1000s of years ago, there lived a King called Bhagiratha who was the king of Kosala, present day in Uttar Pradesh. He was son of a great called King Sagara of the Solar Dynasty. He was one of the ancestor of Lord Ram. There is Wonderful and interesting pastime of how the holy Ganges was brought down to earth.
Long ago, when King Sagara was performing the Ashwamedha yagna( The Horse sacrifice) , his royal keepers of the horse lost track of the sacrificial horse. Sagara ordered his sixty thousand sons by his wife Queen Sumati to track down the horse. The proud and fickle princes raged across Entire India burning down forests and uprooting life and property to find the horse. They finally arrived at a quiet spot where Sage Kapila was sitting in meditation. Beside this sage they saw the Sacrificial horse, they were searching for.
The enraged princes accused Sage Kapila as a thief and tried to attacked him. But when the sage opened his eyes, his great power turned the princes down into ashes. Meanwhile the King Sagara passed away leaving his son Amshuman, who was the son of another wife of King Sagara. Amshuman was very great and good king to his subjects. He begot a marvellous son called Dileepa. Dileepa too was a great King himself.
When Dileepa heard about the elimination of his grandfathers, the sixty thousand sons of Sagara at the hand of sage Kapila, he thought to perform the final ritual of the souls of Sagara’s sons, but learnt that he should bring about the holy water of Ganga to purify their souls. Dileepa became worried as to how bring down holy Ganga onto the earth from heaven, and how to purify and offer the last rites for the souls of Sagara’s sons.
So due to grief and thoughts of how to perform this impossible task, King Dileepa was self-mortified. But in due course, the King who was thinking righteously about the alight of Ganga onto earth, was blessed the most virtuous son, who was named Bhagiratha. King Dileepa on his part performed numerous Vedic-rituals, and he ruled the kingdom for thirty thousand years – to the delight of each of his subjects, but could not find a way to fetch Ganga.
King Dileepa by not attaining any choice towards the uplifting the souls of his grandparents to heaven by bringing Ganga to earth,took to illness, and passed away by appointing his son Bhagiratha as the King.
Bringing Ganga on to Earth was a near impossible task and required many years to be spent in tapasya(Constant meditation) and prayer. But since the sins of the granfathers of Bhagiratha, the kingdom faced many natural calamities. The kingdom began to lose its peace and prosperity, and by the time Bhagiratha ascended the throne, he found it impossible to govern.
So, King Bhagiratha turned over the kingdom to his trusted ministers and set off to the Himalayas to perform vigorous tapasya in the extreme climate and weather. For one thousand years, he performed harsh penance to please Lord Brahma. At the end of the thousand years, Brahma was pleased and asked him for his wish. Bhagiratha asked Brahma to bring the river Ganges down to earth so that he may perform the ceremony for his ancestors.Brahma asked Bhagiratha to pray to Lord Shiva, for only He was capable to break Ganga’s fall to the Earth.
Ganga has a strong flow and it would have been impossible for anyone to contain the destructive impact of this event except Shiva. Bhagiratha performed another tapasya pleasing Lord Shiva, living only on air. The Merciful Lord Shiva appeared only after a year’s penance, and told Bhagiratha he should not have to perform tapasya to accomplish a noble task such as this. He assured Bhagiratha that he would make Ganga fall on his matted locks (dreadlocks). By the praisals by the Devas, Gangadevi had become vain. She mocked at Lord Brahma when he asked her to flow down to earth, but she could not disobey him as he was her father.
But Ganga was sure, and Bhagiratha was afraid that since no one could stop Ganga’s continous flow, which would devastate the earth for a long time. As she came down from Swarg(Heaven), Bhagiratha and the Devas who observers this were terrified of the roar and volume of water coming down. But Lord Shiva appeared under the flow and captured all of Ganga in his jataa(Matted Hair) just before she fell on earth. Ganga came to the earth because of Bhagiratha’s efforts hence Ganga’s is also called as Bhagirathi.
Ganga struggled to set herself free, but Lord Shiva would not let her go free. So,Bhagiratha worshipped Shiva, who let Ganga go free after crushing her pride . She flowed in a destructive manner and destroyed Sage Jahnu ashram(Hermitage). This angered Sage Jahnu and swallowed the Entire Ganga. Bhagiratha again prayed to Sage Jahnu to let out Ganga and Jahnu let her out. Hence, Ganga is also known as Jahnavi. Ganga then flowed over the remains of the 60,000 ancestors of Bhagiratha and brought them moksha(Liberation).
Bhagiratha led the way for Ganga on his chariot, and she followed him across the north and east of Bharat and finally merging with the ocean. In her course she washed the ashes of Sagara’s sixty thousand sons, who ascended to heaven while praising and blessing Bhagiratha.
The Origin of Ganga is believed to start from the Gangotri from the Himalayas in Uttarkashi, Uttarkhand.
Hence , here ends the Wonderful pastime of the Ganga coming on to the Earth by the help of King Bhagiratha!