King Sagar was one of the greatest kings of Ancient Bharat (India). He was the ancestor of King Dasharath and Lord Rama
(Incarnation of Sree Vishnu). In those days, kings used to perform Ashwamedha Yajna to prove their supremacy
over others. Once, king Sagar, too, performed a Ashwamedha Yajna to become the king of the entire world. He deserved it anyway!!
But, Lord Indra was jealous and fearful over the results of the Yajna. He
decided to stop the Yajna by stealing the horse of the Yajna that was sent around
the earth, as a symbol of victory. In an act of jealousy, Lord Indra kidnapped the
horse and hid it in Kapil Muni's hermitage.
When learnt that the horse is kidnapped, King Sagar's hundreds of sons along with the entourage of warriors went to search.
They found the horse of the Yajna in Kapil Muni's Ashram. They mistook Sage Kapil to be the abductor and
attacked him. Kapil Muni became enraged that King Sagar's sons were attacking
him for no apparent reason; he burnt all of them to ashes.
King Sagar was worried about his sons' salvation. Pacified Kapil Muni advised
that the holy river Ganga could give them salvation. The waters of the holy river
Ganga would miraculously bring back the dead princes to life. It should be brought
down to the Earth from the heaven. King Sagar's son Dilip tried his best, but could not succeed.
His grandson Anshuman succeeded upto some limit but could not give them salvation.
Bhageerath was another grandson of King Sagar. He heard about the plight of his father and uncles. Bhageerath
resolved to bring Ganga to the Earth from the Heaven to purify the ashes of his ancestors and bring
them back to life.
He performed severe penance to please Lord Brahma who came to bless him and grant him the desired boon. Ganga was
allowed to come down to Earth. The only problem was that the force of its current
was too great for Earth to withstand. Fearing a catastrophe, Bhageerath prayed
to Lord Shiva, who held out his matted hair to catch the river as she descended.
From this point onward, Lord Shiva is also known as Gangadhara. River Ganga then gently
followed Bhageerath as he came to the hermitage of Sage Jahnu's ashram. Sage
Jahnu, who was in a state of meditation inside the ashram, had been disrupted
in his penance. He became enraged and swallowed Ganga in a single gulp.
Bhageerath offered his prayers to Sage Jahnu who finally released Ganga. As a result Ganga is also known by the name of
Finally, Bhageerath overcame all the obstacles in the process of releasing
Ganga. He patiently led Ganga down to the sea where Kapil Muni was residing. Holy
Ganga then bathed the remains of the King Sagar's sons, offered salvation to the
souls of them and merged into the sea-water. Thus the sea where Ganga merges
is called as “Ganga Sagar”.
Ganga is also known as Bhageerathi because her coming to the Earth was by
the continued sacrifices and efforts of Bhageerath.