Ganga (गङ्गा)

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Ganga (Samskrit: गङ्गा) is the highly revered river of Bharata.

उत्पत्तिः ॥ Origin

Ganga had her origin during the Vamana avatara (incarnation) of Mahavishnu. It is said that, when Vamana measured the three worlds in three steps the nails on his left feet were raised high. They caused a pore on the upper side of the universe. And Ganga, starting from the finger of Vishnu's feet fell in heaven. This story of the river Ganga appears in 5th Skandha (Chapter 17) of the Bhagavata Purana.[1]

भगवत्पदी ॥ Bhagavatpadi

In the Yajna performed by Raja Bali, Lord Vishnu himself appeared as Trivikrama (Vamana) and asked for three feet of land as dana. However, standing there, the Lord covered the entire earth by his right foot - the first feet. He raised the left foot to measure the heavenly regions when the upper portion of the cosmos got cracked by the nail of the big toe of his left foot. Through that opening, rushed in the stream of waters, covering externally the cosmos. The waters washed the lotus-like feet of the Lord and thus became reddish by the pollen-like dust on the Lord’s feet. The waters washed away dirt, in the form of the papa of the whole world, by her touch and yet, herself remained pure (unpolluted by papa). She was, at first, designated as Bhagavatpadi (born from the feet of the Lord) to the exclusion of other epithets like Jahnavi, Bhagirathi etc. After a long period of time, measured in thousands of yugas, she descended on the top of the celestial regions which the sages call Vishnupada.[2]

विष्णुपदी ॥ Vishnupadi

Vishnupadi, the flowing water of which washes away the papa of the people in the universe is the same as Ganga. It was called so because for many yugas (eras), this river confined itself to the heights of the sky, otherwise called Vishnupada. This particular spot is known as Dhruva mandala as it is here that Dhruva, son of Raja Uttanapada, did his penance. The Saptarshis (seven sages) who constantly go round and round the Dhruva mandala take their bath in this sacred river.[1]

गङ्गायाः पथः ॥ Course of the River Ganga

Ganga, originating from Vishnupada, falls on devayana glittering with crores of vimanas and therefrom it descends on Chandra mandala which it submerges. It follows its course again from there dividing itself into four tributaries called Sita, Chakshus, Alakananda and Bhadra and then falls in Brahmaloka wherefrom it flows in all directions.

Of the four tributaries, Sita falls on the head of Mount Meru, flows down to Gandhamadana, then circling through Bhadrashva varsha falls into the eastern sea. Chakshus falls on the peaks of mount Malyavan, flows through Ketumala and falls into the western sea. Alakananda falls on mount Hemakuta, flows through Bharatavarsha and falls into the southern sea. And Bhadra falls on the head of mount Shrngavan flows through uttarakuru and falls into the northern sea. Alakananda that flows through Bharatavarsha is regarded as the most sacred of the four tributaries.[1]

Course of Ganga[3]
Flow of the four main tributaries of Ganga[4]

gaṅgā which flowed through heaven fell on the earth after thousands of years of its origin. (bhāgavata, Pañcama, skandha, Chapter 17).


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Vettam Mani (1975), Puranic Encyclopaedia, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
  2. The Bhagavata Purana (Part 1), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, First Edition: 1950, Reprint: 1999.
  3. Vettam Mani (1975), Puranic Encyclopaedia, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
  4. Vettam Mani (1975), Puranic Encyclopaedia, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.