A miraculous happening occurred in India in 2006, near the city of Mumbai. On Friday, August 18, fishermen noticed that the water of the Arabian Sea behind the Mahim Mosque had become “sweet” (meaning it was fresh instead of salty.)
Word of the supposed miracle spread quickly, and people flocked to the area to taste the sweet water, this despite the fact it was contaminated with industrial chemicals and human sewage draining from Mahim Creek and the Mithi River. Health officials and police were horrified to see whole families wading into the tainted water. Some filled bottles and plastic bags with the ‘miracle’ water to bring back to family and friends who could not make it to the event, even as trash and waste floated by.
The belief spread that the sweet water was a miracle from Makhdoom Ali Mahtmi, a 13th century Sufi saint. It was believed to have healing powers. But by Saturday even the divine power of a saint could no longer make salt water fresh. The water had become salt again, and the outbreak of collective delusion ended.
Like the Milk Miracle before it, the Mumbai Sweet Water outbreak was perceived as a miracle by believers due to their ignorance of the very real, tangible causes behind it. The water in the bay became sweet due to something as routine in India as the day/night cycle: seasonal monsoons.
Monsoons had caused Lake Vehar, Mumbai’s water source, to overflow. The excess water flowed into Mahim Bay down the Mithi River. Since fresh water is less dense than salt water, the water from Lake Vehar formed a layer over top of the sea water. By Saturday this layer of fresh water had mixed thoroughly with the water of the Arabian Sea and become salty.
The only real miracle in this case is that none of the victims of the collective delusion became ill from drinking water brimming with industrial chemicals and human sewage. Officials tested the water and found it contained e. Coli, an intestinal bacteria present in feces that can cause severe illness.
“Hundreds Drink ‘Sweet Sea-Water.’” BBC.com. August 19, 2006. BBC News. March 11, 2014. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/5266092.stm>
“People Taste ‘Sweet’ Sea Water in Mumbai.” Indiatimes.com. August 19, 2006. The Times of India. March 11, 2014. <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/People-taste-sweet-sea-water-in-Mumbai/articleshow/1907898.cms?referral=PM>
“People Defy Health Warning, Continue to Taste ‘Sweet’ Water.” DNAIndia.com. August 20, 2006. dna. March 11, 2014 <http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-people-defy-health-warning-continue-to-taste-sweet-water-1048386>
Underwatertimes.com News Service. “Indian Scientists: ‘Sweet’ Sea Water No Miracle; Tests Show Pollution, Sewage.” UnderWaterTimes.com. August 22, 2006. Underwatertimes.com. March 11, 2014 <http://www.underwatertimes.com/news.php?article_id=84010371659>