Flames rose from 108 heart-shaped hawan-kunds at Meerut’s Bhaisali Ground on Sunday as more than 350 priests performed a mahayagna which, according to the organisers, will reduce air pollution in the city. The mahayagna, which started on Sunday, will be performed from 8 am to 7 pm daily, till March 26.
A Hindu outfit, Shri Ayutchandi Mahayagna Samiti, is organising the event during which one crore offerings to fire will be made by priests, who have come from Varanasi and Vrindavan. The Samiti is expecting “20,000 people daily”, but on Day One, less than a hundred turned up.
Behind the wooden structure covering the hawan kunds, a portion of 400 quintals of mango wood to be burnt for the yagna was piled, along with sacks of sesame, rice, jaggery, and tins of desi ghee. “Our scriptures dictate that a hawan helps purify the air and if we keep doing this, air pollution will reduce considerably. We are doing our bit towards mankind, flora and fauna and the environment,” said Girish Bansal, vice-president of the Samiti.
According to Bansal, 400 quintals of mango wood, 120 quintals of sesame, 60 quintals of rice, 25 quintals of jaggery, 51 tins of desi ghee and three trolleys full of cow dung cakes will be used in the offerings. He said, “We planned this in October last year, and read a report by NASA too on the Internet that says the ozone layer above India is the best and we need to preserve it…this mahayagna will help in that.” Bansal, however, couldn’t point at the year the purported report was presented.
Om Prakash, one of the presiding religious heads at the venue, said: “The smoke from the hawan is not harmful because of ingredients used — desi ghee has come from desi cows in Karnal. This is not like the smoke from factories, it’s pure. It’s also because of the chanting.”
Environmentalists that The Indian Express spoke to, however, dissed the claims. Sunita Narain of Centre for Science and Environment said, “Prima facie, I can say that burning biomass can only add to the air pollution.”
Sunil Dahiya of Green Peace said, “Emissions from burning timber add pollutants to the air…I don’t understand the logic behind the event.”
When The Indian Express contacted Aryaka Akhori, acting District Magistrate of Meerut, she said, “I cannot comment, this has not been brought to my notice.” Calls to Pollution Control Board, Meerut Division, went unanswered.
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