Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Ganges

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GANGES (gan'jēz), a river of Hindustan, one of the greatest rivers of Asia, rising in the Himalaya Mountains, in Garhwál state, and formed by the junction of two head streams, the Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda, which unite at Deoprag, 10 miles below Srinagar, 1,500 feet above sea-level. The Bhagirathi, as being a sacred stream, is usually considered the source of the Ganges, rising at the height of 13,800 feet, but the Alaknanda flows farther and brings a larger volume of water to the junction. At Hardwar, about 30 miles below Deoprag, the river fairly enters the great valley of Hindustan, and flows in a S. E. direction till it discharges itself by numerous mouths into the Bay of Bengal, after a course of about 1,500 miles. During its course it is joined by 11 large rivers, the chief being the Jumna, Son, Ramganga, Gumti, Gogra, Gandak and Kusi. In the rainy season the flat country of Bengal is overflowed to the extent of 100 miles in breadth, the water beginning to recede after the middle of August. The Ganges delta has the Hugli on the W., the Meghna on the E. and commences about 200 miles, or 300 by the course of the river, from the sea. Along the sea it forms an uninhabited swampy waste, called Sunderbunds, or Sundarbans, and the whole coast of the delta is a mass of shifting mud banks. The W. branch, the Hugli, is the only branch commonly navigated by ships. The Meghna, or main branch, on the E. is joined by a branch of the Brahmaputra. Some of the principal cities on the Ganges and its branches, ascending the stream, are Calcutta, Murshedabad, Bahar, Patna, Benares, Allahabad, Cawnpur, and Faruckabad. The Ganges is navigable for boats of a large size nearly 1,500 miles from its mouths, and it forms a great channel for traffic.

It is an imperative duty of the Hindus to bathe in the Ganges, or at least to wash themselves with its waters, and to distribute alms, on certain days. The Hindus believe that whoever dies on its banks, and drinks of its waters before death, is exempted from the necessity of returning into this world and commencing a new life. The sick are therefore carried to the bank of the Ganges, and its water is a considerable article of commerce in the remoter parts of India.