Gangotri Tales

The small hill station Gangotri comprises the holy Temple Gangotri, the highest temple of Goddess Ganga, is one of the ‘Chhota Char Dham’/ ( four adores) highly revered by Hindu pilgrims, is set in the middle of rugged Himalayas of Garhwal region in Uttarakhand, India. The circuit of Chhota Char Dham is completed by other three pious destinations located in the vicinity, namely Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath which is again among the four Vaishnavite Pilgrimage popularly known as original ‘Char Dham’ ascertained by Adi Shankaracharya. Badrinath being a sacred abode, in the northern region, rest three pilgrimage destinations i.e. Puri, Dwarka and Rameswaram are in east, west and south of the subcontinent respectively. It is believed among Hindus that they should visit these sacred places at least once in the lifetime as inviolable places as these hold the power that sanctifies one by cleaning all sins hitherto performed after birth.

Gangotri, situated at a height of 9,980ft. is the spiritual source of River Ganga, the life-line of India and considered as the holiest river on the planet. Adi Shankaracharya said to have consecrated the Temple of Gangotri, later in the 18th C General Amar Singh Thapa of Nepali regiment built it, a 20ft. structure of white stone on the left bank of River Bhagirathi, as River Ganga known in there. Maharaja of Jaipur, Madho Singh had to renovate the temple in 1935, decorated the shrine with a gilded roof and crowned with a central spire.

Apart from the main Goddess Ganga, other deities such as Annapurna, Yamuna, Saraswati and Mahadurga with Lord Shiva are also worshipped in the temple. On reaching the shrine, pilgrims and believers bathe in the main ghat of the River to clean themselves of all guilt, a religious practice and offer prayer in the temple, many also perform shraadh and pind daan, an act of ancestral rites. Hindu devotees do believe that performing aforementioned activities on the bank of Bhagirathi would lead to the deliverance of all of their ancestors, setting their soul free from the cycle of rebirth and from sins committed in present. This concept had taken birth from a mythological story of ancient King like figure Bhagirath. Even today, there’s the existence of a stone slab inside temple premise where the King believed to had meditated for hundreds of years.

The Main Ghat, Gangotri.

Let us now dive into the Myth –     

I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children stories. They were better than that. They just were.

– Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

 So…

Once upon a time, there was a Suryavanshi King named Sagar who had 60,000 sons. Legends say that the King did consider to perform Aswamedh Yoga (horse sacrifice) setting it free. 60,000 princes were conquering territories and expanding their empire following the path the horse crossed. Threatened by the outrageous success of the King’s agents the mighty Indra was attacked by inferiority complex as a result of which he decided to vanish the horse from the frontline in order to stop the chasing and vanquish their victory, which he did. Indra then tied the theft horse in Kapil Muni’s Ashram with an intention of giving those ruthless creatures a lesson. Sons of King Sagar in search of the horse reached into the Ashram when Kapil Muni was in the middle of meditation. Disturbed by their obduracy the seer outbursted with rage and anger and cursed them all, because of which they turned into ashes in a moment.

Listening to the news mentally devastated King Sagar, on his arrival into the Ashram supplicated to Kapil Muni, willing to undergo sacrament of penance in the hope of deliverance of his sons. Kapil Muni, then, confronted that it was impossible to reverse his curse which brought more disappointment to the King but the seer advised him assuring deliverance of his princes if the King could convince Deity Ganga, the river of heaven, to come down to Earth, only then, her touch would wash away all committed sins ensuring deliverance of his sons’ life.

Sacred Bhagirathi

Bhagirath, King Sagar’s grandson, after so many other descendants’ abortive attempt to bring River Ganga down to Earth, finally succeeded to please her by his unswerving thousand years of prayer and meditation. Deity Ganga agreed to flow down to Earth from paradise and sanctify all curse of the planet when King Bhagirath had to deal with another issue contemplating the situation. Havoc would be an understatement that would result on Earth’s surface due to the heavy flow of sacred Ganga if it occurs directly from heaven, thought the King Bhagirath. Hence, he had to pay a visit to Lord Shiva asking him to tackle the consequence and save the world. Lord Shiva being saviour gave consent to his prayer and contained affluent Ganga in his chignon and let flow a stream of her celestial water through one of his locks. The heavenly stream started to flow on Earth thus cleansing all impure being stood on her path, also did free thousands of cursed sons of King Sagar from their wrongdoings. Later, the purest of pure Rivers named Bhagirathi after King Bhagirath.

Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphores, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.

–                                                                        – Joseph Campbell

Therefore, this is the myth that Hindu devotees like to believe in as the story behind River Ganga’s origin. Although, the name Ganga retains at Devprayag after the conflux of River Bhagirathi and River Alaknanda, flows as Ganga until it bifurcates at Farakka, West Bengal into two as Padma, that enters to Bangladesh and as Hooghly, which courses through South Bengal. River Hooghly meets the Bay of Bengal as Bhagirathi in the mangrove-lined tidal estuary of Sundarban, West Bengal.

Eso es todo!! 🙂


                                                                                                       |    Rick Biswas    |

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