Why Is the Ganges River Sacred to Hindus?

Ian Armstrong/CC-BY-SA 2.0

The Ganges river is sacred to Hindus because it is considered to be the extension of God, Lord Shiva, and therefore, the river is divine and an image of the higher power. Not only does the Ganges hold this sacred quality, but it is able to provide water and agricultural food for 350 million people, as well as nurture the endangered Bengal tiger and the blind freshwater dolphin, the susu.

The Ganges is a cultural, economic and social part of the lives of the people who live near it. The river begins in the center of the Himalayas and then moves through the north Indian plains. It brings people together on a cultural and social level as both the rich and poor visit the Ganges to worship its divinity.

The river is having trouble, however, and part of the reason for the river’s trouble is the divine label it has been given. There are people living in tents and huts around the river because of its divinity as they make pilgrimages to and from the river. These pilgrims burn additional fossil fuel and create a global warming atmosphere that helps to recede the river each year. On top of this problem, many businesses and cities throw their trash and other waste into the river. This threatens the species living within the river, such as the turtles, fish and dolphins.