Analysis of Stille's Ganges' Next Life
Bathing in the Ganges is a religious tradition that is an integral part of daily life in India. It represents a purification of the soul, as Stille states, “…[A] river that, because of its divine origin, is pure and purifies all those faithful who immerse themselves in her,” (598). However, presently, there exists a dilemma that threatens the survival of this tradition: the poor condition of the river. The river is polluted with “raw sewage, human and industrial waste, the charred remains of bodies, and animal carcasses” (598). In the Ganges’ Next Life, Alexander Stille contrasts traditional and modern values. Traditional Hindu values, yet somewhat primitive, reflect thousands of years of experience and practice. Modern values, on the
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The integration of traditional and modern values indicates a new era of lifestyle consisting of combined ideals. Mishra believes that the disparity among values can be overcome by compromise and finding a median. In order to find a solution to the ecological disaster that is the river, he understands that he must turn to western technologies.
…This has taken Mishra far from the traditional, religious role of mahant and brought him into contact with politicians in New Delhi, American State Department officials, and environmentalists and scientists around the world…Like India itself on the eve of the new millennium, Mishra is trying to incorporate what is best from the West to preserve the Hindu traditions that he loves. (600)
However, western technology alone cannot solve the problems of the Ganges. By seeking help from the western world, Mishra takes on a nontraditional role that bonds tradition and technology. Oswald’s water cleanup technology will in fact help to preserve bathing in the Ganges by cleaning the polluted water that endangers the tradition. The two values are both essential to optimally cleaning the Ganges, Stille illustrates: “The mahant is also convinced that science and religion have to mesh if the Ganges is to be saved,” states Stille (610). Thus, in order to optimally and successfully clean the Ganges, love for the river and its tradition, and the western