The Ganges is the largest and most famous river in India. It rises in an ice-cave, known as Bhagirathi, in the Himalayas, and rushes as a roaring mountain torrent to Gangotri, which is more than 10,000 feet above the sea. About 130 miles from its source, it receives the river Alaknanda and then flows near the little town of Hardwar. To the Hindus, the Ganges, or Mother Ganga, is a sacred river; and many pilgrims travel to Hardwar every year to bathe in the holy waters and worship in the many temples of that little town. At Hardwar, the Ganges is a fair-sized stream of clear, blue water.
From Hardwar, the Ganges flows south-east past Farukabad to Kanpur, and thence to Allahabad. At Allahabad, it is joined by the Jamuna, itself a large river, which also originates in Garhwal in the Himalayas, near the source of the Ganges. Both the rivers are looked on as sacred, and the place where their waters join is a favourite place of pilgrimage. It is thought to be a pious act to bathe at the junction of the waters, and many pilgrims flock to Allahabad every year for this purpose.
After leaving Allahabad, the river flows eastwards past Mirzapur to Benares. Benares is the holiest place on this holy river. It is a city of temples and is always crowded with pilgrims, who come there from all parts of India to bathe in the river and worship in the temples. Many pilgrims come there to die, for to die at Benares, and to have one’s body burnt on the banks of the Ganges and one’s ashes cast into its water, is a great ambition with pious Hindus.
From Benares the Ganges, now a great river, flows on past Ghazipur, Patna, Monghyr, and Bhagalpur, until, 140 miles from the sea, it joins with another great river, the Brahmputra, to form the Sunderbans, the biggest delta or river mouth in the world. On its most western branch, the Hugli stands the great city of Calcutta, the largest in India. Up the river to Calcutta come the steamers and great liners. Eighty miles lower down, it empties itself by its many mouths into the Bay of Bengal.