Places such as Rishikesh, Haridwar, Garh-Mukteswar, Prayag, Varanasi etc where Ganga flows hold special significance on this day. Devotees flock to these places and Varanasi with its numerous ghats situated on the west bank of the Ganga, to touch the river water, bathe in it and take the river clay home to venerate.
In Haridwar, aartis are performed at twilight and a large number of devotees meditate on riverbanks.
The river Ganga holds a uniquely significant place in Indian life and consciousness. It rises at Gangotri, high in the snow-clad Himalayas. Cascading down mighty boulders, it flows into the hot plains of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and finally meets the waters of the sea in the Bay of Bengal.
At Allahabad, the Ganga merges with the river Yamuna and the mythical river Saraswati. The confluence of these rivers, known as Prayag, is considered one of the most sacred spots on earth.
The Ganga, largest of the rivers of India, has been sacred to Hindus from the epic era. She is the mother who washes away all the sins of mankind. The water of the Ganga is worshiped in sealed containers in every home, sprinkled as a benediction of peace, and mven as the last sacrament.
Regarded as a celestial river originating in the heavens, Ganga was gifted to mankind in answer to the great sadhana undertaken by Bhagirath, after whom she is also called Bhagirathi. Bhagirath, a descendant of the Sagara dynasty, prayed for the Ganga to descend onto the parched earth and bring life. But the torrential waters of the Ganga were a mighty and destructive force.
Despite its pollution the Ganga is a symbol of purity. Its water bestows salvation to the dying and new life to the living.
In Hardwar, at the foothills of the Himalayas, where the Ganga reaches the plains, aratis are performed each evening.
Unusual images of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balaram and sister Subhadra who are ceremonially pulled in the grand chariots at Puri.
Brahma and Vishnu asked Shiva to accept the Ganga into his matted locks. Confined in Shiva’s hair, Ganga lost the wild force of her flow and became a placid, life-giving river.
Legend of Ganga Dussehra:
According to the legend, King Sagara of the Ikshvaku dynasty ruling at Ayodhya had two queens, Keshani and Sumati, but neither had a child. Sagara performed severe austerities before his wives could produce sons. But whereas Keshani gave birth to a son called Asmajas, Sumati bore 60,000 sons. Sagara performed the Ashwamedha sacrifice to declare his suzerainty over the neighboring kingdoms. According to the prevalent custom, the sacrificial horse were let loose and allowed to wander into the neighboring kingdoms.
If the horse was caught, a battle ensued and the outcome decided the winner. The 60,000 sons of Sagara were following the horse when they saw him enter a cavern where sage Kapila was meditating. Not seeing the horse in the cavern, they presumed that Kapila had captured it. They did not kill Kapila as he was a sage but they started disturbing his meditations. Annoyed at being disturbed, Kapila with a curse burnt the 60,000 sons of Sagara.