The gushing sound of rivers is one of the most pleasing experiences which soothes our minds and soul. Rivers are the lifeline of the civilization of mankind. Our Indian geography is bestowed with so many perennial rivers. These rivers hold great significance in the history, culture, and spiritual progress of a society. Various heroes of our epics like Lord Krishna and King Karna are associated with rivers right from their birth. Hence rivers hold great value and rendered equal status to gods in our culture.
The greatest concern nowadays is increasing urbanization which has taken a toll on our natural resources. Our future generations would suffer if this exploitation of resources continues. We have the prime responsibility to instill the value of protecting our resources and saving them from exploitation.
Children can be taught about the history and origin of rivers and other geographical aspects through stories so that it remains etched in their minds forever. We shall now see a small story describing how the river Ganges found its place on Earth.
Once there was a King named Sagara in Ayodhya. He was a wise and valiant king and considered the best. He had two wives Sumati and Kesini. Sumati had sixty thousand sons who were brave and strong but arrogant in their power. The King wished to perform an Aswamedha yagna or horse sacrifice for the benefit of his kingdom. As a prelude to the sacrifice the destined horse for sacrifice was allowed to be set free. Anybody who challenges the king’s sovereignty would capture the horse and the challenger has to fight with the king.
Indra, king of gods was afraid of losing his power and became jealous of Sagara. So, he decided to steal the horse and hide it in a cave which happened to be Sage Kapila’s ashram. King Sagara sent all his sixty thousand sons to search for the lost horse all around. These sons went on a deep search and finally found the horse tied to a tree at Sage Kapila’s ashram. The sons of Sagara wrongly concluded that the sage had stolen the horse and tried to attack the sage who was in deep meditation. Seeing their unruly behavior, the sage burnt all those sons into ashes.
After much repentance by the later descendants of the king, Sage Kapila instructed that only the holy waters of the river Ganga would help those sixty thousand sons to attain liberation and redeem them from their sins. After a long lapse of time, many descendants of King Sagara tried to please Lord Brahma by bringing down river Ganga to Earth but they were unsuccessful. Bhagiratha (Sagara’s seventh generation) decided to rescue the spirits of his sixty-thousand ancestors and help them attain liberation. Bhagiratha was committed and observed hard penance to please Goddess Ganga. Ganga Also gave her consent to reach down the Earth.
The biggest concern of river Ganga with the descent to earth from heaven would be the uncontrolled damage because of its powerful fall of the swirling waters. Bhagiratha prayed to Lord Shiva to control the flow of the river and protect the Earth from damage. Lord Shiva locked the goddess in the locks of his hair and helped the river to flow gently onto the mountain Himalayas. The Goddess first touched the earth at a place called Gangotri- the origin of the river. From that place, Bhagirathi led her into many worlds and helped his ancestors to reach salvation. From then on river Ganges is considered an embodiment of sacred and pure water. It is an age-old belief that a sacred dip in the holy river Ganga would help one attain salvation in their life.
These stories when narrated to our kids would help them understand the importance of resources, and ways to protect nature from exploitation and also instill a sense of pride in one’s own country and its rich culture and heritage.