Capricorn, Ganga and the Eternal Dharma of India
In one of his great universal strides, Vishnu pierces the edge of the universe with the big toe of his left foot, releasing an influx of supracosmic waters into the highest plane of universal creation, the Brahmaloka.1 This is the eternal source of the Ganga river/goddess. From there she descends to Earth, manifesting as an indomitable power of spiritual purification and deliverance.
Her power is so great, in fact, that at first it seems that she will wash away the entire Earth in a single relentless onrush. Lord Shiva intervenes. He receives the unbridled power of Ganga into his matted locks, transforming her immense current into one that the Earth can bear. Finally, he releases the cosmic river as a gentle stream to one side of his head.
As we shall see, this is not merely a metaphor or a quaint tale. It accurately describes certain geo-cosmic alignments by which India’s spiritual purpose has been kept alive and transmitted down through the ages – even through periods of darkness such as the one we are now emerging from.
Like many of the Puranic gods and goddesses, Ganga is associated with an animal mount or vāhana, in this case the crocodile, Makara (Capricorn). Since time immemorial, this zodiacal sign has been associated with India, and the Capricorn hieroglyph clearly delineates the landmass of undivided India (Akhand Bharat).2 Moreover, when we follow the terrestrial lines of longitude westwards from Greenwich, we encounter the mouths of the Ganga (where the river empties into the ocean) at 270°, the all-important entry into Capricorn (the Makar Sankranti as it is called in India).3
Continuing westwards in both time and space from the Makar Sankranti (December solstice) or mouths of the Ganga, we find ourselves ascending towards the source of the holy river. Lord Shiva gently releases the flow of divine waters onto the Earth at Gaumukh (280° West longitude: 10° Capricorn). From there, Ganga travels a little further to the West before turning eastwards and flowing a full 12 degrees of longitude – from 12° Capricorn to 0° Capricorn – and into the Bay of Bengal.4
We can begin to see what is meant by Makara (i.e. India) being Ganga’s vehicle. The waters are literally carried from their source to the sea by the Indian landmass, across the first 12 degrees of Capricorn. Moreover, in the Veda, the 10th month (Makara/Capricorn) is said to be the time of Victory, or emergence into the ‘solar world’, the fourth world, Mahat. This is India; this is Capricorn – Ganga’s vāhana.
Returning to Shiva’s divine intercession: it is significant that the source of the Ganga river is not located at the ‘peak’ of Capricorn (15°), but at 10°. The fifteenth degree of any sign is its point of maximum intensity. 15° Capricorn is known as the ‘eye of Shiva’ – it is where the power is most concentrated. On the body of the Earth, this is equivalent to 285° West longitude, which corresponds to the northernmost part of the Indian subcontinent (Kashmir, which extends as far as 36° North). Rather than descending to Earth here, along Makara’s line of maximum intensity, Ganga is caught up in the coils of Shiva’s hair and redirected several degrees to the East.
The Kumbh Mela and related festivals described in Part One are all held at locations clustered around 10° – 15° Capricorn (see above map). Haridwar and Prayagraj, the original locations of the Kumbh Mela, are located on the banks of the Ganga river, one degree to the West and two degrees to the East of Gaumukh (at 11° Capricorn and 8° Capricorn).5 Moreover, the ‘original’ mela (the yearly Magh Mela held at Prayagraj) always takes place in the month of Makar/Capricorn.
The actual source of the Ganga – 10° Capricorn – corresponds to New Year’s day in the Gregorian calendar. From there, after coiling around its place of origin, the river flows or descends 12 days/degrees ‘into’ the December solstice, at which point it is released into the ocean and mingles with the waters of the entire Earth. Herein we find a concrete symbol of India’s unique destiny among the nations, physically ‘written’ in the very geography of the land, and preserved through the symbolic language of myth.
The Sanatana Dharma or eternal spiritual purpose of India is to receive the divine waters, to incorporate and realise the Truth that they convey, and then to pour out wave after wave across the whole world. This is related in several of the major Puranas6 which speak of a time in our eternally recurring history when the holy sages and seers of India will bring these divine waters to all corners of the Earth; when they will make themselves known and even walk among us. We are living in such a time.
The Sanatana Dharma belongs to the whole of humanity. It is not a religion: it is an all-inclusive, eternally self-renewing way of divine self-realisation. In our present evolutionary cycle, India has served as the storehouse of spiritual energies for the planet, but as the geo-cosmic myth of the Ganga river demonstrates, these spiritual energies are destined to be poured out from India to all parts of the globe.
- Bhagavata Purana.
- Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet, The Gnostic Circle, Aeon Books 1975
- The mouths of the Ganga span approximately 3° of longitude, from 269° W to 272° W. The main artery empties around 269°–270° W.
- Ganga also travels 9° South in her course from Gaumukh to the sea. In Part 4 we will return to this ‘divine measure’ of the Ganga river (9° vertical and 12° horizontal).
- The latter of these, 278° West longitude or 8° Capricorn is also the longitude of Mt Kailash, said to be the abode of Shiva.
- E.g. Padma Purana, Brahma-Vaivarta Purana.