why do people go to the river ganges

Where is the river 'Ganges' Varanasi, India
Why? It has long been considered a holy river by Hindus and worshiped as the goddess Ganga in Hinduism. For Hindus in India, the Ganga is not just a river but a mother, a goddess, a tradition, a culture and much more. Some Hindus also believe life is incomplete without bathing in the Ganga at least once in one's lifetime. Many Hindu families keep a vial of water from the Ganga in their house. This is done because it is prestigious to have water of the Holy Ganga in the house, and also so that if someone is dying, that person will be able to drink its water.


Many Hindus believe that the water from the Ganga can cleanse a person's soul of all past sins, and that it can also cure the ill. The ancient scriptures mention that the water of Ganges carries the blessings of Lord Vishnu's feet; hence Mother Ganges is also known as Vishnupadi, which means "Emanating from the Lotus feet of Supreme Lord Sri Vishnu. A sea of humanity assembled on the river bank as people waited patiently for their turn to step into the water.


Men in underpants, women in saris and children naked and clothed chanted from Hindu scriptures as they walked into the icy-cold water. The bathing process was initiated by religious heads of different Hindu monasteries who reached the bathing points, called ghats, riding silver chariots. Some were carried on silver palanquins, accompanied by marching bands. Applause rose from tens of thousands of pilgrims waiting behind barricades as the religious heads set off the ceremony.


The heads of the monasteries threw flowers on the devotees as they shouted "har har gangey," or Long Live Ganges. The biggest spectacle was that of the Naga sadhus, or ascetics, who raced to the river wearing only marigold garlands in a cacophony of religious chants. About 50,000 policemen have been deployed to keep order at the festival, fearing everything from terrorist attacks to the ever-present danger of stampedes of pilgrims. Several squads policemen on horseback regulated the flow of pilgrims to and from the bathing ghats.


According to Hindu mythology, the Kumbh Mela celebrates the victory of gods over demons in a furious battle over a nectar that would give them immortality. As one of the gods fled with a pitcher of the nectar across the skies, it spilled on four Indian towns Allahabad, Nasik, Ujjain and Haridwar. The Kumbh Mela is organised four times every 12 years in those towns. Hindus believe that sins accumulated in past and current lives require them to continue the cycle of death and rebirth until they are cleansed.


If they bathe at Ganges on the most auspicious day of the festival, believers say they can rid themselves of their sins. Tens of thousands of pilgrims slept the night on the vast festival grounds in more than 1 million tents green, blue, and brown erected all over, while many huddled together under trees. Some 20,000 makeshift lavatories have been have been erected, while 10,000 sweepers have been deployed to keep this makeshift tent town clean. Source: AP