The Ganges River is sacred to Indians. They are convinced that she is an extension of the heavenly power of the goddess Ganga, who is considered the patroness of the sources of all rivers, seas and other bodies of water on Earth.
Foreigners call this river in the masculine form, “Ganges,” and Indians in the feminine form, “Ganga. This goddess cleanses all the dead from earthly filth. Therefore, in India, the dead are sent down the river to meet the other world.
In the Himalayan Mountains, where the source of the Ganges River is located, it is crystal clear water. But as it moves toward the Bay of Bengal of the Indian Ocean toward its mouth, the river looks very polluted.
Characteristics of the Ganges River
The Ganges is over 2,700 kilometers long and its basin is over 1,000,000 square kilometers. The river has its source in the Western Himalayas at an altitude of about 500 meters and its mouth at the Bay of Bengal.
The waters of the Ganges are widely used to irrigate crops. Shipping on it is poorly developed. The main function of the Ganges is to be a symbol of Hinduism and of Greater India as a whole.
Almost its entire length, the Ganges is an ordinary lowland river with a slow current. It is fed by the waters of countless tributaries, also flowing from the Himalayas, as well as by mountain snows, monsoon rains, and cyclones.
As it flows, the Ganges River changes its direction many times: southwest, southeast, south. At the end it merges with another famous Indian river, the Brahmaputra, and together they flow into the bay.
Flora and Fauna of the Ganges
A few hundred years ago, this area was home to dense, untouched tropical forests, elephants, rhinoceroses, and tigers. On the banks of the Ganges lived numerous species of waterfowl, animals, fish, and reptiles.
There are quite a few animals living here even now: bears, foxes, leopards, leopards, deer, etc. The Ganges floodplain is famous for its unique tropical butterflies and insects.
The river is known for crocodiles, turtles, Gangetic freshwater dolphins, of which there are two species, sharks, etc. In the lower reaches you can find little studied by biologists flora. Bengal tigers also live here.
Pilgrimage and tourism
Both human activities are widely developed in India and Bangladesh. Entire regions of these countries live off pilgrims and travelers to the sacred Ganges River, arriving here from all over the world.
Tourists and pilgrims visit Haridwar, Allahabad and Varanasi. Like to visit the middle and lower Great River. And in its upper part there are rapids, where it is convenient to rafting.
Ganges in Culture
The first mentions of this river are found in ancient Indian literature: Vedas, Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc. Everywhere it is emphasized that the Ganges River is of heavenly, divine origin.
Legends tell of the birth of the goddess, her sending her to Earth and her life there. They emphasize that the Ganges has the power to purify and remove people’s sins. It also symbolizes motherhood and the unbreakable link between the worlds of the living and the dead.
In art, the goddess Ganga is depicted as a very attractive woman with a jug. With her whole image she symbolizes the fullness and richness of earthly life. Often she sits on a mythical animal, something between a fish and a crocodile.
In modern literature, cinema, and pop music, Ganges also occupies a major place. Fans of Indian cinema are well aware that most of the movie plots are taken from ancient Indian literature.
Rites and ceremonies on the Ganges River
The Hindus are convinced that the waters of the Ganges remove all the sins of the person who takes a dip in them. have a divine origin. In the Ganges flows holy water that can turn a sinner into a righteous person.
Hindus living in and around Varanasi come to bathe in the river several times a day. Every Hindu should at least once in his life perform ablutions in the holy water at dawn, so pilgrims arrive daily from all over the country for ablutions.
On the Varanasi promenade during this ritual, lamps are lit with a wick dipped in ghee. Hindus pray and sing songs to their gods asking for the fulfillment of their wishes. If the lamp burns for a long time, the wish will come true.
Pilgrims are sure to draw Ganges water in jugs and go home with it. Every Hindu home should have this water to wash the newborn or the dead with, to use in ceremonies. The business of supplying water from the Ganges to other regions of the country is well established.
Varanasi City of the Dead on the Ganges River
This city stands on the banks of the Ganges and is extremely popular with tourists looking for hotter adventures in their travels. More often than not, travelers are amazed by some of the local traditions and rituals.
But for Hindu Hindus, cremation of the dead on the banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi is a perfectly natural event. It corresponds to their religion, millennia of culture, mentality, etc.
In Varanasi, for three millennia, dead Hindus have been burned on the steps of the ghats on the Ganges embankment. It is also where various religious and national festivals take place, and where people simply have fun and socialize, connecting life and death.
All Hindus dream of meeting their last day on the Varanasi waterfront, seeing it as a temple. Here they pray, meditate, practice yoga, and ascend to their Hindu heaven.
After death, the Hindus are cremated and the ashes are scattered over the Ganges River. The incineration takes place not only in the crematoriums of Varanasi, but also right on the waterfront. Here you can always see mountains of corpses in line for cremation at the stake.
Only children, monks, pregnant women, and cows sacred to every Hindu should not be burned in India. Weights are simply tied to their bodies and they sink to the bottom of the Ganges. This is what the goddess Ganga commands.