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Hindu Gods and Goddesses rise to the surface of the holy Ganges River

All along the banks of the holy Ganges in Haridwar, gods and goddess are rising to the surface of the thick river mud, to surprise locals and pilgrims alike. Haridwar is in India's northern province of Uttrakhand, scene of the recent flood devastation where thousand of people were killed or trapped, bridges washed away, and landslides destroyed many roads and much of the region's infrastructure. One of Hinduism's great pilgrimages, the Char Dham Yatra that has been attracting the faithful to the Himalayan mountain temples of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath for the last thirteen hundred years has been cancelled. It is unlikely to re-open for two, maybe three seasons. The region has been badly damaged by the unexpectedly heavy monsoon rains. The rivers Mandakini, Alaknanda, and Bhagirathi, which rise in the high Himalayas and later merge together to become the Ganges, were soon swamped with the deluge which swept down the mountain valleys with little warning, destroying homes, pilgrim dharamshalas and even whole temples. At Rishikesh, the river rose some five metres above its normal level, and locals watched with terror as whole trees and houses were swept past them in the flood waters.

Further downstream, at the pilgrimage centre-point of Haridwar where the river widens out and the flow decreases, a lot of what the flood waters had seized were deposited along the sand-banks and bathing ghats. Rocks and boulders, sand, mud and gravel clogged the channels, and the water depth at the bathing ghats decreased surprisingly. Whilst the pilgrims were having trouble finding water deep enough to take the accustomed ritual bath that will cleanse away a lifetime of sins, the locals were digging deep into the new deposits of river mud to see what valuables might have been washed down from the deluge upstream. The river, much calmed now, is releasing its own surprises too, as the gentle flow starts to move the newly deposited mud and silt downstream to the plains of Uttar Pradesh. Statues of the many Hindu gods and goddesses are common throughout India. Every home and small riverside temple has one or more, and as they are made of stone, they have survived their journey through the floods to be washed up, battered and bruised, in their spiritual home of Haridwar. Others may have been damaged nearer to here in an accident or household incident: an arm missing, or a leg, or a head knocked off. They won't be worshipped again in their imperfect condition, but to dispose of such holy items in the trash would be unthinkable, so they are offered to Mother Ganga, tossed into the river to sink unseen into the mud, where they've stayed until the recent floods uncovered them. In such a battered or damaged condition they have no value to the faithful and so are left to lie by the river's edge, a curiosity to some and a reminder to others of the great human tragedy in the hills of the Himalayas that is continuing still, and may well be repeated.

Background: Travel photographer Tim Makins has been travelling through the north of India for the last five months. He joined in the huge Kumbh Mela celebrations at Allahabad in February 2013, spent time with the pilgrims and sadhus at Varanasi, then later travelled to the Himalayas to photograph his second Char Dham Yatra. He was fortunate to return from his eleven day pilgrimage journey just a few days before the worst of the monsoon rains started that were to cause such terrible devastation and loss of life along the Char Dham Yatra route and throughout the valleys of Uttrakhand.

All these images are available for immediate licensing. Please contact me for further details. Many of these images are also available through my news agency Demotix: God and Goddesses emerge from Ganges at Haridwar External link opens a new Browser window.

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