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The River That Gives Liberation To The Soul

The Ganges, or Ganga, is a major river flowing through India, Bangladesh and Nepal. The 2,510 kilometer river has its source in the Himalayas at a place called Gangotri. The streams are fed by melting snow and ice glaciers including those from peaks such as Nanda Devi and Kamet. Since time immemorial Indians have been worshipping her in her deity form as Mother Ganga, who rides on an alligator.

The Ganga travels a distance of 200 kilometers through the Himalayas before emerging at the pilgrimage town of Haridwar. There a dam diverts some of its waters into the Ganges Canal, which links the Ganga with its main tributary, the Yamuna, which is also considered by Indians to be a divine river with a personality as well. At that point the Ganga changes its course from a southwestern to a southeastern direction along the northern plains.

At the meeting point of the Ganga and the Yamuna at Prayag, according to ssacred scriptures, a third river known as the Saraswati is said to meet them. That point is also known as Sangam.

Bathing in the Ganga is very sacred. It destroys all sins. Some believe that the benefits are obtained by bathing in her water at any time while others prefer to select particular occasions to dip in her water. By leaving the body in the Ganga, the departed soul attains heaven. People also bring the ashes of their kin to the Ganga to liberate them from abominable conditions in their next life and to send them to a better destination.

Hindus also believe that life is incomplete without bathing in the Ganga. At least one bath is reccommended. Families also keep a pot of her sacred water in their houses as a sign of auspiciousness. Also if omeone is dying, by giving the person a few drops of her water before death we can liberate that person’s soul.

The ancient scriptures mention that the Ganga emanates from the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu and that she carries the dust of the feet of the Lord ; hence Mother Ganga is also known as Vishnupadi, which means “Emanating from the Lotus feet of Supreme Lord Sri Vishnu.” Some of the most important ritualistic festivals are celebrated on the banks of the Ganga, such as the Kumbh Mela and the Chhat Puja.

Varanasi has hundreds of temples along the banks of the Ganga which often become flooded during the rainy season. This city, especially along the banks of the Ganga, is an important place of worship for the Hindus as well as a cremation ground. It is sometimes referred to as the most important place of pilgrimage.

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