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Sacred Waters: A Pilgrimage up the Ganges River to the Source of Hindu CultureSacred Waters: A Pilgrimage up the Ganges River to the Source of Hindu Culture by Stephen Alter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A must for a travelogue fan. This is a different type of travelogue. It covers that Char Dham yatra that the Indians take up to wash their sins off. Stephen Alter has no such illusions. While most Indians today prefer to take a jeep or a bus or in some cases a helicopter to cover this yatra, Stephen Alter prefers to take the age old way of walking through the four dhams of Rishikesh/Kedarnath, Yamnotri, Gangotri and Badrinath. As an epilogue he also covers his walk to the Valley of flowers which strictly does not fall under the Char Dham Yatra it is natural for people to make it to the Valley of Flowers which is more sacred for the Sikhs because of the presence of the Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara.

Through the journey the author travels all alone with no modern appendages, baring a petrol stove for cooking food and tent for staying the nights where no Dharmshalas are present.

It is an awe inspiring travel which make one wish to walk the same trail as walked by the author. Although it may be too late in the day for one to take up this journey. It is more than a decade since the author undertook the journey and in many places the walking trail had all but disappeared as the motor roads had been built by then.

The author touches upon the controversial Tehri dam and also speaks about the Chipko movement lead by Sundarlal Bahuguna.

The author feels sad on seeing the destruction wrought upon by the modernization of these areas and it is a moot question as to if these modernization has been a boon or a bane to the citizens of these areas. The logic says that with increasing tourism, albeit religious in nature, one should expect the locals to prosper, but the dark side of this is that the villages/towns which were once self sufficient, clean, hygienic the denizens, very likely happy and carefree has now become overcrowded, unhygienic and polluted. The pristine environment has been destroyed to make hotels and other amenities for the tourists. The pure mineral hot springs have been reduced to nothing better than polluted ponds.

Read the book even if you have made the journey to get a different perspective of the development of the area.

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