Clean the Ganges

For many years we’ve been inspired by the message from the Mahant at the Sankat Mochan Temple in Varanasi, the holy Hindu city on the banks of the Ganges river. As we reported in the article Clean the Ganges, the Mahant at this temple, Veer Bhadra Mishra, has been working for nearly 25 years to clean the river of pollution.

His foundation, the Sankat Mochan Foundation, has promoted innovative ways to rid the Ganges of pollution, including decantation ponds where algae is used to remove impurities. For years, religion and science have joined forces to work towards cleaning the Ganges, and to environmentalist observers, that has been an inspiring message from Varanasi. Until now.

Last week terrorists detonated two bombs in Varanasi, a first for this peaceful place. Now the news from Varanasi is about security, instead of cleaning the sacred river. Hopefully this will be the first and last time such violence strikes at the heart of Hinduism and in a place where such a positive message is being spread.

India is the world’s largest democracy. It is also a nation with many challenges as it industrializes with breathtaking speed. Hopefully the heritage of India; the magnificant Taj Mahal that was built not as a monument to conquest but as a testament to love, and the legacy of Mahatma Ghandi who stopped the British Empire with nonviolent protest; hopefully these shared heritages will overwhelm the urges towards conflict and disunity. And hopefully the Sankat Mochan Temple, and the message of their visionary Mahant, who is harnessing the values of religion to convince people they must purify the sacred Ganges River of pollution, will be added to the rich heritage of Indian culture.

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