- Ganga Dussehra celebrated on June 14, this year to mark the descent of the River Ganga upon Earth
- Many devotees take a bath in the Holy River Ganges to wash away all their sins
- Kite flying is another tradition that is practiced after bathing in the river
There are times that we hold close to ourselves for it brings us joy and happiness. That is where festivals come in. Apart from celebrating the culture or the tradition that one identifies themselves with, festivals connects us to other people and culture and bless us with a sense of belonging which helps us stay connected to our roots.
Ganga Dussehra is a festival in celebrated by thousands of pilgrims and pandits all over India, and even the world, to pay their respects and gratitude to the river Ganga. It is believed that it was this day, when heavens gifted the people of Earth with the holy river after the penance of Bhagiratha to cleanse the cursed souls of Bhagiratha‘s ancestors.
This festival is also popularly known as Gangavataran, which is derived from two Sanskrit words, Ganga, the name of the holy goddess and Avataran, which means ‘descent’. This festival is not to be confused with Ganga Jayanti, which is the birth of the goddess. Ganga lived in the stoup of Lord Brahma, which is why, when it started flowing through the Earth, it brought with it all the glories of the Heavens above.
A few important points to be noted about the festival are as follows:
- It is believed that the Ganga brought down ten rare vedic astrological calculations when it descended upon the Earth, namely, Shukla Paksha, Jyeshtha month, Tenth Date, Wednesday, Hasta Nakshatra, Vyatipata Yoga, Gar Anand Yog, Sun in Taurus and Moon in Virgo, and when one takes a dip in its holy waters, all the sins are absorbed by these ten yogas.
- If we go by the Gregorian calendar, the festival is celebrated between the months of May and June. Traditionally, the tenth day of ‘Shukl Paksha’ during the month of Jyeshta sees the occurrence of Ganga Dussehra, based on the position and shape of the moon.
- The priests declared that the auspicious time for taking a bath in the river would be between 5.45 AM and 7.35 AM, which is devotedly followed by all the devout.
- Performing charitable acts on this day is believed to be of special significance as it invites greater peace and satisfaction upon the mind. ‘Abhishek’ of lord Shiva, distributing prasad and generously donating to the poor are a few of the traditions followed by people across the country.
- The festival was celebrated on 14th June this year. It is usually celebrated a day before Nirjala ekadashi, but these two festivals may soon merge in a few years.
- Taking dips in the holy waters while humming the Ganga Stotra helps wash away all the sins that mankind is plagued with on a daily basis.
- Kite flying is another tradition that is practiced after bathing in the river. The festival marks the high peak of the summer and marks the arrival of the rains.
- Other religious customs include donating items in counts of 10, for best positive results. Even performing the puja requires everything in counts of 10, like lamps, diyas, flowers, etc.
- While conducting the puja, it is important to keep in mind to worship Bhagiratha as well as the Himalayas. Lord Shiva is the most important figure in this process, as it was by his grace that the Ganga incarnated on the Earth’s surface to bring prosperity upon the people.
- Taking 10 dips in the holy waters relieves the 10 sins – 3 organic, 4 spoken and 3 mental.
- Ganga Dussehra holds a lot of importance especially for the people of Agra, Mathura and Varanasi. It is popularly believed that the Mughals, impressed by the divine charm that this great river held, were inspired to build many great structures like the Taj Mahal.
- The Braj Mandal sees very enthusiastic celebrations as devotees lovingly shared sweets, rose milk, lassi, sharbat and shikhanji among each other. Even the ghats witnessed many people performing the Yamuna Puja while reciting holy lines every year as part of the celebrations.