River Ganga or the Ganges is a major river of the Indian subcontinent, associated in myth and reality with the land and people of India as well as neighboring countries like Bangladesh.
In Hinduism, the river Ganga is personified as Goddess and holds an important place in the Hindu religion.
In Hindu mythology, it is believed that bathing in the river Ganga causes the remission of sins and facilitates the attainment of salvation or nirvana.
This deep-rooted truth is proved by the fact that people travel from distant places to immerse the ashes of their kin in the waters of the Ganga at Varanasi or other places located on the banks of this holy river. Some of these sacred places, located on the Ganga, are Varanasi, Haridwar and Prayag (Allahabad).
The River Ganga is important not only for its cultural and spiritual significance but also because it hosts more than 40% of the country’s population.
Ganga has also been named as the vehicle of ascent since it descended from heaven to earth. The River Ganga is considered as the Triloka-patha–gamini that means it exists in heaven, earth and the netherworld. It is also considered as the crossing point for all the human beings whether dead or alive. This forms the reason for avatarana that is mentioned in the Shraddha ceremony for the departed souls of the Hindus.
River Ganga is about 1557 miles long (2506 km). The Ganges basin is about 200 to 400 miles (322 to 644 km) wide.
The river Ganga originates at Gangotri glacier on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, some 14, 000 feet above sea level. River Bhagirathi and Alaknanda join each other at Devprayag to form River Ganga.
Major pilgrimage places on River Ganga are- Rishikesh, Haridwar, Varanasi and Prayag (Allahabad). The mouth of River Ganga forms a vast delta, the Sundarban delta (the largest delta in the world).
Ganga is the home for 140 different species of fish and 90 different species of amphibians, many of which are near extinction today.Gangetic Dolphin had been notified as the National Aquatic Animal of India to channel attention and resources towards conserving the species.
The dolphins are an indicator species for the river ecosystem and are considered the mascot of a healthy aquatic environment.This mammal is also said to represent the purity of the holy Ganga as it can only survive in pure and fresh water.