How Ganga Came Down from Heaven to Earth Part 1 of 2
In days of yore, in the Golden Age, when legendary Kings and Queens of India communed freely with Gods and Goddesses, King Sagara ruled the Kingdom of Koshala with his brave Queen Sumati. Together they had sixty thousand sons, all of whom were mighty warriors, quick to anger, and ever ready to fight their father’s enemies.
King Sagara made a solemn vow to perform the Horse Sacrifice one hundred times. In this powerful sacrifice, the prayers of a thousand priests sanctified a pure white horse. The white horse was then set free to roam the land for a year. If the horse wandered into a neighbouring realm, the ruler of that Kingdom had to submit to King Sagara, or face the wrath of his sixty thousand warlike sons. This potent ritual gave Sagara immense power.
Ninety-nine times the pure white horse was released. Ninety-nine times it wandered into neighbouring Kingdoms. Ninety-nine times King Sagara’s sons accepted the surrender, and rich gifts of countless rulers of other lands.
But Indra, the Chief of the Gods, grew jealous of King Sagara’s power and wealth. He devised a cunning plan to thwart Sagara’s hundredth sacrifice.
At this time, there lived a holy man of immense spiritual prowess named Kapila. Indra knew of the unbounded power of Kapila’s spiritual energy, which made even the heavens themselves shake.
Kapila had retreated underground to meditate. So Indra stole the hundredth pure white horse of King Sagara, from under the very noses of the King’s sixty thousand sons. He took the horse underground, to the cave where Sage Kapila sat motionless in blissful meditation.
Indra quietly tied the pure white horse to a stake in the floor of the cave, just beside Sage Kapila. Then he withdrew to enjoy the results of his troublemaking.
When King Sagara was told of the disappearance of his horse, he was enraged. He angrily ordered his sixty thousand sons to search the world high and low for the missing horse, and to punish the thief who had stolen it.
King Sagara’s sons set off in a fury. They crossed back and forth over the whole earth, creating widespread destruction as they searched everywhere for the horse.
Finally, unable to find the pure white horse anywhere on earth, they began to search for it in the underworld. Eventually they came upon Sage Kapila, sitting in silent meditation. And what did they see next to him? It was none other than their father’s pure white horse, standing quietly next to the holy man.
The sixty thousand sons of King Sagara flew into a rage. They had found the thief! With a shout, they drew their swords and ran towards Kapila.
At the sound of the approaching horde, Kapila, angry that his meditation had been disturbed, opened his eyes. Bolts of scorching fire shot out from his eyes, and the sixty thousand sons of King Sagara were instantly reduced to ashes.
The sixty thousand piles of ash lay undisturbed in that underground cave for hundreds of years. The funeral rites of those mighty princes were never properly performed, and the effects of this injustice grew and grew. As the years went by, the Kingdom of Koshala suffered more and more.
Finally, many years after the burning of the sixty thousand sons of King Sagara, a new king ascended the throne of the ancient Kingdom of Koshala. His name was Bhagiratha, and he was a wise and benevolent monarch.
But Koshala was troubled. Natural disasters afflicted its people. Earthquakes shook the land, avalanches tumbled down mountains, floods carried away whole villages, and droughts dried up fertile farmland.
And worse! Neighbouring kings attacked the borders of King Bhagiratha’s land, and made off with cattle and other valuable property.
King Bhagiratha and all his wise ministers were perplexed. Bhagiratha was faithful to his royal duties, and made sure all the sacrifices to the Gods were properly performed. Why was his kingdom under attack from both divine and human forces?
The King called a meeting of his Council, and instructed them to spare no effort to find out the cause of these troubles.
Having consulted the stars, prayed to the Gods, meditated deeply, and discussed the issue long into the night, the Council of the Wise approached their beloved King.
“Oh Great King,” said the oldest of the Counsellors, “We have found the cause of these disasters afflicting our Kingdom.”
King Bhagiratha was eager to hear. He sat forward on his throne, and encouraged the Chief Counsellor to continue.
King Bhagiratha was filled with consternation. “What is this great injustice? How can it be overcome? What must I do to right the wrong done to my ancestors?”