Ganga Dussehra is the festival marking the descending of river Ganga on earth. It occurs on the Shukla Paksha Dashami of the Jyeshta month. For the year 2022, it occurs on Thursday, 9th June 2022. The exact duration of the Dashami Tithi has to be ascertained from the respective regional calendars.
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Ganga Dussehra – Legend
The descending of Ganga on the earth was due to the efforts of King Bhagiratha.
As per the legend, there was a King named Sagar. He was the ancestor of Raghuvamsa. Lord Ram belongs to this lineage.
King Sagar did Ashwamedh Yagnas frequently. As per the ritual, he used to send his horse to roam around the earth. Once it returned unchallenged, he would do the Yagna. Like this, he did Ashwamedh Yagna 99 times.
100th time Yagna
He wished to do the Yagna for the hundredth time. So, he sent out his horse for going round the earth. Lord Indra who was jealous of King Sagar, wanted to disrupt the Yagna.
Indra had caught the wandering horse and kept it in Sage Kapila’s ashram.
Search for the horse
Not knowing the whereabouts of his horse, King Sagar had sent around his Princes consisting of his sons and nephews to find and fetch the horse. They went to several places and at last found the horse in the ashram of Sage Kapila.
The Princes had mistaken that Sage Kapila had usurped the horse. They started attacking him. Sage Kapila was enraged. In his anger, he made them all burn.
Bhagiratha was one of the grand children of King Sagar. He heard about the death of the Princes. He mourned for his uncles and grandfather. He approached Sage Kapila and requested for forgiveness. He requested the Sage to revive the Princes.
Sage Kapila said that he could not revoke what he had done. He lamented that if Bhagiratha could bring the river Akasha Ganga to earth, there was a chance for the salvation of his ancestors.
Penance on Sri Brahma
Bhagiratha did penance on Sri Brahma to bring down the Akasha Ganga. Sri Brahma was pleased with his penance. He appeared before him. But, when Bhagiratha made his request, He said, “I appreciate your concern. I am helpless in this matter. Please do penance on Lord Shiva. He will help you”.
Penance on Lord Shiva
As directed by Sri Brahma, Bhagiratha did penance on Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva appeared before him. He was pleased with his noble cause. He had consented to bring Ganga to the earth.
Lord Shiva’s gesture
When river Ganga started flowing on earth, She was very ferocious and heavy. So, Lord Shiva had spread out his thick matted hair and asked Ganga to arrive through it. After coming through Lord Shiva’s hair she had become manageable.
The first descent happened on Jyeshta Shukla Paksha Dashami.
Thereafter, when Ganga was treading Her way to the Kingdom of Bhagiratha, She had immersed the Ashram of the Sage Jahnu in deluge. The Ashram was destroyed. Sage Jahnu got furious and he had drank up all the water of Ganga.
King Bhagiratha ardently requested Sage Jahnu to release the Ganga so that She can accomplish Her mission. Even the other Devas had prayed to the Sage. The Sage was pacified. He had released the river Ganga through his ears on Vaisakha Shukla Paksha Sapthami day.
As She had emerged from Sage Jahnu’s body, Ganga is also considered as the daughter of Jahnu Maharishi. Hence Ganga is also called as Jahnavi. The re-emergence of Ganga occurred on Vaisakha Shukla Sapthami day.
The festival is celebrated at all the places where river Ganga flows. People take holy dip in the river Ganga. For those who cannot visit Ganga, few drops of Ganga Jal kept in Puja places of homes are added to the bathing water.
It is considered auspicious to offer prayers to Sri Surya on this day. Special prayers are also done for Sri Shiv and Sri Parvathi Devi on this day.
As this day comes a day prior to Nirjala Ekadashi, some devotees observe fasting on this day as well. In the evening, Aarti is taken to Ganga river in various places.
Ganga Dussehra is considered as the auspicious day for doing Gruha Pravesh and for buying new articles or vehicles for home. The day is also called as Gangavataran.