Origin of Holy River - Ganga

Every body knows that Gangaji came from heaven by the efforts of King Bhagirath. There are several stories as to how Ganga reached heaven. During Bawan Avatar when the foot of Avatar reached heaven, the creator of Universe-Brahma, washed the big toe of the foot and collected the water in his Kamandal-a pot of water with a nozzle, that is why another name of Ganga is Vishnu padi.

The popular story known to every Indian since thousands of years is that sixty thousand sons of king Sagar were burnt to ashes due to the anger of saint Kapil muni whom they blamed wrongly for the theft of the horse of the ritual yagya of king Sagar. King Sagar was worried about the salvation or nirvana of his sons. Nirvana means the soul of the deceased rests in peace. Various saints suggested that if the holy river Ganga is brought from heaven and ashes were dipped in its water their souls will rest in peace. King Sagar asked his grandson Anshuman to do so. He tried very hard-worshiped the God but could not succeed. His son Dilip also tried in this direction but could not succeed.

After Dilip his son king Bhagirath worshiped Lord Brahma for many years. When Brahmaji pleased, king requested him to release the holy river from his Kamandal and let it flow on the Earth so that it could offer nirvana to his ancestors. Brahma told him that he could release Ganga but it will descend on the Earth with such a velocity that Earth can not tolerate it. So Lord Shiva should be requested to receive Ganga on his head to save the Earth from destruction. King did the same and Lord Shiva pleased after many years of worship and agreed to stand the force of Ganga coming from heaven. Brahma released Gangaji but it disappeared in the hair locks of Shiva. King had to worship Lord Shiva again to release Ganga from his hair locks. When ultimately Ganga was released it followed the chariot of king Bhagirath. In the way it destroyed the worship place of king Janhu who drank the whole river due to anger. Bhagirath requested him and after being pleased he released Ganga who followed the king Bhagirath to meet the ocean in Bay of Bengal at Ganga Sagar. In the way it accepted the ashes of sons of king Sagar thus allowing peace to the departed souls.

Now, we will try to analyze the whole story which has been so beautifully written thousands of years back that it has been remembered by billions of people in the past thousands of years.

In India, at least, even in this 21st century there are episodes of drought, hunger and death, where people die of hunger due to lack of rains and irrigation facilities. This natural disaster is not new, it has been there since times immemorial. During the reign of king Sagar also episodes of these disasters used to happen off & on and thousands of men, women, children and cattle were victims every time. King decided that the country must have a regular source of irrigation which could provide food even in absence of natural rain. The greatest source of water in Eastern India is the great Himalaya. Hundreds of capable men were sent there to search water. Journey in forest and hills of Himalaya was extremely difficult and dangerous those days. Most of the men could not make their way back home. those who returned reported that there are hundreds of streams on the mountain but to bring them to our land is impossible. King Sagar was already dead while this search was going on. His grandson Anshuman occupied the throne. He and after him his son Dilip tried in this direction but did not succeed.

The natural episodes kept on happening with intervals of few years. When Bhagirath became the king he decided to try again for a permanent source of irrigation because it was the only solution to save the people from this disaster. Some of the workers reported that an extremely large Glacier about 50miles*50miles is hidden between the peaks of Himalayas and a small stream of water is coming out from it. The water was perfectly clear, pure and tasty. King Bhagirath himself went to the Glacier and was extremely delighted to see it. He decided this water must reach my land. This stream disappeared after moving several miles in the mountain. This stream has to be carried down the hill. But the amount of water was not sufficient to be carried to his state. The engineers decided to join several streams flowing down the mountain nearly seven of them to make one river by breaking the path in the mountain, they named this river Bhagirathi and joined it with original Ganga.

Meanwhile a large canal was being digged in the state of Bhagirath to receive the water from Ganga. An outlet for this huge water has to be made and so the canal was connected to river Yamuna in Prayag the present Allahabad and was a huge river to accommodate the water of the canal.

King Janhu appeared in winter when most of the small streams got frozen and water was insufficient to reach the kingdom of Bhagirath. New efforts had to be made to increase the water supplies in the canal. Several years later engineers reported that a large river Alaknanda is flowing in the east which if joined with the Ganga will have sufficient water in the canal for the whole year-winter, summer and rains. It took several years to break the mountains-the hair locks of Lord Shiva-to join Alaknanda with Ganga. This water of "Tripathga"- -Ganga, Bhagirathi and Alaknanda was allowed to flow in the canal already prepared to pass through the kingdom of Bhagirath and ultimately joined Yamuna to reach the Bay of Bengal at Ganga Sagar. The Yamuna is named Ganga after Prayag although at Sangam the amount of water in Yamuna is several hundred times more than the amount of water in Ganga, the man made canal, this is just to respect the colossal endeavor and sacrifice of thousands of men in bringing Ganga from Gomukh, the place where it appears from the glacier, to Prayag.

The ancient mythology is very well explained when a look at the wonderful Glacier compels one to call it-Brahma Kamandal, the hilly mountain peaks gives an appearance of hair locks of Lord Shiva and the disappearance of Ganga in winter due to freezing of streams-King Janhu.


This article is not to devaluate the importance of the holy river instead it upgrades its importance by the extremely difficult rather impossible job done by people thousands of years ago without the mighty machines available today. The glory, the importance and the virtues attached to Ganga are well deserved. Pt.Jawahar Lal Nehru the first Prime minister of India while addressing the public used to say if you have to go for a pilgrimage go to Chandigarh, Bhakhranangal dam, Bokaro steel plant, Bhilai these are the sacred places to be visited now a days. Nearly a hundred years back when Panama canal was built every American used to say the biggest Church in America is Panama.

Ganga is most important & sacred river of the world because it is the only man-made river brought on Earth more than ten thousand years back. Every time you take a dip in this holy river remember that you are one of those billions of people who have been saved and nourished by this GREAT RIVER-THE GANGES


Mohammed marzuk ali