India, an amalgamation of different faiths, culture and traditions is endowed with the blessing of nature in the form of mountains, rivers, lakes and so on. The most important among them is the river Ganga. River Ganga is not only a gift of nature to India, but it is the lifeline of the agriculture oriented Indian economy. This mighty river originates in the Himalayas and makes its way through the northern plains, thus playing a major role in the irrigation of the arable lands and consequently driving the agro-based Indian economy. Ganga is also home to a large variety of aquatic organisms like the Gangetic Dolphin, Hilsa, Rohu etc. In addition to this, the river boasts of some useful microbes which play an important role in killing other disease causing harmful microbes.
Since the early ages, people have considered Ganga as a holy river. Many sages have achieved enlightment on the bank of this river. Ganga finds its mention in early Vedic texts and Hindu mythologies. Water from Ganga is considered pious and is used in many Hindu rituals.
But unfortunately all these customs and pujas have had a deadly impact on the river itself. These traditions which were meant to signify the mighty and piousness of the river have lead to the pollution of the river and made it a dumping ground. Earlier this river was home to a variety of flora and fauna but now it is home to the sewage of man.
This is an alarming situation. Though initiatives have been taken by the government to reduce the pollution of Ganga, but these are not enough. One of the most important causes of this pollution is definitely the pujas which take place across the bank of the river. Although the pujas are themselves harmless but their after effects such as the immersion of the idols and their belongings render havoc on the river. In most of the cases, the idols and the "puja samagris" consist of a large amount of non-biodegradable substances which are not easily degraded and therefore lead to the death of the aquatic organisms. The plates or bowls serving the "prasad" to the pilgrims are usually dumped into the river, adding to the misery of the river.
Being a resident of West Bengal, this topic is even more relevant to me as Bengal is a state where lakhs of pujas are organized all round the year on the bank of the river. Durga puja is the most important among them although Kali puja, Jagdharti puja, Viswakarma puja cannot be ignored. In spite of the guidelines issued by the government every year, the puja committees rarely pay heed to them. The hooligans disguised as the members of the puja committee carry on their vandalism in the name of religion. The lack of strict action against the law breakers have also added to the rise in the atrocities towards the river. Ignorance and lack of awareness regarding the pollution of Ganga is also a factor which has worsen the situation. Though the so called "Green pujas" have increased in the recent years but they are mostly a show- off to win awards and are not dedicated to the actual cause.
To overcome this ghastly situation, the pujas should not be performed on the bank of the river and to accomplish this goal, firstly we need active and aware citizens who are willing to strike a balance between rituals and rivers. This is because people are the pillars of a nation and they can only protect their nation's heritage. Secondly, we need strict implementation of laws by the governing bodies to keep a check on the polluters. Lastly, the government should also be vigilant about the pujas which are performed away from the rivers as these pujas also contribute to the pollution of the river when their idols are immersed into the holy waters.
Banning of pujas on the bank of Ganga may hurt some religious sentiments. But the true spirit of religion and ritual lies in the betterment of people and their surroundings. Those traditions which choke the upliftment of society should be discarded. An unclean Ganga will not be adorable to anyone belonging to any community. Ganga is a symbol of purity and to uphold its significance, the necessary steps should be taken. So the pujas should not be performed on the bank of Ganga. This will definitely help to reduce the pollution and benefit the society as a whole.