Ganga, one of the holy rivers of India, emerges from the Himalayas. People worship Ganges as a symbol of purification and forgiveness. She has also known as Makara and gets depicted as a beautiful lady. The Rig Veda (10.75) has mentioned the river Ganges as one of the holiest rivers. Many epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, and the Puranas have marked the appearance of Mata Ganga.
According to Ramayana, Ganga is the firstborn child of Himavat (Himalayas) and sister of Mata Parvati. However, the Puranas marks the emergence due to Lord Vishnu, and her descendent happened due to Bhagirathi, the royal sage while, aided by God Shiva. In Mahabharata, Mata Ganga is the mother of Bhishma Pitamaha from the Kuru king Shantanu.
Mother Ganga is the mother of humanity in which people immerse the ashes of their ancestors to bring their souls closer to moksha. To honor her efforts of humanity, festivals like Ganga Dusshera and Ganga Jayanti gets celebrated.
Descent to the Earth
The epic Mahabharata mentions a war set between Devtas and the Asuras. When the Devtas were about to become victorious, then the Asuras went on hiding in the oceans. Devtas could not find them and requested sage Agastya to help. The sage helped the Devtas by drinking the whole ocean. However, when asked to fill up the sea again, Sage Agastya had digested all the water. Devtas became worried, but Lord Vishnu assured them.
After several years King Sagara acquired sixty thousand sons through Maya. He performed a Maha Yagna for the good of his kingdom. The ritual required a horse that got stolen by Indra. When searched by the sons of Sagara, the horse was in the netherworld tied next to Sage Kapila. They thought that Sage Kapila had stolen their horse and started insulting him, which caused a disturbance in his penance. After several years, the sage opened his eyes, and with his sight, all the sixty thousand sons burnt to death.
The souls of all the sixty thousand sons wandered for their last rites. Their nephew Anshuman tried pleasing Lord Brahma to send Ganga to the earth but failed. After that, his son Dilip tried the same and failed. Later, Bhagiratha, son of Dilip, tried and succeeded in pleasing Lord Brahma. Then, Lord Brahma ordered Ganges to descent on the earth so that King Sagara’s son acquire salvation.
Goddess Ganga felt it insulting and decided to sweep away the entire earth. Scared about the consequences, Bhagiratha prayed to Lord Shiva to break Ganges’s flow. Mata Ganga became furious and landed abruptly on Shiva’s head, but he caught her instantly. Due to this, only small streams of Ganga Mata descent to the earth. Since Bhagiratha brought River Ganga to the Mrityulok, therefore, she is also known as Bhagirathi. Ganges is the river that flows in all three worlds, heaven, earth, and the netherworld.
Celebration of Ganga Dussehra
Every year we celebrate Ganga Dussehra, an auspicious festival of Hindus. It takes place a day before the Nirjala Ekadashi. Devotees from all over India visit the holy banks of the river Ganges to pray to the goddess.
According to the Sanatan story, Ganges descended on Mrityulok (Earth) from heaven. The festival has great significance for all the Sanatani followers and gets celebrated on the Dashmi tithi of Jyeshtha in the Shukla Paksha or the full moon every year. Worshipping goddess Ganges on this day relieves from hardship and troubles.
Devotees visit the river banks of the holy river to get dipped in the flowing water. By this action, they pray to Mata Ganga and request her to eradicate all of their troubles and sins. On the same day, the Yamuna river gets worshipped, and the kite-flying event takes place.