Ganga not only holds great spiritual and cultural significance, but her unique, natural characteristics have made her a fascinating subject of study for many scientific inquiries. A container or vial of sacred water from Ganga, known as Gangajal, can be found faithfully stored in most Hindu homes, and this water has often been observed to remain fresh for long periods of time. These observations and many other healing qualities that Ganga is believed to possess are not purely faith-based beliefs, but rather have now been supported by much scientific evidence and research.
In a paper written by British physician E. Hanbury Hankin, published in the French journal Annales de Institut Pasteur in 1896, it was observed that the bacterium which causes the deadly Cholera disease could be killed within three hours of being treated with water from Ganga. However, the same bacterium continued to thrive in distilled water ever after forty-eight hours. This unique factor present in Gangajal, now known to be a virus which eats and destroys disease-causing bacteria, was amongst the first modern citations of a bacteriophage.3 Additionally, Flix d’Herelle, a French microbiologist in 1927, was amazed to find that no germs existed in a sample of Gangajal extracted from an area just a few feet below floating corpses who had died of dysentery and cholera, where one would typically predict to find millions of germs!
In addition, by continuously flowing and rubbing against many rocks, flora, mosses and other natural growth that exist along her upper stretches, Ganga becomes saturated with minerals and enriched with nutrients that supplement living organisms dependent on her waters, and these minerals give the river further antiseptic qualities.
Ganga truly is uniquely different from other bodies of water. With these powerful and unique scientific implications, we can see that there is still much to learn about Ganga. It is a tragedy that today Ganga’s distinctive nature is quickly deteriorating. In many stretches along her shores, the pollutant load is so high that any interaction with the contaminated water causes skin and waterborne diseases. Thus, new and innovative research has an important role to play in the restoration, protection and maintenance of the uniqueness of Ganga.
2 Gurudev. “The Sacred Secrets of Ganga.” 31 January 2008. Click here to read this article.
5 Dutta, V. “Let our rivers stay healthy to keep us alive.” Hindustan Times. 28 June 2011.
6 Radin, Dr. D., Hayssen, G., Emoto, M. et al. “Double-Blind Test of the Effects of Distant Intention on Water Crystal Formation.” Explore 2006; 2: 408-411. Click here to read this article.