"In-Roads", Life Positive Magazine, March 2003

Arisen with a purpose known only to itself, a shining blue crystal clear river cascades down from Badrinath, a holy town in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, India. To its force, unquestioningly gives in the Dhauli Ganga at the confluence of Vishnuprayag (10 km north of Joshimath). For its handsome gait falls the Nandakini river at Nandaprayag (190 kms north of Rishikesh) and the Pindar river oozing out of the Nanda Devi Glacier at Karnaprayag (21 km below). The beautiful Mandakini river flowing down Kedarnath too joins its destiny with the blue waters at the confluence of Rudraprayag, 137 kms short of Rishikesh. Engulfing four identities in its lap, the river moves forward, knowing no other name for itself other than the mighty Alaknanda. Those who mingled with it had to become it.

From the other end, birthing from the icy Gaumukh glacier, emerges yet another gracious motherly rapture––the Bhagirathi. This holy Himalayan river, muddy in hue, feminine in gait, gurgles forth in soft, cautious, compassionate yet forceful strides, and starts its long journey downwards. At Devprayag (confluence of the Gods), a quiet unassuming town 70 km from Rishikesh, the twain meet. Two legendary rivers, journeying alone for so long, meet, merge and move forward as one.

Watch the two cascading down, wending their way from west and east. They appear aloof, indifferent, unaware of the merger that awaits them. Now sight them at the confluence, the threshold of union, and lo and behold, the duo suddenly start roaring, gurgling, rumbling. Both rush forth urgently, hastening to become one. They dramatically gush into one another, fierce, unabashed, unrestrained in their advance, prepared to wait not a moment more! In a matter of seconds, their fierce individuality, distinctive hues and flamboyant names fade. Two symphonies become one, like two perfect halves of a broken toy. None trying to supercede, both eager to surrender to each other. The blue and muddy green intertwine as though twain lover in embrace.

Witnessing such intensity and fervor, I could sense for how long indeed they must have waited! The calm of a minute before seems like pretense, a mere garb to conceal the urgency that was there all along. Had they displayed restlessness, impatience or whisked out even a sigh, could they have hoped to reach the culmination of their yearning? More critically, could they have inspired and soothed the burning of many a seeker vying for divine union at their shores? Till the time they journeyed alone, they flowed with ease, nurturing the trust that they were indeed already one.

Tears welled up in my eye, I could not tell why. I saw Alaknanda as the mighty mind, having conquered the senses and unified in itself all sense of distinction, merging with Bhagirathi, the individual soul. I saw the Bhagirathi, muddy by carrying the impressions of a million lifetimes, finding recluse in the purified mind, and moving forward together in unison. From this point on, there was no more Alaknanda and no more Bhagirathi. There was only one Ganga, whose one dip suffices to uplift the soul. I knew now why the Ganges was worthy of worship, why its banks were recluse for Rishis, and its birthplace of Devprayag was the sacred spot chosen for penance by Lord Rama. The Raghunath temple built right at the confluence has a 15-foot deity of Rama and is one of the 108 important temples of India.

Paying tribute to the small idol of river goddess by the bank, as I stood on the triangular rock right at the edge of the confluence and watched the birth of the Ganges, my quickening heartbeat could not fathom how the witnessing mountains and the gleaming stars could retain their calm! The gang of sadhus in the adjacent stone cave were celebrating with chilams. Neighboring villagers slowly trickled in and started to prepare for evening satsang, while one devout quietly rolled aloo paranthas for supper.

The magic of the environ was clearly exuding from the interchange of the two energies. As though inspired, the incense, the breeze, and the singing too mingled, and spirits reached crescendo. Why after all did the waters split in the first place, only to unite again, if not to lend creation another cause for celebration?