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Pilgrims taking dip at Kumbh Mela. Image Source:
  • The practice of organizing Kumbh Mela dates back to the eighth century and are hosted at Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik
  • The un-thought measures in a country that are already one of the most water-stressed countries are nothing less than catastrophic
  • These congregations are not spaced out they add to the woes of the holy rivers

The receding holy water at the Kumbh Melas is a stark reflection of water scarcity inflicted by man, which in turn is intensified by adverse weather conditions.

Reflecting on the unfortunate state of river Shipra, Badal Nath (64) said, “The last time (12 years ago), it was a stinking drain, nauseating even to step into, let alone take a dip. The water we see now has been pumped from the Narmada. What have we done to our holy river?”

This quote seems to be inappropriate when you read about the smoothly flowing Shipra river in the Simhastha Kumbh Mela that ended on May 21. But the truth that it was a superficial arrangement. The water was pumped through a concrete, closed pipe from the Narmada to Shipra so that pilgrims could conveniently take their holy dip.

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A few years ago, Shipra was hardly recognizable as a holy river and all it carried was sewage. Later, the BJP led Madhya Pradesh government came up with what is today termed as a ‘skewed’ scheme to transfer five cusecs of water every day from the Narmada near Omkareshwar to Shipra.

Another instance of negligence and failure by the government bodies is the condition of the Godavari, which also hosts a Kumbh Mela every 12 years. Putting the ancient Hindu practice of taking a dip in the holy water in danger, it was observed that Ramkund in Nashik, the center of the festival last year, had also dried up in April for the first time.

The practice of organizing Kumbh Mela dates back to the 8th century, during which the pilgrims take a dip in the sacred water bodies in a hope of finding salvation at four places- namely, Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik. Each place holds its congregation every 12 years and is usually visited by millions of pilgrims.

The lack of water in these rivers is mostly covered up by the government and civic bodies to escape massive public anger and therefore, they usually come up with short-lived and temporary solutions. Apart from this, there is one more reason that contributes to the problem. These congregations are not spaced out (say, for example, the Nashik Kumbh was held in 2015 and shortly after Ujjain Kumbh was hosted in 2016), they add to the woes of our holy rivers.

Nashik Kumbh Mela 2015. Image Source:

According to a report by Indian Institute of Technology, maintaining the continuous flow of water in these rivers has become a big challenge.

The long period of drought in Central India has worsened the effect of government’s negligence of Godavari. The result was that the Municipal Corporation had to turn to pump water from groundwater in 2015.

These un-thought measures in a country that are already one of the most water-stressed countries are nothing less than catastrophic.

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No doubt, India is going through the worst hydrological crisis of all times. quoted Himanshu Thakkar, a river expert as saying, “Although the change in weather patterns and increasing rise in temperatures have contributed to it, our rivers are facing unprecedented deterioration today because of the way we have ill-treated them.”

Somnath Bandyopadhyay, an ecologist, also added, “Some of the projects implemented in the 1950s and 60s failed to take the long view, and have contributed to the present sorry situation of sick and dying rivers.”

Thakkar believes that immediate remedial measures must be taken to restore the water flow of these rivers.

Many believe that the Hindu society needs to actively participate since it is about safeguarding their religion and tradition.

However, for now, it seems that our holy rivers are in serious danger, which can’t be reversed any time soon.

-prepared by Bulbul Sharma, a staff-writer at NewsGram. Twitter handle: iBulbul_




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