Holy Water

The Death of the Great Mother by Giulio di Sturco

The Ramayana, one of the greatest Hindu epics, tells how the king Bhagirata coaxed the Ganges river down from the heavens to heal a suffering land. For the people living round its banks—and the many pilgrims that travel there to pray and scatter ashes—the river is the great mother Ganga Ma, a source of holiness and purification that cleanses sins and acts as a swift conduit to the blissful afterlife. In recent years however this symbol of purity has been devastated by pollution, global warming and the building of dams (most notably at Tehri in 2006) that have drastically changed the surrounding landscape and flooded over 70 local villages. It is predicted by 2030 the river will have dried up completely because of global warming, leaving nothing for the 500 million people who live in the Ganges basin. Giulio di Sturco’s photo-essay The Death of the Great Mother captures the Ganges as it is today, plagued by sickness but nevertheless revered by its faithful dependents.

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