An anti-science Hindu group is three days into a 9-day bonfire ritual they claim will purify the air

The Shri Ayutchandi Mahayagna Samiti, a Hindu organization based in Meerut, is pursuing a rather unconventional route to minimise air pollution. On March 18th, the group’s members started burning around 50,000 kilograms of discarded mango wood as part of a nine-day ritual aimed at purifying the air. The ceremony reportedly features 108 fire pits and involves the participation of around 350 Brahmin priests. It will be completed once 10 million offerings are burned in the firepits.

The organisation’s vice-president, Girish Bansal, was quoted by the Times of India as saying that the burning of mango wood with ghee made from cow’s milk would make the air cleaner. When asked for a scientific explanation, he pinned the lack of evidence on the very fact that no research had been carried out yet. Another member of the organisation, Gyanendra Agarwal, took things a step further by saying that the ozone layer above India had less damage when compared to other countries owing to the regular occurrence of rituals.

Members of Shri Ayutchandi Mahayagna Samiti take part in a nine-day-long 'mahayagya' at the Bhainsali ground of Meerut on Monday. Samiti members have decided to burn 500 quintals of mango wood in a nine-day-long 'mahayagna' to reduce pollution.Photo

As Uttar Pradesh lacks a policy to prevent the pollution caused by Hindu rituals, the state’s pollution authorities aren’t able to stop the ceremony.

There is no adequate policy at the central level as well. In February 2016, the National Green Tribunal asked the Environment Ministry to promote more environmentally-friendly methods of cremation, like electric or CNG-based cremation, citing the damage done to air and rivers. However, there hasn’t been any significant progress on the issue.

Religion usually takes precedence over the environment in India. As a result of bursting crackers on Diwali, the fall festival of lights, vast quantities of smoke are released. Last year, the Supreme Court’s move to ban the sale of firecrackers during Diwali was termed “anti-Hindu” by fringe elements. The holy Ganges, which plays host to the ashes of dead Hindus and ritual bathing, is one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

If India can’t even save the water bodies that are venerated under Hindu tradition, there can’t be much hope for the rest of the environment.
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