British river turns surrogate Ganga

Saturday 15 January 2005

The popular Hindi saying 'man changa to kathauti mein Ganga' (a just person doesn't need the Ganga; even a bowl of regular water can purify him) has found a novel interpretation. The Indians residing in the UK literally carried a bowl of Ganga water from India, poured it in River Soar in Leicestershire, and, lo and behold, a substitute for Ganga emerged. And India's Ganga, over polluted with the sins of millions of Indians, resident and non-resident, got some reprieve. So did its rescuers: no more guilt if one avoided the uncomfortable trip to India.

The UK Environment Agency recently permitted its huge Asian community to conduct the immersion rituals in River Soar. Shastriji Prakashbhai Pandya, the Hindu priest who presides over the rituals, says: "When I close my eyes, this could be the Ganga." An Environment Agency spokesperson said: "We have designated a secluded place on the river, so that ashes are disposed of with due consideration for other river users. We have forbidden offerings such as photographs, metal and plastic items. Our officers analyse the water from the Soar on a monthly basis, but have never found anything amiss.

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