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Significance of River Ganges to Hindus

King Bhagirath With Ganga

About River Ganga

Rising from the Western Himalayan region in the state of Uttarakhand from Gaumukh glacier and flowing towards the southern and eastern region, cutting majestically through the Gangetic plains of northern India, Ganga River covers a distance of 2,525 kms before emptying itself into the Bay of Bengal. Being the third largest river in the world and also one of the longest flowing rivers through the subcontinent Ganga River holds immense religious significance in the hearts of Hindus. Every town the river flows through is pegged as extremely pious and has been developed as some of the most spiritual centres in the world. This mighty river has also found its mention in various Hindu mythologies where the river is worshipped in the form of Goddess Ganga which is also a part of the famous Gangotri Dham Yatra a branch of the Char Dham Yatra of Uttarakhand.

King Bhagirath With Ganga

Legend of River Ganga

The emergence of Ganga River has not been scientifically documented but it is believed to be as old as the Indian civilization itself. This river has played a vital role in shaping Hindu beliefs and rituals. There are numerous stories and legends depicting the emergence of River Ganga and how it came down to the earthly realm. One of the most ancient and widely held beliefs involves the story of King Sagar who had 60,000 sons. His sons were burnt because of the anger caused to saint Kapil Muni. King Sagar wanted to attain salvation for his son and as advised by a number of sages and saints him along with his son Bhagirath began worshipping Lord Brahma. They were told that an intense penance to Lord Brahma will cause him to release Ganga from his Kamanadal where King Sagar can dip the ashes of his son hence helping them in attaining their salvation. However the river was not to be released directly on earth as it would have destroyed the entire earth so Lord Shiva volunteered to release the mighty powerful river via the locks of his matted hair. Since then, River Ganga has been one of the most vital and sacred Rivers in India.

River Ganga at Devprayag

Religious Significance of River Ganga to Hindus

River Ganga is undoubtedly the most sacred and extremely religious water body in the subcontinent. The cities and towns where the river passes through are some of the top most pious religious destinations in the world. Several holy significance surround this mighty holy river like:

  • It is said that a holy dip in Ganga river water will wash away all the sins. The water is also believed to possess healing powers and it is also said to cure any persisting long term physical pain or disease.
  • The rivers is said to be the holy embodiment of Goddess Ganga, who is believed to be the daughter of the Himalaya, the lord of the mountains.
  • It is also a widely held belief that during the ancient times when the Gods inhabited Earth they used the water of River Ganga for consumption purposes.
  • The banks of River Ganga is also lined with people performing the last rites for their deceased relatives since it is said that dipping the ashes in River Ganga will help the deceased individual to attain salvation.
  • Ganga Jal is also believed to hold soul healing capacity and highly sacred properties, whose consumption on a daily basis cleanses the soul and heals the body.

Ganga Aarti at Ganga Ghat Varanasi

Rituals Performed at River Ganga

One of the most prominent ritual performed everyday at the holy river is pilgrims taking a dip in the water with an aim of washing away all their sins. This is also one of the primary reasons for devotees to travel all the way to towns which are situated next to the sacred river like – Varanasi, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Allahabad among other. It is also the site for Makar Sankranti, which is considered to be one of the holiest and the most auspicious occasions to go through the whole soul purification journey. River Ganga is also host to one of the holiest fairs of India – Kumbh Mela, which is held every 12 years and is attended by millions of devotees.

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