What is the greatness of Ganga, origin, history, names, festivals, birth, significance, reference

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The most holy of tirthas is the confluence of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna.

But why, river Ganga is so pavitra / sacred?

The main reason is that Ganga is the putri / daughter of svayam Sri Hari. She gets birth from the feet of Sri Hari. What punya would Ganga Devi had done to be born from the feet of Sri Hari.

This is the most important reason that river Ganga is the most pavitra river on this earth. The second most reason is that after river Ganga takes birth from the feet of Sri Hari, she goes and take rest in the kamandala of Sri Brahma Deva. This is the second reason for Ganga Devi being so sacred.

The third most reason is that after the above two, Ganga Devi goes and sits on the head of the Sri Rudra Deva / Sri Shiva.

Also one of the most important reason that Ganga Devi is sacred is that Bhagirata and his ancestors had performed great tapasya to bring Ganga Devi to the earth, that is to get the mukti / moksha / salvation for about 60,000 forefathers of Bhagirata.

Someone who bathes there attains perpetual good health, prospers, lives to a ripe old age and is pardoned all his sins. Even the gods and the sages are fond of the waters at this sacred confluence.

The river Ganga emerges from the feet of Lord Vishnu himself. (The story of this is related in the Brahma vaivarta Purana.)

And the river Yamuna is the daughter of the Sun god Surya. (This is related in many Puranas, such as the Markandeya Purana. Yamuna was the daughter of Surya and Samjna.)

Such being the origins of these two holy rivers, it is but natural that their confluence should be so sacred.

In fact, the Ganga is so sacred that even if one just thinks of her, all pain is relieved and all sins are pardoned. Along the banks of the Ganga is a remarkable tirtha known as Prayaga.

Brahma himself performed a yajna there. You can bathe in the waters of all the tirthas if you so desire. But the punya (store of merit) that you will acquire from this is only a sixteenth of the punya you will acquire from touching a few drops of water from the Ganga.

A person who anoints his head with mud taken from the banks of the Ganga becomes like Shiva himself. There are three objects that are sacred to Vishnu – the Ganga, the tulasi (basil) bush and dust from the feet of a devotee of Vishnu.

IMPORTANCE OF GANGA TO HINDUS

The religious significance of Ganga River is established at the origin itself. The Gangotri is the spot of origin of River Ganges. Many pilgrimages for the Hindus are settled along the banks of River Ganges.

The Hindus religiously worship the river. Situated on the banks of River Ganges, Varanasi is considered by some to be one of the most holiest city in Hinduism.

Haridwar and Prayag are also on the banks of Ganga. These Two Cities are famous for or Kumbh Mela festival.

Kumbh Mela is one of the worlds largest human gathering on planet Earth. People travel from distant places to immerse the ashes of their kin in the waters of the Ganga; this immersion also is believed to send the ashes to heaven. is believed that drinking water from the Ganga at one’s deathbed enables him or her to attain mukti / moksha / salvation.

River Ganga is mentioned in the Rig Veda, the earliest of the Hindu scriptures.

It is found mentioned in the Nadistuti, which lists the rivers from east to west.

IMPORTANCE OF GANGA TO INDIANS:

Ganga is the largest river in terms of basin area in India, an area of approximately 10,00,000 sq. kms. Ganga has its basin area spread along 11 north Indian states.

The geography of River Ganges is apt for harvesting a wide variety of crops.

The Ganges Basin with its fertile soil is influential to the agricultural economies of India and Bangladesh.

The Ganges and its tributaries provide a constant source of irrigation to an extensive area. The major crops cultivated in that area include rice, lentils, sugarcane, potatoes, oil seeds and wheat.

Along the banks of the river, the existence of swamps and lakes provide a rich fertile area for crops like legumes, chilies, sesame, mustard, sugarcane, and jute.

There are also many fishing zones along the river, though all of them are highly polluted.

There are some other rivers also in which the Ganga is always present.

Their names are Godavari, Sarasvati, Kalindi, Kaveri, Krishna, Reva, Vahuda, Tungabhadra, Bhimarathi, N(V)etravati, Tamraparni and Shatadru.

Where do the bones immersed in the Ganges go

Patitapavani Sri Ganga Devi is called as Daivi Nadi (Goddess River) because according to the scriptures, Sri Ganga Devi came from svarga / heaven to earth.

It is believed that Ganga has descended from the feet of Sri Hari Vishnu and has settled in the Hairs of Lord Shiva.

Ganga is said to be Pavini (the one who clears out all our sins). It is believed that a bath in the Ganges destroys all sins of man.

One day Goddess Ganga went to Vaikuntta Dhama to meet Sri Hari and said to him, “Bhagavan, taking a bath in my water destroys the sins of all, but how will I bear the burden of so many sins? How will I end the sins that are contained in me ?”

On this, Sri Hari said, “Ganga! When Sages, saints, Vaishnavas come and bathe in you, all your sins will dissolve.”

The river Ganges is so sacred that every Hindu has the last wish to immerse his bones in the Ganges, but where do these bones go?

Scientists could not even answer this, because even after immersing the bones in innumerable quantities, the Ganges water is pure and holy. Even after searching the Gangasagara, the question could not be overcome.

According to the belief of Sanatana Dharma, immersion of the dead person’s ashes in the Ganges is considered best for peace of soul after death.

These bones go straight to the feet of Sri Hari according to the Karmas of that particular person.

The person whose end time comes near the Ganges gets posthumous liberation. The Hindu belief in Ganga is natural with these things.

Scientifically, mercury is present in the Ganges water, which causes calcium and phosphorus in the bones to dissolve in water. Which is a nutritious diet for aquatic animals.

The bones contain sulfur which combines with mercury to form Paarada.

Along with this, both of them form mercury sulfide salt. The remaining calcium in the bones works to keep the water clean. In religious terms, Paarada is a symbol of Shiva and Sulfur is a symbol of power.

Hindu Puranas / Pouranic citation and reference about Sri Ganga River

Sanatana Dharma’s various Shastras / sacred scripts including Nadi-Sukta (read as Nadi / river and not as Naadi) (that is in Rig Veda) have cited and referred about the great of Sri Ganga Devi.

Hindu Shastras / sacred grantas like Sri Bhagavata Purana, Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, Agni Purana, Padma Purana, Brahma Purana etc have eulogized the greatness and significance and merits of Ganga river.

In Hindu Shastras Sri Ganga Devi has been very clearly mentioned in Rig-Veda that appears in the Nadi-Sukta.

The greatest granta / epic on earth, that is, the Great Mahabharata took a turning point with the entry of Sri Ganga Devi (due to a curse from Lord Brahma) who, as a mortal woman married the Kuru King Shantanu.

Sri Ganga Devi gave birth to ashtta putras / eight sons who were ‘Ashtta Vasus’ in their earlier life and the 8th child was the veera / hero of the Epic Mahabharata, that is, Devavrata or Bhishma Pitaamaha.

Devavrta or Bhishma is also known as Gaangeya or Ganga-Putra, as he was born from Sri Ganga Devi.

In the great epic Mahabharata Bhishma explains the greatness, glory and great significance of Sri Ganga Devi to Pancha Pandavas when lying on the ‘sharashaiyya’ (bed of arrows).

In the great epic Mahabharata, we find Arjuna extracting water from ‘Pataala Ganga’ with his arrow to quench the thirst of Bhishma Pitaamaha (Here Pitaamaha means, the great great grand father).

During the days of Vaidika / Vedic times, Rushis / Sages used to have their ashrama / hermitage on the banks of rivers, especially on the banks of Sri Ganga nadi / river.

Even in today’s times, many Sadhus / saints live on the banks of Sri Ganga nadi / River.

One very good example is of the Rushi / Sage Valmiki had his ashram on the banks of river Sri Ganga nadi / river.

This ashrama’s pradesha / place was known as Brahmavarta. Here Sri Brahma Deva had performed ‘Ashwamedha Yagna’.

In another Hinduism’s great Epic Ramayana, the avatar of Sri Mahalakshmi Devi, that is, Sri Sita Devi during her exile lived in the Ashrama / hermitage of Rushi / Sage Valmiki on the banks of river Sri Ganga nadi.

Various Hindu pilgrimage / sacred place and divine pilgrimage centers like:

Badrinatha

Kedaranatha

Rishikesha

Haridwara

Kaashi

Bithoor

Prayaaga

etc

All these are located on the banks of river Sri Ganga nadi.

The Bindu–Sar near Gangotri is the same place and spot where Bhagiratha Maharaja performed his tapasya / penance for the descent of the ‘svarga loka’s Sri Ganga Devi’.

Famous temple like Badrinatha is on the banks of river ‘Alakananda’, this is one of the six head streams of Sri Ganga nadi / river.

The place where Sri Ganga nadi / river meets Yamuna and Saraswati has become a famous pilgrimage center called Prayaaga (now called as Prayaagaraj) the Theertharaj.

Gangasagar, the island at the mouth of Sri Ganga nadi / river is said to be the location of Rushi / Sage Kapila Mahamuni’s ashrama / hermitage which is associated with the tapasya / penance of Bhagirata Maharaja and caused the descent of Sri Ganga nadi / river from svargaloka to bhuloka (earth).

(Rishi Kapila Muni was an incarnation of Bhagavan Sri Maha Vishnu.)

Symbolism of Sri Ganga Devi River

As said in Dharma Sindhu, Sri Ganga Devi is depicted as follows:

Chaturbhuja (four hands)  – Four arms

Water Pot (Kalasha) in one hand

Kamala / Lotus in the second hand

The third hand is in the form of Varada mudra

Fourth hand shown as an Abhaya mudra

Sri Ganga Devi is mounted on a white Makara / Crocodile as her pedestal.

Sri Ganga Devi is symbolized having ‘trinetri’ three eyes

Sri Ganga Devi is having Chandra / Moon on her forehead and thus she is known as ‘Chandrakala’

Sri Ganga Devi is wearing white silk attire

Sri Ganga Devi always has the auspicious glimpse on her daivi / divine face

Dharmic / religious and Spiritual significance of Sri Ganga Devi

Sanatana Dharma people will always be be eager and longing to have a darshana (a glimpse) of Sri Ganga nadi / river and also will be whole heartedly wishing to take a bath in the daivi / divine river of Sri Ganga Devi at least once in their life time.

Also the Sanatana Dharma people will love to die on the banks of river Sri Ganga which is considered as highly sacred.

To pour Sri Ganga nadi / river’s water into the mouth of a dying person is a custom among the Hindus.

We find people in Hindu Dhama immersing ashes (mortal remains) of the deceased in Ganga River with a belief that the deceased atma / soul will attain moksha / salvation.

It is said that the very sparsha / touch of river Ganga will sanctify seven generations on both sides (maternal and paternal).

Taking bath in Ganga River especially during parvakala like Uttarayana, Dakshinayana, grahana / eclipse days, Pushkara is highly auspicious / meritorious and helps in remission of all our paapas / sins.

Even today, every day thousands and lakhs of Hindu people take bath in the Great Ganga River at various places all over India.

Several lakhs and millions of people recall Sri Ganga Devi in various Dharmic / religious ceremonies and rituals.

We find invariably Hindu families keeping Sri Ganga water in their houses as an auspicious and Dharmic symbol.

Sri Ganga nadi / river’s water is collected from places like Haridwar, Rishikesh and Kashi etc and stored in copper or brass pots sealed with tight lid.

Sri Ganga nadi / river’s water is attributed with the highest quality of purity and is considered to remain pure over a period of time.

It is said in our Shastras that Sri Ganga nadi / river’s water has ayurvedic / medicinal properties that cure the various ills.

Dharmically and spiritually, taking a bath in the most auspicious and sacred Ganga River is said to be atma / soul cleansing and also purifies one from his / her paapas / sins.

Sri Ganga nadi / river’s water is considered as extremely pious and said to contain properties of Amruta (ambrosia / divine nectar).

Since time immemorial, Sanatana Dharmis’ (that is Hindus’) life is closely associated with the Sri Ganga Devi’s nadi / river in various ways.

No Dharmic / religious and spiritual activity in Hindu philosophy from birth until death starts without Sri Ganga Devi’s water.

Unlimited civilizations, dynasties, epics, have originated on the banks of Sri Ganga Devi’s nadi / River.

The history of Sri Ganga River is as old as Hindu civilization.

Starting from its place of origin in Gangotri, right up to its merging with the Sea (Varuna Deva / Samudra Deva is Sri Ganga Devi’s husband) at Gangasagar, the entire path of Ganga River is sacred to all Hindus.

In places like Kaashi, Haridwar and Rishikesh, we find bhaktaadis / devotees offering ‘arati’ to Goddess Sri Ganga Devi in the evening by singing devotional songs, which is a sight not to be missed.

There is also an old custom among Sanatana Dharmis (Hindus), that they bring Ganga water from Kashi and perform Abhisheka to Lord Shiva at Rameswaram Jyotirlinga installed by Bhagavan Sri Rama and collect the sand from the sea (Indian Ocean) at Rameswaram and immerse it with Ganga water with a belief that it is a completion of the pilgrimage cycle.

Perhaps no other nadi / river has found as much reference as the holy Sri Ganga Devi in the Great Hindu Puranas which is in existence since Vedic times.

The piousness of Sri Ganga Devi’s water is compared with the sacred Tulasi Devi.

To count the merits of Sri Ganga Devi is like counting water drops in the ocean.

Sri Ganga Devi is not just a mere river alone for the pious Hindus, but it is much more than that sacredness, celestial and divinity.

Sri Ganga Devi the Queen / Head of all the rivers. She is the Goddess among all the rivers on this earth.

Maata Sri Ganga Devi is highly revered in Hindu religion. That’s why even today we find people celebrating festivals relating to Sri Ganga River, that is, Ganga Dasahara, Ganga Pushkara, Gangasagar Mela, Kumbha Mela and Gangotpatti (Jahnu Saptami).

Every year on the day of Makara Sankranti, Gangasagar Mela is held at Gangasagar. These festival days are the best occasions to pay our reverence to Sri Ganga Devi the heritage of Hindu philosophy and the National river of India.

At the same time it is also our ardent Dharma and responsibility to protect this national heritage from getting polluted.

Originated from the paada / foot of the Sarvottama / Supreme Bhagavan Sri Maha Vishnu, sanctified as sacred water in the Kamandala of Sri Brahma Deva, purified with a descent on the head (matted hair) of Lord Shiva, and came out of Sage Jahnu’s ear, Sri Ganga Devi is considered as the most sacred and Divine river in Hinduism.

Bhagavan Sri Krishna mentions in his famous preaching of Bhagavad Gita – Vibhuthi Yoga (10th chapter, shloka #31) that “He (Sri Krishna) is Jaahnavi” (Other name of  Ganga) – “srotasamasmi jaahnavi” (“Among the rivers I am the Ganga”).

Perhaps we don’t need a better testimonial than this to confirm the significance, spirituality and sacredness of the great holy river Sri Ganga Devi.

Ways of worship of Sri Ganga Devi

Sri Ganga Devi’s worship is said to be in seven ways, that is:

By calling and chanting Her name “Sri Ganga Devi” 

By having darshana / glimpse of the Sri Ganga Devi nadi / river

By doing sparsha / touching the water of Sri Ganga Devi’s nadi / river

By worshiping Sri Ganga Devi

By taking bath at the Sri Ganda Devi’s nadi / river

By standing in the waters of Sri Ganga Devi’s nadi / river

By carrying clay dug out of water of Sri Ganga Devi’s nadi / river

Let us now know more information about Ganga as given below:

Origin and birth place – Gaumukha – Gangotri glacier in Himalayas in Indian sub-continent

Merging with ocean – In Bay of Bengal at Gangasagar near Hooghly (West Bengal)

Six major head strams – Bhagirathi, Alakananda, Mandaakini, Dhauliganga, Nandakini and Pindara.

Ganga path (in countries) – India and Bangladesh

States covered with India – Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Length of the River – ≋ 1550 miles (≋ 2500 km)

Major cities covered – Kanpur, Prayagraj, Varanasi, Patna and Kolkata.

Major pilgrimage centers – Kedarnath, Badrinath, Devaprayag, Rishikesh, Haridvar, Bithoor (near Kanpur), Varanasi and Prayagraj.

Pancha Prayag Kshetras (Five confluences of Ganga) – Vishnu Prayag (Dhauliganga joins Alakananda), Nandaprayag (Nandakini joins), Karnaprayag (Pindar jins), Rudra Prayag (Mandakini joins), and Devaprayag (where Bhagirathi joins Alakananda to form Ganga river).

Major tributaries – Gomati, Ghaghara, Gandaki, Kosi, Yamuna, Son & Damodar. Ganga joins Yamuna at Triveni Sangam (Prayagraj).

Other names of Ganga:

1. Vishnu Paadodbhavi – The originating place is from the paada / foot of Bhagavan Sri Vishnu.

2. Surasarita: Stream of many Demigods.

3. Bhagirathi: Descended on bhumi / earth because of the tapas / penance of King Bhagiratha.

4. Tripatagamini or Tripataga – One who flows in all the three worlds, that is, Svarga (Heaven), Bhumi (Earth) and Netherlands.

a. In Svarga / Heaven, Ganga is known as Mandakini.

b. On Bhumi / Earth, Ganga is known as Ganga itself.

c. Netherlands, Ganga is known as Bhogavati.

5. Padma – In Bangladesh, Ganga is known as Padma.

6. Svarga Ganga – In Svarga, Ganga is called as Svarga Ganga.

7. Jahnavi – The great Rushi / Sage Jahnu released Ganga from his ear and thus Ganga is also called as ‘Jahnavi’.

8. Alakananada – One of the main head strams of Ganga near Badrinath.

Festivals related to Ganga River

Ganga Jayanti or Bhagirathi Jayanti:

First ten days of Jyeshtta maasam known as ‘Dasahara’ is dedicated to the worship of Goddess Sri Ganga Devi.

Goddess Ganga Devi is believed to have descended on to the Earth on the Dashami (10th day) of Jyeshtta Maasam shukla paksha which is celebrated as Ganga Jayanti or Bhagirati Jayanti.

Kumbha Mela:

This mela is held on the banks of river Ganga at Haridvar and Prayagaraj once in twelve years. It is also held at Ujjain and Nasik.

Ganga Pushkara:

This occurs once in twelve years when Brihaspati (Jupiter) enters into Mesha (Aries) raashi in the zodiac.

First twelve days and last twelve days are celebrated as Ganga Pushkara festival.

Gangotpatti:

Saptami tithi (seventh day) in Vaishakha maasam is known as Gangotpatti the day on which Ganga came out of the great Rushi / Sage Jahnu’s ear and came to be known as Jaahnavi.

More information will be added. Please visit after some time.

To know the ‘Greatness of river Narmada’, you can click the below link:

‘Greatness of river Narmada’

You should read this book to know more about the rivers. Link is as given below (for US/Canada/Germany/UK visitors):

The Invention of Rivers

For Indian visitors, click the below link:

The Invention of Rivers

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