The wait is over for millions, the bottled drink of the season is here.
Weeks after Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad promised to have Ganga jal delivered to people's doorsteps through the postal system, the scheme took off with a splash. The service was launched in Patna on Sunday with much fanfare.
Considered holy by millions of Hindus across the world, the water from River Ganga is much sought after, in spite of alarming levels of pollution associated with it. The river is not only a vast dumping ground for industrial and human wastes but in some parts the remains of the dead are also submerged in it after the last rites. A team of scientists is working in Varanasi, one of the holiest cities for Hindus, to find out the exact levels of pollution, which they intend to make public soon.
Millions of Hindus undertake pilgrimages to holy sites to bring back months' supply of the water from the river. Life has been made infinitely simpler for these believers by the Indian government, as holiness can now be purchased from local post offices, packaged hygienically, for a pittance.
A limited number of bottles of 'pure Ganga jal' was dispatched to over 800 post offices across the country to cater to what Prasad called the "cultural needs" of the people. But his government seemed to have misjudged the demand for this sacred potion, believed to be a panacea for most evils.
Kolkata's share of 15 bottles vanished within seconds of hitting the shelves of the GPO. Of the 50 bottles sent to Indore, 45 were sold on the first day. People were left unhappy when Jalpaiguri post office ran out of stock within minutes.
Ganga jal bottled in Rishikesh is priced at Rs 15 and Rs 22 for 200 ml and 500 ml bottles respectively. The postal department has also created a box set of Ganga jal that can be purchased online against the standard delivery charges of a Speed Post delivery.
The water sourced at Gangotri and Gomukh is slightly pricier, but the expense hardly compares to the trouble many take to trek all the way to collect a small sample of the water every year. Previously, some e-commerce websites were selling the product for Rs 299. They have stiff competition now.