Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ganges - religious icon of India

Ganges is one of the major rivers of the Indian subcontinent, flowing east through the Gangetic Plain of northern India into Bangladesh. The 2,510 km (1,560 mi) river rises in the western Himalayas in the Uttarakhand state of India, and drains into the Sunderbans delta in the Bay of Bengal. Ganges is considered as a holy river by Indians and worshipped as the goddess Ganga. It is believed that bathing in the river Ganga causes the remission of sins and facilitates the attainment of salvation or nirvana.
This deep-rooted truth is proved by the fact that people travel from distant places to immerse the ashes of their kin in the waters of the Ganga at Varanasi or other places located on the banks of this holy river. Some of these sacred places, located on the Ganga, are Varanasi, Haridwar and Prayag (Allahabad). As soon as the day begins, devout Hindus begin to give their offerings of flowers or food, throwing hand full of grain or garlands of marigolds or pink lotuses into the Ganges.
Interesting Facts about Ganges:
  • River Ganga is about 1557 miles long (2506 km).
  • The Ganges basin is about 200 to 400 miles (322 to 644 km) wide.
  • The river Ganga originates at Gangotri glacier on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, some 14, 000 feet above sea level.
  • River Bhagirathi and Alaknanda join each other at Devprayag to form River Ganga.
  • Major pilgrimage places on River Ganga are- Rishikesh, Haridwar, Varanasi and Prayag (Allahabad).
  • The mouth of River Ganga forms a vast delta, the Sundarban delta (the largest delta in the world).
  • There are two major dams on the Ganga.
Why is Ganges considered as sacred?
worship ganges
It is believed that river Ganga has taken birth from the water pitcher of Lord Brahma. Ganga is supposed to be the archetype of sacred water. According to the Purana - religious book, Ganga having had its start from the feet of God Visnu entered in the Kamandalu (water carrier) of God Brahma, descending from where it had been retained by God Shiva in His matted hairs rolled up over His head and from there king Bhagirath, of the Sagar dynasty, brought it to earth with a view to bring salvation to his ancestors. In the Bhagavata Purana the story of the descent of Ganga has been told in a detailed manner. According to the Aditya Purana the descent of Ganga on earth took place on the third day of the brighter fortnight of the month of Vaisakha and its exit from Himalaya occurred on the tenth day of the brighter fortnight of the month of Jyestha (falling in the month of May). The water of Ganga is an object of comparison for purity. This has been fully established through scientific experiments that its capacity to get cleaned automatically is the highest among the waters drawn from all other world sources. Hindus consider this river to be the Mother and address it as Ganga maiya (mother Ganga). Ganga is the symbol of fertility and has purifying powers.
Ganges has commercial importance also:
ganges map

The River has immense commercial importance and thus affects Indian economy in many ways. Ganga provides an alternative mode of transport. The river enables transport of heavy goods by relatively cheap and cost effective means. The river is the basis of many industries like the jute industry of West Bengal and Bangladesh. All industries rely on the river as it sustains the workforce of these industries and the river also provides all the water required for many of these.
The major pilgrimage sites near Ganges:
  • Rishikesh
  • Hardwar
  • Varanasi
  • Allahabad
  • Sangam
Ganges as adventure point: Ganges is the ultimate adventure point as far as river rafting in India is concerned. And the major rafting site from where any experienced rafter as well as an amateur one would love to start of his rafting trip in India is Rishikesh. he magic of white water rafting on the Ganges, the adrenaline rush with the thrill of negotiating speedy river currents or just gently floating past terraced hillsides and forest is one experience you wouldn't like to miss.
Hinduism gives a special respect to this river which can be judged by the fact that almost every major Hindu ritual involves the use of holy water from the Ganges. The river is also worshipped all over the country in the form of a female goddess,  Ganga.

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