The Goddess Ganga & Divine Shaktis

Goddess Ganga & the Ganges 

According to some accounts of Ganga’s story, the Sage Bhagirata was on a mission to help free his thousands of grand uncles from this world. They had long ago angered Sage Kapila, who then, just by opening his eyes, had reduced them all to ashes. Since there was no performance of last rites for them, they were not able to reach the higher realms and be free of earth’s bondage. The only way they could be freed was to have their ashes cleansed by the flow of Ganga’s waters.

With Bhagiratha’s prayers and pleas on behalf of his ancestors, Ganga eventually appeared before him and asked what it was that he wanted. He told her about his ancestors and his desire to free them. He asked her if she would please come down to earth and give her blessings to the ashes of his ancestors. She explained to him that the descent of her waters would be so forceful as to cause destruction and plunge her all the way down into the nether world. Only Shiva could control the flow of her waters.

Bhagiratha then prayed to Lord Shiva, who then told him that what he could do was hold Ganga in his matted hair locks and thus be able to reduce the force of her waters descending to earth. Ganga took pride in the fact that she had to be controlled by Shiva, who then held her captive in his matted hair. Bhagiratha prayed to Lord Shiva again begging him to release Ganga so she could bless the ashes of his ancestors. Shiva agreed and Ganga descended. Bhagiratha was taking her to where the ashes were, but then the flow of her waters disrupted the peace of Sage Jahnu, who then took all of her into his water pot.

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Ma Ganga - The Goddess

Credit:Digital Bodleian

Again Bhagiratha pleaded to have her released, which she was as Jahnavi, Jahnu’s daughter. Ganga was then able to bless Bhagiratha’s ancestors who were then freed from the nether world. 

Ganga became known to people as the goddess of purification and forgiveness, and people bathe in her waters to free themselves from their ill-deeds and to help be released from the cycle of earth life.

Divine Shaktis

The River Project-Ma Ganga teams chose to connect with the energies of different divine shaktis and gods to help us navigate through the challenges of this project.

Kali
Transformation

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ICredit: Komala Amorim

Kali is one of the incarnations of Durga, having emerged from her forehead and can be seen as the manifestation of Durga's rage. She is the fiercest of them all. She is a demon slayer. And when Adharma (disharmony with the world and nature) takes over the world and conquers the universe, Kali absorbs all of creation (which we humans see as death and destruction) in order to get it ready for a new cycle of creation. She decides the best time to start the next cycle. These cycles, the divine play and energy of Kali, continue over and over endlessly. it is the energy of transformation.

Lizzy relates to Kali through her own ability to constantly transform herself, her life, and the people around her.

Tiamat
Goddess of Primordial Chaos and the Salt Seas

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Tiamat is a very important deity in ancient Mesopotamian myth. She was the embodiment of the primordial sea at the very beginning of creation and ruled over the first generation of gods. She personified the salt seas in particular, as well as chaos. Tiamat’s chaos was challenged by the gods younger than her in the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish after they killed her beloved, Apsu (who embodied groundwater). Her appearance is not fully known, though she is often depicted as a sea serpent or dragon. She was defeated by the younger god Marduk, who created the Earth with her remains. Her downfall symbolizes the downfall of female deities in power, both on a larger scale in the cosmos and socially. Marduk created heaven and earth from her body and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers from her eyes.

 

Tiamat’s story and energy appeal to Tehreem because of the emphasis that there cannot be peace without chaos and the importance of balance. The creation story of two such important rivers in the Indus Valley and their origin story reminds her of how spiritual and valuable rivers are, dating back to the ancient civilizations which they helped foster. Every river has such vast history behind it, and this story truly conveys the spirituality and intangible value of the bodies of water on our planet. 

Radha
Love & Compassion

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Credit: Jagadguru Kripalu Yog, www.jkyog.org

Radha is known as the chief of the Gopis (milkmaids), as the lover of Lord Krishna, and in some traditions as the avatar of the goddess Lakshmi. Her true meaning and value is often very subtle and elusive.  It is believed that she is with Lord Krishna in all of his incarnations. Some believe that they are separate yet inseparable. Some say Radha is the feminine form of Krishna, the  internal power while Krishna is the powerful one. She represents love, devotion and compassion.

Ayo relates to Radha and the sense of internal power and connection with all in the universe. She connects with the unconditional love she experienced through her father.

Glooscap
Restorer of
Peace and Balance

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Credit: Tomah Joseph, 1884

Glooscap is a cultural hero of the Mi’kmaq, responsible for bringing peace and balance along with the knowledge of good and evil, fire, tobacco, fishing nets, canoes, summer, and protection from evil. Mi’kmaq are Indigenous peoples of present-day northeast US and the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. In one story, an evil frog-monster was keeping all of Earth’s water for itself and the Mi’kmaq were at risk of great dehydration and death. Glooscap came to their aid and killed the frog-monster. From the body came rushing waters. The people in the nearby villages were moved to dive into the water where they became the first water creatures, like leeches, frogs, crabs, and fish. As the water continued to flow, these creatures were carried out to the ocean where they spread all over the world.

 

Suzanna connects to Glooscap for several reasons. For one, she connects to him because of her own distant Mi’kmaq heritage, along with her connection to the area as her family were among the first English settlers in Nova Scotia. For another, Glooscap serves as a reminder to pursue justice. When accessibility to a basic right like clean water is removed, then we must pursue justice and restoration. The well-being of the people and water are intertwined, calling us to take action to improve the health of both.

Durga
Strength & Endurance

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Credit: Durga puja @ pillaicenter.com

Durga is known as the universal mother goddess. The meaning of her name is "incomprehensible" and "difficult to reach". She can be both terrifying and gracious. She is a symbol of the feminine dynamic and is known as a symbol of the infinite power of the universe. She emerges from her formless self in nine different forms of incarnation, all of which are celebrated during the nine-day Navratri festival. 

Karin relates to Durga as mother/defender in her own life through her fierce battles for human rights and the rights of children.

Sedna
Goddess of the Ocean
and the Underworld 

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Credit:  sednaepic.com

Sedna is an Inuit goddess of the water and the underworld, or Adlivun (below the land and sea). Sedna is usually said to be the daughter of creator-god Anguta, who punished Sedna for some kind of disobedience, such as trying to eat her parents, or marrying a dog (there are many versions of the story of Sedna). Anguta pushes her out of his kayak, and as Sedna is trying to hold onto the side, Anguta chops off her fingers. Sedna’s fingers are said to have become the first seals, whales and walruses, and it is said that Sedna descended to rule the deep.

 

Sam is inspired by Sedna because her story reminds him of the Canadian Inuit stories (and other indigenous stories) he grew up listening to. Sedna reminds Sam of the power of a water body close to home-the arctic-and how important it is to protect this place. He hopes to apply this same energy to his work toward protecting Ma Ganga.

Webpage written by Ayo Oum Shanti, Tehreem Qureshi,  Samuel W. Zimbel and Suzanna Schofield