The Merciful Mother “Ganga” Part II - Gangā and her greatness
Throughout the Mahābhārata, the greatness of Gangā shines forth like a valuable gem of extreme brilliance. In the Anuśasana Parva, Section XXVI, in reply to questions by Yudhiśtira, the greatness of Gangā is elaborately elucidated by Gangāputra Bhīśma.
The foremost of all rivers is Bhāgirathi or Gangā. Those countries, provinces, retreats, and mountains should be regarded as the best with respect to sanctity, which are beside the river Bhāgirathi
The high state that a person attains by undergoing severe penances, practising celibacy, performing sacrifices, or by wordly renunciation, that same state is easily attained by simply living on the banks of Bhāgirathi and bathing in its holy waters. Persons who have been sprinkled with the sacred waters of the Bhāgirathi and whose bones have been immersed in it and laid to rest in the depths of the Bhāgirathi, do not fall away from heaven. Those who use the waters of Bhāgirathi in all their day-to-day works, surely go and remain in heaven after their departure from this world.
Persons who have committed various kinds of sinful deeds during their early years, if undertake to take up residence beside the Gangā in their later years, attain to superior ends. A person of restrained senses who takes a bath in the waters of Gangā achieves a merit that cannot be achieved even by the performance of hundreds of sacrifices. As long as the bones of the person remains on the bed of Gangā, for that long a period, that person surely resides in heaven. As the resplendent sun rises in the east, at the time of dawn, dispelling the gloom of night, blazing forth in its splendorous light, in that same manner, the person who has undertaken a bath in the sacred waters of the Gangā is cleansed of all his sins, and shines forth in splendour and blazes like a sun.
Those countries and regions that are deprived of the waters of Gangā are like deep dark nights without the moon, like barren trees without any flowers, like the different modes of life that are without righteousness, and like sacrifices that are without soma. Verily, the places without Gangā are like the places without a sun, the earth wihout the mountains, and the atmosphere without air. All the creatures who reside in the three worlds, cannot from any other source derive the magnificent pleasure that they gain by drinking the soothing waters of the Gangā.
The person who drinks the waters of the Gangā heated by the rays of the sun, derives such merit that is far superior than the great merit derived by the performance of the vow of living on the wheat or grains picked up from cowdung. Equality cannot be determined between two persons, one of who performs a thousand Chandrayana rites for purification of his body and the other who drinks the waters of the Gangā for purification of his body. Whether the two are equal or not, cannot be determined for one who for a thousand years stands on one foot and the other who resides by the Gangāonly for a month. The person who permanently stays on the banks of the Gangā is far superior in merit to the person who has lived with his head hanging downwards for ten thousand Yugas.
For persons whose hearts are consumed with sorrow, the most superior remedy to dispel the sorrow, is to have a bath in the Gangā. As cotton is burnt off completely without any remnant when it comes in contact with fire, likewise the sins of a person are burnt off completely when the person comes in contact with the waters of the Gangā and has a bath in it. As snakes lose their poison at the very sight of Garuda the eagle, likewise a person loses all his sins at the very sight of the holy Gangā. Persons who are without repute and who are addicted to sinful ways have only the Gangā as their sole protector and the giver of fame.
Persons who have knowingly lived a sinful life and if in their afteryears they seek the aid of Gangā, then they are rescued from sinking in the depths of hell. Persons who immerse themselves daily in the sacred waters of the Gangā are transformed into great munis and are like the deities with Vasva at their head, as they inspite of themselves simply cannot undertake any sinful act. Wretches among persons who are totally devoid of any modesty or humility and are wedded to sinful ways, automatically become calm, righteous, and good, by simply taking a bath in the Gangā on a daily basis.
As Amṛita is to the gods, as Swādha is to the Pitris, as Sudhā is to the Nagas, similarly Gangā is to the human beings. As children seek food and nourishment from their mothers, similarly persons should seek food and nourishnment from Gangā. As the region of Brahmā is the foremost of all places, similarly the waters of Gangā are the foremost of all rivers. As the offering made in the sacrifices is the chief source of sustenance for the gods, similarly the chief source of sustenance for all living creatures is the Gangā. As the gods support themselves with Amṛita that is formed by the sun and the moon and which is also offered in numerous sacrifices, likewise human beings support themselves with the life-giving waters of Gangā.
A person who smears himself with the earth taken from the banks of the Gangā is like a resident of heaven bedecked with celestial unguents. A person who on his head bears the mud taken from the banks of the Gangā acquires an effulgent aspect and all his confusions are cleared, similar to the radiant sun who dispels all darkness. A person who on the banks of the Gangā is touched by the wind moistened by the particles of Gangā water is immediately cleansed of all his sins. A person who is suffering from calamities and find himself trapped and unable to remove the heavy load of agony, is freed of all calamities and finds a way out of them due to the profound joy arising in his saddened heart when he looks on the magnificent sight of the sacred Gangā.
By the songs of the aquatic birds and the melody of the swan that plays on the breast of Gangā, the celestial musicians the Gandharvas are also challenged. The high shores of the Gangā challenge even make the high mountains of the earth. When beholding the lovely swans and other birds frolicking on the breast of Gangā, when beholding the green pasturelands that adorn her banks, when beholding the cows that graze on the lush grass beside the Gangā, when beholding the mighty span of the awe-inspiring Gangā, when beholding the magical purificatory powers of the sacred waters of the Gangā, even the most beautiful abode of the gods, the Heaven loses its pride. By taking the sacred waters of the Gangā in his both palms, touching it, and bathing in its purifying waters, a person rescues one"s ancestors to the seventh generation, one"s descendents to the seventh generation, as well as helping other ancestors and descendents.
By hearing the roar or the rippling of the waters of the Gangā, by beholding the stupendous sight of the Gangā, by holding, touching, and bathing it the holy Gangā, a person rescues his complete paternal and maternal lineage. By performing tarpan - oblations to Gangā, a person gratifies his Pitris and all the other deities. Persons desirous of making their lives worthwhile, desirous of making their learning fruitful, desirous of earning wealth by righteous means, desirous of noble offspring, should always take refuge in the Gangā. A bath is the Gangā earns such high merit that cannot be earned even with the possession of wealth, obedient sons, or the performance of other meritorious act.
Persons who are physically sound and yet do not desire or seek the sight of the Gangā are like persons with congenital blindness or dead or do not have the power of locomotion as if afflicted by lameness. For what person would be there who would not desire to behold the Gangā, in whom the Riśis knowing the past, present, and the future, as well as all the heavenly gods along with Indra at their head, take refuge? For what person would be there who would not seek the protection of the Gangā, in whose protection all the residents of the three worlds prosper? The person who resides on the banks of the Gangā till his last breath, revering her with due respect, is freed of all kinds of fear, every kind of calamity, and all acts of sin. The person whose conduct has been righteous and who with concentrated mind thinks of Gangā at the time when his soul leaves his body, attains to the supreme end.
A person who gazes at the Gangā, obtains a glimpse of the all the three worlds, as Gangā flows in the heaven as Mandākini, in the earth as Gangā, and in hell as Bhogāvati. A person by praying to Gangā feels the divinity of Maheśwara as Gangā flows from his matted locks. A person who adores Gangā with deep devotion, with unshaking reverance, with abiding faith, and with a feeling that Gangā shall take care as a mother takes care of her child, surely attains to all successes in this world. No grief or fear befalls that person and in the end his soul is also liberated as Gangā liberated the souls of the sixty-thousand sons of Sāgara.
Gangā is revered as Prisni - the mother of Visnu, is venerated as speech, and is the embodiment of bounty, auspiciousness, happiness, and prosperity. Gangā is benevolent and even rescues the person from all sins, who simply points out Gangā to another person. Gangā is bestower of wealth and contains gold in her womb. Those who bathe in the Gangā succeed in obtaining Dharma, Artha, and Kāma - Righteousness, Wealth, and Pleasure. Gangā is as sanctifying as the purified ghee that is offered along with the mantras in the sacrificial fire. Gangā offers the best bed for the dead as she offers a path to the heaven. Gangā is equivalent to the earth in forgiveness, to fire in energy, and to the sun in spelendour. Persons who even mentally pray to Gangā, attain success in reaching the realm of Brahmā.
Persons of subdued souls are fully convinced that sons, wealth, and worldy possessions are all transitory and who feel the desire to attain salvation, do indeed with rapt attention and concentrated mind pay homage to Gangā with that love, respect, and reverance that is due from a son to mother. Benevolent and large-hearted Gangā listens to all her sons even if they be wicked and sinful. Whosoever comes to Gangā with folded hands in respect, and holds her sacred waters in his palms is cleansed of all his sins.
The merits of Gangā are numerous and countless. One may count the stones that are in the mountains of Meru and one may even measure the waters that reside in the oceans, but one cannot count all the merits of the sacred waters of Gangā. The holy river Gangā is the source of all happiness to those who take refuge in her with humbleness of heart. Any person who praises Gangā is also cleansed of every sin, such is the great power of Gangā.