Sipping holy water three times, while repeating God’s name, is believed to make one pure. It is the rite of achamana. Then, there’s jalaanjali, whereby a handful of water is offered to God to make its every drop holy. Performing jalajapam involves chanting mantras while standing in holy waters; it is said to amplify the impact of the mantras. Jalaadhara is a kind of penance observed by standing under a strong current of a waterfall; the water pressure on the head is said to remove evil thoughts from one’s mind.
Hindu customs are never devoid of water in their rites. Jala–water–is considered a pure and precious element in the Hindu culture, and is therefore likened to nectar, medicine, even amrit (drink of immortality). Running water–like in rivers–is considered particularly pure. Moving water is known to increase negative ions in the environment, which improves one’s sense of wellbeing. No wonder Hindus believe a bath in holy rivers can further one on their path to attaining moksha. Here is Soulveda exploring the stories behind some of the most revered pilgrim rivers for a holy bath:
Haridwar in North India is home to a significant landmark–Har Ki Pauri–that is considered holy by the Hindus. The site is on the bank of River Ganga, where Garuda (a mythical bird) is said to have dropped some amrita (nectar of immortality) from a pitcher, after the Samudra Manthan [the mythical battle of the gods with asuras (demon clan) over amrita]. So, a dip in these waters of Ganga is known to bestow good immunity and robust health upon devotees.
The name ‘Har Ki Pauri’ literally translates to ‘Lord Shiva’s steps’. Yet another legend goes that Lord Vishnu (the preserver) and Lord Shiva (the destroyer) once visited the brahmakund (stepped temple tank) here. Devotees believe that the large footprint on a stone wall by the tank is Vishnu’s. Even Lord Brahma (the creator) is said to have visited the pond to perform a yagna (sacrificial ritual). So, a dip in Har Ki Pauri is considered all the more holy for the presence of trimurti (divine trinity) energies, which can balance the mind, body, and soul of the devotees.
The city of Surat, in Gujarat, was previously known as ‘Suryapur’, meaning the ‘City Of Sun’. It probably derives its name from the legend about the Tapti river that flows in its land. According to Hindu Puranas, Tapti is the daughter of Sun God Surya. They say Surya created Tapti to save himself from the intensity of his own heat, and that every solar eclipse, he meets with his daughter. Therefore, a holy bath in the River Tapti is considered especially auspicious during the celestial event.
As fate would have it, King Dasharatha indeed experienced immense grief when he was forced to send his eldest son Lord Rama on exile. The king died before he could ever see his son again.
The day of Ganga’s descent to earth is celebrated as Makar Sankranti, and hence, a holy bath in her waters on this day is said to cleanse one of all sins.