Search This Blog

08 April, 2012

Holy River Ganga


     A mythological story describes story describes the river Jahnavi, better known as Ganga, descending from heaven to earth.  Ganga originated in heaven where she was personified as a goddess bearing the name Akasa-GangaKing Bhagiratha prayed to the goddess to descend from heaven to earth.  Akasa-Ganga granted the prayer but warned Bhagiratha that the earth would not bear the torrential flow of water from heaven.  The Lord Siva alone could withstand the force and receive the water.  Bhagiratha prayed then to Lord Siva to receive the Ganga water.  Siva acceded.  He received the water in his locks and retired to the jungle for meditation.  The Ganga remained in Siva's locks but did not flow on earth.  Hence, the king prayed to Siva a second time.  Now, to release the water to the world.  Siva granted his prayer.  The Ganga is presently believed to be the flowing from Siva's locks!



       The story has a deep allegorical significance.  Ganga signifies Brahman, the supreme Reality.  Brahman remains above all terrestrial experiences.  Symbolically in the heavens.  King Bhagiratha represents an enlightened soul who alone can transmit the spiritual knowledge to the world.  Lord Siva represents  a tapasvin -- an austere, introvert, contemplating person - who qualifies to receive the knowledge.  After receiving the knowledge the seeker has to assimilate and absorb it.  This is indicated by Siva retiring to the forest for meditation with the Ganga in his locks.  The knowledge absorbed turns the seeker into a spiritual master.  He then imparts the knowledge gradually, carefully.  The people of the world can take it only in small doses.  Hence, Siva releases the Ganga in trickles from his locks.  Since the river signifies spiritual wisdom a dip in the sacred Ganga symbolises the devotee's union with Brahman.


Lord Krishna glorifies the river (Jahnavi) Ganga in Bhgavad Gita  Chapter X Verse 31

Among the purifiers, I am air.
I am Rama among those who bear weapons. 
And among the  fishes I am the Shark;
among the rivers, I am the Jahnavi (Ganga).
     Among the rivers I am Jahnavi, otherwise known as Ganga.  Her water is always fresh.  It is said that no bacteria can thrive in Ganges water.  Whether that is so, or not, every Hindu home has a pot of Ganga water, which never spoils.  And through association and the circumstances of her birth, Ganga stands for knowledge.  She is said to have come from Lord Siva's head.  And there are hundreds of stories associated with her as a source of knowledge and purification.  In India every river is worshipped.  But Ganga has a special place.  It is not just a river, but jnana-ganga, the unbroken flow of knowledge itself.  One dip is said to remove all sins.  That is the shraddha people have for Ganga.  She is looked upon as a devata.  

1. Commentary on Bhagavad Gita Chapter X by Swamy A Parthasarathy.
2. Swamy Dayananda's Bhgavad Gita Home-study-course Vol.III.

No comments: