Pradosh vrat is celebrated today in honor of Lord Shiva. It is a very significant day for devotees of Lord Shiva. On this auspicious day, let us recollect how the Lord came to be known as Gangadhara.
Legend has it that King Sagar of Ayodhya (an ancestor of Lord Ram) conducted the Ashwamedha Yagna 99 times. On all the occasions the horse returned back to his kingdom without being challenged by any king. When the king conducted the yagna for the 100th time, Indra kidnapped the horse and hid it in Kapila Maharishi’s ashram as he was afraid that King Sagar would one day become more powerful than him.
A perplexed King Sagar then asked his 60,000 sons to search for the horse and get it back to the palace. The sons reached the ashram of Kapila Maharishi and mistook him for a thief and attacked him. The powerful sage burnt all the 60,000 princes to ashes with his divine powers. The princes then became ghosts as their last rites were not performed.
When King Anshuman, the grandson of Sagar, came to know about the incident several years later, he approached Kapila Maharishi and requested him to give a solution for the liberation of his ancestor’s souls. The sage then advised the king that the souls of his ancestors would attain salvation if their ashes were washed by the waters of Ganga, a celestial river. However, King Anshuman was unable to bring Ganga to earth. His son, King Dilip also failed to liberate his ancestors’ souls.
King Bhagiratha, the son of King Dilip, prayed to Lord Brahma for more than 1,000 years for the descent of Ganga from the heavens. Pleased with the King’s prayers, Lord Brahma granted him the wish, but he asked him to pray to Lord Shiva as He alone could reduce the force of Ganga’s descent to earth. As per the instructions of Brahmadev, the King prayed to Lord Shiva who allowed Ganga to first descend on his head, flow through his matted hair and then flow on earth. Hence, Lord Shiva is also addressed as Gangadhara.
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