I am ending my sabbatical with 4 days in Varanasi, the holy Hindu city, thousands of years old. Varanasi, maybe the oldest city in the world, is also known as Kashi, the City of Light. Temples, all 800 of them, light torches and ring bells twice a day. Shiva, the creator and destroyer was born here. Two daughters, the Varuna and Assi Rivers, join their mother Ganga at this place. The Ganges begins in the mountain streams of Himalayans. It is beyond beauty--and terribly damaged.
The river is the longest in South Asia and serves the highest population density. Flowing through 29 cities, it provides water to 40% of India's population. Too bad Mother Ganga is treated like a septic tank--sewers, piles of trash, cows and humans take daily 'dumps' into the river. Diseases and fecal coliform rates are sky-high. Yet people daily swim, fish, and do their laundry. It is truly amazing how Hindis trust the health of their Mother, and I try to fathom such respect. During the two Hindu holy weeks, 70 million bathe in mother Ganga to 'cleanse' themselves.Read more
by Minga Claggett-Borne