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Guiding Light: The spiritual significance of Ganga

Ritesh Aswaney | Updated on: Saturday, May 07, 2022, 07:14 AM IST

Mother Ganga | Photo: Pixabay
Mother Ganga | Photo: Pixabay
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King Sagara was an illustrious king of the Ikshvaku dynasty, and an ancestor of Sri Ram. When he was performing the Ashvamedha Yagna, the horse involved was stolen by Indra, who sometimes demonstrates human-like behaviour despite being a deva, and hid it away in the ashram of Kapila Muni. Hot in pursuit of the horse, the king’s many sons searched all around, until they found the horse in Rishi’s ashram, and started accusing him of sabotaging their Yagna, breaking his meditative trance. Angered by their false accusations, in a fit of rage, Rishi turned them into ashes, and it was believed that their souls wandered in search of salvation.

The story was passed down generations, and several centuries later, King Bhagirath took it upon himself to get salvation for his ancestors. He began meditating on Lord Brahma to ask for his mercy and request Mother Ganga who resided in the heavens to descend to the earthly realm so that her holy waters could provide relief to his ancestors. After severe penance Lord Brahma appeared and whilst he wanted to grant his boon, he advised Bhagirath to worship Lord Shiva, as he was the only one who could break the force with which the Ganga would descend on earth.

King Bhagirath began to meditate on Lord Shiva, and in his benign grace, he agreed, allowing the waters of the holy Ganga to descend into his matted locks, and then cascade down to the earth. Thus the already very sacred Ganga became even more holier after she touched Lord Shiva. When she came to earth, she followed the path of where the King’s ancestors' ashes lay, and it is on this account that one of the tributaries is also called the Bhagirathi.

Mother Ganga descended on Ganga Dussehra, but her torrential flow disturbed Rishi Jahnu, who, in his anger, drank up the entire Ganga. The devtas began to pray to him to release the Ganga, and after much effort, he finally relented, allowing the Ganga to flow out of his ear. This gave Mother Ganga another name, Jahnavi, meaning the daughter of Rishi Jahnu. This day is celebrated as Ganga Saptami, as it was the second birth of this most auspicious of rivers on earth.

Tomorrow is Ganga Saptami. A very auspicious day to take a dip in the holy river if you are fortunate enough to be in her proximity. Like a mother who is full of compassion for her children, the Ganga washes away our sins, cleansing our body, mind, and soul.

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Published on: Saturday, May 07, 2022, 07:14 AM IST