The Divine Story of Maa Ganga and King Bhagirath
This is a very fascinating story about Maa Ganga’s descent on earth, why she was brought here, who did that and how.
Bhagwan Shri Ram was born in Ikshvaku dynasty that ruled over Ayodhya and there was his one ancestor whose name was king Sagara. He had two wives named Sumati and Kesini. Sumati had one son whose name was Asamanjasa and Kesini had 60,000 sons.
King Sagara was adamant to perform 100th Ashwamedh Yagya, he succeeded in performing it 99 times because the horse he sent for Yagya around the world used to return to Ayodhya each time unchallenged as no one wanted to antagonize the powerful king of Ayodhya. This made him popular and his glory spread not only across the world but Swarg Loka (heaven)and it made Indra (The King of Swarg) jealous of the king of Ayodhya. He became insecure that if king Sagara completed his Yagya 100th time he might attack his kingdom.
When king Sagara started 100th Yagya and sent the horse to roam freely, Indra found it a good opportunity to tarnish the image of King hence he kidnapped the horse and concealed it inside Kapil Muni’s asrama in Patala Loka. After waiting for so many days for the horse, Sagara sent his 60,000 sons to find out where the horse was. His sons went in search for the horse but after searching every nook and corner of the earth they couldn’t find it so they start digging a hole and through it they reached Patala Loka where they saw the missing horse was tied to a pole inside Kapil Muni’s asrama and he was meditating deeply near the horse. Thinking that Kapil Muni had kidnapped the horse they became furious and started attacking him, Kapil Muni opened his eyes angrily and his one glance incinerated all of them and reduced them to ashes.
After waiting for a long period of time for his sons and the horse, king Sagara sent his grandson Asumana(Son of Asamanjasa) to search for them. He searched for them extensively and found the horse inside Kapil Muni’s asrama in Patala Loka but he couldn’t find his uncles there. When he reached sage’s asrama Kapil Muni was meditating at that time too so he patiently wait until the sage came, he got impressed by Asumana’s patient and dedication thus he narrated entire episode to him. Asumana requested the sage to hand him the horse and give Moksha (salvation) to his uncles on this Kapil Muni said that hhe would definitely hand over the horse to him but he couldn’t give Moksha to his uncles as it was not in his hands although he (Kapil Muni) gave him(Asumana) a boon that his grandson would bring the heavenly river Ganga on earth and her water would give them Moksha.
Asumana reached Ayodhya and told King Sagara the whole story. The Ashwamedh Yagya was completed in due manner. Then king Sagara handed over his kingdom to Asumana and went in jungles to pray and bring heavenly river Ganga on earth but he failed and same happened with his grandson Asumana and his son Dileep.
When Dileep’s son Bhagirath became king he charged his ministers with administrative work and went out of Ayodhya to bring heavenly river Ganga on earth but it was a herculean task to do then he started a penance to please Brahma Ji and Bhrama Ji liked his Kathor Tapasya (rigorous penance) and advised him to pray to Shiv Ji because he was the only one who was capable of of sustaining the heavy force of Ganga’s water upon his head, Bhagirath left no stone unturned in pleasing Shiv Ji. Shiv Ji got pleased by his penance and asked Ganga to come upon his head but hoity-toity Ganga came heavily upon his head because she wanted to take Shiv Ji to Patala Loka along with her, realising mischievous ambition of Ganga Shiv Ji captured her in his matted hair. Seeing this Bhagirath pleaded with Shiv Ji so Shiv Ji opened his matted hair and let Ganga flow.
When Maa Ganga reached plain areas she told Bhagirath that he had to drive his chariot fast because the force of her water was terrific and it would drown him, he rightly followed her advice. When later Maa Ganga reached the sage Jahnu’s asarama she flooded it. The sage got infuriated and he drank up Maa Ganga but on Bhagirath’s request he let her out through his ears after this episode she was called Jahnvi meaning daughter of Jahnu. Thereafter Maa Ganga followed Bhagirath to Patala Loka where his ancestors were lying as heaps of ashes, she purified them and they attained Moksha. Due to this incident she was called Bhagirathi.
This story has been mentioned in Bal Kanda of Ramayana and it was described to Shri Ram by Rishi Vishwamitra. Rishi Vishwamitra told Shri Ram that whoever would tell this story to anyone his ancestors would benedict him.