Chapter 2
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THE SIGNIFICANCE OF RUDRAKSHA, AMLA & TULSI

Once, while describing about the importance of Rudraksha to the sages, Vyas said--- One who wears a Rudraksha rosary is supreme among all human beings. The mere sight of such a holy man absolves people of their sin. A Rudraksha bead bears features of a Linga and yoni on it's surface. One should not wear a rudraksha on which above mentioned features are absent. Similarly two joint beads should never be worn. All the mantras become doubly powerful when chanted with the help of rudraksha-rosary.During Satya-yuga, there lived a mighty demon named Tripurasur. He had conquered the deities and was capable of moving in the space. The deities sought help of Lord Shiva, who killed Tripurasur by the sight of his third-eye. In the process, few drops of sweat, emanating from Shiva's body fell down on the earth. These sweat drops got transformed into a large Rudraksha-tree.

Amla is a very nutritious fruit and great religious significance has been attached to it. Amla fruit is very dear to Lord Vishnu and its use on the auspicious day of Ekadashi brings unmatched virtue. A person who regularly eats amla enjoys a long life.The following tale adequately describes the religious importance of amla --

Once upon a time, a chandala went into the forest for hunting. He hunted many deer and birds. Feeling hungry, he saw an amla tree and climbed up the tree. This way he satiated his hunger by eating sweet amla fruits. Unfortumately while he was climbing down the tree, he fell down and died.When the attendants of Yamaraj arrived to take back his soul, they could not do so even after repeated attempts. The attendants of Yamaraj became very surprised and went to the sages for clarification. The sages revealed to the attendants that they could not go near the chandala's dead body, because he had eaten amla just before his death.

Such is the glory of amla!

Once Kartikeya asked Lord Shiva about the holiest tree, which was capable of giving salvation. Lord shiva replied---The Tulsi plant is supreme among all the vegetations. She is very dear to lord Vishnu and fulfill's all the desires of a man. Lord Krishna dwells near the place where there is a Tulsi plant. Spirits and ghosts never dare to venture near the Tulsi plant. If a man attaches a Tulsi leaf to his Shikha at the time of his death, he is liberated from all his sins. One who worships Lord Vishnu by offering Tulsi-leaves attains salvation.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SURYA'S WORSHIP

Once, while describing about the importance of Surya's worship to Vaishampayan, Sage Vyas narrated the following tale ---

There lived a king named Bhadreshwar. He ruled over Madhyadesh. Once his left hand was infected with leprosy. Bhadreshwar, fearing the prospect of dreadful leprosy spreading to his whole body, decided to end his life. He expressed his desire to the head-priest. The head-priest cautioned Bhadreshwar that if he went ahead with his decision, then the whole kingdom would be destroyed. He said --- 'You will be cured of leprosy, if you worship Lord Surya.'

The head-priest then told the king about the appropriate rituals of Surya--worship. King Bhadreshwar began his austerities and worshipped Lord Surya by chanting mantras and offering articles like Naivedya, fruits, Ardhya, Akshat etc to the deity.King Bhadreshwar was cured of his leprosy within a year by the virtue of his deep devotion towards Lord Surya.

BHUMI KHAND

DIFFERENT TYPES OF SIN & VIRTUE

Once, Yayati requested Matali to describe the various sinful and virtuous deeds, which a man normally commits in his life.

Matali replied----'One who criticizes the vedas and follows the religion of other's after abandoning his own or torments virtuous people is a grave sinner. Similarly, not respecting one's parents, not giving 'dakshina' to a brahmin after the completion of a shraddh ceremony, studying the scriptures in an impure physical state are some other sinful deeds.

'One who obstructs a hungry man from having his food or thirsty person from quenching his thirst commits a sin similar to that of killing a brahmin.

Matali described some other types of sins ---

Back biting, seeing faults with others and demeaning their efforts, acquiring other's land by unfair means, killing innocent animals, having illicit relationship with women other than one's wife, telling lies, showing disrespect to the guests etc, are considered to be sinful deeds.

Describing about the various types of virtuous deeds, Matali said ---

Non-violence, forgiveness, truthfulness, devotion towards god, benevolence, abstinence, oblation & meditation are some of the virtuous deeds. Donating food-grains, domesticated animals like horse, cow etc. giving water to a thirsty person are some other types of virtuous deeds.A person who donates wooden sandals a needy brahmin attains to the heaven. Worshipping Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu enables a man to attain to the Shivaloka or Vishnuloka respectively.

KING YAYATI PROPAGATES VAISHNAVA--DHARMA

King Yayati was the son of Nahush and a descendant of Soma--dynasty. He was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu and had contributed a lot in the propagation of Vaishnava--dharma. Yayati had sent many emissaries in all directions to propagate Vaishnava--dharma. During Yayati's reign his subject were prosperous and were free from any kind of sorrow. Peace prevailed everywhere and people did not experience any natural calamity like draught or famine.

King Yayati enjoyed an unbelievably long life of one lakh years. He was blessed with eternal youth and his appearance was enough to give an inferiority complex to a young man. All this, he had attained by the virtue of his supreme devotion towards Lord Vishnu. Indra was very scared of Yayati's increasing popularity and feared that if his virtuosity remained intact, he would very soon become the ruler of heaven. Indra instructed Kamadeva and Rati to find some means so that king Yayati could be enticed by human weaknesses like lust & infatuation.

Kamadeva, accompanied by other Gandharvas went to Yayati's palace and sought his permission to stage a play. Yayati gave his permission and the play commenced. Rati appeared on the stage as a beautiful woman and was successful in corrupting the thoughts of Yayati. Yayati became so enchanted by Rati's beauty that he lost his senses and fell down unconscious. Finding the time opportune 'Vriddhavastha' (deity of old age) and 'Kamadeva' entered Yayati's body.This way the deities were successful in their designs and now the signs of old-age started to become evident in Yayati.

YAYATI MARRIES ASHRUBINDUMATI

Once, king Yayati went into a forest for hunting. He saw a stag, which had four horns and chased it. The deer led him deep into the forest and then disappeared. Yayati was tired and thirsty. He saw a lake and decided to quench his thirst. First of all he took his bath and then drank sweet water from the lake.As Yayati was relaxing at the bank of that lake, he heard a sweet voice singing a song. Yayati proceeded towards the direction from which the sound was coming. He saw a beautiful woman singing a song. Her companion accompanied the beautiful woman.Yayati became enchanted by the divine beauty of that woman and wanted to marry her. The beautiful woman's companion told Yayati that her friend could marry him only after he shed the signs of his old age.

The beautiful woman was Ashrubindumati--the daughter of Rati.Vishala-her companion was the daughter of Varun. Yayati returned to his palace and requested his two sons--Taru and Yadu to exchange their youth in lieu of his old age, but both of them refused to oblige him. Yayati cursed both of them.

Yayati had a son---Puru from his wife named Sharmishtha. When he made the same request to Puru, he agreed without any hesitation. Yayati became pleased with Puru and appointed him as his successor.

Now, Yayati became young once again and went to meet Ashrubindumati. But, Ashrubindumati's friend Vishala was still not convinced and expressed apprehension that her friend would never play second fiddle to his two wives--Sharmishtha and Devayani.King Yayati, being blinded by his lust, assured Vishala that Ashrubindumati would enjoy the supreme authority and she had nothing to fear. He said--"I promise that you will be my only wife and I will have nothing to do with my wives."

This way Yayati married Ashrubindumati and enjoyed a blissful married life for twenty-thousand years. Once, Ashrubindumati expressed her desire of visiting all the divine places--Indraloka, Brahmaloka, Shivaloka and Vishnuloka. Yayati took back his old age from Puru and returned his youth. He appointed Puru as his successor and instructed his subject to live peacefully. But, the people wanted to be with Yayati, so all of them accompanied him to the heaven.Yayati visited all the divine places and ultimately attained to Vishnuloka.

KUNJAL--THE ENLIGHTENED PARROT

Once, while describing about the importance of a teacher, Lord Vishnu had narrated the following tale to king Ven--- Sage Chyavan came from the lineage of Bhargav. Once, he arrived at Omkareshwar with the objective of acquiring knowledge. Since he was tired, he decided to take rest under the shade of a Banyan tree. A parrot named Kunjal lived on that tree. The parrot had four young ones--Ujjawal, Samujjwal, Vijjwal and Kapinjal. Kunjal was a very learned parrot and had mastery over all the scriptures. Once, Ujjawal requested Kunjal to give discourse on various aspects of religiousness. Kunjal said---The whole world is full of sorrow. A man can be liberated from his sorrow by the means of salvation because salvation is free from sorrow. Salvation can be attained with the help of abstinence, self-control and having deep devotion in lord Vishnu. The soul being enlightened is also called 'Paramatma'. But, covered by the darkness of ignorance it becomes difficult for the soul to attain salvation. A devotee can meditate on both the forms of Lord Vishnu--Sakar (with form) & Nirakar (formless). But, meditating on the Sakar form is easy for anybody. On the other hand only an enlightened soul can meditate on the 'nirakar' form of Lord Vishnu. There are various austerities related with Lord Vishnu and which if observed by a devotee, pleases him--Jaya, Vijaya, Jayanti, Vanjuli, Tilgandha, Trihsprisha, Akshanda and Manoraksha. All these austerities are similar to different types of Ekadashi or Dwadashi Vrata. Similarly, two other austerities namely Ashunyashayan and Janmashtami are capable of freeing a man from all his sin. A devotee who chants Shatnaam stotra attains salvation.

KUNJAL PREACHES VIJJWAL

Describing the virtue of benevolence to Vijjwal. Kunjal--the learned parrot narrated the following tale ---

Once, there lived a king named Subahu who ruled over chola desha. A learned brahmin named Jaimini used to counsel him on religious and spiritual matters.One day, while Jaimini was giving a discourse on the virtue of benevolence, Subahu requested him to describe about those deeds that enables a man either to attain to the heaven or to hell.

Jaimini replied--- One who earns his livelihood by improper means definitely goes to hell. Similarly, atheists, licentious people, proudy, backbiters and ungrateful people go to hell too. One who gobbles up other's wealth by illegal means or shows disrespect to his guest goes to hell.One who is a habitual liar or one who kills innocent animals or one who has abandoned the religious path is certain to go to hell.One who is truthful and engages himself in various virtuous deeds like penance, meditation, study of the scriptures, goes to the heaven. One who is respectful towards his elders and leads a virtuous life goes to the heaven. In the same manner, he who is benevolent and free from vices like jealousy hatred etc. goes to the heaven. Similarly, one who leads his life as per the instructions given in the scriptures or has full control over his sensual desires goes to the heaven.

King Subahu was so impressed by Jaimini's preaching that he decided to spend rest of his life in the service of lord Madhusudan. He performed countless oblations as long as he was alive and attained to Vishnuloka after his death.

KUNJAL NARRATES ABOUT HIS PREVIOUS BIRTH

Sage Chyavan, who had been listening to the narration of Kunjal, was amazed by his profound knowledge. He asked Kunjal---O great soul! Who are you? From where did you acquire such divine knowledge.'

Kunjal, who remembered everything about his previous birth said--

In my previous birth, I was the youngest son of a brahmin named Vidyadhar. My name was Dharma Sharma. Seeing my dislike for study, my father became worried about my future. I used to waste my time loitering here and there. People used to make fun of my stupidity, which made me extremely sad. I decided to acquire knowledge but did not find anybody willing to teach me.

In due course of time I became old but was still an idiot. One day, I was sitting in a temple cursing my fate. Suddenly, a sage arrived there and asked me as to what made me so sad. I narrated my woeful tale. The sage felt pity on my condition and blessed me with divine knowledge that made me capable of having advance knowledge of all the future incidents of the world. Sage Chyavan was curious to know about the reason that made Dharma Sharma to be born as a parrot.

Kunjal replied--- O Brahmin! A man is influenced by the company he keeps. The reason why I took birth as a parrot is related with an incident, which occurred in my previous birth. Once, a wicked fowler sold a parrot to a brahmin who in turn presented it to me. With the passage of time I became very attached with the parrot and gradually deviated from my virtuous path. As a result all my divine knowledge vanished and I became an idiot once again.

One day,a cat arrived and killed that parrot in my absence. I became very sad and used to spend my time crying over the dead parrot. Ultimately I died but even at the time of death, my mind was preoccupied with the thoughts of my beloved parrot. As a result, I was born as a parrot but fortunately I remembered my previous birth even while I was still in my mother's womb. I was full of remorse and used to curse myself for having wasted my life.Sage Chyavan was amazed by the narration of Kunjal--the learned parrot.

SWARGA—KHANDA

SOME PROMINENT HOLY PLACES OF BHARATVARSHA

Once, sages requested Sutji to describe about the most prominent places of pilgrimage situated in Bharatvarsha. Sutji commenced his narration by describing the origin of creation and then switched over to the geographical characteristics of Bharatvarsha. Sutji said---'There are seven prominent mountain ranges in Bharatvarsha--Mahendra, Malay, Sahya, Shaktiman, Rikshavan, Vindhya and Pariyatra. Some prominent rivers supplying potable water to the inhabitants of Bharatvarsha are---Ganga, Sindhu, Saraswati, Godwari, Narmada, Shatadru, Yamuna, Vipasha, Mahanadi, Vidisham, Varuna etc. The names of the main Janapadas situated in the northern part of Bharatvarsha are Kuru, Panchal, Shalva, Matreya, Jaangal, Shoorsen, Pulind, Baudh, Chedi, Matsya, Bhoj, Sindhu, Utkal, Koshal, Madra, Kalinga, Kashi, Malav, Magadh, Videh, Anga, Banga, Surashtra, Kekay, Kashmir & Gandhar. Similarly, Janpadas like Dravid, Keral. Prachya, karnatak, Kuntal, chol, Sauhrid, Kona, Korak, Kalad, Mushal and Sutap are situated in the southern part of Bharatvarsha.

Sutji then described about the greatness of Pushkar teerth by recounting an incident related with the Pandavas---

"One day, Sage Narad visited the Pandavas who were living in exile. The Pandavas had visited many places during the course of their exile period and wanted to know about the fruits they had acquired due to their pilgrimage.

"Sage Narad then recounted an incident when king Dilip had once posed the same question to Sage Vashishth. Sage Vashishth while describing about the greatness of Pushkar said---Pushkar teerth is the holiest place where lord Brahma has his abode. Deities consider themselves fortunate to be at Pushkar. A person who takes a holy dip at Pushkar and worships lord Brahma acquires virtues equivalent to the accomplishment of the Ashwamedha yagya."

Sage Vashishth continued with the description of some other prominent places of pilgrimage like Jambumarg, Narmada Amarkantak etc.

JAMBUMARG, RIVER NARMADA AMARKANTAK

Continuing with his narration, Sage Vashishth said--- A man desirous of going on a pilgrimage should first of all visit Jambumarg, because it is revered even by the deities and the sages. By visiting this holy place a man acquires virtue equivalent to the accomplishment of an Ashwamedha yagya and attains to Vishnuloka. A man should then visit Tundulikashram, Agastya Ashram & Kanya Ashram, which are situated near Jambumarg. Taking a dip in the holy water of Kotiteerth, situated near Mahakal temple is believed to bestow undiminished virtue. Bhadravat is a famous place of pilgrimage related with Lord Shiva and paying a visit here gives virtue equivalent to donation of 1000 cows.

A man who takes holy dip in river Narmada and performs 'tarpan' in the name of manes acquires fruits similar to the accomplishment of Agnishtom yagya. Narmada is the holiest of all the river. A man becomes liberated from his sins by taking bath for three weeks in river Saraswati. Similarly it takes one week of regular bath in river yamuna for a man to become absolved of all his sins. The mere touch of Ganga water liberates a man from all his sins, but mere sight of river Narmada is enough to liberate a man from all his sins.

Kotirudras are believed to dwell in the vicinity of Amarkantak mountain. All together sixty crores and sixty thousand places of pilgrimage are situated all around this holy mountain. Anybody present in the vicinity of this mountain must refrain from any kind of sinful deeds. Visiting Amarkantak mountain during solar and Lunar eclipses is considered to be extremely auspicious. Similarly the confluence site of Narmada and Kaveri is considered to be sacrosanct. Anybody who takes a holy dip in the confluence of Narmada and Kaveri becomes liberated from his sins.