STORY OF GANGA


Lord Shiva holding Ganga in his matted locks


Ganga gushing at Haridwar


Sagara was a king of Ayodhya in the Ikshvaaku dynasty.He had two wives,Sumati and Kesini.
Sumati had sixty thousand sons who were all valiant but arrogant of their power.Kesini’s son was Asamaanya.
Sagara arranged to perform an Ashvamedha sacrifice that was to give him the title,’emperor of the world’.As a prelude to the sacrifice the consecrated horse was set free for capture by anyone who challenged the king’s authority and sovereignty.The king would then fight the challenger and recover the horse.Indra threatened by Ashvamedha sacrifice,stole the horse and concealed it in a cave.
Sumati’s brave sons,honouring the wishes of their father,went in search of the horse.After searching all over the earth,they excavated the earth deep down in the north-east direction.They found the horse standing in a cave near Sage Kapila who was in meditation.The sons of Sagara wrongly concluded that the Sage had stolen the horse and rushed towards him to kill him.Instead,they were instantly burnt to ashes due to the sin incurred in offending the great Sage.
After a long lapse of time,Sagara became worried that his sons had not returned.He asked his grandson Anshumaan, the son of Asamaanya,to go in search of the sacrificial horse.
Following the path dug out by his uncles,Anshumaan discovered the horse in the cave near the Sage.In his devotion,Anshumaan saw Lord Vishnu in Sage Kapila and glorified him.Sage Kapila was pleased with Anshumaan,blessed him and asked to take away the horse with him.The Sage narrated the fate of his uncles and told him that the holy waters of Ganga alone could redeem them from their sin.Offering his salutations to the Sage,Anshumaan returned with the horse.
Sagara completed the Ashwamedha sacrifice.Soon after,he installed Anshumaan on the throne and left the kingdom to spend rest of his life in forest in prayer and contemplation.
Anshumaan could not bring the holy Ganga in spite of his sincere efforts.In his later years,he handed over the kingdom to his son Dileepa. Dileepa was also unsuccessful in bringing Ganga to earth.His son Bhageeratha was deeply committed to redeeming his forefathers from their sin and entrusting the rule of his kingdom to his ministers,went to the forest to perform severe penance.
Goddess Ganga was pleased with his penance and agreed to descend on earth.The Goddess was concerned that the absence of a restraint on her powerful descent,she might unwittingly break open the surface of the earth and reach the nether worlds instead.Bhageeratha assured her that he would find a way by which her force could be held when she descended on earth.
Bhageeratha then proceeded to propitiate Lord Shiva by performing penance for this purpose.Lord Shiva appeared before him and agreed to Bhageeratha’s request to help him to get Ganga descend without hurting the earth.
As Ganga descended Lord Shiva contained her force by holding her in his matted locks.Bhageeratha then led Ganga to the spot where his ancestors lay in the form of ashes.Purified by the waters of Ganga, Sagara’s sons arose and ascended to the heavens.
Ganga was brought to earth due to Bhageeratha’s penance, so she came to be known as Bhaageerathi, one who was born of the efforts of Bhageeratha.
Ganga also acquired other names, such as Aakasha Ganga, one who flows in the heavens; Tripathaga, one whose path extends to the three worlds namely the heaven, the earth and the nether world; Jaanhavi, the daughter of Sage Jahnu; and Mandaakini, one whose flow is gentle.

STORY OF GAJENDRA





There existed a great mountain range known as Tikoota which extended to thousands of miles,surrounded by the milky ocean.In one of the valleys of Trikoota was a beautiful garden known as Ritumaan which had flowering trees of all kinds.The garden was also the abode of many animals and birds and had an extensive lake which was full of lotuses.

In the forests around Ritumaan lived a herd of elephants with their young ones.The leader of the herd,known as Gajendra,commanded total authority in the forest due to his strength and size.

On the midsummer day,Gajendra was majestically roaming about in Ritumaan when,oppressed by the heat,he desired to quench his thirst.Drawn by the fragrance of the fresh lotuses brought by the breeze blowing from the lake,Gajendra proceeded towards the direction of breeze.He had a refreshing bath in the clear waters of the lake and quenched his thirst.Relieved of the fatigue,he began to play with his mates and young ones by spraying them with waters with his long trunk.

All of a sudden,a powerful crocodile,the lord of the waters of the Ritumaan lake, caught hold of his foot with its mighty jaws.Gajendra,using all his strength tried to shake off the hold of the crocodile but failed.His companions too could not pull him out of the waters.Many years passed in the tussle between Gajendra and the crocodile.

Due to lack of nourishment and constant expenditure of energy,Gajendra's strength and spirits began to decline.The crocodile,being an aqua creature,doubled its strength by merely living in the waters!Gajendra saw his total helplessness and realising that the Lord alone could save him,sought refuge in the Lord.

The Lord came on his Garuda with the Sudarshana disc in his hand.Gajendra who was uttering the Lord's name in great distress,saw him and was relieved of his agony.The Lord extricated him from the jaws of the crocodile by ripping it open with his disc.The celestial being rejoiced at the compassionate deed of the Lord and showered flowers from the heavens.

STORY OF DHRUVA



Swayambhuva Manu had two sons, Priyavratha and Utthaanapaada.Utthaanapada married Sunithi and Suruchi.Suruchi,the younger of the two wives, was an attractive woman and utthaanapaada was infatuated with her.

One day,the king keeping Utthama,his son,on his lap, was playing with him when Dhruva,his other son born of Sunithi,came running to the father to sit on his father's lap.Suruchi pushed him aside and told him that he did not deserve to sit on the king's lap as he was not born of her.She sarcastically suggested to him to pray to the Lord and seek his grace to reborn as her son.Utthaanapaada observed the arrogant behaviour of Suruchi but did not say a word to her.

Dhruva was hurt by the rude words of his step-mother.Crying aloud,he went to his mother.Sunithi embraced him affectionately and consoled him.She asked her son to accept the words of his step-mother and not bear any ill-feeling towards her.she told him that the king did not love her and thus Dhruva did not have any place near his father.She asked Dhruva to seek the grace of Lord Narayana through austerities and meditation,as he alone could bring joy in Dhruva's life.

Dhruva resolved to seek the Lord's grace.He left the palace at once and proceeded to a quite place.Narada,who knew Dhruva's plans,wanted to test him of his resolve,and met him on the way.He discouraged Dhruva from his pursuit by pointing out the difficulty in propitiating the Lord.He added that many great sages had even failed in their attempts to appease the Lord.He cautioned Dhruva of the sufferings involved in the life of austerity and advised him to be content with whatever the Lord had provided him in this life.

Dhruva was not convinced by Narada's statements.He told the sage of his firmness in resolve to gain the highesst end in life.He asked Narada to guide him in his pursuit.Narada was pleased to see Dhruva's fortitude and told him to follow the path revealed by his mother.He instructed him on the disciplines he had to observe and initiated him into the chant,"om namo bhagavate vasudevaya" -salutations unto Lord Vasudeva.He also described the form of the Lord for the purpose of contemplation.Dhruva offered his salutations to the sage and left.

As per Narada's instruction,Dhruva went to Madhuvana,on the banks of river Yamuna near Mathura and spent the next six months in penance and meditation.The Lord decided to bless Dhruva without further delay.Seated on his vehicle,Garuda,he appeared before Dhruva.The form which Dhruva was meditating upon suddenly vanished and Dhruva opened his eyes.He was amazed to see the beautiful form of the Lord before his very eyes.He gazed at the Lord for a long time.The Lord knew that the child was unable to express his feelings or speak words of praise.He softly touched Dhruva's cheeks with his conch.At the touch of the conch,Dhruva poured verses extolling the Lord's glories.He offered his salutations unto the Lord and sought nothing else in his life except the constant remembrance of the Lord.

The Lord knew the purpose of Dhruva's penance.He promised Dhruva the ruler ship of the world after Utthaanapaada and granting him an eternal place in the heavens,disappeared from his sight.After the Lord had left,Dhruva realised that he had not asked the Lord for moksha,the ultimate end in life.He was sad about it,but decided to return to the palace.
When Utthaanapaada came to know about Dhruva's return,he went to the outskirts of the city with all the members of the family and subjects,and received him with the royal honours.He embraced Dhruva with great joy and affection and Dhruva prostrated at the feet of his father and his two mothers.

After Utthaanapaada,Dhruva ruled the earth for thirty thousand years.He married Bhrami and Ilaa.Bhrami had two sons Kalpa and Vatsara while Ilaa had one son Utkala.

At the end of his rule Dhruva renounced the royal life and took to a life of penance again.When it was time to leave this earth,the attendants of Lord Narayana came and led him to the heavens and Dhruva received an eternal place in the heavens.