“The Ganges above all is the river of India, which has held India’s heart captive and drawn uncounted millions to her banks since the dawn of history. The story of the Ganges, from her source to the sea, from old times to new, is the story of India’s civilization and culture, of the rise and fall of empires, of great and proud cities, of adventures of man…” – First Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, 1946
Here are a few facts that provide a glimpse into this sacred and extraordinary river system:
- The Ganga River Basin is one of the largest living river systems in the world, the main stem of the river flows through 5 states of India however the entire catchment provides water to 11 states.
- The Ganga Basin supports numerous diverse ecosystems, from the alpine forests near Gaumukh to the plains of northern India to the mangrove forests and saline mud flats of West Bengal.
- The mouth of River Ganga forms the world’s largest delta, known as Sunderbans, and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.
- This great river supports a population of approximately 500 million people, akin to the population of the United States, Russia and Canada combined. For them, Ganga is life itself, providing water for cooking, bathing, irrigating crops and sustaining livelihoods.
- The Ganga River Basin is 2,150 kilometers long, with over twenty minor and major connecting tributaries spanning over seven Indian states. These waters irrigate one-third of India’s land and account for 25% of the nation’s water resources.
- Her water’s provide over 2,400 MW of hydropower energy to light some of India’s largest cities and towns, including the nation’s capital, Delhi.
- Numerous plant and animal species rely on Ganga’s waters, including extremely endangered animals like the Ganges River Dolphin and the Royal Bengal Tiger.
- On Her banks are India’s greatest pilgrimage sites like Rishikesh, Haridwar, Varanasi, Allahabad and Kolkata, which are visited by millions of people from every corner of the world to quench their thirst for knowledge and liberation.
- Her catchment supports a diverse array of languages, cultures and traditions, ranging from Garhwali, Urdu, from Hindi to Hebrew, from Bhojpuri to Bengali, amongst many others.
- Some over 100 million people took a bath in the holy waters of Mother Ganga during the month long Maha Kumbha Mela of 2013, popularly known as the largest gathering of humanity.
- Along Her and Her tributaries banks lay countless archeological sites, national heritage sites, and world heritage sites such as Nanda Devi Wildlife Sanctuary, Valley of Flowers National Park and the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world.
So what makes Ganga so unique and sacred, referred to by many as Mother Ganga (Ganga Ma) and recognized as part of India’s national identity, and why is it so important to protect Her?
Nearly 500 million people live within the Ganga Basin, who depend on Her for all aspects of daily life, from drinking water to farming to moksha.
The river Ganga has been revered by all people of all religions in India as not only an unending source of nourishment, but as part and parcel of their rich and timeless culture and tradition.
Some of the most diverse ecosystems – and the most endangered species – rely on Ganga, from the alpine forests of Gangotri through the plans of India, to the mangrove swamplands of the Sundarbans.
Ganga has formed an integral part of Indian life, spirituality and culture for thousands of years. All of Her aspects have inspired quotes, action and a place in the scriptures.
Visit the Ganga Library for a variety of sources on Mother Ganga, Her tributaries, and the issues surrounding them.
Visit our YouTube channel to view clips and videos about our actions, Mother Ganga, Her tributaries, and the issues surrounding them.
Our Ganga Maps section offers a comprehensive look at the areas that Mother Ganga flows through.