After Ahilya’s redemption, Lord Ram and Lakshman along with Rishi Vishwamitra went ahead. They reached a place where the holiest of all rivers, Ganga was flowing along its course. Lord Ram was mesmerized and asked Rishi Vishwamitra to narrate the complete story of the origin of Ganga. The wise rishi accepted the request and began with the story.
“Once upon a time, there was a mighty king, Sagar of the Ikshvaku clan. He had two beautiful wives, Keshni and Sumati. The king had all kinds of worldly pleasures but didn’t have a child. One day, he along with his wives decided to go to the jungle to greet Rishi Bhrigu in his hermitage. Upon reaching the hermitage, Sagar meditated for next hundred years only after which he was able to greet the rishi.
Sagar bowed down before the rishi in reverence and told him about his problem. Rishi Bhrigu was so satisfied with Sagar’s meditation that he allowed both his wives to ask for a boon. Keshni and Sumati greeted the rishi with folded palms. Keshni asked for a son whereas Sumati asked for 60,000 sons.
Pleased with them, Rishi Bhrigu granted them the boons. All of them bowed down before the rishi once again and returned to their palace in Ayodhya. After a while, Keshni gave birth to a son named Asmanjas and a tumbi ( a small pot of hollowed gourd) was obtained from the womb of Sumati from which 60,000 sons were extracted.
The king and both the Queen’s were extremely happy to see their young ones. Days passed on and all of them grew up.
Saryu, is a river in Ayodhya that flows in the north direction. Every morning, all the boys in the kingdom used to take bath in it. One day it so happened that Asmanjas came over there along with a boat. He asked all the boys to step inside it and as soon as they did, he flipped the boat upside down.
The parents were shocked to hear about the untimely death of their children and all of them rushed to the palace to inform the king about it.
The wise king apologized for the horrendous accident and banished Asmanjas from his Kingdom.
Anshuman, son of Asmanjas, was the beloved of the king, who thought to declare him as his successor. He called all his ministers, guru and sons in the middle of the Himalayas and Vindhyachal.
Upon reaching the desired place, a yagya (sacred oblation) was conducted and a horse was released. Lord Indra was terrified upon hearing this. Thus he captured the horse and left it in the hermitage of Maharishi Kapil.
Everyone including the soldiers who were appointed to protect the horse at any cost were unaware about how the horse disappeared. All of them rushed to the king and informed him.
Even the king was flabbergasted when he heard the incident. At once, he ordered all his sons to find the horse and bring it back. They bowed down and went off to search the horse.
The searched for it across gardens, parks, lakes, rivers, wells, villages, cities, hermitages of saints, hills, mountains, and forests but unfortunately they didn’t find the horse anywhere. Thus, they returned and told about it to the king.
King Sagar grew furious and ordered his sons to dig the earth. All of them accepted their father’s order and started digging the earth in the east. Seeing their massive strength, all the demigods were terrified and reported the matter to Lord Brahma, who explained them that all of them will soon perish.
After digging the Earth together for hours, all of them reached Pataal (hell) and bowed down before an elephant before explaining it the whole story. After doing so, they travelled towards the south and saw yet another elephant. They took its blessings and moved towards the west. Upon reaching the west, the spotted another elephant. All of them circumambulated it and walked towards the north. Upon reaching the north, they spotted a white elephant and then headed towards the hermitage of Maharishi Kapil.
They were surprised to see the horse standing besides the Maharishi which made them go berserk. They abused and threw cuss words upon him. When maharishi Kapil couldn’t take it any longer, he opened his eyes and turned them in ash.
After waiting for a few days, when none of his sons returned, Sagar ordered his grandson, Anshuman to search for the horse. Anshuman accepted the king’s order and went to look out for it. He searched for it across every hermitage that came along his way and even asked the four elephants in all the four directions of Pataal. Along the way he met Sumiti’s brother, Garuda, who informed Anshuman that all the 60,000 sons of king Sagar had been burnt down to ash.
Anshuman repented upon the untimely death of his 60,000 uncles and performed their last rites. Afterwards, Garuda advised Anshuman to bring the holy river Ganga upon Earth which would put an end to all the sins and miseries and would also provide solace to the 60,000 souls.
Upon hearing this, Anshuman felt a little relieved. Then both of them proceeded to the hermitage of Maharishi Kapil. Garuda explained the whole story to the Maharishi, who then handed over the horse to Anshuman. Both of them touched the Maharishi’s feet and went away.
Garuda dropped Anshuman at his destination and flew Away to his home. Later Anshuman handed over the horse to the king and explained the whole story. After hearing it, King Sagar conducted a yagya and distributed a lot of presents and gifts to the Brahmins. He then began ruling his Kingdom like before and after few years, he handed it over to Anshuman and departed to the forest to spend last years of his life.
After Anshuman, his son Deleep ruled the Kingdom and later on his son Bhagirath became the ruler.
Bhagirath was determined to bring goddess Ganga upon earth. He had a son named Kakustha. Before departing to the forest, he educated his son on how to rule the kingdom and think about the welfare of his subjects.
Upon reaching the dense forest, he stood upon one feet with his hands adjoining each other and pointing towards the sky. He remained in the same posture for thousands of years and pleased Lord Brahma, who then descended upon Earth and allowed Bhagirath to ask for a wish.
Bhagirath greeted Lord Brahma and asked him to let goddess Ganga descend upon Earth. Lord Brahma accepted Bhagirath’s wish but also told him how impractical it was. He told that as soon as Ganga would land upon Earth from the heaven, she would seep down into Pataal and would never return on Earth. He asked Bhagirath to please Lord Shiva who would catch Ganga upon his head. Bhagirath greeted Lord Brahma and departed to Mount Kailash.
Upon reaching Mount Kailash, he stood there upon his thumb for a year and chanted Lord Shiva’s name continuously. Thus lord Shiva was pleased and he appeared in front of him. Bhagirath greeted the lord and asked him to catch hold goddess Ganga. Lord Shiva readily accepted Bhagirath’ wish. He increased the size of his matted locks and as soon as he did it, Lord Brahma allowed goddess Ganga to descend from the heaven to the Earth.
Lord Shiva easily caught hold of goddess Ganga in his matted locks. All the demigods praised Lord Shiva and dropped scented flowers upon him. After sometime, Lord Shiva allowed a drop to fall off his matted locks that divided into 3 rivers. One of them went towards the heaven and was named Mandakini and the other that went towards Pataal was called Prabhavit by the demigods. The third and the last part that remained on Earth was named Ganga.
Bhagirath was amazed to see goddess Ganga and greeted her with adjoined hands. Goddess Ganga asked Bhagirath to bring a chariot and advised him to lead the path.
Hearing this, Bhagirath brought a chariot and goddess Ganga followed him wherever he went. After crossing various mountain ranges and countries, she reached Haridwar, after which she made her way towards Prayag (Allahabad) and Kashi and at last merged with the ocean.
Lord Brahma declared that Ganga would be known as Bhagirathi and would take away all the sins committed by any person who would take a bath in the holy river.”
Thus, after listening the complete story of the origin of goddess Ganga, Lord Ram greeted maharshi Vishwamitra and all of them proceeded towards Janakpuri.