Himalaya: Small Yet Significant Benefactors
It has now come to be accepted in the scientific community that one of the key inducers of rainfall, snow is an insignificantly small organism – a bacteria called “pseudomonas Syringae”.
Rain falls when water molecules in the clouds gather around particles of dust that have risen into the atmosphere, to form ice crystals which then melt and fall to the ground as rain. It has been found that the bacteria pseudomonas Syringae, which are found on the green cover of forests, rise up into the air in large quantities. They act as nuclei around which the water molecules crystallize as ice and then condense into rain, snow.
The difference in crystallization by these bacteria versus dust is that the bacteria cause freezing of ice crystals at higher temperatures causing rains/snow to fall earlier than otherwise.
This singular ability of the bacteria is now being exploited by ski resorts to make snow at will.
These bacteria grow where there is healthy green cover and mulching leaves. In the case of the Himalaya, sadly, the disappearing Banj and consequently the disappeared undergrowth and Humus, have caused a fall in the population of these bacteria with the potential to make rain fall. Without a knowledge of their role in entirety, these bacteria, seen as pests, are also being destroyed by the heavy use of pesticides.
Significance of rain making bacteria for Uttarakhand
Flashfloods occur commonly in the Himalaya due to cloudbursts which bring down torrential amounts of rain in a short span of time. Its like a tsunami from the sky. Being a hilly region, the voluminous amounts of rain waters from the cloudburst, cascade down the hills with tremendous force causing landslides and flashfloods.
The presence of the rain making bacteria in atmosphere causes early ice crystalization in the clouds and prevents huge build up of clouds, reducing the potential for formation of conditions that can lead to heavy cloudbursts. This decentralization of clouds distribute the rains rather than converging into a huge cloud slated to burst.
When the green cover in the Himalaya was more healthy and conducive for the bacteria due to the presence of the Banj trees, these rain makers were busy making rain and preventing cloudbursts. With the disappearance of the Banj, its undergrowth and the humus on the floor of the hills, we have driven the rain makers away and clouds are bursting uncontrolled.
The sheer fact that many of the old shrines and old settlements have survived so long in these hills in the same places that are reporting frequent landslides, flashfloods, cloudbursts and casualties today, is an indication that these hills were perhaps not so perilous even till a few centuries ago. Man, flora, fauna and the elements had struck a perfect chord and were in harmony with each other.
Power of Energy, Shakti
The guardian deity of the Uttarakhand region is Dhari Devi, a goddess, whose idols stood near the village Dhari on the banks of the Alakananda river.
This Dhari Devi temple was not some new temple that had come up in the last 50 to 100 years. It was a Shakti Sthal, one among the 108 Shakti Peeth, a seat of Shakti, which means it has been there and venerated continuously by the majority people of the land for more than a couple of millennia. Shakti Sthal are places where the Shakti Tattva, subtle energies are considered to be manifest.
The Dhari Devi temple had a subtle connect with the temples of Kali Math and Kedarnath. These temples were designed and installed at specific angles with each other to balance the Shiva – Shakti energies. Shiva in Kedarnath and Shakti in Dhari Devi and Kali Math.
One day prior to the deluge, the idol of Dhari Devi was removed from its consecrated, long standing location to make way for a dam to be constructed there.
Angles were well known in this land for it was the ancient Indian science of Trikonamiti which gave rise Trigonometry, a branch of modern mathematics. Kona means corner, angle. Trikona is a triangle. The east coast town of Konarak, famed for its ancient Sun temple was also built in specific angle to the Sun, which is why it was aptly named as Konarak.
Without realizing the purpose of these angles and the precision with which these temples had been located, the Dhari Devi temple was shifted consequent to Supreme court order, disturbing the sutble energy balance.
While the Shakti Peeth has been there beyond human memory and would have continued to be there for many more millennia, the modern dams have a life of just 100 – 200 years. These dams can be built in this valley or the next.
“Can timeless structures integral to the heritage of the land, be moved in the name of short term development projects?” is a question to be pondered by the Supreme Court bench.
In Conclusion – Acts have their Impacts
Tampering with the Shakti Peeth could well have been the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back, inviting the wrath of Shakti, the power in the fury of Mother Nature, for the cumulative destruction that we have caused to her over the last 300 years.
That the shifting of the Dhari Devi temple could have invoked the wrath of Shakti to cause such a catastrophe, can be a faith-based conclusion, unacceptable to the modern rational mind. The underlying fact however is that the Chardham Yatra, the pilgrimage to all these temples, the entire trek and experience is founded on the same faith that has come down from eons and millennia.
Now we are left with the faith that perhaps at least this Uttarakhand disaster, even at the cost of so many lives and damage, will shake us out of our apathy towards environment and tendency for quick, ill-planned solutions.
It is a lesson to respect ancient traditions. It is not that they do not work, we do not understand them well enough to make them work.
It is a lesson on how not to tamper with Nature. It is easy to cut a tree, a forest even. But can a man or a machine or even another type of tree substitute for its function the same way, from the very next moment? Even if a sapling of the same type of tree is planted, who can perform the functions of that tree for the interim years till this sapling can grow into another tree?
It is a lesson to tell us how every being on this planet part of one single eco system with role to play, be it a human, a tree or a bacteria.
Acts of each, impact the others. It may not show in the short term but over time it will and when it does it will be too late, seeming like the hand of fate.