Ganga Saptami, also called Ganga Jayanti, is dedicated to the worship of Ma Ganga. It is a significant Hindu festival that marks the rebirth of Ganga River, on Earth. On Ganga Saptami, thousands of devotees offer prayers and take a holy dip in the sacred water of Ganga, in divine places like Rishikesh in Uttarakhand or Triveni Sangam in Allahabad.
Ganga Saptami is one of the most important festivals associated with Ganga. Ganga is also known as Bhagirathi and is the most sacred river that flows from the hair of Shiva. Ganga Saptami is celebrated as the day on which Ganga was reborn. According to Hindu Calendar, this day is celebrated on the seventh day (Saptami tithi), during Shukla paksha of Vaishakha month. As per Gregorian calendar it falls in the month of May. This day is also known as Jahnu Saptami because Ganga was released from the ears of Sage Jahnu. Ganga Saptami is observed with great ardour in places like Rishikesh, Haridwar, Prayag and Varanasi. Celebrations include Ganga Arti, Deep Daan and fairs that brighten up the Ganga ghat with glitters and colors.
ORIGIN AND SIGNIFICANCE:
There are many stories and legends associated with the birth of Ganga on Earth.
As per Puranas, Ganga was born from the sweat of Shri Hari’s feet.
Another legend describes the origin of Ganga from the kamandal of Brahmaji. Once, Shiva sang a song to please Brahma and Vishnu. While he did so, he started to sweat and Brahma stored his sweat in his kamandal. It is said that Gangaji originated from the sweat stored in that kamandal.
Another popular legend is that, Ganga took birth on Earth to cleanse the sins committed by the ancestors of King Bhagirath, the ruler of Kosala. The king wanted to atone for the sins of his forefathers and ancestors, because he was suffering the consequences of their sins. He performed great penance and worshiped Brahma to help him. Brahma assured him that the holy river Ganga, will be sent on Earth to help him. But, in order to stop her surge which could destroy the entire Earth, Brahma asked Bhagirath to request Shiva to slow down the force of Ganga, by letting her pass through his hair. Shiva agreed and Ganga flowed through his hair to come to Earth without causing destruction. It is because of this legend that Ganga is known as Bhagirathi.
A variant of this story is that when Ganga passed through Shiva’s matted locks, and flowed on Earth, her force was lessened, but still it wiped out a large part of the land with her surge. Sage Jahnu’s hermitage that was on her way to the kingdom of Bhagirath, was also wiped out. The sage, unaware of the truth of Ganga, dried her up in anger by engulfing all the water of the river. When Bhagirath learnt about the incident, he informed the truth of Ganga to sage Jahnu, who then released Ganga through his ears. Thus, Ganga is also known as Jahnvi and this day is also known as Jahnu Saptami.
The occasion of Ganga Saptami, is a moment of grand celebration in India. It is said that people get rid of their past and present sins, by taking a holy dip in Ganga water. People who are affected by the ill effects of Mangal planet, are suggested to worship and offer prayers to Ganga, on the day of Ganga Saptami, to get relief from the dosha.
DEITIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE FESTIVAL:
Ma Ganga is worshipped on the propitious occasion of Ganga Saptami. In some temples, Bhagawan Vishnu is also offered special prayers along with Arghya to Surya Devta.
CUSTOMS, TRADITIONS AND RITUALS:
On the day of Ganga Saptami, people wake up in Brahma Muhurta, before sunrise, and take a sacred bath in Ganga water. Adoring Ma Ganga on this day is considered to be very favourable. Admirers float garlands of fresh flowers in the Ganga River.
Preparation for the Ganga Arti is done at several ghats of Rishikesh, Prayag and Haridwar. Devotees from different parts of the country gather to participate in Ganga Arti on this day. Deep Daan is one of the most important religious ceremonies performed on the occasion of Ganga Saptami. Offering prayers to Devi Ganga on this day, makes the devotee endowed with fame, happiness and salvation. Recitation of Ganga Sahasranama Stotram and Gayatri mantra, on this day, is considered very promising. Huge fairs and exhibitions are also held on the banks of Ganga River on this day. People also observe vrat on this day, spending the day chanting Ganga mantras.
Ganga festival is celebrated after Navanna festival, which marks rice harvest in Tripura state. In this state, tribal communities assemble on the banks of the river, peel three pieces of bamboo and make a temporary temple in the middle of the stream, out of bamboo and celebrations are held in the temple. Goats and buffaloes are sacrificed with the belief that such offerings protect them from epidemics.
- Wake up before sunrise and take a bath in the River If taking a bath in Ganga is not possible, one can add a few drops of Gangajal in bathing water.
- Recite Ma Ganga Mantras at the time of bathing.
- Clean the room where worship has to be performed. Take Gangajal in a bowl, ignite a two-wick lamp and pray to Ma Ganga.
- Perform abhishek of all Devis and Devtas with water.
- Offer fresh flowers to Ma Ganga.
- Offer fruits, tulsi, rice, incense and neivedyam made at home, to Ma Ganga.
- Perform Ganga Arti at the ghat with many devotees together. Arti concluded with the lamp circulated in the crowd so that everyone could get the blessings. If going to the ghat is not possible, perform the aarti at the place of worship.
- Also float lamps with flowers in the river.
Ganga Mantra: “Om namo Bhagwati hili hili mili gange Ma pavay pava”
Ganga Gayatri mantra:
Aum Tri-Pata-Gaamini Vidmahe
Rudra-Pathnyai Cha Dhimahi
Thanno Ganga Prachodayat
CELEBRATIONS ACROSS THE COUNTRY:
Ganga Jayanti is celebrated with great fervour in the states of Allahabad, Rishikesh and Varanasi and other Northern states of India, where river Ganga Flows. The day is celebrated on the seventh day of Shukla paksha of Baisakh month. The Sacred Ganga River has its tributaries flowing down in these cities, and is responsible for many social developments here.
BENEFITS OF GANGA SAPTAMI:
Devotion and Commitment to Ma Ganga on the day of Ganga Saptami, blessed individuals with huge benefits. It is said that taking a dip in the holy water of Ganga on the day of Ganga Saptami, makes an individual free from all sins of past and present. It ultimately refines your soul, and leads to a happy and prosperous life.