Here are the top interesting facts about the River Ganges:
#1 The Ganges (2,525 km – 1,570 miles long) is the most sacred river in Hindu tradition. Furthermore, it is a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs.
#2 This river originates at Gangotri glacier on the southern slopes of the Himalayas (a region bordering China), some 14,000 feet above sea level.
#3 It is considered a ”tirtha” that symbolizes a crossing point between earth and heaven. It is described in the Mahabharata (one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India) as the ”best of rivers, born of all the sacred waters” as well as it is personified as the goddess Ganga.
#4 According to the ancient sacred Hindu scriptures, such as – Skanda Purana, the goddess Ganga is foster-mother to Karttikeya (Lord Murugan, son of Goddes Parvati and Supreme Lord Shiva).
#5 Geographists, mythologists, and historians regard this remarkable river as the heart of Indian culture, tradition, and living. Furthermore, the word ”Ganga” is mentioned in Rig Veda 6.45.31, but it is not clear if the reference is actually to the river.
#6 It is considered the holiest river in India with massive religious, spiritual, and ritual significance. People enter this river in order to purify themselves. There are 6 auspicious bathing days, decided by the alignment of stars when the Hindu devout bathe to wash away their sins and free themselves from the samsara – the cycle of death and rebirth.
#7 Numerous pilgrims take home small containers of water from there to give to family and friends who are not able to attend.
#8 Popular pilgrimage destinations include Varanasi; Ayodhya, the reported birthplace of Lord Rama; Mathura, the birthplace of Krishna; Kurukshetram, the site of a great battle in the Mahabharata; and Mount Kailas in Tibet, said to be the home of Supreme Lord Shiva’s mountaintop heaven.
#9 Approximately 40 percent of India’s population survives on this river by using its water. However, currently, this river is looming under severe water crisis. For example, around Varanasi, the river once had an average depth of more than 60 meters, but in some places, it is now only ten meters.
#10 Some of the important cities lying on the banks of this river, include – Hardwar, Hrishikesh, Allahabad, Varanasi, Kanpur, Bhagalpur, and Patna.
#11 The most important rivers which flow into the Ganges are – Gomti, Ramganga, Gandaki, Ghaghara, Koshi, Burhi Gandak, Tamsa, Mahananda, Son, Yamuna, and Punpun.
#12 This river deposits about 1.6 billion tons of sediments through its flow every year. The amount of sediment deposited by this river is 400 percent larger than the sediment deposited by the Amazon River, the largest river in the world.
#13 It is home to over 90 amphibian species, 140 fish species, and 5 areas that support birds found nowhere else in the world.
#14 The Ganges shark is listed as a critically endangered species in the IUCN Redlist and is amongst the 20 most threatened shark species.
#15 The Ganges river dolphin is essentially blind and can only live in freshwater. This animal hunts by emitting ultrasonic sounds, that bounces off of fish, enabling them to “see” an image in their mind. Presently, there are fewer than 2,000 individuals in India, according to a study by WWF-India in the entire distribution range in the Brahmaputra and Ganga river system.
The Ganges Basin
#16 It covers four countries – India, China, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
#17 It is the biggest in the world. The soil there is very fertile, that means crops love to grow in it, and local people grow rice and tea.
#18 The Ganga in Bihar has shifted more than 2.5 km since 1990. In Haridwar, it has shifted from its original course by 500 meters in the past 30 years.
#19 In 1896, Ernest Hanbury Hankin, a British bacteriologist, tested the water from this river and established that Vibrio Cholerae (a deadly bacterium known to cause an infection of the small intestine) was killed within three hours after it was added in this water.
#20 Interestingly, something in this water prevents mosquitos from breeding, and when it is added to other water it prevents them from breeding in it as well.
#21 There are two principal dams on this majestic river, one being at Haridwar, that was built in 1854 by the British to irrigate the land around and to divert the Himalayan meltwater into the Upper Ganges Canal.
#22 Experts estimate that more than 3000 million liters of untreated sewage are pumped into the river daily.
#23 About 32,000 corpses are cremated in Varanasi every year and 200 tons of half-burnt flesh end up in the river. During festival seasons, more than 70 million people bathe in this river to clean themselves from their past sins. Some materials like waste, food, or leaves are left in the water and are responsible for its pollution.
#24 Less than 25 percent of an estimated of sewage that flows daily into the river from main cities and towns is treated.
#25 An environmental initiative has been enacted by the government to clean the river. Nevertheless, this good initiative was not successful so far.