Ganga is known as one of most sacred rivers in Hinduism. It is the backbone of the Hindu culture that has been nourishing the Indian Continent (Jambu Dweep) for ages and is still known for its purifying attributes. The Ganga Water is considered as sacred water and is supposed to retain its purity even after storing for several months. After Ganga’s descent to Earth, most of the temples, Ashrams, and cities are built and settled on its bank throughout its course from its origin to its mouth near Gangasagar. Total length of the Ganga river is around 2525 Kms starting from western Himalayas in Uttarakhand and flows through Gangetic plains of North India till Bay of Bengal. The legend of Ganga’s descent to Earth is very interesting and will unfold many new things for the readers. Here it is:-
There was a king Sagara, also one of the ancestors of Bhagwan Sri Ram – He performed Ashwmedha Yagya 99 times, and all 99 times the Yagya was successful as the horse, he sent for Yagna around the world used to return to the Kingdom of Ayodhya unchallenged everytime. Due to this success of King Sagara, Indra was a jealous of him and when Sagara starts the Yagya 100th time and sent the horse, Indra just kidnapped the horse and hid it in Kapil Muni Ashram near sea.
This time when horse did not come back the king asked his 60,000 sons to go out and find the horse. The sons started searching for the horse. They kept searching it for a long time but could not find the horse anywhere. At last far away from Ayodhya near the sea they found the horse inside Kapil Muni Ashram. The sage ( Kapil Muni was in deep meditation), the sons thinking that Kapil Muni had captured their horse, attacked the sage. But due to intense Tapas (Meditation) just by a gaze of the Muni all 60,000 sons of King Sagara burnt into ashes.
Later when the sons did not return even after so many days, King Sagara asked his grandson Amsuman to go and search for the horse and his 60,000 sons. Amsuman immediately started his journey to find out the horse. Later he also found the horse inside Kapil Muni’s Ashram. The sage was meditating at that time also. He patiently waited for the sage to came out of his Sadhana (Meditation). After Sage opened his eyes, he was very happy to see Amsuman’s patient and Perserverance. He told Amsuman the entire story and gave him a chane to ask for a boon. Amsuman asked to release the horse and to salvage his dead father and uncles. Kapil Muni immediately released the horse, but told Amsuman that salvage of his father and Uncles is now only possible by the sacred waters of Ganga that was currently in heaven with Brahma.
Amsuman came back to Ayodhya and narrated the entire story to King Sagara. King Sagar then made Amsuman the King of the Kingdom and left himself to seek the descent of Ganga to the Earth for the salvation of his 60,000 sons. But he was not successful in his mission. After him, son of Amsuman- Dileep struggled to bring the Ganga down to the earth. He meditated for years in the Himalayas but could not succeed in his mission. After the death of Dileep, his son Bhagirath who was aware of the mission of his father and grand father, also started early in his efforts to descend Ganga to the Earth. He meditated for several years. And yes just like any goal or mission is not impossible to achieve if backed by dedicated hard work and persistence, here also Bhageerath succeeded in pleasing Mother Ganga. His efforts in pleasing Ganga in bringing her down to the Earth not only for the salvation of his uncles and father but also for the benefit of entire Human Race generations after generations is a remarkable incident and is often presented as an example to anyone who is aiming for difficult Goals.
Note: The interesting thing here is that Bhageerath is 43rth descendant in the family of Ishwaku. And later in this family itself at 58th number King Dileep II was born, then Raghu II followed by Aja, then Dasarath, and then Lord Sri Ram was born in the same family as seventh Avatara in Treta Yuga
Ganga was pleased with the meditation and payers of Bhageerath, but Her only concern was that Earth was not yet ready to accept is huge Forceful flow directly from heaven. Then Lord Shiva was requested to hold the flow of Ganga on his head and after He absorb much of the force of it mighty flow it can then be released to the Earth with diminished capacity. Lord Shiva agreed to the request and then it happened. Ganga flows through the head of Lord Shiva and came down to the Earth to wash away all the sins of the Human Race. As Ganga flows through the head of Lord Shiva- Lord Shiva is also called Gangadhara!!
Note: The day on which Ganga descends to the Earth is also called Ganga Dashahara ie the tenth day of the waxing moon of Hindu Calendar Month Jyestha. At this time of the year Devotees take bath in Ganga to celebrate its decent to the Earth and to wash away all their sins.
Ever since Ganga acquired a great significance as a holy river for Hindus and today is an important part of Hindu culture. Ganga originated from Gangotri and then it enters UP and Bihar finally crosses West Bengal to enter delta which constitutes most of Bangladesh. The place called Ganga Sagara is about 120 Km south of Kolkata. Same place is said that it was the ashram of Sage Kapila. And 60,000 sons of King Sagara were burnt here only to ashes.
Rajneesh Chaturvedi is the author and owner of the "Indian Ethos" Blog which aims to explore The Sanatan Dharma and discover the deeper insights of Hinduism and its relevance today in modern world, not only at personal front but also at professional front at work place. Connect to Rajneesh on Google+