In Himalayas, Ganges Began with Divine Help

Villagers bearing the Goddess Ganga in the Himalayas i i

Mangaldas and villagers bearing the Goddess Ganga en route from Harsil to Bhaironghati in the Indian Himalayas. Martine Crandall Hollick hide caption

itoggle caption Martine Crandall Hollick
Villagers bearing the Goddess Ganga in the Himalayas

Mangaldas and villagers bearing the Goddess Ganga en route from Harsil to Bhaironghati in the Indian Himalayas.

Martine Crandall Hollick

Life of a Sacred River

Philip Reeves explores the Ganges

Reporter's Notebook

In 2004, NPR's Vice President for Legal Affairs, Neal Jackson, traveled to India with producers Julian and Martine Crandall Hollick to gather material for their radio series on the river Ganges. Read his essay, in which he describes the journey to the sacred river's source.

Ganges Map i i

The Ganges River is 1,500 miles long from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. The river's water is the lifeblood for more than 600 million people in India and Bangladesh. Lindsay Mangum, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lindsay Mangum, NPR
Ganges Map

The Ganges River is 1,500 miles long from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. The river's water is the lifeblood for more than 600 million people in India and Bangladesh.

Lindsay Mangum, NPR

The Ganges River — Ganga in Hindi — is the lifeblood of more than 600 million people in India and Bangladesh.

Farmers depend on the river for their crops. Millions depend on its water for washing, cooking, drinking and to carry away their waste. And many worship the Ganges as a goddess, whose waters will cleanse them of sin and help them attain moksha, or salvation, by carrying their ashes to heaven.

Yet the Ganges is under great threat from pollution and a rapidly modernizing India, whose appetite for water far outstrips the river's capacity.

In the first of a six-part series, independent producer Julian Crandall Hollick travels deep into the Himalayas in search of the source of the Ganges. His journey begins in the tiny village of Bhaironghati, where villagers take a two-foot high statue of the goddess Ganga and prepare to take her to her summer temple at Gangotri. That's where, Hindus believe, the river came down to Earth in a lock of hair.

As the ceremony to install the goddess gets under way in Gangotri, Hollick hears the story about how Hindus believe the Ganges descended from heaven.

Books Featured In This Story

Ganga

A Journey Down the Ganges River

by Julian Crandall Hollick

Hardcover, 279 pages | purchase

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A Journey Down the Ganges River
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