I am the shark among the fishes, and the Ganges among the rivers – Krishna in Bhagavadgita
In his book Discovery of India, Jawaharlal Nehru says:
The Ganges, above all is the river of India, which has held India’s heart captive and drawn uncounted millions to her banks since the dawn of history. The story of the Ganges, from her source to the sea, from old times to new, is the story of India’s civilization and culture, of the rise and fall of empires, of great and proud cities, of adventures of man
River Ganga/Ganges with its source in the mighty Himalayan mountains is considered to be the most sacred river by Hindus. The waters of Ganga (referred to as Ganga jal) is believed to be self cleansing in nature and it is said that a single dip in the waters of this holy river will wash away all the sins of a person!
The last rites of the thousands of Hindus are performed at the numerous ghats along the shores of Ganga at the holy sites like Kashi, Varanasi etc. Thousands of human bodies are consigned to this holy river. Millions of Hindus take bath in the waters of this river day in and out and millions more in a single day during festival seasons throughout the year. And yet there is no sign of contagious diseases spreading from person to person due to contact through this river water! Nor is there any sign of things like skin disorders etc after bathing in this river!
A river which is 2525 kilometers long, which has been the lifeline of the entire stretch of the Ganga-Yamuna plains, with over 300 million dependents today, why is Ganga considered so sacred? What is the secret behind its water?
Ganga Jal – The Holy water of Ganga
Antibacterial Nature of Ganges Water
In 1896, E. Hanbury Hankin (a British physician) after testing the water of Ganga wrote in a paper published in the French journal Annales de IInstitut Pasteur ,
The bacterium Vibrio Cholerae which causes the deadly Cholera disease, when put into the waters of Ganga died within three hours! The same bacteria continued to thrive in distilled water even after 48 hours!
He also suggested that the water of this river and its tributary Yamuna were responsible for containing the spread of this deadly disease cholera in the region in those days!!
Water of Ganges has Anti-putrefaction properties
C.E. Nelson, another British physician noticed that, the waters of Ganga when taken even from one of its dirtiest mouths at Hooghly, by the ships returning to England, remained fresh throughout the long journey!! Normally river water begins to putrefy over a period of time due to lack of oxygen which promotes the growth of anaerobic bacteria, which in turn gives rise to the smell of stale water.
How River Ganga cleans the dead bodies
In 1927, Flix dHerelle , a French microbiologist, was amazed when he saw that only a few feet below the bodies of persons floating in the Ganga who had died of dysentery and cholera, where one would expect millions of germs, there were no germs at all!
In other words, Hindus had for thousands of years rightly believed that Ganga purifies the dead bodies, which is why probably the bodies of even those who died of infectious diseases were offered to this river for purification!
Recent Research on Ganges
D.S. Bhargava, an Indian environmental engineer/professor of hydrology has spent a life time studying the amazing properties of Ganges. He measured the remarkable self cleansing ability of Ganges in an exhaustive three year study which showed that Ganges is able to reduce its biochemical oxygen demand levels much faster than other rivers! Bhargava says that the self-purifying quality of this river leads to oxygen levels that are 25 times higher than any other river in the world.The Ganges cleans up suspended wastes 15 to 20 times faster when compared to other rivers!
In a study conducted by the Malaria Research Center in New Delhi it was observes that the water from the upper reaches of Ganga did not host mosquito breeding, and also prevented mosquito breeding in any water it was added to! On the other hand, water from other rivers were shown to allow mosquito breeding!
Mysterious Power of Ganga Water
There are two major factors which give Ganges its unique ability.
1. The presence of Bacteriophages which gives it the anti-bacterial nature.
2. An unknown factor called the Mystery Factor, which gives this river an unusual ability to retain dissolved oxygen from the atmosphere!
Bacteriophage in Ganga Water
Bacteriophage are those viruses which kill bacteria. What a cat is to a mouse, the bacteriophage is to a bacterium. In fact what Hankin reported in 1896 about the antibacterial nature of Ganges was the first modern observation/documentation of a Bacteriophage ! It was Herelle, (who again observed the anti-bacterial nature of Ganges) who coined the term Bacteriophage (meaning bacteria eater ) for these viruses.
The high levels of oxygen in the waters of Ganga gives it the unique ability to remain fresh over a prolonged period of time. The waters of Ganga when added to other water resources in adequate amount, causes the bacteriophage in it to quickly multiply cleaning the new water resource of any bacteria present in it. Which is why the ancient Indians used to take Ganga jal back home to clean their local water resources! People practice it even today, except that most of them dont know the actual reason!
In other words, the water of river Ganga can be an alternative for using antibiotics to treat bacterial diseases! Ancient Indians who used the water of rivers like Ganga never required any antibiotics, for the very water they used was anti-bacterial in nature! This type of Bacteriophage Therapy has been suggested by many researchers, but rarely tried/tested or practised in the health industry.
In fact it was in the former Soviet Union that the most active research about using bacteriophages to treat bacterial diseases was done at the George Eliava Institute ! This research institute was co-founded by George Eliava and Felix DHerelle after DHerelle introduced Eliava to the wonderful world of Bacteriophages.
End of antibiotics?
Today more and more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. The world is running out of antibiotics! We need an alternative, and a potential alternative is Bacteriophage therapy.
The emergence of pathogenic bacteria resistant to most, if not all, currently available antimicrobial agents has become a critical problem in modern medicine, particularly because of the concomitant increase in immunosuppressed patients. The concern that humankind is reentering the preantibiotics era has become very real, and the development of alternative antiinfection modalities has become one of the highest priorities of modern medicine and biotechnology. – Source Phage International
Phage Therapy Research in India
GangaGen Biotechnologies , a bio-medical research company based out of Bangalore, is now leading the alternative therapy of Bacteriophage based treatment for antibiotic resistant bacteria. It is the first firm to have developed bacteriophage based commercial products. Their first bacteriophage based product was to treat the problem of E.Coli in Cattle.
Industrial Pollution in the waters of Ganga
Having said all this, all along the course of river Ganga, today 27 major towns dump over 900 million litres of sewage/industrial waste into it every day! This nonsense should be stopped at any cost. Humans have no rights to pollute the natural resources of this planet. If we cant handle our waste, we shouldn’t be producing it in the first place. Rather than being an individual’s symbolic effort to fight pollution, it should be an enlightened mass movement of entire humanity to create non-polluting technology out of the science we know.
The very fact that almost all the technology that we possess today in the name of development and modernization is polluting, proves that the technology we have created using modern science is still primitive. It has more to do with our greed, than with science.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, Earth Provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed.