The Seventeenth Chapter describes the origin of the Ganges River and how it flows in and around Ilavrta-varsa. There is also a description of the prayers Lord Siva offers to Lord Sankarsana, part of the quadruple expansions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Visnu once approached Bali Maharaja while the King was performing a sacrifice. The Lord appeared before him as Trivikrama, or Vamana, and begged alms from the King in the form of three steps of land. With two steps, Lord Vamana covered all three planetary systems and pierced the covering of the universe with the toes of His left foot. A few drops of water from the Causal Ocean leaked through this hole and fell on the head of Lord Siva, where they remained for one thousand millenniums. These drops of water are the sacred Ganges River. It first flows onto the heavenly planets, which are located on the soles of Lord Visnu’s feet. The Ganges River is known by many names, such as the Bhagirathi and the Jahnavi. It purifies Dhruvaloka and the planets of the seven sages because both Dhruva and the sages have no other desire than to serve the Lord’s lotus feet.
The Ganges River, emanating from the lotus feet of the Lord, inundates the heavenly planets, especially the moon, and then flows through Brahmapuri atop Mount Meru. Here the river divides into four branches (known as Sita, Alakananda, Caksu and Bhadra), which then flow down to the ocean of salt water. The branch known as Sita flows through Sekhara-parvata and Gandhamadana-parvata and then flows down to Bhadrasva-varsa, where it mixes with the ocean of salt water in the West. The Caksu branch flows through Malyavan-giri and, after reaching Ketumala-varsa, mixes with the ocean of salt water in the West. The branch known as Bhadra flows onto Mount Meru, Mount Kumuda, and the Nila, Sveta and Srngavan mountains before it reaches Kuru-desa, where it flows into the ocean of salt water in the north. The Alakananda branch flows through Brahmalaya, crosses over many mountains, including Hemakuta and Himakuta, and then reaches Bharata-varsa, where it flows into the southern side of the ocean of salt water. Many other rivers and their branches flow through the nine varsas.
The tract of land known as Bharata-varsa is the field of activities, and the other eight varsas are for persons who are meant to enjoy heavenly comfort. In each of these eight beautiful provinces, the celestial denizens enjoy various standards of material comfort and pleasure. A different incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead distributes His mercy in each of the nine varsas of Jambudvipa.
In the Ilavrta-varsa, Lord Siva is the only male. There he lives with his wife, Bhavani, who is attended by many maidservants. If any other male enters that province, Bhavani curses him to become a woman. Lord Siva worships Lord Sankarsana by offering various prayers, one of which is as follows: “My dear Lord, please liberate all Your devotees from material life and bind all the nondevotees to the material world. Without Your mercy, no one can be released from the bondage of material existence.”

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