Bharat is the blessed land of several rivers who are given the status of Mother (Devi Maa) the most important of whom is Maa Ganga. Ganga is not merely a river but paapvimochini (one who helps people get rid of their sins). She is known by several other names, the chief of which is Bhagirathi. It is to the credit of Raja Bhagirath that Bharatvarsha was blessed with this river that purifies both the land and human souls. Bala Kand of Rishi Valmiki’s Ramayana narrates the story of how and why one of Raja Sagara’s descendent Raja Bhagirath brought Ganga down to the earth.
Suryavanshi Raja Sagara belonged to the Ikshavaku dynasty in which later Sri Hari Vishnu would take birth as Sri Ram. Sagara had two wives Keshini and Sumati. When he visited Maharishi Bhrigu in the Himalayas with his queens to seek a boon from the rishi as he was childless, Maharishi blessed him with the boon of 6o thousand children from Rani Sumati and one son from Rani Keshini. As per the boon sons were born to Raja Sagara.
Sagara set out to perform 100 Ashvamedha Yagnas the completion of which would help him attain Indrahood meaning the kingship of Devas. When he was performing the 100th Ashvamedha, he assigned the task of guarding the sacrificial horse to his 60 thousand sons. Devraj Indra was worried about being dethroned once Sagara’s sacrifice became successful and therefore he stole the horse and tied it to a pole in Rishi Kapila’s ashram. When the 60 thousand princes went looking for the horse, they reached the Rishi’s ashram and were enraged to find the horse there. Assuming the Rishi to have committed the theft, the princes began hurling abuses angered by which Rishi Kapila burnt them to ashes.
A worried Sagara sent his son prince Amsuman in search of his sons. When the prince reached Rishi Kapila’s ashram he learnt what had happened to his brothers. The Rishi also informed him that until such time that their ashes weren’t washed by holy river Ganga, his brothers would not get liberated. Raja Sagara, Amsuman and then Dilipa undertook penance all their lives but could not succeed in bringing Ganga to the earth. Finally, it was Dilipa’s son Bhagirath who through his penance pleased Bhagwan Brahma who blessed him with the boon that Sri Hari Vishnu in His Vaman avatar would release Ganga from the Kamandal (water-pot) in Brahmaloka. Bhagwan Brahma also warned him that the force of Ganga was so strong that she would directly go to Pataal Lok unless he did something to prevent it.
Bhagirath again undertook penance to please Bhagwan Shiv and asked Him to hold Ganga in His jata (locks) and release her slowly so that instead of going to the nether regions she would wash off the ashes of his ancestors lying in Rishi Kapila’s ashram thereby releasing their souls towards their onward journeys. As per the boon Sri Hari Vishnu released Ganga from the Kamandal in His Vaman avatar and Bhagwan Shiv caught her in His locks releasing her slowly in a controlled manner. Ganga then descended on earth and flowed through Rishi Kapila’s ashram washing away the ashes of the 60 thousand sons of Raja Sagara and releasing their souls for their onward journey.
The day of her descent was Shukla Paksha Dashami of Jyeshta (10th day of the bright half during the month of Jyeshta) and hence this day is celebrated as ‘Ganga Dussehra’. A ritualistic bath in Ganga on this day is considered auspicious. A mela is held in Haridwar from this day until the fifteenth of Jyeshta. Today (1st June) is Ganga Dussehra however following the pandemic Section 144 (prohibiting assembly of more than four people) is in force and hence the ghats remained deserted.
Ganga is not merely a river; she is a mother who relieves her children from pain, hope of millions of farmers whose land she makes fertile in the course of her travel to the sea and a divinity who liberates human souls. On Ganga Dussehra today our prayers at her feet to liberate Bharat from this pandemic at the earliest. Ganga aarti is one of the most beautiful sights to behold and the cleaning of the ghats and the river under the Bharatiya Government’s ‘Namami Gange’ project has only made it all the more beautiful.
(Video Credit: Youtube Channel: daintellekt)
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