By Sri Swami Sivananda
The Ganga is the most sacred river of India. The origin of the Ganga is ascribed to celestial glory. Lord Krishna says in the Gita: “I am the Ganga among rivers”.
For a Hindu, the word Ganga has its own sacred association. Every Hindu thirsts for a dip in the Ganga, and for a drop of its water at the time of his death. Aspirants and mendicants build their huts on the banks of the Ganga for practising penance and meditation. Bhishma spoke very highly of the glory of the Ganga in his parting instructions to the Pandavas from his bed of arrows.
In the Satya Yuga, all places were sacred. In the Treta Yuga, Pushkara was considered the most holy place. In the Dvapara Yuga, Kurukshetra was regarded as the most sacred place. In Kali Yuga, the Ganga has that glory. Devi Bhagavata says: “He who utters the name of Ganga even from hundreds of miles afar is freed from sins and attains the abode of Lord Hari”.
The Ganga Bath
Thousands of pilgrims visit Hardwar and Rishikesh every year and take a dip in the sacred river. They have immense faith in the glory of Mother Ganga. They believe that all their sins are washed away if they take a dip in the sacred waters of the Ganga. Really they are washed off. A dip in the Ganga instantly purifies. There is no doubt about this. Even confirmed atheists and rationalists come to Hardwar for a refreshing bath in the Ganga.
Wherever a pious Hindu goes to take his bath, he invokes first the Ganga and feels Her presence in the water before he takes a plunge in the river. If he lives in a place far away from the Ganga, he intensely yearns to see Her some day and bless his being by bathing in the holy waters. When he is blessed to have a Ganga bath, he carries some water to his house and carefully saves it in a vessel so that he may use it for purposes of purification.
Ganga—A Form of the Supreme Being
Ganga is the form of Vishnu. She came out of the Supreme Being. Her sight is soul-stirring and elevating. She flows in the valleys and lives by the side of Parvati, daughter of Himavan. How magnificent she is when she flows in the valley of Rishikesh! She has a blue colour like that of the ocean. The water is extremely clear and sweet. Rich people from the plains get water from Rishikesh. It is taken in big copper vessels to far-off places in India.
To have a look at the Ganga in Rishikesh is soul-elevating. To sit for a few minutes on a block of stone by the side of the Ganga is a blessing. To stay for some months in Rishikesh on the banks of the Ganga and do Anushthana or Purascharana is great Tapas which will take the aspirant to the abode of Lord Hari. To live for ever on the banks of the Ganga and spend the life in meditation is Sivanandam. Mother Ganga bestows seen and unseen powers on those crave for Her grace. Sit alone on the banks of the Ganga. Concentrate. Meditate. Realise how spiritual vibrations accelerate your inner heart, even overriding your guilty conscience. Where has the supreme joy that fills you now all over, come from all on a sudden! How she does instantaneously withdraw your mind and conscience from the physical world to the regions of immortality, only to suckle you with bliss and blessedness!
Purity of the Ganga Water
The water of the Ganga is extremely pure and sanctifying. No germs can flourish in this. This has been tested by various scientists in the laboratory. Rich in minerals this water cures almost all kinds of diseases.
The Ganga is saturated with antiseptic minerals. Even in the West, doctors prescribe Ganga water for rubbing in the treatment of diseases of the skin. Ganga is not merely a river. It is a sacred Tirtha. It is possessed of mysterious powers which are not found in any other river of the world. Even scientists have admitted the efficacy of the Ganga water.
Dr. F.C. Harrison of McGill University, Canada writes: “A peculiar fact which has never been satisfactorily explained is the quick death, in three or five hours, of the cholera vibrio in the waters of the Ganga. When one remembers sewage by numerous corpses of natives, often cholera casualties, and by the bathing of thousands of natives, it seems remarkable that the belief of the Hindus, that the water of this river is pure and cannot be defiled and that they can safely drink it and bathe in it, should be confirmed by means of modern bacteriological research”.
A well-known French physician, Dr. D. Herelle, made similar investigations into the mystery of the Ganga. He observed some of the floating corpses of men dead of dysentery and cholera, and was surprised to find “that only a few feet below the bodies where one would expect to find millions of these dysentery and cholera germs, there were no germs at all”. He then grew germs from patients having the disease, and to these cultures added water from the Ganga. When he incubated the mixture for a period, much to his surprise, the germs were completely destroyed.
A British physician, Dr. C.E. Nelson, F.R.C.S., tells us of another striking fact. He says that “ships leaving Calcutta for England take their water from the Hooghly river which is one of the mouths of the filthy Ganga and this Ganga water will remain fresh all the way to England . On the other hand, ships leaving England for India find that the water they take on in London will not stay fresh till they reach Bombay, the nearest Indian port, which is a week closer to England than Calcutta. They must replenish their water-supply at Port Said , Suez or at Aden on the Read Sea”. It is no wonder that the Indian people should hold that the Ganga is very sacred and possessed of mysterious powers.
A Silent Teacher
The Ganga starts from Gangotri in Himalayas. She encounters many obstacles on her way, but she finally reaches the goal—the ocean. Similarly, the Sadhaka should never give up his struggle, however insurmountable the obstacles in the path may appear to be. All difficulties and obstacles will be removed through the grace of the Lord if he is sincere in his Yogic practices, and he will reach the goal.
The Ganga gives you always cool, pure water. It does not expect anything from you in return. The sun sheds its light on all without anticipating any reward. Derive lessons from them. Always give, give. Ask nothing in return. Expect nothing in return. Do not expect even appreciation, approbation, or recognition.
A rogue and a saint can drink the water of the Ganga. The sun sheds its light on the wicked and the virtuous. The mango tree gives its fruits both for the caretaker and the man who cuts its branches. Develop equal vision like the Ganga, the sun and the mango tree. I love Ganga and the Himalayas. Ganga is my Mother Divine. Himalayas is my Father Divine. They inspire and guide me. I take bath in Ganga . I swim in Ganga. I adore Ganga. I feed the fishes of Ganga. I wave light to Mother Ganga. I pray to Ganga. I do salutations to Ganga . I sing the glory of Ganga. I write about the grandeur and glory of Ganga.
Ganga has nourished me. Ganga has comforted me. Ganga has taught me the truths of the Upanishads.
O friend! Follow the lines of Mother Ganga. Be pure. Be adaptable. Be tolerant. Be forgiving. Be sweet. Pour out your love on all. Share what you have—physical, moral, mental and spiritual—with the whole of humanity. The more you give the more you get. Give without any selfish motive, without expecting any reward. Embrace all. Cultivate equal vision.
All glory be unto Mother Ganga, the giver of life, light and love. Worship Her with faith, devotion and piety. Adore Her with flowers of purity, love, self-restraint and equal vision. Sing Her Names. Attain Brahman through Her grace. May Mother Ganga bless you all! May She help you to live on Her banks and practise Yoga and Tapas.
GANGA SAPTAMI AND GANGA DUSSEHRA..
Ganga Saptami and Ganga Dussehra are observed in Northern India. Ganga Saptami generally falls during the last week of April. Ganga Dussehra falls on the tenth day of the bright half of the month of Jyeshta and celebrates the flowing of the holy Ganga at the request of Raja Bhagiratha. This is an important bathing day. A big Mela is held in Haridwar from this day until the full moon, the fifteenth of Jyeshta. This is attended by large number of people from the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.