The practices and rituals of worshiping inanimate objects in Sanatan Dharma are often accused by the atheistic community of being unscientific and fanatical. One such practice is the worship of the Ganga River which rises in the western Himalayas in the state of Uttarakhand, covers many Northern and Eastern states, and finally empties into the Bay of Bengal, journeying through the country of Bangladesh.
The sacred Ganges is a lifeline to millions of people across the globe. Hindus perform the last rites of their kinsmen, and pay homage to their ancestors, many Sanyasis perform severe austerities and penances, and many spiritual seekers have found their true purpose of life by meditating on the banks of the River Ganga. The mystery of the serine and purifying nature of the cold waters of Mother Ganga is yet to be unlocked by modern scientists. But the authoritative Vedas mention her unparalleled glories that the human society has been following and realizing since time immemorial.
25" Goddess Ganga Seated on Crocodile
The Ganges is a holy river that originates from the divine lotus feet of Lord Krishna. It descended on this planet directly from the heavenly abodes. This is the story of Bali Maharaja who was the leader of demons thousands of years ago. During this time, the demigods were suffering from the terror of the demons who forced them to retreat. The demigods in grief besought the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vishnu, for their protection and to get their kingdom back.
The Lord thus appeared on the earth as Vamandeva in the form of a dwarf Brahmana and approached Bali Maharaj. Bali Maharaj welcomed the Lord in His transcendental form as a Brahmana. His spiritual master had warned him not to offer anything to the Lord. Despite that, out of great reverence, he decided to give in charity anything to Lord Vamandeva that He desired from him. The Lord asked for only three footsteps of land from Bali Maharaj, which he happily agreed to give.
The Lord’s small body then began growing into a gigantic form until it reached the upper and lower planetary systems. With His first step, He covered the entire earth’s surface, the sky, and all the directions. With His second step, He covered the heavenly planets, reached the limit of the material world, and pierced its covering. In His third step, He placed His lotus foot upon the head of Bali Maharaj. It was during this pastime that on the request of Maharaj Bhagiratha, through the piercing of the material covering, Ganga Devi appeared and flowed down to the material planets.
भगीरथ - Bhagiratha
The Vedic scriptures are full of transcendental glories of Mother Ganga. The holy water of the Ganges is spiritually so potent that anyone who takes a bath in it, is once purified both externally and internally. Externally his body becomes immune to all kinds of diseases, and internally he develops an attachment to the lotus feet of Lord Hari.
tīrthena mūrdhny adhikṛtena śivaḥ śivo ’bhūt
dhyāyec ciraṁ bhagavataś caraṇāravindam
(Srimad Bhagavatam 3.28.22)
“The blessed Lord Śiva becomes all the more blessed by bearing on his head the holy waters of the Ganges, which has its source in the water that washed the Lord’s lotus feet. The Lord’s feet act like thunderbolts hurled to shatter the mountain of sin stored in the mind of the meditating devotee. One should therefore meditate on the lotus feet of the Lord for a long time.”
15" Gangadhara Shiva In Brass | Handmade | Made In India
“The waters of the Ganges are always carrying the flavor of Tulasi offered at the lotus feet of Sri Krishna, and as such the waters of the Ganges are ever flowing, spreading the glories of Lord Krishna. Wherever the waters of the Ganges are flowing, all will be sanctified, both externally and internally”.
(Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu, Chapter 7 )
Her divine waters are considered “Charanamirta” or the ambrosial water that washes the lotus feet of the Lord. It can purify anyone and everyone who bathes in them, or even drinks or touches them.
“O Ganga Devi, your waters are the ambrosia of love of Godhead. The mere utterance of your name invokes devotional service to the Supreme Lord. By your mercy, the living entities acquire a taste for chanting Lord Krishna’s holy name.”
(Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat)
Sri Caitanya Bhagavata
Many great sages have performed austerities on its banks, adding to the holiness of its waters. Srimad Bhagavatam was spoken by Sukadev Goswami to Parikshit Maharaj on the banks of the Ganges in an assembly of sages. Ganga Devi, the personified form, is so kind and compassionate that she decides to appear in the material world in the form of a river to sanctify the upper, middle, and lower planetary systems. It is said that she is a great devotee of Lord Krishna and is very much attached to serving His lotus feet. The Lord is Bhakta-Vatsal, which means that He sells Himself for the pure love of His devotees towards Him. Thus, anyone who glorifies and worships Mother Ganga who is a pure devotee of the Lord is sure to achieve His causeless mercy.
When it comes to examining whether the practices of Sanatan Dharma are scientifically logical, modern scientists are always ready with their tools for collecting pieces of evidence. Modern science bases its observations and results according to Pratyaksha Pramaan, which means receiving knowledge from our senses, that which we can see, hear, touch, smell, or taste. Sri Isopanisad explains that there are four common defects found in all conditioned souls. One of them is that our senses are imperfect. Hence, the knowledge that we get from direct evidence or observation is also imperfect and inaccurate. Vedic literature, however, is the perfect source of knowledge. This knowledge is directly coming down from the highest authority, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the source of everything.
The Ganges in Myth and History
Clinical studies have been able to find some breathtaking facts about the purity of the water of the Ganga River.
· When the world was facing the deadly Coronavirus Pandemic, the scientists of NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute) claimed that the waters of the Ganges contain a high number of bacteriophages, viruses that feed on disease-causing bacteria. More detailed research suggested that the Ganga water has anti-viral properties that boost immunity and help fight the Coronavirus.
· Unlike normal water, if water from the Ganges is gathered in a vessel, it does not putrefy for years.
· The water of the Ganga river has also shown to retain high amounts of dissolved oxygen, the reason why it remains pure despite the pollution.
12" Goddess Ganga In Brass | Handmade | Made In India
Indeed, scientists have been able to acknowledge the extraordinary properties of the purifying water of the Ganges but they fail to see the spiritual phenomena that are beyond matter. The glories of Ganga water are innumerable and inconceivable. She nourishes and takes care of the tender bhakti creepers in the hearts of those devotees who take her shelter. She blesses them with loving devotional service towards Lord Vishu or Krishna. Hence, devotees from all over the world come to India to take the divine blessings of Ganga Devi, who is also known as Patita-Pavan (the deliverer of all sinful living beings).
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