Hundreds of people are thronging Anoopshahr this sleepy town, about 50 km from Bulandshahr district and 100 km from New Delhi, to witness a mystical phenomenon at the Dinesh ghat on the banks of the Ganga. The centre of attraction is a ‘burning flame’ at the ghat. A rare phenomenon, which is yet to be explained scientifically, the flame is quite transparent and can be seen in full glow at night. Though channelled with the help of an ordinary water supply pipe dug into the sand, the heat of the flame burning on its top can be felt upto a height of two feet. The site has become popular for a variety of reasons and theories. The flame, which has been burning for more than a fortnight now, has become a matter of both curiosity and concern for locals. The inflammable gas can be seen right in the muddy water of the river in the form of bubbles. “We could also light up the flame right in the river water if it is channelled properly through some mechanism,” said a local. “This is indeed a serious matter with possibilities of far-reaching consequences,” said deputy director general, northern region (Lucknow), Geological Survey of India (GSI) Sumant Gupta. “It has already been referred to the GSI unit in Dehradun for a detailed examination,” he added. Gupta said the phenomenon can be explained only after an analysis by the team constituted to go into the reasons behind it. He, however, said: “It is a rarest of rare case. So far, no such episode has come to light along the 2,500 km-long course of the Ganga - from its origin in Gomukh in Uttarkashi district (Uttarakhand) to Ganga Sagar in the Bay of Bengal.” Anoopshahr, he said, has definitely become distinct for the ‘mystical fire’ among all other 26 districts of UP and four other states through which the Ganga passes.
It might be due to formation of methane gas following decomposition of solid waste deposits or organic substance dumped in the sand in the past or even due to underground coal or petroleum deposits.” A team, he said, has been set up to look into the matter and its report is awaited. The fire was discovered by chance during Durga Puja on October 8 by some locals who had come for a dip in the Ganga. While offering puja after the bath, they lit a ‘deepak’ and incense sticks at the river bank. During the course of the puja, they noticed flames emanating from a sand mound at the bank. The number of leaping flames, as people put it, was initially nine. The flames, according to them, appeared from the sides of a temporary sand pulpit made by an old woman to place a lighted ‘deepak’ in the morning. However, now only one burning flame is left, though similar ones can be lighted at some other places with some extra effort. For locals, it is no less than a miracle. The burning flame is now being termed as ‘Jwala Devi’ and described as one of the nine incarnations of Goddess Durga. Since the ‘event’ occurred on the first day of Navratri, the spectacle has lent credence to the belief of locals. Since then, a make-shift tent has been erected at the site, now dubbed a ‘sanctum sanctorum’. The flame is seen here constantly. For devotees, the site has become as sacred as any other Hindu religious site. While streams of devotees make a beeline at the ghat throughout the day, ‘aartis and pujas’ are being constantly held in the morning and evening. One Govind Swamy has even declared himself as the ‘pujari’ of the site. He has temporally cordoned off the site - 20 feet in diameter - and people are allowed to enter it only after taking off their footwear. Govind Swamy, who is associated with a nearby Nepali Baba Ashram, demands that a temple be built at the site. The coming festive season of Ganga Dussehra, he feels, will be the ideal occasion as a large number of devotees are expected to visit the site. The ‘phenomenon’ has also led to brisk business at the ghat as several shops selling ‘puja samagri’ now dot the site.