While the whole India was busy celebrating the “living” status given to the river Ganga by Uttarakhand High Court on Monday, the decision did not put the residents of Varanasi in awe. Being born and brought up on the river bank, she witnesses all grief and pains of their lives. Yes! the noun ‘she’ can be used for the river as it has now become a legal entity.
Whether it is the first step of a child or the last journey of a person after death, a celebration of bringing a bride home or salvation of dead ancestors, Kashiites make Ganga a part of every important event of their lives and believe that in return, the river blesses them. Thus, for the people of Varanasi who consider the river as ‘Maa Ganga’, this news does not affect much but the thing that clicked with them was the intention behind it – protection, conservation and preservation of the river and its tributaries.
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Talking to FE, some residents shared how their lives are linked to Gangaji and why the river is like a living being for them. The suffix ‘ji’ is added to the name of river Ganga fondly by all the people of Varanasi. Gaurav Prakash, a research scholar, says he was taken to the river just 30 days after his birth as a part of family ritual to thank the river for bringing happiness to them. “Though the memory of the day was not registered in my mind, it probably emotionally connected me to ‘her’. Many times, in the fear of upcoming exam of Maths, anxiety of being rejected in any entrance exam or just like that without any reason, I have spent hours on the stairs of majestic Dashaswamedh ghat to revitalise myself,” said Prakash.
However, when the Kashiites see the miserable condition of the river, as it is being dumped with waste in the name of tradition of putting religious remains into the river body besides harmful pollutants like the disposal of industrial waste, sewer water and chemicals, it feels them with tears.
However, now, when the Uttarakhand HC has declared their ‘Maa Ganga’ on paper as a living entity and also named two ‘legal parents’ of the river – Director, Namami Gange project for cleaning and rejuvenating the river, and the Chief Secretary and the Advocate General of Uttarakhand. People of the temple town have now entrusted the task of ensuring cleanliness of the river to their ‘Nanajis’ (maternal grandparents, the officials).
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The residents, who also consider Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the “adopted” son of Mother Ganga and the city after his announcement at the riverbank in 2014 during Lok Sabha polls that he came to Varanasi as Maa Ganga called him, calls the legal parents of Ganga as grandparents of the PM Modi as well and hopes they would take care of the river and fulfill his vision.
The PM on many occasions between filing his nomination to contest Lok Sabha polls from Varanasi in 2014 till today, has called Ganga as mother and appeals people to contribute in cleanliness of the river body every time he visits the city, which is also his parliamentary constituency.