Got Milk? Got Ganesha? Got Miracle!
Next Week: Got Stinking Statues
from The Associated Press
Hundreds of thousands of Indians thronged temples across India on Monday in the belief that statues of Hindu gods were drinking milk.
"I put a milk-filled spoon to Ganesha's mouth and he drank it," exclaimed Akhilesh Shukla, a trader in Lucknow, capital of northern Uttar Pradesh state.
He was among the countless devotees who carried milk in glasses and pitchers to northern Indian temples where Hindus worship Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of good fortune and wisdom; Shiva, the destroyer, and Durga, the goddess of strength.
"It is a miracle," said Sudhir Mishra, a priest at a Shiva temple in Lucknow. He said that at least 10 liters of milk had been offered at his temple on Monday.
"Look at the floor it is fairly dry. Where's the milk gone? It should be visible on floor. Can you see that."
But others dismissed the milk-slurping gods as the work of less miraculous forces _ surface tension, which pulls the liquid toward the statues, and capillary action, through which the milk is leached into the statues by tiny pores on the surface of the stone.
"Milk disappears the same way water reaches the top of a tree through roots," said A. K. Sharma, a professor at Lucknow University.
The drinking gods craze came after thousands of Muslims flocked to a bay in Bombay late Friday and early Saturday to drink "sweet water" - ordinarily brackish water that was noticeably less salty than usual.
As the word spread through television reports, crowds swarmed temples in dozens of cities, just as millions did during a similar episode in 1995, when authorities were forced to deploy extra police to control crowds. Some parts of the country also faced a milk shortage.
At that time, a group of scientists visited a temple in New Delhi and fed a statue milk tinted with dye. The milk was quickly absorbed by the idol, and soon permeated the stone, leaving the statue coated by a colored, milky film.