"The Descent of Ganga" by Om Prakash Saini

“Ganga’s themes are cleansing, health and mercy. Her symbols are water and yellow colored items.
As the Hindu Goddess of the river Ganges, Ganga represents purification, wellness and benevolence in the new year. Legend has it Ganga came to earth upon hearing the cries of people who were dying from drought. Shiva divided Ganga into seven streams so she would flood the earth upon her arrival. Part of this stream remained in the heavens as the Milky Way, and the rest flows through India as the river Ganges, where the Goddess lives. Art depicts Ganga as beautiful, controlling the makara (a sea monster on which she stands), with water flowing all around her.

In India, people gather on the river Ganges on this day and bathe in the waters for health, protection and forgiveness from ten sins. They welcome spring’s approach during this festival by wearing yellow clothing and colored food, like rice with saffron.

To adapt this tradition and prompt Ganga’s blessings, wear any yellow-toned stone (like citrine), and/or eat rice as part of any meal. Adapt your shower, tap, bath or lawn sprinkler to substitute for the river Ganges. As you stand beneath the water, visualize any figurative dirt being washed down the drain.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

The Ganges is the most sacred river to Hindus and is also a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. The documentary, “Mother Ganga: A journey along the sacred Ganges River” portrays a pilgrimage, starting at the Bay of Bengal where the Ganges enters the sea (Ganga Sagar), to Gangotri and Gomukh in the Himalayan Mountains where the Ganges appears.   This film can be purchased by going to www.gangamovie.com


So central is the Ganga to the Hindu imagination that all sects have an origin story for Her that reflects well on their chosen god. The Great Trinity of Hinduism is intimately associated with Ganga. She is described as the daughter of Brahma, the wife of Shiva, and the actual melted body of Vishnu. This multiplicity of roles happens because no worshipper wanted to feel left out from the saving grace of Ganga. For Ganga’s supreme virtue is that She can save you from sin. One drop of Her sacred waters is enough to wipe out all the sins accumulated over many lifetimes. One single drop of Ganga water on the cremated remains of a sinner is enough to wipe out all his sins and gain him heaven as one popular story goes. There is nobody who is so sinful that he or she cannot be saved by the waters of the Ganga. The Ganga is thus the ultimate in merciful mother Goddesses.

Goddess Ganga is represented as a fair-complexioned woman, wearing a white crown and sitting on a crocodile and is the only living Goddess in the Hindu pantheon. She holds a water lily in Her right hand and a lute in Her left. When shown with four hands she carries a water-pot, a lily, a rosary and has one hand in a protective mode.

Ganga represents the innermost pristine coolness, piety and purity. River Ganga continues to enriches the spiritual lives of millions and millions of Indians for whom the river is divine. The river Ganga itself embodies all the characteristics India is known for: mythical, serene, all pervading and assimilative.

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