Ganges (Ganga) is the longest and the holiest river in India. It is the source of lifeline for millions of people. Ganges is also the home of more than 140 fish species and 90 amphibian species. Freshwater Dolphins have been living in it since ancient times.
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Course of Ganges
Ganges originates at Gangotri in Uttarakhand (India) and flows through different regions of India and Bangladesh. It covers 2,525 km during its course and finally empties into the Bay of Bengal.
Alakhnanda river emerges from snow of three mountain peaks, Nanda Devi, Trisul and Kamet. Bhagirathi river emerges from the Gangotri glacier. The confluence of Alakhnanda and Bhagirathi rivers at Devprayag marks the beginning of Ganges proper. Bhagirathi is considered the main source of Ganga in Hindu mythology.
After flowing through narrow regions in mountains, Ganga debouches onto the Gangetic plains at Haridwar. It crosses six states of India, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal before entering in Bangladesh. In West Bengal, it branches into two rivers, Hooghly river and Padma river. Hooghly river and Padma river flows through different parts of West Bengal (India) and Bangladesh respectively before entering into Bay of Bengal.
Ganga and Brahmaputra, together have created largest delta of the World along the bay of Bengal called The Ganga Delta.
The Indo-Gangetic plains are the vast and continuous alluvial plains formed by Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra and their tributaries. They run parallel to Himalaya and covers most parts of Pakistan, northern western India, central India and Bangladesh. Deccan plateau marks the boundary of Indo-Gangetic plains in south.
Tributaries of Ganga River
Major Tributaries of Alakhnanda
These five rivers mainly contribute to the headwaters of Ganges. The five confluencces are known as PanchPrayag.
- Dhauliganga meets Alakhnanda at Vishnuprayag
- Nandakini meets Alakhnanda at Nandprayag
- Pindar meets Alakhnanda at Karnaprayag
- Mandakini meets Alakhnanda at Rudraprayag
- Bhagirathi meets Alakhnanda at Devprayag
Major Tributaries of Ganges proper
- Left bank tributaries of Ganga : These rivers emerges from Himalayan peaks. They flow southwards to meet Ganges on its left bank
- Ghaghra (largest)
- Kosi (3rd largest)
- Right bank tributaries of Ganga : These rivers except Yamuna emerges from Deccan plateau and flow northwards to meet Ganges on its right bank.
- Yamuna (2nd largest)
Cultural and Religious Importance of Ganga
Ganga has been the centre of culture and traditions in India for more than 2500 years. Most important pilgrimages, towns and capitals of ancient India were founded on the bank of Ganga river.
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Patliputra, Prayag, Kannauj, Munger, Kashi, Haridwar are some of cities that were established on the bank of Ganga centuries ago. Rishikesh, Haridwar, Prayag, Kashi are major pilgrimage sites for Hindus that are situated on the bank of Ganga. Ganga Sagar where Ganga meets ocean is also a pilgrimage site.
Ganga is regarded as Jeevandayini (giver of life) and Mokshdayini (giver of salvation). She is the symbol of faith and purity in Indian Culture.
In Hinduism, Ganga river is considered holy and personified as goddess. Hindus worship her and appraise her water (Ganga Jal) as pure and divine. They use it in almost every religious ritual. They use it to ward off evil or impurities.
Hindus bath in Ganga to get rid of their sins. Ardha Kumbh Mela occurs at Prayagraj and Haridwar after every 6 years where millions of devotees gather on the bank of Ganga to wash off their sins.
They believe that if they die in Ganga or if their ashes after cremation is immersed in Ganga, then their soul will reach the heaven.