Ganges River:The Ganges has been a symbol of India's age-long culture and civilization, ever changing, ever flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga. Jawaharlal Nehru, First Prime Minister of India, born in Allahabad on the Ganges.
Background: The river known as the Ganges is officially and popularly known by its Hindu name, Ganga. The river Ganges is very sacred to the Hindus. The river has its source in the Himalayas, at Gaumakh in the southern Himalayas on the Indian side of the Tibetan border. It is 1 560 miles (2 510 km) long and flows through China, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The Ganges river basin is one of the most fertile and densely populated in the world and covers an area of 400 000 sq miles (1 000 000 sq km). The river flows through 29 cities with population over 100,000, 23 cities with population between 50,000 and 100,000, and about 48 towns.
Ganga in The Hindu Myth:
According to Hindu mythology, Ganga flowed in the heavens but then was ordered to go down to earth. Fearing that her forceful descent might wash away the earth, the gods sought the help of Shiva. Shiva broke the fall of Ganga-Ganges by capturing her in his mighty locks. Since then, Ganga-Ganges resides on top of Shiva's head as his second wife, the first being Parvati.
Hindus regard the Ganges as the holiest of rivers. It was named after the goddess Ganga, the daughter of the mountain god Himalaya. Pilgrimage sites are particularly significant along the river. At the confluence of the Ganges and and the Tamuna tributory near Allahabad a bathing festival in January and February attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.
Other holy pilgrimage sites along the river include Haridwar, the place where the Ganges leaves the Himalayas, and Allahabad, where the mythical Saraswati river is believed to enter the Ganges. It is believed that bathing in Ganga washes away one's sins and the water cleanses you of all the evil. The Ganges water is considered to be holy and Hindus cast the ashes of their dead in the river in the belief that this will guide the souls of the deceased straight to paradise.
Along with the glory of Ganga, comes the pollution as well. The pious river has become an agent of the worst waterborn diseases like dysentery, hepatits, and cholera. Money is being raised by the government and other groups such as the Swatcha Ganga to clean the Ganges. The Ganga Action Plan was also initiated with the objective of purifying the holy river. None the less, the Ganges is still the purifying waters for the Hindus of India.