Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Ganges River: Soiled & Sacred, Now Political

Cleaning the sacred Ganges River is now at the center of the big Indian election campaign, the results of which will be announced on Friday, according to this fascinating story in the New York Times. 

Hindus believe that they can escape the cycle of rebirth if their dead bodies are burned on the edges of the Ganges River.

But now, the river itself is in need of rebirth. According to one environmental scientist, "the stench along the uneven cobblestone steps in parts of Varanasi is overpowering."   He further notes that "three hundred million liters of raw sewage mixed with industrial pollutants are dumped in the Ganges here every day."

The plight of the river has become political, according to the Times. Narendra Modi, the front runner for prime minister, promises to clean up the river. It's a popular position. According to one Indian writer, "Modi’s approach with Varanasi, is definitely for a lot of Hindus, a call to the ancient past.” “It’s an attempt to create a Hindu symbol and it’s a call to clean up the pollution of the culture.”

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