Hinduism and rivers - brief note

River worship. Oneindia Tamil

 Though there is no convincing and  scholarly  consensus over true definition of Hinduism, according to Clifford Geertz, religions  relate to a cosmic "order of existence". Religion is an accepted cultural system of well-defined  practices, texts, world views, sanctified places, ethics and  organizations that relate humanity to the  supernatural or transcendental. There are five largest religions across the world, besides countless small religious groups. Religious practices among them vary, from countries to countries, and from regions to regions. Though there are many religious practices, the significant ones are veneration ( or anointing of deities), festivals, feasts, trances, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer and other  spiritual aspects related to the local culture. 

Hindu prayer in NE India. Commisceo Global

In order to give  a meaning to life, religions have sacred histories / mythologies and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred scriptures, and symbols and holy places for pilgrimage and worship. The practicing religious beliefs may be at variance, however, in all of them "faith, besides reason, is the core of religion and a driving force".
the oldest religion in the world is a religion, or a way of life, widely practiced in South Asia.  It is a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions with diverse roots. There is no founder  of Hinduism unlike other religions. The strength of Hinduism lies in the fact that it gives utmost importance to all that is natural. In the ancient period, the Hindus recognized the divinity around them - in both living and non-living things. No doubt, Nature worship is part of Hinduism that gives due consideration to what is called "Pancha boothas"- five fundamental natural elements of "Nature". They are: water (jal), fire (agni), earth (prithvi), air (Vayu) and akasam (akash). No living things can survive on this earth even if one is missing. River-worshipping has been in vogue  in India since Vedic times. Since rivers are closely associated with  growth and evolution of human civilization, agriculture, food production, employment, etc., their presence in a country is vital for the welfare of the society. Hence, there are  many Hindu festivals in India to glorify the rivers and to express our gratitude to them. The name Hinduism has its origin from the name of the River Sindhu.

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Except Brahmapudra (meaning son of Brahma, the Creator), all rivers are symbolic of goddesses and are being revered by the Hindus.  we are aware that the  Indus Valley civilization evolved  on the banks of major rivers like the Indus and Vedic civilization had its roots  on the banks of several major rivers, in the north, in particular, the Ganges.  In the Vedas, there are references to the holy rivers. Some have divine origin like the Ganges that descends from the heaven released by God Indira and flows from the crown of Lord Shiva symbolising liberation. The River Cauvery originated  from Sage Agasthya's tipped kamandalam (small pot) with blessings from God Ganapathy in the Brahmagiri Hills (Kodagu district, Karnataka). It began  flowing eastward towards Chola Mandalam.

The birth of great Epic heroes like Krishna, Bhishma, and Karna  has close links with the holy rivers. In Judaism, the birth of Moses is associated with the Nile river. The name Hinduism has its origin from the name of the River Sindhu.

For Hindus the rivers are divine and and they support countless flora and fauna; every one of the river is a manifestation of gods or goddesses, an embodiment of elixir of life. Hindus worship rivers as mothers. Invocations are made by way of homams, etc., for copious flow of water  and to to subdue their fury during intense rain and floods. Taking a  dip in the holy river marks the removal  of past sins and start of a new lease of life, full of vigour and vitality. Many well-known Hindu pilgrim centers (dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and some goddess)  such as Kasi, Prayaga, Ujjain, Madhura, Badrinath, in the north and Srirangam, Kumbakonam, Thiruvaiyaru, Madurai, Vijayawada, Mantralayam, etc ., in the south are on the banks of holy rivers. Ayodhya, Lord Rama's birth place, is on the banks of the River Sarayu.
Aarti on the banks of the ganges. www.thehindu.com
Many saints and seers had their ashram built on the river banks to lead a peaceful  spiritual life. Countless Hindu rituals are associated with the river. The most important being doing Tharpanam- paying obeisance to the forefathers (pithroos). Vedic pundits, in the bygone days, used to live on the river banks to carry on their daily spiritual duties as well as other duties. In many Hindu temples for consecration, etc., water from the river is used.

Khumba-Mela, Pushkaram and Adiperukku (in Tamil Nadu) are some important festivals associated with the river. Even in this modern era, the divinity associated with the Indian rivers is just overwhelming. India is a Karma Bhoomi, hence, people world over come here for peace of mind and to experience the true spiritual ecstasy as material happiness does not give them happiness. In addition, the rivers represent the whole  gist of life - fertility, motherhood, growth, cleansing, destruction, death and salvation. It is symbolic of the transient nature of life and worldly possessions

In the southern state of Tamil Nadu Cauvery Pushkaram  is being celebrated with devotion. This 12 day celebration began on 12 September, 2017 and will continue till 24 September. Mayiladuthrai in Nagapatnam District is the venue where many cultural and civil programs are held on the banks of the river Cauvery. Devotees visit the various ghats on the banks of the river Cauvery at  various places
 to take a holy dip.