Symbolic to Indian civilization and culture, a confluence of intertwined memories of joys and painful cries, a source of unfathomable faith and devotion, a witness of war victories and defeats – Ganga is a river where the soul of India thrived for eons and still lives! It is river that gives life to millions of Indians and it is a river where devotees prefer to take their last breath hoping to wash off all sins they committed. It is ever changing and ever flowing! The importance of Ganga cannot be truly captured in words. Ganga lives in our heart but it is time we learn more about this incredible river. So, let us embark on a journey of 20 interesting Ganga facts.
Interesting Ganga Facts: 1-10
1. The point of origin of Ganga is Gangotri Glacier in Himalayas’ southern slope and it runs through India and Bangladesh, covering a total distance of 1560 miles or 2520 kilometers.
2. Ganga is the home for 140 different species of fish and 90 different species of amphibians, many of which are near extinction today.
3. Ganga is also the home for fresh water dolphins and Ganges sharks, both of which are endangered species with Ganges shark being critically endangered.
4. The Ganges shark is a requiem shark species that is found in Indian rivers Ganga and Brahmaputra. While many confuse this species with bull sharks (that often come to Ganga and then return back to salt water for reproducing), the Ganges shark lives and reproduces in Ganga.
5. River Ganga supports many bird species that are uniquely found in India. They don’t live anywhere else in world.
6. University of Roorkee’s D.S. Bhargava, an environmental engineer, studied and found that Ganga is the only river in the world that decomposes organic wastes at a rate 15 to 25 times faster compared to other rivers in entire world.
7. D.S. Bhargava also found during his 3-year study that the river is capable of reducing its level biochemical oxygen demand way faster than any other river in this world. He explains that organic waste reduces the level of dissolved oxygen in river water when it starts putrefying and Ganga is no different but, an unknown substance in Ganga kills organic material and bacteria and helps to increase the level of dissolved oxygen.
8. Water putrefies or emanates foul odor when level of oxygen depletes because of decomposing organic waste. C.E. Nelson, a British Physician during a return voyage to England took some water from Hooghly river, one of the dirtiest mouths of Ganga and observed that it remained fresh throughout the voyage.
9. New Delhi-based Malaria Research Center found that water taken from Ganga’s upper ambits prevent mosquito breeding and also prevented mosquito breeding when the water was added to any other water from other sources!
10. British bacteriologist by the name Ernest Hanbury Hankin tested Ganga water in 1896 and found that when Vibrio Cholerae, a deadly bacterium known for spreading Cholera was killed within 3 hours after it was added in water from Ganga. He also simultaneously dropped the bacterium in distilled water and found that it survived for more than 48 hours! He eventually concluded that Ganga and its tributary Yamuna have been largely responsible for preventing the spread of Cholera.
Interesting Ganga Facts: 11-20
11. In another independent study conducted by French-Canadian microbiologist by the name Félix d’Herelle in year 1927 and found that water only few feet below floating corpses of people died of Dysentery and Cholera did not contain any germs. It is thought that bacteriophages (viruses that are known for killing bacteria) present in the waters of river Ganga are actually responsible for maintaining the purity of the river’s water.
12. Did you ever hear the term ‘Submarine Fans’? Well, these are actually geological structures submerged in water and are formed by river sedimentation. Ganga too has a Submarine Fan and it is THE LARGEST Submarine Fan in entire world, spanning over a length of 3000 km and width of 1000 km. The maximum thickness of Ganga’s Submarine Fan is 16.5 km. India considers this Fan to be of utmost importance because scientists believe that the fan is vast source of untapped hydrocarbon deposits.
13. The Ganga delta formed by sediment-rich flows of rivers Ganga and Brahmaputra is the largest known river delta in world, spanning over an area of 59,000 square kilometers.
14. The most mystic phenomena of Ganga are weird and inexplicable sounds emanating from the river. Though these sounds are not really unique to Ganga and have been reported in many waterfront communities all around the globe, scientists are yet to provide an acceptable explanation for the same. Often referred to as Barisal Guns or Mistpouffers, these sounds have an uncanny resemblance with sonic boom. In case of Ganga, these Barisal Guns can be heard in the delta region of Brahmaputra and Ganga.
15. Weird thing about the Barisal Guns is that they have been reported long before any aircraft was ever invented. In 1890s, British officer named T.D. LaTouche mentioned these sounds in his journal. Here is an extract from his journal: “…reports of Barisal guns occurring with the earthquake shocks, but they also are said to occur without, and to have been frequent before the big earthquake. A host of plausible explanations may now exist for these enigmas, including earthquakes, rock bursts, mud volcanoes, explosive venting of gas, storm-driven waves, tsunamis, meteors, distant thunder and so-called booming sands.”
16. As a part of natural process (and as scientists believe, with a little help of deforestation and pollution), Ganga is sifting! In Haridwar, Ganga has shifted by 500 meters from its original course. This continued shifting trend can wreak havoc on farming settlements in Ganga plains. In last 30 years, the shift has increased significantly.
17. In Bihar, the river has shifted by 2.5 kilometers since 1990.
18. Speaking of fertile plains, the plains of Ganga are extremely fertile, supporting the livelihood of over 400 million people. Another 1.2 billion Indians live in the 1557-mile stretch around this river.
19. Pollution in Ganga has led to formation of tumors in zooplanktons. These zooplanktons are food sources for small fish which are in turn eaten by bigger fish, which are in turn consumed by humans. As a result, these tumors are not widespread in our food chain.
20. Ganga in Hindu religion has been personified as goddess and it is a widespread believe that bathing in the river will give them forgiveness for their sins and will help them to attain salvation. Ganga has been considered a sacred river since the Vedic age. Though the first Veda – the Rig Veda scarcely mentioned Ganga and considered Saraswati and Indus as holiest of all rivers, the later three Vedas – the Yajur, Sam and Atharva Vedas heavily mention Ganga as a scared river.