Hindu devotees have rushed to post offices across India this week in hopes of snatching up the first deliveries of holy water from the Ganges. The new scheme, which was launched by the central government on Sunday, allows water from the Ganges river, known as ‘Gangajal’, to be put up for sale at the nation’s post offices and even delivered to people’s doorsteps.
“If a postman can deliver mobile phones, saris, jewellery and apparel, then why not Ganges water?” the country’s Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked in May. Water from the river is considered sacred by Hindus – who make up around 80 percent of India’s population – and it is believed that the closer to the source of the river it is collected, the purer it is.
At the General Post Office (GPO) in India’s eastern city of Calcutta on Wednesday, demand for the bottled holy water far outweighed supply. The water – packaged in 200- and 500-milliliter bottles – was collected from the northern city of Rishikesh, around 300 kilometers from the Ganges’ origin.
At just 15 Indian rupees ($0.22) for the 200-milliliter bottle and 22 Indian rupees ($0.33) for 500 milliliters, customers lauded the value of the purchase, which also saved them a trip to the river itself. “This is a very nice idea of our government … (I now get the) water from my own city and the price is acceptable,” 45-year-old customer Sumitra Hazra told epa. The first batches of water at Calcutta’s GPO have already sold out, and staff and customers are now eagerly awaiting a new delivery on Friday. Similar scenes have been seen across the country, where shelves of the pious product were quickly cleared.