For long, Ganges has symbolized India. This is not mere a river but also a lifeline in itself. The river has nourished and lent succor to the Indian civilization that has flourished along its course. Even the pre-historic details confirm that Aryan hordes started settling alongside the Ganges first. In a period when the sheer survival of people used to be on stake, Ganga was the only respite for the flourishing of human race. No wonder, Ganga has a statue of goddess in the Hindu society and is seen as a sustainer in Indian society as a whole.
The story of Ganges is no less interesting than the river itself.
According to the Hindu mythology King Sager had 60,000 sons. He defeated
all the demons in the earth and wanted to stage an Ashwamedha Yagya to
declare his supremacy. For this, as was the practice prevalent in
ancient times, he sent his horse across the earth accompanied by his
sons. The King of Heaven, Lord Indira feared the power of King Sager and
to stop him, he stole the horse and tied it to the ashram of Sage Kapil.
When the 60,000 sons saw the horse in Kapil' s ashram they got furious
and started to attack the hermitage. Sage Kapil was in deep meditation
and on hearing the disturbance he opened his eyes in anger and all the
60,000 sons of King Sager were reduced to ashes. King Sager asked for
forgiveness. Sage Kapil told him that the sons could be brought to life
only if Ganga is brought from heaven to earth. He started meditating
intensely for several years and finally Ganga got pleased and descended
to the earth. To prevent the earth from flooding, Lord Shiva received
Ganga on his matted locks and released Ganga from his locks in seven
streams. The water of Ganga touched the ashes of Sager sons who rose to
the their eternal rest in heaven. This is precisely because Ganges is
seen as the provider of salvation for the human being.
Ganges starts its journey from a place called Gomukh. It is actually a
glacier that looks like the head of a cow. There are actually seven
different streams that form Ganges. Two major streams named Alakhnanda
and Mandakani merge at a place called Rudra Prayag that in turn
confluence with Bhagirathi at Dev Prayag to form Ganges. It flows to the
Holy town of Rishikesh forming rapids that are suitable for white-water
rafting. Haridwar is the first town in the plains that is enriched by
Ganges. The place is spot for Kumbh fair that takes place every 12
years. It then flows to the holy town Gadh Mukteshwar. This is the
closest Ganga ever flows near New Delhi.
Ganges then travels to the industrial town of Kanpur whose industries
flourishes on the dose from this river. It moves to Allahabad that is
considered as one of the most religious centers in India. Here river
Yamuna joins it to give it a even broader flow. The confluence is famous
for the Kumbh Fair that takes place every 12 years. Then comes the city
of Vishwanath, Banaras. In its whole course, this is the first place
where Ganga flows northwards. This is considered auspicious and that is
why the city has a special place in the hearts of devotees.
Ganga enters the state of Bihar near Dehri-on-son. Chambel and Betwa
rivers join it during this course. Patna is the first major town that
falls on its map. It is situated on the confluence of Son and Ganges.
The stream of Ganga gets wider and wider as its tributaries start
joining it. Close to Patna is Hajipur where Gandak joins Ganga and
almost doubles it flow. Bhagalpur is another town apart from Varanasi
where Ganges flows northward for a brief period. Ganga enters Bengal and
a distributaries of it, is christened Hoogly. The imperial capital of
Calcutta is situated on its banks. Various small tributaries in the
middle join it before it enters Bangladesh and re-christened Padma. In
Bangladesh intimidating Brahamputra joins it and the resultant river is
named Meghna. It starts breaking up into distributaries before it joins
the Bay of Bengal creating a delta named Sunderban.