Ganga is a river of northern India and Bangladesh. The river
has a long history of reverence in India and is worshipped
by Hindus as a goddess. It often called the 'holy Ganga'.
The total length of the river is about 2,510 km (1,557 mi).
Along with another river Yamuna, it forms a large and
fertile basin, known as the Gangetic plains, stretching
across north India and Bangladesh, and supports one of the
highest densities of human population in the world. Indeed,
about one in every 12 people on earth (8.5% of world
population) live in its catchments area. Due to this
incredible concentration of population, pollution and the
destruction of habitats is a matter of serious concern.
Ganga in Vedas
The Ganga is
definitely mentioned in the Rig-Ved, the earliest and the
holiest of the Hindu scriptures. The Ganga is mentioned in
the nadistuti (Rig Veda 10.75), which lists the rivers from
east to west. In RV 6.45.31, the word Ganga is also
mentioned, but it is not clear if the reference is to the
RV 3.58.6 says that "your ancient home, your auspicious
friendship, O Heroes, your wealth is on the banks of the
Jahnavi (JahnAvyAm)". This verse could possibly refer to the
Ganga. In RV 1.116.18-19, the Jahnavi and the Gangetic
dolphin occur in two adjacent verses.  
During the early Indo-Aryan Ages, the Indus and the
Saraswati were the major rivers, not the Ganga. But the
later three Vedas seem to give much more importance to the
Ganga, as shown by its numerous references.
Hindus also believe life is incomplete without bathing in
the Ganga at least once in their lifetime.
According to the Hindu Purans, Goddess Ganga used to exist
only in Heaven. Then prince Bhagirath worshipped Ganga to
descend on earth. This is why Ganga is also known as
Bhagirathi. In the Mahabharath also this story is mentioned.
In fact Ganga is a major character in the Mahabharath where
she's the mother of Bhisma.
The Ganga in Hinduism
closely associated with Ganges. The temple town has many
temples along the banks of the Ganges. In Hinduism, the river
Ganga (feminine) is sacred. It is worshipped by Hindus and
personified as a goddess, who holds an important place in
the Hindu religion. Hindu belief holds that bathing in the
river on certain occasions causes the forgiveness of sins
and helps attain salvation. Many people believe that this
will come from bathing in Ganga at any time. People travel
from distant places to immerse the ashes of their kin in the
waters of the Ganga; this immersion also is believed to send
the ashes to heaven. Several places sacred to Hindus lie
along the banks of the river Ganga, including Haridwar and
Kashi. People carry from Ganges, sacred water that is sealed
in copper pots after making the pilgrimage to Kashi. It is
believed that drinking water from the Ganga with one's last
breath will take the soul to heaven.
In most Hindu families, a vial of water from the Ganga is
kept in every house. This is done because it is auspicious
to have water of the Holy Ganga in the house, and also if
someone is dying, that person will be able to drink its
Many Hindus believe that the water from the Ganga can
cleanse a person's soul of all past sins, and that it can
also cure the ill. The ancient scriptures mention that the
water of Ganges carries the blessings of the Lord's feet.
Hence mother Ganges is also known as Visnupadi [Emanating
from the Lotus feet of Supreme Lord Sri Visnu].
Some of the most important Hindu festivals and religious
congregations are celebrated on the banks of the river Ganga
such as the Kumbh mela or the Kumbh fair and the chhat puja.
The largest religious gathering on Earth for Hindu peoples.
Around 70 million Hindus from around the world
participated in Kumbh Mela at one of the Hindu Holy city
Prayaga (also known as Allahabad) (India). The most important
city sacred to Hinduism on the banks of the river Ganga is
Varanasi or Banaras. It has hundreds of temples along the
banks of the Ganga which often get flooded during the rains.
This city, especially along the banks of the Ganga, is an
important place of worship for the Hindus as well as a
The Gangotri Glacier in the
Uttaranchal Himalayas is the origin of the Bhagirathi river,
which joins the Alaknanda river at Devaprayag, also in the
Uttaranchal Himalayas, to form the Ganga. The river then
flows through the Himalayan valleys and emerges into the
north Indian plain at the town of Haridwar. This section
sees extensive Whitewater rafting and kayaking from
September to March.
Ganges river delta, Bangladesh and India, the Ganga then flows
across the broad plains of north India, (called the Gangetic
Plains), and forms the major river basin of that vast
region. Its tributaries include the Kosi, the Gomti, the
Sone, and above all the Yamuna. The Yamuna River — a major
river in its own right, and nearly as endowed with the
sanctity of Religious tradition and legend as the Ganga, is
in fact a tributary of the Ganga; their confluence marks the
site of the pilgrim town of Prayag, now known as Allahabad.
Not only sites of religious significance, but also many of
the most populous industrial cities of northern India lie on
the banks of the Ganga, including Kanpur, Allahabad,
Varanasi and Patna.
Early morning on the Ganges at the city of Varanasi, swollen
by the waters of a wide basin that draws from watersheds as
diverse as the Himalayas and the Aravallis, the Ganga forms
a formidable current in the stretch between Allahabad and
Malda, and thereafter, a large delta. Near the town of Malda
in West Bengal, it undergoes its first attrition with the
branching away of the Hoogly, its first distributary. The
city of Kolkata (previously Calcutta) stands on the banks of
the Hoogly. The main stream of the river (known as the Padma
River) then enters Bangladesh. Here, it unites with the
Jamuna branch of the even larger Brahmaputra river. The
combined stream then joins with the Meghna River before
flowing out to sea. In the flat plains of Bangladesh, the
Ganges splits almost immediately into a dense network of
distributaries, all of which finally empty into the Bay of
The region encompassing the delta near the Bay of Bengal
coast is known as The Sundarbans (Beautiful Forests) — a
region of thick mangrove forests, and one of the major
habitats of the Royal Bengal Tiger. Two species of dolphin
can be found in the Ganges, the Ganges River Dolphin and the
Irrawaddy Dolphin. The Ganges is also notable in that it
contains a rare species of freshwater shark, Glyphis
genetics, about which little is known.