Devprayag: Ganga's Birthplace
Confluence of Alaknanda & Bhagirathi
The holy places of Hinduism are the places of natural beauty located in the land where Hinduism was founded—the Hindu does not have to travel to Palestine or Arabia or any other part of the world to conduct a pilgrimage. His holy places are located in his motherland.
If the Niagara Falls were located on the River Ganga, then there is no doubt that the world would have known these falls as a holy place, a place where the pilgrims could wash their sins, a place where they could experience a sublime union with the Gods and Goddesses, and hope to become physically and spiritually healed. A multiplicity of religious and mythical stories would have arisen around the Niagara Falls.
In her 1904 essay, “An Indian Pilgrimage,” Sister Nivedita has reflected on the global image of the Niagara Falls if these falls had been located on the River Ganga. Here’s an excerpt:
“Beauty of place translates itself to the Indian consciousness as God’s cry to the soul. Had Niagara been situated on the Ganges, it is odd to think how different would have been its valuation by humanity. Instead of fashionable picnics and railway pleasure-trips, the yearly or monthly incursion of worshipping crowds. Instead of hotels, temples. Instead of ostentatious excess, austerity. Instead of the desire to harness its mighty forces to the chariot of human utility, the unrestrainable longing to throw away the body, and realise at once the ecstatic madness of the Supreme Union. Could the contrast be greater?”
The institution of pilgrimage has always served as a powerful factor for developing a sense of cultural unity in the Indian subcontinent. Even 3000 years ago, during the Vedic period, there was a sense of unity in this land.
In the Vedas, Puranas, and other ancient texts of Hinduism the major rivers, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, and forests in the Indian subcontinent have been identified with the divine and depicted as a place of pilgrimage. There is a long tradition of people living in one part of the Indian subcontinent going on a pilgrimage to other parts of this land.