Sunday, April 17, 2011

India's Sacred Ganga River

Swami Vishwananda at the Ganges River, India in 2008
Mahavatar Babaji has been speaking of the Holy, Sacred Ganga (or Ganges) River recently. Brief information about the Most Sacred River in India follows:

The Ganges River is the most rarefied and sacred river in the Hindu Tradition. The river originates at the Gangotri Glacier, an ice cave, with an elevation of 13,000 feet in northern Uttar Pradesh. The source of the Ganga or Ganges River begins at the Gangotri Glacier, a five by fifteen mile mountain of ice which is the source of the River Bhagirathi.

Devprayag -- Confluence of the two rivers: the Bhagirathi on the left and Alaknanda on the right, forming the Great Ganges River

The Bhagirathi merges with the Alaknanda River and creates the confluence which forms the great Ganges River at the rocky canyon-carved town of Devprayag. Devprayag, meaning "holy confluence," is essentially the site of the beginning of the Ganges river, which you can see in the picture. The Ganges begins with the confluence of two streams here, and it is considered a place where there are powerful natural forces as well as spiritual forces. Devprayag is a popular destination for spiritual pilgrimages.

The name of the Ganges is known all throughout the land of India. This river flows 1, 560 miles from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal is more than just a flowing water. This river is life, purity, and a goddess to the people of India. In, Hindism the river Ganges - referred to as Ganga in the Hindu context and India - is considered sacred. The river, personified as a goddess, is worshipped by Hindus, who believe that bathing in the river causes the remission of sins and facilitates liberation from the cycle of life and death. Pilgrims travel long distances to immerse the ashes of their kin in the waters of the Ganga, trusting that their loved ones will pass on to higher realms. Several places sacred to Hindus lie along the banks of the river Ganga, including Gangotri, Haridwar, Allahabad and Varanasi.

There are several Hindu beliefs that give various versions of the birth of Ganga. According to one version, the sacred water in Brahama's Kamandalu (water-vessel) became personified as a maiden, Ganga. According to another Vaishnavite legend, Brahma had reverently washed the feet of Vishnu and collected this water in his Kamandalu. According to yet a third version, Ganga was the daughter of Himavan, king of the mountains, and his consort Mena; she was thus a sister of the goddess Parvati. Every version declares that she was raised in the heavens, under the tutelage of Brahma.

The Ganges basin is India's broadest and most heavily populated region. In the western part of the Gangetic Plain, the river provides water for crops through a wide canal system whose major branches are the Upper Ganges Canal and the Lower Ganges Canal. Some of the foods items grown here include rice, sugarcane, lentils, potatoes and wheat among others.

The Ganga has an important significance in Hindu culture. The Ganga River is recorded in the Vedas, Puranas, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Ganga is historically known to be the daughter of the mountain god Himavan or Himalaya. Bathing in the River Ganges is believed to wash away one’s sins and water from the Ganga is used extensively in India and around the world in spiritual traditions and rituals.

It is auspicious to drink water from the Ganga at the hour of death and, also, to be cremated along the banks of the Ganges and to have one’s ashes immersed in the Ganges after death. Cremation takes place along the Ganges River yet in today's time. It is considered a gift from the Gods that water from the Ganga has the unusual property that any water mixed with even the smallest quantity of Ganga water becomes Ganga water, and inherits its healing and other holy properties!

Mahavatar Babaji has never explained how it is he chooses to meet me in meditation on the banks of the this Sacred River Ganges. When I am in his rarefied, beautiful, holy presence, I do not think to ask Him. -Utpalavati

No comments: