Bathing at pilgrimages like Ganga, Yamuna, etc. helps clear sins. Is this a universal Hindu belief or does it differs across school of thoughts?

As it is commonly believed in our country that bathing at pilgrimages like in Ganges at Haridwar, etc. is good, or at Yamuna or sometimes at ponds of important temples.


Swami Dayananda Saraswati and his followers at the Ārya Samāj consider taking a dip in the holy rivers with the hope that it will wash away one's sins, a superstition.

From Life & Teachings of Swami Dayanand by Vishwa Prakash:

Kashi again and again

Dayanand was not one, who could be easily discouraged. After the roughness described above, some people who went to Swamiji found him in buoyant spirits. But Dayanand was more courageous now, as he had learnt that the pandits of Benares had no answer to his objection. So he went to Benares again and again and on 1st December 1879, he published the following advertisement and got it posted in the market, bathing ghats, and almost all the other important places.

It is notified for the use of the general public that Swami Dayanand is staying at Kashi in the garden of Maharaj Vijayanagar, known as Anandbag near Anandbag Rang. He accepts the authority of the Vedas and thus has no faith in anything which is contrary to them.

He strongly condemns such belief as:

  • idol-worship;

  • the efficacy of a particular water or a particular place in washing away sins;

  • the books such as Puranas etc. that the pandits have craftily made the people believe that they were compiled by rishis like Vyas etc;

  • Brahma Vaivarta etc.;

  • incarnation of God claiming the sonship of God and condonation of the sins of those who have faith in him;

  • God's sending of his friend or Paigambar (Prophet) on the earth for progagating faith;

  • lifting of mountains;

  • infusing life into the dead, breaking asunder of the moon;

  • an effect without cause;

  • atheism;

  • God himself assuming the form of the universe and there being no distinction between God and other objects, bearing of kanthis, tilak, rudraksha etc. (the symbols of religion ; and different sects like Shaiva, Shakta, Vaishnav and Ganpati etc. for the following reasons:

    (a) that such beliefs are against the at tribute, action, and nature of God.

    (b) that they are inconsistent with:

    1. the laws of the creation of the world.
    2. the categories of proof.
    3. experience and sayings of rishis.
    4. conscience and teaching of the Vedas.

Here's a quote from Wit and Wisdom of Swami Dayanand:

The name of these steps is Hara-ki-paidhi (steps of God) but in fact, they are Hada Paidhi (steps of bones) because the bones of the dead persons come from different parts of the country and are thrown there. Sins cannot be washed away by taking baths. They can only be annihilated after undergoing full course of penalties for them. The Gangotri is a place from which rises the River Ganges in the Himalayas, the cow-mouthed figure seems to have been constructed by clever priests.


Yes bathing-at-pilgrimages-like-ganga-yamuna-etc-helps-clear-sins-is-the -Universal Hindu Concept. As the Holiness of sacred River Ganga ji is mentioned in Various Hindu Scriptures.

Even Lord in Shreemad Bhagvat Gita is saying that he himself is Ganga among Rivers.

पवनः पवतामस्मि रामः शस्त्रभृतामहम्।
झषाणां मकरश्चास्मि स्रोतसामस्मि जाह्नवी।। BG 10.31।।

pavanaḥ pavatām asmi rāmaḥ śastra-bhṛtām aham
jhaṣāṇāṁ makaraś cāsmi srotasām asmi jāhnavī

10.31 Of the purifiers I am air; among the wielders of weapons I am Rama. Among fishes, too, I am the shark; I am Ganga among rivers.

Mahabharata - Anushasan Parva -Section 27 -P 135 ,136 - is praising Ganga as-

udhishthira said, 'Which countries, which provinces, which retreats, which mountains, and which rivers, O grandsire, are the foremost in point of sanctity?'

Brahma said - Even those men who, having committed diverse kinds of sinful deeds in the first part of their lives, betake themselves in after years to a residing by the side of Ganga, succeed in attaining to a very superior end. Hundreds of sacrifices cannot produce that merit which men of restrained souls are capable of acquiring by bathing in the sacred waters of Ganga. A person is treated with respect and worshipped in heaven for as long a period as his bones lie in the channel of the Ganga.

The entire body of creatures in the three worlds, if served with the auspicious waters of Ganga,

The Narada Purana The Narada Purana -

The most holy of tirthas is the confluence of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna. Someone who bathes there attains perpetual good health, prospers, lives to a ripe old age and is pardoned all his sins. Even the gods and the sages are fond of the waters at this sacred confluence.

In fact, the Ganga is so sacred that even if one just thinks of her, all pain is relieved and all sins are pardoned. Along the banks of the Ganga is a remarkable tirtha known as Prayaga. Brahma himself peformed a yajna there. You can bathe in the waters of all the tirthas if you so desire. But the punya (store of merit) that you will acquire from this is only a sixteenth of the punya you will acquire from touching a few drops of water from the Ganga.

There are some other rivers also in which the Ganga is always present. Their names are Godavari, Sarasvati, Kalindi, Kaveri, Krishna, Reva, Vahuda, Tungabhadra, Bhimarathi, Vetravati, Tamraparni and Shatadru.

Conclusion - Shreemad Bhagvat Gita - Mahabharata - Puranas are core universal Hindu scriptures . The Holiness of Ganga and the merits one gets by Bathing in Pilgrimage places from where the Sacred Ganga flows is present in most of the other scriptures also. So Yes this is universal strong Hindu belief.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .