Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Thames awash with Hindu Gods




London, The River Thames, as it flows through London, has become awash with Hindu deities.

Archaeologists from the Museum of London have admitted to being somewhat baffled by this apparently strange discovery.

But Hindus in the Capital are rather more blasi about the phenomenon, saying that this is nothing new and that the tradition of throwing sacred things into water is an age old tradition.

The archaeologists, who found an assortment of the Hindu artefacts on the banks of the river as it passes through the City of London, should perhaps have asked someone like Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, for an explanation of what they considered a great mystery.

As he says: "This doesn't surprise me at all, it is the most natural thing in the world. Hindus have always disposed of sacred things by burying, burning, or putting them into running water".

All perfectly reasonable, and only to be expected in, say, the Ganges; but to find the same thing happening in the Thames is, to say the least, a little surprising. And the religious images have clearly been put in the river over quite a long period of time.

As Nichola Burdon of the Museum of London observed: "Some of these Hindu objects are modern, including a plastic banner featuring three gods. But three of the statuettes and the copper yantra possibly date back to the nineteenth century".

It is probable that most, if not all of the artefacts, were taken to Britain from India, though given the enormous amount of shops and galleries selling such things in London, even this claim is open to doubt.

So, is the Thames acting as a stand-in for the Ganges? Ms Burdon certainly thinks so: "As the Ganges is not very accessible to the Anglo- Hindu community, it could be that they are utilising the next best thing".

And so it proves - not that the mystery was one that would tax any but the simplest of brains.

Sharmila Pratap, a devout Hindu from South London, was willing to spill the beans: "This is part of our annual family ritual when I clear out the mandir. I take things like the ashes of incense sticks and broken deities to the Woolwich ferry and slip them into the Thames when nobody is looking. What else can I do? I can't just throw them away".

So, is Sharmila Pratap, and countless others it seems, likely to be reprimanded, or worse, by the powers that be? It appears not.

As Theo Thomas, a water conservationist working on the Thames has said: "All we ask is for people to be responsible and not to use plastic bags. We welcome the use of the river for spiritual purposes". What a splendid and pragmatic conclusion to "The Mystery of the Hindu Gods". (ANI)

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