Ganga Dussehra is a major Hindu Festival and is equally important for Muslim as it is celebrated to revere River Ganges that is a divine source of water for whole northern India. Ganga Dussehra is celebrated with full enthusiasm and ritualistic accomplishments by all in India.
Timing of Ganga Dussehra in Varanasi :
Ganga Dussehra is mostly celebrated on the tenth day of the Jyeshtha Month of Hindu calendar.
Religious Significance of Ganga Dussehra in Hinduism :
Ganga is a mighty river draining about half of India. It is revered by common folk as goddess because of its perennial and ability to bring up generations on its banks. It is a source of agriculture and thus food to millions. It has all the qualities like mother who bring upits children with care and nourishes till she dies. With all these qualities River Ganges is revered as mother and many civilizations have been brought up on its banks. Thus it has immense importance in Hindu majority country which believes in worship of all natural elements and that has sustained human lives.
History of Ganga Dussehra :
Ganga Dussehra is celebrated on to commemorate the journey of River Ganges from heaven to earth. It is unknown when it was exactly started as it is as old as Ganges itself. Hinduism believes in divine origin of all the natural things that it believed mighty. So is with the origin of River Ganges.
Legend of descent of Ganges from Heaven :
Legends tell that there was a Rishi Kapil mentioned in many scriptures and Puranas of Hindu Religion. Sage Kapil used to do penance to attain salvation. Once he was disturbed by notorious sons of King Sagar. In a fit of rage Sage Kapil burnt them to ashes by his curse. Then there was no River Ganges. It was believed that the souls of 60,000 sons couldn’t rest in ultimate peace until there ashes are immersed into the holy water of River Ganges. At that time River Ganges used to flow in heavens. According to belief a descendant must try to do last rites of their ancestors to get them into peace. Then, King Bhagirath, the great grandson of King Sagar started a penance to bring mighty River Ganges from heaven to the earth. After thousands of years passed in penance, deities got pleased with penance or Tapa of King Bhagirath and agreed to send heavenly River Ganges on earth. But River Ganges was not happy with this decision as she was married by her parents Himavan and Mena to a heavenly god. In anger, she put one condition that she would descend with all tumult and force of its waters. It was destructive for earth. Then again King Bhagirath penanced to please Lord Shiva to control River Ganges. Lord Shiva held all the water of River Ganges in his hair locks. Again King Bhagirath did a penance to please Lord Shiva from his hair locks for last rites of his ancestors. Finally Lord Shiva released a stream of River Ganges from his hair locks which is often seen in depictions of religious pictures of Hindu Religion. Thus, River Ganges descended from Kailash Mountains, the abode of Lord Shiva and is rejuvenating civilizations after civilizations on its banks thereafter.
Ganga Dussehra in Varanasi :
People of Varanasi celebrate Ganga Dussehra with special pinch of ritual acts that is different from that of whole India. In Varanasi people keep fasts on this occasion. They take a holy dip into the holy water of River Ganges. Light incense and offer flowers to River Ganges. Fairs are held on river banks. People gather in groups and sing devotional songs. A special Aarti on this occasion is performed on each ghat besides magnificent Aarti of AssiGhat. In evening people flow earthen lamps in river water with flowers and other ritualistic materials. On this day if one is not able to take a dip into river water he is supposed to bathe with water mixed with few drops of river water. People believe a bathe in river on this occasion removes ten sins.
Varanasi holds immense importance for Hindus as it is considered abode of Lord Shiva. 84 Ghats of Varanasi are a symbolic of 84 lac yonis or births. It is believed that a human being goes through a cycle of 84 lacs births before coming to human form. Belief is that one gets salvation if he is cremated in Varanasi or visit once in life to Varanasi. This leads to a huge gathering of people from across the country to Varanasi. Ghats on this day are not easily accessible. A heavy security arrangement is made by Uttar Pradesh government to manage crowd. A thought of bath in river on this day is a test of your tolerance as you would have to wait hours in queue to take a dip.
Are rituals polluting Ganga? :
Though government efforts to rejuvenate and cleanse river water are rapid and much has changed with BJP coming into the power people need to cooperate with government efforts to make their revered rivers sustainable.
Though these rituals and activities are coming for generations and couldn’t be banned these contribute a large towards river pollution. A government campaign could fill the gap between people and government. Ritualistic activities need to be controlled to make river sustain for salvation of future generations. How can you pollute such a revered thing just to get salvation!!!