Ganges, Part 13
The Gangotri glacier, nestled in a valley between two 20,000-foot-high mountains, is fed by the annual snows. The mouth of the glacier is at 13,000 feet, the tail 5,000 feet higher. The glacier is only slightly lighter in color than the mountains themselves, light gray streaked with darker shades of grays and blacks. It is obvious the glacier is creeping downward,
The sounds of its movement made it almost impossible to hear myself think.
A sharp crack!
Part of the glacier slipped into the icy water and moved downstream. The stress of the glacier’s weight on the mountain was grinding boulders into fine silt, turning ice into water, and creating a murky gray river.
I watched as six middle-aged pilgrims per- formed a religious ritual! One woman and five men stepped into the frigid water, took off most of their clothes, carefully and slowly washed them, and laid them out on the rocks to dry.
One by one, the pilgrims ignited a stick of incense, began chanting, and knelt facing the glacier. They filled small brass cups with river water, poured it slowly over neatly arranged stones, then recited a puja (Hindu prayer). No one spoke during this ceremony which lasted about 30 minutes. When it was over, the pilgrims folded up their clothes and packed them away, then prepared a pot of tea over a tiny burner.
I knelt down to take a drink, and pebbles splashed into the water. I scurried back and barely avoided getting caught in a small crash of rocks.
Next week: Absolution