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Green mantra from monk in Merc

A monk drove into Press Club in a milk-white Mercedes cutting a sight as unusual as the announcement he was there to make. This year, the traditional procession of the naga sanyasis at Kumbh Mela will raise a cry for the cause of conservation.

Soham Baba, the head of the Juna akhada of sanyasis, had a message which echoed some of the concerns at the recently concluded Copenhagen summit — global warming and its effects on the glaciers.

But what prompted him to speak out had to do strictly with the spiritual community. “In 20-30 years, the Gangotri glacier will melt, and the effect of this natural disaster will be felt by Hindu religion. Where will our sadhus meditate? What will happen to devotees if the Ganga dries up?” a devotee read out his message in Bengali, as he sat on a throne, his palm supported by an ornate silver-plated stick and his kamandalu (water pot) resting on the table in front. He was dressed, in saffron robe. On both sides of the dais were his personal security guards, dressed in black. They said they were from Holland Protection Group. Soham Baba has a spiritual organisation named after him based in Holland.

Though his message quoted satellite pictures and other scientific studies, Soham Baba pointed out that the sadhus for long had first-hand information of the melting of the glaciars. “I have seven caves in the Himalayas, of which five are in glacial areas. When we go back after a break of three-four months, we can make out that our feet are sinking in what should have been solid ice. We warn other sadhus to avoid that path.”

The monk, who is at the head of about 2.5lakh naga sanyasis, said the monks had been warning about the melting of the glaciers for decades but had not been taken seriously. “But we cannot afford to stay quiet any more,” he said. Juna akhada’s movement has received support from other major akhadas like Nirvani, Atal and Udasin.

The platform that they have chosen is the upcoming Kumbh Mela, which this year will be highly significant, being a Purna Kumbha, coming after a 12-year gap.

Two new stalls will be put up at Hardwar. One will create awareness about how glacial meltdown will destroy places of worship. The other will seek relief for the Aila-ravaged villagers of the Sunderbans, another area threatened by global warming. Soham Baba, incidentally, is the first sanyasi from Bengal to head the akhada.

And in the much-publicised procession of the naga sanyasis, placards will be carried with messages that would warm the cockles of the hearts of environmentalists, faithful or faithless — plant trees, save Himalayas, stop global warming, save Ganga....

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