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Ganga Sagar

Kapil Muni Ashram According to the legend, King Sagara of the Ikshvaku dynasty ruling at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh had two queens, Keshani and Sumati, but neither had a child. Sagara erformed severe austerities before his wives could roduce sons. !ut whereas Keshani gave birth to a son called Asma"as, Sumati bore #$,$$$ sons. Sagara erformed the Ashwamedha %agya

sacrifice to declare his su&erainty over the neighbouring kingdoms. According to the revalent custom, the sacrificial horse was let loose and allowed to wander into the neighbouring kingdoms. If the horse was caught, a battle ensued and the outcome decided the winner. 'he #$,$$$ sons of Sagara were following the horse when they saw him enter a cavern where sage Ka il (uni was meditating. )ot seeing the horse in the cavern, they resumed that Ka ila had ca tured it. 'hey did not kill Ka il (uni as he was a sage but they started disturbing his meditations. Annoyed at being disturbed, Ka il (uni with a curse burnt the #$,$$$ sons of Sagara. 'ime assed and later !hagiratha, the great grandson of Sagara, chanced to come across the bones of his dead ancestors. *e wanted to erform the shraddha of his ancestors but there was no water available for the ceremony. Agastya having drunk all the waters of the ocean, the country was assing through a severe drought. !hagiratha rayed to !rahma, the +reator, to end the drought. !rahma asked him to ray to ,ishnu, the Preserver, to allow the heavenly -anga, issuing from *is big toe, to come down to earth. ,ishnu when rayed to by !hagiratha agreed, but asked him to request Shiva, the third member of the *indu trinity of -ods, to allow the torrential rain to fall on his head before it came to the earth as the river was very forceful and if she were allowed to come down unchecked, her fall would s lit the earth. Shiva agreed to take the gigantic weight of the cascading -anga on the matted hair iled high on his head. 'his ensnared and delayed the rogress of the river which, in meandering through the labyrinth of his hair, lost its force and then gently descended to the *imalayas from whence it flowed to the lains bestowing its waters on the arched earth. And that is why the anthro omor hic image of -anga is shown in the matted hair of Shiva who is also called -angadhara. !eing born in the *imalayas, -anga is considered the elder sister of Parvati, who is also a daughter of the *imalayas

Kapil Muni Kapil Muni was the son of Kardam Rishi and Daksh's daughter Devahooti. He was Avataar of Vishnu. Kardam Rishi had nine daughters also. After the irth of Kapil! Kardam Muni

went to forest for "ap. #ater he prea$hed Saankh%a &og to his mother. 'n$e he was sitting in Samaadhi in his Aashram! that Raa(aa Sagar's )*!*** sons $ame there in sear$h of their father's &ag%a horse. "he% found it tied with a tree near % him! so the% thought that Kapil Muni had stolen it. "he% started telling him some ad words. Kapil Muni opened his e%es and all of them were urned to ashes. "hen Raa(aa Sagar sent his grandson Anshumaan in sear$h of his )*!*** sons. He tra$ed his un$les' footsteps and arrived at Kapil Muni's Aashram. He saw a mound of ashes near his Aashram. He understood ever%thing. He greeted him and $ame to know the fate of his un$les. He asked him as how he $ould give them Mukti +eman$ipation,. Kapil Muni suggested him to ring Gangaa on -rithvi so that her water $an give them Mukti.

'he ganges river is known as (other -anga. -anga sagar is the end of mother ganga ./$$ Km. course where she meets the bay of bengal. Po ulation0 /1 million +a ital0 +alcutta Area0 22,$$$ sq km !est 'ime to ,isit0 3ctober to (arch (ain 4anguage0 !engali 4iteracy 5ate0 167

Initially, river -anga flowed in the heavens. She was brought down to earth by the severe enances of the sage !hagiratha and that is why she is also called !hagirathi. According to the story, of the descent of the -anga, once a number of demons were harassing the hermits by disturbing them in their ascetic duties. 8uring the day, they would be chased into the ocean. !ut in the darkness of the night, they would emerge from the ocean and start harassing the hermits again. In des eration the hermits a ealed to 5ishi Agastya. Agastya, known for his gastronomic owers, drank all the water of the ocean. 'hough this was done in good faith, it resulted in de riving the world of the water needed for sustenance and the earth became arched and dry. !hagiratha brought this drought to and end.

-anga u"an 8ashahara or 8ussehra 'his is literally the 9birthday or descent of mother -anges : -anga (a9. 'hroughout india this festival lasts ten days beginning on the Amavasya ;dark moon night< and going through to the dasami tithi ;tenth hase of the (oon, the day before Pandava )ir"al =kadasi< 9>estivals connected with rivers are essentially bathing festivals. -anga 8ussehra is celebrated on the tenth day of ?yeshtha. 5iver -anga is worshi ed as a mother as well as a -oddess, articularly by eo le of Uttara Pradesh, !ihar, and !engal through which the river flows. 3n this day, if a devotee is unable to visit and bathe in the river -anga, then -anga "al ;water< ke t in most *indu homes is used for urification. A bath in the river is said to urify the bather of all sins. 'he -anga is revered all over India even in laces far from its course

According to the Agni Purana and Padma Purana, the -anga descended to the earth on -anga 8ussehra day and a bath in the holy river on this day is said to urify one of all sins. 'o die on the banks of the -anga is considered most aus icious. If that is not ossible, then the immersion of the ashes after cremation in the river -anga is a must, as it then releases one from the cycles of birth and re:birth. the seven ways of worshi ing the -anga are0 by calling out her name, @3h -anga@A having darshan of herA by toughing her watersA by worshi ing and bathingA by standing in the waters of the riverA and by carrying clay dug out of the river. -anga in her anthro omor hic form is shown as a beautiful young woman standing on a crocodile and holding a water ot in her hands. *er image, with that of the -oddess %amuna, another sacred river deity, is often de icted on the doors of tem les and alaces. In -u"arat, there is a legend according to which -anga came down to the earth on 5ishi Panchami, the fifth day of !hadra ;Se tember< at 'arnetar.

'he river -anga which originates in the -angotri glacier in the snow clad *imalayas, descends down the mountains, reaches the lains at *aridwar, flows through ancient ilgrimage sites such as !enares and Prayag, and drains into the !ay of !engal. Sagar Island, at the mouth of the river *ooghly in !engal ;accessed from 8iamond *arbor<, where the -anga breaks u into hundreds of streams, and drains into the sea, is honored as a ilgrimage site, signifying the s ot where the

ashes of the ancestors of !hagiratha were urified by the waters of the -anga. 'he Ka ila muni tem le at this site is a center of worshi . 'he origins of this tem le are obscured in antiquity : the current structure being a recent one, housing a stone block considered to be a re resentation of Ka ila (uniA there are are also images of !hagiratha, 5ama and Sita. A di in the ocean, where the -anga drains into the sea is considered to be of great religious significance articularly on the (akara Sankranti day when the sun makes a transition to +a ricorn from Saggitarius and this town becomes home to vast fairs, drawing visitors and recluses ;sanyasis< from all over the state.

-anga Sagar (ela A 8i for (oksha 'he village riest leading his horde of devotees chants sab teerth baar baar, -anga Sagar ek bar. %ou can go to all the holy laces, but a ilgrimage to -anga Sagar equals them all. A di means redem tion for all wrong done. 'his lace is Sagar Island, on the confluence of the -anga with the !ay of !engal. 'he day B(akar SankrantiC or the last day of the month of Paus ;8ecember<. 4egend has it that, before "oining the sea, the -anga watered the mortal remains of King SagarDs #$$$$ sons liberating their souls once and forever. It was standing on the Sagar Island that the mythical Ka il (uni condoned th sins of the sons of King Sagar who had dared to sto the horse blessed at 4ord IndraDs Aswamedha %agna and tied it to a ost near his tem le. It is this legend that attracts eo le to this little island in a remote southern corner of Eest !engal. 'he -anga Sagar mela ;fair< is the largest annual assemblage of devotees in India. 'he greatness of the mela can be assessed from the fact that over a million ilgrims come from far:flung corners of India and beyond, s eaking different languages and belonging to diverse castes and creeds, for a sacred di at this holy confluence. >or this, no invitation is given. )o

ro aganda is carried out and overall no authority eFists for carrying out the mela. It is indeed a tough "ourney. A few days in acked buses and trains bring the ilgrims to +alcutta. >rom there, again a long bus "ourney to ferry ghats or "etty in Sunderbans area, followed by crossing the tidal river stretching for miles across. 'he last leg involves either walking or traveling by a local bus u to G$ kilometres de ending on the location of embarkation oint. 'he "ourney can be tiring but religious fervour of the ilgrims overcomes all hardshi s. Ka il (uni ki "ai, Ka il (uni ki "ai, ;*ail Ka il (uni<, the din rises above the grinding motors of the launches ferrying the ilgrims across the -anga and the countless buses lying between +alcutta and )amkhana. 'he roblem of traveling doesnDt deter even the weak and vulnerable. 3ld eo le in their eighties, and village women carrying babies and little children in tow are a common sight. 'he never ending stream of ilgrims kee s ouring in throughout the day and night before the aus icious day and occu ies any available s ace on the sandy beach. 'hey move about the lace in grou s, many dis laying saffron and red flags, identifying the religious Akhara ;grou < they belong to as well as acting as beacon to the members who stray out of the grou . Peo le walks to the sound of the bells, blowing conch shells and chanting rayers. Strains of devotional songs can be heard from far and near. And, the ceaseless din of louds eakers. An array of sho s, stacked with hea s of vermilion, rudraksha, colourful beads, conch shells line the athways. (any a visitor stands wide:eyed before the sho s selling everything from food stuff, household utensils to remote controlled toys. Peo le crowd around the naga sadhus ;naked ascetics< without whom the -anga Sagar mela is incom lete. Sitting naked in little huts near the tem le and en"oying a chillum of gan"a, ;cannabis< they are also the target of touristsD camera. Ehile devotees "ostle in front of numerous tem orary shrines of *indu deities to ay homage, Ka il (uniDs tem le remains the chief attraction. 'he tem le of Ka il (uni, as we see it today, is by no means the s ot where the sage meditated. It went under the sea millennium ago followed by the many others built in its lace, which subsequently was also swallowed, by the advancing sea. 'he resent one was built only a few decades ago, quite a bit away from the sea. 'he tall dome of the tem le is visible from a distance. In the tem le, three images engraved in stone are dis layed, the one in the middle is that of Ka il (uni. 'he sage is seen in a "ogasanaA his eyes wide o en, looking towards the sea with millions of devotees before him. 'he idols of -anga and King Sagar flank Ka il (uni and the horse of the sacrificial yagna stands at a distance. 'he ty ical -anga Sagar ilgrim is a country rustic, generally elderly, hardy, remarkably disci lined and fervent in his devotion. *is dhoti seldom going below his knees, a cloth bound acket, containing everything needed for survival, on his head. And, of course, his women H heavily tattooed and clad in colourful saris. As the night, regnant with the aus icious moment, descends, all wait for the recise hour to take the di . 'he sandy track to the waterDs edge is crowded with eo le who sit around fires before roceeding for the bath, chanting devotional songs and rayers. 'he seaside resents a s ectacle in the darkness before dawn with the large bonfire lit by the bathers to kee off the cold.

At midnight, the high tide drives the ilgrims back. 'he biting cold wind of mid H ?anuary from across the sea lashes the bare body. !ut there is a confidence on their faces and a kind of fire in their eyes. 'he confidence in -od and the fire of earnest faith makes them brave the chill. 'he stars in the sky have quite a long time to fade when the moment of truth comes. As soon as the riest announces, the aus icious re:dawn hour, the crowds surge forward to meet the tide with a loud chorus Ka il (uni ki "ai and lunge into the sea. Suddenly the lace is charged with the eFtraordinary ower of the believers. After taking their holy di s, the shivering devotees trudge the one kilometre eF anse leading to the brightly lit tem le of Ka il (uni, where rayers were erformed. +oconuts, flowers, vermilion, sweets, and money are offered to the image of the ancient sage. 'he bustle of activity continues for quite sometime in the morning as the ilgrims erform a series of rituals including the symbolic godan to !rahmins. A calf is symbolically handed over to the !rahmin riest by the devotee. (any erform the symbolic crossing of the river of blood, baitarani to attain moksha or transcendation. It is interesting to observe the eo le, clutching the tail of a cow and wading through a uddle a few aces. (any eo le shave their heads and erform the last rites of de arted relatives. A number of marriages are solemni&ed on the beach during the day. Also, many local girls get married to the sea. 'his will ensure that theoretically they never become widows, even if their menfolk, braving the rough sea and tiger infested "ungle for a living, die. It is no wonder that for many tourists from abroad, like though >rench cou le I met, Sagar mela is something more than a mammoth religious congregation. 'hey have visited the mela twice and found Bsomething which has disa eared from >rance and =uro e at least half a century agoC. )aturally this large an affair leads to some confusion. Peo le get lost. 'he ublic address system works overtime as relatives try to trace those they have lost. !ut the ma"ority of the ilgrims take it easy. After the rituals are com lete, they dry their clothes and hair, cook their food on o en fires, eat and rest. *a y, contented and smiling, having made the ilgrimage. 'he -anga Sagar mela continues to throb with life, with the energy of millions of ilgrims. 'he ilgrimage may be eFtremely tough, but the ilgrims know that the visit will urify their souls. 'he visit fulfils their lifelong desire and often one can see tears of "oy rolling down their cheeks. 'hat is the magic of religion.