Once upon a time, long ago, demons and gods were at war. To
defeat the gods, the demons made a plan. During the day, they hid in the
ocean and at night they attacked the gods. Afraid of being defeated in
this way, the gods went to Sage Agastya for help.
Agastya solved their problem by drinking the whole ocean. Now as the
demons had no place to hide, the gods easily defeated them. The gods then
asked Agastya to bring the ocean back. Agastya said that he could not do
that because he had already digested the ocean.
The people of the earth now had no water, as the ocean was empty, The
gods were worried and went to Vishnu and requested him to bring water on
earth, King Sagara, who had sixty thousand sons, was performing a yagna
to conquer the whole world. According to custom, he had sent out a
white horse, the ruler of that kingdom would either have to fight
with Sagara or give him his crown. In this way, Sagara was conquering the
whole earth and wanted to be the most powerful. Indra, took the horse and
hid it in sage Kapila's ashram. Sagara sent his sons to search the horse.
They reached Kapila's ashram. Sage Kapila was meditating and was
disturbed. Greatly annoyed, with one look of his eyes. Kapila burnt all
of them to ashes. Sagara was very sad at the death of his sons. He wanted
to purify the souls of his sons but only river Ganga could do that by
washing their ashes. Ganga had to be brought to earth. So Sagara performed
tapasya to please Brahma. But he died before finishing the tapasya. His
grandson then continued to perform the tapasya.
The seventh descendent of Sagara, Bhagiratha, was able to please
Brahma. Brahma granted him his wish and asked Ganga to flow to earth. But
Ganga didn't want to leave heaven and go to earth. She threatened to
destroy all life on earth by the pressure of her flow. Only Shiva's
powerful hair could control the force of Ganga. Bhagiratha requested
Shiva to help him. Shiva spread his hair and covered the sky. As soon as
Ganga flowed down, he collected her water in his hair in the form of many
small streams. She then followed Bhagiratha to the place where the ashes
of his ancestors were lying. Being young Ganga flowed carelessly. She
flooded the ashram of Sage Jahnu. Jahnu was performing a yagna at that
time the water put out all the fires. Angry Jahnu swallowed Ganga.
But when he came to know about the long tapasya that had been performed to
bring Ganga to earth, he agreed to let her go. He cut open his left thigh
and Ganga flowed out of it. Ganga came to be known as Jahnvi, the daughter
Ganga flowed on and purified the ashes of Bhagiratha's ancestors.
Therefore, Ganga is also called Bhagirathi. There after, Ganga flowed
and filled the empty ocean.
The ocean came to be known as Sagara after the name of King Sagara. the
people of earth now had water to drink.