Wednesday September 19, 2018

Why Chaar Dham Yatra is a true test of every Hindu’s quest towards spiritual enlightenment

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yamunotri

By Rituparna Chakrobarty

Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, collectively called the Char Dham-the four abodes of god, are the places which every Hindu associates with his/her spiritual quest.

These four destinations symbolize the  three most important sects of Hinduism- Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism. The Chaar Dham Yatra was started by Adi Shankrachyra about 1000 years ago.

According to the pilgrims the journey not only washes away all the sins one  incurs in life but also sets the soul on the path to salvation.

The origins of Char Dham Yatra are very ambiguous, as almost every Hindu myth and belief is connected to it.

 Yamunotri

According to the Hindu mythology, Yamuna is the sister of Yama, the God of death and Yamunotri is the place from where Yamuna originates. It is also the hermitage of the revered sage Asit Muni.

Yamunotri is famous for its thermal spring and glaciers. Champasar glacier also known as Yamunotri, is located at Kalind mountain at the height of 4421meters above sea level.

Magnificient Gangotri Temple

 Gangotri

Gangotri is the place of origin of holy river Ganga. It lies close to the holy rock or ‘Bhagirath shila’, where the King Bhagirath worshipped lord Shiva, to bring down Goddess Ganga from the heaven to earth in the form of river.

The Gangotri temple was built by emperor Amar Singh Thapa in about 18th century. The temple is located amidst a pleasant surrounding of deodar and pines. The shrine of Gangotri is situated at an elevation of 3048mts.

Badrinath_Temple_1-640x360

Badrinath

Badrinath also has a historical significance because the temple was set up by Adi Shankarachrya in the ninth century. It is also known as Badrinarayan temple.  After seeking knowledge of Vedas he came to Badrinath and settled with his disciples there. The location with its overwhelming  natural beauty, is very peaceful and serene. Maha Vishnu is the presiding deity. At present it is located in the Chamoli district.

 

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Kedarnath

Kedarnath temple is one of the most important destination in Char Dham yatra. It is the worshipping place of Lord Shiva and is believed to be one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. It is situated near the Mandakini river (Ganga).

According to the temple priests the temple was founded in the 9th century by Adi shankarachrya, though the topic has remained a subject of debate between the Hindu priest  and scientist. According to the scientists the temple remained buried in glaciers for more than 400 years. They prove this by resorting to the marks of glaciers visible outside the temple building.

For its extreme climatic conditions the temple is open only between the end of April (Akshya Tritriya) to Karthik purnima (November).

Kedarnath tragedy

The flood in June 2013 affected the Kedarnath the most although somehow it did not cause any harm to the temple, which was miraculous. The surrounding premises and the other buildings in the market area were wiped out by the floods. The disaster caused a great loss to human life and property. Though the state and central government were quick to take necessary action for its rehabilitation, there is still a long way to go.

 

 

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Drying Ganga Can Hinder India From Achieving Sustainable Development Goals

The lower the river flow, the more concentrated the pollutants become, making it difficult to wash them out.

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Ganga
Drying Ganga could stall food security and prevent achieving SDGs. Pixabay

Millions of people residing in the lower reaches of the Ganga basin in India may face food shortage in the next three decades if the much revered river continues to lose water due to factors that include unsustainable groundwater extraction, a study has claimed.

Researchers associated with the study added that low river flows could also have implications for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

But experts, not associated with the study, also pointed to the combined blow of surface and groundwater misuse that has beleaguered the Ganga river basin, sheltering around 10 per cent of the global population. Agricultural inefficiency is a chink in the chain, they say, when it comes to sustainable water use.

The modeling study forecasts that in the absence of interventions, groundwater contribution to the river’s water flow would continue diminishing in the summer for the next 30 years.

Ganga
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. VOA

The analysis was conducted by Abhijit Mukherjee at the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur, Soumendra Nath Bhanja (formerly at IIT Kharagpur) and Yoshihide Wada from Austria’s IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) on the stretch of the river from Varanasi to the Bay of Bengal.

“The impacts of groundwater depletion on Ganga river flows are very complex. However, our study found that there is significant concern that ongoing groundwater pumping over the basin is unsustainable, leading to not only lowering groundwater levels but also reduction in river flows during summer time,” Wada told Mongabay-India.

This problem is more serious downstream of the Ganga river, Wada said.

Mukherjee, lead author of the study, said: “So far, in the last three decades we have seen the groundwater input to the river decline by 50 percent during summer. This decline could go up to 75 per cent compared to the scenario in the 1970s in the summer months.”

Although the modeling study doesn’t factor in climate change impacts, the authors argue that if they were to do so, the situation could be worse than predicted.

Ganga
River Ganga is one of the holiest, yet the most polluted river.

The Ganga’s 2,525 km watercourse is sustained by rainfall in the hinterlands of the Ganga basin, Himalayan glacial melt as also groundwater discharge. In summer (non-monsoon months), this groundwater contribution (baseflow) to the river can be 30 percent in some sections and can even swell up to 60 to 70 percent, informed Mukherjee.

“The combination of groundwater (around 70 percent) and river water (30 percent) availability actually runs the farming system that yields the food crops,” Mukherjee said.

The researchers assess that at present, surface water irrigation for cropping accounts for 27 percent of the total irrigation in the study area.

Hence, the dwindling of the Ganga would also severely affect water available for surface water irrigation, with potential decline in food production in the future.

“Our prediction shows that about 115 million people can be impacted due to insufficient food availability in the next few decades. In a status-quo scenario, this reduction would enhance in the future and there is a possibility that there would be reverse flow of the river water to groundwater. This is called stream flow capture,” Mukherjee said.

Ganga
NITI Aayog, CII partnered on sustainable development goals. Flickr

Apart from ongoing reduction in summer river flows heightening vulnerability of regional food production and water supply policy, Wada observed that low river flows also influence dilution of water pollution in the Ganga river, which is one of most contaminated transboundary rivers worldwide.

This is a “huge concern” for regional water supply and sanitation, he said, adding the issue could have implications for achieving United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets.

“South Asian countries are working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aim towards improving water sanitation and reducing water scarcity, but decreasing summer river flows and increasing groundwater depletion will make only more difficult for regional policy makers to achieve the targets by 2030,” Wada elaborated.

The researchers also observed that low river flows influence dilution of water pollution in the Ganga river, which is one of most contaminated transboundary rivers worldwide.

Ganga
Children waiting for food from Akshaya Patra Foundation. Wikimedia

“The lower the river flow, the more concentrated the pollutants become, making it difficult to wash them out,” Mukherjee remarked.

Wada batted for more co-operation between India and Bangladesh, where the Ganga eventually flows, in regional water resources allocation.

Also Read: Fall Of the Currency And Increase In Oil Prices: India’s Turmoil

“Local excessive groundwater pumping over two countries is affecting the river flows of the entire basin. Regional policy makers from the two countries can cooperate for better monitoring and regulation of groundwater pumping and water use at larger,” Wada said.

He noted that it is vital to understand that both upstream and downstream regions need to share the burden of better water allocation policy. “Two countries need to work very closely to establish how to improve the situation. Water scarcity will get only worse under climate change, if the situation continues,” Wada reiterated. (IANS)