Hrishikesh: A Poem on Corrupted Landscape
Keywords:Uttarakhand, Hinduism, environmental pollution, cultural degradation, landscape poetry
This poem on the pilgrimage center of Hrishikesh set in a humid subtropical niche of the scenic Uttarakhand state, aims to capture the corruption of its cultural, religious and natural landscapes. Here, modernity — with its concomitant technologism — jostles for space with Hindu leitmotifs and traditions, causing pollution, ecological damage and environmental degradation. These are outcomes not just of distorted economic policies and skewed technological and developmental paradigms, but also the residuum of religious rituals, pollutants and garbage dumped into the holy Ganges.
Named after a form of the Hindu deity Vishnu, Hrishikesh, in Sanskrit, means “Lord of the Senses”. Nowadays, the town is more popularly known as Rishikesh (which means “the hair of a sage or ascetic”). This name, though etymologically erroneous, is not grammatically incorrect; it is, however, yet another pointer to the degeneration of the region’s pristinity. Here, not only is the natural environment under threat, but the rich traditions of Hinduism, too, are under assault from popular culture and mass consumerism. Such corruption is partly caused by the global yoga movement and the draw of international tourists who smoke cannabis on sacred riverbanks.
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