“Vaisampayana said,–‘Equal unto Vrihaspati in intelligence and Brahmahimself in forgiveness, resembling Sakra in prowess and Surya in energy,Bhishma the son of Ganga, of infinite might, had been overthrown inbattle by Arjuna. Accompanied by his brothers and many other people, kingYudhisthira asked him these questions. The old hero was lying on a bedthat is coveted by heroes, in expectation of that auspicious time when hecould take leave of the physical frame. Many great Rishis had come therefor seeing that foremost one of Bharata’s race. Amongst them were Atriand Vasishtha and Bhrigu and Pulastya and Pulaha and Kratu. There werealso Angiras and Gotama and Agastya and Sumati of well-restrained soul,and Viswamitra and Sthulasiras and Samvarta and Pramati and Dama. Therewere also Vrihaspati and Usanas, and Vyasa and Chyavana and Kasyapa andDhruva, and Durvasas and Jamadagni and Markandeya and Galava, andBharadwaja and Raibhya and Yavakrita and Trita. There were Sthulaksha andSavalaksha and Kanwa and Medhatithi and Krisa and Narada and Parvata andSudhanwa and Ekata and Dwita. There were also Nitambhu and Bhuvana andDhaumya and Satananda and Akritavrana and Rama, the son of Jamadagni andKacha. All these high-souled and great Rishis came there for seeingBhishma lying on his bed of arrows. Yudhishthira with his brothers dulyworshipped those high-souled Rishis who had come there, one after anotherin proper order. Receiving that worship, those foremost of Rishis satthemselves down and began to converse with one another. Theirconversation related to Bhishma, and was highly sweet and agreeable toall the senses. Hearing that talk of theirs having reference to himself,Bhishma became filled with delight and regarded himself to be already inheaven. Those Rishis then, having obtained the leave of Bhishma and ofthe Pandava princes, made themselves invisible, vanishing in the verysight of all the beholders. The Pandavas repeatedly bowed and offeredtheir adorations to those highly blessed Rishis, even after they had madethemselves invisible. They then with cheerful souls waited upon the sonof Ganga, even as Brahmanas versed in Mantras wait with reverence uponthe rising Sun. The Pandavas beheld that the points of the compass blazedforth with splendour in consequence of the energy of their penances, andbecame filled with wonder at the sight. Thinking of the high blessednessand puissance of those Rishis, the Pandava princes began to converse onthe subject with their grandsire Bhishma.”
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘The conversation being over, the righteousYudhishthira, the son of Pandu; touched Bhishma’s feet with his head andthen resumed his questions relating to morality and righteousness.’
“Yudhishthira said, ‘Which countries, which provinces, which retreats,which mountains, and which rivers, O grandsire, are the foremost in pointof sanctity?’
“Bhishma said, “In this connection is cited the old narrative of aconversation between a Brahmana in the observance of the Sila and theUnccha vows, O Yudhishthira, and a Rishi crowned with ascetic success.Once on a time, a foremost person, having roamed over this entire earthadorned with mountains, arrived at last in the house of a foremost personleading the domestic mode of life in accordance with the Sila vow. Thelatter welcomed his guest with due rites. Received with such hospitality,the happy Rishi passed the night happily in the house of his host. Thenext morning the Brahmana in the observance of the Sila vow, havingfinished all his morning acts and rites and purified himself duly, verycheerfully approached his guest crowned with ascetic success. Meetingwith each other and seated at their ease, the two began to converse onagreeable subjects connected with the Vedas and the Upanishads. Towardsthe conclusion of the discourse, the Brahmana in the observance of theSila vow respectfully addressed the Rishi crowned with success. Enduedwith intelligence, he put this very question which thou, O Yudhisthira,hast put to me.’
“The poor Brahmana said, ‘What countries, what provinces, what retreats,what mountains, and what rivers should be regarded as the foremost inpoint of sanctity? Do thou discourse to me on this.’
“The Rishi crowned with success said, ‘Those countries, those provinces,those retreats, and those mountains, should be regarded as the foremostin point of sanctity through which or by the side of which that foremostof all rivers, viz., Bhagirathi flows. That end which a creature iscapable of attaining by penances, by Brahmacharyya, by sacrifices, or bypractising renunciation, one is sure to attain by only living by the sideof the Bhagirathi and bathing in its sacred waters. Those creatures whosebodies have been sprinkled with the sacred waters of Bhagirathi or whosebones have been laid in the channel of that sacred stream, have not tofall away–from heaven at any time. Those men, O learned Brahmana,who use the waters of Bhagirathi in all their acts, surely ascend toheaven after departing from this world. Even those men who, havingcommitted diverse kinds of sinful deeds in the first part of their lives,betake themselves in after years to a residing by the side of Ganga,succeed in attaining to a very superior end. Hundreds of sacrificescannot produce that merit which men of restrained souls are capable ofacquiring by bathing in the sacred waters of Ganga. A person is treatedwith respect and worshipped in heaven for as long a period as his boneslie in the channel of the Ganga. Even as the Sun, when he rises at thedawn of day, blazes forth in splendour, having dispelled the gloom ofnight, after the same manner the person that has bathed in the waters ofGanga is seen to shine in splendour, cleansed of all his sins. Thosecountries and those points of the compass that are destitute of thesacred waters of Ganga are like nights without the moon or like treeswithout flowers. Verily, a world without Ganga is like the differentorders and modes of life when they are destitute of righteousness or likesacrifices without Soma. Without doubt, countries and points of thecompass that are without Ganga are like the firmament without the Sun, orthe Earth without mountains, or the welkin without air. The entire bodyof creatures in the three worlds, if served with the auspicious waters ofGanga, derive a pleasure, the like of which they are incapable ofderiving from any other source. He who drinks Ganga water that has beenheated by the Sun’s rays derives merit much greater than that whichattaches to the vow of subsisting upon the wheat or grains of other cornpicked up from cowdung. It cannot be said whether the two are equal ornot, viz., he who performs a thousand Chandrayana rites for purifying hisbody and he who drinks the water of Ganga. It cannot be said whether thetwo are equal or not, viz., one who stands for a thousand years on onefoot and one who lives for only a month by the side of Ganga. One wholives permanently by the side of Ganga is superior in merit to one whostays for ten thousand Yugas with head hanging downwards. As cotton, whenit comes into contact with fire, is burnt off without a remnant, even sothe sins of the person that has bathed in Ganga become consumed without aremnant. There is no end superior to Ganga for those creatures who withhearts afflicted by sorrow, seek to attain to ends that may dispel thatsorrow of theirs. As snakes become deprived of their poison at the verysight of Garuda, even so one becomes cleansed of all one’s sins at thevery sight of the sacred stream of Ganga. They that are without good nameand that are addicted to deeds of sinfulness, have Ganga for their fame,their protection, their means of rescue, their refuge or cover. Manywretches among men who become afflicted with diverse sins of a heinousnature, when they are about to sink into hell, are rescued by Ganga inthe next world (if, notwithstanding their sins, they seek the aid ofGanga in their after-years). They, O foremost of intelligent men, whoplunge every day in the sacred waters of Ganga, become the equals ofgreat Munis and the very deities with Vasava at their head. Thosewretches among men that are destitute of humility or modesty of behaviourand that are exceedingly sinful, become righteous and good, O Brahmana,by betaking themselves to the side of Ganga. As Amrita is to the deities,as Swadha is to the Pritis, as Sudha is to the Nagas, even so is Gangawater to human beings. As children afflicted with hunger solicit theirmothers for food, after the same manner do people desirous of theirhighest good pay court to Ganga. As the region of the self-born Brahma issaid to be the foremost of all places, even so is Ganga said to beforemost of all rivers for those that desire to bathe. As the Earth andthe cow are said to be the chief sustenance of the deities and othercelestials, even so is Ganga the chief sustenance of all livingcreatures. As the deities support themselves upon the Amrita thatoccurs in the Sun and the Moon and that is offered in diverse sacrifices,even so do human beings support themselves upon Ganga water. Onebesmeared with the sand taken from the shores of Ganga regards oneself asa denizen of heaven, adorned with celestial unguents. He who bears on hishead the mud taken from the banks of Ganga presents an effulgent aspectequal to that of Sun himself bent on dispelling the surrounding darkness.When that wind which is moistened with the particles of Ganga-watertouches one’s person, it cleanses him immediately of every sin. A personafflicted by calamities and about to sink under their weight, finds allhis calamities dispelled by the joy which springs up in his heart atsight of that sacred stream. By the melody of the swans and Kokas andother aquatic fowls that play on her breast, Ganga challenges the veryGandharvas and by her high banks the very mountains on the Earth.Beholding her surface teeming with swans and diverse other aquatic fowls,and having banks adorned with pasture lands with kine grazing on them.Heaven herself loses her pride. The high happiness which one enjoys by aresidence on the banks of Ganga, can never be his who is residing even inheaven. I have no doubt in this that the person who is afflicted withsins perpetrated in speech and thought and overt act, becomes cleansed atthe very sight of Ganga. By holding that sacred stream, touching it, andbathing in its waters, one rescues one’s ancestors to the seventhgeneration, one’s descendants to the seventh generation, as also otherancestors and descendant. By hearing of Ganga, by wishing to repair tothat river, by drinking its waters, by touching its waters, and bybathing in them a person rescues both his paternal and maternal races. Byseeing, touching, and drinking the waters of Ganga, or even by applaudingGanga, hundreds and thousands of sinful men became cleansed of all theirsins. They who wish to make their birth, life and learning fruitful,should repair to Ganga and gratify the Pitris and the deities by offeringthem oblations of water. The merit that one earns by bathing in Ganga issuch that the like of it is incapable of being earned through theacquisition of sons or wealth or the performance of meritorious acts.Those who, although possessed of the physical ability, do not seek tohave a sight of the auspicious Ganga of sacred current, are, withoutdoubt, to be likened to persons afflicted with congenital blindness orthose that are dead or those that are destitute of the power oflocomotion through palsy or lameness. What man is there that would notreverence this sacred stream that is adored by great Rishis conversantwith the Present, the Past, and the Future, as also by the very deitieswith Indra at their head. What man is there that would not seek theprotection of Ganga whose protection is sought for by forest recluses andhouseholders, and by Yatis and Brahmacharins alike? The man of righteousconduct who, with rapt soul, thinks of Ganga at the time when hislife-breaths are about to leave his body, succeeds in attaining to thehighest end. That man who dwells by the side of Ganga up to the time ofhis death, adoring her with reverence, becomes freed from the fear ofevery kind of calamity, of sin, and of kings. When that highly sacredstream fell from the firmament. Maheswara held it on his head. It is thatvery stream which is adored in heaven. The three regions, viz.,(Earth, Heaven, and the nether place called Patala) are adorned by thethree courses of this sacred stream. The man who uses the waters of thatstream becomes certainly crowned with success. As the solar ray is to thedeities in heaven, as Chandramas is to the Pitris, as the king is tohuman beings, even such is Ganga unto all streams. One who becomesbereaved of mother or father or sons or spouses or wealth does not fellthat grief which becomes one’s, when one becomes bereaved of Ganga. Onedoes not obtain that joy through acts that lead to the region of Brahma,or through such sacrifices and rites that lead to heaven, or throughchildren or wealth, which one obtain from a sight of Ganga. Thepleasures that men derive from a sight of Ganga is equal to what theyderive from a sight of the full moon. That man becomes dear to Ganga whoadores her with deep devotion, with mind wholly fixed upon her, with areverence that refuses to take any other object within its sphere, with afeeling that there is nothing else to the universe worthy of similaradoration, and with a steadiness that knows no failing away. Creaturesthat live on Earth, in the welkin, or in Heaven, indeed, even beings thatare very superior,–should always bathe in Ganga. Verily, this is theforemost of all duties with those that are righteous. The fame of Gangafor sanctity has spread over the entire universe, since she bore all thesons of Sagara, who had been reduced to ashes, from here to Heaven.Men who are washed by the bright, beautiful, high, and rapidly movingwaves, raised by the wind, of Ganga, became cleansed of all their sinsand resemble in splendour the Sun with his thousand rays. Those men oftranquil souls that have cast off their bodies in the waters of Gangawhose sanctity is as great as that of the butter and other liquids pouredin sacrifices and which are capable of conferring merits equal to thoseof the greatest of sacrifices, have certainly attained to a station equalto that of the very deities. Verily, Ganga, possessed of fame and vastextent and identical with the entire universe and reverenced by thedeities with Indra at their head, the Munis and human beings, iscompetent to bestow the fruition of all their wishes upon them that areblind, them that are idiots, and them that are destitute of allthings. They that sought the refuge of Ganga, that protectress ofall the universe, that flows in three streams, that is filled with waterat once highly sacred and sweet as honey and productive of every kind ofgood, have succeeded in attaining to the beatitude of Heaven. Thatmortal who dwells by the side of Ganga and beholds her every day, becomescleansed by her sight and touch. Unto him the deities give every kind ofhappiness here and a high end hereafter. Ganga is regarded as competentto rescue every creature from sin and lead him to the felicity of Heaven.She is held to be identical with Prisni, the mother of Vishnu. She isidentical with the Word or Speech. She is very remote, being incapable ofeasy attainment. She is the embodiment of auspiciousness and prosperity.She is capable of bestowing the six well-known attributes beginning withlordship or puissance. She is always inclined to extend her grace. She isthe displayer of all things in the universe, and she is the high refugeof all creatures. Those who have sought her protection in this life havesurely attained heaven. The fame of Ganga has spread all over the welkin,and Heaven, and Earth, and all the points, cardinal and subsidiary, ofthe compass. Mortal creatures, by using the waters of that foremost ofstreams, always become crowned with high success. That person who himselfbeholding Ganga, points her out to others, finds that Ganga rescues himfrom rebirth and confers Emancipation on him. Ganga held Guha, thegeneralissimo of the celestial forces, in her womb. She bears the mostprecious of all metals, viz., gold, also in that womb of hers. They whobathe in her waters every day in the morning, succeed in obtaining theaggregate of three, viz., Righteousness, Wealth and Pleasure. Thosewaters are, again, equal in point of sanctity to the butter that ispoured with Mantras on the sacrificial fire. Capable of cleansing onefrom every sin, she has descended from the celestial region, and hercurrent is held in high esteem by every one. Ganga is the daughter ofHimavat, the spouse of Hara, and the ornament of both Heaven and Earth.She is the bestower of everything auspicious, and is competent to conferthe six well-known attributes beginning with lordship or puissance.Verily O king, Ganga is the one object of great sanctity in the threeworlds and confers merit upon all. Truly, O monarch, Ganga isRighteousness in liquefied form. She is energy also running in a liquidform over the Earth. She is endued with the splendour or puissance thatbelongs to the butter that is poured with Mantras on the sacrificialfire. She is always adorned with large waves as also with Brahmanas whomay at all times be seen performing their ablutions in her waters.Falling from Heaven, she was held by Siva on his head. The very mother ofthe heavens, she has sprung from the highest mountain for running overthe plains and conferring the most precious benefits on all creatures ofthe Earth. She is the highest cause of all things; she is perfectlystainless. She is as subtile as Brahma. She affords the best bed for thedying. She leads creatures very quickly to heaven. She bears away a largevolume of water. She bestows great fame on all. She is the protectress ofthe universe. She is identical with every form. She is very muchcoveted by persons crowned with success. Verily, Ganga is the path toHeaven of those that have bathed in her current. The Brahmanas holdGanga as equalling the Earth in forgiveness, and in the protection andupholding of those that live by her; further, as equalling Fire and Suryain energy and splendour; and, lastly, as always equalling Guha himself inthe matter of showing favours unto the regenerate class. Those menwho, in this life, even mentally seek with their whole souls that sacredstream which is praised by the Rishis, which has issued out of the feetof Vishnu, which is very ancient, and which is exceedingly sacred,succeed in repairing to the regions of Brahman. Fully convinced thatchildren and other possessions, as also regions possessed by every kindof felicity, are transitory or liable to destruction, men of subduedsouls, who are desirous of attaining to that everlasting station which isidentical with Brahma, always pay their adorations to Ganga with thatreverence and love which are due from a son to mother. The men ofcleansed soul who is desirous of achieving success should seek theprotection of Ganga who is like a cow that yields Amrita instead ofordinary milk, who is prosperity’s self, who is possessed of omniscience,who exists for the entire universe of creatures, who is the source of allkinds of food, who is the mother of all mountains, who is the refuge ofall righteous persons, who is immeasurable in puissance and energy, andwho charms the heart of Brahma himself. Having, with austere penances,gratified all the deities with the Supreme Lord (Vishnu), Bhagirathabrought Ganga down on the Earth. Repairing unto her, men always succeedin freeing themselves from every kind of fear both here and hereafter.Observing with the aid of intelligence, I have mentioned to thee only asmall part of the merits of Ganga. My power, however, is inadequate tospeak of all the merits of the sacred river, or, indeed, to measure herpuissance and sanctity. One may, by putting forth one’s best powers,count the stones that occur in the mountains of Meru or measure thewaters that occur in the ocean, but one cannot count all the merits whichbelong to the waters of Ganga. Hence, having listened to these particularmerits of Ganga which I have uttered with great devotion, one should, inthought, word and deed, reverence them with faith and devotion. Inconsequence of thy having listened to those merits which I have recited,thou art sure to fill all the three regions with fame and attain to ameasure of success that is very large and that is difficult of beingattained to by any other person. Verily, thou shalt, soon after that,sport in joy many a region of great felicity created by Ganga herself forthose that reverence her. Ganga always extends her grace unto those thatare devoted to her with humbleness of heart. She unites those that are sodevoted to her with every kind of happiness. I pray that thehighly-blessed Ganga may always inspire thy heart and mine with suchattributes as are fraught with righteousness’.
“Bhishma continued, ‘The learned ascetic endued with high intelligenceand great illumination, and crowned with success, having in this mannerdiscoursed unto that poor Brahmana in the observance of the Sila vow, onthe subjects of the infinite merits of Ganga, then ascended thefirmament. The Brahmana in the observance of Sila vow, awakened by thewords of that ascetic crowned with success, duly worshipped Ganga andattained to high success. Do thou also, O son of Kunti, seek Ganga withgreat devotion, for thou shalt then, as the reward thereof, attain tohigh and excellent success.
“Vaisampayana continued ‘Hearing this discourse from Bhishma that wasfraught with the praise of Ganga, Yudhishthira with his brothers becamefilled with great delight. That person who recites or hears recited thissacred discourse fraught with the praise of Ganga, becomes cleansed ofevery sin.'”