Story of Bhageerath
King Sagar was one of the greatest kings of Ancient Bharat (India). He was the ancestor of King Dasharath and Sri Rama (Incarnation of Sree Vishnu). In those days, kings used to perform the Ashwamedha Yajna to prove their supremacy over others. Once, King Sagar, too, performed a Ashwamedha Yajna to become the king of the entire world, as he deserved it anyway.
But, Sri Indra was jealous and fearful over the results of the Yajna. He decided to stop the Yajna by stealing the horse of the Yajna that was sent around the earth, as a symbol of victory. He kidnapped the horse and hid it in Kapil Muni’s hermitage.
When learnt that the horse is kidnapped, King Sagar’s hundreds of sons along with the entourage of warriors went to search. They found the horse of the Yajna in Kapil Muni’s Ashram. They mistook Sage Kapil to be the abductor and attacked him. Kapil Muni became enraged that King Sagar’s sons were attacking him for no apparent reason and so he burnt all of them to ashes.
King Sagar was worried about his sons’ salvation. The pacified Kapil Muni advised that the holy river Ganga could give them salvation and would miraculously bring back the dead princes to life. It should be brought down to the Earth from the heaven. King Sagar’s son Dilip tried his best, but could not succeed. His grandson Anshuman succedded upto some limit but could not give them salvation.
Bhageerath was another grandson of King Sagar. He heard about the plight of his father and uncles. Bhageerath resolved to bring Ganga to the Earth from the Heaven to purify the ashes of his ancestors and bring them back to life.
He performed severe penance to please Sri Brahma who came to bless him and grant him the desired boon. Ganga was allowed to come down to Earth. The only problem was that the force of its current was too great for Earth to withstand. Fearing a catastrophe, Bhageerath prayed to Sri Shiva, who held out his matted hair to catch the river as she descended. From this point onward, Sri Shiva is also known as Gangadhara. River Ganga gently followed Bhageerath as he came to the hermitage of Sage Jahnu’s ashram. Sage Jahnu, who was in a state of meditation inside the ashram, had been disrupted in his penance. He became enraged and swallowed Ganga in a single gulp.
Bhageerath offered his prayers to Sage Jahnu who finally released Ganga. As a result, Ganga is also known by the name of Jahnavi.
Finally, Bhageerath overcame all the obstacles in the process of releasing Ganga. He patiently led Ganga down to the sea where Kapil Muni was residing. Holy Ganga then bathed the remains of the King Sagar’s sons, offered salvation to the souls of them and merged into the sea-water. Thus the sea where Ganga merges is called as “Ganga Sagar”.
Ganga is also known as Bhageerathi because her coming to the Earth was by the continued sacrifices and efforts of Bhageerath.