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Documenting the Ganga’s 2,525-kilometre journey from Gaumukh to Gangasagar, Chanchal Kumar Ghosh witnesses the spirit of the country. “For Indians Ganga is not simply a river,” he states as he delves into the origins and folklores associated with the river and its tributaries. Where after all, beloved Ganga Ma is the ecological, economic, cultural and spiritual lifeline of India.
The book is a harsh reality check of the horrendous repercussions of unwarranted human actions that jeopardise the natural route of the river. Ghosh describes Ganga as his childhood crush; conceptualised as a goddess, the stories of Ganga can be found in the Puranas. Offering an insight into the spiritual foundations of the country, Ghosh’s monumental endeavour to traverse the length of this sacred river results in a narrative that captures the essence of Indian culture. He begins chronicling his journey from Gaumukh, the cave from which the Ganga emerges, covering innumerable cities along the way including the sacred sites of Gangotri, Uttarkashi, Deoprayag, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Kanpur, Allahabad (now Prayagraj), and Kolkata, encapsulating not only the multifaceted temperament of the Ganga but also the benevolence and generosity of the locals who live around and nearby.
The visual references to the ghats that Ghosh touches upon add on to this riveting read. Incorporating paintings of Raja Ravi Verma, Ghosh tries to take his readers on a visually resplendent journey. The well-curated images exhibit the humane side of the river. The numerous photographs that he took capture the diversity that he witnessed throughout his expedition. From visuals depicting pilgrims from Bihar at Gangotri to those showing the confluence of Ganga and Kedar Ganga at Suryakund, the book is filled with graphic marvels. It is also an anecdotal recounting of events from a pilgrim’s point of view. Under the section, ‘From a Pilgrim’s Diary,’ the author not only shares his personal experiences but also recounts events revolving around the river, as narrated to him by his paternal grandmother.
Originally written in Bengali and translated into English by Sarbani Putatunda, the book is a reflection of the author’s fascination with the river and the readers who can vicariously live through the same on each page.
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