The Merciful Mother “Ganga” Part V - Myths and Legends of Ganga
Ganga as Vishnupadi
The battle between the Gods (good) and Demons (evil) goes on forever. Once the demon Bali due to his tapas or ascetic heat, acquired such power that he conquered Indra"s heaven and chaos prevailed in the heaven. All the gods were greatly troubled and they implored Lord Vishnu to restore law and order. Lord Vishnu incarnated himself as a Brahmin dwarf Vamana and went to Bali seeking alms, as was the custom of Brahmins. Bali gave him food, clothes, and many rich presents, but Vamana insisted that he wanted land. Bali offered him many great and fertile lands; however, Vamana declared that he wanted only that land which he could measure by his three steps. Bali thought that a dwarf could measure only a very small portion of the land with his three small steps, and thus accepted. However, Vamana tricked Bali and started to increase his size. So big his size became, that with his first step, he covered the entire earth and with his second step, he covered the entire heaven. While he was covering heaven, sweat from Vamana"s feet emanated and so Brahma washed the feet of Vishnu and collected the water in his kamandalu or water vessel. From this water, Ganga was born and thus she is also known as Vishnupadi or emanating from the feet of Vishnu. With the third step, Vamana pressed Bali on the head and forced him to the nether world.
Ganga and the Holy Trinity (Brahma,Vishnu, Mahes)
Sage Narada, the son of Brahma, was extremely fond of singing, but his singing was not correct. As a result the ragas (combinations of musical notes, evoking certain moods) suffered inexplicable agony. When Narada knew this, he promised to sing only when he had properly learnt to do so. But the agony of the ragas had to be healed and thus a musical concert by a master musician had to be arranged. Besides Bhairav, who could be a better musician; hence, Narada approached Mahes to sing and heal the ragas. Siva agreed but on a condition that Vishnu and Brahma should listen to his recital, as a master musician needed master listeners. Both Vishnu and Brahma were delighted to have the opportunity to hear Bhairav sing and so they readily agreed. At the first note of the concert, the ragas began to heal and soon they were all healed.So deep and soothing was Siva"s musical rendering, that Vishnu was transported to raptures of divine joy and actually began to melt. Now Brahma collected the water emanating from the melting Vishnu in his kamandalu. After the concert was over, Brahma created Ganga out of this water.
As her birth was under the most auspicious of circumstances, and being made out of the water that
emanated from the melting of Vishnu, Ganga by birth obtained the power of purifying anything that came
in contact with her.
Ganga and Kali
Goddess Kali was very dark. Once she was in the company of beautiful, lovely, and fair complexioned heavenly nymphs and Siva jested about her dark complexion. Kali felt insulted and became very distressed at Siva"s remarks. She practiced penance for one hundred years in the Himalayas and Siva was forced to come and placate her anger. Kali asked the boon of having a fair complexion and Siva directed her to have a bath in the heavenly Ganga. Kali did so, and became as fair as lightning. From then onwards, Kali came to be known as Vidyut-Gauri.
Ganga is destined to flow on earth
It is said that during the struggle between the gods and the demons for ultimate supremacy, the demons had an advantage by hiding in the oceans of the earth during daytime and coming out to attack only during the nighttime, when they were naturally more powerful. This frustrated the efforts of the gods and thus they requested sage Agastya to solve their problem. The renowned sage Agastya, with the power of his asceticism, drank up the oceans of the earth and thus the demons had no place to hide during the daytime. A fierce battle took place between the gods and the demons and finally the gods won the battle. Afterwards, they requested sage Agastya to release the ocean waters, but he was unable to do so, as he had digested it. Perplexed, the gods approached Lord Vishnu, who told them that the earth will soon receive the heavenly Ganga, as she was destined to come to earth to give salvation to the sixty thousand souls of the sons of Sagara, the King of Ayodhya.
Ganga descends to earth
In the Ramayana, it is said that Sagara, the King of Ayodhya, had two queens - Kesini and Sumati. However, he had no issue and thus he meditated on Lord Siva, who pleased with his devotion, gave him a boon that his elder queen Kesini would give birth to Prince Asamanjas, and his younger queen Sumati would give simultaneous birth to sixty thousand sons, who would also die simultaneously. Prince Asmanjas was the heir apparent and was decided that he would continue the dynasty; however, he proved to be a wastrel and King Sagara banished him to the forest, while keeping his grandson Ansuman, son of Asmanjas, under his care and upbringing.
King Sagara was a mighty ruler and after defeating all the neighboring kings, Sagara wanted to become Emperor and so he arranged for a grand Asvamedha Yag?a or the horse sacrifice. In this sacrifice, a horse of very high breed is decorated with exquisite and expensive ornaments and sporting the royal pennant is left loose to roam wherever it pleased. The territory that the horse passed automatically came under the King"s domain and control. Whosoever blocked the path of the horse or captured the horse had to fight with the army of the King, which closely followed the horse. Now, Indra, the ruler of heaven, got afraid by seeing the growing power of King Sagara, as he thought that King Sagara would try to conquer heaven also. Indra knew that sage Kapila had astounding powers and no army was any match in front of the sage"s powers. So Indra quietly stole the horse and took him to the nether world in sage Kapila"s hermitage and left the horse there. King Sagara"s army following the horse lost sight of the horse. The army searched in
vain and went back to Ayodhya. King Sagara thought that some other King had stolen the horse and was hiding it to avoid clashing with his invincible army.