The Ganges River has a length between 2500 and 3000 kilometers and is born in the cold waters of the Himalayas, in its western part. It is also known as “The river of life” by Hindus since, along with its route, it is surrounded by fertile land.
For the Hindus, it is a sacred river, since it is related to the goddess Ganga. Its route is quite extensive and ends in the Gulf or Bay of Bengal, a sea in the northeast area of the Indian Ocean.
Why is the Ganges River Sacred?
According to a legend of the Hindu religion, King Sagara had 60,000 children. One day the god Indra stole Sagara, his favorite horse and this, very angry, sent all his descendants so that they will find him. Finally, they found him in the underworld, along with a sage named Kapila.
The young people thought that he had been the author of the robbery and asked for explanations. The god, angry because they interrupted him while meditating, made them burn with his eyes. From that moment, their souls were condemned to wander through “purgatory” eternally. To help them reach heaven, another of the king’s descendants asked the creator god Brahma to assist them. The divinity sent the goddess Ganga to purify the ashes of the deceased.
As his arrival on earth could be dangerous, he asked for help from Lord Shiva, who allowed him to “cushion” his descent from the sky through the water of the Ganges River. Once there, he released the souls of the sons of Sagara.
Still Polluted River? No!
The legend remains very much alive in the local Ganges culture. Therefore, the inhabitants of India do not believe that the waters are contaminated but consider them sacred and pure. Although this is not the same under the Western gaze, in fact, there are several studies scientific studies that have proven that, for every one hundred milliliters, there are one and a half million bacteria. Ideally, there should be only about five hundred bacteria, at most, for the river to be suitable for bathing.
The Ganges River pollution is not only due to the waste dump of various factories but also to the accumulation of ashes of deceased people and to the whole bodies (both of people and animals) that are thrown into the water on a daily basis. Fortunately, pollution has decreased, on the contrary, it continues to decline. Thanks for govt. for taking the initiative.
Strolling by Boat on the River Ganges!
The best area to cross this sacred river, without a doubt, is the birth, where it is less polluted. To do this, we must go to Baghirati or Alaknanda (the two tributaries of the Ganges River). If you choose the first option, the walk starts at the Gomukh glacier, at 4100 meters high, in the middle of the Himalayas mountain range.
At about 200 kilometers, both arms of the Ganges river join in the city of Devprayag. Then it will go through Rishikesh and from there, every port or city that is visited will be overpopulated. The basin of the river houses no less than 700 million people, or what is the same, 8% of the inhabitants of the entire planet.
The Best-Known Part of the Route!
Allahabad is a key point of the route. Here, every 12 years, people bathe in the waters of the sacred river Ganges during the pilgrimage of Kumbh-Mela. Further ahead is the famous city of Varanasi (recommend doing this part of the walk at sunrise).
From there, you can choose between taking the first branch (Hooghly) or the second (the Padma, up to the border with Bangladesh). If you opt for the first alternative, you will pass through Calcutta, the city of joy, and the tour will end at Ganga Sagar, a highlight in Hindu pilgrimages.
Varanasi and the Ganges River!
This is, without a doubt, one of the most well-known cities in India and from which many boat rides depart from very early (even at dawn). If you intend to know only part of Ganges, the most famous and significant is here.
As you go through the waters, you will see countless boats that make stores to buy what you can think of. You can make a stop in front of the Manikarnika Ghat, where the cremations take place, and see the colorful buildings and tunics everywhere. Of course, this tour lasts just over an hour. Therefore, you can continue touring the city on foot, between temples, markets, and restaurants.