I've seen at many of the devotees bathe in river Ganges at sacred places.
This is often seen when people are celebrating Kumbh Mela as well, so why do they bathe in river Ganges (Ganga)?
Image Credits : dandapani.org
King Bhagirath did Tapas to bring the Holy Ganga to earth in order to wash the ashes of his forefathers and free them from sin. Bhagirath's wish was granted and Ganga was released from the Heavens to earth. But the great speed with which Ganga descended to earth was capable of destroying everything on its way. So, Lord Shiva, to save the world, caught Ganga on his long hair and released it with reduced speed.
Due to this, the already holy Ganga was considered sacred since she descended directly from Lord Shiva's head. In olden times, people normally used to bath only in ponds, lakes and rivers (may be bathrooms were not prevalent during those days). Here, we must note that the very reason of bringing Ganga to the earth was to wash off the sins of the forefathers of Bhagirath. So, the people who normally bathed in lakes and rivers showed a great interest in bathing in the Holy river Ganga, with the idea that it will wash away their sins too.
However, taking bath in Ganga alone is not capable nullifying one's sin. This can be understood from the following argument between Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati:
Once Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were traveling on earth. Goddess Parvati saw thousands of people heading towards River Ganga to take holy bath as it was an auspicious day.
Goddess Parvati wondered whether all these people will attain Moksha or liberation by bathing in River Ganga. So she asked Lord Shiva – do you think all these people heading towards Ganga will attain Moksha?
Lord Shiva laughed and said that only a dozen or so among them will get Moksha. Only that person who has come with devotion and pious mind will get Moksha. Only those persons who will not commit any sin after the holy bath will get Moksha. Most of these people that are waiting to take a holy dip have come to perform it as a ritual and get over with a responsibility. Some are here to show off that they are religious minded. Many of them are here to satisfy their ego of bathing in Ganga. Shiva said that one who is really yearning for Moksha will attain it here on this earth itself and for such people taking a dip and not taking one is of same value.
But Goddess Parvati argued that all the people here have come from far of places and they are spiritual, good and religious minded.
Shiva agreed to prove that He was right. Shiva disguised as a leper and Goddess Parvati disguised as his beautiful wife and went to the banks of Ganga. Goddess Parvati as wife started asking people to help her husband perform the Ganga Snan so that he will be cured of leprosy.
Majority of the people ignored her and went to take the holy dip. Some said some sentimental words and showed sympathy but did not help the leper perform the holy bath. Some advised the beautiful wife to leave the leper there and go home and get re-married. Some passed vulgar comments. Some asked her to get married to them.
After several hours and thousands of people passing by, a man came and helped the leper perform the holy bath. He remained silent and just said namaste to the wife and leper and went away.
Lord Shiva then said to Goddess Parvati that the man who helped the leper has already attained Moksha. He has already realized that all that is here is nothing but the Supreme Being. He is silent, calm and serene. For him a leper and handsome man is the same.
Argument between Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati cited from http://www.hindu-blog.com
It is considered that as the river Ganges is sacred, bathing in it helps us get rid of the sins we have committed in our previous life.
There are some apparent limitations to this. Only sins committed unknowingly shall be ripped off. If you have knowingly committed a sin, and now you really repent for it, then also, the fruits of your sin can be avoided by bathing in Ganges.
Other rivers are also considered fruitful, but Ganges is at the top of the list for obvious reasons...
As of the mechanism involved, when we wash our body in Ganges, Ma Ganga takes away the associated sins and the corresponding fruits. We then become free from any upcoming trouble.
But, don't think that you can just commit any sin knowingly, then go have a dive, and you are now free! This won't happen.
Apart from the sacred text, I can better explain the uniqueness of the holy ganga.
This is the very old faith that a teacher is above all on this whole planet. A teacher can only educate someone better when he attains purity in his soul. It says, a person who teaches and carries a pure soul would incredibly be the most unique and best person on planet and is considered to be the universal GURU (Teacher).
Following 2 reasons will explain how mother ganges is the best guru on whole planet. Why Iam calling her a Mother, will explain it to you in the end..
The water of the Ganga is extremely pure and sanctifying. No germs can flourish in this. This has been tested by various scientists in the laboratory. Rich in minerals this water cures almost all kinds of diseases.
The Ganga is saturated with antiseptic minerals. Even in the West, doctors prescribe Ganga water for rubbing in the treatment of diseases of the skin. Ganga is not merely a river. It is a sacred Tirtha. It is possessed of mysterious powers which are not found in any other river of the world. Even scientists have admitted the efficacy of the Ganga water.
Dr. F.C. Harrison of McGill University, Canada writes: “A peculiar fact which has never been satisfactorily explained is the quick death, in three or five hours, of the cholera vibrio in the waters of the Ganga. When one remembers sewage by numerous corpses of natives, often cholera casualties, and by the bathing of thousands of natives, 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”.
A well-known French physician, Dr. D. Herelle, made similar investigations into the mystery of the Ganga. He observed some of the floating corpses of men dead of dysentery and cholera, and was surprised to find “that only a few feet below the bodies where one would expect to find millions of these dysentery and cholera germs, there were no germs at all”. He then grew germs from patients having the disease, and to these cultures added water from the Ganga. When he incubated the mixture for a period, much to his surprise, the germs were completely destroyed.
A British physician, Dr. C.E. Nelson, F.R.C.S., tells us of another striking fact. He says that “ships leaving Calcutta for England take their water from the Hooghly river which is one of the mouths of the filthy Ganga and this Ganga water will remain fresh all the way to England . On the other hand, ships leaving England for India find that the water they take on in London will not stay fresh till they reach Bombay, the nearest Indian port, which is a week closer to England than Calcutta. They must replenish their water-supply at Port Said , Suez or at Aden on the Read Sea”. It is no wonder that the Indian people should hold that the Ganga is very sacred and possessed of mysterious powers.
The Ganga starts from Gangotri in Himalayas. She encounters many obstacles on her way, but she finally reaches the goal—the ocean. Similarly, the Sadhaka should never give up his struggle, however insurmountable the obstacles in the path may appear to be. All difficulties and obstacles will be removed through the grace of the Lord if he is sincere in his Yogic practices, and he will reach the goal.
It is only the ganga river which has made half of India a most fertile land on earth. It barely gets flooded and never took the lives even when get over flooded. It has helped manliness to settle down across its bank with prosperity and cheerfulness.
The Ganga gives you always 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 and Ask nothing in return. Expect nothing in return. Do not expect even appreciation, approbation, or recognition.
A rogue and a saint can drink the water of the Ganga. The sun sheds its light on the wicked and the virtuous. The mango tree gives its fruits both for the caretaker and the man who cuts its branches. Develop equal vision like the Ganga, the sun and the mango tree.
O friend! Follow the lines of Mother Ganga. Be pure. Be adaptable. Be tolerant. Be forgiving. Be sweet. Pour out your love on all. Share what you have-physical labour for humanity and support change for betterment, moral, mental and spiritual—with the whole of humanity. The more you give the more you get. Give without any selfish motive, without expecting any reward. Embrace all. Cultivate equal vision.
All glory be unto Mother Ganga, the giver of life, light and love. Worship Her with faith, devotion and piety. Adore Her with flowers of purity, love, self-restraint and equal vision. Sing Her Names. Remrmber Her grace. May Mother Ganga bless you all! May She help you in practicing good.
I love Ganga and the Himalayas. Ganga is my Mother Divine. Himalayas is my Father Divine. They inspire and guide me. I take bath in Ganga. I pray to Ganga. I do salutations to Ganga. I sing the glory of Ganga. I write about the grandeur and glory of Ganga.
Ganga has nourished me. Ganga has comforted me. Ganga has taught me the truths of the Upanishads.