The Brahmanda Purana

by G.V. Tagare | 1958 | 319,243 words | ISBN-10: 8120838246 | ISBN-13: 9788120838246

This page describes the descent of ganga which is Chapter 56 of the English translation of the Brahmanda Purana: one of the oldest puranas including common Puranic elements such as cosmogony, genealogy, ethics, geography and yoga. Traditionally, the Brahmandapurana is said to consist of 12,000 verses metrical Sanskrit verses.

Chapter 56 - The descent of Gaṅgā

Jaimini Said:

1. “The life story of the noble-souled Sagara has been recounted to you in full, elaborately as well as succinctly. This story is conducive to the destruction of sin.

2. This subcontinent named Bhārata lies extensively from South to North. Its expanse is nine thousand Yojanas (?).

3. A thousand Yojanas were dug up by the sons of the king Sagara who were in search of the horse. The remaining eight thousand Yojanas were made to fall(?)

4. Since the abode of sharks (i.e. ocean) was dug up and developed by the sons of Sagara, it obtained the name Sāgara in the worlds since then.

5. The ocean splashed its waters all round and flooded the earth including the holy centres, fields and forests upto Brahmapāda (the foot of Brahmā).

6. Then, all the Devas, Asuras and human beings living there were scattered here and there. They became afflicted, with great sorrow.

7. There is a well-known holy place named Gokarṇa[1] which is worshipped by all the Suras. It is situated on the shore of the Western ocean. It extends to one and a half Yojanas.

8. There are innumerable holy spots there. There are abodes of sages and Devas. Many groups of siddhas have been living in that holy centre from the earliest times, O king.

9. That holy spot is famous throughout the world. It is splendid and it destroys sins. That holy spot lay in the South-Western portion of the sea.

10. It is the place where the sages of well praised holy rites performed penance and attained the highest liberation from which there is no coming back again (in saṃsāra).

11. Due to the potentiality of that holy place, god Śaṅkara stays there forever with great delight along with the goddess, the groups of goblins and Devas.

12. If people decide to go on pilgrimage to that holy spot, and make the proposed journey, their sins perish like a dry leaf in a stormy wind.

13. A desire to resort to that holy spot never occurs to the evil-minded ones who may even reside very near it.

14. Only, through great religious merit can men have the desire and pleasure of making a holy pilgrimage to that sacred holy spot. Never otherwise, O king.

15. If, out of compulsion, the mobile and the immobile living beings die there, O king, they attain permanent abode in heaven immediately.

16. It is the most excellent holy spot among all sacred centres; by recalling it (mentally) a man becomes rid of all sins. It is the abode of all sacred Tīrthas (holy waters).

17. Some sages desirous of spiritual achievement used to live there, taking their holy bath in all these Tīrthas and always worshipping Śiva.

18. Those who are devoid of lust and anger, who live in them without rivalry, attain that Siddhi ere long.

19. Those who stay there engaged in Japa, and Homa will attain the desired Siddhi. They must be quiescent, self-restrained and observe the vow of celibacy.

20. If holy rites such as the worship of the Pitṛs, Devas and Brāhmaṇas, charitable gifts, Homas, Japas etc. are performed in this holy spot, O King, the fruit there-of will be ten million times more than that (performance of these acts) in the other holy spots.

21-23a. When that extremely sacred holy spot became submerged in the waters of the sea, the sages endowed with great penance, who lived there climbed on to the Sahya, the excellent mountain, for the sake of a residing place. Staying there, all of them consulted one another and got ready to go to Rāma who was performing penance on the mountain Mahendra.

The King enquired:

23b-26. After the waters of the ocean had been drunk by Agastya, when the holy spot including holy sacred waters, hermitages and forests had been made to fall down, when the king’s sons (i.e. Sāgaras) dug up all round, when the other parts of the earth such as cities, villages, mines etc. and the countries lying near the ocean were destroyed, O excellent sage, what the persons with their abodes there, do? Did they reside there alone with every great difficulty or did they go elsewhere? What was the duration of the period in which the ocean became filled with water once again? By what means (did it become full)? O Brāhmaṇa, mention this to me.”

Jaimini replied:

27-29. When the marshy places lying near the ocean were destroyed by those evil-minded ones, persons having their abode therein went here and there. Some of the persons residing in the holy spots continued to live there with great difficulty.

At the same time, O king, a son was born to Aṃśumān who became well-known on the earth as Dilīpa. He was a righteous soul.

30. The highly intelligent king Aṃśumān had perfectly enjoyed the worldly pleasures, crowned Dilīpa (as the ruler) of the kingdom and went to the forest with a decision in his mind to perform penance.

31. Then the glorious Dilīpa protected the entire earth righteously after defeating all the enemies.

32. His son named Bhagīratha became very famous throughout the world. He was clever in comprehending all the topics concerning holy rites and virtue. He was resplendent and his valour and exploits were unmeasured.

33-35. After celebrating his (Bhagīratha’s) coronation in the realm, King Dilīpa too went to the forest. Bhagīratha protected the earth very well after exterminating all thorns (i.e. enemies within and without). He rejoiced enjoying different kinds of worldly pleasures like the lord of Devas in heaven. That king heard about the fact that formerly his ancestors had to fall into terrible hell as a result of the fury of a Brāhmaṇa. On hearing that all his ancestors were struck down by the curse of a Brāhmaṇa, he became extremely sad and dejected.

36-38a. He became frustrated and extremely disinterested in the kingdom, his kinsmen and the enjoyments of all worldly pleasures. He entrusted the kingdom to the care of his excellent minister. The excellent king was desirous of taking his ancestors to heaven and so went to the forest for performing penance. At the outset he propitiated the lotus-born lord Brahmā by means of great penance for securing longevity. From him he got as long a life as he desired.

38b-39. Thereafter, O great king, he propitiated Gaṅgā and made her pleased. From her he got the boon that she would come down to the earth from heaven. Afterwards he propitiated Śiva by means of penance in order to hold her by means of his head.

40-45a. The lord who favours his devotees granted that boon to him. As Gaṅgā fell down from the top of Meru along with crocodiles, alligators and sharks, the lord of the worlds (i.e. Śiva) caught her by means of his head. Although she was flowing with great rapidity, she got merged deep into his resplendent matted hair after reaching his head. By seeing her disappear in the head of the lord Śambhu like water within the cupped palm of the hand, he once again propitiated Hara to get her released.

45b-46a. By the favour of Śarva, he got back Gaṅgā once again. As she reached the earth, Bhagīratha took her towards that spot where the sons of Sagara had been burned. Following the king she flooded the entire sacrificial premises of a saintly king (Jahnu) who was performing sacrifice on the way. When the entire sacrificial chamber and installation got submerged, the saintly king became angry. He drank the entire river, as though it had been mouthful of water.[2]

46b-48a. With great efforts Bhagīratha rendered service to that noble-souled saintly king for a hundred years. When he became pleased, the king got back Gaṅgā once again.

Since Gaṅgā remained within the belly (of Jahnu) for a long time and emerged thereafter from it, her other name Jahnavī became famous on the earth.

48b-51a. The celestial river followed Bhagīratha and with her own waters she splashed the ashes of the bones of all his ancestors. When the ashes of the bones were splashed with its waters, the sons of Sagara became rid of their sins at the very same moment. They went to heaven from hell.

51b. After having led all the Sagaras to the heaven, thus, the great river went to the Eastern ocean by the same path. The celestial river had flowed towards the four quarters from the top of Meru after being split into four channels.

52. Gaṅgā received four names due to these four different channels viz. Sītā, Alakanandā, Sucakṣus and Bhadrāvatī.[3]

53. Though their waters had been dried up when Agastya drank up the waters, the four oceans became full with the waters of Gaṅgā, once again.

54. When the ocean extended by the sons of Sagara became filled up, many countries lying nearby became submerged.

55-57. The holy spots too lying at the outskirts of the ocean all round became sub-merged. The people who had their abodes therein went here and there. The holy spot Gokarṇa about which I have told you, became submerged in the ocean, as it was near the ocean. Therefore, all those persons who had their abodes therein desired to uplift it, O King. They were desirous of meeting the mighty scion of the family of' Bhṛgu and so started from the Sahya mountain.

Footnotes and references:


Gokarṇa—a holy place in north Kanara, Karwar Dist. of Karnatak. It is 30 miles from Goa between Karwar and Kumta. It contains the temple of Mahādeva called Mahābaleśvara, established by Rāvaṇa. The legend goes that Rāvaṇa was taking god Śiva’s Ātma-liṅga to Laṅkā. Due to urgency of easing, he had to entrust it to a bystander who was god Gaṇeśa in disguise. He did not want that the Ātmaliṅga should be with a demon. He placed it on the ground. When Rāvaṇa returned, he tried to wring it out of the earth. But in vain. He went away disappointed. But due to physical wringing by Rāvaṇa, it got the shape somewhat resembling a cow’s ear. The legend tries to explain the peculiar shape of this Śiva-liṅga.


Two places claim to be the spots of jahnu’s sacrificial place where Gaṅgā was ‘drunk’ up by Jahnu:

(2) Sultanganj, to the west of Bhāgalpur (Bihar); the temple of Gaibinath Mahādeva there which is supposed to be on the site of Jahnu’s hermitage is on rock which comes out of the bed of Gaṅgā in front of Sultanganj.

If the legend of the Gaṅgā being brought by efforts of 3-4 generations of the kings of the solar race be correct, it must have been a sort of an ancient canal constructed by those kings to bring waters from the Himalayas to the parched plains of north India. In that case obstruction to the canal at Bhairavaghāṭī by Jahnu is feasible and not at Sultanganj.


M.Ali identifies the rivers as follows:

Alakanandā= Gaṅgā
Su-Cakṣus = The Oxus
Bhadrāvatī or Bhadrasomā—Syrdaria (Geog. of Purāṇas, p. 201)

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