The River Goddess

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“The Ganga, especially, is the river of India, beloved of her people, round which are intertwined her memories, her hopes and fears, her songs of triumph, her victories and her defeats. She has been a symbol of India’s age-long culture and civilization, ever changing, ever flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga.”

Jawaharlal Nehru, First Prime Minister of India

the Light

According to the Bhagavata Purana, Gaṅgā was a goddess that came from the heavens to earth in the form of the Ganges River, to grant salvation to the ancestors of King Bhagirath who had been disrespectful to a meditating sage.  Since that time, she continues to offer a means of purification for all  humanity through her healing waters.   Today, pilgrims come from far and wide to bathe in the sacred river and receive her blessing.

The Ganges runs for 2,520 kilometres, from its source in Uttarakhand, India to its mouth, the Ganges Delta, Bay of Bengal.  It is home to over 140 diverse species of fish and 90 different types of amphibians.  The water from the Ganges is used to irrigate the fertile soil that produces fields of rice, sugarcane, oil seeds, lentils, wheat and potatoes.  Over 400 million people live in Ganges river basin, the highest population of any river basin in the world.

The WWF has included the Ganges River in the “10 Rivers most at Risk.”  It is heavily polluted with human and industrial waste.  As well, water over-extraction for agriculture has increased reliance on ground water.  This has led to deficiencies in the soil composition and reduced water quality.   Mahatma Gandhi once said, “We must be the change we want to see in the world.”  Even now, there are dedicated people working to reclaim the Ganges.  It will take a coordinated effort and input by all stakeholders to finance, plan, implement and monitor.

It is a noble undertaking.

“Let the mountains talk, let the rivers run. Once more and forever.”

 David Brower

19 thoughts on “The River Goddess

  1. Hi Rebecca.

    Love this post. My sister went to India a little bit more than a year ago. i helped her post her pictures on Shutterfly and wrote about the Ganges River, its importance to the people in India, and its religious and cultural significance. That was right before I started to blog. Let me dig out that piece. I will respond on my blog “The Notebook”. I personally learned a lot from such exploration, and totally enjoyed the search for information. Please stay tuned!

    Denise

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    • I have always wanted to travel to India. in the meantime, I can experience the music and photos from afar! I feel that in some way, I am participating in the sacred journey…

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  2. If the earth is a woman – then of all the things, despoiling a river must grieve her deeply

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  3. Thank you for your continued reminder about the survival reminder of the world’s rivers. The constant and mere mention of the magnificence and of their necessity in the role they play in our existence, keeps us alert to their presence. Lest we forget the need to protect them form they who would cause them damage for personal gratification and ultimate greed. JJ

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    • I agree – we must protect. I think that somewhere along the way, we have forgotten who we are and how we are to interact within a finely tuned ecosystem. It seems that we somehow think that we are the superior beings. If this were so, then our world would have the protection it requires. We are part of the earth….

      “The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.” Chief Seattle, The Chief Seattle’s Speech

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  4. What an important post! I happened on a documentary recently that spoke of the loss of amphibians and with them sources of medicine derived from secretions their important skin. How much we are losing from our lack of care for our environment.! Thank you for the short video–an extraordinary voice.

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    • There is more and more evidence that our environment is full of life-giving properties. Without water, we would die, without soil we would not have sustenance. Without our trees, we could not breathe. These truths are clear and unequivocal.

      “We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.” Wendell Berry, The Long-Legged House

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    • I have never had the privilege of travelling to India. But I rather like the idea that Ganga was there for all of humanity! I agree – India teaches much about peace and heart. 🙂

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  5. Now this is a subject I am familiar with – the beautiful Mother Ganga. One day I will bathe in her waters. It is one of my dearest dreams. I have heard it said that although the river is highly polluted, millions of people bathe in her, and come to no harm. Thank you, Rebecca. ♥

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    • I share your dream…

      I was reading that there is progress being made to reclaim the beautiful Mother Ganga. We know it is possible to do so. 🙂

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  6. I’ve read about the ganges River and how polluted it is, but its importance in their culture and religion will make it extremely difficult to advise the people to avoid using the river while it’s being rejuvenated and cleaned. the cleaning can definitely be done. Rivers in worse state than the Ganges were cleaned to the point that fishes have started to come back and made the rivers their homes again.

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    • I agree with your wholeheartedly – rivers can come back to life! And there are many people who are working towards that very goal. I may not be directly involved, but every day I can make better decisions on how to relate within our precious environment. Thank you for your comments – much appreciated!!!

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