The Ganges (Gaṅgā), considered the holiest of India's rivers, is 1,560 miles long. Rising at Gangotri in the Himalayas, this great river flows through the North Indian plain and into the Bay of Bengal. To Hindus, the Ganges is the archetype of all sacred waters; she is a goddess, Mother Gaṅgā (Gaṅgā Mātā), representative of the life-giving maternal waters of the ancient Vedic hymns; above all, she is the symbol par excellence of purity and the purifying power of the sacred. These affective and symbolic values of the Ganges hold true for all Hindus, irrespective of sectarian differences.

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