Why is the Ganga River considered pure and holy in India? Why do Hindus bathe in the river Ganga (or the Ganges)? It is the most sacred river to Hindus.
It is worshipped as the Goddess Ganga in Hinduism. Also, it is the lifeline to millions of Indians.
Geography of River Ganga:
Geographically the Ganges, also known as Ganga is the third largest river (2,525 km in length) in the world by discharge. It flows through the nations of India and Bangladesh.
It is produced by the confluence (संगम) of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda Rivers at Devprayag in India. Hydrologically, Alaknanda is the source stream of the river Ganga as it is longer. But in Hinduism, Bhagirathi is considered to be the source stream.
River Ganga is the most sacred river to Hindus. It is worshipped as the Goddess Ganga in Hinduism. Also, it is the lifeline to millions of Indians who depend on it for their daily needs.
It also has other names like Jahnavi and Bhagirathi. Several sacred places to Hindus lie along the banks of this river like Gangotri, Haridwar, Varanasi (Kashi or Banaras), etc.
MUST-READ: Why it is called Bhagirathi and Jahnavi?
But why Ganga River is considered pure and holy in India?
It is believed that bathing in the river Ganga will make a person free from all their sins. A holy bath in this river facilitates Moksha (liberation from the cycle of life and death).
Pilgrims immerse the ashes of their kin (परिजन) in it, which they consider bringing the spirits closer to Moksha.
Hindus believe that Ganga used to flow in Swarga (heaven), where Amrita (nectar of immortality) is found.
Amrita is said to have come to Bhu-Loka (the earth world) in the form of the river Ganga. So it is believed that if you bathe in the river, you will be absolved (दोषमुक्त) of your sins and can attain Moksha.
Pilgrims immerse the ashes of their kin in it. It is believed that unless their ashes are immersed in it, they won’t be able to travel across the Vaitarani river to Pitra-Loka.
BHU-LOKA & PITRA-LOKA:
In Hinduism, Pitra-Loka is the world of departed ancestors, i.e. the land of the dead. Bhu-Loka refers to the physical universe, i.e. the land of the living.
The Vaitarani river, as mentioned in the Garuda Purana, separates Bhu-Loka and Pitra-Loka.
If the soul of the dead people cannot cross the Vaitarani river, they will remain in the Bhu-Loka, as ghosts. It will suffer and never achieve moksha or rebirth.
It is sometimes believed that the river will finally dry up at the end of Kali Yuga, the last of the four stages the world goes through as part of the cycle of yugas (the era of darkness, the current era), just as with the Sarasvati river and this era will end. Next in(cyclic) order will be the Satya Yuga, or the era of Truth.