A campaigner-turned journalist's venture to promote Janakpur's Gangasagar

Janakpurdham, March 27: A social campaigner turned journalist here has accomplished what most people used to think was almost impossible – cleaning the historic Gangasagar pond and protecting and reviving the cultural ethos connected to it.
Ram Ashis Yadav is that social campaigner who had made the campaign of 'Clean Gangasagar', once thought impossible, possible. Not only has he contributed to keeping the Gangasagar clean but also revived the offering of 'aarati', a ritual worship, in the capital of ancient kingdom of Mithila.
The pollution, both environmental and cultural, was so high that locals had given up the hope that it could be overcome, at least in a short time. But Yadav was determined to make one of his hometown's historical and cultural heritages clean and glorious, despite the growing pollution by means of the 'Gangasagar Cleaning and Ganga Aarati Abhiyan' campaign.
Yadav's this gesture, it is hoped, will help in a big way to promote religious tourism in Janakpurdham.
Yadav, who was the president of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), Dhanusha district chapter, for three years until 2014, came up with this noble cause of Gangasagar cleaning which has been well received by the civil society and business community alike. Many individuals, businessmen and organizations have extended support to Yadav in this campaign. And, the campaign got off to a rousing start on March 24.
Before this, the historic pond was a place where people immersed the clay statues of various deities after conducting worships, threw household waste, defecated all around and the den for the narcotics users.
Although Janakpurdham is known as the city of hermitage, ponds, temples and religion, it is the Gangasagar pond that embodies the glorious history of Janakpurdham. It is stated in the various religious scriptures that Gangasagar came into being the same time Mithila was built. It is considered the oldest among the several religious ponds that dot Janakpurdham.
It is believed that this pond draws water from the Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati and the Sadasindhu, the holy rivers. The ancient sages like Nimi, Mithi, the sage king Janak and goddess Sita used to take holy dips in this pond. Legend has it that the Hindu gods Brahma, Bishnu and Mahesh as well as other deities used to sprinkle its water and partake it as elixir.
Hindus take oblation bath in this pond. People also perform the post-death rituals for and offerings to their departed relatives on the edge of the pond.
"I tried to make the people aware through journalism about the rising pollution of the pond and how this was harming the cultural and religious significance of this ancient pond. But this did not seem to work much and realising this, I conceptualized the campaign and started working on it," Yadav said of how this campaign originated.
He is greatly encouraged by the support his campaign has gathered. "Now, people who support my campaign and who want to revive the past glory of this place congregate in large number specially in the evening and lend a helping hand in cleaning the pond while at the same time offering the aarati prayers chanting hymns.
As a result, the place has now turned into the most happening place for the devotees these days. The Ganga aarati was actually started two years back. The aarati resmbles the one performed in Kashi, a pilgrimage site in India.
The goal of the aarati is to blend religion with clean environment and promote Janakpur's religious tourism, Yadav explained.
One thing that sets the Ganga aarati performed at the Gangasagar in Janakpur apart from its namesake in Kashi of India is that the prayers are offered not only to the Ganga, the river goddess, but also to the goddess of the earth Sita and the nature. This uniqueness of the aarati is believed to contribute much in promoting Janakpur's religious tourism. RSS

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