Why do Hindus consider the Ganga holy and worthy of reverence?
Emerging from the serene atmosphere of Gaumukh deep in the Himalayas and flowing over 2,500 kilometers to join the Bay of Bengal, the bountiful Ganga is a river of reverence to all Hindus. Not only has it been a source of great prosperity and happiness wherever it flowed, but on its banks are situated great canters of learning and pilgrimage that have always been dear to the gods and mankind. The water of the Ganga is believed to hold magical properties.
The Goddess Ganga wears white garments that are pink-tinged. She holds a water pot in one hand and a white lotus in the other. She sits on a crocodile in a Himalayan lake. There are many stories about her emergence in this world. The most popular one is about King Bhagirath.
There was a king named Sagar who had 60,000 sons. These sons went looking for the horse of the Ashwamedh sacrifice. The horse had been stolen by Indra and released near a place where a sage, Kapil, was in deep meditation and penance. When the sons found the horse grazing here, they thought the sage had stolen it and raised objections. Enraged at being disturbed in prayer, Kapil reduced them to ashes with his wrath.
Successors were told that the sons of Sagar could gain salvation only if the Ganga flowed over their ashes. Ganga being in heaven, they were unable to bring her to earth. Later, a descendant, King Bhagirath undertook penance, living in the forests in great discomfort. When Brahma was convinced of Bhagirath's sincere penance, he granted him a boon.