Goddess Ganga, also known as Bhagirathi, Jahnvi, Nikita, Mandakini, and Alaknanda, is the Goddess of Purity and forgiveness. Devotees who take a bath in her holy waters are said to have washed away all their sins from all their rebirths. Devotees would also travel far and wide carrying the ashes of their kin, to be submerged in Ganga as the holiness of the waters connecting with the ashes of the person will bring their wandering, departed spirits closer to Moksha (the end of or liberation from the cycle of life and death).
Who is Goddess Ganga?
Goddess Ganga is the firstborn daughter of King Himavat, the king of Himalayas and Queen Menavati, who was the daughter of Meru. She is the sister of Parvati, the reincarnation of the Mother Goddess Shakti.
She is depicted as a fair- skinned, beautiful woman wearing a white crown on her long black hair and riding a celestial creature known as Makara (the symbol of Hindu zodiac Capricorn) as her vehicle. She is mentioned in various stories and legends in countless Hindu scriptures, with each depicting her in a different manner.
She holds a water lily in her right hand and a flute in her left, when she is depicted with 2 hands. When she is portrayed having 4 hands, she carries a water-pot, a lily, a rosary, and a hand in the Varada mudra (protective mode). These instruments carried in her hands varies from region to region across India and other countries.
Significance of Makara as Vehicle
Goddess Ganga is usually represented as riding a celestial vehicle Makara, which is embodied by an animal with the head of a crocodile and the tail of a dolphin or other creatures. In old images, she is enthroned with crocodiles surrounding her.
Here, the crocodile holds a deep and meaningful significance for all the worshippers. It represents our intellect/ brain that we use to outgrow our reptilian fears in facing problems. The Goddess Ganga not only faces her fear head on, she also uses it as a vehicle to propel her forward on her path to greater growth, strength, and beauty.
Online Temple experts providing online temple services say, since fear is a natural reaction when one moves closer to the truth, the portrayal of Makara here is significant to take a problem by its horns and giving it a spin in order to find out the solution. Like how a crocodile takes its prey from the banks of the water body, snatches it to the depths of the waters and gives it a spin to make it disoriented before going for the kill.
Story of Goddess Ganga
Ramayana and other scriptures state that Brahma created Himavan, who later went on to become the King of Himalayas and marry Menavati, the daughter of Meru. After a lot of years passed, their firstborn daughter came to life, and was named Ganga by them. Some years further, another daughter was born, and they named her Parvati.
After Ganga grew up, the Gods took her to reside in Heaven where she took the form of a river and flowed bountifully. Later in the texts of Mahabharata, a great war waged between Gods and Demons. The Gods were close to victory and seeing this, the remaining Demons hid in the sea to preserve their lives.
The Gods searched everywhere but couldn’t find them. Hence, they requested the help of Sage Agastya to find the Demons. The Sage used his celestial powers and drank up the sea. The Gods killed the remaining Demons and asked the Sage to restore the sea. However, the Sage answered that he had already digested it and cannot restore it.
Hearing this, the Gods grew worried for Earth mortals but God Vishnu assured them that the sea would be filled up soon. Years passed and a pious King Sagar magically gained sixty thousand sons. He wanted to perform a Yagya (ritual of worship) for the good of the kingdom. However, one of the important parts of the Yagya included a horse, which was stolen by a jealous God Indra, the King of Gods.
As explained by the Online Temple pandits providing online puja services, in order to find the horse, King Sagar sent his sons all over the Earth. They travelled to Swarg (Heaven), Prithvi (Earth) and Paatal (Nether World) Loks, eventually finding it tied near a meditating Sage Kapil. The sons didn’t know that Indra has tied the horse near the sage and believed that the Sage had stolen the horse.
The sons insulted the Sage, causing his penance to be disturbed. The Sage had been meditating for several years and when he finally opened his eyes, he looked at who was the cause of disturbance. With just a glance, all sixty thousand sons were burnt to death. But their souls kept wandering in the place they died as their final rites had not been performed, as clarified by Online Temple experts.
To gain Moksha for all the sons of King Sagar, Anshuman, the nephew of the 60,000 sons, prayed to God Brahma to bring down Ganga on Earth until the end of his life but did not succeed. His son Dilip then began the prayers on behalf of his father to bring Ganga to descend but was still unsuccessful until the end of his life. His son Bhagirath vowed to achieve Ganga’s descending and prayed to Brahma.
Brahma, pleased with the worship, agreed to his request. He ordered Ganga to come down on Earth and the Nether World to cleanse the souls of the sixty thousand sons and help them ascend to Moksha. Ganga felt it was insulting and started to wipe the Earth as she descended. Alarmed at this outcome, Bhagirath prayed to Shiva to break up the descent of Goddess Ganga.
Shiva agreed and as Ganga fell arrogantly on Shiva’s head, he calmly trapped her in his hair locks, only letting her out in small streams. His touch further sanctified Ganga and as she travelled to the Nether World, she created a different stream to help the mortals on Earth ascend to Moksha. When her waters reached the Nether World, the departed spirits were purified and finally gained peace.
Goddess Ganga’s Marriage & Children
Online Temple pandits say, in Mahabharata, Ganga was cursed to be born on Earth along with Mahabhisha, whose Earthly incarnation was named Shantanu. Once Shantanu met a beautiful woman on the banks of River Ganga and fell in love with her immediately. He asked her to marry him and the woman agreed on the condition that Shantanu wouldn’t ask questions from her.
They got married and the woman bore him 8 sons. They lived peacefully, until the woman drowned 7 of their sons. Shantanu was shocked and stopped her from drowning their last son named Devavrata. He questioned who she was and why did she kill her own sons. The woman answered that their sons were reincarnations of Vasus, cursed to bear the burden of a miserable life.
The Vasus had requested her to end their lives when they were born on Earth. Then, the woman revealed her identity as Goddess Ganga and promised Shantanu that she would return their son to him when he became capable of becoming a worthy ruler and disappeared along with her son. She took him to get training from famed Sages and Indra, after which she returned him to Shantanu.
The son later came to be known as Bhishma because of his vow to remain celibate for his father’s happiness. He also brought about his own destruction by abducting a princess Amba along with her sisters. Amba was reborn as Shikhandi, and became the means to put an end to his life.
Festivals Celebrating Goddess Ganga
There are 2 main festivals celebrated in India to worship Goddess Ganga. These are Ganga Jayanti and Navratri. Ganga Jayanti is celebrated to honour the legends saying that when Ganga was descending on Earth in full force, she destroyed the hut of a Sage named Jahnu. In rage, the Sage drank all her water and captured her.
Later, on much coaxing and requests of Bhagirath and Ganga herself, he became pleased with their prayers and finally released her waters to flow out of his ears. From then on, Ganga came to be known as Jahnvi (the daughter of Jahnu). The festival of Ganga Jayanti is worshipped on the Saptami of Vaishakh month’s Shukla Paksh.
Navratri celebrates the various forms of Goddess Durga and Ganga is considered to be a form of the Mother Goddess Adi Shakti herself. Hence, worshippers everywhere worship her as a reincarnation of Shakti. Devotees usually conduct pujas in their homes during this festival. If they cannot conduct it under certain circumstances, they choose to get online puja booking services from Online Temple so that they can gain the blessings and divine benedictions of Goddess Ganga.
Now you can book your Navratri Puja at home too using Online Temple.
Also Read:- Story of Goddess Mahalakshmi l Onlinetemple