My adorations to all,
Greetings and best wishes on the occasion of Kartik Snaan.
As you are aware, the entire month of Kartik (8th lunar month named after Kartikeaya) is sacred but the Purnima (full moon) day of this month is extra special. This day is referred to as Kartik Snaan or popularly referred to as ‘Teerat’. The word ‘teerat’ has evolved through usage from the Sanskrit word Tirtha, meaning a shallow part of a body of water that may be easily crossed. A tirtha, therefore, provides the inspiration to enable a devotee to cross over from Samsara (worldly entanglements) to the side of Moksha (freedom from limitations). These tirthas are sanctified by Ishwara Himself. In addition, history has recorded the great sacrifices and penances of many Saints and Sages at these locations. The accumulated punya (blessings) from these penances continue to purify all who visit with Vishwas (faith). Foremost, above all these places, is the purifying and holy GANGA. SHE represents the heart and soul of India and Hindus throughout the world.
Perhaps the first line of this bhajan best describes the outlook of Hindus towards Ganga Maa.
“Mano to mai Ganga Maa hu, na mano to behata paani” – for those who have faith, She is indeed the beloved Mother, for those without faith, She is just a flowing river.
Ganga is the ever flowing river of love and people have great belief in her divine powers of healing and regeneration. She is the embodiment of purity, piety and spiritual rejuvenation.
According to our Shastras, Ganga Mai comes from the feet of Vishnu Bhagawan which signifies and reminds us of pure love or Bhakti. From the feet of Vishnu Bhagawan she goes to the head of Lord Shiva. The significance of this is that Ganga Mai brings knowledge to the world. It is from the head of Lord Shiva that we received the sacred teachings of Sanatan Dharma in the form of the four Vedas. Ganga Maa is also ever flowing reminding us that man should always perform Karma yoga. As Bhagawat Gita, Ch2.V50 states ‘Yoga karmashu kowshalam’ work done to perfection is verily Yoga. Hence, Ganga Maa is a reminder to humanity of the three paths of Yoga.
In the Bhagavad Gita, we are taught that there are three paths that lead to Moksha. The three paths are Karma (Action), Bhakti (Devotion) and Jnana (Knowledge). Ganga Mai is the embodiment of these three paths. It is noted in our shastras that one who takes a bath in the Ganges will be absolved of all sins. It is very common that when someone is about to die a few drops of Ganga jal (water) is placed in the mouth. The hope is that they will be purified and be absolved of all sins and reach the abode of Bhagawan.
It is mentioned in our shastras that Varun Dev (the deity of water) blesses all the waters of earth with extra sacredness during the month of Kartik. Devotees will arise early in the morning, taking ceremonial baths at various holy rivers and worship Ganga Mai, Surya Bhagawan, Tulsi Maa, Vishnu Bhagwan and Lord Shiva with great devotion. On Purnima day however, all will turn their focus on the worship of Ganga Maiya.
Millions throughout India and the world over throng the foreshores and riverbanks to cleanse their body and mind with the purifying waters of Ganga Maa. In particular, all the sacred centres along Ganga from Gomukh, Gangotri, Haridwar, Rishikesha, Prayag, Kashi, to Ganga Sagar are buzzing with activities of devotees having their ceremonial baths, performing poojas and making their offerings. The remainder of the day is observed with vrat (fasting) and many attend their Mandir where special satsangs are conducted.
As I reflect upon Ganga Maa, I see her ever flowing pure love and compassion towards her children. May this reflection inspire us to live our lives in the same way as Ganga Maa.