(Last Updated on : 05/10/2010)
The religious significance of Ganga River is established at the origin itself. The gangotri is the spot of origin of River Ganges. Many pilgrimages for the Hindus are settled along the banks of River Ganges. The Hindus religiously worship the river. Situated on the banks of River Ganges, Varanasi is considered by some to be the most holy city in Hinduism. The Ganga is mentioned several in the Rig-Veda, which is the earliest of the Hindu scriptures. The reference of this river also appears in the nadistuti or Rig Veda 10.75, which lists the rivers from east to west. In RV 6.45.31, the word Ganga is also mentioned, but it is not clear whether this reference is to the river.
According to Hindus the river Ganga is sacred and a feminine river. The river is worshiped by Hindus and personified as a Devi goddess, who holds a significant place in the Hindu religion. Hindu faith holds that bathing in the river, especially on certain occasion causes the forgiveness of sins and helps to attain salvation. Many people believe that this will come from bathing in the Ganga at any time. People come from distant places to submerge the Cremation and ashes collection ashes of their family or relatives in the waters of the Ganga; this immersion also is believed to send the deceased soul to heaven. Several places revered to Hindus lie along the banks of the river Ganga, including Haridwar and Varanasi. People carry holy water from the Ganges that is preserved in copper pots after making the pilgrimage to Varanasi. It is believed that drinking water from the Ganga with one's last breath will take the person's soul to heaven for sure.
Hindus also believe that life is incomplete without having a bath in the Ganga at least once in one's lifetime. Most Hindu families keep a vessel of water from the Ganga in their house. This is done because it is esteemed to have water of the Holy Ganga in the house, and also if someone is dying, that person will be able to drink this holy water. Many Hindus believe that the water from the Ganga can purify and cleanse a person's soul of all past sins, and that it can also cure the ill. The ancient scriptures mention that the water of Ganges carries the blessings of Lord Vishnu's feet; hence Mother Ganges is also known as Vishnupadi, this term means "Emanating from the Lotus feet of Supreme Lord Sri Vishnu."
Some of the most important Hindu festivals and religious worship happen at the river Ganges. Many festivals are celebrated on the banks of the river Ganga, such as the Kumbh Mela every twelve years at Allahabad and the Chhat Puja.
Varanasi has hundreds of temples along the bank of the Ganges, which are often flooded during the rains. This city, especially along the bank of the Ganges, is a chief place of worship for the Hindus as well as a cremation ground.
Indian Mythology states that Ganga is the daughter of Himavan - the king of the Mountains She had the power to purify anything that touched her. According to myths Ganga flowed from the heavens and purified the people of India. After the funeral, Indians often submerge the bodies of their dead in the Ganga, which is thought to purify them of their sins.