On the 10th day of the bright of Jyeshtha, this festival
is celebrated. In this tithi, Ganga descended on the earth on Wednesday and in llashta Nakhsatra. Literally Dussehra means that which takes
away ten sins. People get up early in the morning and go to the Ganges to have a holy dip.
When Ganga is not approachable because of distance,
they bathe in some nearby tank, pool, river or the sea, chanting "Har Har Ganga ! Har Har Ganga !" Thus they invoke Ganga, and offer her prayers
and worship. At such places as Rishikesh, Hardwar, Garh- Mukteshwar, Prayag, Varanasi, etc., where Ganga flows, its banks are over-crowded on
this day. A bath in Ganga on this auspicious day is a great exercise in earning religious merit. It causes washing away of all the sins.
The very name of Ganga is sacred to the Hindus. Its water is kept in sealed pots is the homes which never gets polluted even if it is kept for years together. The holy Ganga water
thus kept is used on sacred days in sanctifying places and is taken as charnamrit.
It is also given to the dying person with tulsi (basil) leaves to facilitate his leaving the body
in peace. Ganga, the eldest daughter of Himavan and Mena, and sister of Parvati, was married to the gods in heaven,
but was later on brought down to the earth by great tapas of Bhagiratha grandson of Sagara, the king of Ayodhya.
Sagara of the famous solar race was a powerful king, but had so sons
Sagara propitiated Aurva and got a boon from him to the effect that he would have one son from his wife Kesini, and 60 thousand from Sumati, the second wife
Sagara decided to perform the Ashvamedha or the horse sacrifices as a sign of universal domain, and planned to dethrone Indra. But Indra drove the sacrificial horse to the nether
worlds (Patal loka), although it was guarded by the 60 thousand sons. They reached there searching the horse and found it grazing near sage Kapila, seated in deep samadhi. They
thought that Kapila had stolen their horse, they menaced him and disturbed his meditation. It enraged the rishi and he at once reduced them to ashes with his fierce glance.
Sagara now sent his grandson Anshuman to find out what had happened to his 60 thousand uncles.
Anshuman approached Kapila with great humility and it pleased him so much that he
granted him a boon to the effect that his uncles would be restored to heavens if the holy Ganges could be made to descend on earth and flow over the ashes of 60 thousand uncles.
Kapila allowed Anshuman to return with the horse and the Ashvamedha was completed.
Sagara, and his grandson Anshuman and then his grandson Dilipa, all practised great tapas in succession, but could not make Ganga come down to the earth. However, Bahgiratha, the
son of Dilipa, proved a very powerful ascetic and he performed such an extra¬ordinary tapas that Brahma had to order Ganga to descend to the earth.
Ganga came down to earth reluctantly and Shiva took her on his matted locks in order to avoid the danger of Ganga's fury.
Ganga descended from the tangled locks of Shiva in seven
streams, but it disturbed the sage Jahnu in his meditations, and so, he in anger drank up the water, but relented and allowed it to flow from his ear. Hence, Ganga is also known as
Jahnvi. Ganga followed the chariot of Bhagiratha and entered into the nether regions, where her sacred water flowed over the ashes of the princes and they then ascended to the
Thus Ganga is said to water the three worlds.
Besides Ganga Dussehra many other grand bathing festivals are held on the banks of Ganga. Many of our big and holy cities are situated on its banks.