Long back there was a highly learned Sage named Vedasira, who belonged to Bhrigu family. Once he was engrossed in intense prayers and one beautiful Apsara (celestial damsel) named Suchi happened to pass in front of him. On seeing her, the Sage lost control over his passions and there started physical reactions within his body.
The Apsara, Suchi, became very much afraid that the Sage might curse her. She pleaded innocence and asked the Sage to forgive her. The Sage, after much pondering, told Suchi that knowingly or unknowingly she had raised the inner passions of the Sage and she should follow it to the logical conclusions. The Sage was omnipotent. Without engaging in any tangible contact with the Apsara, he made her conceive his child.
In due course, she delivered a beautiful girl. Suchi soon came to the Ashram of the Sage, left the child there and went back to her place. The Sage was very happy at seeing his girl child, who was named by him as Dhootpapa. The Sage reared the girl with great love and affection.
When Dhootpapa reached the age of eight, the Sage started getting a bit worried in order to find a suitable match for her marriage. He had a frank discussion about this with Dhootpapa and the latter replied that she would like to marry a person according to her choice. She stated that the person desired by her would be highly respected, would have all the qualities expected of him and will take care of her in a proper way.
The Sage agreed to this and told the girl that to get her wishes fulfilled, she had to undertake intense prayers and worship the Lord. Dhootpapa agreed to this and started her intense prayers, in the process going without food for several days. At times of extreme thirst she used to drink a drop of water and even during extreme winters, she continued her prayers. (Kashi Khand, Chapter 59 has described in detail the intensity of her prayers).
Finally Lord Brahma appeared before her and blessed her with all happiness. He told her that she was very pure and all the three and half crore sacred waters in the world would reside in the root of the hairs of her body. Lord Brahma further said that Dhootpapa would be venerated as pure and much more sacred than all the Teerths (sacred waters) in the world.
After accomplishing her prayers, Dhootpapa returned to the Ashram of the Sage. One day when she was playing in the garden, Lord Dharam Raj approached her and being enchanted by her beauty, proposed to her. Dhootpapa insisted that he should speak to her father, but Dharam Raj had other thoughts. The heated discussions went on for some time and Dharam Raj cursed her that she would turn into a statue. Dhootpapa in turn cursed that Dharam Raj would be converted into a male river named Dharma Nada.
Dhootpapa went inside the hermitage and told her father about what had happened. The Sage, with his divine powers, gathered as to what had happened and asked her to get converted into a metallic statue instead of a stone statue. In due course, the metallic statue would melt and form a river. He further stated that Dharam Raj had all the qualities of being her husband and once Dhootpapa became a river, she would join Dharma Nada.
The statue of Dhootpapa soon melted and got converted into a river by the same name. As she had got blessings of Lord Brahma, Dhootpapa became very sacred. At the place where Dhootpapa river conjoined Dharma Nada, Lord Surya, in his form as Mayukh Aditya, was undergoing intense prayers. Due to the intensity of the prayers, his Kiran (sun rays) became extremely hot and unbearable. Soon, the perspiration/sweat generated out of the heat started flowing in the form of a river which was called Kirana River.
Kirana River joined Dhootpapa river at a sacred point which were joined by Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers. Thus, these five sacred rivers viz. Dhootpapa, Kirana, Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati joined together and assumed the name of Panchanada Teerth and later on Pancha Ganga.
Taking bath in Pancha Ganga is considered highly auspicious. Taking bath just once in Panch Ganga is considered to be equivalent to taking bath in Prayag (Allahabad) for one full month of Magha.
A devotee who takes bath in Panch Ganga and performs Shraaddh Karma for his forefathers will be doing a great service to them and will attain Moksha in his life. All the sins committed by him knowingly or unknowingly will be washed away. While performing Shraaddh at Pancha Ganga, the devotee’s forefathers will remain extremely happy for as many years, as the number of Til seeds (black sesame seeds) fall in the river. In other words, if 50 Til seeds fall into the river in the process of Pinda Danam, the forefathers will remain happy for 50 years.
Whatever benefit accrues to a devotee for performing great Yagyas like Raja Suya Yagya or Aswa Medha Yagya, the devotee will derive several times more benefit by taking one holy dip in Pancha Ganga.
Kashi Khand has described in the detail the good effects arising out of taking bath in Panch Ganga. In the month of Kartik (October 23 – November 20 – roughly), if a person takes bath in Panch Ganga, he will derive the benefits accruing out of performing Tapas for several long years in other places or Yugs.
During the entire Kartik month, devout Hindus light lamps which are placed in a basket and suspended at a great height over bamboo poles. This is a ritual considered to be very auspicious. During the wee hours of the dawn, the votaries (devoted followers), who come for a Holy dip can see along the ghats an array of dotted lights sifting through the holes of the suspended baskets which present a mesmerizing and spectacular sight.
Kartik Poornima is a very auspicious day for taking bath in Panch Ganga. In fact during the entire Kartik Month there is a huge crowd of people taking bath in Panch Ganga just before or during Sunrise. It is believed that even Devas and deities come to Panch Ganga at this time to take bath.