Varanasi - River Ganga

River Ganga:
River Ganga or the Ganges is closely associated with the economic, social and cultural life of Indian people.
River Ganga or the Ganges is a major river of the Indian subcontinent, associated in myth and reality with the land and people of India as well as neighboring countries like Bangladesh. In Hinduism, the river Ganga is personified as Goddess and holds an important place in the Hindu religion. In Hindu mythology, it is believed that bathing in the river Ganga causes the remission of sins and facilitates the attainment of salvation or nirvana. This deep-rooted truth is proved by the fact that people travel from distant places to immerse the ashes of their kin in the waters of the Ganga at Varanasi or other places located on the banks of this holy river. Some of these sacred places, located on the Ganga, are Varanasi, Haridwar and Prayag (Allahabad).
The first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, aptly summarized the importance of River Ganga in the hearts of the Indians, in general, and Hindus, in particular.
"The Ganga, especially, is the river of India, beloved of her
people, round which are intertwined her memories, her hopes
and fears, her songs of triumph, her victories and her
defeats. She has been a symbol of India's age-long culture
and civilization, ever changing, ever flowing, and yet ever
the same Ganga".
Legends of Ganga:
There are numerous legends and myths associated with River Ganga, considered the most sacred river by millions of Indians.
River Ganga holds an exalted and sacred position in the Hindu religion. The important place of River Ganges can be gauged by the fact that many ancient India texts refer to the river at different places. River Ganges is repeatedly invoked in the Vedas, the Puranas, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In Hindu mythology, River Ganga is associated with many legends and myths. According to legends, River Ganga is considered as one of the two daughters of Meru (the Himalayas), the other being Uma, consort of Shiva.
According to one legend, Indra had asked for Ganga to be given to heaven to calm the Gods with her cool waters. Different legends about River Ganga narrate different stories of her descent to earth. The story of Ganga's descent on Earth appears in slightly different forms in Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas. The most interesting legend about River Ganga revolves around a king: Sagara, his sons, grandson (Ansuman) and the great grandson, Bhagirath.
Once King Sagara performed the Ashwamedha sacrifice (horse ceremony), in which a horse is allowed to roam at will and warriors try to rein in the horse. Stopping the horse amounts to declaration of war and if they fail that means they accept the suzerainty of the King. The sixty thousand sons of King Sagara went about looking for the horse and ended up reaching the deep oceans and the horse was found close to the sage Kapila, who sat in deep meditation. In their attempt to catch the horse the sons disturbed Kapila, who instantly burnt them to ashes with his fiery gaze.
Pleased with the insight and knowledge of Ansuman, the grandson of Sagara, sage Kapila told Anshuman that the waters of Ganga, who was residing in heaven, might release the souls of the sons of Sagara. Finally, it was Dilip's son Bhagiratha, who managed to bring Goddess Ganga on earth. To bear the impact of the severity of the fall of River Ganga, Bhagiratha prayed to Lord Shiva, who agreed for the same. Finally, the river Ganga came down and fell into Shiva's matted hair and thence to earth. Bhagiratha led the way on horseback and the river followed. They finally reached the spot where the ashes of the six thousand sons lay and liberated the souls.
Interesting Facts on Ganga:
River Ganga holds great importance in the economic, social and cultural life of the Indian people in general and Hindus in particular. Here are some interesting facts on the most sacred River of India, Ganga.
  • River Ganga is about 1557 miles long (2506 km).
  • The Ganges basin is about 200 to 400 miles (322 to 644 km) wide.
  • The river Ganga originates at Gangotri glacier on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, some 14, 000 feet above sea level.
  • River Bhagirathi and Alaknanda join each other at Devprayag to form River Ganga.
  • Major pilgrimage places on River Ganga are- Rishikesh, Haridwar, Varanasi and Prayag (Allahabad).
  • The mouth of River Ganga forms a vast delta, the Sundarban delta (the largest delta in the world).
  • There are two major dams on the Ganga. One at Haridwar and the other dam is a part of the hydroelectric project at Farakka.
Course of River Ganga:
River Ganga is one of the largest rivers of the Indian sub continent. It originates in the Gangotri glacier and traverses through the great Indian plains of North India. Right from its origin to its confluence with the ocean, river Ganges flows through many ancient pilgrimage towns and cities of India. Some of the important pilgrimage centers on River Ganga are Rishikesh, Haridwar, Prayag and Varanasi.
Rishikesh is the Gateway to the Himalayas. It is at Rishkesh that one experiences the might and purity of the Ganges River. Situated in the serene atmosphere of the Himalayas, Rishikesh has been an important Hindu pilgrimage center for centuries. Many ancient as well as modern temples are located on the banks of River Ganga, at Rishikesh. Besides the temples, the most important attraction at Rishikesh is the Lakshman Jhoola (a bridge) across the Ganges. In recent times Rishikesh has developed as an important center of adventure sports, including water rafting.
In Hindu religion, Haridwar is famous as the Gateway to God. The River Ganges enters the North Indian plains at Haridwar. Haridwar forms an important destination for the Hindu pilgrims from all over the world. Kumbha Mela, one of the most sacred events for Hindus, is held at Haridwar, Prayag, Nashik and Ujjain. The Kumbha Mela occurs four times every twelve years, once at each of the four locations. Millions of devotees gather at Haridwar on the occasion of Kumbha Mela and other important Hindu festivals. Har ki pairi, where the entire riverside is lit up with the glow of hundreds of lamps, in the evening, is the most important pilgrimage spot in Haridwar.
Prayag (Allahabad)
Prayag is another important pilgrimage center for Hindus. It is one of the four pilgrim places, where the "Kumbha Mela" is held. The place where river Ganga merges with River Yamuna is called "Sangam". Prayag is an ancient pilgrimage site and attracts thousands of Hindu pilgrims every year from all over the world.
Varanasi, also known by the name of Kashi or Benaras, is the most venerated of the Hindu pilgrimage sites in India. Varanasi, known as the cultural capital of India, is located on the banks of the holy Ganges River.

1 comment:

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