Ganga descends to earth by the extraordinary effort of Bhageeratha. Shiva agrees to the alighting of Ganga on His head and from where she is released into a lake called Bindusarovar, and from there she flows in seven courses. On land Bhageeratha ushers her up to netherworld dug by his ancestors where heaps of ashes of his grandparents are there, and she enters accordingly to inundate those mounds of ashes according salvation to the souls.
देव देवे गते तस्मिन् सो अंगुष्ठ अग्र निपीडिताम् |
कृत्वा वसुमतीम् राम वत्सरम् समुपासत || १-४३-१
kR^itvaa vasumatiim raama vatsaram samupaasata || 1-43-1
“When the god of gods Brahma left from there Bhageeratha stood on the tip of his big-toe praying for the mercy of Lord Shiva for one year, while that tip of his big-toe pressurised the earth.” Thus Vishvamitra continued his narration about Bhageeratha’s effort to bring Ganga to earth. [1-43-1]
Bhageeratha stood on one big-toe with an unwavering intent and bodily movement, and with his hands upraised in prayer for a period of one year by day and night, sustaining himself on mere air, and thus his yogic concentration increased and that alone pressurised the earth.
अथ संवत्सरे पूर्णे सर्व लोक नमस्कृतः |
उमापतिः पशुपती राजानम् इदम् अब्रवीत् || १-४३-२
umaapatiH pashupatii raajaanam idam abraviit || 1-43-2
“On completion of one year, he who is venerated by all worlds, the consort of Uma and the god of animals from insects to humans, that god Shiva revealed himself and spoke this to the king. [1-43-2].
प्रीतः ते अहम् नरश्रेष्ठ करिष्यामि तव प्रियम् |
शिरसा धारयिष्यामि शैलराज सुताम् अहम् ||१-४३-३
shirasaa dhaarayiShyaami shailaraaja sutaam aham ||1-43-3
“Oh, best one among humans, I am delighted with your unwavering effort, and I will fulfil your cherish. I will therefore sustain Ganga, the daughter of king of mountains by my head. [1-43-3].
ततो हैमवती ज्येष्ठा सर्व लोक नमस्कृता |
तदा सा अति महत् रूपम् कृत्वा वेगम् च दुःसहम् ||१-४३-४
आकाशात् अपतत् राम शिवे शिव शिरस्य् उत |
tadaa saa ati mahat ruupam kR^itvaa vegam ca duHsaham ||1-43-4
aakaashaat apatat raama shive shiva shirasy uta |
“Afterwards, she who is reverenced by all the worlds and who is the elder daughter of Himavanta, that Ganga assuming an unendurable form and an insupportable rapidity, they say, then plunged from the sky onto the auspicious head of Shiva. [1-43-4, 5a].
अचिन्तयः च सा देवी गंग परम दुर्धरा ||१-४३-५
विशामि अहम् हि पातालम् स्त्रोतसा गृह्य शंकरम् |
vishaami aham hi paataalam strotasaa gR^ihya shaMkaram |
“She who is an extremely unendurable river that goddess Ganga even speculated saying to herself, ‘let me enter netherworld, indeed whisking Shiva with my streams.’ [1-43-5b, 6a].
तस्याः वलेपनम् ज्ञत्व क्रुद्धः तु भगवन् हरः || १-४३-६
तिरोभावयितुम् बुद्धिम् चक्रे त्रिनयनः तदा |
tirobhaavayitum buddhim chakre trinayanaH tadaa |
“Discerning her egotism god Shiva is infuriated, and then on his part that Three-eyed god Shiva thought to pent her up in the tufts of his head-hair. [1-43-6b, 7a].
सा तस्मिन् पतिता पुण्या पुण्ये रुद्रस्य मूर्धनि||१-४३-७
हिमवत् प्रतिमे राम जटा मण्डल गह्वरे |
himavat pratime raama jaTaa maNDala gahvare |
“And oh, Rama, she that holy River Ganga swooped down into the cavernous curls of matted hair-tufts on the holy head of God Shiva, and she became a detainee in them. [1-43-7b, 8a].
सा कथंचित् महीम् गंतुम् न अशक्नोत् यत्नम् आस्थिता ||१-४३-८
न एव सा निर्गमम् लेभे जटा मण्डल अंततः |
na eva saa nirgamam lebhe jaTaa maNDala aMtataH |
“Though she strove hard in one way or another to reach the earth that Ganga is rendered incapable, as she could not gain access for an outlet from any edge of the coils of matted hair-tufts of Shiva, hence she is held there in durance vile. [1-43-8b, 9a].
तत्र एव आबंभ्रमत् देवी संवत्सर गणान् बहून् ||१-४३-९
ताम् अपश्यन् पुनः तत्र तपः परमम् आस्थितः |
taam apashyan punaH tatra tapaH paramam aasthitaH |
“Goddess Ganga whirled round and round in the coils of tufts alone for many number of years, and when Ganga’s emanation from those coils is intangible Bhageeratha again firmed up in a marvellous penance in the matter of her descent to earth. [1-43-9b, 10a].
स तेन तोषितः च असीत् अत्यंतम् रघुनंदन || १-४३-१०
विससर्ज ततो गंगाम् हरो बिन्दु सरः प्रति |
visasarja tato gaMgaam haro bindu saraH prati |
“Oh, Rama, the legatee of Raghu, with that ascesis of Bhageeratha god Shiva is very much delighted, and thereupon he has also released Ganga aiming at Bindu Lake in Himalayas. [1-43-10b, 11a].
तस्यम् विसृउज्यमानायाम् सप्त स्रोतंसि जज्ञिरे || १-४३-११
ह्लादिनी पावनी चैव नलिनी च तथा एव च |
तिस्रः प्राचीम् दिशम् जग्मुः गंगाः शिव जलाः शुभाः || १-४३-१२
hlaadinii paavanii caiva nalinii ca tathaa eva ca |
tisraH praaciim disham jagmuH gaMgaaH shiva jalaaH shubhaaH || 1-43-12
“While god Shiva released Ganga into Bindu Lake seven streams have emerged out of it, and thus three auspicious Ganga-s with holy waters have cruised eastward which are known as Hlaadini, Paavani, and Nalini. [1-43-11b, 12].
सुचक्षुः च एव सीता च सिन्धुः च एव महानदी |
तिस्रः एता दिशम् जग्मुः प्रतीचीम् तु शुभ उदकाः ||१-४३-१३
tisraH etaa disham jagmuH pratiichiim tu shubha udakaaH ||1-43-13
“Also thus Sucakshu, Seetha, and the excellent river Sindhu are the other three rivers which streamed to the westward direction with their holy waters. [1-43-13].
सप्तमी च अन्वगात् तासम् भगीरथ रथम् तदा |
भगीरथो अपि रजर्षि दिव्यम् स्यंदनम् आस्थितः || १-४३-१४
प्रायात् अग्रे महातेजा गंग तम् च अपि अनुव्रजत् |
bhagiiratho api rajar.hShi divyam syaMdanam aasthitaH || 1-43-14
praayaat agre mahaatejaa gaMga tam ca api anuvrajat |
“Of them the seventh Ganga flowed towards the path of Bhageeratha’ chariot, and that great-resplendent and kingly sage Bhageeratha sitting in a divine chariot moved ahead and even Ganga followed him. [1-43-14, 15a].
गगनात् शंकर शिरः ततो धरणिम् आगता || १-४३-१५
असर्पत जलम् तत्र तीव्र शब्द पुरस्कृतम् |
asarpata jalam tatra tiivra shabda puraskR^itam |
“Thus Ganga came from heavens onto Shankara’s head and from there onto the earth, and there on earth her waters advanced with a tumultuous sound advancing them. [1-43-15b, 16a]
The River Ganga is also called as tri patha gaa ‘she courses in three ways…’ of which one kind of thinking is that she flowed from Himalayas to heaven, from heaven to Shiva’s head and from there to earth. In the above context also, she is said to have the three-way-flow, i.e., one is eastward flow, second westward flow and the third is southward flow as led by Bhageeratha. The westward river Sindhu is the Indus and the eastward Nalini, which is now called as river Brahmaputra, while Ganga proper courses a little to south to move towards the ocean.
मत्स्य कच्छप संघैः च शिशुमार गणैः तथा || १-४३-१६
पतद्भिः पतितैः च एव व्यरोचत वसुंधरा |
patadbhiH patitaiH ca eva vyarocata vasuMdharaa |
“The earth then verily shone forth with the shoals of fish, schools of tortoises, and scores of porpoises and other aquatic beings that have already fallen and that are still falling in step with the spates of Ganga. [1-43-16b, 17a].
ततो देव ऋषि गंधर्वा यक्ष सिद्ध गणाः तथा || १-४३-१७
व्यलोकयन्त ते तत्र गगनात् गाम् गताम् तदा |
vyalokayanta te tatra gaganaat gaam gataam tadaa |
“Later, they the gods, sages, gandharva-s, yaksha-s, and the assemblages of siddha-s have then seen there the swoop of Ganga in that way from heaven to earth, with curiosity. [1-43-17b, 18a].
विमानैः नगर आकारैः हयैः गज वरैः तथा ||१-४३-१८
पारिप्लव गताः च अपि देवताः तत्र विष्ठिताः |
paariplava gataaH ca api devataaH tatra viShThitaaH |
“Some of the gods with aircrafts that are like cities in their shape and size, and some with horses that are prancing, and some with best elephants that are staggering, at the very sight of plunging Ganga, have entered the firmament at that place. [1-43-18b, 19a].
तत् अद्भुततमम् लोके गंगा अवतरम् उत्तमम् ||१-४३-१९
दिदृक्षवो देव गणाः समीयुः अमित ओजसः |
didR^ikShavo deva gaNaaH samiiyuH amita ojasaH |
“The gods whose animation is unlimited, and who are anxious to see the plunge of Ganga, have come together in assemblages, which plunge is a highest marvel in the universe by a better degree of her illimitable animation than that of gods who came to see, and even benignant to the world in according water and salving souls, which those gods cannot do. [1-43-19b, 20a].
संपतद्भिः सुर गणैः तेषाम् च आभरण ओजसा || १-४३-२०
शत आदित्यम् इव आभाति गगनम् गत तोयदम् |
shata aadityam iva aabhaati gaganam gata toyadam |
“The glitter of the ornaments of hosts of gods who are in stampede, made the cloudless sky to shine as if it is with a hundred of suns. [1-43-20b, 21a].
शिंशुमार उरग गणैः मीनैः अपि च चंचलैः || १-४३-२१
विद्युद्भिः इव विक्षिप्तैः आकाशम् अभवत् तदा |
vidyudbhiH iva vikShiptaiH aakaasham abhavat tadaa |
“At that time, with the falling and rising of scores of porpoises and reptiles, even with the wriggling fishes, the sky became flashy as if flashes of lightning are strewn over it. [1-43-21b, 22a].
पाण्डुरैः सलिल उत्पीडैः कीर्यमाणैः सहस्रधा ||१-४३-२२
शारद अभ्रैः इव आक्रीणम् गगनम् हंस संप्लवैः |
shaarada abhraiH iva aakriiNam gaganam haMsa saMplavaiH |
“Spattered innumerably with the whitish froth from the splashes of Ganga, and stippled with the flights of swans, the sky is as though overspread with silver-clouds of autumn. [1-43-22b, 23a].
क्वचित् द्रुततरम् याति कुटिलम् क्वचित् आयतम् ||१-४३-२३
विनतम् क्वचित् उद्धूतम् क्वचित् याति शनैः शनैः |
vinatam kvacit uddhuutam kvacit yaati shanaiH shanaiH
“Somewhere Ganga is coursing precipitately, elsewhere sinuously, somewhere else staightly, elsewhere sloppily, somewhere gushingly, and somewhere else her cruise is leisurely and tardily. [1-43-23b, 24a]
“Somewhere Ganga is coursing precipitately in declivities, elsewhere sinuously on zigzag lands, somewhere else staightly on uniform lands, elsewhere sloppily in canting lands, somewhere gushingly in craggy lands, and somewhere else her cruise is leisurely in flatlands and tardily in uplands.
सलिलेन एव सलिलम् क्वचित् अभ्याहतम् पुनः || १-४३-२४
मुहुर् ऊर्ध्व पथम् गत्वा पपात वसुधाम् पुनः |
muhur uurdhva patham gatvaa papaata vasudhaam punaH |
“Somewhere her water repeatedly knocking against her own water is recurrently billowing upwards only to make nosedive onto earth. [1-43-24b, 25a].
तत् शंकर शिरो भ्रष्टम् भ्रष्टम् भूमि तले पुनः ||१-४३-२५
व्यरोचत तदा तोयम् निर्मलम् गत कल्मषम् |
vyarocata tadaa toyam nirmalam gata kalmaSham |
“That impeccable and immaculate water of Ganga then became outstanding as it has flounced down from heaven primarily onto the head of Shankara, and therefrom it has coasted down onto the earth. [1-43-25b, 26a].
तत्र ऋषि गण गन्धर्वा वसुधा तल वासिनः १-४३-२६
भव अंग पतितम् तोयम् पवित्रम् इति पस्पृशुः |
bhava aMga patitam toyam pavitram iti paspR^ishuH |
“And asserting that the water as holy, because it descended touching the body of Shiva, viz., the head of Shiva, the assemblages of sages, gandharva-s, and those that are residents on the plane of earth have sipped that water at that place. [1-43-26b, 27a].
शापात् प्रपतिता ये च गगनात् वसुधा तलम् ||१-४३-२७
कृत्वा तत्र अभिषेकम् ते बभूवुः गत कल्मषाः |
kR^itvaa tatra abhiShekam te babhuuvuH gata kalmaShaaH |
“Also those that have fallen from heaven onto the surface of earth by some curse or the other, they too became blemishless on taking head-bath in the water of Ganga. [1-43-27b, 28a].
धूत पापाः पुनः तेन तोयेन अथ शुभ अन्विता || १-४३-२८
पुनः आकाशम् आविश्य स्वान् लोकान् प्रतिपेदिरे |
punaH aakaasham aavishya svaan lokaan pratipedire |
“When sins are washed away with the hallowing water of Ganga, they again transited skyward and then obtained their own empyrean worlds once again. [1-43-28b, 29a].
मुमुदे मुदितो लोकः तेन तोयेन भास्वता || १-४३-२९
कृत अभिषेको गंगायाम् बभूव गत कल्मषः |
kR^ita abhiSheko gaMgaayaam babhuuva gata kalmaShaH |
“With her splendorous water people are blissful, and on taking dip-baths in Ganga they are totally removed of the strains of their sins, and they lived blissfully ever after. [1-43-29b, 30a].
भगीरथो राजर्षिः दिव्यम् स्यंदनम् आस्थितः ||१-४३-३०
प्रायात् अग्रे महाराजाः तम् गंगा पृष्ठतो अन्वगात् |
praayaat agre mahaaraajaaH tam gaMgaa pR^iShThato anvagaat |
“In this way, the great-resplendent and kingly sage Bhageeratha sitting in a divine chariot continuously moved ahead and Ganga continually followed him at his behind. [1-43-30b, 31a]
This verse is almost similar to the verse No. 14 above. But here, the continuous actions of both the leader and the led are implied with ellipses – ‘in this way’, and ‘continuously.’
देवाः स ऋषि गणाः सर्वे दैत्य दानव राक्षसाः || १-४३-३१
गन्धर्व यक्ष प्रवराः स किंनर महोरगाः |
सर्पाः च अप्सरसो राम भगीरथ रथ अनुगाः || १-४३-३२
गंगाम् अन्वगमन् प्रीताः सर्वे जल चराः च ये |
gandharva yakSha pravaraaH sa kiMnara mahoragaaH |
sarpaaH ca apsaraso raama bhagiiratha ratha anugaaH || 1-43-32
gaMgaam anvagaman priitaaH sarve jala caraaH ca ye |
“Oh, Rama, all of the gods along with the assemblages of sages, ogres, monsters, demons, and even great reptiles with kinnara-s, and gandharva-s with best yaksha-s, and even serpents and apsara-s, have delightfully moved after Ganga who is following the chariot of Bhageeratha, and why they, in fact, all of the aquatic beings have followed Ganga. [31b, 32, 33a].
यतो भगीरथो राजा ततो गंगा यशस्विनी || १-४३-३३
जगाम सरिताम् श्रेष्ठा सर्व पाप प्रणाशिनी |
jagaama saritaam shreShThaa sarva paapa praNaashinii |
“In whichever direction king Bhageeratha has advanced, that glorious River Ganga, who is the prominent river among all the rivers and the complete obliterator of sins, has also moved at his behind in that direction. [1-43-33b, 34a].
ततो हि यजमानस्य जह्नोः अद्भुत कर्मणः ||१-४३-३४
गंग संप्लावयामास यज्ञ वाटम् महत्मनः |
gaMga saMplaavayaamaasa yaj~na vaaTam mahatmanaH |
“While in flow she started to completely inundate the field of Vedic-ritual belonging to the great-souled sage Jahnu, who is of marvellous deeds and who is presently an officiator of an ongoing Vedic-ritual. [1-43-34b, 35a].
तसया वलेपनम् ज्ञत्व कृद्धो जह्नुः च राघव || १-४३-३५
अपिबत् तु जलम् सर्वम् गंगयाः परम अद्भुतम् |
apibat tu jalam sarvam gaMgayaaH parama adbhutam |
“But on knowing her hubris, oh, Raghava, that sage Jahnu has become irritated and causing an extreme marvel he drank off all the water of Ganga. [1-43-35b, 36a].
ततो देवाः स गंघर्व ऋषयः च सु विस्मिताः || १-४३-३६
पूजयन्ति महत्मनम् जह्नुम् पुरुष सत्तमम् |
गंगम् च अपि नयन्ति स्म दुहितृत्वे महात्मनः || १-४३-३७
puujayanti mahatmanam jahnum puruSha sattamam |
gaMgam ca api nayanti sma duhitR^itve mahaatmanaH || 1-43-37
“Thereupon, the gods along with gandharva-s and sages at that extremely marvellous feat of Sage Jahnu are highly astounded, and they then started to worship that ablest human and great-souled sage Jahnu, and even deigned for the daughterhood of Ganga to that high-souled sage Jahnu. [1-43-36b, 37].
ततः तुष्टः महातेजाः श्रोत्राभ्याम् असृउजत् प्रभुः |
तस्मात् जह्नु सुता गंग प्रोच्यते जाह्नवी इति च || १-४३-३८
tasmaat jahnu sutaa gaMga procyate jaahnavii iti ca || 1-43-38
“That greatly radiant and godly sage Jahnu is then delighted and released Ganga from both of his ears. Therefore Ganga became the daughter of sage Jahnu, and she is also renowned as Jahnavi, after the name of that sage. [1-43-38].
जगाम च पुनः गंग भगीरथ रथ अनुगा |
सागरम् च अपि संप्रप्ता सा सरित् प्रवरा तदा ||१-४३-३९
रसातलम् उपागच्छत् सिद्ध्यर्थम् तस्य कर्मणः |
saagaram ca api saMpraptaa saa sarit pravaraa tadaa ||1-43-39
rasaatalam upaagacChat siddhyartham tasya karmaNaH |
“Even though Ganga again proceeded moving behind the chariot of Bhageeratha and reached the ocean, therefrom she had to wend her way to netherworld, once dug by the sons of Sagara, only to accomplish the mission of Bhageeratha, namely drenching the ashes of Sagara’s sons. [1-43-39, 40a]
Some take the word saagaram as the netherworld dug by the sons of Sagara and omit the mention of her ocean-bound travel.
भगीरथो अपि रजार्षि गंगम् आदाय यत्नतः || १-४३-४०
पितमहान् भस्म क्रुतम् अपश्यत् गत चेतनः |
pitamahaan bhasma krutam apashyat gata chetanaH |
“Even kingly-sage Bhageeratha making every effort ushered Ganga to netherworld, but on seeing his grandparents rendered to ashes he has became doleful. [1-43-40b, 41a].
अथ तत् भस्मनाम् राशिम् गंग सलिलम् उत्तमम् |
प्लावयत् पूत पाप्मानः स्वर्गम् प्रप्ता रघु उत्तम ||१-४३-४१
plaavayat puuta paapmaanaH svargam praptaa raghu uttama ||1-43-41
“Oh, Rama, the best of Raghu’s dynasty, then Ganga inundated that mound of ashes of Sagara’s six-thousand sons, by which those souls obtained heaven, while the sins of souls are cleansed with the water of Ganga.” Thus Vishvamitra continued his narration. [1-43-41b, c].