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Chapter LXXVI - The Descent of Gangā on earth

Argument:—Reinstatement of Bhagīratha in his Kingdom, and his bringing down the heavenly stream by means of his austere Devotion.

Vasishtha continued:—It came to pass at one time as Bhagīratha was passing through a large metropolis, he beheld the ruler of that province, who was childless to be snatched away by the hand of death, as a shark seizes a fish for its prey.

2. The people being afraid of anarchy and lawlessness for want of a ruler, were in search of a proper person joined with noble endowments and signs to be made their future king.

3. They met with the silent and patient prince in the act of begging alms, and knowing him as the king Bhagīratha himself, they took him with them escorted by their own regiments, to install him on the throne as their king.

4. Bhagīratha instantly mounted on an elephant, and was led by a large body of troops, who assembled about him as thickly, as the drops of rain water fall into and fill a lake.

5. The people then shouted aloud, "Here is Bhagīratha our lord; may he be victorious for ever", and the noise thereof reached to the furthest mountains, and filled their hollow caves (which reached to the sound).

6. Then as Bhagīratha remained to reign over that realm, the subjects of his own and former kingdom came reverently to him, and thus prayed unto their king saying:—

7. The people said:—Great king! the person who thou didst appoint to rule over us, is lately devoured by death as a little fish by a large one.

8. Therefore deign to rule over thy realm, nor refuse to accept an offer which comes unasked to thee (so it is said:—It is not right to slight even a mite, that comes of itself to any body, but it is to be deemed as a God-sent blessing).

9. Vasishtha said:—The king being so besought accepted their prayer, and thus became the sole manager of the earth, bounded by the seven seas on all sides.

10. He continued to discharge the duties of royalty without the least dismay or disquietude, though he was quite calm and serene in his mind, quiet in his speech, and devoid of passions and envy or selfishness.

11. He then thought of the redemption of his ancestors, who excavated the coast of the sea (and made this bay of Bengal); and were burned alive underneath the ground (by the curse of sage Kapila); by laving their bones and dead bodies with the waves of Ganges, which he heard, had the merit of purity and saving all souls and bodies. (The ancestors of Bhagīratha were the thousand sons of sagara, who were masters of Saugar islands in the bay of Bengal).

12. The heavenly stream of the Ganges did not till then run over the land, it was Bhagīratha that brought it down, and first washed his ancestral remains with its holy waters. The stream was thence forth known by his name as Bhagīratha.

13. The king Bhagīratha was thenceforward resolved, to bring down the holy Gangā of heaven to the nether world. (The triple Ganges is called the Tripathagā or fluvium trivium or running in three directions).

14. The pious prince then resigned his kingdom to the charge of his ministers, and went to the solitary forest with the resolution of making his austere devotion, for the success of his undertaking.

15. He remained there for many years and under many rains, and worshipped the Gods Brahmā and Siva and the sage Jahnu by turns, until he succeeded to bring down the holy stream on the earth below. (It is said that Gangā was pent-up at first in the water pot of Brahmā, and then in the crown of Siva and lastly under the thighs of Jahnu, all which are allegorical of the fall of the stream from the cascade of Gangotri in Haridwar).

16. It was then that the crystal wave of the Ganges, gushed out of the basin of Brahmā the lord of the world and rushed into the moony crest of Hara; and falling on earth below it took a triple course, like the meritorious acts of great men (which were lauded in all three worlds of their past, present and future lives).

17. It was thus the trivium river of Gangā, came to flow over this earth, as the channel to bear the glory of Bhagīratha to distant lands. Behold her running fast with her upheaving waves, and smiling all along with her foaming froths; she sprinkles purity all along with the drizzling drops of her breakers, and scatters plenty over the land as the reward of the best deserts of men.

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