Ganga emerges from the Gaumukh deep in the Himalayas and covers over 2,500 kilometers to reach the Bay of Bengal. Ganga is considered as the holiest river as per Hindu mythology. In ancient India, learning and pilgrimage hubs were established on the bank of the Ganga, considering it the most sacred place on the earth. The water of the Ganga is believed to possess magical properties of healing diseases.
Being a heavenly river, there is a famous story about the emerging of Ganga on earth.
In ancient times, there was a king named Sagar who had 60,000 sons. Once the king conducted an Ashwamedh yagya. The Ashwamedh ashwa( horse) was nowhere to be found. The king sent his sons to trace it out. They found the horse near a place where sage Kapil was meditating. The royal sons sought an explanation from the sage thinking him guilty. The disturbed sage turned them into ashes in anger.
Sons of Sagar could gain salvation only if the Ganga flowed over their ashes. Bhagirath was the descendant of the Sagar dynasty. He started praying Brahma to please him and to bring Ganga on the earth. Being pleased by the prayers, Brahma released Ganga from his kamandal.
In the Mahabharata, Vanparv, 85/89-90-93, it is said:
Just as fire burns the fuel, in the same way if one were to bathe in the Ganga even after hundreds of forbidden deeds, the water of the Ganga would cleanse them all. In Satyayug all pilgrimages produced results. In Tretayug Pushkar, in Dwaparyug Kurukshetra and in Kalyug, Ganga would be most important. The very name of Ganga purifies a sinner. The sight of it is auspicious. Bathing in it or drinking a few drops purifies seven generations.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna says:
Amongst the rivers, I am Ganga.
In other religious texts it is said:
The medicine for spiritual ills is the water of Ganga. The doctor who cures these ills is none other than Lord Vishnu.
The Padampuran says Ganga can cleanse away every sin. The mere influence of Ganga, the sins of several births are washed away.
The Agnipuran says, Ganga blesses salvation, whoever baths in it and drink a drop of it. There is no other holier pilgrimage than the Ganga.
In the Skandpuran, Kashi p., 27/49, it is said:
Just as fire burns on touching it even though one does not want to be burnt, in the same way Ganga washes away the sins of mankind even when it is not so intended.
Research proves, Ganga water never deteriorates if stored. It has rich minerals which can destroy diseases. Dying people are believed to achieve salvation if a drop of Ganga water is given at the time of their death. Though faith and devotion plays an important role to avail the privileges.
Your Questions answered…
What should be the goal of a human being?
The goal of a human being should be to attain unity with the infinite.
Does the reading or recitation of religious texts make a person learned?
Applying the learning from the religious contents does make the person learned.