We all have heard the famous rishi’s name Gautama very often and his celebrated wife Ahalya who was the manasa putri of Brahma! The important event of their life was Ahalya Sapa Vimochanam in Srimad Ramayana of Valmiki. His son Sadananda is also popular as he was the Kula guru of great King Janaka! Sage Gautama had many sons, and one of them was known as Vrdhdha Gautama! In those days their names also indicate some of their characteristics or appearance of those personalities. Vrdhdha Gautama had some deformities! He had no nose! He looked much elder to his actual age with wrinkled skin. Overall looks was not one of beauty. This actually bothered him much, but he was proficient in certain mantras that his father recites and had acquired mantra siddhi too in them. Bhageeratha was responsible in bringing the Akasa ganga to the earth by doing intense tapas, Lord Siva took the descending Ganga into his locks of hair and let out one stream as per the wish of Bhageeratha on to the earth. The rest of Ganga was still confined to His locks. The sages and pious people wished to bring her bountiful streams upon earth so that all would be benefited! They consulted all their senior sages and arrived at a decision to ask for help from Lord Ganesa who used to frequent the hermitage of Sage Gautama. Listening to their plea he agreed to help them and asked for a concrete plan of action. The sages deliberated and came up with a plan to make Sage Gautama do an intense penance in the lap of Himalayas towards Lord Siva who would satisfy the sage by bringing the Ganga upon earth. But this plan had a hitch. Unless and otherwise sage Gautama is convinced that there is an immediate purpose in bringing Ganga down that would meet his ritualistic routine, he would not budge. Right then his rituals did not warrant any such event! Then the only wayout was to create some exigencies for the sage! This involved a risk of inviting his wrath if he finds out the real reason! They decided that only Ganesa could wriggle out of such predicaments. Then they collectively met Ganesa and told him about their plans. He politely told them of difficulties involved and wanted to avert the situation. But their insistence and their prayers to him made him relent and he agreed to their plan. According to their plan Lord Ganesa would take a form of Brahmin traveller, and a cow would be requisitioned and told to go the fields from which sage Gautama used to get all the grains for his rituals and for his household. The cow should eat away all the grains meant for harvest, this would make Gautama rush to get the cow out of his field, and the cow should persist and then Gautama would use force and that would prompt the cow to drop to the ground and pretend to be dead. Then the sage would be sad and would search for ways to atone this sin and at that time the Brahmin traveller should confront the sage and suggest that only the waters of Ganga that are locked up in the locks of Lord Siva would rid of him of the sin. This will prompt Gautama to undertake a sever penance towards Siva who would readily agree to the request of a great sage like Gautama! The plan was duly put into action, there appeared a cow and stated grazing in the fields of Gautama, alarmed by this sage rushed towards the bovine and tried his best to drive the animal away, but the animal could not be nudged, then the sage took a dharba grass and recited some mantras to make it a potent to drive away the animal and sent it forth, the blade of grass went straight towards the cow and pushed it, the cow fell to the ground and pretended to be dead! Startled Gautama thought that really his weapon has killed the cow and rushed inside the asram and told his wife about it and she said he has not intentionally done anything wrong and his favourite God Siva would always come to his rescue. She asked him to pray unto Lord Siva, soon he came back to the field, and there he saw a Brahmin who was resplendent and looked like one of the accomplished seers, sage Gautama paid respects to him and narrated about the events! He calmly said that he should not worry and immediately retire to the abode of Himalayas and do intense tapas towards Lord Siva and ask him to release the waters of Ganga, then he should take bath in that stream, once he does that his sin would disappear like a dew drop before the Sun! Without even giving a second thought the sage accepted the words of the Brahmin, as his wife too had suggested some thing on the same lines, he departed for the abode of Himalayas. As soon as he went away, the cow too sprang up and vanished. All the sages praised Ganesa for having achieved their objective with ease! Sage Gautama began his intense tapas on the foothills of Himalayan Mountain. The contemplation went on for months, and years. Finally it yielded results, Lord Siva appeared before him and asked him to detail his wish, as expected Gautama asked that the Lord release the flow of Ganga from his locks, and smilingly accepted and did so on the Western ghats near Nasik. The Lord is known as Trayambakeswar. Ganga began to flow, and Sage Gautama took bath in its waters and felt that he had the atonement of the sin of killing that cow! All sages and people were happy at the release of Ganga’s stream. That stream came to be known as Gautami Ganga. It is the river Godavari that flows from Nasik to Bay of Bengal. There is also another story about Gautami Ganga in Uttarkasi where it is called Gupth Ganga or Gupth Godavari along with asram for Gautama maharishi. Vrdhdha Gautama did not marry and went on a theertha yatra to many holy places and mountains, and in the process arrived at a cave in a mountain called Shithagiri, and it was a deep cave, in that cave he found a very old lady with resplendence due to her intense tapas. He was welcomed by that old women and offered seat, but before being seated, Vrdhdha Gautama wanted to pay his respects to her by prostrating before her. But the old lady restrained him. She said that she should in fact prostrate before him. As he is her guru! Startled Gautama asked her how this could ever be possible, and he said he had spent only one thousand years upon this earth, whereas she might have spent more than eighty thousand years from what he could surmise, for this she started narrating her story, she said that once upon a time a king called Rishadvaja came on a hunting expedition, he was a very handsome King, and he arrived at the very same came where they were conversing now. There he found a celestial damsel of extraordinary beauty called Sushyama and he fell in love with her at the first sight. She too loved him, both forgot about their origin and spent time happily together and a daughter was born to her and they lived for some more years there and then Rishadwaja decided to return to his kingdom and so did the Apsara. They instructed their daughter to live in that cave and never venture out under any circumstances and do her penance. The Apsara told her daughter that the first ever man who enters the cave is her husband! Now almost ninety thousand years have passed and Vrdhdha Gautama has entered this cave and so he is her husband who is to be venerated as her Guru. Listening to all this Vrdhdha Gautama answered that he is like her child, and looks ugly too hence it is impossible to marry her. If he indeed becomes handsome and learned he would marry her. To this she asserted that if he ever refused to marry her, she would end her life just before his eyes. Vrdhdha Gautama did not know what to do. She continued and said that due to her tapas she had obtained the blessings of Goddess Sarasvathi and Lord Varuna, and she can make his two wishes come true. Then she prayed to the Gods and immediately her prayers were answered and Vrdhdha Gautama became very handsome and also highly learned. True to his word he married her and they lead a life of an ascetic strictly following the rules of renunciation. Time passed and then one day Sage Vasishta, Vamadeva along with their students arrived at the cave. Both Vrdhdha Gautama and his wife received them and paid their respects. Sage Vamadeva inquired about their presence in that cave, and they answered they have been here for quite some time. Then he asked the old women who that handsome lad was? Is he your grandson? Startled by this question she answered that he is actually her husband! She narrated her story briefly to the Maharishi. Listening to all this the young students who had accompanied the sages laughed. All of them went away though they were happy about the service rendered by the couple was excellent their situation was little pathetic. Both Vrdhdha Gautama and his wife too felt little uneasy at the turn of events and their minds dwelt on the quirk of fate that had put both of them in a difficult situation. Then there arrived Sage Agasthya, who was also honoured by the couple and listening to their story, the sage advised them to go the nearby stream called Gautami Ganga and take a dip in that river together and they would receive the blessings of all the gods and that would resolve their problem. They obeyed the instructions of the sage and went to the river and took bath as suggested. They were both in for a surprise as they emerged out of the river, they had both regained their youth and beauty, and were more enchanting than ever before. They lived happily for many years thereafter.