16 Sep Mother Ganga tells her story
My favorite tool for telling a story to children is a „talking puppet“. It is as simple as you just hold a puppet in your hand and talk as she is talking. I have found it very effective in work with young children because it inspires their interactive involvement in the story or the lesson we want to present. Every child finds it captivating when a puppet gets „alive“ and begins to address them, and a natural reaction of a child is to enter into a conversation with a puppet as if in play. The mood of conversation is set by you, as you choose the way how the puppet would talk and present itself. It could be cheerfully and humorously or seriously and respectfully, depending on what kind of lesson and interaction you want to achieve.
The following is my presentation of the Ganges river using the paper puppet of Mother Ganga which I drew and children colored a few years ago (the paper is glued to cardboard). To add more magic I used a long blue cloth as the river body of Mother Ganga. I asked a question and heard the answers of children for each theme I wanted to cover before I gave the answers myself. This is not so much a story but more an informative narration of spiritual truths about the Ganges river, touching a bit of the geography, biology, and ecology as well.
The Mother Ganga is very dear to our family since my husband and I have spent more than 10 years living in Sridham Mayapur on her banks, and we pass that love on to our children. She is a great inspiration for storytelling and all kinds of artistic expression( and I am sure I am going to write more about it on the blog).
Mother Ganga tells her story
Dear children, do you know who am I?
I am the most famous holy river in the world. I am known as the Ganges, but my devotees like to call me the Mother Ganga.
Do you know why am I a sacred river?
Originally I flow in the spiritual sky, in the abode of Lord Sri Krishna. When Krishna came down on Earth as a dwarf incarnation Vamana, He made such a huge step that He covered the whole material world and pierced the cover of the universe with His toe. (If you are wondering how a dwarf can make such a huge step you should read the story here: https://golokadreamland.wordpress.com/2020/08/29/vamana-avatar-a-dwarf-incarnation-of-the-lord/). Through that hole in the cover of the universe, Lord Vamana made a way for my water to flow into the material world. Upon entering through the hole, my water was mixed with the dust of the lotus feet of Lord Vamanadeva and since that time it has been sharing it wherever it flows. The dust from the lotus feet of the Lord has the power of the touchstone –it makes everything and everybody pure, happy, and beautiful. That is why people are eager to bath in my waves and to offer me incense sticks, ghee lamps, and flowers in worship. By my mercy, they can go back to the spiritual sky and become happy eternally.
Do you know where my water flows?
My source on Earth is high in the Himalaya mountains, in the land of ice and snow, where the air is crisp and cold. My water comes out of a rock that looks like a cow’s snout, which is why the place got its name Gomukh – the mouth of a cow. From that place, my water starts with a speedy flow and passes down the mountains, purifying all the villages and towns along the way.
In Devprayag I meet my sister Alakananda, and from that point, we flow together as one river Ganga.
In Rishikesh and Haridwar I am worshiped by the priests and pilgrims in a grand ceremony known as Ganga-puja. After the glorious town Haridwar, I leave the mountains behind and enter into the plains where my sight becomes wide.
In the plains, my flow gets slower and wider and my waters muddier. I flow past fields, forests, and pastures, providing refuge to many living beings. I pass by famous cities like Benares, where people come to study holy scriptures.
I meet with my sisters Yamuna and Sarasvati in the holy spot of Sangam Triveni. It lays on the shores of the grand city of Allahabad, where pilgrims come every year to get the special nectar (and how the nectar has come here is a subject of another wonderful story).
In the plains of Bengal, to my greatest joy, I come to the place where I meet my Lord! He is known by the name Gauranga, and He came to spread the chanting of the holy name all over the world. He spent His childhood pastimes playing by my side, leaving the golden dust of His lotus feet on my shores. This is the place the most sacred of all, known by its divine name- Mayapur.
Soon after I come close to my mouth, flowing toward the east and the south. I pass through the wild jungles where roam crocodiles and tigers. I split into many streams and run toward the Indian see. There I come to the mighty ocean’s embrace and … I am gone from the sight of the human race.
Do you know what happens when you bath in my waters?
Because my waters carry the dust of Sri Krishna’s lotus feet, whenever you bath in me your body gets clean and your heart gets pure. As you wash your body to keep it clean of dirt, so you wash your heart to keep it clean of bad thoughts and deeds. By bathing in an ordinary river you clean your body, but by bathing in a holy river like me, you clean your heart as well. Because of this heart-cleansing power that I possess, people respect and worship me by offering me flowers, incense sticks, ghee lamps, and prayers. Whenever you get the chance to bath in my waters, offer me some flowers and prayers, and I will embrace you softly, as a loving mother, with my waves. I am your mother, indeed, because I can take you to your original father, home to the spiritual world.
Do you know how I maintain people and animals who live in my waters and on my shores?
My waters are the habitat of many fish and animals like birds and crocodiles. Many dolphin families live near my mouth, and some rare species of sharks as well. There are Bengali tigers who live in the jungles on my shores. Having enough food and a place to be, these animals live in my shelter peacefully. Sometimes people make disturbance by hunting them and by polluting my water with garbage and rubbish. When I see it, I become very, very sad. I give my water to the people to have it for drinking and cooking, for bathing and washing, for watering their fields, and for coming in touch with the dust of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. Instead of showing gratitude for my gifts, people pollute my waters and threaten life in it. Dear children, do not follow those men but show them how to respect me and my habitats by keeping my waters and shores always clean.
But I will reveal to you one secret: I have the extraordinary power to clean up all the pollution that people throw at me. If you take my water in a cup and leave it for 10 days, my water will purify itself from all pollution and it will become ready for you to drink it!
Ganga Mayi ki jay!
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[…] 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 […]