Gangadhara Shiva – Story of Shiva as Gangadhar

Gangadhara Shiva is the form of Shiva that holds Ganga on his matted locks. The story of Gangadhar Shiva is associated with the arrival of Ganga on earth. Legend has it that sixty sons of King Sagara were protecting the Ashwamedha horse.

In an Ashwamedha Yaga, the emperor releases a horse which travels through different kingdoms. Those kings who are ready to be a vassal of the emperor do not object the horse running through their kingdom. But those kings that are not ready to be a vassal stop the horse and then the issue is settled on the battleground.

The sixty sons of Sagara were known to be cruel and they practiced all forms of Adharma. Saints, human beings and Devas were fed up with their activities. All of them complained to Indra, the king of Devas. He promised to get solve the problem.

It must be noted that in some Puranas it is not sixty but King Sagara had sixty thousands sons as a result of a boon.

The sixty were following the horse released by King Sagara. One day Indra stole the horse and hid it at the spot where Sage Kapila was meditating. 

When the unruly sons discovered horse near Sage Kapila, they thought the saint had stolen it and started abusing and hitting him. Sage Kapila’s meditation was disturbed and the angry saint opened his eyes – reducing the sixty sons into ashes. 

Grandson of emperor Sagara reached the spot and prayed for forgiveness to Sage Kapila. The sage could not bring back the sons but he said that they will attain Moksha when in future King Bhagiratha of the lineage will bring Ganga down from heaven to earth.

After several generations, Bhagiratha was born in the family and he performed great austerities and impressed Brahma and Shiva. 

Ganga descended from heaven and Lord Shiva held Her in His matted locks so that the power of Goddess Ganga does not destroy the earth.

Shiva thus got the name Gangadhara…one who holds Ganga in His matted locks.