Almost parallel and closely tied to Hinduism, the sacred River Ganga, for around 3,000 years, has been flowing majestically towards its immersion point into the borderless ocean from its origin, the great Himalayas. Throughout its long 2,500-kilometer journey through "Mother India", the deity Ganga has served various civilisations beginning from the Mauryan Empire of Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE to the Mughal Empire.
The greater part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, across which it flows, also developed during the subsequent British rule. The sublime deity Ganga also has been serving independent India to the present day and will continue serving people well into the never-ending future. All the way, across time and distance, Maa Ganga has been witnessing thousands of her devotees purge their sins in her sacred and translucent waters every day.
But it is most unfortunate to see the great soul of Maa Ganga (Mother Ganges) being fettered at Farakka for the last half-century, just before it enters Bangladesh.
Described in the Mahabharata as the 'best of rivers, born of all the sacred waters', the Ganges is personified as the goddess Ganga, said the Ancient History Encyclopedia. The Ganges is considered a tirtha, which means a crossing point between heaven and earth. In Hindu mythology, the Ganges river was created when Vishnu, in his incarnation as the dwarf Brahmin, took two steps to cross the universe. Lord Bhagiratha then brought the river to Earth, and safely guided it across India, where she split into many distributaries.
No previous civilisation, dynasty or colonial power had dared to obstruct the Ganga's natural flow. But the Indian National Congress geared by nationalism did just that in the 1960s. The then congress stalwart Jawaharlal Nehru brushed aside critics who projected that such a barrage will have a detrimental impact on Mother Nature. But the politician tinted with a secular spirit was adamant about carrying out the Farakka Barrage Project, which in the present day is listed as one of the worst man-made aggressions on nature in modern history.
Maa Ganga as human entity
Men made flaws while their successors come up to correct them.
Three years back, with the rise of the water level in the Ganga causing floods in all districts along its banks in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar reiterated his demand to remove the Farakka dam, reports the Times of India.
Two years back on March 20, 2017 a court in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand ordered that the Ganges and its main tributary, the Yamuna, be accorded the status of living human entities, reports The Guardian.
The Ganges river, considered sacred by more than 1 billion Indians, has become the first non-human entity in India to be granted the same legal rights as people.
The decision, which was welcomed by environmentalists, means that polluting or damaging the rivers will be legally equivalent to harming a person, reports The Guardian.
Uttarakhand High Court Judges Rajeev Sharma and Alok Singh realised the magnitude and greatness of Maa Ganga which Pundit (Scholar) Nehru, a graduate of natural science and then a Barrister failed to fathom even in his 60s. Both prudent judges who were toddlers in the early 1960 while the barrage was built, have jointly taken a rightful step to correct their predecessors' wrongs.
However, four months later on July 7, 2017, the Indian Supreme Court put on hold the Uttarakhand high court decision that declared the river Ganga a living entity and bestowed on it the same legal rights as a person, reports The Hindustan Times.
The Uttarakhand government said the verdict was "unsustainable in the law" and had various legal repercussions.
While reflecting on the millennium-old longevity and the deity-status of the Ganges, what came to mind about Maa Ganga is its vastness. A World Bank report said, the sprawling Ganges basin, an area of 860,000 sq km spreads across 11 states of India, is the world's most populous river basin. It is home to more than 600 million Indians; and over 40 percent of the country's GDP is generated in this region.
My observation is that, if the Indian apex court had not put the decision of the Uttarakhand high court on hold, it would have allowed the devotees of Maa Ganga, and other rational people to unshackle the soul of Maa Ganga and allow it to flow unfettered towards its ultimate destination - the borderless and vast ocean - the symbol of eternity.
Over the last one month, I have realised that Maa Ganga is the dearest offspring of the great parent, The Himalayas. Then I asked the search engine Google about the age, vastness and importance of the Himalayan Mountain range. What I learnt was awe inspiring.
Hindu wisdom says the Himalayas are sacred for the followers of five religions--Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and the indigenous Bon tradition of Tibet. These religions revere the mountains as a place of power where many of their most important sages and teachers have attained the heights of spiritual realisation. The Himalayas are often referred to as devatma or God-souled.
From the Himalayas, the abode of many god and goddess, has originated so many life-giving perennial rivers that have nourished many civilisations. Of these the Ganga is the most respected one. If Maa Ganga makes a plea for her emancipation at the kingdom of Lord Shiva to remove the fetter at Farakka, that surely will make Shiva angry at the people who built it. So, my appeal to India is to dismantle the Farakka Barrage.
Most Primitive Nature
Another realisation is that 'Mother Nature' is older and more independent than humans and religions. The Earth has taken millions of years to reach a state that makes it livable for modern human beings.
As the Indian plate rammed into Asia (Eurasian plate) about 40 to 50 million years ago, its northward advance slowed by about half. The collision and associated decrease in the rate of plate movement are thought to mark the beginning of the rapid uplift of the Himalayas. At that time the Ganga River did not exist. Indian nationalism had no existence anywhere in the planet. Not to mention the existence of Bangladesh.
Human impact on the Earth
We have been living in the Anthropocene age for the last 10 millennia, in which human influence on the planet is so profound and terrifying that it seems humans have altered the planet forever, reports The Guardian.
We have unleashed our arrogance because we are the super-species. We are interfering and fiddling with nature, and the consequences of doing this will be devastating, and will spell our own destruction.
On land, in the seas, in the sky, the devastating impact of humans on nature is laid bare in a compelling UN report. One million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, reports the BBC.
A recently released report of the Wildlife Institute of India says that the Gangetic Dolphin, which was declared a national aquatic animal in 2009, is on the verge of extinction due to construction of dams and barrages.
The sacred Ganges passes through India, but it did not come from Modern India. It descended from the Great Himalayas. For around 3000 years and more, the Ganges has been flowing through the mainland of ancient India till date. We hope Maa Ganga will flow like the River Nile, which has been flowing for more than 30 million years.