Goddess Ganga – The Holy River
Ganga is a holy river for Hindus. Known as the Ganges in English, it is today very polluted, but still plays a huge part in Hindu belief. The river starts at the Gangotri glacier in the Himalayas and flows over 2,500 kilometers, before entering the Bay of Bengal, off east India. Ganga contributes over 25 percent of India’s water resources.
Ganga the Goddess
Hindus worship Ganga as a mother. Ganga, the deity, is portrayed as a beautiful woman with fair complexion, sporting a white crown and carrying an earthen pot and a water lily. Her chosen vehicle is a pet crocodile.
Rituals along the Ganga
Hindus perform rituals along the banks of this river, believing it would bless them. The water of Ganga is considered sacred. Hindu scriptures say a mere dip in this holy river absolves the devotee of all his previous sins and gives him or her heavenly blessings. An ancient text, the Narada Purana, reveals that in this Kali Yuga, pilgrimages to the holy Ganga are of great importance.
Ganga flows over blessed land. Hindus believe that anyone who dies in the banks of this hallowed river reaches heaven, with all sins absolved. Dead bodies are cremated along the banks and the ashes dispersed over the water. This is considered auspicious, leading to the salvation of the dead person’s soul. There are famous burial ghats in Varanasi and Haridwar for this purpose.
In summer, Hindus celebrate the Ganga festival to venerate the occasion of the sacred river’s descent to earth. A dip in the river, on this festive day, is believed to cleanse all the sins of the devotee. Worshippers offer milk, flowers and sandalwood, and light lamps and incense. The aquatic creatures of the river are given flour balls.