Celebrating Ganga Dussehra
Every year in the first ten days of the month of Jyeshtha (June), devotees from all over India come to celebrate Ganga Dusshera on the banks of the river. The festival, also known as Gangavataran celebrates the descent of the river Ganga onto earth in the form of Goddess Ganga. Her mission was to cleanse the cursed souls of Bhagirath’s ancestors. By Goddess Ganga’s descent on earth, she brought with her the purity of heaven onto earth.
This year the celebrations took place on 18th June which saw a large turnout of people.
About the Festival of Ganga Dussehra
Visitors and devotees flock to various holy destinations like Allahabad, Garhmukteshwar, Haridwar, Rishikesh and Varanasi where the river flows. Prayers and libations are offered to the river, and priests hold prayers for devotees. People also travel to these destinations to take a dip in the holy Ganga so as to wash away their sins, to meditate and also pray to Goddess Ganga for betterment of life.
This festival reflects a mix of cultures and people from all over the country as well as all over the world. People from all age groups took part in Ganga Dussehra. People gathered at the banks of the river and offered their prayers along with the priests.
The story behind the festival of Ganga Dussehra
The legend of the festival is derived from old times. There was once a king named Sagara who had two wives, but he was childless and in order to fulfil his wish to have children he prayed to the gods. His wife Keshani gave birth to Asmanjas and his other wife, Sumati bore 60,000 sons. He had performed a ritual called the Ashva Medha Yagna. The sacrificial horse was let loose and if the horse was caught a battle followed the outcome of which declared the winner.
Sagara’s 60,000 sons went in search for the horse and in the pursuit they saw it enter a cave where they saw a sage, Kapila and thought that the sage had captured the horse. Knowing him to be a sage, the sons did not attack him but tried to break his concentration. This angered the sage greatly and he cursed them and burned the 60,000 sons of Sagara.
As time passed, the great grandson of Sagara, Bhagirath found his ancestors bones. He wanted to perform the last rites and rituals for them but there was no water available for the ceremony as Agastya had drank all the water which resulted in a drought in the Kingdom. Bhagirath then implored Brahma the creator who asked him to pray to Lord Vishnu to allow Ganga to flow from his toe onto earth. On the tenth day of the Jyeshtha the river was brought down to earth and the festival has been celebrated since then.
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