There's so much more to Ganga Devi than most of us know about! Ganga Devi can be seen adorning white clothes, holding a water pot and riding a mystical creature, Makara as her choice of vahana (vehicle).
- The White clothes represent purity and the moon, since its gravitational pull influences the river's tides.
- The water pot symbolizes the life-giving nature of the river.
- The mythical creature with the body of a crocodile, trunk of an elephant, feet of a lion, eyes of a monkey, ears of a pig, and the tail of a peacock represent the dangerous and mystical waters Ganga has tamed.
Ganga Devi is the goddess of purity and forgiveness. She is the personification of a sacred river that is considered one of the holiest in Hinduism,
Once upon a time...
The demon king, Bali, ruled the entire universe when the gods had lost their power. Lord Vishnu, in his 5th avatar as the dwarf brahmin named Vamana, visited the king and begged him for as much land as he could step over in three paces. King Bali happily agreed-- until Vamana magically grew into a giant.
Vamana took three steps covering heaven, earth and the space between them. But within these three short steps, Vamana accidentally created a small hole in the universe's wall.
As the water from the river spilled out, Lord Vishnu permitted the Ganga River to descend toward the earth for one of his ardent devotees, King Bhagiratha. This King wanted to purify the ashes of his ancestors by releasing them into the holy river.
Ganga's descent was so powerful that it threatened to destroy the earth (Bhumi Devi), so Lord Shiva caught her in his hair to break her fall, and release her slowly. This is why she is also known as "Shiva's consort".
Why we celebrate Ganga Saptami?
Ganga Devi's birthday is celebrated as Ganga Saptami! It is seen as an opportunity to purify one's soul and seek the blessings of the goddess for health, wealth, and prosperity.
Most Ganga Saptami rituals involve devotees taking a holy dip in the Ganga River and offering prayers.
The Impurity of a Holy River
The River is believed to purify one's sins and bring spiritual benefits. Many people take a dip in the river during religious festivals or to cleanse themselves of impurities.
The river is also a lifeline for millions of people who rely on it for irrigation, transportation, and fishing.
Unfortunately, this has also resulted in the river being polluted with a lot of religious offerings wrapped in non-degradable plastics. The Ganges in the world's 6th most plastic polluted river in the world!
Interesting facts about Ganga...
Here are some interesting facts about Ganga Devi:
- The Ganga River begins in the Humalayas' Gangotri Glacier and flows to the Bay of Bengal in northern India and Bangladesh
- Ganda Devi is considered to be Goddess Parvati's sister
- Ganga Devi drowned 7 of her children before giving birth to the warrior, Bhishma, one of the prime figures in the Mahabharata
- Ganga Devi's father, Himavan, was king of the Himalayas and he had gifted Durga Devi her vahana, the lion