19 May 2012
This is the confluence of Bhagirathi and Alakananda where the actual modern Mighty Ganga assumes its full form.
|Devprayag - Bhageerathi joins Alakananda|
The rivers form distinct colours and the joining of these two mighty streams is quite visible from distance. The road actually goes so circular around this area that the visual is spell-binding. An old temple is present on its banks and steps leading to the tip of this confluence are also built.
It is said that from Devprayag upwards is the Deva Bhoomi.
On route, about 25 km from Haridwar, we stopped at Vasishta Guha. The present area of Vasishta Guha has been cleared for people to come and do their prayers by Swami Purushottamanandaji Maharaj, a Malayali Saint in 1928. He lived inside the Guha for about 25 years till a room was built for him nearby. He attained Samadhi in 1961 on MahaSivarathri day and his Samadhi is also placed there. The Guha is presently looked after by a trust headed by Swami Chaitanyanandaji, a disciple of Swami Purushottamanandaji Maharaj and from Kerala.
The Guha is where Sage Vasishta did his Tapas. Myself and Sri Rajappan were talking among ourselves and he wondered that if we had come announced, there would be a reception for us. I told him that since we were coming unannounced; let us see the turn of events. We waited outside the Guha due to the crowd going in from ours as well as some other tour party. While we sat outside, a person came from inside and told us “Please come in”!!!! We both smiled at each other being quite happy with the call. It turned out that he had come to the Aashram to help Swamiji.
We sat there in the cave for quite some time literally drinking the essence of peace and contemplating on his ‘Anugraha’. The cave was quite cool compared to the outside temperature.
|Samadhi of Purushottamanandaji Maharaj|
Later we prayed at the Samadhi of Swami Purushottamanandaji Maharaj and met Swamiji, who gave us a book memorablia and some sweet prasadams.
|Way to Arundhati Caves - Ganga River|
We saw the way marked for Arundhati Cave for which we needed to walk through the Ganga banks over the stones. By this time all had moved back so I also had to reluctantly walk back to our vehicles.
A very unique phenomenon happened at this cave. In 1996, Swami Dayanand Saraswathy who had visited the Guha sent two photographs which were very unique. The photo was of the Swayambhu Lingam at the end of the cave, from which two lights were seen emerging and going through the top ceiling and side walls, disappearing half way from the cave entrance.
On the way back, we saw a Sadhu lying flat on a rock. We tried to take a photo of his, when he immediately lifted his hand indicating ‘No’. Respecting his instructions we continued our path without taking his photo.
We reached Haridwar in time for the evening Ganga Aarathi at Hari Ki Pauri. It was spectacular to watch as much as unique to sit on the Banks of the Mighty Ganga in full flow. This is where the Kumbh Mela happens and we were sitting on its very Banks. The Aarathi what we saw however was relatively a smaller one compared to special occasions or what is done at Varanasi.
We reached our place of stay after this – Ayyappa Temple at Haridwar near the banks of Ganga and very near to the Haridwar Railway Station. The approach road was mainly a Gujarati area, but the temple precincts were Malayali in nature. Got into the rooms after food and slept well.
20 May 2012
In the morning, we did Ganga Snaanam. For the first time I had a bath in a river – that too in the holy Ganga at Haridwar. So many bathing ghats have been maintained at Haridwar. Most of the temples are by the side of the river or by its branches there. The entire town is criss-crossed by the Ganga herself.
After having breakfast, we went to visit some places of importance.
Pt Sitaram Sharma Acharya who founded the Aashram aimed at popularizing Gayatri Mantra, Yagya and Sanskaars. His and Mother’s Samadhi is kept there and is a very peaceful location. Considering the fact that so many people visit the place and the area is bustling with activity, the area is well marked and full of grandeur. The book stall and the herbal store has a rich collection of his works and the jadi bootis available in the Himalayas.
Sapta Rishi Aashram
A little further to the Shantikunj is the Sapta Rishi Aashram. A naturally beautiful and picturesque surrounding where the great seven sages – Kashyapa, Vasishta, Atri, Vishwamitra, Jamadagni, Bharadwaja and Gautama, were said to have done Tapas. We visited the various shrines inside and were left with a peaceful feeling which reminded us of our Colachel and Trivandrum areas. It is also said that the mighty Ganga split herself into seven here so as to avoid disturbing the sages.
We visited one aashram, whose name I do not quite recollect. Nevertheless I was told by Ani Maman that here a lot of visitors are brought in. After this we went to Pawan Dham, which is a display of mirrors and kept with deities. Most of these locations are more of modern day museum kind of a show place with some deities installed. It may be good for people with limited knowledge in the religion to get accustomed to the visuals there. We went past the imposing Bharat Mata Mandir and directly proceeded to Kankhal.
Kankhal – Parad Lingam (Siva Lingam made out of solidified mercury)
The solidification of mercury is difficult and if properly done has a lot of incredible properties. The Rasa Vidya methods of Siddhas talk about it in detail. Harihara Aashram had installed a Parad Siva lingam and we went there to see the same. There was a Rudraksha tree in the compound which had some Rudrakhsa beads. There were some poojas held on a different Siva Lingam which seemed to be quite old and like a temple. Being Sunday, there were a lot of people and some body was giving food for all. It was getting to noon and we were naturally hungry. We ate the prasadam at the Aashram and proceeded further.
Kankhal – Daksheswara Mahadev Temple
This is a place of deep historic and mystic importance. This was the place where Daksha conducted the fateful Yaga which culminated in Devi Sati’s Deha Tyaaga and loss of life to Dakhsa Prajapati. The Yaaga kund and Sati’s kund is still maintained. We did our prayers there and to the Siva Lingam which is kept there. We also prayed at the nearby temple where the Dasa Mahavidyas are enshrined. Brahma Lingam in the form of white marble was also seen. The place has a huge banyan tree (a combination of two three different types) and Ganga flows vigorously. There was a Brahmin boy selling a red book which turned out to be of the Dasa Mahavidya Tantrams.
Most probably the area must have been Daksha's kingdom. I have this opinion since the next compound is Sati’s birth place. A lot of importance is naturally given to the place and we did our obeisance there.
Kankhal – Anandamayee Samadhi
Exactly opposite to Sati’s birth place is Ma Anandmayee Samadhi. The great sage who lived in the twentieth century was revered by almost all people. Unfortunately the place had been closed. We prayed from the outside consoling us that atleast this much was possible.
It is a unique place where people were doing panda karmams. We saw the very ancient Sila and quickly came out after doing our prayers. It was heavily crowded as the day coincided for doing the karmams. This along with Maya Devi Temple and Bhairav Temple are the most ancient of the temples still standing at Haridwar.
Maya Devi is considered as the Adhistathri Devi of Haridwar. It is a unique Sakthi Peeth where Heart and Navel of Goddess Sati fell. There was a special place for Lord Dattatreya here. As was seen at almost all the places, the Devi shrines invariably were shown depicting the Dasa Mahavidyas and one or more of them were given prominence at these locations.
We could not cover Mansa Devi and Chandi Devi in this schedule due to time constraints. We had to look at more time for the climb on the hills and await our turns there. Once the other places which we planned in the interim were over, we went back to our place of stay at Ayyappa Temple for our onward journey back to Delhi. I was put among those who flew out. In the small mini bus, I continued my journey back to Delhi.
21 May 2012
Back to Delhi
We reached the airport well in time (morning 4.00 am) and caught our flights to our own destinations. Our minds were having mixed feelings of being happy to have had the good fortune to visit the sacred places. Equally tired were we that we had faced such varying degrees of physical comfort and discomfort. Almost all of us now were looking forward to reaching our Home Sweet Home.
Back from the Swarga Bhoomi and Deva Bhoomi, the abode of so much of Saints, Gods, their places, to the present reality –
Panch Kedars –
The five Kedars lie in the valleys between the rivers Bhagirathi and Alaknanda. The term Kedar itself means a natural rock formation or a glacial moraine. According to legend, Kedarnath, the chief seat of the Panch Kedar, came into being during the period when the five Pandava brothers were asked to seek Shiva's blessings, purging them off the sin of fratricide, or killing their cousin brothers in the terrifying battle of Kurukshetra. Shiva disguised himself as a bull and started to plunge underground when he was spotted by Pandavas. No wonder the natural rock formation that is worshipped here resembles the hump of bull. The Lord manifested himself with the arms at Tunganath, Stomach / Navel portion at Madhyamaheshwar, face at Rudranath and hair and head at Kalpeshwar. Together these places are known as Panch Kedar.
- Kedarnath - The holiest of Shiva's shrines is likened to gold among base metals so that every pilgrim finds peace here, and it is said that devotees who die here become one with Shiva himself. The temple of Kedarnath, stand at the head of the Mandakini river, with Kedarnath peak keeping vigil above it. The temple is dedicated to the Sadasiva or invisible form of Shiva, and is represented by a natural rock formation. Beyond the temple is the highway to heaven, called Mahapanth.
- Madhmaheshwar - Shiva is worshipped at Madhmaheshwar in the form of navel - shaped lingum. It is located at the base of Chaukhamba peak. So sanctified is the water here that even a few drops are considered sufficient for absolution.
- Tungnath - The sanctity of the region of Tungnath is considered unsurpassed. The peak of Tungnath is the source of three springs that form the river Akashkamini. At this temple, Shiva's arm is worshipped. The highest Hindu shrine in the Himalayas is 3kms uphill from Chopta. An hour's climb from here leads to Chandrashila with its panoromic views. The entire journey and the shrine are located in some of the finest, most picturesque pocket of the Himalaya.
- Rudranath - Devotees come to Rudranath to offer ritual obeisance to their ancestors, for it is here, at Vaitarani river that the soul of dead cross when entering another world. The temple of Rudranath requires trekking through ridges at almost twice that height before reaching the meadow where it is located. Within the sanctum, Shiva's image is worshipped in the form of his face. The temple is surrounded by several pools - Surya Kund, Chandra Kund, Tara Kund, Manas Kund - while the great peaks of Nanda Devi, Trishul and Nanda Ghunti rise overhead.
- Kalpeshwar – Legend has that Sage Durvasa did Tapas here under the Kalpakavriksha. It is also reputed that Urvashi was created here. Pilgrims pray at the small rock temple before the matted tresses of Shiva enshrined in rock in the sanctum sanctorum. The sanctum is preceded by a natural cave passage. Surrounded by thick forests and terraced fields in the Urgam valley, the temple is reached following a 10 km long trek.
Sapta Badris –
Lord Badri Narayan (also called as Badri Vishal) is armed with Shankh (Conch) and Chakra in two arms in a lifted posture and two arms rested on the lap in Yogamudra. The principal image is of black stone and it represents Vishnu seated in meditative pose. It was from Badri Dham, Lord Vishnu went to Mathura to start the Sri Krishna Avatharam. Some of the famous and historical landmarks as per our Ancient history and Ithihasas like Neelkant Mountain, Nara Narayana Mountains, Alkapuri Mountain, Swargarohani Mountain, Charanpaduka, Chakra Thirtha, Vasudhara falls, Lakshmi Vanam, Taptakund, Naradkund, Brahmakapal, Alakananda, Saraswati Rivers, Satopant Lake, Vyasa Guha, Ganapati Guha, Bheem Sila, Sesha Netra are around this area.
There are six other Badri temples apart from the main Badri Nath which also has significance and together are known as Sapta Badris –
- Badri Vishal – The Badri Dham as we have seen. This place is also unique due to the fact that along with Dwaraka, Puri and Rameswaram, it constitutes the Chatur Dham in the Bharata Bhukhanda (Indian Mainland). The Badrinath legend states that Lord Mahavishnu did Tapas in an open space at the location of the Badrikashram or Badri Nath. Lakshmi Devi created shelter for him in the form of Badri tree (berry tree(?)) to protect him from adverse climatic conditions. The Sage Narada did Tapas here, and is believed to continue to do so to this day by reciting the divine chants called Ashta Akshara mantra. Narada was also informed by Vishnu that his divine form subsumed both Nara and Narayana. According to Srimad Bhagavatha Purana, "There in Badrikashram (Badrinath) the Personality of Godhead (Vishnu), in his incarnation as the sages Nara and Narayana, had been undergoing great penance since time immemorial for the welfare of all living beings.
- Adi Badri – Situated at Karnaprayag it is a temple complex consisting of sixteen small temples with intricate carvings houses a three foot black stone statue of Lord Vishnu.
- Vridha Badri – Located at Animath Village about 7 km from Joshi Math in the Rishikesh – Joshimath – Badrinath Road. The legend is that Lord Vishnu appeared in front of Sage Narada who was doing Tapas here. The idol symbolizes this event and was crafted by Sri Viswakarma, the divine craftsman. In Kali Yuga, it was the same idol found by Sankaracharya from Narad Kund and enshrined at the Badri Central Shrine. It is also said that Sankaracharya worshipped Badri Nath here before the present Central Shrine.
- Bhavishya Badri – Located at a village named Subain – 17 km from Joshi Math and beyond Tapovan. This can be reached only by trekking and traveling through dense forest. It is also placed in an ancient pilgrim route to Kailas Mansarovar along the Dhauli Ganga River. Legend says that at about the end of Kali Yuga, due to various forces, Nara Narayana Mountains which is currently on both sides of the Badri Dham will close in and the present shrine would become inaccessible. During this time the present world order would be replaced and Badri Nath would appear here. Presently the deity has a Narasimha face. (See Narsingh Badri also).
- Yogadhyan Badri – Located at Pandukeshwar. Said to have been installed by King Pandu as a bronze image in the form of meditative posture. The place was known as Panchala Desha and Kunti was married to King Pandu at the present Pandukeshwar. Suryakund where Kunti gave birth to Karna is also located close by this place. This place is where the Utsava Murthi of Badri Nath is kept during winter.
- Dhyan Badri – Located at Urgam Valley close to Kalpeshwar (one of the Panch Kedars) on the banks of Alakananda. Urva Rishi meditated on Lord Vishnu here. The idol is of blackstone with four arms and in a meditative form. The temple is at times included in Panch Badri.
- Ardha Badri – Located in a remote village in the Tapovan – Joshimath road. The approach is through a steep trek and the idol is small.
- Narsingh Badri – Not as famous as the Panch Badri and only sometimes included in the Sapta Badris. However – the importance is that it is closely linked to the Bhavishya Badri legend. Narasimha is shown here seated in padmasana and the vigraha is in saligramam. Some believe that the idol is swayambhu. It is believed that one arm of the image is getting emaciated with time and finally fall off. When the arm disappears, the main shrine of Badrinath will be closed to the world and Lord Badrinath will shift to Bhavishya Badri shrine. This will happen by the end of Kali Yuga and the Satya Yuga restarts. Then the Badrinath shrine would get re-established. When the chief Badrinath shrine is closed in winter, the priests of Badrinath shift to this temple and continue their worship to Badrinath here. Along with Narasimha image, the shrine also has the image of Badrinath.
------------------------- Gurucharanou Samarpayami------------------------------------