It is with great pleasure that I am writing a prologue to this great literary work The Holy Ganga, centred
around the devotion and faith of millions of people living in various corners of the globe. This book is
based on extensive research by the author during the course of the decade-long movements and noble
initiatives for preservation of the environment and ecology. The ancient scriptures and epics of India
sing glorious songs in praise of the threefold river goddess Ganga. Lord Krishna defines the Ganga in
the Srimad Bhagavat Gita.
‘Gam prithvim gachhati iti Ganga’
Which means: ‘The one that descends onto the earth from the heaven is the Ganga’.
He again says:
Which means: ‘The Ganga takes one towards the paradise’.
The Indian culture of love, peace and fraternity imbibed all alien elements just as the Ganga
moulds all hard stones that represent the ego, smoothing them in the process. Words fail me to describe
the glory of the holy mother; my prayers seem so insignificant and insufficient in comparison to the
magnificence of the glorious mother. My ardent wish is that mother Ganga resides in our hearts and
The idea of writing a book on the Ganga got a fillip during a national seminar organized by the
Bharat Jagriti Mission on 5 April 2008 with the theme: ‘Significance of the Holy Ganga in the Present
Scenario’. Numerous well-known environmental activists and thinkers along with various saints, social
workers, politicians, student and common citizens participated in the programme chaired by His
Excellency B.L. Joshi, the governor of Uttarakhand. As a consequence of the brainstorming session, the
mission resolved to introduce devotees of the holy mother as its preservers. These dedicated devotees
of the holy mother are called Ganga Rakshaks.
Water is the basis of all life. In the present scenario, water crisis is the most severe and
pervasive problem of the entire world. The average water supply in India is far below the standard
average of 1,000 cubic metres per person per annum. The water availability graph over the last fifty
years reflects a sharp decline in the supply and availability of water. Today, India is a water stressed
country with only four per cent of the total available fresh water of the world even though it forms
sixteen per cent of the total global population. Ganga. Yamuna and the entire Ganga system is one of the
largest available fresh water resources of the nation, and these precious water resources is depleting at
an uncontrolled speed.
The destruction of water resources is a bigger crime than terrorism since it can destroy
entire communities-millions of people and property worth billions in a single shot. Presently, the water
resources are destroyed by uncontrolled pollution, greenhouse effects, indiscriminate mining and
corporate maneuvering of the resources. In addition to these, politics of faith is yet another problem.
These are just a few problems that challenge the very existence of the holy river and the great
In this context there was a need of a holistic literature on mother Ganga that chronologically
throws light on her history, myths, significance and the present degrading situation. The author
describes and offers simple and pragmatic solutions of various problems with a passionate, simple and
impartial approach. He has made an earnest attempt to compile all the facts, legends and problems
pertaining to the holy river from the beginning to modern times in the three sections. In all, the book is
a priceless offering to adorn any bookshelf.
The present volume is a call for a peaceful and dynamic movement to preserve the holy river,
the great Himalayas and our planet from the impending catastrophe. The living water of the holy river is
known for her curative properties and purifying characteristics. The Holy Ganga illuminates the
spiritual, religious, social, economic, cultural and environmental importance of the Ganga along with
more immediate problems of livelihood.
I believe that the author of the book deserves my sincere gratitude for his marvelous and
relevant literary contribution. The Ganga is just not a simple river; it is the flow of the nectar of
immortality that sparks a current of life throughout the Indian subcontinent. The book is a necessary
tool for creating awareness among readers about the Ganga’s present state of pollution and helping
evolve solution techniques. I hope this volume awakens the consciousness of devotees and inspires
every individual to join the Save Ganga Campaign. Once again, I think Mr Kaushal Kishore for his
literary work. I would also like to thank Rupa & Co. for publishing this precious literature on the holy
mother. At last, I pray to mother Ganga for the wellbeing of all and request all of you to preserve the
sacred water of the holy river.
One beautiful morning I sat on the banks of the Ganga river, a few hundred metres apart from
Har-ki-Pauri at Hardwar. It was a little before sunrise. The cool breeze blowing out of the riverbed
fascinated me to such an extent that I sat on the stairs leading towards the waterway. I was looking at the
immense flowing water body. The green water of the river-it always reminds me that even after so much
pollution upstream the river still appears to be green up to Hardwar for a few months-was so beautiful
and picturesque that my eyes were transfixed on the view.
The beauty of the sinuous green water had never seemed so beautiful in the past, and as I was
looking at it, all the thoughts in my mind vanished. The sonorous melody of the water naturally filled
into my ears with a binding magnetic force. Later I realized that it was a moment of ultimate bliss and
pure ecstacy that a human being can experience. The fresh oxygen was feeding my lungs, the immense
green water energized my heart and soul, the picturesque scenery comforted my eyes, the whisper of the
natural melody emanating from the great flow of river reverberated into my ears, and the cool blowing
breeze surrounded me and caressed my body affectionately. I remained there, sitting on the steps, in the
same spellbound state of meditation for a long time.
After a couple of hours when I looked up, I felt as if I had woken up from some unfamiliar
plane of consciousness. The slight surge of warmth in the cool breeze made me realize that I was quite
unaware of myself and my surroundings even though I was entirely conscious with my eyes open
throughout that period. I just remembered myself looking at the flowing green water body known as
For a brief period of about a couple hours I had attained different level of consciousness-my
vision improved drastically as if empowered with a special power of a higher and subtler kind and I
could see something on the riverbed. What I saw was a series of events that sometimes seems to me the
product of my imagination or a vision in meditation. I have never in the past, experienced such a live
presentation of an imaginary series of events. I will now describe in detail what I saw.
There was an old man walking along. He wore white clothes like a saint and was rather tall,
with glowing cream skin and starved thin body but there was still the sparkle of peace and divine bliss on
his face. The wrinkles on his forehead shone like his snow white long and thin hair and almost equally
long beard flowing down to his chest. The two conspicuous hazel eye were sparkling with the shine of
inner enlightenment, Moreover, there was an infinite love reflecting from his deep and huge eyes that
showed an absence of all sorts of evils. He seemed like some sort of a super human from another world,
perhaps from a world higher than ours.
The great amount of waters danced and shone like lightning as the river followed its course,
and there were lots of people far behind the old man on both sides of the great water that was following
the old man. The hill tops seemed to be as high as his knees. He was treading carefully and was in full
control on the top of the mountain. The old man was glad to see such a big gathering to pay their
respects to the holy mother.
Yes, the huge amount of water was the holy Mother Ganga that turned into the River Ganga by
virtue of some spiritual power, and the old man was His Majesty the Great King of the oldest Indian
dynasty that still exists and is known as Suryavansh. He was the great King Bhagaratha himself who
brought the precious river to the earth. All the citizens were rushing to greet the victorious and beloved
king and to welcome the great water body, which was nothing but the Holy Mother Ganga herself.
Suddenly, there were floods…
The huge amount of water suddenly spread across the area and flooded the vicinity in my
view. All homes, fields, valleys, etc. were full of water. Out of nowhere, emerged another rather tall old
man. He was a little older than the king and his skin was dark and shiny. He too had snow white hair and
long, flowing beard. His ashram was flooded, and he was annoyed. There was a blazing fire in his
glowing red eyes. He looked around in rage, then closed his eyed for a while, and opened them again. He
moved ahead and his body became larger and larger in size. Soon he was as tall as an elephant before an
ant. He began to drink the water. Gradually the water started receding and after some time there was no
sign of the flood as he was drinking all the water flowing towards the king. Then there was almost no
The king turned back and saw all that was going on, helpless and amazed. There was no
Gangajal to follow him. The dancing and flowing river was gone. The public around the way were silent.
All were afraid of the curse of Rishi Jahnu who had sipped the water as if it was nothing more than his
palm full of honey. The Ganga once again disappeared and Bhagiratha was sorely perplexed.
Bhagiratha fell onto his feet and all the people and other saints approached Jahnu and begged
him to forgive Ganga and allow Bhagiratha to reap the fruit of his great austerities and perseverance. The
sage relented and let Ganga out through his right ear. It was a new flow from an entirely unexpected
orifice. The saints and seers present there were glad and blessed Ganga as a daughter and called her
Jahnavi. Since the process of coming out of Jahnu’s body was similar to the event of birth when an infant
comes out of the mother’s womb, Ganga came to be known as Jahnavi, the daughter of Jahnu.
The king was very glad with the outcome. He climbed into his chariot and moved ahead to
take away the holy waters with him without any further mishaps or hindrances through the ocean to the
netherworld, where his dead ancestors were burnt into ashes and the last rites of the funeral ceremony
was yet to be accomplished even after the efforts of three generations of the dynasty. The king was
singing some hymns that I could hear clearly.
He traveled a long distance before the evening and was tired by the time he reached
Rishikesh. His horses were thirsty and needed feeding and rest. It was at Saptarishi that the king decided
to offer solutions to all the seven seers living there. The king bowed down before all the seers who were
glad to see the king who was blessed with the holy waters. The saints blessed Bhagiratha with the boons
so that he could perform the funeral rites of his dead ancestors to gain entry for them into the
The river split into seven different streams at Saptarishi and moved besides the hermitages of
all the seven seers. Jahnavi, who was now the daughter of the seers, offered salutations to the lotus feet
of the saints at Hardwar like a beloved daughter. All along the journey kings, saints as well as the
common people worshipped the Holy Mother Ganga.
I am fond of climbing hills especially in the Himalayas. Several times I have visited the
Shivalik Range of mountains in the Great Himalayas. The peak of hills at Hardwar and Rishikesh offer a
charming and pictographic view of one of the most beautiful parts of the Ganga Valley. I still remember
one such panoramic landscape from the peak of the foothills situated in the eastern part of Hardwar near
the temple of the Goddess Chandi. Here, the river splits into several streams and again all such streams
merge together, forming an oval shape near Saptarishi. That very picture flashed across my mind and I
was again transfixed. The flow of the green river water was beautiful and pleasant enough to make
anybody dravibhut (fall in her love).
I was amazed to realize that I was not day dreaming. I was entirely awake throughout the
period while all this happened before my eyes on the riverbed that looked like the infinite space spread
across the sky. All the living energies-air, water, ether, fire and sky-were present there in the purest
available form. During this clairvoyant period, I had completely forgotten myself. The marvelous events
imbibed my attention to such an extent that there was an entire absence of self-consciousness. My
consciousness merged wit the sight completely, without even the small ripples of self or ego.
It was one of the most pleasant experiences of my life, which was beyond my own
imagination. I know that something like this is difficult to believe in modern times but it did happen to
me. I was aware of the stories of the scriptures about the descent of the Holy Mother Ganga but before
this these were nothing more than stories meant for children.
I am attracted to the beauty of the river and I seldom dislike it, but to me a river is a waterway,
a non-living thing. But the said event was a challenge to the well-established idea of it being non living.
It suggests that the Ganga is a living body, as living as human beings, plants, animals, etc.
A couple of weeks passed by and the effects of this event were still fresh in my mind. One
evening I got an opportunity to talk to a saint while I was walking on the banks of the river at Hardwar. In
the peace-loving and divine aura of the saint I felt the likeness with Kabir Das, the great saint of
medieval times. He was an old man with long and thick matted hair and beard. He was the first one to
whom I narrated the events of that beautiful morning. The saint listened to me attentively and asked
certain questions as and when he felt proper.
At last he said, ‘There are higher stages of consciousness that is known to a few enlightened
souls. Sometimes with divine grace certain individuals experience such higher stage of consciousness.
‘I have heard hundreds of such stories from scriptures. My grandparents were fond of telling
me such narratives and perhaps I came across thousands of such stories in my childhood. Although I
don’t remember them anymore, it is there somewhere within me. Why don’t you think that it was an
outcome of those hidden stories lying in my subconscious?’ I asked.
In answer to my question he said, ‘This may be an idea of modern experts of various material
sciences. But our source of knowledge is the Vedas and there is a verse to that effect in the Yajurveda.
He quoted the mantra, which is as follows:
‘What does this verse mean?’ I questioned.
The saint looked into my eyes and said, ‘There are four different layers of consciousness and
expression-para, pasyanti, madhyama and baikahri, and they all are known to the few enlightened souls.
Three of the four are confined to the enlightened experts of the integral yoga, who are masters of all
chakras of the human body. The fourth called baikahri is the physical form of that consciousness in the
form of the speech all living creatures speak.’
‘Do you think there is any significance of this theory with respect again, ‘your experience
indicates something towards certain good works; perhaps you don’t have an idea of it. Anyway, what do
you do?’ he asked.
‘I am working for the preservation of the environment and ecology; Ganga Pollution and
Himalayan ecology is one of the prominent issues that I am concerned with,’ I answered.
‘There may be some connection which you will learn over the course of time. Such instances
are the reflections of higher stages of consciousness. It is like the dream you seldom have. The dreams
are the madhyama (semi-consciousness) state of that expression, and pashyanti or dhyan (vision or
meditation) is another state of the same expression. There is a yet another form of the same, which is
the purest and most subtle spiritual form called para (super consciousness). The event you experienced
that morning was a classical example of meditation. These are not physical things of the materialistic
world. Generally these are metaphoric and symbolic, and such visions are normally meant to indicate
certain divine and spiritual work that is needed to be done at your end. The thoughts of the Vedas are
compiled in verses and not in prose. Verses significantly need explanations to make it intelligible.’
‘What else could be the significance of the Bhagiratha event?’ ‘See, the scriptures also say
that he Lord Shiva was annoyed when Ganga descended. Did you know that?’
‘No.’ ‘It had happened when Ganga descended from the heavens with great might and
force. As a consequence of that Lord Shiva covered the sky with the great locks of his hair, so that not a
drop of water would fall on the Earth. In this way he had fully captured Ganga.’ He replied.
‘Okay.’ ‘See, this is the exact symbolic expression of the narrative.’ ‘How so?’ I
asked. ‘The Shiva’s dreadlocks covered the stream, as I have told you.’
‘Yes, you did.’ ‘This event from the scriptures is as symbolic as a simile, he said with a
grin on his face. He began, ‘The Shivalik range releases the Ganga to flow in the plains, after it traverses
more than two hundred miles in the hills. Do you know what “Shivalik” means?’ he asked.
‘No.’ ‘Shivalik means Lord Shiva’s dreadlocks,’ he said with a quiet smile.
‘Oh, I see. So the mountains stand for the dreadlocks of Lord Shiva that emerged to resist the
course of the river.’
‘See the Tehri Dam. It stores millions of litres of water in its reservoirs. Can you imagine
how much water could have been stored in the many times larger reservoir spread across the
Himalayas?’ He asked.
‘The Himalayas spread across such a vast area that perhaps a river across it was impossible
unless there was an orifice to flow by I replied.
‘Similarly, your experience indicates something that you don’t understand right now; it points
towards some sort of spiritual inspiration,’ he said.
‘Can you tell me what it is?’ I asked. ‘I am not bound to answer all your questions, find it
yourself.’ He replied and took out a pipe out of his pocket to smoke.
I offered my salutations to him and returned. All along the way I had an intermittent flashback
of the series of events. I never met that saint again although I visited the banks of the river on many
I know there are millions of followers of Hindu mythology in India, and they perform the
traditional religious ceremonies. Many of them believe in the stories of scriptures but these are
skeptics like me too. In my opinion, the story of the descent of the holy river from the heavens was
always like any other story but I leant later that many of these are said with poetic license. I always
thought that the Ganga is the lifeline of India but I never believed that it was a personified goddess.
I seldom wanted to share this divine interlude with my friends and experts in the field. But
just then the words of the saint reverberated in my ears, ‘Find it yourself’. So I never shared my
experiences with anyone. But it did change my life forever. It increased my curiosity and interest in the
preservation of the holy river, and the Ganga no longer remained merely a river for me. Now I feel and
believe tin the concept of the Divine Mother Ganga, like many other devotees of the river goddess.
Once I got an opportunity to be with the well-known environmentalist Sundarlal Bahuguna for
a week. He was in his early eighties then, weak and lean. I was glad to be around a follower of Mahatma
Gandhi. Bahugunaji was the hero of the world famous ‘Chipko Movement’. It was a peaceful and
non-violent movement during his youth, which he initiated to preserve the trees in the Himalayas. He
shared various thoughts with me and answered almost all my questions that helped me understand the
deeper spiritual meaning of life. He also persuaded me to accomplish various missions concerning
Himalayan ecology and the pollution of the Ganga.
Back of the Book
The Ganges, the lifeline of the Indian subcontinent has been widely worshipped in her personified form
as the divine goddess for ages. It is believed that the living water of the holy river possesses curative
properties and purifying characteristics. In the present scenario, there are several problems that
challenge the very existence of the holy river and the great Himalayas. The Holy Ganga sheds light on
the spiritual, religious, social, economic, cultural and environmental importance of the Ganga along
with the problems of livelihood, uncontrolled pollution, dreaded floods, indiscriminate mining, politics
of faiths, and corporate maneuvering of water resources. The author describes situations of the past,
present and future, and offers possible solutions to various problems with a passionate, simple and
impartial approach. The book is a call for a peaceful and dynamic movement to preserve the holy river,
the great Himalayas and our holy planet from the human versus nature war and imminent
Kaushal Kishore, an eminent environmental activist and thinker, is an ardent student
of ancient spiritual literature and philosophy. Presently, he works with the Bharat Jagriti Mission: the
pioneer of the Save Ganga Campaign. He is closely associated with various projects and awareness
programmes pertaining to Himalayan ecology and the pollution of the Ganga. He has also developed
numerous structural and non-structural projects based on eco-friendly concepts, and has created
awareness about the holy river through his speeches and articles.
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