Bhagiratha's joy knew no bounds
since his anxiety was over. Iswara, the great God, had consented to arrest the force of
Ganga. Thinking that his task was accomplished, Bhagiratha eagerly awaited the descent of
Ganga. All the gods of Heaven were looking on with wonder. Even Parvati, the wife of
iswara, was there. Ganga decided to flow down to the earth as ordered by Brahma. Just then
she remembered Brahma's words that no one could check her force. 'How can even iswara
check me?" She thought and this made her very very proud. So she thought she would
descend with such force as to drag Lord Iswara along with her waters, so that the gods in
Heaven would have some fun. Ganga leaped on Ishwaras head with tremendous force and
at crushing speed.
The sight of the descending Ganga was most pleasing. Many animals like fishes,
tortoises, crocodile and sea snakes also came down with the stream of Ganga. As Ganga
flowed down with waves of white foam and the speed of lightening, everyone gazed with
wonder and joy.
Ishwara felt the impact of the powerful flow. He understood that Ganga was haughty. He
became wild with anger. As Ganga came down on him with a deafening roar, he tied her up
amidst his flowing tresses so tightly that she could not slip away. Thus Ganga, who came
to engulf him with such turbulence, was checked and imprisoned. Arrogant people not only
bring suffering on themselves, but also cause trouble to those who depend on them.
Bhagiratha had been praying with such piety for the divine mother Ganga to flow down to
the earth; he had watched her foamy descent. In his joy that Ganga had come down to the
earth, he had closed his eyes in meditation. After a while, when he opened his eyes, he
could not see Ganga, or any flowing water. He could only see Lord Ishwara, terrible in his
anger, with Ns hands on his waist, his eyes darting fire.
Bhagiratha felt that he was ruined. Just when he thought that his very difficult task
was completed, a new difficulty had cropped up. It was true that the proud Ganga deserved
punishment. But if he thought it right and kept quiet, what about his task? He had no time
even to think. He was a man of action-So at once he stood with folded hands before Lord
Ishwara and begged him:
"O Lord, be kind and release Ganga. Let her descend to the earth and flow on. Let
her sanctify my ancestors and all the people on the earth." Ishwara was pleased. He
"Bhagiratha, I am pleased with your devotion and humility. Look, I will release
Ganga from my tresses. But I cannot allow her as one stream since that will cause trouble
to you. She might cause more trouble again in her pride. So I shall release her in seven
separate streams. Let three streams go to the west, and three to the east. Only one stream
will follow you - With these words he set free Ganga.
Bhagiratha was happy that his difficulty was over as he wished. He considered himself
lucky to have one of the seven streams of Ganga following him. Again he bowed to Lord
Parameswara and set out towards the south. Ganga now calmly followed him. Her flow now was
like the dancing lively steps of an innocent girl following her father. Wherever she
flowed, she spread peace, created green foliage and infused life. Sometimes rapid and
sometimes slow, she followed Bhagiratha, flowing with playful glee. Bhagiratha walked on
and on. He was anxious to reach Patala, and to have the ashes of his ancestors made holy
by the touch of the waters of the divine Ganga and thus fulfil his task. He had already
faced many difficulties; so he was still rather afraid that some trouble might crop up
again. So he walked very fast to complete his good deed as soon as possible.
Bhagiratha had now come down to the open plains from the Himalayan range. Ganga
followed Bhagiratha, who was now walking on level ground, like a new bride, shy and happy,
Bhagiratha was filled with happiness.
There was an Ashrama on the way. It looked very beautiful, with fruits and flowers all
around. Peace pervaded this Ashrama of Sage Jahnu. Since Bhagiratha knew the place, he
entered the Ashrama with devotion and humility.
Ganga had been so far following him shyly and slowly. But somehow after entering the
Ashrama, she grew a little mischievous. She wandered all over the Ashrama like a small
girl. The entire place was filled with water and it looked as if the Ashrama would be
washed away. There was grief and confusion everywhere. But still Ganga was laughing like a
Inside the Ashrama was Sage Jahnu. He had been meditating on God. Ganga's mischief
disturbed him. He understood everything. He decided to teach that naughty girl a lesson.
Drawing Ganga into his palm, he swallowed her at a single gulp.
Bhagiratha could not see Ganga anywhere. He was shocked. He was afraid that some other
difficulty had come up. Where was Ganga? What had happened to her?
Ganga had disappeared in Jahnu's Ashrama. So Bhagiratha thought the sage would know
what had happened. He bowed to the sage with reverence. He narrated his story and prayed
in these words: "I was coming to see you, but just then Ganga disappeared. I beg of
you, holy sage, tell me what has happened if you know anything." Having heard
everything, the sage replied: "I myself have drunk her. I wanted to teach her a
Bhagiratha did not know what to say. How could he ask the sage to set free Ganga? But
he could not fail in his task now. So, summoning up courage, he appealed to him: "0
venerable sage, it is my duty to see that my dead ancestors go to heaven. So with great
difficulty I pleased Brahma and Ishwara. I brought Ganga down to the earth. But her
childishness has now come in my way. I beg of you, be pleased to forgive her. Kindly set
her free so that my elders may go to heaven." Moved by his prayer and humility, the
sage let Ganga escape through his ears and asked her to behave properly.