Did some back-of-the-envelope calculations about the Meerut mahayagya, where a bunch of Hindu priests are burning 50 tonnes of mango wood and approx. 10 million tablespoons of ghee in a mega-ritual to “purify the air”, over nine days. Can’t make this stuff up.
So 50 tonnes of hardwood releases 8.25 x 1011 joules and 10 million tablespoons of ghee releases 4.6 x 1012 joules of heat.
The slow and fast pyrolysis of hard wood also releases carbon monoxide/dioxide, methane, aldehydes, ketenes, epoxides and other fatty acids and hydrocarbons.
The priests believe that “holy ghee” produces large quantities of oxygen when it burns. Not sure where this claim originated by we all know this isn’t possible: as a triglyceride, ghee can’t do that when it burns, let alone “10 grams producing one tonne”.
There’s another “yagya” of greater magnitude happening in Delhi, where priests are coming together for seven days for the ritual to enhance “national security”.
There’s been a bit of literature – scientific and journalistic – in the recent past about whether or not climate change may be driving, rather encouraging, human conflicts by endangering quantities of and access to shared resources (chiefly water).
Now, without getting into silly lines of thought like “which religion has the cleanest rituals” (unanswerable for numerous reasons), it might be wise for believers to acknowledge that whatever their religion is, their rituals need to become more conscious of climatic needs.
The wise men and women who instituted rituals eons ago may not have seen the end of the world creep upon us in the form of a warming Earth but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
As someone brought up in an orthodox Hindu household, and someone living in a country whose ruling party wants to transform the whole place into one orthodox Hindu household, I can safely say that the way we acknowledge the pride of place we accord to fire in our worldview needs an overhaul.
I’m sure various other rituals outside of Hinduism will need to be questioned as well.
Burning 50 tonnes of mango wood to “purify the air” is moronic. The wood was cut down and transported to Delhi from some other place. The carbon footprint of such deforestation and transportation takes the damage far beyond the 825 GJ mentioned above, and makes it more multifarious, too.
Public assertions of religious privilege and caste hegemony already sow dark seeds of conflict. But uprooting trees from one place is a form of violence perpetrated against that place; as the world warms further, the brutality of it will only be perceived more strongly.
To take the wood to another place to be burnt… that’s some very distended sense of entitlement.
Featured image credit: hschmider/pixabay.