Sacred Rivers With Simon Reeve (2014) s01e02 Episode Script

The Ganges

I'm going on a series of astonishing adventures.
Whoa! Absolutely stunning! Travelling along three of the mightiest rivers on the planet.
These rivers have given rise to some of the world's greatest civilisations.
For centuries, we've worshipped their life-giving waters and feared their awesome destructive powers.
The current is a killer! On these epic journeys, I'll meet some extraordinary characters.
And experience the very different cultures, religions and countries that have emerged along our sacred rivers.
In this episode, I'll be travelling more than 1,000 miles along the Ganges, the great artery of India, from the foothills of the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean.
We're on the beach! For centuries, Indians have worshipped the river and believed it has sacred powers.
But in the last few decades, India's economy has boomed, its population has doubled and the river has paid a heavy price.
Hindus they take mouthful of Ganges water.
- Urgh! - Can you imagining taking this water? Can India's great river and a culture more than 3,500 years old survive the pressures of the 21st century? And there it is! The holy Ganges! It's a river that is revered as a goddess! The reason I'm starting my journey here is because above this point these two rivers are known by their local names.
It's at the town of Devprayag where they converge that this officially becomes the mighty, sacred Ganges.
Central to my desire to make this journey, in fact to make this series of journeys along sacred rivers, is a realisation that if I want to really understand a country, then I have to understand the faith and the beliefs of the people who live there.
India is an emerging economic superpower, it's going to be the most populous country in the world, and what do its people really think and believe? The Ganges is not the longest river on the planet, but from this spot in Devprayag it flows down onto the plains of India, watering the lands of around half a billion people.
The Ganges river basin covers nearly a third of India and has one of the largest populations of any river basin on earth.
No other river is so important to India and none are as holy.
A billion Hindus worship the Ganges.
It's also known as Ganga as a Goddess.
At the point where the river begins, I'm meeting a Baba, a holy man, who provides blessings for pilgrims.
This is astonishing.
- Baba Gee.
- Baba Gee? Yes.
Baba Gee.
- Namaste.
- Namaste.
Welcome.
Ganesh Maharaj says he has renounced worldly goods to live a simple life of contemplation close to the river.
Oh! Ganesh meditates next to the river for hours every day and says he draws power from the water.
- Very powerful.
- Very powerful.
- This is my guru.
- I feel the power.
My guru is the River Ganges.
Baba Gee became a holy man soon after leaving school, eventually his devotion to the river brought him here to this cave.
So, Baba Gee, do you actually sleep in here, then? Do you stay here? Yes, for 12 years.
You've been here in the cave for 12 years? Yes.
We are holy men, we just have the clothes on our back.
All year round? For the rest of our lives, we are holy men.
We never again do any job, any work.
We just have a simple fire, good food, good sleep, good smoke.
This is our life.
It sounds it sounds very appealing.
OK.
So you like it? Baba Gee's one of many who choose this life.
In their final years, millions of Hindus give up their homes to wander India with few possessions.
I think I'm about to get a blessing for my journey.
Whoa! Stop hiding behind that camera! Thank you, Baba Gee.
From Devprayag, I travelled south west along the river towards the city of Rishikesh.
From their origins at a melting glacier in the high Himalayas, the waters of the Ganges descend more than 12,000 feet, carving their way through precipitous gorges.
A good half a mile drop.
Although the Ganges is steeped in history and religious tradition, in modern India it's not just seen as something to be worshipped.
- Simon? - Diplan? - Diplan.
- Very nice to meet you.
Look at you with your trendy shades.
- Welcome to - Thank you very much.
- The Land of the Lords.
- Thank you.
Diplan is a Ganges river guide.
40 years ago, few Indians could afford to go on holiday, now there are around 250 million middle-class Indians.
On their holidays, they're finding new ways of celebrating and enjoying the river.
We're going in the water.
Rafting on the Ganges! Looks fairly calm here.
I suspect it isn't all like that.
Paddle a little harder.
Harder! Harder! Come on! Fast! Fast! Ah! The first rapid on this stretch of the river was relatively gentle.
Good morning! Good morning! It's nicknamed "Good morning.
" Whoo! Go! Hard! Hard! Good! But downriver the rapids are a bit more energetic.
Wow! Whoa! White-water rafting is fairly new to India, but the tourist industry is growing rapidly along this beautiful section of the Ganges.
- That was fantastic! - Yeah, really.
- Thank you.
- Really.
You you did it really well.
- And if you're happy, we're happy.
- Ah, that's a lovely thing to say.
Mother Ganga is full happy.
Tell us about the camps that we can see along the bank of the river here.
We've seen them the whole way down, there's dozens of them.
Who's staying in these tented encampments? Adventurers.
Indians.
They're really freaking out.
These days they are they are, like, 90%.
Is this quite an important change, then? This is Indians enjoying the river not just worshipping it? This is still Mother Ganga, the holy Ganga, but nowadays it is more adventurous like.
They are freaking out in adventures.
Just down river is a community that's long been a beacon for western visitors wanting meaning, eastern wisdom and a bit of enlightenment, the town of Rishikesh.
In 1968, the Beatles visited a religious retreat here known as an "ashram" for some soul searching and chanting.
Like them and hundreds of thousands of travellers who've since followed in their footsteps, I was going to be staying at an ashram.
Goodness me! Look where we're going now.
There's been a few illustrious visitors before.
- Thank you.
- OK.
- Sadfi? - Yes, welcome.
- Namaste.
- How are you? - Very well thank you.
Simon.
- So nice to meet you.
Lovely to meet you.
Sorry to keep you waiting.
No problem at all.
- Welcome home.
- Welcome home? - Of course.
- Goodness me! Sadfi, a Californian who came here ten years ago is now a leader of the Parmarth Niketan Ashram.
It's the largest ashram in all of Rishikesh.
It's actually one of the largest spiritual institutions in all of India.
Each evening the residents of the ashram and visitors gather on the banks of the Ganges to chant and pray.
The president and spiritual leader of the ashram is His Holiness Swami Chidanand Saraswati Maharajah.
Swami Gee also heads a foundation sponsoring free schools, a clinic, orphanages, and he's trying to organise a clean up of the River Ganges.
- How are you? - I'm very well, thank you.
Sorry to keep you waiting.
- Simon.
- Welcome home.
Thank you very much indeed.
- You can take.
- The whole thing? - Everything? - Yes.
There are often hundreds of foreign visitors staying at the ashram, paying just a few pounds for a simple room and a chance to experience a completely different way of life.
The ashram is also home to 200 local boys from disadvantaged backgrounds who receive academic and spiritual education as well as food and shelter.
I'd been presented with a tree, watered by the Ganges.
I was told it symbolised the life-giving power of the water and the need to protect the river.
This is an audience with the Swami Gee now.
I'm going to put my sacred tree here.
Nobody take this.
We're travelling along the Ganges, travelling down the Ganges, and I just wondered if you could perhaps help us to understand, why is the Ganges so sacred to Indians? Ganga and me has a very special relation.
When I was on the banks of Ganga, I could feel the power.
Eyes are closed and in those moments that charging which I needed every day.
Our mobile today needs charging.
Cellphones need charging.
That charging was also available immediately - whenever I need it for that reason.
- From the river? From the river.
And I can tell you, not only me, this is experience of many who left their families, came to the Himalayas, were there, they were not all just came just for they had nothing and they came to find peace.
They were judges, they were doctors, they were engineers, they were professionals.
This place specially has has become a powerhouse.
Hinduism is a set of ancient beliefs allowing followers to create their own relationship with a multiplicity of gods.
There's no central authority in Hinduism, no single founding text.
Most foreign visitors to ashrams don't come looking to convert, but instead to find time to think and unwind with the help of practices like yoga.
"Yoga and meditation.
" Oh, that's where were going.
It was a chilly morning and I'd been asked to wear what felt like a giant nappy.
The emphasis in this class was on meditation and prayer as well as the correct physical posture.
I was a natural.
- How was that for you? - Huh? - How was that for you? - Good.
- Why are you here? - Oh, I'm here for the yoga.
Right.
But why have you come? You could do yoga in America, surely? Well, it was it was much better to get away.
- It took me five months to close my law practice - Wow.
to sell and give away everything I owned.
To say goodbye to my children and my parents.
- And I've been here for a year and a half.
- My goodness! That's not just coming for a little trip, is it? - I'm here.
- You're here now.
Why why here, though? Do you feel there's something special about this place? - About the country even? - Yes, absolutely.
This place is very special.
It's like a big energy vortex.
As well as attending yoga classes, some residents here volunteer to take part in service, including helping out with cleaning and cooking.
Hello, ladies.
- Hello.
- What brought you here? Are you resident or are you? Guest.
I'm a resident here.
- How long have you been here? - I've been here for three years.
Three years? And you live here as well? - No, I've just come for five weeks.
- And you've been here for? I'm here from six months.
Six months? And what drew you all here? We all are doing sava.
Doing performing service? - Selfless service.
- Are you from Rishikesh? I'm not from Rishikesh, I'm from Gujarat.
- From Gujarat? OK.
- Yeah.
- And you're from? - London.
I was thinking that sounded like a remarkably clear accent there.
And whereabouts in London are your from? - Harrow.
- From Harrow? - Yes.
- OK.
And why have you come here?! I've met Swami Gee a few times and he's come to London as well.
And I've been here with family and I just want to keep coming back.
I think to your question of what drew you here, it's I don't think it was a decision that we took, you know? I was born and raised in America, in California, I didn't know about the Ganga.
I mean, yes, my family is of Indian origin, I must have heard Ganga in a movie or something, but it's not like American textbooks teach you about a river called Ganga.
And something brought me to Rishikesh and I never left.
How does your how does your old American self, as it were, differ from your new self? You know, in America it's always like you're working and you're going to school and there's stress and there's energy being expended - You're just being and existing in the day? - It's the next thing.
It's always the next thing.
And here it's just you are and you just be.
Alternative spiritual practices obviously have an immense appeal to the many western visitors who come here, as was clearly evident in downtown Rishikesh.
It felt a bit like Glastonbury.
Lots of lovely New Age stuff going on here.
Look, the Ganga Astrology and Palmistry Centre.
Yoga teacher training here.
Look, the Himalayan Yoga Retreat, Breath of Bliss.
"Emotional blockage treatment.
" Goodness me! This is the self bodyworks.
This is a real spiritual supermarket.
Something for everyone.
Then when you've done your yoga, you can come to the German bakery here, step in for continental, Russian, Indian, Chinese, Mexican foods.
You can get an English breakfast or a Greek salad.
I've had a difficult relationship with India on my travels.
Oh, mind the thieving little monkeys.
Don't chuck that plastic in the river.
A third of the world's poorest people live here and I've always found the poverty desperately upsetting.
Look at this! This is the India that I have been wanting to see that I have been waiting to see.
It does feel quite spiritual.
I think that's partly because we're so connected with nature here, it's all around us.
While Rishikesh is a particular magnet for visitors from the west, where I headed next is a major draw for Indian tourists.
The beautiful Ganges.
Look how low it is here! I'm meeting a friend who's guided me around India before.
He's suggested we meet at a statue of the god Shiva.
He says, "You won't miss it.
" OK he was right! I've travelled in other parts of India on a couple of previous trips with Abhra Bhattacharya.
- Abhra! - Hello, Simon! Hello, mate! Come on.
Hi.
- And you said we wouldn't miss Shiva! - Yeah.
Look at the size of him! - Colossal! He's one of the central gods of Hinduism.
- Yeah.
Shiva is most revered and most feared, because he's the Lord of Destruction and he's also the Creator, because we believe every creation begins from destruction, so he destroys before he creates.
- It's a powerful role.
- Yeah.
Abhra is there any connection between Shiva and the Ganges? Well, you see the huge dreadlock that Shiva has? In that he is supposed to have tamed the untameable Ganges.
- In his in his dreadlocks? - Yeah.
So the Ganges flows through his dreadlocks like the hills you must have not missed on your way, you know? So it tames the Ganges and its force.
So the river has flowed through his dreadlocks and out across India? - Yeah.
- Wow! Shiva has hundreds of millions of followers.
He's one of the most popular gods, but all Indians can revere the Ganges for what it gifts the country.
Haridwar is where the river enters the plains of northern India and brings life to almost half the country's population.
Every 12 years, the city plays host to the religious festival of the Kumbh Mela, the biggest human gathering on earth.
But every evening, travellers come from all across India to pay homage to the great goddess Ganga.
And this evening Abhra and I were joining them.
You must offer flower and fire to Ganga.
- Flowers and fire? - Yeah.
- Flowers? - Yes.
Those are meant for that.
- So do we get one of these? - Yes.
There are a bit ornate, aren't they? - And there's the fire.
- Yeah.
- OK.
100 rupees, less than a pound.
- Yeah.
- It's a bargain.
- Yeah.
He's checking carefully.
Happy with that, sir? - Thank you very much.
- Thank you.
So today is going to be your first service to the Ganges? - It is, you're right! - Yeah.
And it feels appropriate to be doing this with you, Abhra.
For Hindus this religious service is an opportunity to express their gratitude to the life-giving river.
Come, Simon.
And to celebrate their belief that as humans we're small parts of a greater whole.
Namaste! There's not a lot of western faces here.
This is a very real place of pilgrimage for Indians.
Tens of thousands of them come here every week.
The priests begin by making offerings of milk to the river.
What were they saying? He's translating the entire chant which were in Sanskrit into Hindi.
- A very ancient language? - Yeah.
Yeah.
And he's saying that whatever we were saying the prayers, say that Mother Ganges is the main source of life.
As night falls the priests worship the river with light.
Personal offerings are also made of flowers and candles.
Finally, it was our turn to make an offering to the river.
We had a bit of help from a local priest.
Now you are easy to go? - We go together my friend.
- Yeah.
- We have to leave it.
- Put it in? - Yeah.
- OK.
But the most important thing a visitor can do here is to bathe in the sacred waters of the river.
It's a little bit chilly.
It's certainly refreshing.
- Further? - Further, otherwise.
What are we treading down on to? Goodness knows! That's better.
You don't want to be swept away here.
One.
Two.
And Three! I think I need to go a bit further.
Three times.
I'm running out of chain.
Yeah.
There you go.
What does that mean? What does it signify what we've done? This signifies that, you know, our soul has been cleansed.
All our past sins have been cleansed.
- From our previous lives even? - Even from previous lives.
Now it's the beginning of a new life and a new journey for you.
Thank you.
For us both! Come on! From Haridwar, I followed the Ganges more than 300 miles south-east to a major industrial city.
India's population has more than doubled in the last 40 years.
There's now more than 1.
2 billion people in the country.
The impact on the river has been appalling.
We're coming into a place called Kanpur now, which is one of the most polluted cities in India.
The banks of the river were knee deep with rotting rubbish.
It was all in stark contrast to the pure water I'd seen flowing from the Himalayas at the start of my journey.
But in spite of the evident filth leeching into the river, it was a religious holiday and people were still taking a holy dip.
They're feeding those cows! - Yeah.
- In a ceremonial way? Today is a very auspicious day, so they are feeding the cows to gain more, you know, blessings of God.
- More karma? - Yeah.
- Better karma? - Better karma.
Cows are revered in India because they give milk freely.
It's taboo to kill or even injure them.
So I was surprised to discover India's now among the biggest exporters of beef and leather in the world.
Kanpur is the centre of the trade, which is worth around three billion pounds a year.
As we drove into the city there were treated animal hides everywhere I looked.
Tanneries here claim all the hides come from water buffalo, which aren't revered by most Hindus.
But religious activists and animal rights campaigners say that most of the them actually come from an illicit trade in slaughtered sacred cows.
Abhra and I went to visit a sanctuary known as a cow shelter.
We were meeting Porva Joshipura from the International Animal Rights Group PETA.
- Hi, Porva! - Hi.
Namaste.
Simon.
Lovely to meet you.
Good to meet you, too.
What is this place? This is a rescue centre for cows who are saved from slaughter.
This is an area where cows are killed, they're transported illegally under the cover of darkness, you know, crammed into trucks on top of one another and they're taken illegally to slaughter houses.
- Slaughter houses?! - Yes.
I I thought this was not something that was legally permissible, let alone religiously, in India.
It's not, it's not.
There's up to a seven-year imprisonment fine if you get caught slaughtering cows, but it happens nonetheless.
And so when the police get a tip-off, from a caring citizen, that cows are being transported to slaughter, they catch them and they bring them here to this safe place.
I mean, this is a land where compassion for animals is considered a major value.
I mean, it's a very basic value.
- It's a religious code as well, isn't it? - It's a religious code as well.
- And yet? - And because of the religion it's become important just culturally.
And yet cows are being killed in this country to supply people who are buying leather elsewhere.
Who's buying the leather that India's exporting, then? Um people in the UK, people in the European Union.
The EU buys 60% of the leather that gets sold out of India.
There's a few people who are fattening their wallets from the leather industry.
Things are happening here which are not allowed to happen in the UK or in the EU or in some other western country.
You know, the way that animals are treated here is not allowed to happen there.
Some British and American companies have banned Indian leather because of production concerns, but it remains a huge business that has a direct impact on the Ganges.
Many tanneries here use a toxic cocktail to treat hides that includes sulphuric acid and cancer-causing chemicals.
Environmental groups say the waste water from the tanneries is then channelled into the river.
We stopped at a waste-water pumping station by the side of the road.
So this this is some so-called treated water.
A study by the Indian Institute of Technology found that even after supposedly being treated the waste water from the tanneries still contains dangerously high levels of poisonous chemicals such as arsenic and mercury.
Apparently, the water here comes out of the pipe over there and it flows into these channels and then it's used for irrigation, for providing water for crops in the dry season.
But in the wet season, it just flows from here straight into the River Ganges.
On the river bank on the outskirts of the city, I met environmental campaigner, Rakesh Jaiswal.
Rakesh, thanks for meeting up with us.
Can you tell us what is the state, the health of the River Ganges at this point? In Kanpur the river is effectively dead.
No-one ever thought this would happen.
All the rubbish and sewage from the city goes into the River Ganges.
Kanpur has four hundred tanneries, they also drain their poisonous water into the Ganges.
Rakesh showed me a channel he said was carrying tannery effluent directly into the river.
Oh, my God! So this channel here is just taking filthy water straight into straight into the Ganges? Yes.
This contains heavy metals, acids, dyes and other chemicals used by the tanneries.
- It's all in there.
- It's all in there? It's a poison? Hindus they take mouthful of Ganges water.
- Urgh! - Can you imagining taking this water? Can someone dare drink directly from Ganga at this place? I don't I don't really understand.
Hindus, the faith, teaches a respect and love for nature.
This is the sacred Ganges.
Why are Indians doing this to the Ganges? Even I can't understand this.
This is a river we worship and revere, and whose waters we consider holy yet we remain silent about its desecration.
Tanneries claim the pollution is caused by other towns and cities on the Ganges and not by them.
Water and sanitation remains a colossal issue in India, up to 600 million people here don't have access to a toilet.
One study discovered the bacteria from sewage in the Ganges was 12,000 times permissible levels for bathing.
The Ganges and other Indian rivers are horrifically polluted and successive Indian governments have failed to clean them up.
I travelled another 200 miles to Varanasi, one of the most sacred Hindu holy cities.
And we're just coming into the city of Varanasi.
It's one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
It's a place that's said to be as old as Babylon.
The same religious rituals have been practised in the temples here for more than 1,00 years and remain virtually unchanged.
At dawn each morning people come to worship the river and bathe in its sacred waters.
The American writer, Mark Twain, who came here in the 1890s wrote that the city is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend.
Varanasi has been a place of faith for 30 centuries.
This is absolutely stunning! This is one of the most amazing places I've ever been to.
Along the banks of the river are dozens of gats or flights of stone steps leading up to temples, palaces and guest houses.
Hindus believe that to die within the confines of this city or to have one's ashes scattered in the river here is to escape the laborious cycle of reincarnation and achieve Moksha or eternal liberation.
Abhra, where are we going? So we are going to a very special place a very special hotel rather.
- OK.
- It's just round the corner.
The hotel is a rather unique retirement home for the elderly or sick who want to die in holy Varanasi.
It's sometimes known as a "death hotel".
Abhra took me to meet Manvuri Gapathi and his wife, who've retired from a life of farming to live out their days here.
Namaste.
So what is this place and why are you here? This is the Kashi Liberation Home.
According to the holy scriptures you can attain liberation here.
Otherwise people like us our souls will not be liberated from the cycle of reincarnations, they will be restless.
It's this desire for liberation that brings me here.
Is everybody here to die? Is that why people come here? We have come there for that, but we can only die here if it is written in our destiny.
When did you come here? How long have you been here? It has been 18 years now.
You've both been here for 18 years?! She sometimes goes back home, I don't.
And you will never leave because you don't want to risk not dying here, is that right? No, I could leave but I would only go to other holy places like Prayag or Haridwar.
Even if my soul leaves my body at another holy place, it would still be liberated.
I am I am completely terrified of death.
I wake in the night sometimes in a cold sweat, but it sounds to me like you embrace it.
No, no, you should never be scared.
From the moment you are born death is part of life.
They go together.
I am not afraid.
I can't understand it because my Everything in my culture is fearful of dying and everything in your culture accepts it and to a certain extent embraces it.
It seems it seems an absolutely fundamental difference.
With so many people coming to the city of Varanasi to die close to the Ganges, funerals are big business here.
Families go to great lengths to ensure their loved ones are cremated on the river bank thus securing their eternal salvation.
At the main cremation area next to the river, Abhra and I had arranged to meet the Dom Raja, a man who's said to have made a fortune controlling funerals here.
Very nice to meet you, sir.
May I sit here? - Is that going to be all right? - Yeah, yeah, sure.
What an extraordinary place.
Can you can you tell us what is the job of the Dom Raja? Our job is to provide the flame for the funeral pyre.
Our men assist in the burning of the bodies.
How many bodies are burned here? We don't keep count.
It can range from 20 to 100 bodies a day.
How do you decide how much to charge people for having their relative burnt here? There is no fixed price.
People give whatever they can afford.
This sounds like a very difficult and upsetting job.
Is it a job and a role that you find difficult, or do you enjoy it? It is a family tradition and I see it as a duty.
It's like a family business.
It doesn't upset me.
It's my way of practising my faith as a Hindu.
Why does religion dictate that you and your family do this job? A very long time ago, we were upper-caste priests, but then we were cursed by the gods.
Now we do this job.
So the legend is that your family were cursed and that's why you have to do this job? Exactly.
In India's caste system, in which job or role is often determined from birth, the Dom Raja's family belonged to the lowest caste, the so-called Untouchables.
Is the caste system still alive in India? Well, we are developing, we are growing up in the sense of more and more education, but the shadow is always there, you see.
There are still people who would, if they even step in the shadow of an Untouchable, would go to the Ganges and have a bath before they get back to their home.
If they step into their shadow? Yeah, it's that bad.
It's 2014! India's got a space programme! Yeah.
That's incredible.
That's why we call it Incredible India.
Cremations here are public but ritual events.
The eldest son of a deceased family leads the funeral rites.
First, the body's prepared by immersing it in the Ganges.
Then the son circles the funeral pyre.
This is an utterly overwhelming place.
You can't really hope to understand this, but you can't help but absorb what's going on here.
Finally, having obtained a flame from a member of the Dom Raja's family, he lights the fire.
Like millions of cremated and partially-cremated bodies each year the remains will be put into the Ganges.
You lived here, didn't you? You lived in Varanasi? I lived in Varanasi for more than eight years.
And, presumably, the burning of the bodies here is just very much part of life? It's part of life, but in the Ganges you can say it's special that I have seen what I haven't seen anywhere, so many bodies being burned in one place, you know.
You can see ten bodies burning here if you count, you know.
At any moment.
Varanasi was the most sacred place I'd visited on the Ganges.
There was no mistaking the power and the pull of its waters.
It was a profoundly moving experience.
The next morning, we followed the Ganges towards Patna, the state capital of Bihar.
It's raining, we're on the road and we've just crossed into Bihar, which is the poorest state in the country.
There's room in India for modern as well an ancient figures of worship, and that even includes today's movie stars or sporting heroes.
Nowhere is this devotion more apparent than in India's impoverished villages, where movies and sport provide welcome escape from the desperate hardship of everyday life.
Oh, my goodness! - This is what we're here for? - Yeah.
That's Sachin Tendulkar.
- It does look like him, that's true.
- The famous cricketer.
Sachin Tendulkar! Yes, of course.
And that's the World Cup in his hand.
- The cricket World Cup? - Yeah.
He's a world-famous cricketer, but here it looks as though he's being revered as something even more than that.
He's not just revered, here he's worshipped.
- This is a temple they are making.
- They're building a temple to him? - Yes.
- To him? And they worship him every morning and evening like Lord Shiva.
My goodness! So he's being turned into what, a living god? - Yeah.
- Is that acceptable in Hinduism? Here we do worship humans like religious gurus.
And he is a cricket guru, so we can worship him.
Everybody's gathered here.
My goodness! - When's the temple going to be built? - One year.
And how big will the temple be? How many people do you expect will be able to worship in there? He's going to put it in the car? Open open the door.
The villages have even composed and recorded a devotional song to what they say is their new demi-god.
What's it saying? It's saying that, "Sachin, you are like our god.
You have taken all of India to a different level.
" That's very catchy! The villagers are hoping tourists will stop by their new shrine and, no doubt, buy a few souvenirs.
I was on the final leg of my journey.
My route took me past a controversial dam on the Ganges that's nearly 7,500ft long.
And there it is! The Farakka Barrage! Now, what is the Farakka Barrage? In the 1960s, India had a major problem, because from this point on the river forks, one part goes to Bangladesh, it becomes the River Padma, and another part turns right here and heads towards Kolkata and it becomes the River Hooghly.
But the River Hooghly wasn't getting much water in it.
So what did India do, it built a massive barrage across the river, so it could regulate the flow.
Basically, India has the ability to turn off the taps on the River Ganges at this point.
But India's neighbour has paid a high price.
Since the barrage was completed in the 1970s, the Bangladeshi government says that water flowing into the country has been reduced and parts of Bangladesh have suffered drought and even famine.
The waters of the Ganges are a life-and-death issue here.
What I find particularly astonishing is that when this barrage was being built it was talked about and is today as part of India's religious duty to the river.
It was a religious requirement to create this barrage and regulate and control the flow of the sacred River Ganges.
The thought that the rest of the River Ganges that flows on from here through India could dry up was just sacrilegious.
It was unthinkable! The holy River Ganges that flows on from here, through India, towards the city of Calcutta had to have enough water.
From Farakka the river flows about 160 miles through the city of Kolkata before flowing out into the Bay of Bengal at Sagar Island.
It was an auspicious time to arrive at the end of the river.
For a period of several weeks, thousands of pilgrims were travelling to the point where the river empties into the sea, known as Ganga Sagar.
In a country whose population could ultimately surpass China's as the largest in the world, ferries to the island were understandably crowded.
Oops! Bit of a rush! Bit of a push! An old lady is pressing against my bottom.
Goodness me! I was pinched by an elderly lady! Hundreds of millions of Indians accept the idea the Ganges is holy.
They worship it and they travel to bathe in it.
Why are you going to Ganga Sagar? I'm going to Ganga Sagar to meet God and to bathe in the water.
Are you on pilgrimage, then? You're on a pilgrimage going to the island to see the end of the River Ganges? The holy River Ganges? Yes, it's a pilgrimage, a pilgrimage to Ganga Sagar.
What's what's special about the island? It's the soul, the god.
Ganga is India's number one god.
You can do pilgrimages to the other sites many times, but you must come here once.
OK? She didn't really have a why, an explanation about why she's going.
There isn't a why.
It's a practice which is going on and on and on.
It's a practice.
You have to go to Ganga Sagar once in your lifetime.
That's it, that's the why.
India is changing, but I was struck by the fact that ancient religious beliefs still seem to be thriving.
The country now has more than three million places of worship, but a shortage of hospitals and schools.
Ohh! Thank you.
I'd finally reached the end of the Ganges and the end of this part of my journey.
The river comes down here and merges with the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.
We're on the beach! The Ganges was absolutely central to the development of civilisation in India.
I feel the river's now become a litmus test for India in the 21st century.
If it can't protect its living goddess from pollution, then what hope can it have of defeating corruption, challenging the caste system or reducing poverty? The River Ganges, worshiped from source to sea.
Like everything about India it's complicated.
It's a holy river, but it could really do with a clean up.
I've loved travelling along it and I can't wait for my other journeys along sacred rivers.
On my next journey, I'll be travelling along the Yangtze, Asia's longest river.
Let's take a dip in the Yangtze! I'll attempt to swim across it, dodging dangerous freighters.
Look at what we as a species are capable of.
And visiting an engineering marvel that's one of the largest man-made structures on the planet.
October 12th, 2014