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Report: Ganga Dussehra 2023

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Divine Life Society of South Africa observed the auspicious Ganga Dussehra on Tuesday, 30 May 2023 at Sivanandashram, Reservoir Hills. Ganga Arati commenced at 5.30pm followed by Satsang. The Satsang programme comprised Kirtans, Bhajans, a video and a reading from the book, Mother Ganga by Sri Swami Sivananda.

Swami Sivananda says the following about Ganga Dussehra, "Taking Her course into the interior of the Himalayas, Ganga was about to wash away Rishi Janhnu's Ashram. Sage Jahnu was naturally more powerful than Her and simply sipped the water. Bhagiratha was much disappointed. He did severe penance again to please Rishi Jahnu. At last, the sage let Ganga through his ears. Flowing from this outlet, Ganga flowed with entire modesty, and all-embracing filial love and motherly affection. By Her Divine Grace, She uplifted all the sixty thousand princes to the highest abode of immortal bliss. This day is celebrated as the most sanctifying Ganga Dussehra".

Both Sri Swami Sivananda and Pujya Swami Sahajananda had the greatest reverence and love for Mother Ganga. The Divine Master's reverence and love for Mother Ganga are evident in his words, "The Ganga is the most sacred river of India. The origin of the Ganga is ascribed to celestial glory. Lord Krishna says in the Gita: 'I am the Ganga among rivers'.

"For a Hindu, the word Ganga has its own sacred association. Every Hindu thirsts for a dip in the Ganga, and for a drop of its water at the time of his 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 the Ganga in his parting instructions to the Pandavas from his bed of arrows.

"In the Satya Yuga, all places were sacred. In the Treta Yuga, Pushkara was considered the most holy place. In the Dvapara Yuga, Kurukshetra was regarded as the most sacred place. In Kali Yuga, the Ganga has that glory. Devi Bhagavata says: 'He who utters the name of Ganga even from hundreds of miles afar is freed from sins and attains the abode of Lord Hari'".
An inspiring video on the descent of Mother Ganga from heaven to dwell in the waters of the Ganga, was shown. Mother Ganga's protective nature and purificatory aspect were highlighted. Ganga itself epitomizes all the characteristics India is known for: mysticism, reverence, serenity, all-pervasive divinity, assimilative grandeur and richness of culture and beliefs. Ganga enriches the spiritual lives of thousands of Hindus in India and abroad.
In the reading entitled, "Purity of the Ganges Water", from the book, Mother Ganga by Sri Swami Sivananda, the Master extols the purity and sanctity of Ganga. He says, "The water of the Ganges is extremely pure and sanctifying. No germs can flourish in this. This has been tested by various scientists in their laboratory. Rich in minerals, this water cures almost all kinds of diseases.

"The Ganges is saturated with antiseptic minerals. Even in the West, doctors prescribe Ganges water for rubbing in the treatment of diseases of the skin. Ganges is not merely a river, but a sacred place. 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 water".

The Master quotes Dr F.C. Harrison of McGill University, Canada, who wrote, "A peculiar fact which has never been satisfactorily explained is the quick death, in three or five hours of the cholera vibrio in Ganges water. When one remembers sewage by numerous corpses, often cholera casualties, and by the bathing of thousands of people, it seems remarkable that the belief of the Hindus that the water of this river is pure and cannot be defiled, and that they can safely drink it and bathe in it, should be confirmed by means of modern bacteriological research".

Further, Swami Sivananda says that a well-known French physician, Dr D. Herelle, made similar investigations into the mystery of Ganga. Interestingly, he observed some of the floating corpses and was surprised to find that only a few feet below the bodies, where one would expect to find millions of germs arising from dysentery and cholera victims, there were no germs at all. Dr Herelle then grew germs from patients having the disease, and to these cultures added water from Ganga. When he incubated the mixture for a period, much to his surprise, the germs were completely destroyed.

In the same reading, the Master says that Ganga is "A Silent Teacher", in that the Ganga starts from Gangotri in the Himalayas, and encounters many obstacles on Her way, but She finally reaches the goal- the ocean. Similarly, says the Master, the spiritual aspirant should never give up his struggle, however insurmountable the obstacles in the path may appear to be. The Master assures us that all difficulties and obstacles will be removed through the Grace of the Lord, and if one is sincere in one's Yogic practices, one will reach the goal.

The Master continues, "The Ganges always gives you cool, pure water. It does not expect anything from you in return. The sun sheds its light on all without anticipating any reward. Derive lessons from them. Always give, give and ask nothing in return. Expect nothing in return, not even appreciation or any kind of recognition.

"A rogue and a saint can drink the water of the Ganges. The sun sheds its light on the wicked and the virtuous. The mango tree gives its fruits both to the caretaker and the man who cuts its branches. Develop equal vision like the Ganges, the sun and the mango tree.

"O friend! Follow the lines of Mother Ganges. Be pure, adaptable and tolerant. Be forgiving and sweet. Pour out your love on all. Share what you have-physical, moral, mental and spiritual-with the whole of humanity. The more you give, the more you will get. Give without any selfish motive, without expecting any reward. Embrace all. Cultivate equal vision. See the Lord in all".

An apt conclusion to this report, and a fitting metaphor for us all to treasure and evolve spiritually, is contained in the words, again, of Sri Swami Sivananda, "All glory be unto Mother Ganges, the giver of life, light and love. Worship Her with faith, devotion and piety. Adore Her with the flowers of purity, love, self-restraint and equal vision. Sing Her Names. Attain Brahman through Her Grace. May Mother Ganges bless you all! May She help you to live on Her banks and practise Yoga and austerities!"

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