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Ganga and yamuna the two transmitters of history, culture and realityVipin Agnihotri

The legends depict that Ganga and Yamuna were brought to the earth to absolve us from our earthly sin and deliver us to the Moksha. the unblemished flow of Ganga was disentangled from the unruly hair locks, released by king Bhagirath, to gush forth the earth with her perennial water. the cultual aspect of the two rivers is huge, as they gave birth to hundreds of cities and remained living witnesses to growing and diminishing ancient hindu, buddhist, islamic civilizations. Ganga, a mythical identity, is higher above myth and religion. it has become an iconograph in indian cultural life. indians dont only immerse themselves in Ganges and Yamuna and they have learn to live by the name of Ganga.


The Ganges River starts in the Himalayas, roughly three hundred miles north of Delhi and five miles south of India’s border with Tibet, where it emerges from an ice cave called Gaumukh and is widely been regarded as the Bhagirathi.

The Ganges is considered a tirtha which pretty much depicts a crossing point between heaven and earth.

The river is, along with two other sites, the location of the extraordinary Kumbha Mela ritual which dates back to at least the 7th century CE. Now held every three years, Hindu pilgrims conduct a ritual bathing in the river which is thought to purify body and soul, wash away karma, and bring good fortune.

One of the most sacred sites in India is alongside the Ganges at Varanasi. The site is perhaps most famous as a place of retirement, cremation, and the spreading of ashes upon the sacred river.

A hundred and twenty miles to the south, at the ancient pilgrimage city of Haridwar, the Ganges enters the plains. This is the beginning point for hundreds of miles of irrigation canals built by the British, beginning in the eighteen-forties, after a major famine.

The Ganges River has always been known as a religious icon in the world. The Ganga has an exalted position in the Hindu ethos. It is repeatedly invoked in the Vedas, the Puranas, and the two Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

People travel from distant places to immerse the ashes of their kin in the waters of the Ganga; this immersion also is believed to send the ashes to heaven. Several places sacred to Hindus lie along the banks of the river Ganga, including Haridwar and Kashi. People carry sacred water from the Ganges that is sealed in copper pots after making the pilgrimage to Kashi. It is believed that drinking water from the Ganga with one's last breath will take the soul to heaven.

"Life is incomplete without bathing in the Ganga at least once in the lifetime. In most Hindu families, a vial of water from the Ganga is kept in every house. This is done because it is auspicious to have water of the Holy Ganga in the house, and also if someone is dying, that person will be able to drink its water," pointed out Acharaya Vishnu Shastri.

The ancient scriptures clearly pinpoints that the water of Ganges carries the blessings of Lord Vishnu's feet; hence Mother Ganges is also known as Vishnupadi, which means "Emanating from the Lotus feet of Supreme Lord Sri Vishnu."

Ganges is the ultimate adventure point as far as river rafting in India is concerned. And the major rafting site from where any experienced rafter as well as an amateur one would love to start of his rafting trip in India is Rishikesh. The magic of white water rafting on the Ganges, the adrenaline rush with the thrill of negotiating speedy river currents or just gently floating past terraced hillsides and forest is one experience you wouldn't like to miss. The moods of the Ganges rafting trip can be as diverse as an adventure lover seeks.

Yamuna

Yamuna River, popularly known as Jumna, is one of the country’s most-sacred rivers.

The Yamuna rises on the slopes of the Bandarpunch massif in the Great Himalayas near Yamnotri (Jamnotri) in western Uttarakhand. It flows in a southerly direction swiftly through the Himalayan foothills and, exiting Uttarakhand, onto the Indo-Gangetic Plain, along the border between Uttar Pradesh and Haryana state to the west. The Eastern and Western Yamuna canals are fed from the river at that point.

The Tons, Chambal and Giri rivers are the important tributaries of Yamuna,River Mandakini is the last tributaries of river Yamuna before it joins The Gange in Allahabad. The most sought after Taj Mahal is located on the bank of the holy Hindu river Yamuna in Agra. One of the famous Naini Bridge builds across the Yamuna river.

"Yamuna is the consort of Lord Shri Krishna. Gokula, the divine abode of the Lord is the home of Yamuna. It is that, the river first went round Shri Krishna before descending down to earth as per the order of her Lord," informs Sadhvi Kalika Srivastava.

According to tradition,Yamuna is believed to be the offspring of Sun God 'Surya'. Hence it is considered that whoever takes a dip in the holy waters of the source stream of Yamuna may not have fear of death.

Human rights for Ganges and Yamuna

Both Ganges and Yamuna have been given the status of living entities to save them from further harm caused by widespread pollution.

Two months back, the Uttarakhand High Court has given a ruling that the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers be accorded the status of living human entities, meaning that if anyone harms or pollutes either river, the law would view it as no different from harming a person.

Judges Rajeev Sharma and Alok Singh declared the Ganges and the Yamuna and their tributaries “legal and living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities.”

Environmental activists are of the view that lots of rivers across India have become dirtier as the country’s economy develops, with city sewage, farming pesticides and industrial effluents freely flowing into waterways despite laws against polluting.

Vimlendu Jha, an environmental activist fighting for so long to clean up the Yamuna, said the court ruling alone would not be enough to stop the degradation of the rivers.

Merely announcing that it is a living entity will not save the river,” he said. “The state government, officials and citizens need to act to clean up the river and stop further pollution.”

“The two rivers have to be fixed, or we will face a huge ecological and health crisis,” Jha warned.

Officials on the other hand say the Yamuna, one of the main tributaries of the Ganges River, is tainted with sewage and industrial pollution. In some places , it has stagnated to the point that it no longer supports fish or other forms of aquatic life.

Water from the Yamuna is chemically treated before being supplied to Delhi’s nearly 19 million residents as drinking water.





Cleaning Ganges and Yamuna

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already drawn the nation’s attention to the sad state of the river Ganga, with a promise to restore its glory.

Like Ganga Action Plan, there have been Yamuna Action Plans (YAP) in operation since 1993-94 with Japanese assistance. By the end of second phase of YAP in 2011, some Rs 1,500 crore had been spent on trying to clean the largest tributary of the Ganga, but with little success.

The fact is that river cleaning efforts since the mid-1980s have clearly failed to help revive or restore our rivers. Even after 30 years of the launch of Ganga Action Plan, there is not a single example of government-led successful river restoration in the country.

Environmentalists and sadhus emphasized the need to get rid of the existing obstructions and not to place new ones at the Ganga Manthan meeting called by the government to decide how to rejuvenate the river.

There is no denying the fact that it is far more significant and sustainable to have a ‘healthy’ and ‘happy’ nation than a ‘wealthy’ but ‘sick’ nation.

For health, as a nation we must breathe clean air, have access to and eat healthy food, and drink clean and wholesome water. This shall be possible only when our air is clean, soils are healthy and rivers have been revived and rejuvenated.

Above all, it must be understood that rivers are a natural system, and act like human veins and arteries for the earth. Just like a damaged artery can result in a serious health issue, so would a damaged river system for the nation and the earth.

In more tangible and direct terms, the Ganga-Yamuna river system shall be truly restored only when their needs are understood and addressed in entirety. When each of their tributaries are given as much attention as the main river channels; when their ecological flows and security of flood plains are ensured by law and when the restoration of Ganga-Yamuna truly becomes a people’s movement and does not remain just a government run river ‘cleaning’ effort, only then will the rivers be truly conserved.