Ganges in Greek Geographer’s Writings! (Post No.4090)

Written by London Swaminathan

Date: 17 July 2017

Time uploaded in London-21-37

Post No. 4090

Pictures shown here are taken from various sources such as Facebook friends, Books, Google and newspapers; thanks.


India is the land of mighty rivers, and Ganga is the holiest of all those rivers. Ganga’s sister stream Yamuna is also worshipped because of Lord Krishna’s association with the river. Their banks are dotted with temples and shrines and thousands upon thousands worship daily the sacred streams. The principal centres of worship on the Ganges are Gangotri, the source of the Ganges in the mountain; Haridwar, where she forsakes her mountain home; Triveni Sangam (Allahabad) where she joins water with Yamuna (Jumna) and the mythical stream, the Sarasvati; Benares (Varanasi), the holiest city for the Hindus; and Sagar Island, where she mingles with the ocean.


According to the Greek geographer Strabo (64 BCE to 24 CE), Hindus worshipped Jupiter Pluvius, the River Ganges, and the gods of the country. This Jupiter Pluvius was Indra (Strabo 15-1-69). This shows Ganges was worshipped by the Hindus 2000 years ago which was noted by a Greek writer.


The day of Ganga’s supposed descent on earth, the tenth of the light half of Jeshth (June), and the day of the full moon or Kartik (October) are observed as festivals in her honour by all Hindus.


Water Power!

“Take away, O Waters, whatsoever is wicked in me, what I have done by violence or curse, and untruth” is a Vedic prayer repeated often today (Rig Veda 1-22-3)

So strong is the popular belief in the sanctity of the river that both in private life as well as in the law-courts people often give up cherished claims if their opponents deny them when holding Ganges water in their hands or swearing by the Ganges.

In the Mahabharata it is said that the “Gita comprises all the Sastras, i.e.sacred writings, Hari (Vishnu) all the gods and the Ganges all the Sacred places”.

In addition to the Ganges there are many others which are regarded as sacred by the Hindus. River Narmada also considered sacred for burning dead bodies on its banks.


Hindu River Marathon!


To follow the course of any river on foot is considered a highly meritorious act. A pilgrim, for example, sets out from the source of Ganges at Gangotri and walks by the left bank of the river to its mouth, at Ganga sagara; then turning round, he proceeds by the right side back to Gangotri, when he departed. This takes six years to accomplish. In the same way a pilgrim starts from the source of Narmada, a peak on the Vindhya Mountains, and walks to the mouth near Broach and back. This takes three years. The rivers Godavari and Krishna require only two years for the same process. Of course, the merit accumulated is in proportion to the time occupied in pilgrimage and the sacredness of the ground traversed.


Romans and Persians

Romans and Persians did something like a river worship in the olden days.

Gen.Sleeman points out that among the Romans and ancient Persians rivers were propiated  by sacrifices. When Vitellius crossed the Euphrates with the Roman legions to put Tiridates on the throne of Armenia, he propiated the river by the scrfice of a hog, a ram and a bull. Tiridates himself sacrificed a horse. Tacitus does not praise the river god, but the stream itself.


Plato makes Socrates condemn Homer for making Achilles behave disrespectfully towards the river Xanthus in offering to fight him (illiad 20-73); and towards the river Spercheus, another acknowledged god, in presenting to the dead body of Patroclus the locks of his hair which he had promised to the river (Iliad 23-14—53)

Hindu customs such as worshipping a river and giving hair to god, prevailed in those places 2000 years ago. But the beauty of Hinduism is that these customs prevail in India with the same fervour, but in other countries it has gone into the history books.




Leave a comment


  1. In recent times, Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother demonstrated the visible purifying power of Ganga waters. A modern Indian savant Gurudev Tagore writes:

    “India holds sacred, and counts as places of pilgrimage, all spots which display a special beauty or splendour of nature…..Here, man is free, not to look upon nature as a source of supply of his necessities but to realise his soul beyond himself. The Himalayas of India are sacred so are the Vindhya hills. her majestic rivers are sacred , like Manasa and the confluence of the Ganges and the Yamuna are sacred. India has saturated with her love and worship the great nature with which her children are surrounded……India has gained the world through worship – through communion of soul.
    “But we seem to have forgotten that all worship has also its duty of service, and in order truly to realise and approach the divine presence in the water and the air we have reverently to keep them clean and pure and healthful…..
    my reverence goes out to the man, who when taking an immersion, can receive the water upon his body, and into his mind as well, in a devout spirit – for him the grimy touch of habit has not been able to tarnish the everlasting mystery which is in fire and earth, water and food; he has overcome, by the sensitiveness of his soul, the gross materialism – the spirit of contempt, of the average man, which impels the latter to look upon water as mere liquid matter.” [ From his essay: The Message of the Forest ]

    To me, this passage appears to be a paraphrase of the Rig Vedic verse 1-22-3 cited above!

  2. I found another beautiful passage on Ganga in Tagore, as under:

    ” The Ganges carries in her bosom the insignia of India’s real greatness. In her sacred currents has commingled the history of the union of many lands, many ages and many minds. So India delivers a special message of self-revelation through the river Ganges, which extends from the massive shoulders of the Himalayas to the far-off Eastern Ocean. She is hanging on the heart of India like a sacred-thread (yajnopavita) linking up the memories of her centuries of penance in the cause of Wisdom and Religion.”
    [ From the essay: Greater India ]


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