Hindu Holy Men in India threaten to boycott Ganges River Festival because of pollution

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Tuesday, January 9, 2007

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India's yearly pilgrimage to the Ganges river, worshiped by Hindus as the goddess Ganga, is the worlds largest gathering of people, with around 70 million participants, dwarfing other religious pilgrimages. However, raw sewage from Varanasi has raised the levels of fecal coliform bacteria to 1.5 million times that safe for drinking.

This year thousands of Hindu Holy Men, also known as sadhus, threatened to boycott festivals during their pilgrimage to the Ganges, where their rituals involve washing away their sins by bathing in the water. The sadhus say that the pollution level must be corrected by January 12, 2007.

A sadhu named Hari Chaitanaya Brahmachari said that, "Millions of people are taking baths in this river because Hindus consider the Ganges a pious river. But the fact is they are taking a dip not in river water but in effluents discharged from factories ... If (the) Ganges is not cleaned within next few days, I will take jal samadhi," which is a suicide ritual.