Monday, April 04, 2016

Ganga Snan - Taking A Dip In The River Ganga

Back in Varanasi : We came back to Varanasi after visiting Sarnath on that day. River Ganga (or Ganges) had flooded the ghats(shores), with some temples submerged in Dashashwamedh Ghat. Locals told us that no one would be allowed to take a dip in the holy river. We came to know the seriousness of what they said only when we arrived at the shore near the Dashashwamedh Ghat. Boats made the barricade for anyone venturing the act and there was more to it – the Jal Police! Jal Police or water police – I was hearing it for the first time in my life. Jal police from UP Government was keeping an eye on the adventurers. On the other hand, three among us were keen to take a dip. I was hesitant after reading about the polluted water in the river. You can also see the Clean Ganga posters all over Varanasi!

A Temple submerged by River Ganga, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Varanasi
A Temple submerged by River Ganga, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Varanasi
Ganga Snan : After a while, we explained our situation - coming from far off Bengaluru, to the men in guard. We were allowed to cross the boats and it was told that we had to take a dip within the area encircled by the boats. This was exciting for the group - custom so ancient, ritual so holy was about to be performed. Many wait till the last stages of their life to perform the Kashi Yatra and take a dip in the River Ganga. But my decision had not changed. We crossed guarded area and were in one of the boats now. My friend Krishnan plunged first. But the men in the encircled boats would not allow us to get into the river. What? What the Jal police meant then? and how Ganga Snan(dip in River Ganga) would be performed? Men in the boat had a innovative idea! They would fill the buckets with water from river and pour on the person who wished to complete the ritual and all this would happen in the boat itself! So, in a way one could complete the Ganga Snan(bath in the Ganges) without taking the dip! Seeing my friends complete Ganga Snan, I made up my mind too forgetting about the polluted water. Spirituality taking over Logic! Though I did not like idea of pouring the water of the holy river instead of taking a dip in it, I did complete the ritual!
Jal police in Varanasi (wearing blue color T-shirts)
Jal police in Varanasi (wearing blue color T-shirts)
Why is river Ganga so sacred? Religious importance aside, there must be more to why the river Ganga is being considered so sacred. People believe that dip in the river would wash away all their sins. Definitely I wont buy that. How can one get away with bad karmas by taking a dip in the holy river. Even the Bhagavad Gita says one has to bear the fruits of action - whether good or bad! I got a convincing answer, when I read a book on Swami Vivekananda – The Monk As Man. He says that during colonial times, when British used to travel to India by ship, they used to carry fresh water from Thames, which used to get contaminated midway. But when they were travelling back, the fresh water taken from Ganga used to last long. That is because of the natural nutrients found in the river water originating from the Himalayas. This may be even true now when the water is procured from the foothills of the Himalayas. But I doubt the purity when it enters the Gangetic plains. This apart, you can find a vessel containing the water from River Ganga in some households. The stored sacred water is given to the person nearing his last minutes through the Tulsi/Tulasi (Ocimum tenuiflorum or holy basil) leaf.
Maa Ganga Mandir, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Varanasi
Maa Ganga Mandir, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Varanasi
Holy Water : People carry the water from the holy river while returning back from Varanasi. One friend of mine had come prepared for this – he had few empty bottles. I managed to get the water in one bottle – that is directly from the river. It contained mud because of the floods. Once I reached home, I distilled it and kept in a separate bottle. It may be surprising to you but Varanasi is probably the only airport in the world which allows passengers to carry water in cabin/hand luggage! Of course, when it is water from the holiest river in India – Ganga! Ganga water is sold at shops in Varanasi too. Water is packaged and put into a small Kalash(metal pot). I bought few of them to give to my relatives. It is amazing to see the reverence shown by the people to river Ganga. I experienced this soon after coming back from Varanasi. People would sprinkle the water from Ganga into the bathing water and would feel they had Ganga Snan! Some would sprinkle on themselves and be free of their worries! No modern medicine, consoling words would do the trick as the centuries old belief in the river Ganga!
A temple completely submerged in River Ganga, Dashashwamedh Ghat,Varanasi
A temple completely submerged in River Ganga, Varanasi
Related Posts :

5 comments:

  1. There are lot of unknowns w.r.t sacredness of Ganga water and it would be difficult to explain through 'Logic'. If you recall during our childhood days there was an Ad on soap "Ganga" which makers used to claim that it's made using Ganga water ! :) Not sure if the soap is still available in market ?

    Also, interesting to note that at Varanasi airport they allow passengers to carry water in cabin luggage !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Sandeep, I remember the ad - Ganga soap claiming to be made of Ganga water! :)

      Carrying Ganga water in cabin baggage at Varanasi Airport was surprising for me too!

      Delete
    2. Also, the Ganga soap was from Godrej, one of the leading FMCG brands in India! But Ganga soap is no more. Here is an interesting case study by a marketing guy on Ganga soap - http://marketingpractice.blogspot.in/2006/11/ganga-soap-rip.html

      Delete
  2. Interesting to know about Jal police and how British found the specialty of Ganga... I guess Ganga water might have had some kind of medicinal property so people started using it to cure their physical illness and considered it to cure karmic illness as well :)

    Recently I was reading somewhere that the flow of Ganga has reduced to less than 10% to what it was few decades back and even the Ganga also the it is polluted almost from the source... If we continue to exploit in the same rate at some time in future we might not loose Ganga as well... It is high time Govt takes some remedies...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's right Manjunath... We need to save our river Ganga for our future generations

      Delete

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails