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Date Posted: 13:54
Author: ketch - 8 Jul 2001
Subject: Unpollutable Ganges?

An extraordinary, perhaps unique, feature of the "holy Ganges" is its unpollutability, its changeless sterility. No bacteria can live there; no Ganges-contracted disease is ever experienced by the millions of Hindus who use its waters for bathing and drinking. This fact is baffling to modern scientists. One of them, Dr. John Howard Northrop, co-winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1946, has recently said; "We know that the Ganges river is highly contaminated. Yet Indians drink out of it, swim in it, and are apparently not affected" He added hopefully, "Perhaps bacteriophage (the virus that destroys bacteria) renders the river sterile."

The above quotation is part of a footnote which appears in some editions of "Autobiography of a Yogi", sometimes at the end of chapter 36, sometimes chapter 32.

Whatever may have been the case in Yogananda's day, the Ganges today is very far from being unpolluted, and is teeming with bacteria. The fact that people drink from and swim in its waters without apparent harm is probably due to aquired immunity to the various harmful bacteria present. The same could be said of many rivers, perhaps even the majority of rivers in Asia.

I have never been able to find any research suggesting that the Ganges was ever free from bacteria, and I have never heard the suggestion anywhere except in Yogananda's autobiography.

The footnote does not seem to appear in the 1946 online version, so it may have been added by a later editor. Does anyone know where this idea of the Ganges sterility comes from? Has anyone ever seen any research which would support this theory?

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