Mother Kosi, pardon us, they say to a river

September 3rd, 2008 - 11:25 am ICT by IANS  

Patna, Sep 3 (IANS) Left helpless and desperate by the wrath of the Kosi, hundreds of women in Bihar have turned to worshipping the river in the hope that it will relent and make the floods mitigate.”Mother Kosi is angry, we are offering prayers to appease her,” said Parbhawati Devi, the resident of a village near a road linking Saharsa to Madhepura, two of the worst affected districts.

With the Kosi showing no signs of receding two weeks after it breached its embankment in Nepal and flooded Bihar, forcing thousands to flee their homes, Hindu women are offering flowers, fruits, earthen lamps and vermilion to the river.

India, where people have learnt to brave the vagaries of nature for centuries, has a tradition of deifying its rivers and worshipping them. The Kosi is known as Bihar’s “River of Sorrow” for the havoc it can wreak.

Phulwa Devi and her mother-in-law Urmila Devi along with half a dozen women offered prayers and conducted rituals for half an hour at the river, hoping to make its waters recede.

“Pardon us, do not punish us any more,” said one of them.

Women are also singing folk songs to make the Kosi river happy and requesting it not to harm people any more. “We are singing folk songs to help calm the angry Kosi,” Urmila Devi, another housewife near Murliganj in Madhepura, said.

Reports from Farbisganj in Araria district said special prayers are being offered to the river by hundreds of people. In some places, villagers are sacrificing goats, hens and other birds.

Even Muslims are offering special prayers in mosques to seek the safety of flood-hit people.

Over 2.5 million people in 1,598 villages spread over 15 districts have been affected by the floods while at least 35 people have died.

Unlike annual floods, there is little hope that the waters of the Kosi will recede soon. The waters could be there till October and people have no option but to move to safer places, say officials.

The unrelenting floods have caused stress to many.

“We are severely traumatised by the possibility of the water entering our homes,” 63-year-old retired engineer Mohammad Salim Mansoori said on phone from Purnea district.

“As an engineer of the Kosi river project, I have worked for years and am aware of its character and danger. The Kosi is notorious for changing its course.

“So far we are safe but we are not sure what will happen. We have shifted to our roof with whatever food grains we have. Hundreds of families are stressed.”

“Several elderly people are falling ill because of stress. Even my neighbour, Abdurrahman, suffered a stroke.”

“How can we vacate our home? If we do it, we may lose our belongings and if we don’t we may face the danger of floods. We have sent the younger members of the family to a safe place.”

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