श्रीराम जय राम जय जय राम, শ্ৰীৰাংজয়ৰাংজয়জয়ৰাং, শ্রীরাম জয় রাম জয় জয় রাম , શ્રીરામ જય રામ જયજય રામ, ಶ್ರೀರಾಮಜಯರಾಮಜಯಜಯರಾಮ, ശ്രിറാം ജയ് റാം ജയ്‌ ജയ് റാം, శ్రీరాంజయరాంజయజయరాం

Ramayan-Lesson 5

Lesson 5

The story of River Ganga

The churning of the Sea

The story of River Ganga

Next morning Rama and Lakshmana finished the rituals and approached Vishwamitra. He was surrounded by a number of rishis. He had grown more radiant, with the conclusion of the sacrifice.He was effulgent like fire. The boys touched his feet. He smiled affectionately and said, Rama our work here is over. Let us leave. There is another achievement awaiting you, and then we can return to Ayodhya.

There is a kingdom called Mithila. It is ruled by King Janaka. He, too, will be performing a sacrifice. He has invited us all to it. There is yet another reason to invite you to Mithila. Janaka has an awesome dhanus- a bow- Sunabha by name. It is also called Shiva Dhanus. When Janakas ancestors performed a sacrifice the gods were pleased and bestowed this bow on him. King Janaka worships it every day. No one has yet been able to string this bow of astounding strength. You are valiant. You are a master of the art of archery. You can attempt to string it. We can also witness the sacrifice which Janaka is to perform. Rama readily agreed. They all bent their steps towards Mithila.

They travelled towards the north. They walked the entire day and, by the evening, reached the banks of the Shona. It was a beautiful river and the water seemed to rejoice as it flowed. The sight of the river made them all happy. They bathed in it and felt refreshed. They spent the night there. Rama and Lakshmana were curious about the story of the place and Vishwamitra narrated the story.

Long ago, there lived a great man called Kusha; he was born of the will of Brahma. Vaidharbhi was his wife. They had four children – Kushamba, Kushanabha, Adurtharajassu and Vasu. The last son, Vasu built a city known as Girivraja. Since Vasu built it, the city also came to be known as Vasumathi. We are now in Girivraja. It is the capital of Magadha. There are five mountains around it – The aihara, the Varaha, the Vrishabha, the Rishibhakuta and the Chaitaka. River Shona flows in their midst from the west to east. On either side of the river glow green fields and dense woods. The Shona is also called Magadhi because the river flows in the Magadha kingdom. The city of Girivraja enjoys plentitude.

I told you that Kushanabha was the second son of Kusha, did not I? This Kushanabha married a woman called Grithachi. He performed the Putrakameshti Sacrifice and had a son, Gadhi. This Gadhi was my father. Because I belong to the dynasty of King Kusha people call me Kaushika. My elder sister was Sathyavathi. She married a sage, Richika by name. A very chaste woman, Sathyvathi accompanied her husband to heaven. After some time she returned to the earth as a river. That river is the Kaushiki.This great river, Kaushiki, flows by the Himalayas. It is a sacred river, and its waters are holy. It is a beautiful river too. Because of my love for my sister, I live most part of the time at the foot of the Himalayas. I came to Siddhashrama to perform sacrifice. With your co-operation I have been able to complete it. Once our business at Mithila is over, I shall return to the Himalayas. Rama and Lakshmana were overwhelmed. They praised the greatness of the sage. As night advanced they gradually drifted towards sleep.

Next morning they rose early and completed the rituals. They crossed river Shona and continued their journey. By the afternoon they reached the Ganga. The Ganga is the holy of the holies. The waters were swelling again and yet again. Swans and cranes crowded the river. The sight of the clear waters swirling along delighted Rama and Lakshmana. They camped on the banks of the river.

Rama and Lakshmana were curious about the Ganga. It seemed to them that the history of this river, full and racing along, could not but be extraordinary. So they prayed to Vishwamitra, Great Sage, tell us the story of this river. And Vishwamitra began.

Himavantha is the king of mountains. His wife was Manorama, the daughter of Mount Meru. Himavantha had two daughters. The first was Ganga, the second Parvathi. Ganga could travel anywhere as she pleased. The gods who learnt this begged Himavantha to dedicate Ganga to the service of gods. Himavantha agreed and dedicated his first daughter to the welfare of the world. Ganga became a river and flowed in all the three worlds. She came to be called Deva Nadi – the River Celestial. The second daughter of Parvatharaja, Parvathi, performed tapas to please Lord Shiva. She succeeded and married him. Their son was Kumara. I have already told you the story of Kumara, who

became the commander of Heavens forces.

Rama and Lakshamana were surprised when they heard the history of the Ganga. They appealed, Great Sage, if the Ganga is the River Celestial, how did it come to the earth? Why is it regarded as the holiest of rivers? The longer we look at the Ganga, the greater the reverence we feel. Pray tell us the story of this river in detail. Vishwamitra continued his narration.

Long ago Sagara, of your Ikshwaku dynasty, was the ruler in Ayodhya. He was a righteous ruler. He had two wives, Keshini and Sumathi. For a long time he had no children. By the grace of gods he had a son by Keshini, whom he named Amshumantha. A few days later Sumathi delivered a huge mass of flesh. It fell to the ground and broke into a number of pieces. There was life in these bits; so they were all collected and kept in jars of ghee. In course of time they all developed into lovely infants.

Sagara once decided to perform a sacrifice. Aryavartha- the vast region between the Vindhyas and the Himalayas- was the site of the ritual. As was the custom the sacrificial horse was let free to roam. It was a great sacrifice that Sagara had contemplated. Had he succeeded in performing it, he would have far surpassed the gods in strength. The gods panicked and hid his yajnashva – the sacrificial horse in the lower world. Sagara could not, therefore, undertake the sacrifice.

Sagara was very much troubled. He called his sons and said, My sons, some one has abducted our sacrificial horse. And so the sacrifice will be prevented. This will harm us. And therefore, go round the entire world and find out where the horse is. The princes obeyed their father and wandered all over the earth in search of the animal. They cut their way through and crossed hills. They dug the earth with sharp implements. Thousands of yojanas long and several yojanas deep they dug. Water swelled from the earth and the sea was formed. Since Sagaras sons created the sea it came to be known as Saagara.

Search as they might, the princes did not find the horse. They finally decided to descend to lower world and look for the horse there. They dug and dug and reached Patala Loka – the lower world.There was a hermitage in the lower world and a hermit, Kapila was engaged in tapas there. Near him the princes saw the sacrificial horse grazing.

The princes were in raptures when they beheld the horse. They were thrilled that they had finally located the animal. They inferred that Sage Kapila had stolen it. They thundered, You have stolen our sacrificial horse, have you? We will teach you a lesson, and were about to assault him. Sage Kapila roared angrily once and they were all burnt to ashes.

King Sagara was troubled because many days passed but yet his sons did not return. His eldest son Asamanja had a son, Amshumantha by name. Sagara called him and said, Amshumantha, it is years since your uncles went in search of the sacrificial horse, and they have not come back. I am troubled and apprehensive. Go and bring them as well as the horse. Amshumantha set out obediently and wandered far all over the world in search of his uncles and the sacrificial horse. Finally he came to the patala loka. There he saw the sacrificial horse. But he did not see his uncles. There was a huge heap of ashes near by. He was surprised.

Garuda – the king of birds and the brother of Sagaras wife Sumathi- who came there at that time narrated to him what had happened. Amshumantha was deeply grieved over the disaster which had befallen his uncles. Garuda comforted him and said, Amshumantha, bring Ganga from heaven to flow over the ashes so that your uncles may have salvation.

Amshumantha returned to the capital with the horse and reported to his grandfather what had happened. Sagara, too, was in anguish over the terrible plight of his sons. But he took courage and completed the sacrifice he had planned.

Although he had completed the sacrifice Sagara was distressed that his sons had come to a bad end. He did all that he could to bring the celestial Ganga to the patala loka, as Garuda had suggested. But he was already an old man. In a short while he died.

Amshumantha succeeded Sagara. He, too, was a righteous king. But his desire to bring the Ganga down to the patala loka and secure their salvation was not fulfilled. His son was Dileepa, also a conscientious ruler. But he too, could not secure the salvation of Sagaras sons. Dileepas son was Bhagiratha.

Bhagiratha resolved that, somehow or the other, he would take the Ganga down to the patala loka.He decided he would attend to nothing else until his great grandfathers were blessed with salvation. He left his kingdom in the charge of his ministers and went to the holy Gokarna. There he undertook a severe tapas. Lord Brahma was pleased with his devotion and appeared before him. The Lord said, Bhagiratha, I am pleased with your tapas. I am willing to send the Ganga to the patala loka, as you desire. First of all she has to descend to the earth. And then she has to go down to the patala loka. But as soon as the Ganga descends on the earth from heaven, because of the terrible impact, the earth itself will be washed away. And so some one should receive her and check the impact of the descent. Only Shiva is equal to the task. Win him over.

Bhagiratha now began a severe tapas denying himself food and water. The world revered Shiva was pleased. He appeared before Bhagiratha and asked him what he desired. Bhagiratha told him his yearning. Shiva assured him that would receive the Ganga as the river leapt from heaven.

Bhagiratha now approached Goddess Ganga. He begged her to come down to the earth and from thence to the patala loka and confer salvation on his great grandfathers. Ganga agreed and prepared to leap to the earth. Shiva stood on mount Himalaya to prevent the leaping waters from washing away the earth. Gods thronged the skies to witness this un-parallelled event. This filled Ganga with vanity. From the beginning she was conceited but now her conceit heightened. O, can Shiva withstand the onrush of these waters! I shall sweep him off his feet. she said to herself. Lord Shiva understood her vanity. He decided to tame her. He spread his matted hair wide.

Ganga leapt on the holy head of Shiva in a mighty torrent. But she got entangled in his matted locks wide like the caves deep in the Himalayas. Try as she might she could not even move a little. She was humbled. Because Shiva held Ganga in his hair, he came to be known as Gangadhara.

Bhagiratha was again dismayed. Once again he prayed to Shiva. He was pleased and allowed Ganga to descend to the earth. The Ganga flowed in seven branches. Three of them, the Hladini, the Pavani and the Nalini, flowed towards the east. The Suchakshu, the Seetha, and the Sindhu, flowed towards the west. The seventh branch – river Alakananda – followed Bhagiratha. Bhagiratha ascended his chariot and led the way.Alakananda followed him.

With the flood of the Ganaga waters came to the earth several aquatic creatures like the fish, the crocodiles, the snakes and the tortoise. The snakes and fish shone like lightning and the white foam scattered all round.

The flowing Ganga was a captive sight, and was refreshing. The water flowed rapidly some times and at other times at a leisurely pace. Some times the river descended as in a waterfall. It shone as it mingled with the suns rays. Fish, swans and cranes played in the waters with delight. All bathed in the Ganga and earned merit.

As Bhagiratha and the Ganga proceeded they reached an ashram. A rishi by name Jahnu was engaged in a sacrifice there. The rapid waters of the Ganga overwhelmed the ashram. The sage was angry and drank the river itself!.

Bhagiratha was once again dismayed. He was grieved that so many obstructions cropped up in his way. He narrated his story to Sage Jahnu. He explained his object and how he toiled to fulfil his purpose. He underlined the fact that, if the sage refused to let Ganga go the patala loka, his ancestors would never attain salvation. He begged the sage to release Ganga.

Sage Jahnu acceded and let the river flow out through his ears. Since Ganga had entered Jahnus stomach and come out, she now became like his daughter. So she came to be called Jahnavi.

The Ganga once again followed Bhagiratha. She descended from the earth to the patala loka and flowed over the ashes of the sons of Sagara. So they were liberated from their sins and attained salvation.

Thus the Ganga had come down from the heaven to the earth and to the patala loka, all because of the endeavours of Bhagiratha. Lord Brahma now appeared before Bhagiratha. He congratulated him on achieving his goal with determination. He blessed him saying, Bhagiratha, because you toiled, the Ganga flows in heaven, on earth and in the patala loka. Since thus she follows threepathas – paths she will be known as Thripathagamini. She came down to earth for your sake and so she is virtually your daughter. So let the world call her Bhagirathi. The Ganga is a very holy river. Those who have a bath in this river with devotion need not fear diseases. They will earn spiritual merit. You brought the Ganga from heaven; may auspicious events fill your life.

Having narrated this story to Rama and Lakshmana, Vishwamitra said, My boys, ponder over this,there is nothing that man cannot achieve. Bhagiratha has shown us that human endeavour can perform any task, however seemingly impossible. And so, princes, when you have a good object, pursue it, no matter how formidable the obstacles. One must persist in ones endeavour with firmness. Success is then assured.

Vishwamitra went on, You have heard about the greatness of the Ganga, havent you? Bow to this great river. Good fortunes will befall you. Rama and Lakshmana were thrilled to hear the story of the holy river. They bowed to the river with single-minded reverence. The fell asleep ruminating over the story of Gangas descent.

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The churning of the Sea

The next day Vishwmitra and Rama and Lakshmana crossed the Ganga and continued their journey.They reached Vishalnagar. It was a lovely city, shining like Indras Amaravathi. Rama said, Great Sage, kindly tell us the history of this city. Vishwamitra answered, The founder of your dynasty, Ikshwaku, had a wife, Alambuse, by name. Their son was Vishala. He built this city and, therefore, it came to be known as Vishalanagara. Once upon a time, Dithi, the mother of Daithyas,performed tapas here. King Sumathi rules the kingdom now. Let us call on him. Ramas curiosity was aroused, and he said, Great Sage, arent the Daithyas – the sons of Dithi – very powerful? Arent the Daithyas and the Devas – the gods – children of two sisters Dithi and Adithi? Tell us their story. Vishwamitra narrated the story:

Long ago, in Kritayuga, there was a muni, by name Kashyapa. He had a number of wives, Dithi and Adithi among them. Dithis sons were very strong. But they were not righteous. They were Dithis sons and were, therefore, called Daithyas. Adithis sons were righteous. They were the Devathas – the gods. Once both the Daithyas and Devathas desired to be immortal. We should never grow old, never be troubled by diseases, and never die at all- such was their wish. They learnt that if Ksheera Sagara- the ocean of milk – was churned, amritha would be formed, and that, if they drank it, disease, old age and death could not touch them. So they decided to churn Ksheera Sagara.

Ksheera Sagara was a vast ocean. They needed a very long and thick churning stick, in order to churn it. So they brought a huge mountain, the Mandhara. They needed a long rope to turn the mountain in the Ksheera Sagara. They brought a long python, Vasuki, for the purpose. They tied it around the mountain; the gods took hold of the python by its tail, and the daithyas by its head. And they started churning the Ksheera Sagara.

The churning went on for several years. All of a sudden Halahala rose from the sea. Halahala is an all ravaging poison. It leapt to the surface all of a sudden like fire. The entire world, caught in its heat, reeled. The gods then hastened to Lord Rudra. They told him what had happened and begged, Great Lord, save us. Rudra came to the place where the churning had been in progress. He drank the poison at one gulp. Though he drank this terrible poison no harm befell him. Only his throat became coloured blue. So he came to be called Neelakanta.

Once again the gods and the daithyas began churning the ocean. But since Mount Mandhara did not have adequate support, it began to sink. The gods approached Lord Vishnu. They begged him to support Mount Mandhara which was sinking. Mahavishnu assumed the form of a tortoise, descended to the sea, and held the Mount Mandhara on his back, thus providing support. This was the Kurmavathara – the tortoise incarnation – of the Lord Vishnu. The churning continued.

As the churning continued several gods and goddesses and animals and objects came out of the sea. First rose Dhanwantari, the deity presiding over Ayurveda – the science of medicine. The gods chose him for their physician. Then was generated a liquid; the liquid brought forth thousands of lovely women. The word apsu means water in the form of milk; and because they emerged from apsu these lovely women were called apsaras. Then was born a damsel, Sura by name. The Daithyas refused to take her; but the gods accepted her. She was later to be known as Varuni. Since the daithyas had rejected the suradevatha, they came to be known as Asuras; and the gods who accepted her were known as Suras.

Then emerged from the ocean a magnificent steed, Uchraishravassu. Lord Indra chose this steed for his royal horse. A gorgeous diamond Kausthabha, then rose from the waves. Vishnu wore it on his chest. At last emerged amritha. A terrible battle followed between gods and the daithyas for the amritha. The gods overwhelmed the daithyas. They drank the amritha and became immortal.

After narrating the story of the churning of the ocean for amritha, Vishwamitra said, Rama, although the daithyas were very powerful they were defeated by the gods because the daithyas were unrighteous and the gods were righteous. This shows that always the righteousness is victorious. As Vishwamitra was narrating the story of amritha, Sumathi, the king of Vishalanagara, learnt that these three were in his capital. He hastened to where they were, and extended all courtesies and hospitality to them. They spent the night there and next morning they bent their steps towards Mithila.

As they approached the city they saw a lovely hermitage. But it seemed deserted. Rama asked his mentor, Great Sage, whose ashram is this? Vishwamitra answered:

This is the ashram of Sage Gauthama. He used to live here with his wife Ahalya. Ahalya was chaste and devoted to her husband. She was lovely as a goddess. Her enchanting beauty was known everywhere. Indra came to hear about her bewitching beauty, and desired her. He came to the hermitage when Gauthama was away. He had assumed the very appearance of Gauthama. But Ahalya realized that the man who approached her was not Gauthama but Indra. But for a moment she yielded to bodily desire. Indra perceived her state of mind and said,Lovely woman, I am attracted to you. Give me your love. Ahalya had lost self-control. She yielded to him.

Just then Gauthama returned. He saw Indra and Ahalya who stood guiltily before him. He understood what had happened. He was in a towering rage and cursed Indra:May your body be all eyes. He said to Ahalya, Stay in this ashram without food and sleep all alone and invisible. Ahalya confessed to her offence; the sage said, You will be relieved as soon as Rama, the son of Dasharatha steps into this ashram. He then departed.

Rama, Ahalya is still here. She is burning with repentance for her transgression. She is awaiting your arrival. The moment you step into the ashram she will be liberated. She will regain her former body.So let us hasten. Rama was deeply moved by the story of Ahalya. He mended his pace and entered the ashram of Sage Gauthama.

The moment Rama entered, Ahalya, who till then had been invisible, was seen by every one. The apas of many years had heightened her radiance. Rama and Lakshmana touched her feet and made obeisance. By then Sage Gauthama also arrived. He had come to know that Ahalya had been redeemed. Ahalya hastened to him and touched his feet. Gauthama soothed her with appropriate words. Every one was happy at this rare reunion.

Ahalya and Gauthama treated the visitors with affectionate cordiality. Ahalya praised again and again Rama who had redeemed her. After being the guests of Gauthama and Ahalya the three continued with their journey. On the way Viswamitra said, Look Rama, Ahalya is now liberated from the curse.True, she committed an offence. But at once she corrected herself. She was contrite and made penance. For this reason she was liberated. One can be free from the consequences of the gravest sin if only one repents sincerely and performs penance. But one ought to be on one guard against repeating such offence.

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Examination on Lesson – 5

Choose answers to all the questions . All the best !!

Q1. Which is the “Devanadi” – River Celestial – Holiest of the holy rivers ?

Ans: a)Sarayu b)Magadhi c)Kaushiki d)Ganga

Q2. Who brought river Ganga to earth from heaven and to Pathalaloka ?

Ans: a)Sagar b)Asamanja c)Bhagiratha d)Shri Ram

Q3. Which was the poison that came first during churning the sea by Deva and Daityas ?

Ans: a)Amruta b)Halahal c)Ayurveda d)Sura

Q4. Because of whose coming into her hermitage, Akhilya was liberated ?

Ans: a)Laxmana b)Sage Vishwamitra c)Sage Gautama d)Shri Ram

Q5. Why were the Daityas called Asuras ?

Ans: a)Because they refused to accept Sura b)Because they were powerful c) Because they were unrighteous d)Because they could not drink Amruta

Correct Answers below

Examination – 5

Q-1 Ans (d),

Q.2 Ans (c),

Q. 3 Ans (b)

Q. 4 Ans (d),

Q.5 Ans (a)