Ganga Devi: The Divine River That Flows in The Himalayas

Dylan Smith feeling his pulse in Ganges
It is rather easily evident to feel the divinity of Gaṅgā Devī गङ्गा (The Ganges River) after bathing, swimming, or dipping (snāna स्नान) in/with the river.
Gaṅgā starts from Gomukh, the terminus of the Gangotri Glacier in the western Himālayas, and flows for 2,525 km through India and Bangladesh, eventually emptying into the Bay of Bengal (North Eastern part of the Indian Ocean, west of India).
Gaṅgā jal (water from the Ganges River) carries the rejuvenating energies of the Himālalyas, deep healing frequencies that percolate the glaciers, snow melts and rain falls that run into the river that flows throughout the Himālalyas: the abode of the Pure Infinite Silence.
Gaṅgā jal is also sacred as she is abundant with celestially charged water molecules that carry the meditative energy and mantras of the many yogis and sages who have lived along its banks for over thousands of years.
Gaṅgā is the ultimate purifier. The river purifies any object or living being that bathes in it or receives its coherently structured water. Gaṅgā is the essence of Shuddha Sattva: transcends the guṇas (primal attributes of nature) to emanate absolute purity. Gaṅga is lucid as heaven’s crystal.
Gaṅgā is a Goddess and form of Śakti (Divine Feminine). 
Ganga Devi in Varanasi, India
Her water carries the grace, blessings and power of the Divine Mother.
She is the string of pearly water-beads that adorn Lord Śiva’s jata (she is the dynamic flow of life itself that springs forth from the unmanifest field of Pure Consciousness, the Infinite Silent Himālayan glacier that holds all that which is yet to manifest in Pure Unity).
Drinking (clean) gaṅga jal, mostly from the upper part of the river, or adding a few drops to ones water, herbal tea or herbal juice is a rasāyana (elixir to spread the essence of longevity within the human body).

The Mythological Story of Ganga Devi

Ganga Devi
Goddess Gaṅgā descended from heaven (svarga) in the form of a river, whose purpose is to purify and cleanse the karmas (binding actions) of all beings on earth.
The Devī Bhāgavatapurāṇa, a text that narrates all the stories of the Divine Mother, tells the tale of how Gaṅgā was cursed by Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, music & creation, to descend on the earth in the form of a river, which would wash away the karmas of everyone bathing in her waters.
Meanwhile, the Śivamahapurāṇam, narrates the second part of her story. 
It is said that Indra, the king of the demigods, was afraid of the highly auspicious spiritual pursuits of an old King called Sagara. Indra feared that this King would be granted enough puṇya (spiritual merit) that he would claim his throne as king of the Devas.
When King Sagara decided to do an Ashwamedha Yajna, one of the most powerful offerings that can be done to the Gods, Indra decided he would do anything in his power to stop it from happening.
Since the Yajna in question requires a horse to survive traveling around the entire kingdom, the mischievous Lord of the Devas decided to steal the horse and hide it.  Indra then proceeded to tie the horse right next to a meditating sage called Kapil who lived in the netherworld (also known as pātāla or nāgaloka), knowing that whoever dared disturb the deep tāpasya (spiritual discipline) of the yogi would immediately burn to death.
King Sagara sent all of his sons to find the blessed horse, and when they finally found it next to the meditating sage, they confused him to be the horse thief.
The sons of Sagara proceeded to shout heinous words at the meditating sage, and the moment the sage opened his eyes and came out of his meditation all of the sons of Sagara burned to ashes.
Sons of Sagara and Kapil
Since the only remains of Sagara's sons were a few piles of ashes, their final rites could never be properly performed, and their spirits were trapped wondering as ghosts in the netherworld where the sage Kapil lived.
However, Kapil instructed Anushman, Sagara's grandson, that if Gaṅgā Devi ever touched his ancestor's ashes, their spirits would be freed and would rise to svarga.
Anshuman went back to his grandfather with the horse, and Sagara crowned him king, after which he retired to the forest.
Anshuman’s efforts to bring the Gaṅgā down to earth were not fruitful. His son Dilipa did not succeed either.
But Dilipa’s son Bhagiratha was absolutely determined to succeed. He therefore entrusted the kingdom to his ministers and went to the forests to practice austerities to bring the Gaṅgā to earth.

Gaṅgā's Descent

Bhagiratha performed a very strong tāpasya (spiritual austerity) for many years and, finally, Sarasawati's curse became effective. Gaṅgā started to come down to earth in the form of a river. But there was a problem: the incredible force of Gaṅgā’s descent would wash away the entire earth.
And so Bhagiratha turned to Lord Shiva and prayed for him to help break Gaṅgā's fall.
Bhagiratha turned to Lord Shiva and prayed for him to break up Gaṅgā’s descent, and so he did.
Gaṅgā, fell at full speed on Shiva's head. But Shiva calmly trapped her in his matted locks of hair and instead let her out in small streams, which further blessed her holy waters.

Once Gaṅgā Devi's currents reached pātāla and flowed over the ashes of Bhagiratha's ancestors, the souls of the princes were redeemed.
Since this was achieved by Bhagiratha’s efforts, Gaṅgā is also called Bhagirathi.

Raga Mala Painting of Shiva releasing Gaṅgā from his matted locks