'Recognise Yamuna as heritage entity'

"Yamuna is not just the lifeline of half a dozen cities from Delhi to Agra, but a repository of religious beliefs, culture, history and architecture," says Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

"Not just for the Sri Krishna lore, the Vaishnavite traditions followed by millions of devotees across the globe owe much to the  Yamuna," adds Shravan Kumar Singh, a conservationist.

Originating in the Yamunotri glacier in the Himalayas, Yamuna covers a distance of over 1,300 km, before merging with the Ganga in Allahabad. Various studies over the years have shown the adverse impact the discharge of industrial and household waste has on the river.

At a roundtable discussion ahead of the International Day for Monuments and Sites  also called World Heritage Day, on April 18, speakers said Yamuna could be saved from pollution and neglect only if it was recognised as a heritage entity.

"The BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) government in Lucknow must support the demand for heritage status to the Yamuna and persuade the central government to initiate appropriate measures in this direction," Vrindavan's eminent musicologist Acharya T. Jaimini said.

A resolution moved unanimously at the meeting said: "While appreciating the saints of Braj Mandal, the sadhus from Barsana and Goverdhan who undertook the long march and sat on Dharna in New Delhi to present a charter of demands to the central government, we urge the authorities concerned to take immediate steps to recognise the river Yamuna as a precious heritage resource and initiate appropriate steps to save the river from dying."

"Great civilisations in history have flourished along river banks. In India, the rivers are worshipped as goddesses. An interesting fact about the Yamuna is that it has a richer history and a valuable contribution to enriching culture, art, architecture and commerce, when compared to the   Ganges (Ganga)," said Bankey Lal Maheshwari of the charitable organisation Sri Nathji Nishulk Jal Sewa.

Green activist Rajan Kishore said: "The epic Mahabharta was written on its banks, saint Parashar and Satyawati gave birth to Ved Vyas, for thousands of years great saints and thinkers lived in ashrams along the Yamuna."

While flowing along Delhi, the seat of power for centuries, the Yamuna inspired the Mughals and later the British to build some of the most magnificent buildings along its banks. In Agra, the Taj Mahal was built next to it.

"No other Indian river shares such a diverse and rich history, cultural and religious importance and as the sister of Yamraj, the god of death, Yamuna's place in the Indian mythological tradition is permanently etched," Jagan Nath Poddar of the organisation Friends of Vrindavan told IANS over phone.

Shishir Bhagat, president of Wake UP Agra, a voluntary group which is organising a fast at the Poiya Ghat here to highlight the problem of pollution in the river, said: "The problem is that the younger generation is not aware of the rich traditions and the historical significance of the river Yamuna and therefore often demonstrates an attitude of callous indifference towards its plight."

Activist Subhash Jha said the World Heritage Day provided the most appropriate opportunity to raise their demand.

"If steps are not taken to save it now, we would be deprived of a great nurturer and a crucial historical tradition," warns green activist Ravi Singh.

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