Definition - What does Ganga mean?
The Ganga is a large sacred river that flows through India and Bangladesh, emptying into the Bay of Bengal. In English, the river is known as the Ganges. Among Hindus, it is also called Gangaji or Ganga Maiya (Mother Ganga).
The Ganga is sacred to Hindus and is personified and worshiped as the goddess Ganga. Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganga cures illnesses, washes away sins and helps the individual on his/her path to moksha, which is enlightenment and freedom from the cycle of life and death.
Ganga symbolizes the spiritual knowledge derived from the "Vedas" and the power to purify. Hinduism emphasizes purification of the body and mind through yoga and tantra. Pilgrimage to the Ganga or meditation on its powers can help a yoga practitioner deepen his/her spiritual practice, furthering the path to moksha.
Yogapedia explains Ganga
The Ganga has had religious importance since ancient times. Today, it is the holiest river in Hinduism and is, perhaps, the most religiously significant river in the world. Tirthas, or sacred pilgrimage sites, are located throughout India, but those along the Ganga are especially important. Pilgrims attend bathing festivals (melas) annually, but the largest is held once every dozen years when hundreds of thousands immerse themselves in the Ganga near Allahabad.
In addition to bathing in the Ganga, Hindus place flowers and diyas (clay dishes filled with candles) in the river. They also take small vials of river water (ganga jal) home for use in rituals.
The religious significance of the river isn't limited to bathing. In the belief that it will bring the spirits of the dead closer to moksha, Hindus throw the ashes of their deceased relatives in the Ganga. Cremation temples (ghats) line the banks of the Ganga in many places.