What the River Knows: Bagmati River, Nepal

Old Monkey. Photograph by Basia Irland.

In this series, “What the River Knows,” by Basia Irland, the artist and water activist writes from the perspective of each river, using the first person. Installments are published in Water Currents every other week on Mondays. The first post is about the Ping River in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Other posts include the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok; Kamo-gawa River, Kyoto; Siem Reap River, Cambodia; Yaqui River, Mexico, where the eight Yaqui tribal villages do not have water due to agricultural corporations; the superfund site on the Eagle River in Colorado, polluted with heavy metal runoff from a mine; the Virgin River as it flows through Zion National Park.

Please feel free to add your comments at the end of each post.

The Bagmati River at Pushupatinath Temple, Katmandu, Nepal

I am clogged with human ash and bits of bone. Garlands of marigolds float on my body as an old monkey watches. I have always borne the remains of the dead, who are taken to the Pashupatinath Temple on my banks near Kathmandu, Nepal, placed on pyres, ignited, and blessed in Hindu ceremonies. The cremated are swept into my murky waters to plod along toward the confluence with the great mother Ganga as I join other tributaries downstream.

Old Monkey. Photograph by Basia Irland.

My primary role is as a source of spiritual salvation for millions of Hindus, who take a dip within my waters. And yet, at this particular site, my plight has been the same for decades — an open sewer, full of garbage from an ever-increasing population. I try to flow, but really I just slog along. There have been gallant efforts by local valley dwellers in recent years to try and clean my body and rid my ribs of slush and guck, but it is an overwhelming —> Read More