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Valmiki Ramayana - Bala Kanda in Prose Sarga 44


Brahma commends Bhageeratha in bringing Ganga onto earth which none of his ancestors could do. Brahma blesses Ganga to be the daughter of Bhageeratha. Brahma advises him to offer water-oblations to his manes with the sanctified waters of Ganga.




"King Bhageeratha followed by Ganga has gone to the ocean-like ditch which is dredged up by the sons of Sagara, and entered the subterranean of earth where the sons of Sagara are rendered to ashes." Thus Vishvamitra continued his narration about the Descent of Ganga. While the waters of Ganga are inundating those ashes, oh, Rama, then Brahma, the lord of all worlds, indeed spoke this to the king Bhageeratha. 

" 'Oh, tigerly-man Bhageeratha, the sixty thousands sons of great souled Sagara have crossed over the sea of mortality, and on a par with the gods they have also transited to heaven. As long as the water of the ocean abides in the world, oh, king, so long the sons of Sagara will abide in heaven like gods. This Ganga will become your eldest daughter and hereafter she will remain renowned in the world with the name associated with your deed of bringing her onto earth.

Otherwise, 'by your fatherhood she will be called Bhaageerathi and your names becomes her surname.'

" 'Henceforth heavenly Ganga will be renowned as 'Triple-path-cruiser' and 'Bhaageerathi,' as well, and as this river is sanctifying three worlds, namely, svarga, bhuu, paataala loka-s, 'heaven, earth and netherworld' she will be remembered as the traveller on triple path. You may now offer water-oblations to all of your forefathers in the waters of Ganga, oh, king, the lord of people, thus you may fulfil and do away with the pledge of your requiescat. Your ancestor Sagara is a highly glorious one and a best one among righteous persons, oh, king, even then he has not achieved this aspiration of alighting Ganga in his lifetime, but you have achieved it. Like that, your grandfather Amshuman, who is unequalled in his resplendence in this world and who had been praying for the descent of Ganga, he also could not dispense with this vow on fulfilling it. 

" 'Oh, impeccable Bhageeratha, even by the kingly-sage Dileepa whose resplendence is kindred to great sages, who is equal to me in his ascesis, who is abided by the observances of ruling Kshatriya class, even by such a highly fortunate and highly resplendent father of yours it was impossible to bring Ganga in his turn, even though he had been supplicating for the descent of Ganga throughout his lifetime. 

The content of verse 10 at times will be attributed to verse 9, viz., to Amshuman, rather than to Dileepa.

" 'But, you have accomplished that pledge, oh, the best one among men, and in the world you have achieved highest renown which is highly adorable by all. That 'Descent of Ganga' is perfected by you, oh, enemy-represser, and by this you have acquired a genuine basis for righteousness in this world, and thereby a base for yourself in my world, namely Abode of Brahma. Oh, phenomenal one, you may always take dip-baths in the holy water of Ganga and oh, persona grata, thereby get purified of sins and thus let your merit be fructified. 

The waters of other rivers have a blemish called rajasvala doSa 'the blemish of menstruation.' When the sun is in Leo-Cancer, i.e., during monsoon, and when new waters come in, it is as good as menstruation for the ladies called, the rivers. But Ganga is beyond these taboos because it is perennial, hence her is sanctifying. Some more details are given in endnote of this chapter.

" 'You may now perform water-oblations to your forefathers with the water of Ganga, let there be wellbeing to you, and oh, king, here I go to my abode and you too may depart to yours.' Thus Brahma said to Bhageeratha. 

"On saying in this way, the forefather of all the worlds, and the great glorious lord of all gods, namely Brahma, went away to his empyrean world as he has came. On according those best water-oblations that endow superior realms to the souls of sons of Sagara, according to precedency and the rationale of scriptures, and even on offering water-oblations to other manes that kingly-sage and greatly renowned Bhageeratha is sanctified, and then only that king re-entered his own city, indeed when his purpose is completely achieved, and oh, outstanding man Rama, thus that king Bhageeratha ruled his kingdom well. 

"The subjects of the kingdom are overjoyed on regaining him as their king, and oh, Raghava, that king Bhageeratha too is relieved of his febrility as his purpose is achieved and he is happy when devoid of haunting grief of getting Ganga to earth. 

"Oh, Rama, this way I described to you about 'The Decent of Ganga' in detail, thus you be blest and prosperous, and as the visceral time is elapsing no more questions from you for now, and let us meditate on Gayatri. But listen to the fruits of listening the legend of ganga avataraNa, 'The Descent of Ganga' 

"This legend is conducive to achieve prosperity, fame, longevity, progeny and even heaven, and he who narrates this legend to others, whether he is from Brahmans or from Kshatriya-s, or for that matter of fact from any other class, his manes will be satisfied, and gods too will be gladdened. Oh, Rama of Kakutstha-s, he who listens to this auspicious legend named 'The Descent of Gang,' which is an endower of longevity, all his wishes are achieved, all his sins are obliterated, and his reputation and longevity are also enhanced." Thus Vishvamitra concluded the episode of 'The Descent of Ganga.' 



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Almost every puraaNa, mythological treatise, deals with the sanctity of Ganga. It is therefore queried and counter-queried as to why and how she is sanctifying. Many treatises have detailed about it. This river emerges from the nail of the left foot's big-toe of Vishnu as said in Vishnu Puraana: gang˜ deva angan˜ ang˜n˜m anulepan˜ api pinjar˜ | v˜ma p˜da ambuja anguÿ÷a nakha sroto vinirgat˜ | visõor bhibharti y˜m bhakty˜ siras˜ ahar nisam dh®vam - siva× Hence she took landing on Shiva's head. sankarasya sirasi bhraÿ÷am patitam kalmaÿa apah˜ - mahesvara tŸrtha 'the one who plunged onto Shankara's head and the very same is the remover of sins.'

Even if that river has fallen onto the head of Shiva at a later time, her original birth place is at the feet of Vishnu hence that river is sacred. After falling on the head of Shiva she is released and she rapidly flowed onto earth. Hence, her speed and rapidity alone are the sanctifying factors. nadŸ vegena sudhyati - govinda r˜ja 'a river cleanses itself by its rapidity.' As such, after incarceration by Shiva she flowed rapidly and thus her sanctity is kept up, by her very rapidity.

On bearing these sanctifying waters on his head, Shiva became a sanctified Shiva as said at sarit praparodakena tŸrthena - candra- mauli vidh®tena siva× sivo ˜bh¨t - bh˜gavatapuraaNa. Shiva presumed that he is honoured for the falling of Ganga on his head as said at tat ambu patitam d®ÿ÷v˜ dadh˜ra siras˜ hara× | p˜van˜rtham ja÷˜ madhye - mah˜ bh˜rata Even in aadhyatma raaamayaNa Sage Vashishta says to Vishnu tvat p˜da salilam dh®tv˜ dhanvo bh¨t girij˜ pati× - ˜dhy˜tma r˜m˜yaõa 'on bearing your foot's waters Shiva became pious.'

In the legend of Trivikrama, dwarf-ascetic-boy, at one place it is said that due to the pressure of the foot of Vamana, the incarnation of Vishnu, the shell of the universe is pierced and water available outside has gone in and that water belonged to the Divine Ganga. At another place it is said when Brahma washed the feet of Vishnu that water from his kamanDulu 'handy vessel' flowed as Ganga. Still at another place it is said that the dharma itself flowed as Ganga at the behest of Brahma. These three are correlated and said that 'when Brahma washed the feet of Vishnu the waters were not sufficient enough to drench, then Brahma ordered dharma to flow like water, but that too was not enough, and when Vamana pierced the shell of universe then dharma flowed as Ganga.

The yoga takes yet another viewpoint of Ganga. Their great guru is Shiva, and hence yogis say that every fraction of second Ganga, or cetana, vitality, flows in ones own body. tat p˜da padmajam gaðg˜m nipatantŸm sva m¨rdhani | cintayet brahma randhreõa praviþantŸm svak˜m tan¨m | tay˜ saðkÿ˜layet deham b˜hyam abhyantaram malam | tat kÿaõ˜t virajo mantra j˜yate spha÷ika upamam || According to the six-plexus theory cetana shakti, power of vitality, flows through brahma randhra 'the hole in the mid of the pate' to sahasraa kamala the multi-petal-lotus, the Internal Capsule or the Reticular Activating System and from there to aaj~naa cakra 'plexus of discrimination' back at the third eye, and from there the vitality flows down the lines of the three spinal nerves, viz., iDaa, pingala, suSumna sympathetic, parasympathetic and central spinal cord. These three are the three replicas of Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. Their confluence occurs once at aaj~naa cakra 'third eye' and again at the perineum and having gone to the perineum this Ganga activates the dormant particles of vitality to raise them up the spinal system. Thus, the Supreme Yogi Shiva ordains the vitality called Ganga to flow up and down the plexuses, from grey matter down to the perineum, only to activate the system. More Information than this will become unjustifiable here.

Ganga is ever holy because she does not have any womanly stigmas. dvi m˜sam saritah sarv˜ bhavanti rajasval˜× - m˜rkanýeya - - simha kark˜÷akayo× madhye sarv˜ nady˜ rajasval˜× - vy˜ghrap˜da 'for two months all the rivers menstruate' Maakandeya Puraana. 'When sun in Leo-Cancer all rivers menstruate.' that is due to monsoon and new waters, as such bathing in them at that time is prohibitive. But River Ganga perennially draws its river water from Himalayas thus she has no such blemish.

For all these diverse opinions the reply is given in Ramayana itself as said in Ayodhya viþõu p˜da udbhav˜m divyam - ayodhya and also at 1-43-7 of Ramayana s˜ tasmin puõy˜ - puõye rudrasya m¨rdhani - r˜m˜yaõa which imports the meaning: 'she that pious River Ganga, fell onto the pious head of Shiva,' i.e., 'without any mutation, both Shiva and Ganga are the sanctifiers by themselves, while helping each other, i.e., Shiva helped Ganga to gain a foothold on His head, while Ganga helped Shiva to become the root cause to bear and release her brunt, and in turn, both of them helped the humankind.' Thus, what more can be sanctity than helping the created beings with one's own dharma?



Thus, this is the 44th chapter in Bala Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana, the First Epic poem of India. 

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© Sept, 2002, Desiraju Kumari [Revised : September 04]