The river of life - Part 1
Ganga has some deeper and hidden connections in my life. It dates back to when I was almost 4 or 5 years old and use to throw coins in the river whenever we crossed the Ganga Bridge at Kanpur. But that was a fun task for me, as my only motive was to ensure that the coin reached the river, from a moving car, without bothering much about the reason. But let’s rewind and know why did I throw coin in the river? Weird! Actually it’s a belief or you could say a custom in Brahmins to offer some money, out of respect, to the holy river whenever you were in close proximity. At that point in time I was completely unaware of this fact and it was merely a target for me to achieve. But unknowingly I guess these were the values which were automatically imbibed in me as easily as, getting accustomed to touching elder’s feet. But the actual sense of realization came when I visited Rishikesh in 2009. I was completely mesmerized by the grandeur of the river and I just fell in love with Ganga. The river turned into a soulful, lively inspiration for me rather than just a water body. It attracted my imagination and lead me to reach it one of its mystical source, Gaumukh.
India is the only place where air and fire, trees and animals, mountains and rivers are depicted as God. And one of these powerful deities is the River Ganga. She is the water goddess who blesses thousands in the Northern India. For centuries she has shaped up the plains and relieved the parched land by its mighty waters. It flows for 2500 km through the gangetic plains before meeting the Bay of Bengal at Gangasagar. The cycles of birth, death and rebirth are endlessly played out around her. And through these two kinds of worlds: the natural and the spiritual world, flows the river of life, Ganga.
India has many sacred rivers, but it is the Ganga which lies in the heart and soul of the people. As goddess, Ganga originally watered the gardens of heavens but its powers were needed on earth to purify and cleanse the souls. The impact of her descent would have destroyed the earth, therefore lord Shiva caught the river in his hairs and channeled the flow into hundreds lesser streams. The source of Ganga is of great significance as in Hindus it is considered to be the crossing point between earth and heaven. River Bhagirathi, originating from the Gangotri glacier is considered to be the source of Ganga in Hindu culture and mythology but some consider Alaknanda to be the true source, geographically. Flowing through the majestic Himalayas, the two rivers meet at Devprayag to form Ganga. Hindus believe a holy dip into the river can wash away all your sins and lead you to Moksha- liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Such is the grandeur of this river. It has some of the holiest places of India along its bank, which draws Hindu pilgrims from all over the sub-continent to celebrate and worship the divine river goddess.
Before coming to Haridwar, the river is wild and its sources and tributaries are full of mysteries. Its only here, that it takes a shape of one powerful river which enters a very different, a very human world. In which her sacred waters cleans cities, irrigate fields and purifies the body as well as the souls of millions. From here it moves into its next stage to start its epic journey to the sea.
Ganga, The river of Life.