Sunday, July 1, 2007

Melting phallus icicle saddens pilgrims

The phallus-shaped stalagmite is believed to be a symbol of Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and regeneration.

The pilgrimage, one of Hinduism's holiest, is due to begin officially this year tomorrow, although thousands have already visited the shrine.

“It is melting very fast,” N K Raina, director of the Amarnath Shrine Board, said, adding that when the stalagmite was last measured on May 25 it was 3.5m tall and its circumference was 2.5m.

“Now, it has reduced to almost one-tenth of its original size,” he said, without elaborating on the reasons.

Syed Iqbal Hasnain, a glaciologist at New Delhi's Centre for Policy Research, blamed it on a combination of factors.

“One is, the number of pilgrims have increased dramatically, generating more heat. Also, atmospheric temperatures attributable to climate change have also gone up in recent years,” he said.

“Last year, it did not appear, and this year there are reports it is melting fast,” said Rajni Goswami, a 55-year-old housewife, who is due to start for Amarnath tomorrow.

"I think Lord Shiva is angry with us."

From the Courier-Mail (Australia)