By Aparna Menon
River Ganga, the most sacred river of the Hindus, is one of the major rivers of Northern India. Mythically, Bhagirathi is considered to be the true source of this river. However, in hydrology, Alaknanda is the main source of the Ganga, due to its length and abundance of water.
The head waters of the River Bhagirathi are formed at Gomukh, at the foot of the Gangotri Glacier. While, the head waters of the Alaknanda are formed by snowmelt from the mountain peaks of Nanda Devi, Trishul and Kamet.
The Alaknanda rises at the confluence of the Satopanth and Bhagirath Kharak glaciers, a little above the Mana Pass, which is at the Indo-Tibet border. At the Mana Gorge, the river Saraswati is believed to go into the Earth, resurfacing at the Allahabad Sangam.
Just below the bridge built across the gorge, most of the water of the Saraswati gushes down into the Earth, however, there is a small amount of water that flows ahead to meet with the Alaknanda at Keshav prayag. Here, the Saraswati is green and Alaknanda is brown.
Just below this gorge is the Mana village where there is a bridge across the Saraswati, called the Bhimpul. As per Hindu mythology, this bridge was built by Bhima to help him and his four brothers, the Pandava’s along with their wife Draupadi, cross over the river. Across the bridge is the trekking route to Alkapuri, from where the Alaknanda originates.
At the Mana village there is a cave known as Vyasa gufa. It is believed that Ved Vyas dictated the Mahabharat to Ganesh in this cave, who wrote it down for later generations to read.
Badrinath mandir is in the Mana valley, built between the Narparvat and Narayan parvat.
Going downstream, beyond the Badrinath valley, the next confluence is at Vishnuprayag. Here the green Alaknanda meets the brown Dhauli ganga.
As the river flows down the hills past Joshimath and beyond, Nandakini merges with Alaknanda at Nandprayag. Here Nandakini is green in colour while Alaknanda is brown.
The Pindari river which originates at the Pindari Glacier meets the Alaknanda at Karnaprayag. The darker river here is Pindari, while the lighter one is Alaknanda.
At Rudraprayag, Alaknanda meets the Mandakini. Mandakini originates ahead of Kedarnath and in the photograph above it is the darker river.
The last in the list of the confluences is Deoprayag. Here the brown Alaknanda meets the green Bhagirathi and from here onwards, she becomes Ganga, or the River Ganges.
These six rivers and their confluences are considered to be very sacred for all Hindus. Known popularly as the Panch Prayag, devotees make it a point to stop at each one of these confluences as they head towards Badrinath and Kedarnath.
After the merger at Deoprayag, the Ganga flows through the narrow Himalayan Valley, emerging at Rishikesh and then at the pilgrim town of Haridwar. Haridwar onwards, the Ganga flows southeast through the plains of Northern India, being the main source of life all along her path. Over the years we have been polluting this river so much that, today we stand at a position where Cleaning the Ganga has become one of the most important missions of all Indians.
Aparna has been a freelance journalist with more than 10 years of experience in writing for various newspapers.
NOTE: Views expressed are the author’s own. Janta Ka Reporter does not endorse any of the views, facts, incidents mentioned in this piece.