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India floods: The anger of Ganga

Could it be that last month's deadly floods in India were the result of a god's wrath?
Last modified: 11 Jul 2013 13:40

There is plenty of time to reflect when you are covering natural disasters. As we drive through the mountain roads in Uttarakhand, the valleys open up and disappear when the road turns a corner. Below, the Ganges and its tributaries roar furiously.

One can even say that story of Ganga, the goddess associated with the river Ganges has a lot to do with the way the river is behaving. Ganga lived in Bramhalok, the mythical abode of the Gods. She was needed on earth, but so powerful was she that if she just jumped from Brahmalok to earth, the earth would rip apart. So Shiva decided to soften the blow by trapping her in his locks.

In Rishikesh, a large statue of Shiva sat in the middle of the Ganges. Then came the floods and the iconic picture of the Ganges swirling around Shiva’s neck. The angry Ganga then swept away the statue. Is it that the river does not want to be tamed?

Along the banks, what used to be houses have been shredded into matchsticks. Metres of sand have buried homes, large trees and everything else in its path. The fragile mountain earth has been crumbling into the river. And yet, there are large earth-moving machines along the riverbanks building embankments and large-scale hydropower dams. Did this construction play a part in moving the river? Did it make the already trapped Ganga so furious that she decided to rebel?

Those who crossed her path on that fateful day met a watery death. I kept wondering what these people thought at the moment of their death or did they have time to think at all? Children might have cried for their mothers but instead they got sand and water. The earth swallowed all those people who went on a pilgrimage to the abode of the gods. With Mother Nature’s fury, they were soon sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.