The Sangam Rivers

The Sangam rivers encapsulate the essence of Indian mythological and philosophical thought. They are representatives of the Divine trinity in Indian mythology, as Ganga is associated with Lord Shiva, Yamuna with Lord Vishnu and Saraswati with Lord Brahma.

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In Hindu belief, the Ganges River came to earth from the heavens, where it flowed through sacred lands until an Indian king of Kosala, Bhagirath, pleaded with Lord Brahma, a powerful god, to bring the river to earth. He intended to cleanse the souls of his 60,000 ancestors who had been cursed by a saint called Kapilavastu.

Ganga

A symbol of purity, faith, hope, culture and life. A source of livelihood for millions since times immemorial. The centre of social and religious tradition in the Indian sub-continent and particularly sacred in Hinduism. Respect for Ganga is a part of the Indian identity and the very symbol of Indian culture.

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World's third largest river by water output. Formed by the confluence of the Bhagirathi and Alakhnanda streams. Drainage area of over a million square kilometers. Accounts for one-fourth of India's water resources. Home to more than 407 million Indians, or some one-third of the Indian population.

Discourse

Considered by Hindus to be a venerated deity. Believed purify not just the body, but also the soul. Depending on the context, Considered the bringer of life, the sustainer of living, and a passage to heaven. Arguably the most providing river in the world today.

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The river is worshipped as a Hindu goddess Yamuna, or Yami, the twin sister of Yama, the god of death. As Indian culture grew, the name Kalindi, meaning dark complexioned, also became associated with the river. The festival of Bhai-dooj is celebrated as a tribute to the undying fraternal love between the twins Yama and Yami.

Yamuna

The river Yamuna is second only to Ganga in her divine and social status. Its banks have witnessed a significant part of the entire story of Indian history and has also played a vital role in it.

Course

Main tributary of the Ganga, and the largest river in India that does not flow into the ocean. Traverses a distance of 1,376 kilometres from its origin in the Yamunotri glacier in the Himalayas to its point of confluence with river Ganga at the Triveni sangam in Prayag. Has has a drainage system of 366,223 square kilometres, which constitutes 40% of the entire Ganga Basin.

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Many important Indian Gods associated with the river. Many important cities in Indian history and mythology have been situated on its banks. Delhi, Agra, Mathura and Prayag are some examples. The role of Yamuna permeates the very fabric of Indian society, merging its history and mythology into one surreal continuum.

Legend has it that Saraswati manifested in the form of a beautiful goddess from the forehead of Lord Brahma. Upon beholding her magnificent form, Lord Brahma wanted her to be his companion. Goddess Saraswati, the symbol for wisdom and knowledge, a creature of free will, didn’t like the idea. So she eluded Lord Brahma and hence, disappeared. This is why the river is believed to flow underground.

Saraswati

Saraswati is probably the most elusive and mysterious river in the world. With deep roots in the collective consciousness of Hindus around the world, it is the third river that completes the triumvirate at the Triveni sangam in Prayag.

Course

Historians believe that Saraswati flowed above the ground around 4000 years ago, before tectonic activity caused the waters to seep underground. It would have had a course that was 1500 km long, and would have flowed between the Yamuna and the Satluj. It flowed through present day Uttaranchal, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat before meeting the Arabian sea.

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In essence, the river Saraswati has found abundant mention in Indian mythology and a revered place in Indian spirituality. The vedas refer to it as Ambitame-Naditame-Devitame. This implies that Saraswati dons three roles. It is a mother, a river and a goddess, all contained in a single entity.

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