(Last Updated on : 07/07/2011)
Ganga is one of the major rivers of the Indian subcontinent, flowing east through the Gangetic Plain of northern India into Bangladesh. The 2,525 km (1,569 mi) river rises in the western Himalayas in the Uttarakhand state of India, and drains into the Sunderbans delta in the Bay of Bengal
. The River originates at the Gangotri
Glacier in the Indian state of Uttarakhand
, in the central Himalayas, and empties into the Bay of Bengal
through its vast delta in the Sunderbans. The river Ganges flows through India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The major cities along the River Ganges are Haridwar
, Moradabad, Rampur, Allahabad
and Raj Shahi.
It has long been considered a holy river by Hindus and worshiped as the goddess Ganga
. It has also been important historically, many earlier regional and imperial capitals like Patliputra, Allahabad
, Kara, Calcutta and Murshidabad
, have been located on its banks. The Ganges Basin drains 1,000,000-square-kilometre (390,000 sq mi) and supports one of the world's highest densities of humans. The average depth of the river is 52 feet (16 m), and the maximum depth, 100 feet (30 m). The river has been declared as India's National River. The many symbolic meanings of the river on the Indian subcontinent were mentioned in 1946 by Jawaharlal Nehru
in his Discovery of India,
Joined by numerous rivers such as the Kosi, Son, Gandaki and Ghaghra, the Ganges forms a formidable current in the stretch between Allahabad
and Malda in West Bengal
. On its way it passes the towns of Kanpur
, Soron, Kannauj
, Mirzapur, Ballia, Buxar
, Saidpur, and Chunar. At Bhagalpur, the river meanders past the Rajmahal Hills, and begins to run south. The Ganges drains the fertile basin and supports one of the world's highest-density human populations. Almost half of the population of India lives on one-third of the landscape within 500 km of the Himalayan range along the Gangetic plains and depends on the River Ganges.
During the early Vedic Ages, the Indus and the Saraswati River were the chief rivers, not the Ganges. But later, the three Vedas seem to give much more significance to the Ganges, as shown by its plentiful references. Possibly the first foreign visitor to mention the name of Ganges, was Megasthenese
According to Hindu religion, a famous king, Bhagiratha
, did tapasya for many years constantly to bring the river Ganges, then residing in the Heavens, down on the Earth to find salvation for his ancestors, who were cursed by an oracle. Therefore, Ganges descended to the Earth through the dreadlocks (Jata) of Lord Shiva
to make whole earth pious, fertile and wash out the sins of humans. For Hindus in India, the Ganges is not just a river but a mother, a goddess, a tradition, a culture and much more.
Ganga River is also said to be the river of supreme Lord Rama
and also called "Ram Ganga" as there is a belief Lord Rama promised while Ganges emerged from his feet that, when he will appear on earth as Lord Rama will reside on the banks of Ganga and her tributaries. Lord Rama then appeared in Ayodhya
which is on the banks of Saryu Ganga River, when he went to Janakpuri he crossed River Ganga in Haridwar. During his fourteen years exile from Ayodhya, along with wife, Sita, and brother Lakshmana
, Lord Rama spent the first night on the banks of Tamsa River (Ganga tributaries), his second stay was at Shrungverpur which is on the banks of Ganga. Later, with the help of Nishadraj Gruh and Kevat, he crossed Ganga, and went to Triveni sangam, Prayag Raj stayed with Muni Bharadvaj and then marched towards Chitrakoot and stayed there for 11 and half years on Kamadgiri parvat on the banks of Mandakini
, holy stream. From there he went to Panchvati and stayed on the bank of Godavari until Sita was abducted by demon king Ravana
. The search for his beloved wife Sita, led Lord Ram to Rameshwaram, as it is said all rivers meet the ocean.
Some Hindus also believe life is incomplete without taking a bath in Ganges at least once in their lives. Many Hindu families store the sacred water from the Ganges in their house, for use on special occasions. Hindus also believe that the water from the Ganges cleanses a person's mind, body and soul and rids the person of all past sins, and that it can also cure the ill. The Ganges is the river of India, which has drawn uncounted millions to her banks since the dawn of history. The story of the Ganges, from her source to the sea, is the account of India's civilisation and culture, the rise and fall of empires and the development of man in the modern era.