Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
It’s perfectly ok to bathe in Rishikesh. You can take a dip wherever the Ganges flow.
When such parva comes, Ganga comes to every home. In South India, during Diwali the Ganga snan (bath) is done. The usual greeting is, “Have you done Ganga snan?” If you take a cold water bath in the morning, it means you have done Ganga snan.
On the banks of the Ganges, many sadhus do penance and they transfer all the merit in the waters of the Ganga. Teerth ko Sant Puneet banate hai – Teerthani pounaynti sataha!
Jaise teerth sabko puneet karte hai, sadhu ganga ko puneet karte hai. (Just as the Ganges purifies all, the saints purify the Ganges.)
The Ganges is chaitanyamayi (enlivened) hai, brahma roop hai.
As soon as you bathe you feel fresh and new. All the impurities of the mind are washed away. The mind becomes healthy.
I wouldn’t say the same for the Ganges at Kanpur and beyond. The Ganges water should be kept pure. If the Ganges is polluted then its benefit won’t be to the extent of its fame.