Ganga – Our divine and Pure mother
The sacred river Ganga which flows from Haridwar, is a lifeline to all of us and is of course, a sacred river to Hindus. She is considered to be a papa nashini, the remover of all sins.
But today, she is in a state of pity and misuse. People who reside near the Ganga worship her like a goddess yet perform all unhealthy and unhygienic acts on her leaving her as a river to ridicule. The industries that mushroom along her coast dump all their waste into her, yet she patiently bears the pain and works her way as a true karma yogin. It would be good to know where and how this “pathita pavani” came down to earth. She has a divine birth, originating from Satyaloka where Bramha resides.
This happened when Lord Vishnu took the form of Vamana murthi to subdue Mahabali in the Vamana Avatara. Bali was a powerful Asura yet very generous and with a large heart. When he perform a yagna to please the gods and become all powerful, the Devas approached Lord Vishnu for help. Vishnu then took the form of a small Brahmin boy and went to attend the yagna. Bali was giving away gifts to the poor Brahmins and when it was Vamana’s turn to ask, he asked for three steps of land. Bali was taken aback by this strange request from a small boy. Out of his ignorance, he agreed to give away what was asked for, despite the warnings from his guru Shukracharya.
When the boon was granted, Vamana grew tremendously and began to measure the earth as his first foot. He measured the entire akasha mandalam (the sky) as his second piece of foot. His foot stretched to such a great extent that it reached Bramha loka. Bramha saw the toe of the Lord, identified it and did "paada puja" to the lord. He poured water from his kamandalam (water pot). This water from Bramha's kamadalam is the Ganga. She is the creation from brahma’s kamandalam. One can imagine her purity and her place in heaven.
She then divided herself as four tributaries and flowed through various regions in the heaven. It was Bhageeratha, a king of the Iksvaku clan (the clan of Lord Rama) who brought Ganga to the earth. He had the responsibility of redeeming his ancestors from a sage’s curse. He therefore did penance for a 1000 years and got Ganga to the earth. But the force with which she fell was immense and the earth could not withstand her force. This time, it was Lord shiva to the resuce. He caught her and locked her in his matted hair.
Bhageeratha did penance for yet another 1000 years and requested Lord Shiva to release her. Shiva let her go as a very small stream. This small stream flows with such ferocious force on the earth. She falls as the river Alakananda in Bharath. One must see the force with she comes down the Himalayas. We have to thank Lord shiva for having let her as a “small stream”.
She is known by various names depending on the course she flowed and interesting incidents that she came across. She is called Janhavi, Bhishma janani, Sureshwari, Bhaageerathi, Alakananda etc. Shri. Adi Shankara has paid a rich tribute to this goddess through a beautiful composition called “Ganga Storam”. One can learn and chant this everyday for the well being of all in this world.
She is the giver of life to us. Isn’t it our responsibility to take care of her and show our gratitude to her? She provides livelihood to all people in this country and we corrupt her in so many ways. While we take so much care to keep our house clean, our body hygienic, and neighborhood healthy, why then do we ignore the river which gives us life? It won’t take long for her to show her anger on us but she is patience personified and is taking in all that we do. Before she vents her anger on us, let us rectify ourselves and give her back to her what she has given us. Else it sure is a self dug grave.
I have pasted the Ganga stotram down for those who want to learn. It is set to a beautiful tune. One can google for the tune and learn it.
jaya jaya gaìge jaya hara gaìge jaya jaya gaìge jaya hara gaìge |
1. devi sureshvari bhagavati gaìge tribhuvana-taariëi tarala-taraìge |
shaìkara-mauli-vihaariëi vimale mama mati-raastaam tava pada-kamale ||
2. baagee-rathi sukha-daayini maata-stava jala mahimaa nigame khyaataha |
naaham jaane tava mahimaanam paahi kripaa-mayi maama-gyaanam ||
3. hari-pada paadya ta-raìgiëi gaìge hima-vidhu muktaa dhavala taraìge |
dooree kuru mama duñhkriti bhaaram kuru kripayaa bhava-saagara paaram ||
4. tava jala-mamalam yena nipeetam parama-padam khalu tena griheetam |
maatar gaìge tvayi yo bhaktah kila tam drañhöum na yamah shaktaha ||
5. patitod-dhaariëi jaahnavi gaìge khaëòita-girivara-maëòita bhaìge |
bheeñhma janani he munivara kanye patitani-vaariëi tribhuvana dhanye ||
6. kalpa-la-taamiva phaladaam loke praëamati yastvaam na patati shoke |
paaraa-vaara vihaariëi gaìge vimukha yuvati krita taralaa-paaìge ||
7. tava chen-maatah strotah snaatah punarapi jaöhare so’pi na jaataha |
narakani-vaariëi jaahnavi gaìge kaluñha-vinaashini mahimot-tuìge ||
8. puna-rasa-daìge puëya-taraìge jaya jaya jaahnavi karuëaa-paaìge |
indra-mukuöa-maëi-raajita charaëe sukhade shubhade bhritya sharaëye ||
9. rogam shokam taapam paapam hara me bhagavati kumati kalaapam |
tribhuvana saare vasudhaa hare tvamasi gatir-mama khalu samsaare ||
10. alak-aanande param-aanande kuru karuëaa-mayi kaatara vandye |
tava taöa nikaöe yasya nivaasah khalu vaikuëöhe tasya nivaasaha ||
11. vara-miha neere kamaöho meenah kim vaa teere sharaöah ksheeëaha |
athavaa shvapacho malino deena-stava na hi doore nripati-kuleenaha ||
12. bho bhuvaneshvari puëye dhanye devi dravamayi munivara kanye |
jaya jaya gaìge jaya hara gaìge jaya jaya gaìge jaya hara gaìge ||
jaya jaya gaìge jaya hara gaìge jaya jaya gaìge jaya hara gaìge |
Victory to Ganga; Victory to Shiva!
1. Goddess Ganga, you are the divine river from heaven, you are the saviour of all the three
worlds, you are pure and restless, you adorn Lord Shiva’s head. Mother, may my mind always
rest at your lotus feet.
2. Mother Bhagirathi, you give happiness to everyone. The significance of your holy waters is
sung in the Vedas. I am ignorant and not capable of comprehending your importance. Devi, you
are full of mercy, please protect me.
3. Devi, your waters are as sacred as the “Charanamriti” of Sri Hari. Your waves are white like
snow, moon and pearls. Please wash away all my sins and help me cross this ocean of samsara.
4. Mother, those who partake of your pure waters definitely attain the highest state. Mother Ganga,
even Yama, the Lord of death, cannot harm your devotees.
5. Jahnavi, your waters flowing through the Himalayas make you even more beautiful. You are
Bhishma’s mother, and sage Jahnu’s daughter. You are the saviour of people who have fallen
from their path, and so you are revered in all three worlds.
6. Mother, you fulfill all the desires of those devoted to you. Those who bow down to you do not
have to grieve. Ganga, you are eager to merge with the ocean, just like a young woman anxious
to meet her beloved.
7. Mother, those who bathe in your waters do not have to take birth again. Jahnavi, you are held in
the highest esteem. You destroy your devotees’ sins and save them from hell.
8. Jahnavi, you are full of compassion. You purify your devotees with your holy waters. Your feet
are adorned with the gems of Indra’s crown. Those who seek refuge in you are blessed with
9. Bhagavati, take away my diseases, sorrows, difficulties, sins and wrong attitudes. You are the
essence of the three worlds and you are like a necklace around the Earth. Devi, you alone are
my refuge in this Samsara.
10. Ganga, those who seek happiness worship you. You are the source of happiness for Alkapuri
and the source of eternal bliss. Those who reside on your banks are as privileged as those living
11. Devi, it is better to live in your waters as a turtle or fish, or to live on your banks as the poor,
rather than to live away from you, even as a wealthy king.
12. Goddess of the Univers, you purify us. Daughter of Muni Jahnu, one who recites this Ganga
Stotram every day, definitely will achieve success.