Yamuna River

The Yamuna – uncertain river

On the riverbank are also sites of pilgrimage and of death, culturally deeply intertwined with ideas of life and afterlife. The holy river forms part of birth and death rituals of Hindus, its waters born of ancient myths of love and divinity, and metaphoric legends of the conquest of good over evil. So deep and consciousness forming is this imprint, that many in the city consider the smelly black river to be ‘pure,’ blind to its material state. Of more recent origins on its banks are the ‘temples’ of new India, power houses, sports stadiums, and bridges.

This riverbank is changing very rapidly. It has now been cleaned, fenced and straddled with new highways and flyovers. Over 50,00 slum dwellers have been violently removed, and the land converted into parks. Elsewhere high end housing has been built. Upstream, where the river is still cleaner, there are tourism plans being drafted and farming land has been acquired and converted into biodiversity parks. In a very short time, the forgotten land of waste has been transformed into a high value real estate, as the city has expanded on both sides of the river. The new Metro line now connects both the banks and beyond, and what was hitherto hidden is now open to view, and accessible. Alongside there is now a new and forceful demand to clean the river, as if driven by the new global self consciousness for the city’s new affluent citizens, and even the Courts have directed that the river be cleaned “like the Thames.” Likewise, the 2010 Commonwealth games athletes village was built on the riverbed, despite environmental objections and violations and premised on the idea that “India has arrived.”

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