River in India sacred to Hindus blanketed in toxic white foamHindus in northern India celebrated the grand Chhath Puja festival on Nov. 11 by ta...River in India sacred to Hindus blanketed in toxic white foam
Hindus in northern India celebrated the grand Chhath Puja festival on Nov. 11 by taking a dip in the Yamuna river despite the thick foam floating on the water. (Reuters)
By Sammy Westfall
The 855-mile Yamuna is one of India’s most sacred rivers. That’s why during the Hindu festival of Chhath Puja, many people dip, wade or immerse themselves in its waters.
But during this year’s celebrations, a stretch of the river is blanketed in a layer of cloudy white. It’s not snow — temperatures rise into the 80s in the day — but a toxic foam caused by industrial waste and untreated sewage, officials say.
Still, devotees took a holy dip, standing knee-deep in the river to pray and make offerings to the setting sun in honor of the sun god, to whom the four-day festival is dedicated. With an emphasis on purity, the festival involves a fast — no food or water — on the day devotees gather around bodies of water to pray and make their offerings.