Does water in the Ganga River possess medicinal properties? Theories have swirled for a long time. In what seems a final push, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government is seeking to finally resolve the mystery. A huge multi-institution effort costing over Rs. 150 crore ($23 million) is underway to scientifically resolve the enigma of this so-called “Brahma Dravya,” or “divine liquid.”
J.P. Nadda, the union minister for health and family welfare, has assured support including financial assistance for researchers to investigate the claim that the Ganga’s waters have medicinal properties that apparently destroy various kinds of bacteria and microbes.
The Ganga is also one of the most polluted rivers of the world. Water pollution measured at several places along its course is thousands of times permissible levels.
Many theories have been offered to explain Ganga jal’s so-called “special” qualities. One suggests medicinal plants growing on the banks of the river give it the “special” properties. Another hints at “killer microbes” that knock out bacteria.
Last week, over 200 leading scientists gathered at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi to deliberate on “non-putrefying properties of Ganga water.” Among them were civil engineers, microbiologists, botanists, virologists, biotechnologists and cultural leaders belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
The study already underway at the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute in Nagpur has collected over 150 samples of Ganga’s water and sediment to analyze their microbiological properties. It will take another 6 months to complete the study, according to Uma Bharti, the minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation.
Ganga water retains self-purification characteristics even in 16-year-old samples, claims Chandra Shekhar Nautiyal, director of the National Botanical Research Institute in Lucknow.
He says Ganga water has been used from time immemorial for medicinal and ritualistic purposes because it does not putrefy even after long periods of storage. Nautiyal has studied the Ganga waters for more than a decade and finds that Ganga water is soft and has high level of sulphur content. Presence of bacteriophage against the pathogenic bacteria was observed only in Ganga water, he says.