Once of a time, the great Indian kingdom of Ayodhya was ruled by the childless king Bhagiratha, who desperately yearned for Ganga to come down and wash away the sins of his forefathers. Bhagiratha hailed from a royal family that claimed its ancestry from the Sun God himself.
Bhagiratha went to the Himalayas to perform terrible austerities for a thousand years to draw the Ganga down from the skies. Eventually, humbled by the dogged dedication of the ascetic king, Ganga appeared in human form and agreed to purify the ashes of Bhagiratha's ancestors.
But the great river feared earth, where sinful people would bathe in her waters, sullying her with bad karma. She felt that if the sinners of the earth, who do not know what kindness is and who suffered from egoism and selfishness, came into contact with her, she would lose her sanctity. But the noble Bhagiratha, eager for the salvation of his ancestors' souls, assured Ganga: "Oh! Mother, there are as many sacred and devoted souls as there are sinners, and by your contact with them, your sin will be removed."
When Ganga agreed to bless the earth, a fear still persisted: The land of the sinners could never possibly withstand the great pressure with which the frothy waters of the holy Ganges would descend upon ungodly earth. To save the world from unimaginable calamity, Bhagiratha prayed to Lord Shiva - the God of Destruction - who that Ganga would fall first on the matted locks of his head to enable the waters to exhaust their, furious energy beforehand and then descend to the earth with diminished impact.
The great Ganga rushed in a mighty torrent onto Shiva's gracious head and, making her way through his tangled locks, the Mother Goddess fell upon the earth, in seven distinct streams: Hladini, Nalini and Pavani flowed east, Subhikshu, Sitha and Sindhu flowed west, and the seventh stream followed the chariot of Bhagiratha to the place where the ashes of his great-grandfathers lay in heaps, awaiting their journey to the heavens.
Read on to find out how the waters of the holy Ganges finally sanctified the ancestors of the dynasty of the Sun... more