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The Ganga is the holiest river for the Hindus. In fact, the river ganges is given the status of a Goddess in Hinduism. To what does this river owe its divine status? There is an interesting Hindu mythical story to answer this question.
Who Was Ganga?
The birth of Ganga actually happened in the heavenly abode. Goddess Ganga was the daughter of Mount Himalaya. The birth of Ganga took place from the pot of water with which Bramha had washed Lord Vishnu's feet. Her celestial waters flowed only in Swarga or heaven until a pressing matter on Earth made her descend to the Earth.
The Curse Of Ganga:
The sage Durvasa was notorious for his foul temper and was quick to curse. The ill-fated Ganga incurred his wrath by laughing loudly when the wind blew away his 'angawastram' (cloth covering the body). Durvasa cursed Ganga that she would be washing the sins of humans forever. The river Ganges that flows in India is an incarnation of the Goddess herself as she continues to live out the curse till this day.
The Curse Of The Vasus
The Vasus were celestial being who were attendants in lord Indra's (King of Gods) court. The Vasus were cursed by sage Vaishtha for stealing his wish-fulfilling cow Nandini. They would happen to endure the pains of a human life. So when they heard of Ganga's curse, they implored her to be their mother and kill them as soon as they were born. She agreed and when Ganga married King Shantanu she drowned her first seven children. The 8th child was Bhishma and he lived because the King did not allow Ganga to drown his last child.
A great king Sagar decided to do the Ashwamedhya yagna (sacrifice) but the scarifical horse was stolen by Indra who did not wish this ritual to be complete. To mislead King Sagar's 60 thousand sons, Indra ties the horse next to sage Kapila's, who was deep in meditation. The Princes set fire to the sage's abode thinking that he was the thief. In a fit of rage, Kapila turned the princes to ash and decreed that only if the waters of the celestial Ganga wash over these ashes only then their souls will reach heaven.
Bhagirath was the grandson of King Sagar who went through years of stiff penance to gain Bramha's favour. Bramha agreed to allow the birth of Ganga as a river but said that her force and volume would destroy the Earth. So, Bhagirath now turned to Shiva for help. Shiva thus received Ganga in the knotted hair on his head and released a part of her as the sacred river Ganges. As Bhagirath was responsible for the birth of Ganga on Earth she is called Bhagirathi at her source.
There are many Hindu myths surrounding the birth of Ganga. Do you know any others?