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According to the Nadistuti Sukta (Sanskrit: नदिस्तुति सूक्त), "hymn of praise of rivers", which is hymn 10.75 of the Rigveda:

There were 25 rivers and the most important was the Sindhu river and the sacred river was the Sarasvati since the Vedic people were living in the valleys of the Sindhu river (Sapthsandhav Pradesh) and near the Sarasvati river; and later, the Mahabharata mentions that the Sarasvati dried up in a desert.

So my question is:

Is the reason that the Aryans started calling the Ganga a holy river that they moved to the Ganga valley and that the Ganga is the biggest river of Magadh/North India?

migrated from hinduism.stackexchange.com May 14 '18 at 9:37

This question came from our site for followers of the Hindu religion and those interested in learning more about Hinduism.

  • hinduism.about.com/od/hindugoddesses/a/When-Ganga-Was-Born.htm nice asnwer given over here – The Dictator Jun 21 '14 at 9:27
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    @Null It is possible that you would get better answers to this question at History. If you would like your question to be migrated there, please flag your post, select "other", and in the text box, state that you would like your post migrated to History.SE. If not, feel free to leave it here and see what answers you get. – senshin Jun 21 '14 at 9:35
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    possible duplicate of Why is the river Ganga considered sacred? – Vineet Menon Jun 22 '14 at 5:49
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    @VineetMenon That is not a duplicate. OP is asking when (historically) the Ganga was deemed sacred, not why (scripturally) the Ganga is deemed sacred. – senshin Jun 22 '14 at 6:29
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    @VineetMenon No. That would not even be helpful, because your answer there does not answer OP's question. It is vaguely related, but OP's question is somewhat more specific than your answer there touches on. – senshin Jun 22 '14 at 6:41
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During the course of Hindiusm, the local elements played a crucial role in shaping the sacred.

During the Rigvedic Ages, Saraswati and Indus played a crucial role in forming the hymns and myths.

During the Vedic Ages, mainly Upanishads and Puranas, which occurred in the Gangatic Planes, Ganga and it's tributaries gained more prominence and importance. It was in this time when Aryavrat was called 'Sapta-Sindhu' (the land of seven rivers, including Indus and Ganges).

Later as Hinduism spread to Dandakaranya (दण्डकारण्य) and Deccan Plateau, other subcontinental rivers like Narmada, Krishna and Cauveri also gained prominence.

1

It is due to Saraswati's curse that Ganga is born as a river on Earth and became a sin destroying river.

In Chapter 6 of 9th Book of Devi Puraanam, Naarada asks Rishi Naaraayana- Why did Ganga curse Saraswati to become a river? Why was there a quarrel between Ganga and Saraswati?

Then Naaraayana answers Naarada-

Reason of fight

Devi Puraanam, Book 9, Chapter 6
श्रीनारायण उवाच। 
शृणु नारद वक्ष्यामि कथामेतां पुरातनीम् । 
यस्याः श्रवणमात्रेण सर्वपापात्प्रमुच्यते ॥ १६ ॥ 
लक्ष्मीः सरस्वती गङ्‌गा तिस्रो भार्या हरेरपि । 
प्रेम्णा समास्तास्तिष्ठन्ति सततं हरिसन्निधौ ॥ १७ ॥ 
चकार सैकदा गङ्‌गा विष्णोर्मुखनिरीक्षणम् । 
सस्मिता च सकामा च सकटाक्षं पुनः पुनः ॥ १८ ॥ 
विभुर्जहास तद्वक्त्रं निरीक्ष्य च क्षणं तदा । 
क्षमां चकार तद्‌दृष्ट्वा लक्ष्मीर्नैव सरस्वती ॥ १९ ॥ 
बोधयामास पद्मा तां सत्त्वरूपा च सस्मिता । 
क्रोधाविष्टा च सा वाणी न च शान्ता बभूव ह ॥ २० ॥

Narayana said-
O Naarada! listen I am reciting the ancient tale, hearing which, one gets free from all sins. 16.

Lakshmi, Saraswati and Ganga are three beloved wives of Vishnu, and they live together with harmony always close to Hari. 17.

But one day, Ganga, smiling and full of passion, started looking at Vishnu's face and drew continuous side glances on Him. 18.

Vishnu also smiled looking at Her face for moment. Seeing all this, Lakshmi took no offense, but not Saraswati. 19.

Then Lakshmi, who is Sattva incarnate, smilingly consoled Saraswati. But filled with anger Saraswati did not become quiet at all. 20.

सरस्वत्युवाच ।
सर्वत्र समताबुद्धिः सद्‍भर्तुः कामिनीं प्रति । 
धर्मिष्ठस्य वरिष्ठस्य विपरीता खलस्य च ॥ २२ ॥ 
ज्ञातं सौभाग्यमधिकं गङ्‌गायां ते गदाधर । 
कमलायां च तत्तुल्यं न च किञ्चिन्मयि प्रभो ॥ २३ ॥ गङ्‌गायाः पद्मया सार्धं प्रीतिश्चास्ति सुसम्मता । 
क्षमां चकार तेनेदं विपरीतं हरिप्रिया ॥ २४ ॥

Saraswati said-
A good husband, who is religious and well qualified, always have equal liking of all his wives. Only a stupid acts contrary to this. 22.

O Vishnu, holder of Gadaa! Your liking to Ganga is clearly visible, and You have same love for Lakshmi too. Only I am deprived of your love. 23.

This is why, Ganga and Lakshmi like each other. And thus, Lakshmi does not do things against this harmony between them both.

The fight and curse of Saraswati to Ganga

सरस्वतीवचः श्रुत्वा दृष्ट्वा तां कोपसंयुताम् । 
मनसा च समालोच्य स जगाम बहिः सभाम् ॥ २७ ॥ 
गते नारायणे गङ्‌गामुवाच निर्भयं रुषा । 
वागधिष्ठातृदेवी सा वाक्यं श्रवणदुष्करम् ॥ २८ ॥ 
हे निर्लज्जे हे सकामे स्वामिगर्वं करोषि किम् । 
अधिकं स्वामिसौभाग्यं विज्ञापयितुमिच्छसि ॥ २९ ॥ 
मानचूर्णं करिष्यामि तवाद्य हरिसन्निधौ । 
किं करिष्यति ते कान्तो ममैवं कान्तवल्लभे ॥ ३० ॥ 

Hearing Saraswati's words and seeing Her full of wrath, Hari thought for a moment and went out of the court. 27.

Narayana gone out, Saraswati, who is main deity of speech, spoke full of anger and fearless to Ganga, things which are hard to hear. 28.

O passionate and shameless Gangaa! being elated with pride of your husband's love, now you are wanting to show that your husband loves you more. 28.

Let me crush down your this pride here in front of Hari. O beloved of husband! let us see, what your husband do to me.

इत्येवमुक्त्वा गङ्‌गायाः केशं ग्रहीतुमुद्यता । 
वारयामास तां पद्मा मध्यदेशं समाश्रिता ॥ ३१ ॥ 
शशाप वाणी तां पद्मां महाबलवती सती । 
वृक्षरूपा सरिद्‌रूपा भविष्यसि न संशयः ॥ ३२ ॥ 
विपरीतं ततो दृष्ट्वा किञ्चिन्नो वक्तुमर्हसि । 
सन्तिष्ठति सभामध्ये यथा वृक्षो यथा सरित् ॥ ३३ ॥

Saying this, Saraswati moved forth to catch hold of Gangaa's hair, but Lakshmi, standing between them, caught hold of Saraswati's hand. 31.

Then Vaani(Saraswati), who is pure and extremely powerful, cursed Padmaa(Lakshmi) that you may become a tree and a river without no doubt. 32.

Even after seeing Gangaa, if you Lakshmi, standing between us, cannot speak anything just like a tree or a river, then let you become them both. 33.

गङ्‌गोवाच ।
त्वमुत्सृज महोग्रां च पद्मे किं मे करिष्यति । 
दुःशीला मुखरा नष्टा नित्यं वाचालरूपिणी ॥ ३६ ॥ 
वागधिष्ठात्री देवीयं सततं कलहप्रिया । 
यावती योग्यता चास्या यावती शक्तिरेव च ॥ ३७ ॥ 
तथा करोतु वादं च मया सार्धं च दुर्मुखी । 
स्वबलं यन्मम बलं विज्ञापयितुमिच्छति ॥ ३८ ॥ 
जानन्तु सर्वे ह्युभयोः प्रभावं विक्रमं सति । 
इत्येवमुक्त्वा सा देवी वाण्यै शापं ददाविति ॥ ३९ ॥ 
सरिक्त्यरूपा भवतु सा या त्वां च शशाप ह । 
अधोमर्त्यं सा प्रयातु सन्ति यत्रैव पापिनः ॥ ४० ॥ 
कलौ तेषां च पापानि ग्रहीष्यति न संशयः । 

Gangaa said-
O Padmaa! leave this ferocious Saraswati, what will She do to Me. She is foul mouthed impatient ruined constant speaker of offensive language. 36.

She presides over speech and therefore like quarrels always. Just the way Her qualities and powers are, [37th verse], this foul mouthed Saraswati will speak that way only with me.

She want to test Her and my power. [38th verse]. Let all know the prowess between us. Saying this, Ganga cursed Vaani. 39.

O Lakshmi, just like She curses You, let Her also become a river and go to the land of sinner mortal men. There, She will take their sins, in KaliYuga, there is no doubt in this.

इत्येवं वचनं श्रुत्वा तां शशाप सरस्वती ॥ ४१ ॥ 
त्वमेव यास्यसि महीं पापिपापं लभिष्यसि । 
एतस्मिन्नन्तरे तत्र भगवानाजगाम ह ॥ ४२ ॥

Hearing this speech of Gangaa, Saraswati cursed Her. 41.

You will definitely go to Earth, and take the sins of sinners. Between all this, Bhagawaan came there. 42.

Hari tells Lakshmi, Gangaa and Saraswati, how they shall become rivers on Earth

[Note: here below, Vishnu uses the words "in some parts you become a river" and "in full parts you stay with me" quite often. To understand this read this- "O Lakshmi! in Your part-incarnation(in some parts of Yours) You shall become a river. And in Your full parts (i.e. in whole, completely, in full parts) You shall stay with Me."

I wrote this note, so that reader may not have difficulty in interpreting what is in some parts and in full parts.]

श्रुत्वा रहस्यं तासां च शापस्य कलहस्य च ॥ ४४ ॥ 
उवाच दुःखितास्ताश्च वाचं सामयिकीं विभुः ।
श्रीभगवानुवाच ।
लक्ष्मि त्वं कलया गच्छ धर्मध्वजगृहं शुभे ॥ ४५ ॥ 
अयोनिसम्भवा भूमौ तस्य कन्या भविष्यसि । 
तत्रैव दैवदोषेण वृक्षत्वं च लभिष्यसि ॥ ४६ ॥ 
मदंशस्यासुरस्यैव शङ्‌खचूडस्य कामिनी । 
भूत्वा पश्चाच्च मत्पत्‍नी भविष्यसि न संशयः ॥ ४७ ॥ 
त्रैलोक्यपावनी नाम्ना तुलसीति च भारते । 
कलया च सरिद्‍भावं शीघ्रं गच्छ वरानने ॥ ४८ ॥ 
भारतं भारतीशापान्नाम्ना पद्मावती भव ।

Hearing the reason of fight and curses between them,[44], Lord Vishnu told the three sorrowful Devis, one by one-

ShreeBhagawaan said-
O Auspicious Lakshmi! with some of Your parts, go to DharmaDhwaja's house. 45.

You will be born on Earth without any womb, and become his daughter, and there only, due to misfortune, You will become a tree. 46.

Then You will become wife of ShankhaChuuda, who is Indra of Asuras and who has my parts. After this, You will become my wife again, undoubtedly. 47.

You will be known as Tulasi, who purifies the three world, on the land of Bharata. But for now, with some of Your parts, You become a river and quickly go to [47] BharataBhumi, due to the curse of Bhaarati(Saraswati), and You will be called Padmaavati river there.

गङ्‌गे यास्यसि पश्चात्त्वमंशेन विश्वपावनी ॥ ४९ ॥ 
भारतं भारतीशापात्पापदाहाय पापिनाम् । 
भगीरथस्य तपसा तेन नीता सुकल्पिते ॥ ५० ॥ 
नाम्ना भागीरथी पूता भविष्यसि महीतले । 
मदंशस्य समुद्रस्य जाया जायेर्ममाज्ञया ॥ ५१ ॥ 
मत्कलांशस्य भूपस्य शन्तनोश्च सुरेश्वरि । 

Then, O Gangaa! You will go in some parts of yours, [49], to the BharataBhumi, due to curse of Bhaarati(Saraswati), to become the purificator of worlds and to burn the sins of sinners.

O well armed Gangaa! by Bhagiratha's penance You will be brought down, [50], and will be known as Bhaagirathi, and will be most sanctifying on Earth.

By my orders, You will become wife of Samudra, who is I in parts. [51]. And also, You will be wife of king Shantanu, who is I manifest in some parts.

गङ्‌गाशापेन कलया भारतं गच्छ भारति ॥ ५२ ॥ 
कलहस्य फलं भुङ्क्ष्व सपत्‍नीभ्यां सहाच्युते । 
स्वयं च ब्रह्मसदने ब्रह्मणः कामिनी भव ॥ ५३ ॥ 

O Bhaarati(Saraswati)! due to curse of Gangaa, You in some of Your parts go to BharataBhumi, [52], and O Good Saraswati! bear the fruits of quarrel with these wives. .

And in full parts, You become the wife of Brahma in His abode.

गङ्‌गा यातु शिवस्थानमत्र पद्मैव तिष्ठतु । 
शान्ता च क्रोधरहिता मद्‍भक्ता सत्त्वरूपिणी ॥ ५४ ॥  

Let Gangaa now go to Shiva's abode and Padmaa(Lakshmi) stay here with Me, as She is calm, never angry, Saatvik and devoted to Me. 45.



So, Saraswati and Ganga fight over Vishnu. Saraswati curses Lakshmi because Lakshmi tries to save Ganga from Saraswati. Ganga curses Saraswati because She cursed Lakshmi without any fault. Then Saraswati in return curses Ganga to be a river. And then Vaasudeva Hari comes to settle down quarrel and directs them how they will incarnate.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    This is a mythological answer to a historical question! OP is clearly asking about how and when Ganga as a river rose in prominence. – sv. Feb 14 '18 at 16:42
  • Note that this answer was written nearly a year before this entire question was migrated here, and likely would have been deemed acceptable on the site on which it was composed. – T.E.D. Feb 14 at 19:46
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Are "aryans" didn't move to ganga valley, the yajur Veda talks mostly about ganga, while rig Veda about saraswati.

Mahabharata mentions saraswati dried up, but before it dried both rivers enjoyed equal prominence in Hinduism, nowadays only ganga remains on earth but slowly it's also being contaminated due to powers of Kali Yuga.

In many Tantras and puranas, saraswati is also called purifying, sin removing river. So both were equally important.

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Historically, when (and why) did Ganga become a holy river?

As per scriptures Ganga is heavenly river and is considered as holy river even before Bhagiratha brought it on the Earth. As per Valmiki Ramayana: Balakanda-Sarga 41,

भस्म राशी कृतान् एतान् पावयेत् लोक कांतया |

तया क्लिन्नम् इदम् भस्म गंगया लोक कान्तया |

षष्टिम् पुत्र सहस्राणि स्वर्ग लोकम् गमिष्यति || १-४१-२०

[Garuda said to Amshuman:] World purifier River Ganga will drift them who are rendered as mounds of ashes to heaven, and when she who is much adored by all worlds drenches this ash, that River Ganga herself will lead the sixty-thousand sons of Sagara to heaven.

Later on Sagara, Amshuman, Dileepa tried to bring Ganga on Earth and finally Bhageeratha succeeded.

And this all happened many generations before Lord Shri Rama.

As per Puranas, Rama incarnation happened in 24th Treta Yuga then Ganga is considered the Holy river atleast from 24th Treta Yuga.

As per modern scholars even if Rama incarnation happened in 28th Treta Yuga then also Ganga is considered the Holy river much before Ramayana & Mahabharata time.


Few other stories which are related to Ganga:

I. As per SRISHTI KHAND - Padma Purana (page 96),

Ganga originated from Lord Vishnu's feet.

II. As per the chapter Vishnu and Manu of Matsya Purana,

Ganga was there before the the beginning of Vaivasvata Manavantar i.e. (even when Ikshvaku was not born).

But as deluge (प्रलय) happened after that so many people brought Ganga on Earth again.

III. As per Last Chapter of Skanda Purana,

Lord Brahma instructed Ganga by saying- ' Ganga! Go to the earth, where you would be known as Gomti. Sage Vashishtha will lead you to your destination. Just follow him like a daughter follows her father.'

IV. As per the chapter The Origin of Trayambakeshwar - PART FOUR KOTI RUDRA SAMHITA of Shiva Purana,

Sage Gautam requested Lord Shiva to liberate him from the sins of killing a cow. He also requested lord Shiva to manifest the stream of river Ganga that place. This Ganga became famous as Gautami Ganga.

V. Daughter of Himvana (sister of Parvati).

VI. As per Bala Kanda - Sarga 43 of Valmiki Ramayana,

Bhagiratha brought Ganga on Earth, this Ganag is known as Bhagirathi Ganga.

VII. As per Sambhava Parva - Mahabharata,

Lord Bhrahma cursed both Mahabhisha and Ganga to take birth in Mrityu loka (Ganga in Mahabharata as wife of Shantanu).

  • 1
    This is a mythological answer to a historical question! OP is clearly asking about how and when Ganga as a river rose in prominence. – sv. Feb 14 '18 at 16:44
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    @sv. So he should ask the answer on some other site, this is a hindu site where people will give references from Hindu holybooks. – Anubhav Jha Feb 14 '18 at 16:58
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    @AnubhavJha Sure, but that's an argument for the validity of the question on this site (maybe it's better suited for History.SE). Since the question is already accepted with a historical context here, this answer is totally wrong and needs to be deleted. – sv. Feb 14 '18 at 17:02
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    @AnubhavJha This site is about Hinduism that's right but it also covers history of Hinduism too. This question is perfect fit for this site. History is on topic. See help center page. – Sarvabhouma Feb 14 '18 at 17:34
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    Kalpa/Manvantara/Yuga is a Puranic concept (not a historical one). And OP is talking about Aryans, Sindhu river valley, Sarasvati drying up and then people moving from the Indus basin to Gangetic plains. Your answer is basically saying that Ganga just arrived on Earth one fine day and became sacred. You are trying to mix mythology with history. Therefore, this is a wrong answer to the question OP asked. See comment by 'senshin' (ex-mod) below the question where he clarifies this particular question should NOT be answered using scriptures in the way they are normally used on this site. – sv. Feb 14 '18 at 23:15

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