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THE RIVERS OF MY MIND


I remember the time I bathed in the Triveni as a kid. This is the holy confluence or sangam of Ganga, Jamuna and the mythical Saraswati flowing from under and meeting those two real-life rivers near the town of Prayag later aptly named Allahabad, City of God, by Islamic conquerors. A bath here would merit us Hindus entry into heaven and the ritual was timely as my mother would pass away soon after. It is here that in 2001 in the Maha Kumbh Mela 60 million devotees thronged to take a dip making this the largest gathering of humanity in the history of the world!

Triveni

I am reminded of the sangam whenever I come across another awesome river during the course of my travel. The Brahmaputra is one such. Flowing from its source at Mount Kailash in Tibet, the river traverses pristine across the breadth of the Tibetan plateau north of Nepal. I have crossed it to reach Samye Monastery, one of the venerated Buddhist pilgrimage sites of Tibet. The journey is immensely spiritual and complemented by the breathtaking beauty of the landscape.

I sailed the Nile with my wife and daughter for three days and three nights. The journey commenced at Aswan, site of Nasser's famous dam, and we traversed through much of Egyptian history from Tutmoses, to Ramses to Alexander the Great as Pharaoh. We ended the cruise at modern day Luxor, the ancient Egyptian capital known as Thebes, wondering how the ancients managed to create those impossible monuments and how impossibly time and tide destroyed them. We were inspecting artifacts older than Mahabharat, marvelling at a culture perhaps as old as human history itself. Spirituality leaps from every statue whether it is of Horus, Set, Osiris or Iris. Ancient Egyptians must have been in total awe of those powerful deities.

European rivers may not offer the same degree of spirituality but they are the lifeblood of commerce. Thames, Danube and Vistula gave rise to great cities in their course and we enjoy the romance of sailing on them and admiring the cityscape all around us. Oh, to watch the Vltava River flow languidly by the city of Prague and to enjoy on its bank the best beer in the world!

Bagmati River during monsoon, now it is history!
But now, inevitably, we must talk about our rivers the Bagmati, Vishnumati and Manahara. As late as in November 1983 during the low tide, when my father was cremated in Arya Ghat on the banks of the Bagmati in a military funeral, we sons took the ritual dip in the cool, gurgling water flowing waist high after the cremation was over. Shooting ducks in the Manahara was one of my winter vacation escapades during schooling days. Vishnumati flowed by the holy Shobha Bhagabati Temple providing succor to the devotees. The valley could only be described as verdant; paddy fields dotting the landscape as far as the foothills in all directions and with thick vegetation growing on either bank of the rivers.

What is happening today? Kathmandu is an over-crowded, unplanned city expanding helter-skelter with nary a thought for beauty and harmony. Our rivers have been converted to open sewers. Vishnumati has been humiliated by unchecked garbage dumping that attracts scavenging crows and vultures. The River Gods have long abandoned the valley. Will the Biblical Four Horsemen visit us bringing war, conquest, famine and pestilence in their wake?





Comments

  1. I remember taking a holy dip at the confluence of the Indus and Kabul rivers in Pakistan. It was a very Hindu ritual in a very Islamic country. We got away with it!

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