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For millennia, the Ganges River – spiritual…

For millennia, the Ganges River - spiritual...

For millennia, the Ganges River – spiritual and physical lifeblood of India – has been considered sacred. Early Hindu texts speak of Maa Ganga, or Mother Ganges, being released from the heavens by Lord Shiva to allow the Hindu faithful to escape samsara (the cycle of death and rebirth) and attain moksha (transcendence from the earthly realm). Its water believed to be capable of absolving sin and providing both spiritual and physical cleansing, millions flock to the river’s banks daily to bathe, make offerings, and collect valuable Ganga jal – or Ganges water – to keep or share with loved ones. But, is there more to the river’s purity than simply spiritual reverence and myth? In 1896, bacteriologist Ernest Hankin published a paper for the Pasteur Institute on the existence of strange bacteria-fighting agents in the Ganges which limited the spread of cholera. 20 years later, this phenomenon was “proved” by Félix d’Hérelle with the discovery of microbes killing the dysentery bacillus; he called the microbe a bacteriophage. These hyper-specific bacteria-eaters exist almost everywhere, but are particularly prevalent in the Ganges; so much so that sailors of the British East India Company would only take Ganga jal on their ships, as it would not putrefy on the long journey back to England, and epidemics of cholera and typhoid are less rampant along the Ganga basic than they likely should be. A new study by India’s Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH) has now found new evidence that Maa Ganga does indeed have some self-cleansing properties; their research will be released in December. But, is the rampant pollution along the 1,500 mile river overwhelming even the phage’s ability to cleanse it? Is some of the ancient magic of this iconic river – one revered and reviled – being destroyed by overuse, abuse, and neglect? This and more is what @pedromcbride and I cover in our film, Holy (un)Holy River, showing this weekend at @banffcentre. | In this photo, two Hindu men take a sacred bath in the Ganges in Varanasi, Uttar Predesh, India.

Varanasi, India

View this photo in Jake Norton & MountainWorld’s Instagram ⇒

About the Author : Jake NortonClimber, guide, photographer, speaker, founder of www.Challenge21.com, and - most importantly - husband and father.View all posts by Jake Norton

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