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Holy Dip in Garbage Floating Ganges River: A big Cause of Concern for Hindus

The pristine waters of the Ganges river as it gushes down the Himalayas have long turned into a toxic sludge due to garbage, untreated sewage and industrial waste dumped into it

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A pile of garbage lies on the riverbank along the Ganges riverfront known as "Har ki Pauri," the most sacred spot in the Hindu holy town of Haridwar where devotees throng. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

On a gray monsoon morning, Darshana Kapoor picks her way gingerly through the slush on the riverbank after taking a dip in the Ganges River in Haridwar town, one of the most revered spots for Hindus.

But the ritual bath that Hindus believe absolves a lifetime of sins was not an uplifting experience for her. “My faith brought me here, but when I see the garbage floating in the river, I felt so bad. I had to scrub myself,” she said.

Haridwar, India

She was not exaggerating. The Central Pollution Control Board has said that the water of the Ganges at Haridwar is not fit for bathing.

The murky condition of the mighty Ganges is a letdown for thousands of devotees who flock daily to the pilgrim town, some for a ritual dip, some to immerse the ashes of their loved ones or to take part in a colorful prayer ceremony held every evening to celebrate the Ganges, which devotees call “Maa” or mother.

Hundreds of Hindus take a ritual dip in the Ganges at Haridwar believing it absolves a lifetime of sins. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
Hundreds of Hindus take a ritual dip in the Ganges at Haridwar believing it absolves a lifetime of sins. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

These devotees were hoping to see results from a flagship $3 billion initiative launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revive the river, particularly in Hinduism’s holiest towns such as Haridwar and Varanasi.

The pristine waters of the river as it gushes down the Himalayas have long turned into a toxic sludge due to garbage, untreated sewage and industrial waste dumped into it as it courses through booming pilgrim and industrial towns along the vast, populous plains of North India. It is a huge concern because the river is a water source for some 400 million people.

After his victory in 2014, Modi had acknowledged the failure of an expensive three-decade long effort to rejuvenate the Ganges, and vowed to succeed where his predecessors did not.

But three years after the Hindu nationalist leader’s pledge, the once-mighty river is still dying, say environmental activists.

India’s top environmental court, the National Green Tribunal, slammed the government in July, saying “the status of river Ganga has not improved in terms of quality and it continues to be a serious environmental issue.”

The court prohibited dumping waste within 500 meters of the river and said that no development should be allowed within 100 meters of the river as it flows along a 500-kilometer stretch from Haridwar to the town of Unnao.

Hundreds gather to witness a colourful prayer ceremony held along the Ganges River in Haridwar every evening. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
Hundreds gather to witness a colourful prayer ceremony held along the Ganges River in Haridwar every evening. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

That is crucial to revive not just the river, but also the banks or “ghats” in pilgrim towns where visitors throng.

However, in a country with abysmally poor enforcement, environmentalists point out court orders do not always translate into action on the ground.

“The basic problem in this country and this case also is compliance,” says M.C. Mehta, an environmentalist who has been leading a campaign to get rid of the pollution. “No monitoring mechanism is there, so it is very difficult to say how much directions have been complied with.”

The main challenge is the slow pace of setting up treatment plants – about three-quarters of the sewage generated in the towns and cities in the northern plains flows untreated into the Ganges.

Sewage treatment plants in Haridwar, for example, can only cope with half the sewage. New ones have been planned, but none have been built yet.

In fact, some fear the river is becoming dirtier as India’s growing population and economic boom has meant an ever growing influx into towns like Haridwar.

Shopkeeper Ganesh Singh in Haridwar says efforts are being made to educate people about not throwing plastic and other waste in the river or along its banks. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
Shopkeeper Ganesh Singh in Haridwar says efforts are being made to educate people about not throwing plastic and other waste in the river or along its banks. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

Ganesh Singh owns a shop at the famed “Har ki Pauri,” the most revered spot along the riverbank where people gather to attend the evening prayer, where the poor line up for free meals offered by devotees and where pavement sellers hawk flowers.

He said there have been efforts to educate the people about not dumping waste into the river. “Many polythene bags, bottles, garbage used to be thrown into the river earlier. It is better now,” he said, gazing at the river, happy that it helps draw in more tourists who bring more business.

However just a few meters down from his shop, piles of rubbish dumped along the riverbank are getting slowly washed into the water with the rain.

That is why Mehta remains skeptical and worries the political will for the gigantic task is missing. “I am not talking about this leadership – it is for the last 32 years the same thing is going on,” he said. “It should not be just lip service that we are the sons and daughters of mother Ganga, without doing something.”

In a signal that he is aware the Ganges cleanup is flagging, Modi this month handed charge of the campaign to a senior cabinet minister, Nitin Gadkari, who has a reputation for getting the job done.

Devotees and environmentalists are hoping that will happen. (VOA)

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Hinduism: The Nine Basic Beliefs that you need to know

Hinduism- the oldest religion in the world is based on certain established beliefs. Read more to find out what these beliefs are.

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justice and Injustice factor of Hinduism
Hinduism of Hindus when compared between justice and injustice

Hinduism being the world’s oldest religion does not have any proper beginning story like the other monotheistic religions like Christianity and Islam do. It has no human founder. Therefore it leads us to the question that if there was no human who started Hinduism then how did its teaching come to being. Well, there is no definitive way to answer this question. What we can answer though are the nine beliefs of Hinduism. Hinduism is a religion which believes that if a person realizes the Truth within himself then only he can reach a point where the consciousness of man and god are one.

Our beliefs determine our thought process and attitude toward life which lead us to our actions. It is said that we create our destiny from our actions. Beliefs regarding matters such as God, soul, and cosmos often shape our perceptions towards life. Hindus believe in a variety of concepts but there are few critical ones which shape the basic belief of Hinduism. The following are the nine beliefs which not exactly very comprehensive but they form the base of the spirituality of Hinduism.

Are you familiar with the various gods and goddesses of Hinduism? Pixabay

All Pervasive Divine Power

  • Hindus believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality.
Rig Veda – Wikipedia Commons

Divinity of the Sacred Scriptures

  • Hindus believe in the divinity of the four Vedas, the world’s most ancient scripture, and venerate the Agamas as equally revealed. These primordial hymns are God’s word and the bedrock of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion.
Hinduism – Pixabay

Creation Cycle

  • Hindus believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation, and dissolution.
Hindu Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi, Wikimedia

Belief in Karma

  • Hindus believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words, and deeds.

Reincarnation and Liberation

  • Hindus believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha, liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is attained. Not a single soul will be deprived of this destiny.
penance
Belur, Chennakeshava Temple, Gajasurasamhara, Shiva slaying the demon Gajasura. Wikimedia

Worship in Temples

  • Hindus believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals, sacraments and personal devotionals create a communion with these devas and Gods.
Hindu dharma
Hindu Sadhguru –  Pixabay

Belief in an Enlightened Satguru

  • Hindus believe that an enlightened master, or satguru, is essential to know the Transcendent Absolute, as are personal discipline, good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry, meditation, and surrender in God.
Hinduism, Hindu temple, Krishna idol
Krishna idol. Pixabay

Propagation of Non-Violence and Compassion towards living things

  • Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered and therefore practice ahimsa, non-injury, in thought, word and deed.
The symbol has been adopted by various religions and cultures across the world.
The swastika is a Hindu symbol of spiritual principles and values. Wikimedia Commons.

Respect and Tolerance for other faiths

  • Hindus believe that no religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine paths are facets of God’s Light, deserving tolerance, and understanding.

Prepared by Saloni Hindocha (@siatipton)

One response to “Hinduism: The Nine Basic Beliefs that you need to know”

  1. Please use proper words for our culture. There are no ‘beliefs’ in Hinduism. There are only ‘hypotheses’ of Hinduism. Belief is something a person is required to adhere to, even in the face of disproving evidence. It demands a suspension of rational thought which goes against the basic nature of Hinduism. Please do not explain Hinduism using the same terminology used by Abrahamic religions. Or more appropriately, call Hinduism and other non-Abrahamic religions as ‘dharma’ to distinguish their inherent nature. Even religious Shinto-Buddhist Japanese say they have no religion when asked. Also, I do not know how you came up with these nine basic so-called ‘beliefs’. I am a Hindu and have never heard of some of them. Please call them ‘some’ of the hypotheses of Hinduism that ‘some’ Hindus agree with. Disagree with ‘tolerance for other faiths’, respect for other dharma – yes, tolerance – not applicable. This word ‘tolerance’ is required by Abrahamic religions which are intrinsically supremacist. Hence they need tolerance to be able to live in a diverse civil society without the tendency to occasionally commit violence for their religion. A dharma like Hinduism has nothing to ‘tolerate’. A Hindu/Jain/Buddhist/Shinto/Taoist/etc. does not care about the religious ‘labels’ and will easily exchange gods/practices/hypotheses with each other if they make sense or are harmless but satisfy some need. Of course, things that are bad deserve criticism and no tolerance (except for basic human respect). How can anyone attempt to define a culture that has always been and will always be in flux as human knowledge increases? It’s time we restored our so-called ‘religion’ to what it always has been i.e. ancient science.

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5 Events Of November Which Are Ideal For Family Vacations

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Events in November which will give you a vacation mood.
Events in November which will give you a vacation mood. Wikimedia.

As we approach the year’s end, Indians not just bid adieu to their summer outfits but also welcome the festival seasons. October and November are two months in India which are full of cultural events and festivals, which make these months, the ideal time for going on family vacations.

Below are the events of November 2017 which you will regret missing. They are worth the try for family vacations:

1.  Dev Deepavali, Varanasi

family vacations
Representational Image. The ghat of holy city Varanasi. 

Varanasi, the holiest city of India, celebrated Dev Deepavali on Kartik Poornima every year. The festival is celebrated with joy. The ghats of Varanasi are lit with beautiful diyas (earthen lamps). God is believed to have descended to the banks of Ganges, to take a holy dip. The festival will take place on November 3, 2017.

 2. Dharamsala International Film Festival

Filmmaker, cinema buffs or all those people interested in the art of films come together of Dharamsala International Film Festival (DIFF). This film festival will witness filmmakers coming from different regions to show films on various issues- socially relevant, contemporary etc. DIFF will take place from November 2 to November 5. If you are a movie buff, then you should immediately pack your bags and seal a date for attending the festival.

3. Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan

Family vacations
Representational Image. Camel Fair is celebrated in Pushkar. Pixabay

Pushkar Camel fair, a cattle fair, in Pushkar which truly defines the real meaning of culture. The Pushkar Camel Fair has been in tradition for a very long time. The fair attracts a huge crowd every year. One of the most ideal and happy places for family vacations. It will take place between 23rd October to 4th November.

Also Read: 7 Beautiful Places To Visit In North East India

4. NH7 Weekender

The five seasons old Indian multi-city music festival has indeed garnered a lot of attention and love from the musically inclined youngsters across the country. It is a combination of national and international studies coming together. In Meghalaya, the event will take place from October 27 to October 28.

5. Guru Purab

family vacations
Sikhs celebrating Guru Purab. Wikimedia.

Guru Purab, one of the most important festivals for Sikhs. The golden temple celebrates it with a lot of joy. The celebration which Amritsar witnesses at this time are unbelievable. It will take place on November 2017. Golden temple is indeed one of the best places for family vacations.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.  She can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.

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Exploring the Faces of Faith and Devotion: 7 Principal Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism

Foremost among the several gods and goddesses of Hinduism are the Trimurti; Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, the holy triad that signify supreme divinity in Hinduism – the creater, sustainer and destroyer of the world

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Are you familiar with the various gods and goddesses of Hinduism? Pixabay

New Delhi, October 9, 2017 : Devout Hindus have a god for every occasion and every day – over 33 million, according to popular beliefs. While people of other religions often interpret them as fictional characters, the multiple gods and goddesses of Hinduism are held with utmost devotion and sincerity by the believers.

Ours is a polytheistic religion – in other words, a myriad of gods and goddesses of Hinduism. Foremost among the several gods and goddesses of Hinduism are the Trimurti; Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, the holy triad that signify supreme divinity in Hinduism – the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the world. These divine forces are known to appear in different avatars, embodied by different gods and goddesses.

In Hinduism, Lord Brahma is the creator of the Universe and the first member of the holy trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh). However, he is not worshiped as Vishnu or Shiva with only one temple dedicated to him, the Pushkar temple of Rajasthan.

Here are some of the many gods and goddesses of Hinduism.

1. Vishnu

Vishnu is the second member of the holy Hindu triad, who sustains the entire world – Vishnu is believed to return to the earth during distressed times to restore the balance between good and evil.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Lord Vishnu. Wikimedia

Believed to have incarnated nine times, Vishnu symbolizes the principles of order, righteousness, and truth. His associate is Lakshmi, the goddess of family life and prosperity.

Vishnu is always depicted with a blue-colored human body with four hands, each of which carries four different objects – a conch, chakra, lotus flower and mace. The god is shown to ride the Garuda, an eagle.

So far, Vishnu has appeared on earth in various incarnations. These include fish, turtle, boar, Narsimha (half lion, half man), Vamana (dwarf sage with the ability to grow), Parsuram, Ram, Krishna and Buddha. Devotees believe he will re-incarnate in a last avatar, popularly known as ‘Kalki’, close to the end of this world.

Hindus who worship Vishnu are primarily known as Vaishnava and regard him as the greatest god.

2. Shiva

One of the members of the holy Hindu trinity, Lord Shiva is as the god of destruction, so that the world may be recreated by Brahma. Thus, his destructive powers are perceived as regenerative: necessary to make renewal possible.

Known by different names like Mahadeva, Nataraja , Pashupati, Vishwanath and Bhole Nath, Shiva is known to have untamed enthusiasm, which drives him to extremes in conduct. It is his relationship with wife Parvati which established the balance. While other gods and goddesses are represented in glorious avatars, Shiva is dressed in plan animal skin and usually sits in a yogic aasana.

gods and goddesses of hinduism
God Shiva, Wikimedia

Shiva is often addressed as the Lord of Dance, with the rhythm of the dance believed to be symbolic of the balance in the universe, masterfully held by Shiva. His most significant dance form is the Tandav.

Hindus who worship Shiva as their primary god are known as Shaivites.


3. Lakshmi

One of the most popular goddesses of Hindu mythology, Lakshmi gets hers name from the Sanskrit word ‘lakshya’, meaning ambition or purpose. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, prosperity and purity and is the associate of Vishnu.

Lakshmi is believed to reside in places of hard work, and sincerity, However, the goddess leaves whenever an individual is overcome with greed or malice or when these qualities are not evident anymore. Hindus believe Sita is an incarnation of Lakshmi. Hence, they worship the goddess of prosperity primarily during Diwali, which commemorated the Hindu epic Ramayana.

Gods and goddesses of hinduism
Goddess Lakshmi. Wikimedia

Lakshmi is widely represented as an enchanting woman with four arms, settled or standing on a lotus flower.

Devout Hindus worship Lakshmi at temples and inside homes alike, and believe worshipping her with utmost sincerity blesses an individual with success and fortune.


4. Ganesha

The pot bellied, elephant-headed god Ganesha, also known as Ganpati, Vinayak and Binayak, is the son of Shiva and Parvati. one of the most popular gods and goddesses of Hinduism, Ganesha is revered as the remover of all obstacles, which is why his presence is first acknowledged before beginning any new work.

The lord of success and wealth, Ganesha is also the patron of knowledge and learning; devotees believe he wrote down parts of the Hindu epic Mahabharata with his broken tusk.

gods and goddesses of hinduism
Ganesh Puja. Wikimedia

Ganesha is typically depicted as a pot-bellied, elephant-headed red colored god, with four arms and a broken tusk. This head is believed to characterize the atma or the soul and the body represents the maya or mankind’s earthly existence. The rats, which can gnaw their way through every hardship, are believed to symbolize Ganesha’s ability to destroy all obstacles.

Lord Ganesha is shown riding mouse, which can gnaw their way through every hardship, are believed to symbolize Ganesha’s ability to destroy all obstacles.


5. Krishna

Believed to be the most popular and the most powerful avatar of Vishnu, Krishna is revered as the Supreme Being or the Purana Purushottam out of a list of several hundred gods and goddesses of Hinduism, by several devout Hindus. One of the most loved and mischievous gods, Krishna means ‘black’ and can be believed to denote mysteriousness.

In Hinduism, Krishna takes several different roles- that of a hero, leader, protector, philosopher, teacher and a friend and is believed to have lived on earth between 3200 – 3100 BC. His birth is widely celebrated on the midnight of Ashtami during the month of Shravan, and is called Janmashthami.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Picture of idols of Lord Krishna and Radha, decorated for Janmashtami. Wikimedia

Stories of Krishna’s birth, childhood and youth and widely read and circulated, with every mother wanting to have a child like him. His raas with Radha is also remembered widely.

Krishna is held with utmost reverence for his role as the charioteer of Arjuna, as explained in the Mahabharata. It was in the middle of this war that Krishna delivered his famous advice about ‘Nishkam Karma’ which propagated action without attachment, which formed the basis of the Bhagwat Gita.

Krishna is extremely fond of white butter and there are several stories about how he stole butter from gopis throughout his childhood. He is depicted as a dark and extremely handsome, usually depicted with a flute which he used for its seductive powers.


6. Ram

Maryada Purushottam Ram is the ideal avatar of Vishnu. An epitome of chivalry, virtues and ethical demeanor, Ram is the seventh incarnation of Vishnu who is believed to have taken birth to eradicate all evils from the world.

gods and goddesses of Hinduism
Ram Darbar. Wikimedia

Unlike all other gods and goddesses of Hinduism, Ram is believed to be a historical character, instead of an imaginary figure. The Hindu epic Ramayana is a retelling and celebration of Ram’s life – a tale of his fourteen years in exile with his wife and brother.

Ram’s birthday is celebrated as Ramnavmi, wherein devotees invoke him with religious chants to attain his blessings shield. The festival of lights, Diwali, which is one of the major festivals in Hinduism, is also observed to celebrate the return of Ram, Laksham and Sita back to Ayodhya after an exile of fourteen years.

Ram bears a dark complexion to show his resemblance to Vishnu and his other avatar Krishna, and is almost always depicted with a bow and arrow in his hands and a quiver on his back. Ram also wears a tilak on his forehead. Accompanying the statues of Ram are idols of his wife Sita, brother Lakshman and the celebrated monkey-god Hanuman, who together combine the Ram Darbar.

7. Saraswati

Daughter of Shiva and Durga, and the consort of Brahma, Saraswati is revered as the goddess of wisdom, learning, speech and music. She is the goddess of knowledge and arts. Devotees often worship the deity before commencing any educational work- books and stationary items are often revered as Saraswati is believed to reside in them.

Saraswati Vandana, religious chants dedicated to the goddess of music often begin and end all Vedic lessons. The goddess also plays songs of wisdom, affection and life on the veena, a string instrument.

gods and goddesses of hinduism
Sarswati, Wikimedia Commons

Saraswati is visually represented in pure white attire and rides a peacock, with a lotus in one hand and sacred scriptures in the other. She also has four hands that signify the four aspects of learning- mind, intellect, alertness, and ego.

Out of all the 33 million gods and goddesses of Hinduism, devout Hindus believe only Saraswati can grant them moksha- the ultimate emancipation of the soul.