About My Project...

As a kid every time I would cross a river in India, be it the Ganga or the Yamuna or any of their tributaries, I would have a feeling that the water levels of these rivers were receding... my heart would sink seeing the industrial pollutants making their way into these rivers...

On the contrary the feeling I would get seeing these rivers close to their origins… especially the Ganga in Rishikesh is indescribable… no pollution, no signs of water level depletion … so calm and so serene… the scent of freshness in the air…

I am documenting the life around river Ganga… the life as Ganga sees and feels it... the culture the river has supported for thousands of years, the people it has sustained over the centuries, and also the human interference it has suffered over the last one century or so...

Towards that I am following the river from its origins high up in the Himalayas all the way to where it merges with the Indian Ocean. All the while I am meeting with people who have been close to the river to narrate their feelings about the river, what they feel about the part Ganga has played in the Indian civilization and culture, what we human beings have done or could do or have not done to save this mighty river…

My final aim is to narrate the whole documentary as a multimedia and a book. I invite anyone and everyone to please help me with suggestions... critique... and hospitality. I would love to hear your suggestions and incorporate them into my project.

Note: The contents of this blog including the pictures are copyrighted and may not be copied or downloaded without prior permission of Rahul Rathi.
Disclaimer: This is a personal project of Rahul Rathi. He is not responsible for the accuracy of the contents here in and may not be sited as a reference without confirming the accuracy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Garh Mukteshwar...why do we blame the government only???

I reached Garh Mukteshwar on December 1st 2009. This was my last week in India for the trip. Garh Mukteshwar is a small town 100 or so km from Delhi and around 7 km from it is Brijghat where Ganga flows. The combined name of the place is derived probably from the Garhwal rulers of the area and the temple of Mukteshwar Mahadeva, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Garh in hindi also means a fort. The Mukteshwar Mahadeva temple was built by King Shivi, an ancestor of Lord Ram. There is also a famous Ganga Temple in Garh Mukeshwar. It has 101 steps which once upon a time led to the banks of the Ganga. That's when Ganga used to flow very close to the temple (now it flows a few kilometers away). Ganga after all changes its course every once in a while. (please view my other story on Garh Mukteswar for more information)

Brij ghat is a holy place for Hindus. Although it is not as big as other holy cities on the banks of the river Ganga, but since Haridwar and Rishikesh are now a part of Uttrakhand - the new state carved out of Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) - the U.P. government is planing to invest a lot of money to develop Brij Ghat on the lines of other holy cities. Thousands of devotees come here to take the ritual bath in the river Ganga daily, and especially during the full moon day in the month of Kartik (called Kartik Purnima) of the Hindu calender (usually falling in the months of October and November by the Gregorian calender). During Dusherra too there is a big fair held here. 

A few years back it was reported in the Times of India that the area was becoming a sanctuary for wildlife with birds from Siberia seen and the fresh water dolphins spotted in the waters of the Ganga (Ref).

Slide Show (please use arrows to scroll)

As in most other holy towns or cities situated on the banks of the river Ganga, there is a cremation area (murda ghat) in Brijghat too where dead bodies are cremated in open air. People also come here to immerse the ashes of the dead who were cremated else where. The process of cremation is referred to as the antim sansakar (last rites) in Hindi. According to Hinduism there are sixteen sanskars one goes through as s/he passes through life, with Garbhdhan (conception) being the first and Antim Sanskar or Antyeshti being the last.

I was told by locals in the area about the murda ghat and I headed towards it right away, realizing that I have missed the cremation aspect of Ganga thus far. There were several cremations going on... and to be true these were the first I have ever seen, other than on television and movies. There were hordes of people accompanying the dead body. They were mainly relatives and friends of the diseased, but also were friends to the kins of the dead. Then again, there were cows roaming around sniffing the dead bodies, just to be shooed away by people... then I also happened to see a dog feeding upon something white in the Ganga. They were bones... but was hard to figure out if they were human or animal. There were people selling wood for cremation and all other stuff needed for the same... and you could easily find a priest too who would perform the last rites. Ganga gives us business in so many forms... and in return what do we give her?

As I was taking pictures, two gentlemen approached me wondering what I was doing. I told them about my project and both of them were very supportive of it. They talked at length about the idea of cremation near the Ganga. According to them it was not a wise idea if you have to travel a long distance to come to the river. They said it was a waste of time for all those who had to come or in other words were made to come. Hmmm...they were not wrong. I could see people talking on their cell phones, probably handling their business, and were not very interested in the rituals... after all the dead person was not one of their family members. The two also suggested that the best idea is to cremate in their own village or town or city and just come to the Ganga to immerse the ashes. In fact that's what most people do... yet there are some who prefer to cremate the body on the banks of the Ganga.

But anyway, I am not concerned about that. What I was concerned about was: who would clean the area where you just cremated the body. In fact no one does. The area is left as is, for water to come someday and take away the remainder of the wood and ashes. And sometimes, the bodies are not even let to be cremated (read burnt here) and are disposed off into the waters of the Ganga. It could very well be a ritual, but not when one sees dogs feeding upon bodies. The clothe that the corpse comes wrapped in and any other material including bags etc that are used to carry stuff to the cremation ground are either burnt in the cremation fire... or people just leave them there. How convenient. And of course it all finds its way into the Ganga... even more convenient. And then we blame the government for inefficiency... or the tanneries for dumping chemicals... but what about us?

I moved away from the cremation area, towards the bathing ghats. And the scenes were not very different from all other places I have been to recently. Children throwing magnets into the river to collect coins... only the shape of the magnets had changed, now it was a big block of magnet instead of several small pieces attached together. This time around I also saw a guy sifting through the sand collected from the river bed looking probably for coins. The dialect of people changed. Surprisingly I did not come across any beggars, but monkeys were there... and then several people praying to mother Ganga and taking a holy dip or just offering Ganga water to the Sun God. The boatmen were there ... offering boat rides across the Ganga. There were stalls selling religious stuff... so the place was not very different from Haridwar, just a little smaller. And the most common site so far was land (river bed ) being used for seasonal crops...   


  1. Thanks for this inomative, well written article.


    1. Thanks Mr Naresh. I appreciate you taking time reading my blog.



  2. It was awesome to read your article... thnks

    1. I really appreciate you reading my blog. Thanks so much!