The Brihaddharma Purana (abridged)

by Syama Charan Banerji | 1915 | 50,976 words

The English translation of the Brihaddharma Purana, one of the several minor or Upa Puranas, and represents an epitome of several important (Major) Puranas. In this book one can observe the attempts made to reconcile the three main forms of Hindu worship, viz. the Shaiva Vaishnava and Tantrika (worship of God in the form of Kali, Durga, Ganga, and ...

Chapter 47 - History of Ganga (continued, 11)

Reaching the plains, Ganga flowed with great rapidity towards the South, following Bhagiratha who drove his car before her, and kept on blowing his conch. Sankara, as he had promised, spread his head wherever she went, till by the time she met the sea, it extended over a distance of little less than two hundred yojanas[1].

After traversing a distance of fourteen Yojanas she met the seven Rishis near the Himalayas. As each of them was blowing a conch, she divided herself into seven branches in their honour. All these seven branches re-united afterwards and became one by the time she reached Hardwar. By and by, other rivers joined her till at Prayaga[2] she was united with Yamuna and the invisible Sarasvati. Afterwards, she bent eastwards, and reached Kashi[3] where she flowed northwards for some distance in order to meet Siva. By the time she had again taken an easterly course Bhagiratha and his charioteer and horses were quite tired and he, therefore, ceased to blow his conch.. At this time the great Muni, Jahnu, whose retreat was close by, blew his conch in the performance of some worship and Ganga mistaking it for that of Bhagiratha, proceeded in the direction of the sound. Very shortly after, Bhagiratha also blew his conch, and Ganga was surprised at the double sound proceeding from two different directions.

When she learnt that the first blast was the work of Jahnu Muni, she was very angry thinking that he had played a trick with her, and, turning to Bhagiratha, said,

“Since this Muni had the presumption to invite me to his retreat, I shall certainly go there, and wash it away. Lead me there.”

Bhagiratha obeyed her, and she went along with him in great rage.

Jahnu Muni foresaw this, and, inviting Brahmic powers to his aid, sat on the ground with his right hand fixed thereon. When Ganga arrived there he collected all her water in the palm of that hand and quaffed it off! Thereupon all the three worlds were filled with dismay, and gods and men began to cry aloud.

Ganga finding no means of escape appeared before Jahnu in the form of a goddess and said,

“I am aware, O Muni, of your extraordinary Brahmic powers, and I admit that it was very rash of me to offend you. Forgive me and release me from your belly in consideration of the fact that I have come to the earth for the benefit of mankind. I shall henceforward be known as your daughter on account of my having entered your belly.

Jahnu granted her prayer, and released her through an opening which he made in his thigh. As soon as she came out, loud shouts of “Praise to Jahnavi[4] rose on every side.

Advancing some distance further, Bhagiratha again found that his horses were tired, and he, therefore, halted a while to give them a little rest; and Ganga also came to a standstill because his conch ceased to blow.

Now Jahnu Muni had a daughter, Padmavati by name, who felt a longing to see her new sister, Ganga, and considering Bhagiratha’s halt a good opportunity for the satisfaction of her desire, blew her conch. Ganga immediately proceeded in the direction the blast came from, thinking that it had been blown by Bhagiratha.

When Bhagiratha saw Ganga flowing in a wrong direction he blew a loud blast to check her. Ganga was surprised, and rose high to ascertain who it was who was calling her back. When she saw that she was being recalled by Bhagiratha himself she became anxious to discover the author of the first blast which had misled her? Finding that it was Padmavati she was so enraged that the latter melted into water through fear, and became a large river which proceeding to the East disgorged itself into the sea.

Ganga, in order to shorten the distance of her return, took a southerly bend, and disengaging herself from Yamuna, entered the sea. The sea god himself came out with his wife, Vela, to meet her, and worshipped her with flowers and sandal paste. She then passed through Atala, Vitala and the other lower regions till she reached Mahatala and met Kapila Muni there.

There she was worshipped by Bhagiratha with innumerable offerings, and welcomed by Kapila who requested her to purify the souls of the sixty thousand sons of Sagara who had been burnt by the fire of his wrath.

Thereupon Ganga deluged the ashes of the sixty thousand princes with her water, when lo! their souls assumed divine forms in Yamaloka[5], and ascended Heaven riding in excellent cars.

Thus were Bhagiratha’s efforts crowned with success, and he came back to his capital to celebrate it with suitable pomp.

Footnotes and references:


Yojana=8 miles.


The modern Allahabad.


The modern Benares.


Jahnavi=Jahnu’s daughter.


Yama-loka i.e., the kingdom of Yama, the. Pluto of Hindu mythology.

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