Srimad-Bhagavatam: Canto 3 - Chapter 1 - Verse 41


मार्गन्ति यत्ते मुखपद्मनीडै-श्छन्द:सुपर्णैऋर्षयो विविक्ते ।यस्याघमर्षोदसरिद्वराया:पदं पदं तीर्थपद: प्रपन्ना: ॥ ४१ ॥


mārganti yat te mukha-padma-nīḍaiśchandaḥ-suparṇair ṛṣayo vivikteyasyāgha-marṣoda-sarid-varāyāḥpadaṁ padaṁ tīrtha-padaḥ prapannāḥ


The lotus feet of the Lord are by themselves the shelter of all places of pilgrimage. The great clear-minded sages, carried by the wings of the Vedas, always search after the nest of Your lotuslike face. Some of them surrender to Your lotus feet at every step by taking shelter of the best of rivers [the Ganges], which can deliver one from all sinful reactions.


The paramahaṁsas are compared to royal swans who make their nests on the petals of the lotus flower. The Lord’s transcendental bodily parts are always compared to the lotus flower because in the material world the lotus flower is the last word in beauty. The most beautiful thing in the world is the Vedas, or Bhagavad-gītā, because therein knowledge is imparted by the Personality of Godhead Himself. The paramahaṁsa makes his nest in the lotuslike face of the Lord and always seeks shelter at His lotus feet, which are reached by the wings of Vedic wisdom. Since the Lord is the original source of all emanations, intelligent persons, enlightened by Vedic knowledge, seek the shelter of the Lord, just as birds who leave the nest again search out the nest to take complete rest. All Vedic knowledge is meant for understanding the Supreme Lord, as stated by the Lord in Bhagavad-gītā (15.15): vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyaḥ. Intelligent persons, who are like swans, take shelter of the Lord by all means and do not hover on the mental plane by fruitlessly speculating on different philosophies. The Lord is so kind that He has spread the river Ganges throughout the universe so that by taking bath in that holy river everyone can get release from the reactions of sins, which occur at every step. There are many rivers in the world which are able to evoke one’s sense of God consciousness simply by one’s bathing in them, and the river Ganges is chief amongst them. In India there are five sacred rivers, but the Ganges is the most sacred. The river Ganges and Bhagavad-gītā are chief sources of transcendental happiness for mankind, and intelligent persons can take shelter of them to go back home, back to Godhead. Even Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya recommends that a little knowledge in Bhagavad-gītā and the drinking of a little quantity of Ganges water can save one from the punishment of Yamarāja.