Ganga – Introduction, Source and its Importance

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                                               ©                Ganga Map

Ganga River is one of the prime rivers of India and is declared as the National River of India. It flows east through the Gangetic plains of Northern India into the country of Bangladesh. The river has immense religious significance and considered as the holy river of the Hindus. Historically too the river is important as many important cities and capitals have been located along its banks. The Ganga sustains one of the world's highest densities of population and drains an area of approximately 1000000 sq. kms. The river Ganges flows through India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The major cities along the River Ganges are Haridwar, Moradabad, Rampur, Allahabad, Kanpur, Patna, Varanasi and Rajshahi. The Ganges forms its Delta at the Bay of Bengal. The Ganges travels a distance of 1557 miles beginning from the point of origin till she ultimately merge into the ocean.

The Ganges, above all is the river of India, which has held India's heart captive and drawn uncounted millions to her banks since the dawn of history.

History of Ganga River

The Ganges is one of the major rivers of the Indian subcontinent, flowing east through the Gangetic Plain of northern India into Bangladesh. River Ganga is mentioned in the Rig Veda, the earliest of the Hindu scriptures. It is found mentioned in the Nadistuti, which lists the rivers from east to west. In the Indian subcontinent, this river is flowing east through the incomputable plains of northern India into Bangladesh. The 2,510 km river originates at the Gangotri Glacier () in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, in the central Himalayas, and empties into the Bay of Bengal through its vast delta in the Sunderbans.

 Geography of River Ganges

The geography of River Ganges is apt for harvesting a wide variety of crops. The Ganges Basin with its fertile soil is influential to the agricultural economies of India and Bangladesh. The Ganges and its tributaries provide a constant source of irrigation to an extensive area. The major crops cultivated in that area include rice, lentils, sugarcane, potatoes, oil seeds and wheat. Along the banks of the river, the existence of swamps and lakes provide a rich fertile area for crops like legumes, chillies, sesame, mustard, sugarcane, and jute. There are also many fishing zones along the river, though all of them are highly polluted. The perennial river Ganga originates in the grand Himalayas and the geology of Ganga River shows a wide variety in composition. The abundance of illite, chlorite, smectite and kaolinite has recorded the varied degrees of physical and chemical weathering in the Ganges basin. In early post-glacial deposits, it is clearly visible that dominance of physical weathering was prevalent at that time.

          Source of River Ganges

                                                  ©          Goumukh

Ganga River originates in the Himalayas and is 2, 510 km (1, 557 meters) long. It begins at the Gangotri glacier in the state of Uttarakhand in the central Himalayas at the concourse of five headstreams - Bhagirathi River, Mandakini, Alaknanda River, Dhauliganga and Pindar at Dev Prayag. Ganga or, more exactly, Bhagirathi, originates from Gangotri glacier, one of the biggest glaciers in Himalayas. The place, where Bhagirathi flows out from Gangotri, it called "Goumukh" (Holy site know as char dham. This word means "Cow mouth". Indeed, with use of imagination this icy cave reminds a cow.
From here, it drains into the Bay of Bengal through its vast delta in the Sunderbans and also into Bangladesh. After entering Bangladesh, the main branch of the Ganges is known as Padma River till the Yamuna River the largest distributary of the Brahmaputra River joins it.


                                          ©           Ganges Delta

Further downstream, the Meghna River, the second largest distributary of the Brahmaputra, feeds the Ganges. Fanning out into the 350 km (220 meters) wide Ganges Delta, it empties out into the Bay of Bengal. The streams are formed due to the melting snow and ice from glaciers from the peaks such as Nanda Devi and Kamet peak. The river is held sacred by Hindus and is worshipped in its personified form as the goddess Ganga. The Ganga and its tributaries drain a large and fertile basin with an area of about one million sq. kms.

After travelling 200 km through the Himalayas, the Ganges emerges at the pilgrimage town of Haridwar in the Shivalik Hills. At Haridwar, a dam diverts some of its waters into the Ganges Canal, which links the Ganges with its main tributary, the Yamuna. The Ganges now begins to flow in a south-eastern direction through the plains northern India. From Haridwar the river passes about 800 km (500 meters) through the city of Kanpur, before the sangam with the Yamuna River from the southwest at Allahabad. This point, known as the Sangam, is a sacred place in Hinduism. According to ancient Hindu texts, a third river, the mythical Saraswati River is believed to meet the two rivers at this point.

Then the Ganga forms a stretch between Allahabad and Malda in West Bengal through many rivers such as the Kosi River, Son River, Gandak River and Ghaghara River. It passes the towns of Mirzapur, Varanasi, Patna and Bhagalpur. At Bhagalpur, the river wanders past the Rajmahal Hill, and changes its course southwards. At Pakaur, the river branching out of the Bhagirathi River, which is its first distributary, goes on to form the Hooghly River. Close to the border with Bangladesh, the Farakka Barrage, controls the flow of the Ganges, diverting some of the water into a feeder canal linking the Hooghly river to keep it relatively silt free.

         Importance of Ganga River

worshipping the river Ganga

The religious significance of Ganga River is established at the origin itself. The Gangotri is the spot of origin of River Ganges. Many pilgrimages for the Hindus are settled along the banks of River Ganges. The Hindus religiously worship the river. Situated on the banks of River Ganges, Varanasi is considered by some to be the most holy city in Hinduism. Haridwar and Allahabad or prayag are also on the banks of Ganga. These Two Cities are famous for Kumbh Mela festival. Kumbh Mela is one of the worlds largest human gathering on planet Earth.

The upper Ganges supplies water to extensive irrigation works. The Ganga has a lot of fertile soil and is an important source of the agricultural activities in India and Bangladesh. The chief crops cultivated in the area include rice, sugarcane, lentils, oil seeds, potatoes, and wheat. Along the banks of the river, the presence of swamps and lakes provide a rich growing area for crops such as legumes, chillies, mustard, sesame, sugarcane, and jute. Fishing also provides opportunities to many along the river, though the river remains highly polluted.

People travel from distant places to immerse the ashes of their kin in the waters of the Ganga; this immersion also is believed to send the ashes to heaven. Several places sacred to Hindus lie along the banks of the river Ganga, including, Haridwar and Kashi. People carry sacred water from the Ganges that is sealed in copper pots after making the pilgrimage to Kashi. It is believed that drinking water from the Ganga at one's deathbed enables him or her to attain salvation. More on Mother Ganga