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In Himalayas, Ganges Began with Divine Help

The Ganges River is 1,500 miles long from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. The river's water is the lifeblood for more than 600 million people in India and Bangladesh.
Lindsay Mangum, NPR /
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The Ganges River is 1,500 miles long from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. The river's water is the lifeblood for more than 600 million people in India and Bangladesh.

The Ganges River — Ganga in Hindi — is the lifeblood of more than 600 million people in India and Bangladesh.

Farmers depend on the river for their crops. Millions depend on its water for washing, cooking, drinking and to carry away their waste. And many worship the Ganges as a goddess, whose waters will cleanse them of sin and help them attain moksha, or salvation, by carrying their ashes to heaven.

Yet the Ganges is under great threat from pollution and a rapidly modernizing India, whose appetite for water far outstrips the river's capacity.

In the first of a six-part series, independent producer Julian Crandall Hollick travels deep into the Himalayas in search of the source of the Ganges. His journey begins in the tiny village of Bhaironghati, where villagers take a two-foot high statue of the goddess Ganga and prepare to take her to her summer temple at Gangotri. That's where, Hindus believe, the river came down to Earth in a lock of hair.

As the ceremony to install the goddess gets under way in Gangotri, Hollick hears the story about how Hindus believe the Ganges descended from heaven.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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