Ganga! The River Goddess Who Drowned Her Own Children Immediately After Birth

It is said that certain things in life are pre-decided, either due to our destiny or due to our karma. The story of Goddess Ganga killing her newborns is one such saga.

Story of Ganga killing her newborns

King Pratipa was doing penance in the forest when Ganga approaches him and submits herself to him by sitting in his lap on the right side. But King Pratipa said that he could not take her as his wife because this side of the lap belongs to either his son, daughter or daughter-in-law.Hence, he proposed that righteous course would be to be his daughter-in-law and marry his son in future. Ganga agrees to that. King Pratipa grows old and Shantanu was given the kingdom. King Pratipa told him about what conspired with Ganga and advised him to take her as his wife if she happens to approach him some day.

King Shantanu was hunting one day when he saw a beautiful woman near the banks of the river. He was so overwhelmed by the woman’s beauty that he asked her to be his wife or queen. Ganga happily agreed but she also put forward a condition  that the King must not inquire her with any kind of questions of  what she  would  do with her children or else she would be gone from his life forever. King who was captivated by her beauty   agreed   to her condition.

For seven years in a row they had seven children and all of them were drowned by their mother in front of their father, who remembered the promise he had given her about not questioning her about anything she does. But when the eighth son was about to be drowned, King Shantanu asked Ganga how she could drown her own children. And he asked her to leave the eighth son to him. The eighth son was later known as ‘The Great Bhishma’.

Ganga then said that she was just delivering the Vasus from their curse, she also narrated the story of the Vasus.

The story goes, The 8 Vasus or the eight elemental gods representing aspects of nature, are attendant deities of Indra, and later Vishnu.

One fine day these 8 Vasus were traveling with their wives when they came across Sage Vasishta’s ashram. Outside the ashram, they saw “Nandini”, Vasishta’s divine cow. One of the wives was taken in so much by the beauty of the cow, that she requested her husband, Prabhasa, to bring the cow to her. Despite many attempts by Prabhasa, his wife did not yield. She made imploring requests and melted Prabhasa ‘s heart. He agreed and thus, the 8 Vasus took Nandini and her calf by force and disappeared before Vasishta returned to the Ashram.

When Vasishta returned and found Nandini missing, he, through his divine vision, saw all that had happened and cursed the 8 Vasus to be born as Mortal Men in this world.

When the 8 Vasus came to know of this curse, they ran to Vasishta and fell at his feet asking for his forgiveness. Vasishta said that the curse cannot be lifted and has to follow its course. But the effect of the curse can be reduced. He said Vasus to request goddess Ganga to be their mother on earth and ask her to relieve them of their birth as soon as they are born so that they may return to the heavens without long years of suffering. This reduction is granted to 7 of them who supported Prabhasa in his act of stealing. Since Prabhasa was the one who actually stole the cow, the curse will remain in full effect for him and he will have to live his full lifetime on earth like a man. But he will live a great life and be regarded as one of the best souls to have ever walked the earth. Saying this, Vasishta went back into meditation. This was the reason for Ganga to drown her 7 newborns in water and only save the last one.

Relieved to hear this, the Vasus approached Ganga and requested her to be their mother on earth and throw them into the river as soon as they are born. Ganga agreed and came to earth and became Shantanu’s wife to carry out this task.

Sharanya Alva


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