Then with a mighty swoop, he collected his hair, tied into a neat and tight bun, and captured Ganga in the infinite swirls and whirls of his hair. Ganga still flowed with tremendous force, but could not escape, and remained imprisoned and confined inside Shiva's hair.
Bhagiratha, perplexed at the happenings, appealed to Shiva to release Ganga, so that she could wash away the sins of his ancestors, symbolized in their mortal remains. Shiva relented, and in any case Ganga had learnt her lesson. Thus Ganga again followed Bhagiratha, who showed her the way. But there were still more adventures to come.
Just near their ultimate destination lay the hermitage of another accomplished sage, known as Jahnu. Ganga, ever the playful maiden, hurried over to what she perceived was a new and curious place. And lo, barely had she entered upon the precincts of the ashram (hermitage), that it became flooded, and all sacrificial fires were extinguished. The ritual utensils and tools were washed away, and the inhabitants of the sanctuary became frightened and anxious. The leader of the ashram, sage Jahnu, became livid at Ganga's intrusion. He then chanted a mantra, and took a sip of the water flowing all around his hermitage. With the power of his mantra, he swallowed away Ganga with all her waters.
All traces of Ganga were gone. Bhagiratha was in a fix. No sooner had he overcome one hurdle, than another was created, mostly due to the impulsiveness and restlessness of Ganga. He hurried over to Jahnu, and explained to him the magnitude and significance of the task he was out to accomplish. Jahnu gave him a sympathetic hearing and appreciated his hard work in bringing Ganga to the earthly realm. Consoling Bhagiratha, he said: " For you, I will release Ganga immediately," and saying this, he made a cut in his left thigh, and the waters of Ganga flew out like a fountain. Hence did Ganga came to be known as Jahnvi, the daughter of sage Jahnu.
Thankfully, the rest of the way was without any further adventures, and Bhagiratha successfully showed Ganga the way to the ashes of his ancestors. As soon as Ganga touched the ashes, the ancestors arose, glowing forth in their astral bodies, and ascended towards heaven. Carrying away their mortal remains, Ganga merged into the ocean, which hitherto had been dry. From that day onwards, the ocean came to be known as 'Sagara,' in honor of the king who started it all in the first place. The place where Ganga merged in the ocean, came to be known as Ganga-Sagar, and to this day, a great festival is held here every year, to celebrate Ganga's birthday, or the day when she came to earth. This occasion is knows as Ganga Dassehra.
This legend makes amply clear that Ganga's purity and auspiciousness springs in no small measure from her proximity to various important divinities and holy sages. Falling onto Shiva's head, where she meanders through his tangled locks, the mighty Ganga appears in this world after having been made more sacred by her direct contact with Shiva, and also the accomplished ascetic Jahnu. The river then spreads the divine potency of these hallowed personalities into the world, when she flows into the terrestrial realm.
Ganga's fall from heaven is replicated daily in the millions of Hindu temples where the water of the Ganga river is poured over the sacred Shiva Linga. Here it is important to note that the linga of Shiva is often thought of as incandescent pillar of fire. By cooling the linga with her soothing waters, Ganga is in a sense saving the world from Shiva's fiery linga, whose extreme heat could destroy all life on earth. Bearing her on his head, Shiva becomes the facilitator for Ganga's smooth fall to the earth. But if Shiva saves the world from the power and force of Ganga's torrent, it is also Ganga, who in a similar manner, saves us from Shiva's scorching powers of destruction.