River Ganges or Ganga is considered by Hindus to be the holiest river in India. In fact, Hindu mythology represents her as a goddess and addresses her as Ma Ganga or Devi Ganga. She is visualised as a young woman with four arms dressed in a white sari and sitting cross-legged on a crocodile. Her waters are known as gangajal and are believed to have immense powers. Hindus believe that their sins are washed off if they bathe in the river. Gangajal holds great medicinal powers and is known to have cures various skin ailments.
There are several holy cities on the banks of the Ganges. Every year, devotees throng the river banks on the occasion of Ganga Dussehra to participate in the Ganga pooja and witness the Ganga arti. Ganga Dussehra is a popular festival associated with Maa Ganga. Hindus are of the belief that the river came to earth from heaven on that day. This day falls on the tenth day of the waxing moon on Jyestha, a Hindu calendar month.
Read on to know how Hindu scriptures suggest you can worship Devi Ganga with devotion and be blessed by her.
You can recite one or more Ganga stotras or mantras with fervour. If it is not possible to do this, call out her name saying Har har Gange! The deity is pleased by anyone who addresses her with full devotion.
Try and make a trip to her river banks. Many Hindus spend some time on the banks gazing at her waters and chanting the Ganga chalisa . Some of them even opt to meditate on her banks or engage in self-reflection. You can consider participating in any rituals held in her honour.
Touch Ganga Water
Touching the gangajal is one of the simplest forms of worship and is referred to as the divine touch. You can do this in several ways.
One way to do this is to stand on the river banks and bend down to touch the waters with your hands. Another option is to scooping some water in your palms and wash your face with it or spreading it all over your hands. You can step down from the banks into the river and stand in her waters and allow the water flow over. Needless to say, it is extremely refreshing and relaxing, too.
There are worshippers who keep gangajal in their homes in glass bottles and take a drop of two in their palms and rub them together in the morning every day after a bath.
Taking a Holy Dip
You can get into her waters and take a dip to have a bath. Devotees usually chant her prayers during the bath. Following the bath, they wear wet clothes and take some water in their hands to offer it to the Sun God and their ancestors. This action is also considered to be a surrender to the goddess. One such mantra is
Gange ca Yamune caiva Godaavari Sarasvati
Narmade Sindhu Kaaveri jalasmin sannidhim kuru
Gangajal is so powerful that many believe even when just one drop is mixed in a bucket full of ordinary water for taking bath, the whole quantity is represented to be the water of Ma Ganga.
Carrying Clay from the River
It is said that digging some clay from the Ganges and carrying it is also a form of worship to the deity. Devotees who prefer this form of worship usually take the clay to their homes and worship it. If you do so, you must remember to keep the clay in a clean place.
According to the Hindu faith, the soul gets raised to the highest status with intense worship of Ma Ganga alone. Ganga is considered to be a purifying source and hence her waters are an indispensable part of almost any Hindu ritual or yagna. Devotees drink a little of gangajal and wash their hands with it before the ritual as an act of purifying themselves and getting ready for participation. Gangajal is also used to offer pooja to various other gods and goddesses as well. The water is ideally kept in a brass, silver or copper vessels on other occasions. It is ideally touched with clean hands.