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Report: Ganga Saptami

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In the article, Ganga, Sri Swami Sivananda says, "The Ganga is the most sacred river of India. The origin of the Ganga is ascribed to celestial glory. Lord Krishna says in the Gita: 'I am the Ganga among rivers'".

The Master continues in the aforementioned article, "For a Hindu, the word Ganga has its own sacred association. Every Hindu thirsts for a dip in the Ganga, and for a drop of its water at the time of his death. Aspirants and mendicants build their huts on the banks of the Ganga for practising penance and meditation. Bhishma spoke very highly of the glory of the Ganga in his parting instructions to the Pandavas from his bed of arrows.

"In the Satya Yuga, all places were sacred. In the Treta Yuga, Pushkara was considered the most holy place. In the Dvapara Yuga, Kurukshetra was regarded as the most sacred place. In Kali Yuga, the Ganga has that glory. Devi Bhagavata says: 'He who utters the name of Ganga even from hundreds of miles afar is freed from sins and attains the abode of Lord Hari'".

Our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda and Pujya Swami Sahajananda had great love for Mother Ganga and revered Her greatly. Swami Sivananda's love for Mother Ganga was extraordinary. He resided on the bank of the holy river for more than three decades, where he could commune with Mother Ganga, day and night. We know that even until his last breath, the Master adored Mother Ganga, and drank his fill of the beauty of the holy Ganga to his heart's content. Ganga Darshan to the Master was always a boundless spiritual feast. On 14 July 1963, as was the usual practice, a disciple wanted to give the Master barley water or jeera water, but he wanted to have Ganga water. The Master, who had experienced difficulty in taking even the smallest quantity of solid or liquid, gulped down half a glass of Ganga water without apparent trouble. With that, the Being that was Swami Sivananda laid aside his mortal vesture at 11.15pm. Such was the Master's love for Mother Ganga.

Divine Life Society of South Africa celebrated Ganga Saptami on Thursday 27 April 2023. The programme at Sivanandashram, Reservoir Hills began with the most sacred Ganga Arati followed by Satsang. Satsangees prostrated to and offered oblations to revered Mother Ganga. The soothing sound of the swirling water in Ganga Rani is akin to that of the sacred Ganges River.

The Satsang programme comprised Kirtans and Bhajans glorifying Mother Ganga, a reading entitled Lord Siva receives the Ganga, as well as Hymns to Ganga from the book, Mother Ganga by Sri Swami Sivananda, and a video entitled Ganga Ma's Descent by Ramanand Sagar. The singing of the most sacred 'Patita Pavani Ganga Maiya' was highly elevating and soothing.

In the article, Lord Siva Receives The Ganga, from the book Mother Ganga, Sri Swami Sivananda writes, "Again Bhagiratha sat doing rigorous penance for a full hundred years. It is needless to say that Lord Siva, the protector of all His devotees, was immensely pleased with the king and readily accepted to check and control Ganga through His matted locks. With surge, fury and foam, Ganga began to descend from celestial regions. Flashes of lightning, thunders from clouds, and the uncontrollable flow seemed as if a deluge was about to devour the whole world. But Lord Siva coolly received Her in His matted locks and let Her drip over Him. This is the Ganga Saptami Day".
The Master's reverence and love for celestial Mother Ganga is again evident in the following excerpts from the hymn entitled, O Adorable Mother Ganga.

"...
Thou art the Nectar of Immortality that gives Salvation;
Thou art Maha Maya, Adi Sakti and Avyaktam.
People sing "Ganga Lahari" in the evening.
They do Arati with Bhav and devotion;
They raise Jaya Jayakar—Ganga Mayee ki Jai;"
They worship Thee with flowers and Prasad.
Thou art Jnana Ganga, the Wisdom Nectar;
Thy subtle form is in the celestial regions;
Thy gross form only, human beings behold here;
Thou pervadest the world as subtle Chidakasa.
Thou hast attracted the people of the whole world;
Thy Name has holy associations and vibrations".

In the beautiful video entitled Ganga Ma's Descent by Ramanand Sagar, Vishwamitra traced the descent of Mother Ganga to earth. He explains to Lord Rama and Lakshmana the performance of the one hundred Asvamedha sacrifices by the great king Sagara, aspiring for Indrahood, and the subsequent curse by Rishi Kapila. Later King Bhagiratha was extremely anxious to perform the necessary religious rites as ordained in the scriptures. Great rishis advised King Bhagiratha to invoke Mother Ganga who could wash off the powerful curse of Rishi Kapila and so accomplish his desire. Mother Ganga pleased with King Bhagiratha's penance, appeared before him, and directed him to seek the help of somebody who could check Her flow, or else, the entire earth would be submerged in Her waters. Bhagiratha continued his penance for a full hundred years. Being pleased with the king, Lord Siva accepted to check and control Ganga through his matted locks, giving origin to the auspicious Ganga Saptami Day. Vishwamitra also explained to Lord Rama and Lakshmana the significance of Ganga worship and Her reverential nature.

The sacred Ganga holds a great and intimate place in the religio-psychic plane of any Indian mind. No doubt it will continue to sustain the Hindu diaspora for millennia. The inimitable beauty, grandeur, majestic presence, silent eloquence in her descent from the Himalayas, and her meandering through Rishikesh and innumerable towns and villages, will forever be etched in the Hindu mind and ethos. The following lines from the Ganga Arati recited at the Divine Life Society of South Africa Ashrams daily, and in many places across the world, captures the celestial and worshipful nature of Mother Ganga, "The light that emanates from Thee is soft like the moon., and Thy waters flow in all its purity. He who surrenders to Thee will attain success in all undertakings (material and spiritual)".

Mother Ganga – adored by millions, a sustainer of spirituality, a life-giving force, so far yet so near, will indeed last the epoch journey of time!

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