Commencing from Gangotri, of the snow capped Himalayas to flow through states of India and joining the Bay Of Bengal, the River Ganga or Gangese holds immense importance to our country. The River Ganga has been flowing since time immemorial benevolently supplying its water for irrigation and for an agricultural county like India, She has been a blessing. It is no wonder then that Ganga is not only a river but is considered a Goddess for Hindus of India. She is revered as Ganga Devi, Ganga Maa/ Ganga Maiyaetc, in different parts of India. Goddess Ganga is considered Mother of Gods.
What is Ganga Dussehra
Ganga Dussehra is a Hindu festival which venerates Ganga’s descend or ‘avatarana’ from Heaven to Earth and also called Gangavataran. In the Hindu month of Jyestha, on the 10th day of the Shukla Paksha or waxing Moon phase, Ganga Dussehra is celebrated, in India especially in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and West Bengal states. The festival is of 10 days culminating on the day of Ganga Dussehra. Cities dotting the banks of Ganga’s course or route like Varanasi, Haridwar, Patna, Garhmukteshwar, Prayagraj and Rishikesh celebrating with great fervour.
It is easy to get confused between Ganga Dussehra and Ganga Saptami. They are two different Hindu festivals and Ganga Saptami is to honour the re-birth of Goddess Ganga or the River Ganga which is celebrated on the Saptami or seventh(7th) day of the Shukla Paksha of the Vaisakha month(as per Hindu calendar).
The water of River Ganga is considered sacred and pure. The water of Ganga is used as ‘Holy Water’ in all Hindu pujas/worships and auspicious occasions to sanctify the space and all contained in it, by sprinkling Gangajal (water of Ganga). It is believed that Goddess Ganga is all forgiving and taking a dip in the holy water of the Ganga can wash away the sins of an individual. Since ancient times, it is believed that in the last moments of one’s life, even a drop of Gangajal when poured in the mouth can help the soul of the person transcend to Heaven. Worshipping Goddess Ganga blesses with good fortune.
The story of River Ganga’s descent to Earth in the Bhagavad Purana,narrates about King Bhagiratha who went through penance and praying to Lord Shiva to bring Goddess Ganga or River Ganga, to Earth to help to liberate the cursed souls of his ancestors, who were wandering the earth as ghosts. Ganga was the only one who could help as the great Sage Kapila who had cursed Bhagiratha’s ancestors, had later mentioned that the souls will be liberated only if Goddess Ganga comes down to Earth and with Her sacred water wash away their sins.
Lord Shiva was pleased with the King Bhagiratha so the King finally got his desire fulfilled.
Goddess Ganga with Her full force cascaded down to Earth. The force of Her flow was such that it would have wiped away everything on Earth. Seeing this Lord Shivacaptured Her flow in His matted hair locks and contained Her. Later Bhagirath requested Lord Shiva to release Goddess Ganga so that the souls of his ancestors could finally be released. So, it was King Bhagirath’s efforts which was responsible for the Gangavataran which took place on this auspicious day.
- It is said worshipping Goddess Ganga during the Ganga Dussehra and taking a dip in the holy water of Gangese all ten days of the festival can absolve sins of an individual, of his past 10 lives.
- Devotees also take 10 dips in the sacred river on Ganga Dussehra as it is believed that it gives salvation of 10 major sins of the individual.
- Giving donations of food and money are supposed to give the benefits of blessings of Goddess Ganga.
- On Ganga Dussehra the devotees flock to take a dip in the river in the morning.
- Many keep a fast of at least 10 hours on Ganga Dussehra.
- The famous Ghats along the Ganga, like the DashashwamedhGhat in Varanasi and other Ghats organize elaborate worship of Goddess Ganga and Aartis in the evening which is a magnificent sight to behold, with big oil/ghee lamps, with accompaniments of sound of Bells, Conch, Drums etc. and the chanting of mantras. Devotees gather to participate in the worship and Aartis. This festival has foreign tourists too, who come to experience the festival.
- Devotees float small leaf boats with lit lamps and flowers, honouring the blessed holy water of River Ganga.
The Ganga Dussehra festival has eager devotees every year who worship Goddess Ganga as the River Ganga by giving offerings, acknowledging its pious perennial flow for all the ten days.