The Legends of INDIA

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The Legends of INDIA

Post  Admin on Wed Jul 30, 2008 9:24 am

Historically, this vast landmass - we call India, was known as Bharat-Varsha, or the land of Bharata, a king famous in Puranic tradition. This territorial unit was said to form part of a larger unit called Jambu-dvipa - the innermost of seven concentric island-continents into which the earth, as conceived by the Hindu cosmographers, was supposed to have been divided.
The name ‘India’ was applied to the country by the Greeks. It corresponds to the “Hi(n)du” of the old Persian epigraphs.Like “Sapta sindhavah” and “Hapta Hindu”- the appellations of the Aryan country in the Veda and the Vedinand - it is derived from Sindhu (Indus), the great river that constitutes the most imposing feature of that part of the sub-continent, which seems to have been the cradle of its earliest known civilizations. Rising in southwestern Tibet, at an altitude of 16,000 feet, Indus enters the Indian territory near Leh in Ladakh.

The river has total drainage area of about 4,50,000 square miles, of which 1,75,000 square miles lie in the Himalayan Mountainsand foothills.

After flowing eleven miles beyond Leh, in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, the basin is joined on the left by its first tributary, the Zanskar, which helps green the Zanskar Valley. Many interesting mountain trails beckon the mountaineering enthusiasts to the Zanskar Valley.
The Indus then flows past Batalik. When it enters the plains, its famous five tributaries-Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej-that give Punjab (the food bowl of India) its name as the “land of five rivers,” join it.
However,much of the myth and sentiment attached to India is related with the Ganges. The gushing waters of the Ganges are at once peaceful, and at once tumultuous. Nature’s glory and man’s aspirations have long met along the Ganges. As her civilization spread out further, a pilgrimage had to be undertaken to reach her watery shores. Fairs and festivals began to be celebrated on her banks. The history of Ganga is as long as the history of Indian civilization. Barring the period of Harappan civilization, Ganga basin has been the spectator to all the actions that shaped mythology, history, and people of India. It was in this plain that the great kingdoms of India, viz., Magadh, Gupta, and Mughals found their home. It was in this region that one of the most homogenous cultures of all times was born. Furthermore, it was in this place that the essence of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism was established in india. Ever since then, the river has been the lifeline of India, economically,spiritually and even culturally.
The mighty Ganga (also Ganges) emerges from beneath the Gangotri glacier at a height of 3,959 m above sea level, in the Garhwal region of North India. Here she is known as the Bhagirathi, after the legendary prince Bhagirath who is accredited with bringing her down from heaven to earth. Bursting forth at Gaumukh, out of a huge cavern shaped like the mouth of a cow, snow laden and hung with giant icicles, the Bhagirathi goes rushing, sparkling, foaming around chunks of ice that are constantly breaking off from the glacier above. Eighteen kilometers downstream, stands Gangotri, which was the source of the river until the glacier melted and retreated to its present position above Gaumukh. From here, onwards the river passes through the plains of North India, covering the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, and Bangladesh. Along the route that Ganga and her tributaries took, they set up different settlements, each of which was distinct and developed its own indigenous culture.

Uttarkashi,Devprayag, Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag, Rishikesh and Haridwar are some of the important sites on the coast of this holy river during the early phase of its journey through North India. From Haridwar to Allahabad, the Ganga flows parallel to the Yamuna, another important river flowing through North India, each describing a huge arc. It flows past Garhmukteshwar, the very place where the goddess Ganga is said to have appeared to Shantanu (ancestor of the Pandavas), and Bithur, a city close to but much older than Kanpur, the site of an ancient Shiva temple, before reaching Allahabad, an important religious centre of india.
Allahabad is a sacred place with soul cleansing powers, particularly so because the mythical, subterranean river Saraswati is said to join the Ganga and Yamuna at this point-a speck of white sand known as the Sangam. In Vedic times, there was a settlement at this confluence, known as Prayag, where the Vedas were written. Brahma himself is said to have performed a sacrifice here. Huen Tsang visited Prayag in ad 634. It was under Mughal Emperor Akbar that Prayag was renamed Illahabas, later to be changed to Allahabad. Overlooking the confluence is a massive, historic, red stone fort built by Akbar.
Like Haridwar, Varanasi is also a temple town of India. However, it is difficult to describe Varanasi. As Shri Ramakrishna once said, “One may as well try to draw a map of the universe as attempt to describe Varanasi in words.” As old as any currently inhabited city on earth, it was already well known in the days of Buddha, 2,500 years ago. It finds constant mention in ancient literature and has all along been a pilgrimage center, sacred to Shiva. Hindus consider it an auspicious place to die, for then one goes straight to heaven. Surprisingly, Varanasi does not mark one of Ganga’s great confluences, but is named after two small rivers that join here, the Varuna and Asi. The oldest habitation site of India - Kashi, lies north of the Varuna.

Crossing the vast Gangetic plain, the Ganga flows past Patna, the famous Pataliputra as mentioned in the history books across India. She flows past Mokamah a place famous as the working destination of the great hunter-conservationist Jim Corbett while in India. It flows past Farakka Barrage, built to divert more water from Ganga to Hooghly to prevent the latter from silting. Soon thereafter, the Ganga splits into the numerous tributaries that form the Gangetic delta. The Hooghly, regarded as the true Ganga, is one of these tributaries. The main channel proceeds to Bangladesh as the river Padma, so dearly loved by Rabindranath Tagore - the legendary poet of India.
Like the Ganges, the vast networks of rivers flowing throughout India are sacred to its people. The same goes for the region south of the Gangetic Plains in north India. This region is a highland zone rising to the chain of the Vindhya Mountains - forming the land of the river Cauvery Long revered by the people of India, for the bounties offertility bestowed by the gentle waters, this river flows from the azure mountains of the Nilgiris. Today, this region covering the four south Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kanataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh offers visible continuity with traditions in time. Above the land of Cauvery lies Orissa, another culturally rich state in India that is fed by the river Mahanadi.
Through the east of India, flows the very cascading Brahamputra. The waters of the Brahmaputra travel all the way from China through the Indian States of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. Further northeast are seven other states - Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.
The two rivers Narmada and Tapti in central and western India have a unique distinction of flowing in the east to west direction, unlike other major rivers in India India with the exception of Brahmaputra. Out of the two, Narmada has more mythological significance as being the mother and giver of peace. Legends in India have it that the mere sight of this river is enough to cleanse one’s soul, as against a dip in the Ganga or seven in the Yamuna.


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