“I come to you as a child to his mother.
I come as an orphan to you, moist with love.
I come without refuge to you, giver of sacred rest.
I come a fallen man to you, uplifter of all.
I come undone by disease to you, the perfect physician.
I come, my heart dry with thirst, to you, ocean of sweet wine.
Do with me whatever you will.”
The poet portrays himself as the worst of sinners, rejected even by outcastes, even by madmen, and he challenges the Ganges to purify the likes of him. There are plenty of gods who will care for the good, he tells her. But who will care for the wicked, if not the Ganges. The goddess will take on the emblems of Shiva and fight for the salvation of the sinner:
– Ganga Lahari (Waves of the Ganga), Jagannatha (17th century poet) quoted and commented on by Diana L. Eck in ‘Banaras, City of Light’
“Now bind on your strong and lovely girdle of battle,
And anchor the new moon in your crown with ropes of snakes.
Do not take me lightly, thinking me an ordinary sinner.
Behold, O River of Heaven,
This is the hour of Jagannnatha’s salvation!
On 20 March 2017, the Indian government declared River Ganga a “living entity” with all the legal rights of a person. Yet, it feels like we still largely treat her like a geographical entity. Her “livingness” aspect has felt to me to still not be brought out amply in our consciousness.
On my annual visits to Rishikesh the last few years, I always felt Ganga Ma’s enormous presence – a presence that was gentle yet powerful, flowing, playful and most of all – alive. A presence that almost coaxes ones into a spontaneous surrender of all one’s worrisome thoughts, problems and sufferings.
I felt that in addition to focusing on her physical aspects and the cleaning and restoration drives that have begun, we must also celebrate how much she is entwined with our lives – as a mother caring for our physical needs and facilitating our spiritual growth and liberation.
In the Kashi Khanda (part of the Skanda Purana) it is said of Ganga that :
“The waves of the River of Heaven are the wine of immortality”
On the occasion of Mauni Amavasya (11 Feb), the last Amavasya or new moon day before Mahashivaratri (see article: The Power of Silence on the significance of Silence on this day), here’s a short video tribute to Ma Ganga for being an integral part of our lives.
This day is a significant day for taking a dip in the Ganga (especially during the Kumbh Mela festival) as it is believed that the river waters metaphorically turn into nectar, removing suffering and aiding the process of liberation.
A fitting day for this tribute.
Jai Ma Ganga!
An idea I had a couple of years ago was to collect personal stories revolving around our fascinating rivers and I feel this initiative can become a beautiful way to re-connect with our river-mothers in a way that shows how much a living entity they are in our lives.
Here’s the first article I wrote to start this off, inspired by an incident on Gangaji’s banks at Rishikesh:
Tales of Ganga #1: Ma Ganga’s Children
Here was another extremely popular article published on the website, revolving around the city of Jabalpur located in the lap of Ma Narmada:
Winding through the streets of Sanskardhani, Jabalpur
A call to all readers: if you’d like to share your personal river stories for this initiative, send them in to me (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will be very happy to publish them on the website and share them more widely. It would be a wonderful way to celebrate our most ancient mothers. As initiatives like the Rally for Rivers draw our attention to the need to save the dying rivers, we must work not only from a survival instinct but with the love in our hearts for that which gives us life.
Ganga, River of Heaven by Subhash Kak
The Living Ganga
Bathing in the Sounds of Ganga: Ganga Waters Meditation
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