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.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Haridwar... mighty Ganga enters the plains

Returning from Devprayag I stopped at Haridwar (or Hardwar). Hari meaning God and Dwar meaning gate, Haridwar stands for Gateway to God. Some people refer to it as Hardwar, with Har referring to Lord Shiva, and others as Haridwar, with Hari referring to Lord Vishnu.

Haridwar is one of the seven holiest places in Hinduism. It is where the river Ganga first reaches the plains. It is thus also known as Gangadwar (Gate of the Ganga). It is one of the four places in India where the Kumbh Mela is held. I will be back in Haridwar in April to cover the Kumbh Mela. Har ki Pauri (Har is God, Pauri is Steps) is the most sacred ghat in Haridwar, and it  is where thousands of devotees gather daily for the evening Ganga aarti, and millions gather during the festive seasons for the ritual bathing.

As I was heading towards the Himalayas during my first trip, I noticed that the Ganga was very dry here at Haridwar. Then we crossed over a bridge where from I could see a barrage, or maybe it was a small dam that was cutting the water off from the main river and diverting it towards the Har ki Pauri. This time on I was at the Har ki Pauri and could see the water of the Ganga in full flow. Very close by is a another small dam, which is used to divert the water back into the Ganga if there is a over flow especially during the rainy season. Otherwise, most of this water at the Har ki Pauri, instead of flowing back into the Ganga, now flows parallel to the Ganga in men-made canal called the Upper Ganga Canal. The Upper Ganga Canal has helped irrigate millions of acres of agricultural land in north and central Uttar Pradesh, but at the same time it has also severely depleted the waters in the Holy Ganga.

Slide Show (please use arrows to scroll)

I reached at the Har ki Pauri just before the evening Ganga aarti. It was getting crowded. People rushing towards the ghat to attend the aarti... many praying to the setting sun or to the river Ganga... many getting prayers done for them... several taking a holy dip in the river... some cleaning the area for the evening aarti... There were street vendors all around... selling roli (red powder)... small boats made of leaves containing flowers and an earthen lamp (part of a ritual to immerse the boats into the river)... pitchers for devotees to fill up the sacred water from the Ganga to carry back home... all sorts of religious stuff used in Hindu prayers... There were stalls of religious books and CDs... with music emanating from their shops at full volume... And of course there were men in blue shirts asking for donations towards Ganga cleaning (hmmm really?)... then others asking for donations towards the Ganga aarti...(hmmm Oh really??)

The first impression I got was that people have commercialized the Har ki Pauri, and they have commercialized the holy river Ganga. People now are using the name of river Ganga to earn money... faking it to be for cleaning. It's not what I am saying. This is what I was told by some locals at the ghat itself. They have never seen anyone actually clean the river here... and no one knows where the money they collect actually goes.

I was also told that people come here with offerings and with ashes of their diseased beloveds... which are immersed into the waters here at the ghat. But the bags the ashes or the offerings are brought in are also thrown into the waters... or if not into the waters the plastic bags are left on steps... and then one day they find their way into the Ganga... of course... after all Ganga is a natural sewage system.

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