The river Ganga is said to have originated when Bhrama
- (one of the supreme forms of divinity) washed the feet of Vishnu in his incarnation as Vamana.
It was Bhagirata through his penance that brought the river down to the earth to
purify the ashes of his ancestors who had been cursed by Kapila Muni. Legend has it
that the earth was unable to bear the force of the celestial river, and that the Gods
requested Shiva to bear the river on his matted locks and bring down it's energy.
Ganga is thus often regarded as one of Shiva's consort as he is often depicted with
the Ganga on his matted hair.
Another legend has it that the Ganga interrupted the
penances of a sage by name Jahnu - on the Himalayas who drank the entire
river in his anger - and finally permitted her to come out through his ear. The Ganga
therefore is also known as Jahnavi.
Another legend has it that the Ganga came down to the
earth in a human form and married King Shantanu - an ancestor of the
Pandavas of Mahabharata, yielded 7 children, all of whom were thrown back
into the river by her in an unexplained manner. The eighth - Bheeshma was
spared, thanks to King Shantanu's intervention, however Ganga left him from then on.
Bheeshma plays a pivotal role throughout the grand epic of Mahabharata.
Yet another legend has it that, Parvati
- the Universal mother passed on to Agni the fire God - the fetus of her
unborn son Skanda. Agni, unable to bear the
burden requested Ganga to take it up. Ganga is also considered to be one of the mothers of