The Ganges is the most sacred river to Hindus and is also a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. It is worshiped as the goddess Ganga in Hinduism. It has also been important historically: many former provincial or imperial capitals (such as Patliputra, Kannauj, Kara, Kashi, Allahabad, Murshidabad, Munger, Baharampur and Kolkata) have been located on its banks.
The Ganges was ranked among the five most polluted rivers of the world in 2007, with fecal coliform levels in the river near Varanasi more than one hundred times the official Indian government limits. Pollution threatens not only humans, but also more than 140 fish species, 90 amphibian species and the endangered Ganges river dolphin. The Ganga Action Plan, an environmental initiative to clean up the river, has been a major failure thus far, due to corruption and lack of technical expertise, lack of good environmental planning, Indian traditions and beliefs, and lack of support from religious authorities. Contents
5 Religious and cultural significance
5.1 Embodiment of sacredness
5.2 Avatarana or Descent of the Ganges
5.3 Redemption of the Dead
5.4 The purifying Ganges
5.5 Consort, Shakti, and Mother
5.6 Ganges in classical Indian iconography
5.7 Kumbh Mela
6.2 Dams and barrages
9 Ecology and environment
9.1 Ganges river dolphin
9.2 Water shortages
9.3 The effects of climate change on the river
10 Illegal mining and stone-crushing in the river bed
11 See also
12 Inline citations
14 Further reading
15 External links
Bhagirathi River at Gangotri.
Devprayag, confluence of Alaknanda (right) and Bhagirathi (left) rivers, beginning of the Ganges proper. The Himalayan headwaters of the Ganges river in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, India. The headstreams and rivers are labeled in italics; the heights of the mountains, lakes, and towns are displayed in parentheses in meters.
The Ganges begins at the confluence of the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers. The Bhagirathi is considered to be the true source in Hindu culture and mythology, although the Alaknanda is longer. The headwaters of the Alakananda are formed by snowmelt from such peaks as Nanda Devi, Trisul, and Kamet. The Bhagirathi rises at the foot of Gangotri Glacier, at Gaumukh, at an elevation of 3,892 m (12,769 ft).
Although many small streams comprise the headwaters of the Ganges, the six longest and their five confluences are considered sacred. The six headstreams are the Alaknanda, Dhauliganga, Nandakini, Pindar, Mandakini, and Bhagirathi rivers. The five confluences, known as the Panch Prayag, are all along the Alaknanda. They are, in downstream order, Vishnuprayag, where the Dhauliganga joins the Alaknanda; Nandprayag, where the Nandakini joins; Karnaprayag, where the Pindar joins, Rudraprayag, where the Mandakini joins; and finally, Devprayag, where the Bhagirathi joins the Alaknanda to form the Ganges River proper.
After flowing 250 kilometres (160 mi) through its narrow Himalayan valley, the Ganges emerges from the mountains at Rishikesh, then debouches onto the Gangetic Plain at the pilgrimage town of Haridwar. At Haridwar, a dam diverts some of its waters into the Ganges Canal, which irrigates the Doab region of Uttar Pradesh, whereas the river, whose course has been roughly southwest until this point, now begins to flow southeast through the plains of northern India.
The Ganges follows an 800-kilometre (500 mi) arching course passing through the cities of Kannauj, Farukhabad, and Kanpur. Along the way it is joined by the Ramganga, which contributes an average annual...
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