The Ganga, National River of India

October 9, 2015
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.


Ganga River

Heritage Room, ACES Library, Information, and Alumni Center
1101 S. Goodwin Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801

This symposium will bring together presentations on the Ganga's multi-faceted heritage, threats to its sustenance, and planning initiatives to conserve it. The many dimensions of the Ganga's cultural heritage as elucidated below will be the subject of presentations in the symposium.

The Ganga (Ganges) River embodies the continuity of the Indic civilization, its religious ethos, and its rich cultural traditions. As religious studies scholar Diana Eck (2012, 131) describes it: The Ganga is the river of India--a single river flowing from the Himalayas, gathering tributaries, and streaming across the fertile plains of north India. At the same time, the Ganga is the source of all sacred waters everywhere in India. The Ganga is also a goddess--Ganga Mata, 'Mother Ganga', and Ganga Devi, Goddess Ganga.[1]

Rarely has any river gathered in itself so much meaning and reverence as the Ganga has over three millennia. This heritage is at stake as the polluted Ganga, dammed and channelized, begins to fail in its role of sustaining cultural practices, artistic traditions, and worship rituals, and to lose thereby its centrality in the cultural and religious imagination of India. The efforts by the Indian government to clean the Ganga since the mid-1980s have achieved only mixed results and are widely considered to be failures. This is an opportune moment to reassess the Ganga and its cultural landscape as the subject and setting of multiple heritages and to develop an integrated conservation framework that addresses environmental pollution, urban degradation, and vanishing sites of memory.

[1] Diana Eck. India: A Sacred Geography (New York: Harmony Books)