12 Jan Ganga Devi Descending To Earth – Story For Children
Every January, we celebrate the feast of Ganga-Sagar Mela, the meeting of the Ganges and the ocean, by telling stories about the Ganga Devi. We include activities such as painting or drawing the river Ganga or making the map of her flow. As a part of the Ganga unit at our homeschool, we learn about the element of water, water circulation in nature, all about rivers, aquatic habitats, and the animals that inhabit them. In each grade, I choose some of these topics to cover. This year, we continue to learn more about rivers and make maps of the Ganges and other rivers from our area. Children are currently enthusiastic about drawing maps. We will probably try making 3D maps out of salt dough. When they were younger, they enjoyed painting the river Ganga with watercolors. This school unit is one of those that we all enjoy learning!
Of course, the stories about Ganga Devi are the central part of the learning and festivities. There are stories about Ganga and King Bagiratha, Ganga and Vamanadeva, Ganga and King Shantanu. Some years ago, I made up a theatre story of Ganga Devi talking to children about herself. You can read about it here Mother Ganga tells her story
This year I am sharing with you a classic story about how the Ganga River descended to Earth. You can read and then narrate the story to your children. If you want to read it to children, you can download and then print the story at the bottom of this article.
King Bagiratha brings the holy river Ganga to Earth
Once upon a time, King Sagar performed a great horse sacrifice (Ashwamedha Yagna) to make him very powerful. Lord Indra, the king of demigods, was afraid that King Sagar would become too much powerful. Lord Indra did not like any of human kings to have too much power because they could become more powerful than him! He decided to steal the horse and tie it to a tree at Sage Kapila’s ashram, to prevent the king from performing a sacrifice. When King Sagara realized that the horse had disappeared, he immediately sent his sixty thousand sons to look for him. After a long search, they found it at Sage Kapila’s ashram. Assuming that the sage had stolen it, they set about freeing it. All this commotion disturbed the sage’s meditation and, when he realized that they thought he had stolen the horse, he was furious. With one fiery glance, he burnt them all to ashes!
They had turned to ashes before the rituals of death could be completed. As a result, they wandered as ghosts. Anshuman was the only remaining brother. He begged the sage for a solution – how to complete the rituals for these ghosts so they could ascend to heaven? The sage said the flow of the purifying Ganga on the ashes would be enough to complete the rituals. She could be brought down from heaven by praying to Lord Brahma.
Anshuman tried to appease Lord Brahma and Ganga Devi with prayers, but he did not succeed. His sons also tried, but they didn’t succeed either. After several generations, Bhagiratha, a descendent of Sagara and Anshuman, performed great penance for thousands of years. Brahma was pleased and granted him his wish of wanting Ganga Devi to descend to Earth.
But, Ganga was a willful and powerful river. She agreed to follow King Baghirat’s chariot, but she would come down in a torrent and sweep off everything in her path. Fortunately, Lord Shiva foresaw her intention. Before she entered Earth, Lord Shiva imprisoned her in his matted locks!
Bhagiratha then had to pacify Shiva, who slowly released her from his locks. In that manner, Ganga came down as the Bhagirathi river.
King Bagiratha rode his chariot over the mountains and valleys, and the river Ganga followed him, foaming right behind. King tried to drive as fast as possible because he knew that Ganga did not want to slow down. As they stormed past towns and villages, people admired the glittering waves that spread from the long hair and white dress of the goddess Ganga Devi.
After traveling through the mountains and hills, they reached a wide plain where people greeted them with joy. Inhabitants of the plains paid homage to the mighty king and the goddess who followed him, grateful for the water they would need to cultivate the fields, drink and bathe. Descending into the plain, the Ganges slightly slowed down. Still, it happened that she flooded sage Jahnu’s ashram on her way. The sage gobbled her up in great anger! King Bhagiratha had to appease the great sage to release her. Satisfied with his prayers, the sage let the Ganga flow on, but now she was also called Jahnavi.
As Ganga flowed on, people flooded her to take a holy dip in her water to wash off their sins. Since it comes from the spiritual world, the water of the river Ganges is mixed with pearl dust from the lotus feet of Lord Krishna and therefore purifies everything it touches. Ganga finally reached the place where the ashes of the deceased ancestors of King Baghiratha were and flooded it with its waves. The souls of ancestors have attained peace and a heavenly destination, and King Bagiratha has gained eternal glory by bringing the Ganga river to the earthly plane.