This Valentine’s Day, seer spreads love for Ganga
Times of India – 14th February, 2013
By Swati Mathur
LUCKNOW: At Mahakumbh this year, seers are turning social activists. And the Ganga is the biggest beneficiary of their attention. Although the focus on the rivers is not new, this time the initiatives are more inclusive, cutting across political forces and bringing into their fold the young and the old.
Take Parmarth Ashram’s Swami Chidanand Saraswati for instance. Leading the Ganga Action Parivar initiative, he has proposed this year a move that will have Valentine’s Day being celebrated to nurture the nation’s love for the Ganga. The seer, accompanied by Sri Sri Ravishankar, will host a special programme on measures to protect and preserve the river. Chidanand said, “On February 14, Ganga Action Parivar will hold a special Valentine’s Day rally at the sacred Kumbh Mela. Pilgrims and participants from India and the World will wear the colors of the Indian flag. Orange will symbolize the power of the Sun and alternative energy. White will represent simplicity, purity, and environmental-sustainable living, and green will stand for the role that organic farming can play in keeping our waterways toxic-free.”
Apart from seers, Chidanand has also roped in popular Bollywood names—Preity Zinta, Emraan Hashmi and Anil Kapoor’s wife Sunita to name a few—to popularize the campaign to save Ganga. He has brought international focus on Ganga as well; pulling in researchers from the Harvard University, among others to study Kumbh, the devotees who come to attend it and, primarily, the pull of Sangam.
As faith-keepers of Sanatan Dharma, there are others too that are mobilizing the young and old into saving the Ganga. Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati of the Dwarika and Jyotir peeth, for one, has been among the front-runners of the save Ganga movements in the country. Ahead of the Mauni Amavasya snan on February 10, Swaroopanand sought a promise for help from Union minister for Steel Sriprakash Jaiswal.
Swaroopanand’s principal disciple Avimukteshwaranand said Swaroopanand has strongly pursued the Ganga’s cause because it is the one issue that unites people from different spectrums of social life. “Our history tells us that civilizations came up on the banks of prominent rivers; now we are destroying one such river along which we have built our entire history and culture,” Avimukteshwaranand said.
Even those with a more spiritual bent are now voicing their concern for the Ganga. Speaking to TOI, Mahamandaleshwar Avadheshanand Giri of Juna Akhara, said: “In addition to spreading the message of spiritualism, we are committed to the cause of protecting the environment. The Ganga is a prominent part of this initiative. We have banned plastics and are working to protect the unrestricted flow of Ganga. We are certainly not against development; we support development that has a vision.”
The concerns regarding the levels of pollution in Ganga are not new. In 2011, Swami Nigamanand of the Matrisadan in Haridwar, fasted for two and a half months over illegal mining in the Ganga and died for the cause. Since 2009, the centre has also set up the National Ganga River Basin Authority to take urgent measures to save the Ganga from pollutants.
There’s a World Bank (WB) project that has identified the problems of Ganga as well. At present, a Centre-run project is being implemented with an emphasis on setting up new sewage treatment plants (STP) and tackling the problem of open drains in four cities—Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi, with a plan to extend the project to other major cities in the next phase.