Friday, 19 August 2011


Origin in Heaven
Sri Vamana Avathara was fifth in the line of Dasavatharas of Lord Sri Maha Vishnu. This avathara took place during Treta Yuga before Sri Parashurama Avathara.  Lord Maha Vishnu took this avathara in order to suppress the arrogance, vanity and pride of Emperor Bali (Bali Chakravarthi) and to restore the glory, power and authority of Lord Indra over the Heaven who had lost his power and kingdom (Swarga) to King Bali.

Lord Vamana went to King Maha Bali and asks for three steps of land measured by his foot as charity.  Initially Bali hesitated to donate just three paces of land as it is a disgrace to his status and was guilty to give such charity.  But later agreed upon insisting by Lord Vamana and promised to give three paces of land as charity measured by Sri Vamana’s foot.

When Maha Bali completed the ritual process of donating the land, Lord Vamana assumed his cosmic form (Trivikrama), measured the entire Earth including the nether worlds by his first step.  With his second step He measured the entire upper worlds.  When his foot reached the zenith it reached the Sathya Loka where Lord Brahma stays.  At that time sacred waters emanated from the lotus foot of the Supreme Lord Sri Maha Vishnu, and Lord Brahma washed the Lord’s foot with that water and collected it in His Kamandalu. The water that has emerged out of Lord Sri ManNarayana’s foot came to be revered as Goddess Ganga (Vishnu Paadodbhavi) who thenceforth started living in the Heaven as Swarga Ganga assuming the form of a river.

Origin/Descent on Earth

There are several legends behind the origin and descent of Ganga River on the Earth but, prominent among them we find as spelled out in Srimad Bhagavatham, Navama Skandha (9th canto). It is said that Sage Sri Viswamithra had narrated this story of Gangaavatharana to Lord Sri Rama.  As per the legend in brief, there was an Emperor by name Sagara Chakravarthi of Ikshvaku dynasty (in which Lord Sri Rama was born) ruling Ayodhya, who had two wives Keshini and Sumathi.  By virtue of divine blessing, Keshini gave birth to only one son named Asamanjasa whereas Sumathi was blessed with 60000 sons.

On one occasion Sagara performed Aswamedha Yaga and as a part of the Yaga ritual the sacrificial Horse was released to wander in the nearby kingdoms.  In order to spoil and stop the Aswamedha Yaga, Indra captures the sacrificial horse and leaves it in the Ashram of Sage Kapila Maha Muni in the Netherworld (Pathala Loka). Frustrated, King Sagara then sends his 60000 sons in search of the sacrificial Horse.  After searching in vain finally Sagara’s sons finds the Horse tied in the Sage Kapila Maha Muni’s Ashram in Pathala Loka.  Assuming Sage Kapila as the culprit, Sagara Puthras in a fit of anger disturb the revered Sage from his deep penance.  Enraged at being disturbed the Sage Kapila opens his eyes resulting in 60000 Sagara Puthras instantly getting converted into ash from the furious fire that emanated from the Sage’s eyes.

Worried, Sagara then sends his grand son Anshumantha (son of Asamanjasa) to find out the whereabouts of his 60000 sons and also the sacrificial Horse.  Anshumantha finally reaches Pathala Loka where he finds the sacrificial horse and also heaps of ash.  Nearby he finds Sage Kapila who advises him to take the horse back to his grand father Sagara Chakravarthi.  As a remedy the Sage advices that, only Ganges the Ganga can wash off the sins of his uncles if it is flown over the heaps of ash.

As time passes Sagara leaves this world and the generation of Anshumantha and his son Dileepa also ends without any success of bringing the Ganga down to the Earth.  Finally King Bhagiratha son of Dileepa Chakravarthi took up the stupendous task of providing salvation to his forefathers. He performs a severe penance to bring the Ganga down to the Earth.  Pleased with his penance Goddess Ganga appears before him and agrees to descent on earth. But, Ganga advises Bhagiratha to pray Lord Shiva to be a platform for her descent on the earth as He only has the capacity to withstand her gigantic force to avoid a catastrophe.

Accordingly, Bhagiratha prays Lord Shiva who, pleased with the penance of Bhagiratha readily agrees to bore Vishnu Paadodbhavi Ganga on his head before releasing it on to the earth.  Lord Shiva, spread his matted locks and trapped the waters of the river in them, softened her flow and controlled her force so that she slides down on the Earth quietly as a peaceful and life giving river.  Thus Goddess Ganga descended from Heaven on to the matted hair of Lord Shiva and from there on to the Earth.  Since Lord Shiva bore the Ganga on his head, thenceforth came to be known as Gangadhara.  Ganga at this spot came to be known as Bhagirathi named after Bhagiratha due to whose stupendous efforts Ganga descended on to the Earth.

Goddess Ganga (Ganga River) followed Bhagiratha to the Nether worlds to purify the souls of Sagara Puthras lying in the form of an ash in the ashrama of Kapila Maha Muni. On the way the waters of Ganga submerged the Asrama of Sage Jahnu who gets annoyed and drinks the entire Ganga waters.  Again Bhagiratha and others prays the Sage who gets pleased and for the welfare of mankind releases Ganga from his ear.  Thenceforth Ganga also came to be known as Jaahnavi.  Finally, Ganga reached Sage Kapila’s ashram in Pathala loka and submerged the heaps of ash of 60000 Sagara Puthras and thus helped them in getting salvation.  King Bhagiratha put his heart and soul in the descent of Ganga, a no mean feat that became an icon to the world which came to be known as Bhagiratha Prayatnam.

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