Triveni Sangam

In Hindu tradition Triveni Sangam is the “confluence” of three rivers (Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati). The point of confluence is a sacred place for Hindus, with a bath here said to flush away all of one’s sins and free one from the cycle of rebirth.

Triveni Sangam in Prayagraj (Prayag), has the confluence of three rivers — the Ganges , the Yamuna and the Sarasvati (it is invisible, because according to Hindu mythology it flows underground). The two rivers maintain their visible identity and can be identified by their different colours. The water of the Ganges is clear, while that of the Yamuna is greenish in colour.

A place of religious importance and the site for historic Kumbh Mela held every 12 years, over the years it has also been the site of immersion of ashes of several national leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.

The auspiciousness of the confluence of two rivers is referred to in the Rigveda, which says, “Those who bathe at the place where the two rivers flow together, rise up to heaven”.

Ganges River

The Ganges or Ganga, is a trans-boundary river of Asia which flows through India and Bangladesh. The 2,704 km river originates from the Gangotri Glacier of western Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, and flows south and east through the Gangetic Plain of India and Bangladesh, eventually emptying into the Bay of Bengal.The Ganges is a lifeline to millions who live along its course. It is a sacred river and worshipped as the goddess Ganga in Hinduism. It has been important historically; many former provincial or imperial capitals (such as Prayagraj, Dhaka, Baharampur, Bikrampur, Kampilya, Kannauj, Kara, Kashi, Kolkata, Murshidabad, Munger, Patliputra, and Sonargaon) have been located on its banks.

The Ganges is threatened by severe pollution. This poses a danger not only to humans but also to animals; the Ganges is home to approximately 140 species of fish and 90 species of amphibians. The river also contains reptiles and mammals, including critically endangered species such as the Gharial and South Asian river dolphin. The levels of fecal coliform bacteria from human waste in the river near Varanasi are more than a hundred times the Indian government’s official limit. The Ganga Action Plan, an environmental initiative to clean up the river, has been considered a failure which is variously attributed to corruption, a lack of will in the government, poor technical expertise, environmental planning and a lack of support from the native religious authorities.

Yamuna River

The Yamuna, is the second-largest tributary river of the Ganga and the longest tributary in India. Originating from the Yamunotri Glacier at a height of 6,387 metres on the southwestern slopes of Banderpooch peaks of the Lower Himalaya in Uttarakhand, it travels a total length of 1,376 kilometres and has a drainage system of 366,223 square kilometres, 40.2% of the entire Ganga Basin. It merges with the Ganga at Triveni Sangam, Prayagraj, which is a site of the Kumbh Mela, a Hindu festival held every 12 years.

It crosses several states: Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, passing by Uttarakhand and later Delhi, and meeting its tributaries on the way, including Tons, Chambal, its longest tributary which has its own large basin, followed by Sindh, the Betwa, and Ken. From Uttarakhand, the river flows into the state of Himachal Pradesh. After passing Paonta Sahib, Yamuna flows along the boundary of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and after exiting Haryana it continues to flow till it merges with the river Ganga at Sangam or Prayag in Allahbad (Uttar Pradesh). It helps create the highly fertile alluvial Yamuna-Ganga Doab region between itself and the Ganga in the Indo-Gangetic plain. Nearly 57 million people depend on the Yamuna’s waters. With an annual flow of about 10,000 cubic billion metres (cbm; 8.1 billion acre⋅ft) and usage of 4,400 cbm (of which irrigation constitutes 96 percent), the river accounts for more than 70 percent of Delhi’s water supply. Like the Ganga, the Yamuna is highly venerated in Hinduism and worshipped as the goddess Yamuna. In Hindu mythology she is the daughter of the Sun Deva, Surya, and the sister of Yama, the Deva of Death, hence also known as Yami. According to popular legends, bathing in its sacred waters frees one from the torments of death.

Sarasvati River

The Sarasvati River is one of the rivers mentioned in the Rig Veda and later Vedic and post-Vedic texts. It plays an important role in the Vedic religion, appearing in all but the fourth book of the Rigveda. The goddess Sarasvati was originally a personification of this river, but later developed an independent identity. The Sarasvati is also considered by Hindus to exist in a metaphysical form, in which it formed a confluence with the sacred rivers Ganges and Yamuna, at the Triveni Sangam.According to Michael Witzel, superimposed on the Vedic Sarasvati river is the heavenly river Milky Way, which is seen as “a road to immortality and heavenly after-life.” Rigvedic and later Vedic texts have been used to propose identification with present-day rivers, or ancient riverbeds. The Nadistuti hymn in the Rigveda (10.75) mentions the Sarasvati between the Yamuna in the east and the Sutlej in the west. Later Vedic texts like the Tandya and Jaiminiya Brahmanas, as well as the Mahabharata, mention that the Sarasvati dried up in a desert.

Since the late 19th-century, scholars have identified the Vedic Saraswati river as the Ghaggar-Hakra River system, which flows through northwestern India and eastern Pakistan, between the Yamuna and the Sutlej. Satellite images have pointed to the more significant river once following the course of the present day Ghaggar River. Scholars have observed that major Indus Valley Civilization sites at Kalibangan (Rajasthan), Banawali and Rakhigarhi (Haryana), Dholavira and Lothal (Gujarat) also lay along this course. However, identification of the Vedic Sarasvati with the Ghaggar-Hakra system is problematic, since the Sarasvati is not only mentioned separately in the Rig Veda, but is described as having dried up by the time of the composition of the later Vedas and Hindu epics. In the words of Annette Wilke, the Sarasvati had been reduced to a “small, sorry trickle in the desert”, by the time that the Vedic people migrated into north-west India.

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