Ashtottaram 27) OṀ GANGĀPAVIṪRABHŨMYAI NAMAH:
OṀ (AUM) –GAN-GAA-PA-VI-ṪRA-BHOO-MYAI—NA-MA-HA
ॐ गङ्गापवित्रभूम्यै नमः
(Ganga: One who descended to this earth; Pavitra: Sanctified, purified by the performance of ritual acts)
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Ganga also means knowledge. The rivers of a country are its lifeline. Hindu India has always looked upon its rivers, not as just physical or natural objects but as divinities, goddesses of prosperity. Of all the rivers of India, no river has captivated the minds and the hearts of the people more than the river Ganga. For many a Hindu, a bath in it is a life-long ambition. No religious act can be ceremonially complete without its water being present in some form or the other. A few drops of its water poured into the mouth of a dying person will remove all their sins. Immersion of the ashes of a dead person in it will give him or her liberation.
Though the river Ganga has been mentioned in the Ṛigveda only once, it is the first in the list. There are references to it in other places such as Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa. The Rāmayaṇa, the Mahābhārata and many purāṇas such as the Padma, the Nāradīya, the Agni and the Matsya contain hundreds of verses eulogizing the greatness and the sanctifying power of the Ganga River. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Shri Krishna identifies himself with it among all the rivers.
Almost all the well-known rivers (undivided) of India have a dual form and have been described in mythological literature as deities and goddesses. Iconographical works even ascribe to them specific forms and give detailed descriptions. As per the Mahābhārata, the river-goddess Ganga was cursed to be born as a human being in our mortal world. The river Ganga is said to have been born out of the left foot of Vishnu in his incarnation as Vāmana-Trivikrama (hence the name ‘Vishnupadī’).
Ganga was then confined to the celestial region only. The other names of Ganga include Sureswari, Bhagavati, Bhāgīrathi, Jāhnavi, Daksha, Pruthvī, Vihagā, Amrutā, Siva, Kshema, Śānta, and so on.
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Geographically speaking, the river Ganga begins near Gangotri in the Tehri Garhwal district of Uttar Pradesh. The total length of the river is 2500 km (1557 miles). It breaks into a number of branches near the sea. A good number of pilgrim centers are situated on the banks of the Ganga and its branches. The biggest bathing festival connected with the river Ganga is the Kumbhamela, held once in twelve years. The Hindus call Ganga as māta (mother).
That is why a popular saying has identified it with one of the three legs of the tripod upon which Hinduism stands, the other two legs being the ‘Gīta’ and the ‘Gāyatri.’ It is believed that Sri Veda Vyāsa wrote the great epic Mahābhārata on the banks of Ganga. From the scientific standpoint also, the purity of Ganges water is probably from all the herbs and medicinal plants roots soak in that water that flows downstream. Another fact is that Ganges water contains more bacteriophage than any other river in the world.
Thus, Ganga is one of the major aspects of the Hindu religion and culture, and it has helped Hinduism to be not only alive but vigorously active. Hence, our motherland is ‘Gangāpavitra Bhūmi’.