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.