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Devika river flows from Sudhmahadev to Uttarbehni and passes through the town of the Udhampur district of Jammu. Devika is having a significant religious and pious relevance for Hindus. It has been glorified in one of the chapters of Mahabharata in which it has been advised to Bhishma to visit different worthy pious places. The Mahabharata , Volume 3, page 14, translated by Bibek Debroy quotes. ” O Indra among Kings! O bull among the Bharata lineage! Then one should go to Devika, famous in the world. It has been heard that brahmanas were created there. This is the place of the wielder of the trident, famous in the three world. O bull among the Bharata lineage! Bathing in Devika and worshipping Mahesvara and offering charu in accordance with one’s capacity, a man obtains the fruits of a sacrifice that yields all desires. Having bathed there, a man swiftly obtains success. It is said that the sacred Devika, frequented by devarshis, is five yojanas long and half a yojana wide.” In the footnotes of the text it is mentioned that Udhampur is in Jammu & Kashmir. Udhampur was once known as Devika Nagari (city) on the banks of the Devaka or Devika river. There is an ancient Devika temple in Udhampur.
Devika has its glorified mention also in the Nilamat Purana which is an ancient text (6th and 8th centuary A.D) from Kashmir which contains information on its history, geography, religion and folklore. Devika has been accorded the relevance equivalent to Ganga river in the ancient texts.
The above literary references tell about the epitomic position of the Devika river in the dharma of Hindus. This is however highly unfortunate that due to the insanity and insensitivity of humans towards Devika which is having dual significance of being not only a water resource but also a religiously significant water resource has been reduced to filthy gutter like look.
Understanding the insensitivity of people towards the meaningfulness of water bodies seems to me an area of research in behavioural psychology as it poses me a big question that how people can be so insensitive to dump garbage and contribute to the death of their own lifeline , what to say of the lifeline of other living creatures?
Moreover, the question becomes bigger when I think further how people can be so insane that on the one side thriving on their values inherited from their religious connections, they revere the water resources and give them symbolic representation of piousness in their religious rites and rituals, and on the other side do not hesitate to dump garbage, open their sewrage outlets into them, and what not. This insanity is so contagious that hardly anyone bothers at all and feels the pain of the flowing water full of life giving divinity for all without any bias of religious affiliations.
Devika , the present status , represent the case of humans’ insensitivity and insanity based on hypocrisy. It gives an immense pain to see the present status of Devika which is now been reduced to alike gutter. In Udhampur, people still hold the last rites of their dear ones on the banks of Devika. There are a number of bowlies (natural water outlets) which have dried up. A few remaining are not so good in water quality. The Aap Shambu temple is still there with the same significance. But the adjoining water flow is too polluted that the sight does not give any aesthetic look of any religious site.
The Devika which was once a retreat for escaping scorching heat in summer for people who used to bathe and enjoy in the clear and gushing water has now been not even recommended to dipping toes. Those who still hold a bit of sensitivity and have been part of the glorious past of Devika become naturally nostalgic and feels the hurt done to the water body.
There have been different groups of people who are responsible for the present status of Devika. Foremostly, those who have the privilege to live near Devika as their houses are almost on its banks. These people have their septic outlets openings direct into the river. What this behavioural outcome can be called if not insanity? Why could not they think of another alternative to fulfil the need than polluting Devika with excreta had they been not insane? The first responsibility is also shared by Government bodes like municipality which does not hesitate to manage waste disposal in Devika. The waste management of the T.B hospital of the Udhampur is done by dumping everything in to the river. How these government agencies can be so forgetful that these share the responsibility with the local community in applying regulatory measures for maintaining the natural resources?
The small and big entrepreneurs have ready arrangement of managing their waste directly into the river. People of Udhampur, the generations living there, the local community at large (with an exception of a few sensitive people) who have been witness to the transformation of Devika from a gushing water flow to dark and filthy gutter like look cannot escape the responsibility of making the sacred river polluted by having no direct involvement because their casual attitude towards the water body is no less than criminal silence.
The next is the group of people who may not be living in the areas where Devika pass through but share the cultural values embedded in their common religious identity. At the last comes the whole human race that have to share the natural endowments which are symbolic representation of God’s creation for the benefit and the very survival of all living creatures.
Devika is clear case of representing the implications of the hypocritical and dual behavioural malfunctioning which needs research and thorough explanation as this just not fit with the common understanding that behaviours are an outcome of attitudes, beliefs and perceptions based on cultural values.
This is very gut-wrenching to know and observe that Devika has been abused to the level that that now it needs special efforts for its restoration. Devika has now been taken as the first ever project of the state by the Union Environment Ministry under the National River Conservation Programme. The district administration which has set up commission to restore the sacred river to its pristine glory deserves all accolades from all those who are still sensitive and sane among the majority reflecting insensitivity and insanity towards the water resources, life line of humanity and all the other living creatures.
The hilarious and very sad outcome of the present acute scarcity of water in some of the states of India which have made people to guard their water tanks with locks, it is hoped that people atleast now would not consider a free ride of water resources by abusing them to the extent that we do not even fear compromising the abilities of our own future generation to meet their essential needs.
There are earnest prayers that humans may now come out of their insanity and insensitivity to understand the relevance of sustainable behaviour related to sustainable consumption and internalizes the knowledge by sharing the responsibility of meeting present needs in a manner that does not compromise the abilities of others to meet their future needs.
(The author is Assistant Professor Department of Tourism & Travel Management Central University of Jammu)