Houston’s Shiv Shakti Mandir Celebrates Ganga Avataran

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June 1, 2012

HOUSTON: Ganga Avataran is the manifestation of the River Ganga from the heavens to the earth. It is a commonly held belief that a dip in the Ganges cleanses one of all worldly sins.

The priest Virat Mehta explains the significance of Ganga Avataran.

June 1, 2012

HOUSTON: Ganga Avataran is the manifestation of the River Ganga from the heavens to the earth. It is a commonly held belief that a dip in the Ganges cleanses one of all worldly sins.

The priest Virat Mehta explains the significance of Ganga Avataran.

The Ganga occupies a very important position as an auspicious river in the Hindu religion. The Ganga Avataran festivities usually fall during the end of May or the middle of June in the Indian month of Jyeshta.

Virat Mehta, the priest of the Shiv Shakti Mandir established in 2003 in Houston, said that this is the first of its kind Ganga Avataran celebration in the US. All the deities in this temple are from India. The main Shiva Linga is from Jaipur. The day Ganga landed on Shiva’s head from the heavens, on to earth, is the most important day in these celebrations –called the Ganga Dasahara – the day Ganga cleanses human kind of ten types of sins.

This year, Ganga Dasahara was on May 30, Wednesday. A Ganga Puja was performed at the temple in the morning. Although this signifies the end of the Ganga Avataran, the Shiv Shakti Mandir will continue celebrations until Sunday, June 3.

Legend has it that when Lord Vishnu dressed as a Vaamana asked Mahabali for three steps, one-foot step covered the earth, the other covered the heavens and for a third, Mahabali offered the Lord his own head. When Vishnu’s step covered the heavens, the creator, Lord Brahma washed his feet with some water and from this was born a beautiful girl, the River Ganga.

Ganga, light hearted and mischievous in nature danced and sang beautifully. Many came to watch her including the austere sage Durvasa. On one such occasion, Sage Durvasa’s clothes were blown away by a gust of wind and Ganga laughed openly. Durvasa cursed her in anger and doomed her to flow on earth and not the heavens. When she begged for forgiveness, he modified his curse making her the river that would flow on earth, capable of cleansing all sins.

In the meanwhile, on earth, King Sagara, father to 60,000 sons, evoked the jealousy of Indra as he was performing the Ashwameda Yagna, in which, if Sagara’s horse entered the territories of other kings, they either surrender their kingdoms to him, or they fight him. Indra feared that this would make Sagara more powerful than Indra himself. So Indra stole the horse and hid it in the ashram of Sage Kapila. When Sagara’s sons came looking for it, they were angry to note that Sage Kapila had stolen it. They were rude to him and in return, he reduced them to ashes.

The Hindu religion believes that if the last rites of dead people are not performed in the correct fashion, their souls roam the earth, never reaching heavens. It was up to Sagara’s grandson, Anshuman to free his uncles. Anshuman begged forgiveness for his uncles’ mistake and Sage Kalipa revealed to him that the Ganga will have to be brought to earth for their souls to be cleansed, after which their souls would reach the heavens. Neither Anshuman nor his son Dilip could accomplish the task. Dilip’s son, Bhageeratha did severe penance to Brahma who agreed to send Ganga to earth but told him that he would need Lord Shiva to help bear the force of Ganga’s fall from the heavens. Bhageeratha prayed to Lord Shiva who agreed to hold Ganga on the matted locks of his head and release her on earth gradually. That day when Ganga came down from the heavens on Lord Shiva’s head and then flowed on earth is the most important day of the Ganga Avartan period.

Once on earth Ganga, unable to contain her pranks, flooded the ashram of Sage Janu and was swallowed by him. Bhageeratha explained his situation to the sage who then released Ganga again. Since Ganga was reborn of Sage Janu, the river is called Janvi. Since it was Bhageeratha’s laudable efforts that brought Ganga to earth, the river is also called Bhageerathi.

Bhageeratha’s hard work was of such great magnitude that any task achieved with enormous effort has come to be known as Bhageeratha Prayatnam, referring to the enormity of the trials of Bhageeratha, which led to the purifying of his ancestors’ souls and took them to heaven. Gaanga Puja celebrates the river’s miraculous powers to cleanse people’s sins.


Courtesy: indoamerican

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