GANGES, gAnfjez (Skt. Gangd, stream). An important river of Northern India, rising in Garhwal, in latitude 30° 56' 4" N., and longi tude 76° 6' 40" E. It drains the southern ranges of the Himalayas, and after a southern and east ern course of 1557 miles flows into the northern section of the Bay of Bengal through a multi channeled delta 283 miles long (Map: India, D 3). Its basin, one of the finest and most fertile portions 'of the world, covers an area of over 390,000 square miles, lying between the Himalaya and Vindhya ranges, and extending to the mountains which separate Burma from Ben gal. The Ganges is famous as the sacred river of the Hindus. Its main source is in a snow-field imbedded between three Himalayan mountains over 22,000 feet high. It issues as the Bhagirathi from an ice cave, 13,800 feet above sea-level, and with a fall of 350 feet in a mile descends 10 miles to Gangotri, the first temple upon its banks, and a favorite pilgrim resort. Seven miles below Gangotri it is joined from the right by the Jahnavi, and at Deoprayag (q.v.), 133 miles from its source, the Bhagirathi joins the Alak nanda, the united streams being from this point called the Ganges. The Ganges leaves the Hima layas at Sukhi, and reaches the border of the great plain of Hindustan at Hardwar, 157 miles from its source and 1024 feet above the sea, after a descent of 9276 feet, or nearly 60 feet in a mile. From Hardwar it flows past Atrauli and Faruk habad, near which it receives the Ramganga, and continues past Kanauj and Cawnpore to Allaha bad after a winding course of 488 miles, beset by shoals and rapids, and with an average fall of 22 inches per mile. The stream is navigable for river craft to Hardwar, for small-draught steamers to -within 100 miles of the mountains, and for loaded barges to Cawnpore, 140 miles northwest of Alla habad. At Allahabad the Ganges is joined by the Jumna from the southwest, and thence the increasing river flows east to Mirzapur, Benares, Ghazipur, Patna, Monghyr, and Bhagalpur, re ceiving froth the right the Son, and from the left the Gumti, Groga, Gandak, and Kusi. This section, which has a fall of about five inches a mile, varies in breadth and in depth according to the season of the year, but notwithstanding many shoals, is navigable even in the dry season for vessels drawing 18 inches of water. Around the Raj• mahal Hills, at the head of its delta, 563 miles from Allahabad, the Ganges bends southward and commences a descent of 283 miles to the Bay of Bengal. Near Pakaur (assuming the early name of the river) the Bhagirathi, and 70 miles lower down the Jalangi, branch off, and after individual courses of 120 miles each, unite to form the Hugli, the westernmost and principal channel of navigation, on which Calcutta (q.v.) stands. The main branch, throwing out various minor offsets, continues as the Padna, or Padda, to Goalundo, where it unites with the Jamuna, the main branch of the Brahmaputra, and finally flows through the wide estuary of the Megna into the Bay of Bengal; between this estuary and the western channel of the Hugli lie the numerous mouths of the deltaic channels. The delta, which
in the northern part is fertile and well cultivated, in the south bordering the sea is a dismal net work of swampland, known as the Sundarbans (q.v.), infested by crocodiles, tigers, and other wild animals. Three distinct species of crocodiles are found in the Ganges, the fresh-water, long snouted gavial, the man-eating koomiah, and the muggar.
The Ganges, as a whole, cannot be accurately described. From year to year it exchanges old channels for new ones, more particularly in the alluvial basin of its lower sections. Even as high as Fathipur, above Allahabad, this char acteristic is marked. In this part the river bed has an average width of four miles, within the limits of which it changes its course annually, in the lapse of four or five years shifting from the one limit to the other. Between seasons the fluctuations in some places are more conspicu ous; at Benares, the stream ranges, according to the time of the year, from 1400 feet to 3000 feet in breadth, and from 35 feet to 78 feet in depth. Lower down these vicissitudes produce more striking results. Toward the end of July a pro portion of the delta is inundated over an area of more than 100 miles in diameter, presenting to the eye nothing but villages and trees and craft of every sort. To mitigate this evil, ex pensive dams have been constructed with a col lective length of over 1000 miles. The influence of the tides extends, at the dry season, a distance of 240 miles from the sea. The minimum outflow of water per second has been estimated at 36,000 cubic feet, and its maximum at 494,000 cubic feet. Like all rivers •subject to floods, the Ganges holds in suspension a large admixture of mud and sand, depositing in the sea annually millions of tons of solid matter.
The Ganges, or, as it is called, the Ganga (feminine), occupies an important position in Hindu mythology of the classical and the Puranic periods, and is the subject of numerous traditions and legends. In the religion of all classes of Hindus, it is held in particular veneration as the holiest of rivers, the cleanser of sins, and the entrance to Paradise, when death and sepulture occur upon its banks. Temples and shrines with ghats or flights of steps, giving easy access to its waters, stud its banks almost from its source; the most conspicuous examples are the temples and ghats of holy Benares. The junctions of the river's various affluents are especially sanctified spots; that of the Jumna at Allahabad is con sidered the most sacred and is the most fre quented place of ablution, annually visited by thousands of pious pilgrims, who also convey the water to all parts of India for use in their religious rites.