The story of Bhageeratha..

Once upon a time, a famous King of Surya Vamsa by name Sakaran was ruling his Kingdom with his two wives . Kesini had a son Asamanjan by name, while Sumathi had sixty thousand sons. Asamanjan's son was Amsuman. Sakaran once started performing the Ashwamedha Yaga. While the Yaga was being performed, Lord Indra stole the horse, took it to the nether world and tied it to a post where Sage Kapila was doing penance. The sixty thousand sons of Sakaran who came in search of the horse saw it near sage Kapila, and started attacking the sage, thinking that he was the culprit. The sage enraged at their insolent behaviour, burnt them into ashes

Sakaran when his sons did not return with the horse, sent his Grandson Amsuman in search of them. Amsuman found the Horse in the nether world and felt anguished when he saw the sons of Sakaran in the form of ashes. Then he went in search of water to perform the final rites but Lord Garuda appeared before him and told him that it would not be enough if ordinary water was used for the ceremony and that the holy water of Ganga in Heaven should be used for them to attain Moksha. He then advised him to finish the Yaga first and then start making efforts to bring Ganga down to Earth from Heaven. Amsuman took the horse and informed Sakaran about what had happened. Sakaran accordingly finished the Yaga, ruled his Kingdom for a long time and went to Heaven

Meanwhile Amsuman and his son Dhilipan's efforts to bring Ganga to Earth failed and after them Dhilipan's son Bhageeratha handed over the Kingdom to his ministers, went to the forest to do penance .He did 'Panchagni Thavam' and controlled all his senses once a month. Thus he continued to do for a long time, till Lord Bhrama appeared and asked him for his wish. Bhageeratha asked him to send Ganga to earth so that he can perform the rites for his ancestors and expressed his wish to have a son. Bhrama granted his wishes, but told him that the Earth would not withstand the impact when Ganga started flowing from Heaven with great force and only Lord Shiva could withstand it's powerful force. So he asked Bhageeratha to pray to Shiva and so saying he disappeared.

Bhageeratha heeded his advice and started on his penance praying to Shiva. He stood on his Big toe, raised both his hands together, lived on air alone, and thus like a pillar did severe penance for a year. Finally, Lord Shiva before whom the three worlds bow, appeared before Bhageeratha, expressed his happiness over his penance and promised to bear the force of Ganga when she came down to Earth

Leaving the world of Devas, Ganga started flowing downwards with unrestrained force. Her attitude, as though she could even sweep away Shiva to the nether world spoke of her haughtiness. Shiva on realising this attitude of hers, repressed her flow by storing her in his matted hair. Ganga was caught in Shiva's head and her attempts to release herself proved futile. Bhageerathan prayed to Shiva again and the Lord agreed to let her flow to Earth. Bhageerathan climbed on to his chariot and led the way and Ganga followed him. The water swelling up along the way made a thunderous roar and one could see a variety of fishes, tortoises, crocodiles and other creatures that live in water.

The Devas, Yakshas, Gandharvas and other Angels wanting to witness the scene of Ganga flowing left their abodes and assembled in the Sky. Due to this, the Sky appeared bright as though it was lit up by a hundred Suns. The fishes and snakes jumping around in the water looked like stars and lightning. The foam on the broad expanse of the water looked like swans. Ganga, though already one, became more Holy after touching Shiva's body.

The Ganga which was running thus, flooded Janhu Maharishi's ashram and the Maharishi enraged on seeing her haughtiness drank the whole river. The Devas and others saluted the Maharishi and placated him saying that the Ganga, from then on will be his daughter. So the maharishi let the Ganga out through his ears and that is how Ganga came to be known as Jhanvi

Following Bhageeratha, Ganga reached the sea, entered the nether world and wetted the ashes of the sixty thousand sons of Sakaran. Lord Bhrama appeared and lauded the efforts of Bhageeratha. He said that since Ganga travelled through the Sky, earth and the nether world, she will be called as 'Thripadhaka'. As she came to Earth due to Bhageerathan's efforts, she will be known as Bhageerathi, he added. He asked Bhageeratha to take a bath in the Ganges and offer 'Pindam' (ball of cooked rice) to the manes. Bhageerathan did so and his ancestors reached Heaven.

Thus it is our custom to use the term 'Bhageeratha Prayathanam' whenever a person makes great attempts or efforts.

Source: Web Search

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