Gangadhara - Shiva
Gangadhara - Shiva
Gangadhara, He who bears the waters of the river Ganga.
King Sagara of the Ikshvaku dynasty once decided to perform the Ashwamedha yagna (horse sacrifice) a hundred times to invoke the blessings of MahaVishnu. But on the day of the hundredth yagna, Indra, feeling insecure about his position due to the king's rising powers, led the horse to Sage Kapila's ashram. When Sagara's sons found out where the horse was, they accused the sage of theft, having no knowledge that it was Indra's doing. By the wrath of sage Kapila, the princes were immediately reduced to ashes. The furious Sagara vowed he wouldn't rest until he found the horse. So he sent his grandson Amshuman to find the horse.
Amshuman eventally reached Kapila's ashram and impressed him with his humility. Kapila not only let Amshuman take the horse for his father to complete the sacrifice, but also promised that the souls of his father and uncles (Sagara's sons) would rest in peace by the power of Ganga's waters, a river in the heavens that was created by Brahma’s washing Vishnu’s foot with the water from his Kamandalu. Amshuman had no idea how to bring Ganga to earth. He performed penance for the sins of his father and uncles, but it was futile. His son Dileepa also did not succeed. Dileepa's son Bhagiratha continued the penance as the once flourishing kingdom was now in bad shape. His efforts bore fruit as Brahma appeared before him and granted his wish.
However, the force of the river had to be controlled for it to flow on earth without causing destruction. So Bhagiratha meditated upon Shiva, the ever merciful one, as instructed by Brahma. Shiva received Ganga, her force and fury with immense love, subdued her and allowed her to flow down peacefully through his matted locks. Bhagiratha was then able to wash away the sins of his forefathers.
Ganga was overwhelmed by Shiva's love and chose to stay with Him on his head. This is why Shiva is also known as Gangadhara, He who bears the waters of the river Ganga.
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