Ganga, aka: Gaṅgā, Gāṅga; 13 Definition(s)


Ganga means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, the history of ancient India, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Nāṭyaśāstra (theatrics and dramaturgy)

One of the Hands of the Famous Rivers.—Gaṅgā, etc., the Tāmracūḍa hand. Also see: Vyāvṛttacāpaveṣṭitau.

(Source): The mirror of gesture (abhinaya-darpana)
Nāṭyaśāstra book cover
context information

Nāṭyaśāstra (नाट्यशास्त्र, natya-shastra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition of performing arts, (e.g., theatrics, drama, dance, music), as well as the name of a Sanskrit work dealing with these subjects. It also teaches the rules for composing dramatic plays (nāṭya) and poetic works (kāvya).


Gaṅgā (गङ्गा).—Name of a river originating from Himālaya, a holy mountain (kulaparvata) in Bhārata, according to the Varāhapurāṇa chapter 85. There are settlements (janapada) where Āryas and Mlecchas dwell who drink water from these rivers.

Bhārata is a region south of Hemādri, once ruled over by Bharata (son of Ṛṣabha), whose ancestral lineage can be traced back to Svāyambhuva Manu, who was created by Brahmā, who was in turn created by Nārāyaṇa, the unknowable all-pervasive primordial being.

The Varāhapurāṇa is categorised as a Mahāpurāṇa, and was originally composed of 24,000 metrical verses, possibly originating from before the 10th century. It is composed of two parts and Sūta is the main narrator.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Varāha-purāṇa

1a) Gaṅgā (गङ्गा).—A R. source of, sacred to Hari;1 brought to the earth from Heaven; a mahānadī from the Himalayas.2 Originating from the foot of Viṣṇu and watering the region of the moon falls from heaven into Brahmā's city; issuing from the nail of the great toe of Hari's left foot; Dhruva holds her in his crown; the seven sages perform austerities with her waters; issuing again from the moon she falls on Sumeru and thence to the four quarters of the earth; hearing of her, the desire to go to Gangā, see, touch, bathe in her waters—all purify a person; falling in four directions, takes the names of Śītā, Alakanandā, Cakṣu and Bhadrā.3 Effort made by Aṃśumān, Dilīpa and Bhagīratha and hence her name Bhāgīrathī. Held up by Hara and then let; flowed in seven streams through several territories in the four directions, sanctifying the regions and the people there.4 Its waters drunk by Janhu, and let out by his ears and hence called Jānhavī.5 The seed cast off by Śiva in the sky was borne by Gangā and was swallowed by Agni; phoetus left on the Himalayan slopes became gold, which was utilised in building the yagñaśāla at Naimiṣa. At her confluence with Yamunā (s.v.) was the avabhṛta of the sacrifice of Prajāpatis. On its banks Bharata performed horsesacrifice.6 Here Yudhiṣṭhira had his avabhṛta bath after Rājasūya.7 Here were done funeral rites of the dead children of Draupadī.8 Here again Parīkṣit observed vow of fasting unto death.9 Visited by Balarāma.10 The Sagaras sent to heaven by the Ganges waters.11 Gangā as devī.12 Originally of three-fold path, the Chāyāpathā being in the nakṣatramaṇḍala;13 addressed by Agni to bear Rudra's garbha, Gangā accepted the task and gave birth to Kumāra.14 Gangā refilled the ocean, after Agastya drank it dry.15 Manu put the growing fish in; washed off the city of Hastināpuram; contains 3(1/2) crores of tīrthas; forms the cure for all ills; released in seven streams by Śankara, three to the west, three to the north and one Bhagīrathī, sacred in Kanakhala.16 Wife of the ocean;17 Tripathagā;18 a consort of Śiva, served by Trayambaka and other gods.19 Fit for śrāddha;20 the right side of the Veda;21 particularly sacred at three spots—Gangādvāra, Prayāga and Gangā sāgara-sangama.22

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa VII. 14. 29, VIII. 4. 23, Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 16. 11, 24.
  • 2) Vāyu-purāṇa 42. 39-49: 71. 5.
  • 3) Vī. I. 9. 103: II, 2. 334: 8. 108-13, 120-2: III. 14. 18 IV. 4. 26-30: 18-28.
  • 4) Bhāgavata-purāṇa IX. 9. 1-13: Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 13. 118: 55. 51: 56. 38-54.
  • 5) Bhāgavata-purāṇa IX. 15. 3: Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 66. 25-6: 73. 117: Matsya-purāṇa 12. 44: 121. 26.
  • 6) Bhāgavata-purāṇa IV. 7. 63-4: Vāyu-purāṇa 2. 17-18: 72. 28-32. Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 16. 11 and 24. Bhāgavata-purāṇa VII. 14. 29; VIII. 4. 23 Vāyu-purāṇa 42. 39-40: 71. 5. Bhāgavata-purāṇa IX. 9. 1-13. Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 13. 118: 55.51: 56. 38-54. Matsya-purāṇa 15. 3. Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 66. 25. 6: 73. 117: Matsya-purāṇa 12. 44: 121. 26. Bhāgavata-purāṇa IV. 7. 63-64. Vāyu-purāṇa 2. 17-18: 72. 28-32. Bhāgavata-purāṇa IV. 2. 35. IX. 20-25: 22. 19: X. 10. 4.
  • 7) Bhāgavata-purāṇa X. 75. 19.
  • 8) Ib. I. 8. 1.
  • 9) Ib. 3. 43; 4. 10; 12. 28; 18. 3.
  • 10) Ib. X. 78. 20.
  • 11) Ib. IX. 9. 14.
  • 12) Ib. I. 19. 15.
  • 13) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 18. 26-42, 50-52:
  • 14) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 7. 355: 9. 4: 10. 30-5: 14. 84: 37. 5: 54. 49: IV. 9. 78.
  • 15) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 63. 167.
  • 16) Matsya-purāṇa 1. 23: 13. 25: 36. 5: 50. 78: 102. 5-6: 106. 57-8; 114. 20: 121. 38-41; 133. 23: 183. 107: 186. 10; 192. 11; 239-18.
  • 17) Vāyu-purāṇa 13. 35: 30. 32 and 92: 45. 95:
  • 18) Vāyu-purāṇa 2. 7; 51. 21, 46; 58. 88.
  • 19) Vāyu-purāṇa 42. 39-40: 71. 5.
  • 20) Vāyu-purāṇa 77. 68.
  • 21) Vāyu-purāṇa 98. 117: 99. 63: 104. 13, 27, 77: 106. 67: 111. 16.
  • 22) Matsya-purāṇa 106. 53.

1b) (personified) a bearer of flywhisk to Lalitā.*

  • * Bhāgavata-purāṇa VI. 2. 39: Matsya-purāṇa 22. 10: 246. 92.

2) Gāṅga (गाङ्ग).—A Gandharva.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 69. 26.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purāṇa book cover
context information

The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

General definition (in Hinduism)

1) Gaṅgā (गङ्गा) is a Sanskrit word referring to a dwelling place or resort of the celestial nymphs (apsaras). They live chiefly on earth around rivers or on mountains, as in the courts of all the gods.

2) Gaṅgā (गङ्गा):—Wife of Śāntanu (one of the three sons of Pratīpa). They had a son named Bhīṣma. (see Bhāgavata Purāṇa 9.22.12, 9.22.18-19)

(Source): Wisdom Library: Hinduism

Gaṅgā (गङ्गा).—The famous and holy Ganges river of India, which runs throughout the entire universe. She originates from the spiritual world, and descended when Lord Vāmanadeva kicked a hole in the top of the universe. One is recommended to bathe in the Ganges for purification. She married Mahārāja Śantanu and begot the famous devotee and warrior, Bhīṣmadeva

(Source): ISKCON Press: Glossary

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

1. Ganga (Modern Ganges) - One of the five great rivers (Mahanadi) that water Jambudipa, the others being Yamuna, Aciravati, Sarabhu, and Mahi (E.g., Vin.ii.237; S.ii.135; v.401; A.iv.101; v.22; Mil.114 mentions ten).

The Commentaries (E.g., SNA.ii.438f; AA.ii.761ff; MA.ii.586; UdA.301) give a long description of their origin. From the Anotatta lake flow four rivers: that from the south circles the lake three times under the name of Avattaganga, then as Kanhaganga flows straight for sixty leagues along the surface of a rock, comes into violent contact with a vertical rock, and is thrown upwards as a column of water three gavutas in circumference; this column, known as Akasaganga, flows through the air for sixty leagues, falls on to the rock Tiyaggala, excavating it to a depth of fifty leagues, thus forming a lake which is called Tiyaggalapokkharani; then the river, under the name of Bahalaganga, flows through a chasm in the rock for sixty leagues, then, under the name of Ummaggaganga, through a tunnel for a further sixty leagues, and finally coming upon the oblique rock Vijjha, divides into five streams, forming the five rivers above mentioned.

Among places mentioned as being on the banks of the Ganga are Benares, Campa, Ayojjha, Kimbhila, Ukkavela, Payaga, Pataliputta, and Sankassa. The Ganga formed one of the most important means of communication and trade for the districts through which it flowed - e.g., from Rajagaha to Vesali. The district to the north of the river and bordering on the kingdom of Anga was called Anguttarapa (SNA.ii.439). The river was five hundred leagues in length (SA.ii.119).

The name of the Ganga appears again and again in similes and metaphors in the Pali books:

its sands are immeasurable (S.iv.376);

its waters cannot be made bracken by adding to them a grain of salt (A.i.250);

it is full of foam, and yet its foam is empty (S.iii.140);

it were folly to wish to hold up the course of its waters with ones fist (S.iv.298);

as the river finds repose only in the ocean, so do the followers of the Buddha find repose only in nibbana (M.i.493);

some things are as inevitable as that the Ganga should flow into the sea (S.iv.179);

there is no such thing as the Ganga apart from its sand, its water, and its banks;

to be cast on the other side of the Ganga (paragangaya) is great misfortune (see, e.g., S.i.207, SnA.i.228).

The Ganga flows from west to east (pacinaninna, S.iv.191);

during the rains it is so full of water that even a crow could drink water from its bank (Vin.i.230);

sometimes the banks would be flooded and the buildings on them destroyed (SA.i.164), and people would find difficulty in crossing;

(Source): Pali Kanon: Pali Proper Names
context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).


gaṅgā : (f.) river; the Ganges.

(Source): BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary
Pali book cover
context information

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Gaṅgā (गङ्गा) is the name of a river mentioned as flowing through Bhārata together with the Sindhu river. Bhārata is one of the seven regions (kṣetra) of Jambūdvīpa according to Jaina cosmology. Jambūdvīpa sits at the centre of madhyaloka (‘middle world’) is the most important of all continents and it is here where human beings reside.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Jainism

Gaṅgā (गङ्गा) is the name of river crossed by Mahāvīra during his second year of spiritual-exertion.—Leaving Śvetāmbikā city, the Lord moved towards Surabhipura. River Gaṅgā came mid-way. The Lord had to sit on a boat to cross Gaṅgā. When Mahāvīra crossed Gaṅgā, two Nāga princes Kambala and Śambala served the Lord to get over this calamity.

(Source): HereNow4u: Lord Śrī Mahāvīra

Gaṅga (गङ्ग) is the name of a river that, coupled with the Sindhu river, separates the Bharata region. Bharata refers to one of the regions of Jambūdvīpa: the first continent of the Madhya-loka (middle-word), according to the 2nd-century Tattvārthasūtra 3.10. The Gaṅga river flow eastwards. The Gaṅga and Sindhu rivers have 14000 tributaries.

Jambūdvīpa (where flows the Gaṅga river) is in the centre of all continents and oceans; all continents and oceans are concentric circles with Jambūdvīpa in the centre. Like the navel is in the centre of the body, Jambūdvīpa is in the centre of all continents and oceans. Sumeru Mount is in the centre of Jambūdvīpa. It is also called Mount Sudarśana.

(Source): Encyclopedia of Jainism: Tattvartha Sutra 3: The Lower and middle worlds
General definition book cover
context information

Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

India history and geogprahy

Gaṅgā (गङ्गा).—The river is known by the same name even today. Regarding this river, and its tributaries, Arrian observes: “Megasthenes states that of the two (the Ganges and the Indus), the Ganges is much the larger............ It receives, besides the river Sonos and the Sittokatis and Solomatis, which are also navigable and also the Kondochates and the Sambos and the Magon and the Agoranis and the Omalis. Moreover, there falls into it the Kommenases, a great river, and the Kakouthis and the Andomatis.”

(Source): Geography in Ancient Indian inscriptions
India history book cover
context information

The history of India traces the identification of countries, villages, towns and other regions of India, as well as royal dynasties, rulers, tribes, local festivities and traditions and regional languages. Ancient India enjoyed religious freedom and encourages the path of Dharma, a concept common to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.

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