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River Ganges
About River Ganges

The Ganges also Ganga is a trans-boundary river of India and Bangladesh. The 2,525 km river rises in the western Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, and flows south and east through the Gangetic Plain of North India into Bangladesh, where it empties into the Bay of Bengal. It is the third largest river in the World by discharge.The Ganges is the most sacred river to Hindus and is also a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. It is worshipped as the goddess Ganga in Hinduism. It has also been important historically: many former provincial or imperial capitals have been located on its banks.

Ganges River in India is one of the holiest and most honored rivers in the world. It is as famous as the Taj Mahal. The Ganges plays an iconic religious role in the lives of India’s people. It is dignified in the culture of Hindus and continuously summoned by the Puranas and the Veda, as well as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It is the longest of the rivers in India and the largest body of water in India. The larger part of the Ganges flows through India while the rest continues through Bangladesh. Initialized high up in the Himalaya Mountains, Ganges River facts disclose the flow commences inside a 10,000-foot ice cave and continues on across the northernmost corner of the country. After its continuous flow through both countries, the Ganges empties into the Bay of Bengal.

Although Ganges River cruises are an exceptionally popular with tourists on India vacations, the greatest importance is placed on the necessities provided for millions of people. It is an important spiritual gathering place first and foremost and the ways in which it is used are countless- drinking, bathing, agricultural fulfillment, transportation, and performing baptisms are the key usages of the Ganges River. An endless array of industries also rely on the Ganges, including textiles, paper, and leather among many more, for washing, cleaning, and much more.

Ganges River facts enthrall and draw people from all over the world to see for themselves the honored river and what lies in the surrounding layers. Exploring it is the main attraction. Ganges River cruises and rafting trips are intended to bring to light life along the river, but are also considered a decisive adventure which has changed lives.

There are many Ganges River facts to consider when planning adventures revolving around the waterway. At almost 1600 miles long, the Ganges offers incredible opportunity for rafting trips and cruises. Two river contributories create the Ganges River at their convergence; the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers join at Devprayag, creating Ganga Ma, or Mother Ganges. The largest tributary is the Yamuna River, which means there are several rivers ideal for rafting in addition to the Ganges. The largest delta known in the world is called Sundarban which lies at the Ganges River's mouth and is a major point of exploration for adventurous tourists, particularly The Sajnakhali Tiger Sanctuary within Sundarban National Park.

One famous route for Ganges River tours remains the one beginning in Allahabad and ending in Varanasi. Both locations are main pilgrimage sites with 2000-year-old civilizations. Of all sections of the well-known Ganges, these two areas are the most vibrant and interesting. Ancient temples, people of all ages, scenic countryside, and river islands contribute to draw the Ganges extracts. Major attractions to see during tours on the Ganges River include the hanging bridge, Lakshman Jhula and the iron bridge Ram Jhula in Rishikesh, Ganga Aarti (religious ceremonies), countless temples, and other religious sites and events.


The Indian subcontinent lies atop the Indian tectonic plate which is a minor plate within the Indo-Australian Plate. Its defining geological processes commenced about seventy-five million years ago, when, as a part of the southern supercontinent Gondwana, it began a northeastwards drift-lasting fifty million years across the unformed Indian Ocean. The subcontinent's successive collision with the Eurasian Plate and subduction under it, gave rise to the Himalayas, the planet's highest mountains. In the former seabed immediately south of the emerging Himalayas, plate movement created a vast trough, which gradually has been filled with deposits which are borne by the Indus and its tributaries and the Ganges and its tributaries, now forms the Indo-Gangetic Plain. The Indo-Gangetic Plain is geologically known as a foredeep or foreland basin.


The Ganges begins at the convergence of the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers. The Bhagirathi is considered to be the true source in Hindu culture and mythology, although the Alaknanda is longer. The headwaters of the Alakananda are formed by snowmelt from such peaks as Nanda Devi, Trisul, and Kamet. The Bhagirathi rises at the foot of Gangotri Glacier, at Gaumukh, at an altitude of 3,892 m.

Although many small streams comprise the headwaters of the Ganges, the six longest and their five confluences are considered sacred. The six headstreams are the Alaknanda, Dhauliganga, Nandakini, Pindar, Mandakini, and Bhagirathi rivers. The five confluences, known as the Panch Prayag, are all along the Alaknanda. They are, in downstream order, Vishnuprayag, where the Dhauliganga joins the Alaknanda; Nandprayag, where the Nandakini joins; Karnaprayag, where the Pindar joins, Rudraprayag, where the Mandakini joins; and finally, Devprayag, where the Bhagirathi joins the Alaknanda to form the Ganges River proper.

After flowing 250 kilometres through its narrow Himalayan valley, the Ganges emerges from the mountains at Rishikesh, then debouches onto the Gangetic Plain at the pilgrimage town of Haridwar. At Haridwar, a dam diverts some of its waters into the Ganges Canal, which irrigates the Doab region of Uttar Pradesh, whereas the river, whose course has been roughly southwest until this point, now begins to flow southeast through the plains of northern India.

The Ganges follows an 800-kilometre arching course passing through the cities of Kannauj, Farukhabad, and Kanpur. Along the way it is joined by the Ramganga, which contributes an average annual flow of about 500 m/s . The Ganges joins the Yamuna at the Triveni Sangam at Allahabad which is a holy convergence in Hinduism. At their confluence the Yamuna is larger than the Ganges, contributing about 2,950 m3/s (104,000 cu ft/s), or about 58.5% of the combined flow. The Kosi is the third largest tributary of the Ganges, after the Ghaghara(Karnali) and Yamuna.

After entering Bangladesh, the main branch of the Ganges is known as the Padma. The Padma is joined by the Jamuna River which is the largest distributary of the Brahmaputra. Further downstream, the Padma joins the Meghna River which is the second largest distributary of the Brahmaputra, and takes on the Meghna's name as it enters the Meghna Estuary, which empties into the Bay of Bengal. The Ganges Delta was formed mainly by the large, sediment-laden flows of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, it is the world's largest delta, at about 59,000 km2. It stretches 322 km along the Bay of Bengal.


The Late Harappan period, about 1900–1300 BCE, saw the spread of Harappan settlement eastward from the Indus River basin to the Ganges-Yamuna doab, although none crossed the Ganges to settle its eastern bank. The breakdown of the Harappan civilization, in the early 2nd millennium BC, mark the point when the center of Indian civilization shifted from the Indus basin to the Ganges basin. There may be links between the Late Harappan settlement of the Ganges basin and the archaeological culture known as "Cemetery H", the Indo-Aryan people, and the Vedic period.

This river is the longest in India. During the early Vedic Age of the Rigveda, the Indus and the Sarasvati River were the major holy rivers, not the Ganges. But the later three Vedas give much more importance to the Ganges. The Gangetic Plain became the centre of successive powerful states, from the Maurya Empire to the Mughal Empire. The first European traveler to mention the Ganges was Megasthenes (ca. 350–290 BCE).

In 1951 a water sharing dispute arose between India and Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), after India declared its intention to build the Farakka Barrage. The original purpose of the barrage, which was completed in 1975, was to divert up to 40,000 cu ft/s of water from the Ganges to the Bhagirathi-Hooghly distributary in order to restore navigability at the Port of Kolkata.

Physical features

The Ganges rises in the southern Himalayas on the Indian side of the border with the Tibet Autonomous region of China. Its five headstreams—the Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Mandakini, Pindar and Dhauliganga all rise in the northern mountainous region of Uttarakhand state. Of these, the two main headstreams are the Alaknanda (the longer of the two), which rises about 30 miles north of the Himalayan peak of Nanda Devi, and the Bhagirathi, which originates about 3,000 metres above sea level in a subglacial meltwater cave at the base of the Himalayan glacier known as Gangotri. Gangotri itself is a holy place for Hindu pilgrimage. The true source of the Ganges, however, is considered to be at Gaumukh which is about 13 miles (21 km) southeast of Gangotri.

The Alaknanda and Bhagirathi unite at Devaprayag to form the main stream known as the Ganga, which cuts through the Outer (southern) Himalayas to emerge from the mountains at Rishikesh. It then flows onto the plain at Haridwar, another place held sacred by the Hindus.

The volume of the Ganges increases markedly as it receives more tributaries and enters a region of heavier rainfall, and it shows a marked seasonal variation in flow. From April to June the melting Himalayan snows feed the river, while in the rainy season from July to September the rain-bearing monsoons cause floods. During winter the river’s flow declines. South of Haridwar, now within the state of Uttar Pradesh, the river receives the principal right-bank tributaries of the Yamuna River, which flows through the Delhi capital region to join the Ganges near Allahabad, and the Tons, which flows north from the Vindhya Range in Madhya Pradesh state and joins the Ganges just below Allahabad. The main left-bank tributaries in Uttar Pradesh are the Ramganga, the Gomati, and the Ghaghara.

Religious and cultural significance

Embodiment of sacredness
The Ganges is the embodiment of all sacred waters in Hindu mythology. Local rivers are said to be like the Ganges, and are sometimes called the local Ganges (Ganga). The Kaveri river of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in Southern India is called the Ganges of the South; the Godavari, is the Ganges that was led by the sage Gautama to flow through Central India. The Ganges is invoked whenever water is used in Hindu ritual, and is therefore present in all holy waters. Nothing is more exciting for a Hindu in spite of this, than a dip in the actual river, especially at one of the famous tirthas such as Haridwar, Gangotri, Prayag, or Varanasi.

The Ganges is a sacred river to Hindus along every portion of its length. All along its course, Hindus bathe in its waters, paying reverence to their ancestors and to their gods by cupping the water in their hands, lifting it and letting it fall back into the river; they offer flowers and rose petals and float thin clay dishes filled with oil and lit with wicks (diyas). On the journey back home from the Ganges, they carry small quantities of river water with them for use in rituals (Ganga jal, literally water of the Ganga). When a loved one dies, Hindus bring the ashes of the deceased person to the Ganges River.

The symbolic and religious importance of the Ganges is one of the few things that Hindu India, even its skeptics, are agreed upon. Jawaharlal Nehru, a religious iconoclast himself, asked for a handful of his ashes to be thrown into the Ganges. "The Ganga," he wrote in his will, "is the river of India, beloved of her people, round which are interlinked her ethnic memories, her hopes and fears, her songs of triumph, her victories and her defeats. She has been a symbol of India's age-long culture and civilization, ever-changing, ever-flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga."

Redemption of the Dead

Since Ganga had descended from heaven to earth, she is also the vehicle of ascent, from earth to heaven. As the Triloka-patha-gamini, (Skt. triloka= "three worlds", patha = "road", gamini= "one who travels") of the Hindu tradition, she flows in heaven, earth, and the netherworld, and, consequently, is a "tirtha," or crossing point of all beings, the living as well as the dead. It is for this reason that the story of the avatarana is told at Shraddha ceremonies for the deceased in Hinduism, and Ganges water is used in Vedic rituals after death. Among all songs devoted to the Ganges, there are none more popular than the ones expressing the worshipers wish to breathe his last surrounded by her waters.

No place along her banks is more longed for at the moment of death by Hindus than Varanasi, the Great Cremation Ground, or Mahashmshana. Those who are lucky enough to die in Varanasi, are cremated on the banks of the Ganges, and are granted instant salvation. If the death has occurred elsewhere, salvation can be achieved by immersing the ashes in the Ganges. If the ashes have been immersed in another body of water, a relative can still gain salvation for the deceased by journeying to the Ganges, if possible during the lunar "fortnight of the ancestors" in the Hindu calendar month of Ashwin (September or October), and performing the Shraddha rites.

Hindus also perform pinda pradana, a rite for the dead, in which balls of rice and sesame seed are offered to the Ganges while the names of the deceased relatives are recited.

Avatarana or Descent of the Ganges

In late May or early June every year, Hindus celebrate the avatarana or descent of the Ganges from heaven to earth. The day of the celebration, Ganga Dashahara, the dashami (tenth day) of the waxing moon of the Hindu calendar month Jyestha, brings crowds of bathers to the banks of the river. A bathe in the Ganges on this day is said to rid the bather of ten sins or ten lifetimes of sins. Those who cannot journey to the river, however, can achieve the same results by bathing in any nearby body of water, which, for the true believer, in the Hindu tradition, takes on all the attributes of the Ganges.

The avatarana is an old theme in Hinduism with a number of different versions of the story. In the Vedic version, Indra, the Lord of Svarga (Heaven) kills the celestial serpent, Vritra, releasing the celestial liquid, the soma, or the nectar of the gods which then throws to the earth and waters it with sustenance.

In the Vaishnava version of the myth, Indra has been replaced by his former helper Vishnu. The heavenly waters are now a river called Vishnupadi. As he completes his celebrated three paces-of earth, sky, and heaven-Vishnu as Vamana stubs his toe on the vault of heaven, punches open a hole, and releases the Vishnupadi, which until now had been circling around the cosmic egg within. Flowing out of the vault, she falls down to Indra's heaven, where she is received by Dhruva, the once steadfast worshipper of Vishnu, now fixed in the sky as the polestar. Next, she streams across the sky forming the Milky Way and arrives on the moon.She then flows down earthwards to Brahma's land, a divine lotus atop Mount Meru, whose petals form the earthly continents.There, the divine waters break up, with one stream, the Alaknanda, flowing down one petal into Bharatvarsha (India) as the Ganges.

It is Shiva, however, among the major deities of the Hindu pantheon, who appears in the most widely known version of the avataranastory. In honour of Bhagirath's pivotal role in the avatarana, the source stream of the Ganges in the Himalayas is named Bhagirathi.

The purifying Ganges

Hindus consider the waters of the Ganges to be both pure and purifying. Nothing retrieves order from disorder more than the waters of the Ganges. Moving water, as in a river, is considered purifying in Hindu culture because it is thought to both absorb impurities and take them away.The rapidly moving Ganges, especially in its upper reaches, where a bather has to grasp an anchored chain in order to not be carried away, is considered very purifying. What the Ganges removes, however, is not necessarily physical dirt, but symbolic dirt; it wipes away the sins of the bather, not just of the present, but of a lifetime.

Ganga is a consort to all three major male deities of Hinduism. As Brahma's partner she always travels with him in the form of water in his kamandalu (water-pot). She is also Vishnu's consort.

The Ganges is also the mother, the Ganga Mata (mata="mother") of Hindu worship and culture, accepting all and forgiving all. Unlike other goddesses, she has no destructive or terrible aspect, destructive though she might be as a river in nature. She is also a mother to other gods. The Ganges is the extracted lifeblood of the Hindu tradition, of its divinities, holy books, and enlightenment. As such, her worship does not require the usual rites of incantation at the beginning and dismissal at the end, required in the worship of other gods. Her divinity is immediate and eternal.



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