itself. Of
all the goddesses, Ma Ganga, is the only one without a shadow. She is the
unequivocal fountain of mercy and compassion, here in this world only to comfort
her children. Her waters are the milk, the nectar of immortality, source of all
life, and abundance. Countless flowers are strewn across her body daily;
millions of lights set sail every evening upon her waters. While stories of gods
and goddesses come and go with the ages, while stories replaces or rivals another,
the organic presence of Ganga continues as ever, absorbing her devotees'
offerings and ashes in the same way she has done since time immemorial."
(source: Travel Through Sacred India - By Roger
Housden p. 22-23).
Of particular sanctity in India are
the perennial rivers, among which the Ganga stands first. This river, personified as a goddess, originally flowed only in
heaven until she was brought down by Bhagiratha
to purify the ashes of his
ancestors. She came down reluctantly, cascading first on the head of Siva, in
order to break her fall, which would have shattered the Earth. Confluences are
particularly holy, and the Gangas' confluence with the Yamuna at Allahabad
is the most sacred spot in India. Another river of importance is the Saraswati, which loses itself in desert; it was personified as a goddess of eloquence and
Mela: The magic of the
mystical Ganga. According to devotees, those who come to the river with a
prayer, never leave back unsatisfied. Faith in the power of the river, to
heal, to resurrect the dead from the grave. The recent Mahakumbh at
Tirthanagari Prayag, has witnessed a mind boggling rush among people, both Indian
and foreign, to take a dip in the water of the river, whose origin is as deep as
the Himalayas themselves. "Ganga Maiyya (Mother Ganga) will take
care of us," The belief among the devotees, startles many first timers to
this mela. The sheer scale of the
Kumbh mela is
ancient Indian poet echoed the emotions of the Kumbha Mela pilgrims thus:
"when the water of the
Ganges and the water of the Yamuna mingle, it appears as though diamonds and
sapphires were woven together in a string; as though a flock of white swans had
suddenly run into another flock of black swans; as though a garland of white
lotus buds were interspersed with blue lotuses; as though streaks of lightning
had merged into a sheet of darkness; as though a clear blue sky was spotted with
wooly clouds of autumn."
Mela - By By
Jack Hebner and David Osborn
world’s largest act of faith
Kumbh Mela - The Biggest Spiritual event
in the Globe: It's extraordinary to witness this sort of mass spiritual
communion between so many people and the river. The varied images from
Kumbh Mela attracts everyone from Boston to Benaras.''
Collected on January 23, 2001, this
one-meter resolution satellite image shows the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela's
busiest bathing day. Masses of people are visible bathing in the river, and the
shape of the river bank has changed.
(image source: http://www.spaceimaging.com/).
It's extraordinary to witness this sort of mass spiritual
communion between so many people and the river.
The varied images from
Kumbh attracts everyone from Boston to Benaras.'' -- the biggest spiritual event
in the globe. Bishambhar
poor and blind, traveled two days in a cramped train from his village of
Dhanvani in central Madhya Pradesh state. Bhushan, 80, scooped up the cold river
with his hands, and offered it to the heavens in a centuries-old gesture.
"I told Mother Ganga, take me across life, mother," he said, his
eyelids twitching with excitement. "My life's ambition is fulfilled."
Together, the Kalpavasis and the Sanyasis, provide a glimpse into the spiritual
mindset of the people of India set in their pursuit of salvation. Kalpavasis,
are people who survive on minimal food and clothing, and whose number runs into
tens of thousands. They sleep in the open during the freezing winter nights on
the river banks, revealing the spirit of the Kumbh as much as the sadhus who
come in hoards with their respective flag-bearers. In perhaps one of the largest
gatherings ever, millions of pilgrims took a dip at the seven ghats at Sangam -
the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna - on Wednesday, stretching the
administration and the police to their limits, but reinforcing the fact the
Indian milieu had not lost touch with the divine.
In his moving
River, Shusaku Endo
major Japanese author writes about a group of Japanese tourists, each of whom is
wrestling with his or her own demons, travels to the River
Ganga on a
pilgrimage of grace. Each has come to India and the holy river Ganga on a
spiritual quest, and each discovers that God has "many faces."
more on Kumbh mela please refer to the Glimpses
"Like a moonless night, like flowerless
such are the countries and regions deprived of the Beneficial virtues of the
Like a sunless sky, an earth without mountains, an atmosphere without wind
thus undoubtedly are the countries and regions that the Ganga does not bathe.
If the wind which has caressed the waves of the Ganga touches a man's
it immediately carries off all the sin he has committed. As small children
tormented by hunger crowd
around their mother begging, so men here below, desirous of attaining their
imploringly to the Ganga!"
- such are the virtues of the
Ganga celebrated in the Mahabharata.
have always believed that water from
has extraordinary powers and prevents disease. The Indian emperor
Akbar called it the "water of immortality" and always traveled with a
supply. The British East India Co. used only Ganges water on its ships during
the three-month journey back to
, because it stayed "sweet and fresh." In
most rivers, organic material usually exhausts a river's available oxygen and
starts putrefying. But in the
, an unknown substance, or "X factor" that Hindus refer to as a
"disinfectant," acts on organic materials and bacteria and kills them.
Gangas' self-purifying quality leads to oxygen levels 25 times higher than any
other river in the world. Yet no one can explain why only this river alone has
this extraordinary ability to retain oxygen.
a Clean Reputation
Sir Sidney James Mark Low (1857–1932) journalist,
historian, and essayist and author of the book, The Governance of England and
Vision of India. He visited the Kumbh Mela during the tour of the Prince and Princess of
in 1906, was wonderstruck and wrote:
more impressive, picturesque, and pregnant with meaning and significance than
Kumbha Mela can be witnessed in all of
Mela, is considered an event with an unpronounceable name that took
place in a city that is as unknown to the West as the festival itself, and in a
country that is thought to have little impact on world events –
. Never mind that this year’s Mela brought thirty million pilgrims, young and
old alike, to commune for forty-one days in an expression of divinity that is
steeped in tradition and based on unparalleled philosophy. In the words of Schopenhauer,
“There is no religion or philosophy so sublime and elevating as Vedanta.”
As Eurocentrism is becoming identified with
ignorance and oppression,
’s emergence as the true center of culture and civilization seems inevitable.
Events like Kumbha Mela will take their seat with dignity they are due, and the
world may come to know an unprecedented era of spiritual upliftment, without
which the future is rather bleak. Americans
experiencing a spiritual and cultural event of ancient
in the 20th century – literally getting their feet wet – is but
another sign of death for “the Ugly American” and the birth of “the Humble
American” – a new breed indeed.
Mela is internationally famous as the earth’s largest gathering of human
beings. Through out the 20th century, Western civilization has
marveled at the Kumbh Mela. Sensationalistic and inaccurate journalism –
reports of “millions of ignorant people bathing in the filthy water of the
,” “worshipping pagan gods and performing mysterious sacrifices” – has
given the Western world something less than a noble appreciation of the Kumbh
Mela. Thus few Westerners have taken the time to attend a Kumbha Mela or to
understand the esoteric meaning of this poignant event.
There is something about the Kumbha Mela, however, that captivates the
Western mind. Some people say the reaction to the Kumbha Mela is so strong
because Kumbha Mela represents the opposite to Western culture. Others say that
the Kumbha Mela beckons the very soul of our existence, calling our higher self
to shake off attachments to worldly life and step toward eternity.
Mela represents all that is
, past and present.
Mela has gained international fame as “the world’s largest act of faith.
Pilgrims attend this holy event with such tremendous faith and in such
overwhelming numbers that it could appear quite bewildering to one who is
experiencing it for the first time.
Faith in the transcendent is something the modern mind tends to reject.
Being partial to rational and scientific thought, we may mistake faith for
sentiment or even ignorance. However, the faith demonstrated at the Kumbha Mela
cannot so easily be dismissed. There, faith is as substantial as the ground upon
which the pilgrims stand. Faith, in the sense of divine experience, has been
described as "unflinching trust in something sublime." According to
the sages of India, there is an infinite, transcendental world or conscious
perception, in which doubt is absent - a world guided by faith. That infinite
plane of existence is obtained by an evolution in consciousness, and faith alone
can lead one in the attempt.
Mela - By Jack Hebner and David Osborn p. 1 - 56).
Reverence for Water
All disease-dispelling medicaments,
Useful for the upkeep of our body,
So that we may live long
To enjoy the bright sun.
That there is ambrosia in waters,
There is healing balm in them,
And there are medicinal herbs,
Know this all,
And by their proper use become wiser.
- Rig Veda 1.23
I seek the Lord of the Waters of golden
May he hear our entreaty and grant us a place of ablution.
Whatever food I have taken in the house of the wicked, whatever gift I have
received at the hands of the crafty, whatever sin of thought or word or deed I
have committed, from this may Indira, Varuna, Brhaspati and Surya cleanse me
again and again.
I have eaten or drunk to excess, or consorted with people of violent ways, may
king Varuna wipe it all away.
Thus, rid of impurity and evil and free from my sin, may I find liberation and
pass to the world of the Lord of creation.
- Taittiriya Aranyaka
Ganga, as it is known to most Indians, is a living icon of the Hindu religion.
Hindu scriptures say King
prayed to the god Shiva in penance at Gangotri and was rewarded with the goddess
Ganga, delivered in the form of a river. Because the river would have devastated
the area if it had fallen freely to earth, Shiva caught it in the locks of his
matted hair, permitting a gentle descent. King Bhagirathi's prayer rock is
preserved in a small temple alongside the river. The main temple, built in the
1700s, lies a few hundred yards away. Gangotri is an important pilgrimage for
Hindus, and thousands come here every year. In
April Gangotri is the site for a major celebration of Ganga. That celebration
focuses on the return to the Gangotri temple of the small figurine that
represents the goddess Ganga. Since snow makes Gangotri inaccessible for nearly
six months each year, the "deity" is kept in winter in a similar
temple in Mukhuwa, a village in the valley below Gangotri. The deity is brought
up the mountain each spring in a colorful procession led by the blowing of
to the Source of Ganga - By Neal
Goddess Saraswati known as Ben-ten in
Saraswati is the
embodiment of the mighty Saraswati
River of the Vedas.
For Japanese Saraswati, refer to chapter on Glimpses
Not far from the foot of the peak itself, at
nearly 15,000 feet above sea level, reflecting the light of its snows, repose
the calm blue waters of the most sacred lake of Hindu religion and stories -holy
Lake Manasarovar, "Lake of the Mind."
The hardiest of
Hindu pilgrims aspire to take the long and dangerous journey over high passes to
bathe in Manasarovar's icy waters and cleanse their minds of the sins that
threaten to condemn them to the suffering of rebirth.
Saraswati is the
embodiment of the mighty Saraswati
River of the Vedas.
Saraswati means "the essence of one's own self." The Sanskrit word 'sara'
means essence and 'swa' means 'self'.
is the earliest goddess
who is associated with a river in the Indian tradition.
She is the divine spouse of Lord Brahma, the creator. Since knowledge is
necessary for creation, Saraswati symbolizes the creative power of Lord Brahma.
She is also praised for her ability both to cleanse and fertilize the earth, and
has been equated with the goddess of learning, poetry, music, and culture. She
is associated with speech- Vac: the goddess of riverlike, streaming
Saraswati is typically shown
seated on a lotus. Like the swan, the lotus seat of the goddess suggests her transcendence
of the physical world. She floats above the muddy imperfections of the physical
world, unsullied, pure, beautiful. Although rooted in the mud (like man rooted
in the physical world), the lotus perfects itself in a blossom that has
transcended the mud. She inspires people to live in such a way that they may
transcend their physical limitations through the ongoing creation of culture.
Goddess Saraswati is worshiped throughout India and on her special day in
spring, Vasant Panchmi, she is worshipped by school children as the patron
goddess of learning.
Hindu University was also
founded on this day.
Brahmputra is the mighty river that dominates the
landscape of north-east India. Emanating from the Mansarovar region in the
Himalayas, it incessantly gushes down with a massive force through the dense
forests of north-eastern states of India, particularly Assam. Brahmputra may not
be revered as much as the Ganga is, but she is considered to be more beautiful.
Despite its masculine-sounding name, Brahmputra is essentially feminine and
exceeds Ganga by a good 450 kilometers in length. The most unique feature of
this great river is its navigability at an astounding altitude of ten thousand
feet! Like the Ganga, its waters too are snow-fed and are generously rainfed,
thus making it flow throughout the year.
The Saraswati, Ganga,
Yamuna, Brahmaputra, Krishna, Kaveri, and other rivers represent an ever-flowing stream of
celestial grace which purifies and fertilizes the earth.
, Threatened by Climate Change
Hindu leaders have long been among the most outspoken defenders
of natures balance. For the Hindu, nature is sacred, to be
respected and cared for. The last few weeks saw a growing
momentum worldwide for initiatives that gather religious leaders
to discuss climate change's causes, consequences and possible
INDIA, November 4, 2009: The Himalayan glaciers are the largest body
of ice outside the polar caps, and they are under threat from global
warming. The warning comes from experts, among them Dr.
R K Pachauri, head of the UN’s
Intergovernamental Panel on Climate Change and Nobel Peace Prize
laureate of 2008.
According to the BBC, “The Himalayan range the area most
affected by global warming in recent years.” This short video
focuses on the
video on - Himalayan glaciers under threat
, Threatened by Climate Change - hinduismtoday.com).
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