Ganga Dussehra-Celebration of Ganga Avatarana

Ganga Dussehra, also known as Gangavataran, is an important Hindu festival celebrating the avatarana of Ganga. Ganga (the Ganges) is considered the holiest river in Hinduism and is referred to as ‘Mother’. It is believed that when Mother Ganga descended from heaven to earth, it was the tenth day of the Shuklapaksha in the month of Jyeshtha. Therefore, Ganga Dussehra or Gangavataran is celebrated every year on the tenth day of Jyeshtha Shuklapaksha.

According to Hindu mythology, Ganga is an important goddess. When Vishnu was partially dissolved by himself after hearing Mahadev’s song at the request of Narada, Brahma held the dissolved part of Vishnu in his Kamandalu. This dissolved part of Vishnu is known as Ganga. For this reason the Ganges is also known as Anghrija.

According to the Brahmavaivarta Purana, Vishnu had three wives- Lakshmi, Saraswati and Ganga. Once Vishnu became particularly attracted to the Ganga. Saraswati could not bear it and cursed Ganga to be thrown as a river. Ganga also cursed Saraswati to be thrown as a river. Then both came to the earth as rivers.

While trying to rescue the horse of Ashwamedha Yajna of Sagar king of Ayodhya, his sixty thousand sons were burnt to ashes by the anger of Kapil Muni. Sagar’s grandson Anshuman rescued that horse and came to know the way to rescue the burnt Sagar-sons. The way was – if Ganga of heaven could be brought to earth and flowed over this ashes, then these sons would be alive. Later, Bhagiratha satisfied Brahma by severe austerities and was allowed to bring Ganga to earth. But fearing that the earth might be destroyed during the descent of the Ganga, Ganga prayed to Bhagiratha for a refuge. Bhagiratha did austerities to Mahadeva for suitable support. Satisfied with Bhagiratha’s austerities, Mahadeva spread his braids to contain the strong current of Ganga. As Mahadeva held Ganga in his matted hair, he is also known as Gangadhar. Then Ganga came down to earth following the order of Brahma. When Mahadeva left the Ganga at Bindu Sarovar, she flowed westwards – Hladini, Pabni, Nalini – east Suchakshu, Sita, Indus and Bhagiratha.

When Ganga was desperate to get Jahnu Muni as her husband, Jahnu refused. As a result, angry Ganga swept away Jahnumuni’s ashram and the sacrificial instruments in his path. In retaliation, Jahnu drank all the water of Ganga. Later, when Bhagiratha and other deities satisfied Jahnu Muni with austerities, he freed Ganga. As Jahnu gave life to Ganga, Ganga became like Jahnu’s daughter. From then on, the other name of Ganga is Jahnavi.

Then Ganga entered the abyss following Bhagiratha. It is mentionable that the section of Ganga that had entered the abyss is called Bhogavati. There she flowed over the ashes of the King Sagar’s sons and they became alive. Then Ganga became the eldest daughter of Bhagiratha with the blessings of Brahma. That is why her name is Bhagirathi.

Some more sexual acts of the Ganga can be noticed before or after being rejected by Jahnu Muni. In heaven Ganga once fell in love with Vishnu and expressed it to Vishnu. At this time Radha became dissatisfied and started drinking Ganga. Knowing this, Ganga hid under Krishna’s feet. Later, at the request of Brahma, Krishna married Ganga according to Gandharva. [Brahmavaivartta, Prakriti Khand, Chapter XII]

Once under the curse of Vasishta Muni, Basugans had to be born as human beings. Ganga first expressed interest in meeting Pratip and sat on Pratip’s right thigh. Pratip ignored the proposal considering her as daughter-in-law and proposed her marriage to his (Pratip) son Shantanu. Ganga agreed to this proposal and waited. Later, when Shantanu became king, Ganga came to King Shantanu dressed as a beautiful woman. When Shantanu was anxious to get Ganga. She married him conditionally. Ganga gave birth seven sons, who were Basugans. Later she gave birth to Bhishma, the famous hero of Mahabharata. She made Bhishma an expert in omniscience for 36 years and gave her back to her husband Shantanu.

Ganga is the Param Tirtha in Kali Yuga. Especially all the scriptures say this. In the Mahabharata, sage Pulastya chanted to Bhisma – ‘…the land on the banks of the Ganga is Tapoban and Siddha Tirtha’. Ganga is the Vedic river. In one of the verses of Rigveda, the name of Ganga is found along with Jamuna, Saraswati, Shatudri, Parushni, Asikli, Marutvrdha, Bitsta, Sushoma and Arjikia rivers (Rigveda-10/85/05). All Hindus should observe the auspicious day of Ganga Dussehra properly.

By Krishna Das


Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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