1)Himalaya Mountains: (North of India)
The most holy river of India, Ganga starts from Himalayas. According to the Puranas, when Ganga arrived on to earth, to save earth from the forceful speed of Ganga, Lord Shiva acquired Ganga in to his matted hair. Later, pleased with the worship of Bhagirath, Shiva let one stream of Ganga to flow in to Brahmakund. Brahmakund is also called Goumukh. This is the source of Ganga and here Ganga gets the Bhagirathi. Himalaya Mountains are the highest mountains of India which makes a border of 2500 kms in North India. It spreads from Kashmir to Assam. According to Puranas Himalaya is the husband of Maina and father of Parvati. Ganga is his eldest daughter. Lord Shiva’s abode Kailash Parvat is situated in Himalayas.
2) Gangotri: (Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand)
Gangotri, the origin of the river Ganga and seat of the goddess Ganga, is one of the four sites in the Char Dham pilgrimage circuit. The river is called Bhagirathi at the source and acquires the Ganga from Devprayag onwards where it meets the Alaknanda. The origin of the holy river is at Goumukh, set in the Gangotri Glacier, and is a 19 km trek from Gangotri. Gangotri is one of the famous pilgrimages of Uttarakhand where Ganga flows in North direction to a certain distance. We can reach there from Rishikesh via Uttar Kashi. This place is approximately 60kms from Uttar Kashi. Bhagirath had observed penance here to bring down Ganga on to earth. The “Bhagirath Sheela” here reminds of Bhagirath. Here, in the Ganga temple there is an idol of Ganga instituted by Adi Shankaracharya. There is Bhairavnath temple near Ganga temple. During winter, Gangotri gets covered with snow. Twenty two kilometers ahead of Gangotri is Goumukh. Here, the stream of Bhagirathi is seen coming out from Himalaya.
3) Rudra Prayag: (Rudra Prayag district, Uttarakhand)
One of the holy pilgrimages of Uttarakhand is Rudra Prayag. There is a confluence of Alaknanda and Mandakini over here. From here, the way to Badrinath and Kedarnath gets separated. The pace of Ganga slows down after reaching Rudra Prayag. According to ancient belief, Rishi Janhu’s ashram was somewhere around this place. Rishi Janhu had acquired Ganga into his stomach. Rishi Janhu did not want deliverance of Sagar sons as they had insulted him. Later, at request of Bhagirath, Janhu Rishi released Ganga. That is why Ganga came to be known as “Jahnavi” here. This place is known as the esplanade of Lord Shiva. It is here that Devarshi Narad worshipped Shiva and got the knowledge of art of music.
4) Dev Prayag: (Pauri Garhwal district, Uttarakhand)
On the way to Badrinath from Rishikesh, falls the famous pilgrimage Dev Prayag. Here, Bhagirathi coming from Gangotri meets Alaknanda coming from Badrinath. Before the confluence, these streams are known in different names. After the confluence, this holy river gets the Ganga. Near Devprayag, there is Raghunath temple, Adivishveshwar temple and Ganga Yamuna temple. In the ancient times, this place was known as Sudarshan kshetra. This place has a great religious importance for Pind Archan (oblation of coked rice to manes) and Shraddh (offerings to Brahmans for the manes).
5) Rishikesh: (Uttarakhand)
Rishikesh is the Gateway to the Himalayas. It is at Rishkesh that one experiences the might and purity of the Ganges River. Situated in the serene atmosphere of the Himalayas, Rishikesh has been an important Hindu pilgrimage center for centuries. Many ancient as well as modern temples are located on the banks of River Ganga, at Rishikesh. Besides the temples, the most important attraction at Rishikesh is the Lakshman Jhoola (a bridge) across the Ganges. In recent times Rishikesh has developed as an important center of adventure sports, including water rafting.
6) Haridwar: (Uttarakhand)
Located on the banks of river Ganga, this holy pilgrimage is considered as the entrance to Lord Vishnu’s abode Badrinath. Here, after every twelve years, it is the venue of Kumbh Mela. Haridwar is considered to be one of the Saptapuris (seven principal places of pilgrimage). It is also known as Mayawati. There are five suburbs here: Mayapur, Haridwar, Kankhal, Jwalapur and Bhimgoda. It is believed that after Ganga arrived on to earth, when in Haridwar the water level of Ganga suddenly raised high due to which few drops of Ganga’s water fell in these five suburbs and so these suburbs got equal importance. That is why the pilgrimage to Haridwar is considered complete only after one visit these five places. There is a Ganga temple in the centre of Brahmakund in Har-ki-pauri here. Taking bath in Brahmakund holds a special importance.
7) Prayaag: (Allahabad, Uttarpradesh)
Prayaag is the sovereign pilgrimage of all the pilgrimages in India. Situated on the banks of river Ganga in Allahabad, Uttarpradesh, there is a mention of Prayaag even in Puranas. After the mountainous region of Uttarakhand, Ganga meets Yamuna and Saraswati in Prayaag. That is why this place is known as Sangam (meeting place). According to ancient stories, few drops of nectar that came out during Samudra manthan had fallen here which is why this place holds more importance. On account of this, after every twelve years, world famous “Kumbh Mela” is organized here which is one of the most famous cultural festivals of India. During Kumbh Mela devotees in lacs come here to take a holy dip. There is an ancient story in reference with Ganga which says that at the time of creation of universe, Laxmi, Saraswati and Ganga, all three were wives of Vishnu. Once, Saraswati felt that Vishnu loved Ganga the most and in anger cursed Ganga to become a river. In retaliation, Ganga also cursed Saraswati to become a river. Later, both of them repented for their respective curses. To reduce their pain, Vishnu blessed them that whenever Ganga will come on to earth for the deliverance of Sagar sons, after coming out from Shiva’s matted hair, in Prayaag she will meet his consort Saraswati who will be in invisible form and there Ganga will become famous as the most holy river.
8) Varanasi (Kashi): (Uttarpradesh)
One of the most ancient cities of India, Kashi is also known as Varanasi and is situated in Uttar Pradesh. Two rivers named Varana and Asee meet river Ganga in Kashi and that is why it got the Varanasi. According to ancient beliefs Kashi dwells on the trident of lord Shiva. It is said that when Shiva acquired Ganga in to his matted hair, seeing the half moon on Shiva’s forehead, Ganga got affection like a brother and in fond remembrance of this affection, Ganga flows in half moon form near Kashi. It is said that Sati’s earrings had fallen here. Kashi is one of the fifty one Shaktipeeths and there is also one of the twelve holy Jyotirlingas here. In Kashi, on the banks of holy river Ganga, 41 Ghats (wharf) are being made of which Manikarnika, Panchganga and Dashashvamegh Ghats are most famous. Kashi is an ancient city famous for education and culture.
9) Patli putra: (Patna, Bihar)
Near Patna city, present day capital of Bihar, Ganga meets the river Son. In the ancient times, Patli Putra was the famous capital of Magadh State. The construction of the Citadel here was done by Ajatshatru in fifth century B.C. It was developed as a capitol during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya in fourth century B.C. To protect the city, a drain was made on all four sides of the city where water of River Son was collected. In the fifth century when Chinese tourist Fahiyan visited Patli putra, he was amazed. After the Mauryas, even Gaupta Kings made Patliputra their capitol. In ancient times, Patliputra was the chief centre of learning Sanskrit.Just ahead of it is the present day river Gandak which was known as Sadaanira River in ancient itmes meets river Ganga. As there is water all through out the year in this river it was known as “Sadaanira” (Sadaa- always, nira- water). Even today, Ganga is known as “Sadaanira” in this region.
10) Kosi River: (Bihar)
Koshi River which flows along the Purnaya town of Bihar is supposed to be the biggest supportive river of Ganga. This river comes to the plains of Jaynagar after flowing between Everest and Kanchanjangha. Koshi changes its course very fast due to which there is a flood situation every year in Bihar. That is why this river is known as Bihar’s “Sok Nadi” (Distress River).
It is said that the “baraatis” (procession of the bridegroom’s family) while returning to the kingdom of Ayodhya after the Ram-Sita marriage stopped at Sitakund Motihari for a little rest. They bathed and freshened themselves in the Sita Kund. One of Sita’s bangles fell in the kund (pond), it is believed. The baraatis (Bridegroom’s family) offered a puja (worship) to Lord Shiva here.Sitakund is located 20 kms from Motihari in the South Direction. It is a well-known place in the Northern Indian Belt.
11)Ganga Sagar: (Bay of Bengal)
The place where River Ganga meets ocean in Bengal is the famous pilgrimage Ganga Sagar. Due to the curse of Kapil muni sixty thousand Sagar sons were reduced to ash over here. They got deliverance only when Devi Ganga came on to earth after Bhagirath observed penance. Since then Ganga Sagar has become an important Pilgrimage. There is famous saying about this Pilgrimage, “Saare tirth baar baar, Ganga Sagar ek baar” which means one can go to other pilgrimages many times but needs to go to Ganga Sagar just once. Ganga Sagar is a pilgrimage, but there is no temple here. Devotees come in large number here on the day of Makar Sankranti (time when Sun enters the mansion of Capricorn) for holy dip. One can reach Ganga Sagar by boat or ship from Diamond harbor station in Kolkata. There is a dense forest in this area. During Makar Sankranti festival this forest is cut to make tents fro devotees. Some saints are always worshipping in this island.