The Ganges (/ˈɡændʒiːz/ GAN-jeez), also known as Ganga (Hindustani: [ˈɡəŋɡaː]), is a trans-boundary river of Asia which flows through the nations of India and Bangladesh. The 2,525 km (1,569 mi) river rises in the western Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, and flows south and east through the Gangetic Plain of North India. After entering West Bengal, it divides into two rivers: The Hooghly River, or Adi Ganga, flows through several districts of West Bengal and into the Bay of Bengal near Sagar Island. The other, the Padma River, flows into and through Bangladesh, and also empties into the Bay of Bengal. The Ganges is the third largest river in the world by discharge.
The Ganges is one of the most sacred rivers to Hindus. It is also a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. It is worshipped in Hinduism as the goddess Ganga. It has also been important historically, with many former provincial or imperial capitals (such as  Kannauj, Kampilya,  Kara, Prayag or Allahabad, Kashi, Pataliputra or Patna, Hajipur, Munger, Bhagalpur, Murshidabad, Baharampur, Nabadwip, Saptagram, Kolkata and Dhaka) located on its banks.
The Ganges is highly polluted. Pollution threatens not only humans, but also more than 140 fish species, 90 amphibian species and the endangered Ganges river dolphin. The levels of fecal coliform bacteria from human waste in the waters of the river near Varanasi are more than 100 times the Indian government's official limit. The Ganga Action Plan, an environmental initiative to clean up the river, has been a major failure thus far,[a][b] due to corruption, lack of technical expertise,[c] poor environmental planning,[d] and lack of support from religious authorities.[e]