The River Ganges is Sacred for The Hindus so much so that one is expected to take a Holy Dip in the Ganges to rid of the Sins.
Important places of Pilgrimage Centers, from Haridwar, Rudra Prayag,Gaya ,Allahabad, Benares are located on the banks of the River Ganges or its tributaries.
Lord Siva has Ganges on his Head and she is considered to be his wife.
The reference to Ganges as Lord Siva is not as frequent as, say, Lord Vishnu with SriDevi and Bhoodevi.
How come the Ganges had landed on Lord Siva’s head?
Bhagiratha a King in the Solar dynasty,ancestor of Sri Rama wanted to perform Sraddha for his ancestors.
He was advised that he could not perform this as his ancestors, sons of Sagara were cursed by Sage Kapila(Founder of Nyaya System of Indian Philosophy considered an Incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and were turned into ashes.
They could be absolved of their sins and their State if Bhagiratha could somehow get the River Ganges down to Earth from the Heavens.
Ganges is believed to be at the feet of Lord Vishnu and the auspicious time if dribbles out of Vishnu’s feet is called Vishnupathi, equivalent to Pradosha of Lord Siva(read my post on Vishnupathi Punya Kaala).
On the advice of his Preceptors, Bhagiratha, started a Penance for Lord Siva.
His Penance was so powerful that Indra, fearing for his Kingdom disturbed it quite a few times,
For more on this please refer Vishnu Purana,
At one such instances the Ganges came with such a Force down to the earth, that the whole world trembled.
Bhagiratha prayed Lord Siva to control her and when Lord Siva attempted to do so, Ganges became furious, for she was from the feet of Lord Vishnu, she came down more force with the intention of drowning Lord Siva and fell on His head in torrents.
Lord Siva, angry, just let the Ganges hit Him and simply locked His braided His Locks and Ganges was stuck in His head.
This is how the Ganges landed on Siva’s head, and been so ever since.
After a lot of attempts Bhagiratha got the Ganges down to earth, had Tharpana performed.
I shall post on this later.
How come Ganges is called Lord Siva’s wife, for Siva is considered to be an Ardhanari( He is the personification of Parvati/Uma and Sivam and has shared His Sthula Body with Shakti)?
In fact we have a temple in Tamil nadu, Tiruchengodu where Lord Siva appears as Ardhanareeswara.
Sathi, another name for Goddess Parvathi,after her self-immolation at her father’s Home because he insulted Lord Siva, was requested by the Deavas ,Brahma and Vishnu to be reborn and be reunited with Lord Siva, for with out Her presence the Universe will not function.
She is as close to Siva as word is to meaning,
“Vagarthadaiva samprktau vagarthaa pratipattaye
Jagatah pitarau vande Parvati Parameshwehvaran
” In order to achieve the comprehension of word and meaning, I salute
the parents of the universe, Parvati AND Parameshwara, who are
inseperable like word and its meaning.” Kumara sambhava, Kalidasa.
“சொல்லும் பொருளும் என, நடம் ஆடும் துணைவருடன்
புல்லும் பரிமளப் பூங்கொடியே. நின் புதுமலர்த் தாள்
அல்லும் பகலும் தொழும் அவர்க்கே அழியா அரசும்
செல்லும் தவநெறியும், சிவலோகமும் சித்திக்குமே. Abirami Andhadhi, Tamil.
She agreed and promised that she would be born as in two forms to Himavan.
Before Joining Lord Siva at Kailash, as requested by Brahma while beseeching her to be reborn, she entered Brahma’s Kamandalu( a vessel used for performance od daily duties; filled with water)
‘Andhardhanaasabhaagena Sthithaa Brahma kamandalou’ Srimad Bhagavatham.
Once Lord Siva along with Parvati,went to have a Darshan of Lord Vishnu.
As Lord Siva is known for His Musical Prowess(Sama Gana Priya), Lord Vishnu requested Siva to sing a song.
The song was so captivating, Vishnu asked Siva for an encore and Siva Obliged.
The Raaga is called’ Sree Raaga’ , this raga is in vogue even to-day in Carnatic Music.
So moving was the Raaga sung by Siva, Lord Vishnu became transformed into a Musical Flow(Rasa Pravaha)
Brahma decided that as the Brahman, in the Form of Siva has sung,The Nada , the Attribute of Reality(Sound) is expressed and another Attribute of Brahman, Vishnu has become Rasapravaha,Brahma took the Prvaha in his Kamandalu, which contained Parvathi as Water.
Thus the Ganges has the attributes of Brahman, the Reality , Srushti(Brahma),Sthithi(Vishnu) and Samhara (Sankara,Siva).
She was born to Himavan in two forms and one from was invisible to the others.
Their fore the Ganges is very sacred to the Hindus,
There are other interpretations as well.
The post is based on Srimad Bhagavatha Purana, Vishnu Purana.