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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ancient India: Rivers and Rainfall

Rivers and Rainfall
An ancient Indian text says this about rivers and rainfall: "Waters, you are the ones who bring us the life force. Help us to find nourishment so that we may look upon great joy." The people of ancient India knew that their rivers made life possible. Because of water's importance, India's people have always thought of their rivers as holy Ancient India's holiest river, the Ganges, is also one of the longest rivers on the Indian subcontinent. This river stretches for 1,560 miles (2,512 km). An Indian poet named Jagannatha (JAHG.nuh.tuh), who lived in the 1500s, called its water the "blessing of the world," which would "soothe our troubled souls." Even today followers of the Hindu religion come to bathe in the Ganges River. They believe that its waters will wash away their sins.

Besides rivers, the other major source of water for India is rain. Almost all of India's rain falls during the summer monsoon, the season when moist winds blow from the Indian Ocean toward the subcontinent. In the winter, the winds reverse direction. The winter winds bring no rain, because they come from a dry inland area of Asia.

The shifting of the winds usually follows a regular pattern. But some years the monsoon rains begin late or never arrive at all. This affects crops and sometimes leads to famine. At these times, the people of India turn to the gods they believe in. One of the most important gods is Indra, the god of thunderstorms. When rain is needed, they ask the god to "draw up the enormous bucket and pour it down."

Once the monsoon rains begin, they continue for four months. This constant rain has surprised visitors to India for centuries. One such visitor to the land was Aristobulus (uh»ris»tuh»BYOOluhs), from Greece, who traveled there in 327 B.C. He wrote that in India the rains poured "violently from the clouds both day and night." Even armies at war in ancient India stopped fighting during the monsoon season because the roads got so muddy.

Why did the people of ancient India think of rivers as holy?


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