The river is not just for achieving salvation but it is the foundation of prosperity, the factor of victory and the symbol of sovereignty.
By Rahees Singh
There is a hymn in a chapter in the Rig Veda describing important rivers, and the Ganga is ranked the first amongst 20. The river has been very important in building the socio-economic life of India (especially North India). In the Bhagvad Gita, Lord Krishna says that “I am the Ganga among rivers,” which indicates the spiritual and divine significance of the river. Both these aspects of the Ganga continued in the pages of history carried forward from the scriptures and the Puranas.
In different periods of history, there were always efforts by rulers to control the Gangetic plain, for hundreds of years (especially from 8th to 12th century). Most rulers of the South also had ambitions; Chola king Rajendra 1, after conquering the region, assumed the title of Gangaikonda Chola.
The river is not just for achieving salvation but it is the foundation of prosperity, the factor of victory and the symbol of sovereignty. It is not only a matter of faith and culture, but also of economy and polity. Many theological texts have been written on the Ganga. Vidyapati’s work Gangabhakti Tarangini, and Ganga Krityavivek composed by Vardhaman Upadhyaya, focus on the medicinal side of Ganga waters, along with other aspects—he wrote “Aushadham jahnavitoyam vaidyao narayanon hariha,” or Ganga waters are the ultimate medicine. Now, the question is, have we forgotten these qualities of the Ganga? Is it a result of our indifference towards our own culture?
With the new-age economy, there is a market and there is a culture of profit, but there is trust deficit. As a result, there is an increase in professional expertise, but depreciation in social and cultural capital. That’s why it is necessary that our leadership brings cultural heritage in the mainstream.
The decision taken by the chief minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath, to embark on a five-day Ganga Yatra is associated with the purpose of tracing these concerns, and connecting the public with them (the CM organised the Ganga Yatra in 27 districts from January 27-31; this 1,140-km yatra started from Bijnor on one side and Ballia on the other). The aim was to make people aware about the socio-economic and cultural importance of the Ganga, and taking public welfare schemes of the Centre and the state to every person’s door in every village, municipal body, municipal corporation.
The socio-economic base of Uttar Pradesh is agriculture (65% of the state’s population is dependent on it). So it is important to make people aware of the new economic activities along with explaining the utility of the Ganga. Through this yatra, zero budget farming is also being promoted in all the gram panchayats along the river. Organic farming techniques are being introduced, inhabitants motivated for the establishment of Ganga Nursery and Ganga Udyan to develop forested areas, and camps organised by the Mati Kala Board to train villagers in craft and commercial production. In addition, Ganga Park and Ganga Maidan will be linked to the Fit India and Khelo India Khelo movement of the Centre.
It is logical to say that the Ganga is the backbone of Indian culture and civilisation. But it has been neglected. The result has been that the Ganga’s cleanliness and flow have been affected, harming not only the aquatic life but human lives. PM Modi, under Namami Gange, has taken steps and this has started yielding good results. Centuries ago, the Golden Age of India started from the Indo-Gangetic belt. The UP CM believes that the Indo-Gangetic belt can become the granary of the whole world, provided we change the modalities of production. If we want to bring back the pride of India, we must honour the pride of the Ganga.
The author is Expert, economic affairs. (Views are personal)