The sleep was broken by the sound of water, and the noise of birds. A cave filled with rainwater over the mountains. It was time for water to flow from the cave. As soon as I was released from the cave of darkness, I could hear the cacophony of birds. The sun was shining. I got out. As soon as I woke up, I had to break down the hill and come down to the local way. Now I am the river Ganga. People call me different names at different places. You may laugh to hear that I am going to write my autobiography. Men write their autobiographies, then why do I not?
I am the longest river in India covering 2,525 km in my course. But I am more than a river. I am the mainstream of this Indian riverine civilization. I cannot remember the exact date of my birth, but long ago I found my origin from the top of a high mountain and its glacier. It is the Gangotri glacier at Gaumukh in the Indian Himalayas at 4,000 meters above the sea level. Several small streams joined together to form a bigger one. That is how I was born. A famous scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose wrote a fine article Bhagirathir Utsa Sandhane—trying to detect my origin in the allegorical form. He said I was born out of the knotted bundle of hair on Lord Shiva’s head in his abode in the mountain of the Himalayas. I am a restless girl from my very birth. I cannot tolerate any hurdle on my path. I flow down from the mountain peak leaping from rock to rock. My current here is very strong. I carry down with me the broken rocks and come down to the plains.
I am comparatively peaceful when I land on Hardwar, the sacred shrine of Lord Shiva. People go on pilgrimage and thousands of them have their bath in my holy water there. And from there I flow towards the south-east. For centuries, I provide fertile land on either side for agriculture. I also promote trade, commerce, transport and help the economic, social and cultural progress of the country.
After a long journey in the upper area, I come down to the lower plains. Here I lose my swift current and depth. I become slower and slower, and exhaustion becomes clear on my face. I have to carry the scars of human life so much that I feel tired. The filthy load and rubbish thrown on me from the factories and mills are so nasty and foul in the smell that my life becomes intolerable.
Thus, my watercourse in the plains is being polluted at present and I am fighting against it incessantly. In some areas, the measure of dissolved oxygen is less than four milligrams per litre, whereas the minimum requirement is six milligrams per litre. There are 48 Class I towns and 66 Class II towns on both sides of me. The untreated sewage of all these towns is thrown into my water!! In Kanpur alone, there are seventy industrial units, and the effluents of all these units are released into my body every day.
Last but not the least, is the throwing of junks. In Banares alone, 6 crore litres of garbage are thrown in my watercourse every day. All these are responsible for the pollution in my life. However, it is fortunate that the Ganga Action Plan has been formulated by the Central Ganga Authority to save my life from pollution. I hope people will be more conscious of keeping me clean and making themselves gifted from me more and more.
However, in the last course of my flowing, I find great joy in losing myself in the midst of the greatness and infinity of the sea, i.e. the Bay of Bengal. But before that, I do my last work of forming some deltas in the mouth of the sea. Finally, I fall in the sea merging my own soul in the broader soul of that great one from whose womb I had taken my elements of origin in the form of vapour carried by the clouds towards my birthplace.
Who in my opinion has the good fortune in the history of the world? In my opinion, someone is Have you been able to get ‘Trillecapta’? Has anyone been a ‘goddess’? Has anyone been ‘Sureshwari’? – This is as unique as I am. I am the river Ganga.