How Ganga Came Down from Heaven to Earth Part 2 of 2


There is an ancient curse upon your royal house. It has been working its mischief for many hundreds of years. With the succession of each new king of your royal dynasty, the effects of this curse grow steadily worse. A great injustice has been done to your remote ancestors and, until that injustice is undone, the catastrophes of Koshala will increase until the Kingdom falls.

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?

With that, the Counsellors told Bhagiratha of King Sagara’s one hundred Horse Sacrifices, and the strange death of his sixty thousand sons.

Oh Great King of Koshala, they concluded, When the funeral rites of these princes are properly performed, the suffering of your Kingdom will come to an end.

King Bhagiratha was astonished at this tale. Oh Wise Ones, tell me at once, how I may perform the funeral rites for these ancestors of mine?

Another of King Bhagiratha’s counsellors replied: We have prayed and meditated and consulted all the holy books. And there is only one way to purify your ancestors’ misdeeds, and to save the Kingdom.

Tell me, I pray, said the King eagerly, What must I do?

Oh King, you must find a way to draw the heavenly river Ganga down to earth, to bathe the ashes of your ancestors. This will purify their souls, right the wrong done to them, and free Koshala from the ancient curse.

So King Bhagiratha left his Kingdom in the care of his wise counsellors. He retreated to the high Himalayas. Once there, he prayed and fasted and meditated. His fervent wish was to bring Goddess Ganga down to earth, to wash away the impurities of his ancestors, and free his Kingdom from suffering.

For years he begged the Gods and Goddesses in heaven to hear his prayers.

Finally, Lord Brahma, the Creator of the Universe, heard Bhagiratha’s prayer, and was pleased with his perseverance and sincerity. Brahma summoned Goddess Ganga to his divine presence.

Oh Beautiful Goddess, my devotee King Bhagiratha has pleased me. He begs that you descend to earth to wash away the ashes of his ancestors, and free his kingdom from its ancient curse. Go down, I pray you, and carry out the wishes of this righteous king.

But Ganga was not happy with this request. She desired to stay in heaven. She was bound to obey the Supreme Creator, but she planned to exact revenge. She would roar down in such a torrent, that Mother Earth herself would be washed away.

King Bhagiratha, and all the dwellers on earth, heard a deafening rumble as Ganga gathered herself, ready to fall upon them. Everyone began to tremble with fear. The Universe held its breath in terror, as Ganga prepared to unleash her destructive force.

But King Bhagiratha calmed himself, and again sat perfectly still and began to appeal to the heavens. This time he prayed to the Great God, Shiva, Lord of the Three Realms, and Conqueror of Death itself.

Oh Lord Shiva, Mightiest of all the Gods, prayed Bhagiratha, Come, I beg you, to our aid. The whole earth is threatened with destruction from Goddess Ganga’s mighty power. Protect us, who kneel and pray to you for mercy and deliverance.

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The Lord Shiva was pleased with King Bhagiratha’s prayer. He took up a position between heaven and earth, just as Ganga unleashed herself in a mighty torrent. She flooded out of heaven, pouring down towards the earth. But before she could obliterate the earth, Lord Shiva caught her in his long flowing hair, which was piled up high on his head.

Ganga found herself trapped in Shiva’s hair. She fought and struggled to get free, but Shiva just laughed and, with a tiny fraction of his limitless power, held her fast.

At last Ganga realised that all her efforts were futile. She was humbled by Shiva’s might. She realised the folly of her resentment and anger. She repented her intention to destroy the earth, and she bowed to Lord Shiva.

Oh Great Lord Shiva, she said, You have bound me here in the locks of your beautiful hair. I am imprisoned by you and cannot escape. You hold me here, with a minute sliver of your immense power. I see now the error of my ways, and I make this promise for all time.

If you free me, I will flow gently down to earth. I will wash away the ashes of good King Bhagiratha’s ancestors. My waters, having flowed through your hair, will be supremely holy. Anyone who bathes in my waters, will have all their impurities washed away.

Shiva smiled, pleased at Ganga’s change of heart. Oh Beautiful Goddess, you who were intent on destruction, are destined to be the cause of mankind’s salvation! You flow in Heaven, and you will flow on Earth to wash away the sins of all mankind.

And so it was, that the mighty Lady Ganga, fell from heaven into the matted locks piled high on Lord Shiva’s head. From there she flowed out to cleanse King Bhagiratha’s ancestors, and to free the Kingdom of Koshala from its ancient curse.

And, even to this day, she blesses all who bathe in her holy waters.

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