At the beginning of time, the great gods churned the ocean and found the nectar of immortality, only to have the demon-god Rahu steal it and gulp it down. The sun and moon gods tattled to Vishnu, who beheaded the demon; his body perished, but his head, having absorbed the nectar, had become immortal. Since then, whenever he can manage it, Rahu, the lord of petroleum mining, fertilizers, chemicals, stock markets, and destructive growth—that is to say, the lord of contemporary India—swallows the sun and the moon. But they always sail back out of his gaping throat and rearrange themselves in the sky. At 6:24 a.m. on July 22, 2009, I stood with seventy thousand people hip-deep in the gray, gluey mud of the Ganga, swirling with ashes, flowers, sloughed-off sin, and fecal bacteria.1 Although the sun had stumbled into a stratus sky only an hour ago, the clouds gave way and starlight began to play on the opalescent tides. We battled a compulsion to stare straight into the cosmic misalignment; we mutely implored the sun to pass through Rahu’s mouth, throat, and neck once again.
more from Bidisha Banerjee at Triple Canopy here.