River Goddess Ganga

The Ganga is the most sacred of India’s rivers. Goddess Ganga is represented as a fair-complexioned woman, wearing a white crown and sitting on a crocodile. She holds a water lily in her right hand and a lute in her left. When shown with four hands she carries a water-pot, a lily, a rosary and has one hand in a protective mode.
The story of Ganga’s origin is very interesting. Sagar, a king of Ayodhya, had no children. On doing a long penance he was promised, and got, sixty thousand sons. He then decided to perform a horse sacrifice. Indra, the lord of the heavens, when he heard of this, got scared and stole the horse and took it to the nether region. The sixty thousand Sons reached the nether region after searching the earth for the horse and manhandled a sage by mistake, thinking he had stolen the horse. The sage in anger cursed them and turned them to ashes. Sagar on hearing this prayed to Goddess Ganga to come down to earth and with her water to bring salvation to his Sons.

His son and grandson also carried out the penance and it was only Bhagirath, the great, great grandson, who managed to propitiate Ganga. The Goddess came down on earth in a rush, her impact being mitigated by being caught in Shiva’s matted hair. She was led to the nether regions by Bhagirath. Hence the Ganga is divided into three parts. One part which remained in the heavens was called Mandakini. The part that came down to earth is known as Ganga, and the part (lowing in the nether region is called the Bhagirathi, named after the king Bhagirath.

Most of the holy cities of India are located on the banks of the Ganga. These are Rishikesh(Video Below), Haridwar, Varanasi (Benares), Allahabad etc. Those who die within the specified limits of the Ganga go to the heavenly world. If after cremation the ashes are thrown into the Ganga, the same purpose is served. No Hindu would dare speak a falsehood with the Ganga water (Ganga-jal) in his hand.

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