In Hinduism, the river Ganga is more than just a water body. It is the sacred symbol of purity, rebirth, and of getting second chances.
The artwork above, by artist Giampaolo Tomassetti, depicts Goddess Ganga’s descent onto Earth. She was asked to come down to purify the lost souls of the 60,000 sons of the King Sagar, who had been murdered by a meditating sage whom they had disturbed. This request had been made by King Sagar’s descendent, Bhagiratha. But Ganga’s power was immense, and her direct descent would have destroyed Earth. Only the almighty Shiva had the strength to break Ganga’s fall, as seen at the top of the painting.
Many believe that a dip in this holy river will cleanse their aatma (soul) of past transgressions, and sins that cannot be forgiven or forgotten. Some others believe that immersing the ashes of their dearly departed would give the lost souls a chance to be reborn, to experience life to the fullest. The Ganga, therefore, represents forgiveness, and gives each soul an opportunity to wipe the karmic slate clean.
Goddess Ganga lived in the land of Indra, who is the God of immortality. Embracing her holy waters, therefore, means breaking away from the earthly shackles of life and death. It means getting rid of the mortal fear of ageing. This painting is therefore a reminder that in order to live a fulfilling life, one must enjoy all the good things that it offers, and let go of worry and control. For death is not a full stop. It signals a soul’s transition towards a life that will be better lived.