THE OTHER SIDE : Still not getting the message

Saturday, 21 May 2022 | Paritosh Kimothi | Dehradun

Recently, a visitor to Kedarnath made news by taking his dog along, getting him to touch the idol of Nandi and getting a Pandit to apply Tilak on the dog. While some including the Badrinath Kedarnath Temple Committee  chairman expressed outrage and initiated action against the man, there are others who state that a dog is not considered unholy in Hindu culture and especially in the mountains. One was reminded of an ancient incident wherein Adi Shankaracharya met a person of the lowest social standing at Varanasi while travelling. There are different versions of this incident. The person, none other than lord Shiva was accompanied by four dogs who were also something else. Anyway, Shankaracharya was deeply impacted by the enlightening words spoken by this person. Bhairav, a manifestation of lord Shiva, is always accompanied by a dog. Dattatreya, also a manifestation of Shiva, is accompanied by four dogs. There are many examples of the importance accorded to dogs and all creatures in Sanatan Dharma, its ancient literature and beliefs. In the Kedarnath incident, one may opine that the person may have been attempting to grab more hits on the social media with his dog and setting a precedent that might not be welcome. However, one should ponder on who has and is still setting wrong precedents in something so sacred and ancient.

Recently, one saw a media report on the many tonnes of garbage being generated daily at the Char Dham, some of it being buried in nearby ecologically fragile Himalayan locations. Another media report on a research by Garhwal Central University stated that microplastic and other trash are being found in the stomach of fishes in the holy and important Alaknanda river. Here it is important to consider that lakhs of people have already visited the Char Dham shrines this year since the pilgrimage began on May 3. The higher than usual number is being attributed to the pilgrimage not being held properly during the past two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While that may bring some issues with it, can the pollution be attributed only to high numbers of visitors?

Firstly, the government has been consistently inviting tourists from across the nation and abroad to the State for years while simultaneously doing little to ensure proper and scientific garbage disposal especially in the State’s Himalayan region. Some also opine that in the rush to increase revenue, the authorities have not really focused on ensuring that the right attitude is maintained. The police recently undertook a campaign against those drinking alcohol on the banks of the sacred Ganga river. However, a brief video clip on social media of a visitor from a neighbouring State with a large hookah in what is claimed to be Kedarnath made one wonder whether the right attitude is being observed by all on journeys which are sacred. For those unaware, it is important to know that lord Shiva and lord Vishnu adore each other. Secondly, nature is basically goddess Parvati so contaminating the environment does not really please lord Shiva. Those who displease lord Shiva may not have a great chance of pleasing lord Vishnu. Can someone on a pilgrimage or one who is aware of these connections really dump toxic trash in the Himalaya? If many are unaware of this relation between the gods and nature, shouldn’t the government be eliciting focus on it? It should, but it seems to be busier eliciting focus on ways to generate more revenue. Generating more revenue is a good thing but not at the cost of the ancient culture and assets upon which the revenues are based. Our culture does not involve damaging nature in ways being seen nowadays- we actually worship nature too. Here again, many undertake the pilgrimage with the right attitude in this land of gods and goddesses but the efforts already undertaken by the government to curtail pollution also need to be stepped up. It is not as if the government has done nothing. However, there is little time to waste and a lot more needs to be done without any further delay.

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