MOTHER GANGA

Sri Swami Sivananda's Love for Ganga
Ganga Mahamya
Prayer to Ganga
O Adorable Mother Ganges!
The Master & the English General
Glory of Mother Ganga
Prayer to the Ganges
Sri Ramakrishna's Reverence & Love for Ganga
Ganga, Daughter of Earth & Sky
Power & Glory of Ganga

SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA'S LOVE FOR GANGA


Swami Sivananda on the banks
of Mother Ganga

While every Hindu adores the Ganga, Swami Sivananda's love for Her was unprecedented. He clung on to a small set of rooms on the bank of the holy river for more than three decades, only because from there he could always commune with Mother Ganga day and night.

During his early days of rigorous Tapas in a cottage at Swarg Ashram, Rishikesh, he would get up at 4am and, even during winter, would enter waist-deep into the ice cold waters of the Ganga. Only when the sun appeared would he climb out of the waters. This awesome Tapas affected the Divine Master's body in later life, but his reverence and love for the celestial river did not diminish and continued up to his last days on earth, as will be seen from the narratives below.

This incident occurred about 24 June, 1963, a few weeks before the Master entered into Mahasamadhi. At the lunch table he could not pick up the towel with his left hand when he tried, nor could he perform his usual salutations to Mother Ganga after taking his meal.

On July 8, he was wheeled to the verandah and, at his bidding, the doors of the verandah opening onto the river front were thrown open, enabling him to drink his fill of the beauty of the holy Ganga to his heart's content. Ganga Darshan to him was always a spiritual feast.

On July 10, the Master expressed a desire to see Ganga from where he lay in bed. An intervening wall obstructed the view. So the direction of the bed was suitably changed in order to enable him to view the holy Tirtha, which he loved so much, on whose banks he had lived for almost forty years, and on whose glory he had written a book.

At 10am the Master was brought to the verandah as usual. Normally he sat there for half an hour, but that day he rested for just ten minutes, with a straight gaze fixed intently on the Ganga.

On July 14, as was the usual practice, the disciples wanted to give the Master barley water or jeera water, but he wanted to have Ganga water, pure and simple. The water was brought. The Master, who had experienced difficulty in taking the smallest quantity of solid or liquid, gulped down half a glass of Ganga water wihout apparent trouble-and with that, the Being that was Swami Sivananda laid aside his mortal vesture. It was 11.15pm.

Shrine of Ganga Mata in Ganga Rani, in Bhagirathi
and also in Ganga Rani, Reservoir Hills
Picture: Courtesy-Yogendra Rastogi


GANGA MAHATMYA

Lord Krishna says in the Gita: "Among streams, I am the Ganga".

Devi Bhagavatam: "He who utters 'Gange, Gange' even from a distance of hundreds of kilometers, becomes purified from all sins, and attains Vaikuntha, the world of Vishnu."

Lord Dhanvantari: "When the body is afflicted by senility and diseases, the holy water of Mother Ganga is the medicine, and Lord Narayana (Hari), from whose Feet Mother Ganga emanates, is the great physician."

Sri Sankara: "Even a little study of the Bhagavad Gita, or drinking of a little Ganga water, and worship even once of Murari, will make one immune to Yama, the Lord of Death."


PRAYER TO GANGA

1. Om, obeisance to Ganga, identical with Siva and the bestower of happiness! Obeisance, obeisance, obeisance to you in the form of Vishnu! Obeisaince to you in the form of Brahma!

2. I bow to you in the form of Rudra, Sankari (benefactress)! Obeisance to you in the form of all gods! Obeisance to medicine personified!

3. Obeisance to you, the most excellent physician of all ailments of all people! Obeisance to you, the destroyer of the poisons arising from mobile and immobile beings!

4. Hail to you, the destroyer of the poison of worldly existence! Obeisance to the enlivener! Repeated obeisance to you, the destroyer of the three types of distresses, the Goddess of the vital breath!

5. Obeisance to the Goddess, the cause of lasting peace! Obeisance to you of pure form! Obeisance to the purifier of everything! Obeisance to you in the form of the enemy of sins!

6. Repeated salutes to the bestower of all worldly pleasures and salvation! Obeisance to the bestower of welfare! Obeisance to the bestower of pleasure here and hereafter! Obeisance to you, the river in the nether worlds!

7. Obeisance to Mandakini! Obeisance to the bestower of heavenly pleasures! Obeisance to the triple-streamed one!

8. Obeisance to the holy river abiding in the three white ones (pure ones, namely, its source, Prayaga and confluence with the sea)! Obeisance, obeisance to the one with forbearance. Obeisance to the one abiding in the three types of fire! Obeisance to the brilliant one!


O ADORABLE MOTHER GANGES!
Sri Swami Sivananda

O adorable Mother Ganga, the Shakti of Lord Siva,
Prostrations and adorations unto Thee!
Thou art the creatrix and nourisher of the world.
People address Thee as "Bhagirathi", "Har Har Gange",
I know well Thy story, O dear Mother,
Once King Bhagiratha brought Thee down
To purify the ashes of his grandfathers,
Lord Siva took Thee in His matted locks,
Thou takest origin in Gaumukh, beyond Gangotri,
Thou passest through Uttarkashi, Rishikesh and Haridwar,
Thou purifiest the Punyabhumi of Bharata Varsha;
Thou finally mergest in Ganga Sagar;
Thou art Bhrantinashini and Jagatjanani;
Thou adornest the head of Gangadhar,
Thou art the nectar of immortalilty that gives salvation,
Thou art Mahamaya, Adishakti and Avyaktam,
People sing "Gange Lahari" in the evening,
They do Arati with Bhav and devotion;
They raise Jaya Jayakar: "Ganga Mayee Ki Jai!",
They worship Thee with flowers and Prasad,
Thou art Jnana Ganga, the wisdom nectar,
Thy subtle form is in the celestial regions,
Thy gross form only human beings behold here,
Thou pervadest the world as subtle Chidakasa,
Thou hast attracted the people of the whole world,
Thy name has holy associations and vibrations,
A dip in Thee refreshes and purifies the heart,
Millions flock to Thee during Kumbha Mela,
Thou art the purest water on earth,
No germs can thrive in Thee,
This is the finding of the scientist in his laboratory,
Thou art sparkling and clear as crystal,
A drop on the tongue at the moment of death gives Moksha,
Yogins and Sadhus do Tapas on Thy banks in cottages,
Thou deliverest them from the rounds of births and deaths,
Who can describe, O Mother, Thy glory and splendour?
Will a day come to me, Beloved Mother,
To sit on a block of stone on Thy bank,
To shed continuous tears of Prem on Thy lap,
And merge in Thee for ever and ever?
O all-powerful Mother of compassion and love,
Bless me with Thy Grace and mercy,
Destroy my darkness and ignorance,
Remove the veil and show Thy true form,
I am thine, O Mother, Thou art mine,
The sense of duality has vanished now,
The bridge that separates us has broken now,
Let me dwell in Thee, Mother, for ever and ever.


THE MASTER & THE ENGLISH GENERAL

An English General arrived at Muni-ki-Reti to fish in the Ganga, known far and wide for its abundance of fish. Leaving his car on the roadside, the General went to the river bank with his aide. There he happened to see the Master, Gurudev Sivananda. He greeted the Master by touching his cap in a careless manner, while the Master bowed to him after the Indian fashion. They did not talk to each other. Then the General threw the angling-line bow into the river.

A disciple of the Master said to the General, "Sir, the Swami implores you not to fish in this spot which is holy to us. Fish are living beings. They do not hurt us. Could it be justified to destroy their lives?"

"It is none of the Swami's business!" snapped the General, and threw the line again. Hours passed, but not one fish bit the hook. He grew weary and was greatly disappointed and astonished at the same time. As it grew dark, he gave up fishing and ordered his adjutant to return.

Suddenly, on impulse, he directed his steps toward the Master's cottage and, seeing him, said sadly, "Dear Swami, I have lived in India for a long time. I can understand the power of your will and thoughts. It is stronger than my commands and wishes. Therefore, I do not take amiss your interference in my fishing. I return home with empty hands."


Bhagirathi, an enchantingly lovely water fountain sanctified with holy Ganga water
at Sivananda International Cultural Centre, La Mercy


Ganga Rani, a pool feature sanctified with holy Ganga water
at Sivananda International Cultural Centre, La Mercy


GLORY OF MOTHER GANGA

The water of Ganga is extremely pure and sanctifying. No germs can flourish in it. This has been tested by various scientists in the laboratory. Rich in minerals, this water cures almost all kinds of diseases.

Ganga is saturated with antiseptaic minerals. Even in the West, doctors prescribe Ganga water for rubbing in the treatment of diseases of the skin. Ganga is not merely a river. It is a sacred Tirtha (place of pilgrimage). It is possessed of mysterious powers which are not found in any other river in the world. Even scientists have admitted the efficacy of the Ganga water.

A British physician, Dr C.E. Nelson, F.R.C.S., tells us of another striking fact. He says that ships leaving Calcutta for England take water from one of the mouths of the Ganga; and this Ganga water remains fresh all the way to England. On the other hand, ships leaving England for India find that they must replenish their water supply at Port Said, Suez or Aden on the Red Sea. It is no wonder that the Indian people should hold that the Ganga is very sacred and possesses mysterious powers.

For a Hindu, the word "Ganga" or "Ganges" has its own sacred association. Every Hindu thirsts for a dip in the Ganga, and for a drop of Her water at the time of death. Aspirants and mendicants build their huts on the banks of the Ganga for practising penance and meditation. Bhishma spoke very highly of the glory of Ganga in his parting instructions to the Pandavas from his bed of arrows.

Ganga is the form of Lord Vishnu. Her sight is soul-stirring and elevating. She flows in the valleys and lives by the side of Parvati, daughter of Himavan. How magnificent She is when She flows in the valley of Rishikesh! She has a blue colour like that of the ocean. The water is extremely clear and sweet. Rich people from the plains get water from Rishikesh. They are taken in big copper vessels to far-off places in India.


PRAYER TO THE GANGES
Courtesy: Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Pradyot was intimately connected with the construction of a large hydro-electrical project. Once, the foundation of a power-house was washed away by the swirling waters of the Ganges. A new foundation was laid, but once again it was washed away. Crestfallen and bewildered, the engineers turned to Pradyot, asking him to pray to the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram for Her intercession.

When she heard Pradyot's report the Mother said, "Did they pray to the Ganges before laying the foundation? She is a great Goddess. Previously people always used to pray."

Then the Mother gave a stone to Pradyot and asked him to drop it at the site of the construction without letting anybody see it. Pradyot went out with the engineers to the place and unobtrusively dropped the stone. This time there was no mishap to the foundation.


SRI RAMAKRISHNA'S REVERENCE & LOVE FOR GANGA
Courtesy: The Ramakrishna Math

Ah, what a deep devotion to the Ganga the Master had all his life! He used to call the water of the Ganga, "Brahmavari", that is, Brahman in the form of water.

He said, "Any person living on either bank of the Ganga has his heart changed into one like that of the gods, and virtues manifest therein of themselves. The wind, filled with the sacred particles of the water of the Ganga, purifies the land on both sides as far as it blows. By the Grace of Bhagirathi, the daughter of the great mountain, goodness, austerity, generosity, devotion to God and spiritual steadfastness are always manifest in the lives of the people living in those parts of the land."

If anyone talked of worldly things for a long time, or mixed with worldly people, the Master would ask him to drink a little of the water of the Ganga. If a man, averse to God and attached to worldliness, sat in any part of the sacred abode of the Divine Mother and polluted it with worldly thoughts, he would sprinkle there the water of the Ganga. He felt much pained if he saw anybody cleaning himself with that water after answering calls of nature.

If anybody was overwhelmed with grief or affliction or delusion, he would tell him: "Go and drink a little Ganges water, you will be all right." It was amazing to find that the person would get the desired result.

Once, the son of a public woman came to Dakshineswar. The Master was sleeping in his room. The man entered and touched his feet. The Master at once jumped up as if someone had thrown fire on him. He said, "Tell me frankly all the sins you have committed. If you cannot, then go to the Ganga and tell them loudly. You will be free from them." But the man was ill-fated and could not do so.


GANGA, DAUGHTER OF EARTH & SKY

When Sri Satya Sai Baba visited the Ashram of Sri Swami Sivananda in Rishikesh many years ago, a devotee who accompanied Baba, was greatly inspired by the scenic beauty of the evergreen Himalayan mountains and the majestic Ganga.

This is what he wrote about Ganga Mata: "There is also Ganga, daughter of earth and sky, let into Bharata Varsha by the penance of a prince who, in the effort to propitiate his ancestors, succeeded also in ensuring prosperity and salvation to his children and his childrens' children for ever and ever; Ganga, famed in lore and legend, sought after in every Hindu home since thousands of years to sanctify every ritual, to purify every rite, to exorcise every evil, to cleanse ever sin; Ganga, embedded in architecture, symbolised in art, immortalised in poetry, idealised in sculpture, humanised in painting, extolled in music, revered as a vehicle of bliss, whose scintillating story is related by a million mothers every nightfall to the toddlers on their laps; Ganga rolls majestically by, reminding everyone of India's message, and India's grandeur."


THE POWER & GLORY OF GANGA

Water from the Ganga has the recursive property that any water mixed with even the minutest quantity of Ganga water becomes Ganga water, and inherits its healing properties. Also, despite any impurities put into it, Ganga water remains pure even if stored for several days.

Based on this principle, the Divine Life Society of South Africa has constructed several large water features in South Africa which are regularly sanctified with Ganga water brought from India. Littered throughout this web-page, you will find pictures of such water features in the Divine Life Society Ashrams in South Africa.

Presently (February 2005), the holy Ganga water sanctifies fountains at the following places, four at Sivananda International Cultural Centre, La Mercy, one each at Sivanandashram (Reservoir Hills), Sivananda Ghat (Clare Estate), Sivanandashram (Zakarraiya Park), Sivanandashram (Chatsworth), Sivanandashram (Pietermaritzburg),Sivanandashram (Stanger), Sivanandashram (Richards Bay), Sai Ashram (Chatsworth), Nelisiwe Ganga Baptismal Centre (Port Durnford), Ebuhleni Ganga Baptismal Centre (Inanda).

At the Nelisiwe Ganga Baptismal Centre, African girls dressed in saris, belonging to the Nazareth Baptist Church, perform Ganga Arati once a week. Ganga Arati is relayed over a sound system. The picture of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, has been installed on the shrines in the centres at Port Durnford and Inanda, together with pictures of Bishop Shembe and his past Masters. The Shembe clan, which has a following of about five million, also worship water. So they have great reverence for Ganga.


Once a week African girls, dressed in saris, repeat prayers in Zulu before and
after Ganga Arati, which is relayed over the sound system


Devotees of Baba Shembe taking water from the Ebuhleni Ganga Baptising Pool


Ganga Rani, a pool in the prayer hall at Sivanandashram, Reservoir Hills.
Daily Ganga Arati is conducted here.

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