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I saw a YouTube video in which it is asserted that Godavari once lost its sacredness. The reason given is that the river was witness to Sita's abduction and although Sita asked the river to tell Rama what happened - Godavari was silent when asked, out of fear of Ravana.

Is this some regional/sectarian tradition?

  • I think it was not Godavari but Phalgu river. – TheLittleNaruto Jan 24 at 13:17
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    Why don't you link the timestamp of the video? – Ikshvaku Jan 24 at 14:05
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This is neither a sectarian literature nor an unpopular story. Ramayana has many versions. One of them is from Padma Purana. The story mentioned is present in Padma Purana Uttara Khanda chapter 242.

271-273. Then Rama, killer of his enemies, having gone to the Pampa lake killed there the demon Kabandha of a fierce form. The very vigorous one, having killed him, burnt him. (Then) he (i.e. Kabandha) went to heaven. Then the lotus-eyed Rama, having gone to Godavarl, asked her, "O Ganga, do you know my dear (wife) Sita?" That Ganga, covered with ignorance, did not tell him (anything).

274-275. Rama angrily cursed her: "Be of red water." Then being dejected she through fear, led by great sages, and being helpless and with the palms of her hands joined sought Rama's refuge. Then all great sages said to the eternal Rama: The sages said:

  1. Ganga, purifying the three worlds, has risen from your lotus-like feet. O lord of the world, you alone can free her from the curse. Mahesvara said:

277a. Then the pious Rama, affectionate to those who seek his shelter, said:
Rama said:

277b. May this Ganga, destroying sins, be free from my curse merely by Shabari's bath and united with auspicious water.

278-279. Speaking like this, the very powerful Rama made, with the tip of his Sarnga bow, the Sabari-tirtha like Ganga and Gaya. In its water was the holy place of great devotees of Visnu. "Undoubtedly that form becomes venerable to the world."

So, Rama cursed Godavari to become of red water because she did not say where is his wife Sita. But then he immediately freed it by the request of Godavari and sages by creating a provision. Hence, Godavari is still a pure and sacred river. Its significance is said in many puranas. The video you watched was half quoting the story and left the second part about lifting the curse.

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    'That Ganga, covered with ignorance' - so she didn't know what happened to Sita and yet Rama cursed?! Also, why is he addressing Godavari as Ganga? – sv. Jan 24 at 20:15
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    @sv. Godavari is called Dakshina ganga. Ganga agrees to emerge as a new river. Read story at Story of origin of the Godavari river? Godavari and all the animals knew that it is Ravana who abducted sita but they remained silent. By ignorance can mean many things. Not realizing the power of Rama, not respecting Rama, feared of Ravana done out of mistake. – Sarvabhouma Jan 25 at 2:07
  • -3 for a precise answer, +7 for a non-answer. cost of doing business at HSE. :-) – S K Jan 25 at 12:52
  • Ignorance means 'lack of knowledge' - do you know the Sanskrit word used? After Rama cursed her, at least then she should should've told the truth, isn't it? It's possible there's another version of this story. – sv. Jan 25 at 19:35
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    @SK Nah. The negative score is because saying it is just a sectarian literature and dismissing its authenticity. :-) – Sarvabhouma Jan 26 at 2:13
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It seems to be some Vaishnavite lore:

https://theindiandharma.wordpress.com/2017/08/28/episode-156-river-godavari-fails-to-help-rama-lakshmana/

As mentioned in the previous episode, Sita had requested mother Godaavari to let Rama know what was happening to her, but when Rama comes and asks, Godaavari remains silent, due to the fear of Ravana! Thus, it is said that because mother Godaavari had lost the golden opportunity to involve in the “Raama – Kainkarya” (Service to Lord Rama), her purity was also lost!

Many of us might know this “Paasuram” that comes in the famous “Thiruppaavai” of Aandaal in Tamil, which goes like this:

“…Thooya peru neer Yamunathuravanai! Aayar kulathinil thondrum ani vilakkai…”

Here, Aandaal employs the phrase “Thooya peru neer Yamunathuravanai”, wherein she describes Lord Krishna as the one who glorified the river Yamuna, which was so pure! This is because, river Yamuna involved herself in the “Krishna-Kainkarya” by giving way to Vasudeva while he was carrying little Krishna in his hands! Although the Yamuna was flowing very close to where the demon Kamsa was residing, she was not scared to give way for Vasudeva and baby Krishna to pass by! Hence, it is said that river Yamuna has attained the highest status of being pure, because of its service to Lord Krishna! Whereas, here we see the river Godaavari loses the opportunity to be of service to Lord Rama and hence it is believed that the river Godaavari had lost its purity and sanctity!

However much later after the Ramayana period, Swami Vedaantha Desika composed his famous work called “Godhaastuthi”. In this text, he conveys a beautiful message: Because Aandaal was also referred by another name called “Goodhaa”, the river Godaavari had compensated for what it has missed previously, and now the purity is regained! In other words, yes, the river Godaavari had lost its purity, but now, since Aandaal (who is considered as an incarnation of Goddess Bhoomaadevi) had half it’s name (Godhaa), the purity is regained!

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