An organisation looking after religious matters related to the Ganga has taken exception to immersion of ashes of dead persons on banks other than the sanctum sanctorum of Brahma Kund at Har-Ki-Pauri and Sati Ghat in Kankhal.
The Ganga Sabha has demanded action against priests performing ashes immersion rituals at other Ganga ghats.
“As per Vedic scriptures and last rites references (in religious texts), ashes immersion rituals are deemed to bring salvation if performed at Brahma Kund at Har-Ki-Pauri,” Ganga Sabha general secretary Ram Kumar Mishra told HT.
Hundreds of pilgrims visit Haridwar daily to immerse ashes of their beloved. Over the years, priests started taking them to other Ganga banks for rituals.
“Tug-of-war between deities and demons took place at this very pious place, where nectar fell, so deceased’s souls directly get salvation if their ashes are immersed at Har-Ki-Pauri. But, if ashes rituals are performed at other ghats, the same can’t be achieved,” Mishra claimed.
He said Ganga Sabha would keep tabs on “doers of wrong practice” through volunteers, and write to administration to rein in them.
“Ancient scriptures refer to only Har-Ki-Pauri and Sati Kund in Kankhal, near Shri Daksheshwar Mahadev temple, as the two places for ashes immersion,” said Mahesh Parikh, researcher on akhadas and religious activities in Haridwar.
“People are being fooled and misled by some pandas — many from outside the state — who have made this a money-earning profession. Strict action should be taken against them as some of them also cite National Green Tribunal and Ganga Pollution Control Board fake directives that ashes immersion is prohibited at Har-Ki-Pauri.”
ROOTS OF CONTROVERSY
In recent times, Parmarth Niketan ashram spiritual leader Swami Chidanand Muni Saraswati started ashes immersion rituals for celebrities at Rishikesh, creating furore among priests in Haridwar.
Swami Chidanand had invited and assisted in ashes rituals for Sanjay Dutt’s father Sunil Dutt, and parents of Anil Kapoor and Kailash Kher at Rishikesh.
Priests agitated for 15 days at Kankhal, forcing Swami Chidanand to announce that no more ashes immersion rituals will be performed at Rishikesh.
“We had staged an agitation against Swami Chidanand’s action and he had to retreat. We will also start a drive to see to it that ashes immersion is not done at other Ganga ghats and deceased’s family members are not cheated by some pandas and teerth purohits, who are tarnishing our community image,” said Ujjwal Pundit, president of Yuva Teerth Purohit Mahasabha.
Many experts say ashes immersion doesn’t pollute the Ganga water as calcium and bone content mingle into the river. But Gurukul Kangri University’s assistant professor Gagan Matta, a researcher on Ganga pollution, said, “Ashes immersion at any part of the Ganga increases the calcium and carbon content of water, which enhances the biological-chemical quotient of the river.”
Favouring ashes immersion at multiple ghats, social activist Durgesh Pratap said some teerth purohits, who have their seats at Har-Ki-Pauri, claim that Brahma Kund exists only at Har-Ki-Pauri.
“Current Har-Ki-Pauri came into existence post 1840 when Britishers constructed Ganga Canal. So, claiming that ashes immersion doesn’t provide salvation at other Ganga ghats is a wrong notion. Just to benefit a section of so-called elite teerth purohits, this misconception is being spread,” he said.
“Most people don’t want to perform ashes immersion ritual at Har-Ki-Pauri as dakshina in high amounts is demanded there; we perform immersion rituals at other ghats at nominal price,” said a priest at Subash ghat on condition of anonymity.
Besides Har-Ki-Pauri and Sati Ghat, ashes immersion is held at Kushavrat ghat, Gau ghat, Subash ghat, Birla ghat, Alaknanda ghat, Sarvanand ghat, Pt Madan Mohan Malviya ghat, Maharishi Kashyap ghat, Ganesh ghat, Bhagwan Valimiki ghat, and Bhagwan Vishwakarma ghat, among others.