Govindan Nair
Govindan Nair
A WEEK ALONG THE GANGA by Bharati Jagannathan Eklavya, 2018, 135 pp., 115
November 2019, volume 43, No 11

Through the ages the Ganga has held an inexplicable fascination for seekers, adventurers and travellers alike. Entwined in myth and worshipped like no other river, Ganga Ma is said to be one of the few things that India speaks of in one voice. Its origins in the high Himalayas, which have been depicted as ‘the golden windows of heaven’, provide the essence of the Ganga’s mystique.

Whether it be sages seeking the divine, explorers in quest of Shangri-La, or trekkers looking for temporary escape, the Himalaya has invariably been transformational. Lama Anagarika Govinda described how the mountains raised consciousness to a level transcending the concerns of ordinary life; and, even the hard-boiled imperialist, Francis Young husband, felt himself uplifted to a higher plane, cleansed of meanness and paltriness.

A Week Along the Ganga recounts an expedition to Gaumukh, the mouth of the Ganga, by a bunch of urbanites, including a ‘geriatric’ couple and three children. Centred on the experiences of two pre-teens in the group, Bharati Jagannathan, the author, captures the awe and wonderment that seizes them as they hike alongside the Ganga into the higher Himalayan reaches. Regaled with Gangetic lore and legend, the children are enraptured by the moods of the river: deep, tranquil and gentle at times, roiling, thunderous and playful at others.

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