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.
Ganga Dussehra: Information
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 Haridwar, at the foothills of the Himalayas, where the Ganga reaches the plains, aartis 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.
- Ganga Dussehra 2022: June 09 (Thursday)
- Ganga Dussehra 2021: June 20 (Sunday)
Ganga Dussehra: The day River Ganga descended upon the Earth
In many parts along the river Ganga in UP and Bihar, the water levels in the river start swelling from Ganga Dussehra onward.
On June 20, Hindus are celebrating Ganga Dussehra, the day to mark the origin of the sacred river Ganga. It is believed that on this day, i.e. Dashmi (10th day) of the month of Jyeshtha (according to Hindu Calendar), sacred river Ganga came down to Earth and free ancestors of Bhagiratha from a curse. The festival is observed for a period of 10 days.
Stories that narrate how the Ganga came to Earth
According to the historical stories, the river Ganga was born during Bhagwan Vishnu’s Vamana Avatar. After Vamana pushed King Bali to the Patala Lok, Bhagwan Brahma washed Vishnu’s feet and collected the water in his Kamandala. That water took the form of Ganga, a young playful little girl.
Once, Rishi Durvasa, who was known for his aggressive mood, was taking a bath in a river and his clothes flew away due to breeze. Ganga, who was playing close to the river, saw the incident and burst into uncontrolled laughter. Rishi Durvassa got angry and cursed her that she will spend time on Earth as a river. When the time came, Ganga took the form of the river and resided in Bhagwan Brahma’s Kamandal in heaven.
Once King Sagar, ancestor of King Bhagiratha, performed Ashwamedha Yagna to make him powerful. Indra, the King of Gods, was afraid that if King Sagar become powerful, he may try to take his position. He stole Yagna’s horses and tied them outside Rishi Kapila’s Ashram. Sagar’s sons went looking for the horses and found them outside Ashram. Assuming Rishi stole the horses, they set the horses free, but noises disturbed meditating Rishi. When he realized he was being accused of stealing, he got furious and cursed them to be burnt down to ashes.
As the rituals of death could not be completed, all 60,000 sons who were burnt down to ashes due to curse wandered as ghosts. One remaining brother, Anshuman, begged the Rishi for a solution who asked him to pray to Bhagwan Brahma and bring Ganga to Earth to purify the souls.
After several generations, Bhagiratha, descendent of Sagar, finally managed to please Brahma, who granted him his wish to send River Ganga to Earth. To control the powerful river, Bhagiratha prayed to Bhagwan Shiva to accept Ganga in his locks and release her slowly towards Earth.
Ganga Dussehra, the celebrations
Ganga flows from Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The festival is celebrated on the banks of Rishikesh, Garhmukteshwar, Haridwar, Prayagraj and Varanasi. Ganga Aarti on this day attracts thousands of devotees from around the world. People gather at the banks of Ganga and take holy dip to purify their body and soul. In Mathura and Vrindaban temples, this day is celebrated among the devotees with enthusiasm. It is believed that donating something on this day brings happiness and prosperity to the family of the devotees.
Water levels in Ganga rise from Ganga Dussehra onward
In many parts along the river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the water levels in the river start swelling from Ganga Dussehra onward. One reason could be the festival usually coincides with the pre-monsoon and onset of monsoon in some parts, because of which the water levels rise.