Goddess Ganga was first mentioned in the Rigveda texts and has her appearances in the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. She is considered a personification of purity and forgiveness. She is a delightful woman who is known to be riding Makara. She is the embodiment of River Ganga which is considered to purify your soul and destroy all the sins one commits in life.
There are plenty of interesting stories to tell of Goddess Ganga, one of which is very crucial and comes to our notice in the Mahabharata. King Shantanu fell in love with Goddess Ganga and asked her to marry him. She accepted his proposal only at one cost. He would never question any of her actions or ask her any questions. He agreed and they got married. They were living happily until one day. Ganga bore a child and as soon as the child was born, she drowned him in the river. Shantanu was shocked and sad but did not question her remembering his promise.
This kept repeating over time. One after the other Ganga drowned the newborn babies. People started speaking about this act and one day, one of King Shantanu’s soldiers asked him to confront her.
Tired and sorrowful of his son’s deaths, King Shantanu decided to ask Ganga the reason for committing such a crime. This day happened to be the day his 8th son was born, Bhishma. Shantanu refused for Bhishma to meet the same fate as his brothers had done before him. Ganga became furious and decided to end her samsara with King Shantanu. What was the reason behind this? Let’s understand from a story:
Vasus while wandering a forest came across the desire fulfilling cow, Kamdhenu and decided to steal her. To their dismay, the owner of the cow, Vashishta came to know of their crime and gave them a curse to be born as mortals on earth. Vasus pleaded to Vashistha to which Vashishta said that the 7 vasus would be free of their mortal forms within a year of birth and only Prabhasa would pay the full penalty. Prabhasa who happens to be the eighth son of Ganga and King Shantanu goes on to live and experiences all the happiness and sorrows that the mortal world has to offer.
Ganga in the epic of Ramayana is described as the firstborn of the King of Himalayas, Himavat and a sister of Parvati. Ganga was ordered by Brahma to go to earth and fulfil her duties. She finds it very insulting and decides to destroy the earth while falling from heaven. Bhagiratha requests Lord Shiva to calm her down. Ganga falls on to Shiva’s head and Shiva traps her in his Jata (locks) securely. He manages to calm her down and she understands her purpose. Ganga creates her route to be present in Heaven, Earth and Hell.
She is also known as Janhavi. It is often believed that Ganga will completely dry up by the end of Kali Yug which happens to be the last cycle of human life on earth before everything is restored again in the Satya Yuga. Ganga is considered to be a purification source for many pilgrims.