The ties between Ganga and Shiva are well established through a range of stories in the epics and the Puranas. Not as popular, or commonly cited however, are stories that bind the river goddess and Krishna/Vishnu. These stories are found mostly in the Vaishnavite traditions and they indicate just how significant their role was in building a common way of life among diverse cultures that worshipped a vast pantheon of deities.

In one story, Ganga is shown to be a form of Radha and even that of Krishna, himself.

Ganga was seated next to Krishna, the two were looking deeply into each other’s eyes. Radha walked in on the two of them and she was enraged at the sight of an adoring Ganga gazing with such longing at her lover. Radha flew into a frenzy and threatened to drink Ganga up, thereby wiping her out of the heavens and eliminating her presence on earth.

Frightened, Ganga disappeared. She sank back into her original form and as the invisible water that flows below the earth, hid herself inside Krishna’s feet. But Ganga’s flight caused the earth to spin out of control. The waters receded and drought threatened life on the planet. The gods approached Brahma and he reached out to his counterpart Vishnu and his avatar Krishna.

Krishna however could do little because it was Radha that the gods would have to appease to bring Ganga back. The gods approached Radha and offered her their deepest devotion and sought deliverance. Radha finally relented after her fears over Ganga’s place in Krishna’s life were allayed. She backed off from her threat. And Ganga emerged from Krishna’s foot to water the earth and restore its balance.

Story collected by: Arundhuti Dasgupta

Source: Devi: The goddesses of India, Edited by John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff

Primary source: Brahmavaivarta Purana, Devi Bhagvata Purana

Location: Pan India

Image Copyright: Rajrishi Singhal