February 11, 2013
Float your sins on The Ganges.
Those millions queuing up to take a dip in the Ganges must have something that we don’t know about. I know that for many, a wash in the rivers of ‘insight and wisdom’ has for hundreds of years been the annual aim for devout Hindus. As someone from an alien culture, I wonder what it is that seems to beckon those millions to wade into those waters.
Is it a communal confession? The ritual is to cleanse oneself from sin and it seems rather poetic and certainly in contrast with the western method of confession whereby a solitary figure sits in a dark little room separated by a screen. He or she confesses his wrongdoing to another mortal. It must be a bit of an embarrassment, especially in a small village; to have bared your soul to someone you might meet again at the butcher shop next day.
I like the Hindu way of letting the magic of the river carry your misdemeanors and sins downstream much better. The figures are amazing. Over 110 million Hindus are expected to enter at Sangam which is the point where three rivers join at Allahabad. Over 50 000 police are there to try and give everyone a chance to enter the water over a six day period. An ‘en masse’ show of spiritual cleansing and breaking the cycle of death and re-birth.
A nice sideline is that apart from the cleansing of sins it is also a celebration of the Gods overcoming your demons with the promise of precious nectar that would ensure immortality.
With the solitary Christian confession it is a bit of a lonely trip, isn’t it? No promise of goodies coming your way, just hell and damnation if you fail in your effort to keep hands above the blankets or refuse to do the washing up or lay the table, swear at your sister or throw a rock over the neighbours fence or do the shopping for mum. Perhaps, the goodies our way is the sitting around with angels, boring…! Who wants to be good with that kind of reward?
No, they definitely have the edge over us at Allahabad. There it is, millions of people wishing to assuage their most inner self, seeking spiritual salvation, renewal and revival through a wash in the holy Ganges till next year’s pilgrimage. The clanging of cymbals, the emerging saffron heads rising above the water with the garlands of marigolds tangled around the ashen painted aesthetic piercing the rising fog. This seems to be a reward in itself and present in this life as well for all the Hindus…It doesn’t lighten the burden of life but is ‘shows’. This is the loveliness of the annual ritual of the Hindus.
It’s hard not to be seduced by the magic of it all. Although for us cynical westerns, we would probably see it as just as a dirty muddy river and ask ourselves; what about the hygiene of it all? Where are the flush duel buttoned toilets? I want soap and hair conditioner with carotene and triple layered loo paper. Perhaps, that’s why we will forever be looking for salvation without finding it. Lost to the arid desert of consumerism and brick veneers with beloved colour bonded fence, separating us from each other till the privacy of our dismal end by the funeral director or “Ladies in White” and final consumption by the fiery but lonely cremation at Rookwood…
Some say, we have our rituals and then mention ‘The Melbourne Cup’. The whole nation stands still wearing large hats and thousands punting on horses and their pacing hoofs. We have Anzac days with two-up in the pub while wearing rosemary and drinking cleansing schooners. Let’s not forget the footy ‘finals’ and tennis. They are our cleansing rituals as well.
I am not sure. I so wish I could believe that.