River Ganga, the River of life for many teeming millions assumes a sacred status and is looked upon as a Mother Goddess by people of the nation. River Ganga or Ganges plays a pivotal role in the economic, cultural as well as social life of all Indians. There are many interesting facts and information associated with the legends behind River Ganges, the Geographical origin of Ganges, the course and branches of Ganges and pilgrimage directly connected with River Ganges. Read on to learn more-
Legends about River Ganges
The puranas and great epics refer to River Ganges several times in several places. There are a number of mythical tales associated with River Ganga. One legend holds that Lord Indra wished Ganga to flow in the heavens so that she could calm and appease the Gods and Demi-Gods with her refreshing cool waters. Also, there are numerous legends associated with Ganga’s descent onto this earth and the most predominant among those is the one that relates to King Sagara and his dynasty.
According to legends King Sagara had performed the Ashwamedha yagya or horse ceremony in which the sacrificial horse was let loose and allowed to roam freely across territories. Stopping this horse indicates challenging one who has set it forth and declaring war against him and in such a situation if the opponent fails to win, he is bound to accept the king’s suzerainty. When the horse was let loose to roam, the king’s men lost track of the horse. Then the king’s sixty thousand sons went looking for it and while searching they went into the depths of the ocean only to find a hermit hut and the horse tied outside the hut.
That was the hut of sage Kapila. When they abused sage Kapila of theft, his meditation was disturbed, he opened his wrathful eyes and angry gaze reduced all the sixty thousand sons to ashes. Later Anshuman, King Sagara’s grandson won the heart of sage Kapila with his depth of knowledge and insight. The sage then revealed to him that only if the waters of River Ganges flowing in the heavens touches these ashes, their souls would get respite. Years later, son of Dilip, King Bhagiratha did rigorous penance to bring Ganga down to earth from heavens so that his ancestors, lying in the form of ashes could get salvation. Ganga came down with immense force and Lord Shiva held her on his matted locks so that her force does not destroy the earth. King Bhagirath led her to the place where lay the ashes of his ancestors. River Ganga touched them and redeemed them.
Origin of Ganges
The origin of Ganges is the famous Gangotri glacier which is at a distance of 19kms from Gangotri, falling in the southern slopes of high Himalayas. From the snout of Gangotri glacier commonly called Gaumukh because of its resemblance to the mouth of a cow emerges Bhagirathi, another name for Ganga. At Dev Prayag Bhagirathi meets River Alkananda to result in the mighty river Ganges. River Alkananda is fed from the melting snow of Trishul, Kamet and Nanda Devi peaks.
Course, Branches and Tributaries of the Ganges
River Ganges courses all through India and through Bangladesh and the total distance spanned by the river is 1560 miles. There are plenty of tributary rivers of the Ganges. Of the many tributaries, Ghaghare is the largest one. Yamuna holds the second position followed by River Koshi. The tributary Yamuna again meets up with River Ganges at Allahabad’s Trivenisangam. Gomti, Son, Ramganga, Tamsa, Gandaki, Mahananda, Burhi, Gandak, Punpun are some of the other well known tributaries of River Ganges.
Near Pakur Ganges branches into two separate streams-the Padma and the Hooghly-Bhagirathi stream. Padma makes its way to Bangladesh and drains into Bay of Bengal. Hooghly-Bhagirathi stream combines with River Jalangi at the Nawadwip region to result in the Hooghly river which too comes with many tributaries among which the most distinguished one is River Damodar.
Major Pilgrimage places along the Ganges
Rishikesh also known as gateway to the Himalayas lets one feel the beauty and purity of Ganges in its best forms. This pilgrimage spot and the country’s famous yoga capital set along the banks of Ganges is home to many temples.
Haridwar and its famous har ki pauri has worldwide fame. This pilgrimage spot along the banks of River Ganges is also famous of the Kumbh mela held here and because of the many ancient temples.
Allahabad, famous for the prayag and Kumbh Mela is another revered pilgrimage spot by the side of Ganges.
Varanasi or Kashi famous for the Kashi Vishwanath temple is another must-visit pilgrimage destination alongside River Ganges.
Some other quick Interesting facts
- Ganges delta is largest in the whole of the world among all other deltas
- Ganges basin spans over four important countries, namely India, Bangladesh, China, Nepal
- The largest river barrage on Ganges river is Farrakka barrage inaugurated around April 21 1975
- Ganges is shelter for nearly 140 varied fish species plus 90 varied amphibian species
- River Ganges also supports life of Ganges sharks and fresh water bred dolphins
This post is submitted by Devendra Singh, he is a traveler & blogger who loves traveling, rafting, mountaineering and making new friends. Currently working with NamasteIndiaTrip.com, a leading travel company that offers various tour packages for India and International.