Holy Rivers in Hinduism

Water is of special significance in Hinduism, not only for its life-sustaining properties, but also because of its use in rituals and because of the stress given to cleanliness. Bathing also has religious significance, especially in rivers considered sacred. Mother Ganga (the Ganges) is considered to purify the bather of sins

There are seven principle holy rivers, although others, such as the Krishna in South India, are also important. Of the seven, the Ganges (Ganga), Yamuna, and Sarasvati are most important. According to different opinions, the Sarasvati is now invisible, extinct or running underground, and meets with the Ganga and Yamuna at Prayaga.

Most rivers are considered female and are personified as goddesses. Ganga, who features in the Mahabharata, is usually shown riding on a crocodile (see right) . Yamuna is shown in much iconography connected with the Pushti Marg sampradaya, and rides on a turtle. The famous story of the descent of Ganga-devi is connected with Vishnu and with Shiva, who is depicted with the Ganges entering the locks of his hair.