Part - 4

THE DESCENT OF NARMADA

Explaining the reason why Narmada had to descend down to earth, Sutji narrated a tale to the assembled sages-' Once, sage markandeya was taking rest at the bank of river Narmada where Yudhisthira accompanied by Draupadi arrived there. Yudhishthira curiously asked Markandeya about the reason he had chosen the bank of Narmada as his resting place when there were so many other holy places of greater significance. Sage Markandeya recounted a tale, which said how some sages had requested king Pururva to bring down river Narmada to the earth so that the whole world becomes liberated from its sins. Describing the holiness of Narmada, sages had told Pururava- ' The holy Narmada is capable of liberating the whole world from its sin. So, you should find means so that Narmada descends down to earth.' Later on, Pururva did an austere penance to please Shiva. When Lord Shiva appeared before him, Pururva expressed his wish. Shiva instructed Narmada to descend down to earth but she told him that she needed a base for that to happen. Lord Shiva then instructed Paryank- the son of Vindhyachal mountain to hold Narmada while she descended down to earth. Prayank agreed to do that and this was how Narmada came down on earth. Initially, the whole world was flooded with the waters of Narmada but at the request of the deities she minimized her size. Narmada blessed Pururva and instructed him to perform the rituals of tarpan in the name of his ancestors so that they became liberated from their sins. Pururva complied and thus by performing tarpan liberated all his ancestors.'

Having finished his tale, Markandeya told Yudhishthira that one who takes a holy dip in Narmada attains virtues similar to that of performing Ashwamedh yagya.

NARMADA MARRIES PURUKUTSU

Markandeya says-' O Yudhishthir! King Purutkutsu was Samudra in his previous birth and had been cursed by Brahma. The descent of Narmada on earth made the deities extremely delighted and they requested Narmada to give them the privilege of experiencing her divine touch. But, Narmada refused to give them that privilege on the pretext that she was still unmarried and it would not be proper for her to do so. All the deities then requested her to become the consort of Purukutsu to which she agreed. This way, Narmada married Purutkusu. After getting married, Purutkutsu requested her to liberate his ancestors so that they could attain to heaven. Narmada readily obliged and this way Purutkutsu contributed in his ancestors' departure to heaven.

MANU RECEIVES A BOON FROM NARMADA

Markandeya says-' Manu ruled over Ayodhya during Swayambhuva manvantar. One day, while he was going to sleep, he heard a peculiar sound, as if numerous small bells were ringing. He was perplexed and could not ascertain the cause of that sound so he asked sage Vashishth about this. Sage Vashishth made a revelation by which Manu was startled. Sage Vashishth told him- There is a holy place called Tripuri situated at the bank of river Narmada. The sound that you heard last night emanated from the small bells attached to number of aircraft kept on the roofs of the residences of such people who are virtuous. O king! Only Narmada is capable of giving salvation to lowly of sinners.'

Manu was highly impressed and decided to go to Tripuri along with his whole clan. All of them took holy dips in the Narmada and became liberated from all their sins. Manu performed a grand yagya at the bank of Narmada to which all the sages and hermits were invited. Narmada became pleased by his devotion and expressed her willingness to fulfill any wish that Manu desired.
Manu requested her help in bringing down Ganga and other holy rivers to earth. Narmada blessed him and said- In the first half of tretayuga, one of your descendants named Bhagirath would accomplish this great feat of bringing down holy Ganga to earth. In the second half of the same era other holy rivers like Kalindi, Saraswati, Sarayu, and Mahabhaga would also manifest themselves.

JAMDAGNI RECEIVES KAAMDHENU

Markandeya told Yudhishthir-' Sage Jamdagni was a great devotee of Shiva and he lived in Narmadapur. He spent his day chanting mantras in the praise of Lord Shiva. Once, he performed an austere penance, which lasted for a month. Ultimately, Shiva manifested himself from the Siddheshwar Linga and appeared before him. Lord Shiva asked Jamdagni to ask for any thing he wished for. Jamdagni expressed his desire to have Kaamdhenu so that he could perform his rituals and other religious obligations without any problem. Lord Shiva blessed Jamdagni and disappeared. The next moment, Jamdagni found Kaamdhenu standing in front of his hermitage.

Now, Jamdagni got everything that he wished for. This way, he was a happy and contented life until one fateful day when he was killed by a greedy king named Kartaveerya, who subsequently took Kaamdhenu along with him. While the greedy king was still on his way, Kaamdhenu cursed him that very soon not only he but the whole caste of Kshatriya would be liquidated by Parshuram- Jamdagni's son, as punishment for having committed such a ghastly sin of killing an innocent sage. After cursing Kartaveerya, Kaamdhenu went to her original abode-the heaven. Later on, when Parshuram learnt of his father's slaying, he liquidated Kartaveerya and the whole caste of Kshatriya as had been prophesized by Kaamdhenu.

DESCRIPTION OF HELL

Yudhishthira requested Markandeya to describe what a sinner had to go through in Yamaloka and also that what kind of a person should be considered as the most ghastly sinner.

Markandeya replied- ' Donating food to needy people is an extremely virtuous deed and there is no virtuous deed greater than this. A person who donates cereals can be aptly called 'Annadata'- one who provides food. One who has never donated cereals in his lifetime is definite to go to hell and has to tread an arduous path leading to it that is ridden with prickly thorns, pointed nails and other sharp objects. The entire path leading to hell is extremely dark and covered with large pits. The path is also covered with unbearably hot sand spilled all over the place. The sinner is forcibly taken by the Yamdoots despite their reluctance. The sinners repent for the sins they have committed but it is of no use to them, as they will have to reap the fruits of their evil deeds. They have to undergo all sorts of painful experience- they are forced to pass through fire and pits full of filth.

Those sinners who have atoned for their sins are not treated so harshly by the Yamdoots. After they appear before Yamraj, Chitragupta reminds them of all the sins they had committed. Thereafter, Yamraj orders his attendants to purify the sinners by putting them into the ocean of the Hell. There are Twenty-eight types of hells- Atighora, Raudra, Ghortama, Dukhjanani, Ghorrupa, Tarantara, Bhayanaka, Kaalratri, Ghatotkata, Chanda, Mahachanda, Chndakolahala, Prachanda, Varagnika, Jaghanya, Avaraloma, Bhishni, Nayika, Karala, Vikarala, Vajravinshti, Asta, Panchkona, Sudirgha, Parivartula, Saptabhauma, Ashtabhauma and Deerghamaya. Each of the latter hell is more horrific than the former.Sinners have to undergo unbearable pain and sufferings in the hell. They are tied up by very hot iron chains and hanged down from trees. Yamdoots attach hot and heavy iron balls to their feet and thrash them with hot iron rods. They are then put into wells of filth. The tongue of a liar is rooted out with brute force and a person, who shows disrespect to his elders and teachers, his mouth is filled with hot sands and boiling oil. Similarly immoral women, who do not fulfill their obligation towards their husbands, are thrown into a horrific hell named Lohakumbh. O Yudhishthir! A man's life is too short and uncertain. One is not sure when his final call would come. So, one should try to lead a virtuous life to the best of his ability.'

TRISHANKU CURSED BY VASHISHTH'S SONS

Sutji once narrated the following tale to the assembled sages- In ancient times there lived a mighty king named Trishanku. He belonged to Suryavanshi dynasty. One day, he asked sage Vashishth whether there was any such Yagya by performing which, he would be entitled to go to heaven with his physical form. Sage Vashishth laughed at his naive query and told him that there was no such Yagya by performing which a man could go to the heaven with his mortal body. But, Trishanku was not satisfied by Vashishth's answer and so he went to ask the same question to Vashishth's sons who were one hundred in number. But even they corroborated their father's statement. Trishanku got infuriated and threatened them that he would appoint somebody else as his royal priest to get the same yagya performed as they all lacked the required knowledge and competence. Vashishth's sons also got angry and cursed him to become a 'chandal' (a low caste person). The next moment Trishanku indeed became a 'chandal' and was so much ashamed of himself that he decided to go to the forest after relinquishing his throne. He called his son -Harishchandra and narrated the whole tale of his misery. Before going to the forest he appointed Harishchandra as his successor.

One day, while wandering in the forest, Trishanku met sage Vishwamitra and narrated his miserable tale to him. Since Vishwamitra was a competitor of Vashishth, he took it as a golden opportunity to prove his superiority to his adversary. So, he assured Trishanku that he had the requisite power to send anybody to heaven and said- ' I shall help you perform a grand yagya, which would allow you to attain to the heaven with your mortal body. But before that you will have to go on a pilgrimage so that you become pure once again.' Both Vishwamitra and Trishanku set out on a pilgrimage and reached 'Arbudachal' where they met sage Markandeya. After the pleasantries were over, Markandeya asked Vishwamitra about Trishanku, who was standing quietly. Vishwamitra revealed everything to Markandeya and said - I had taken a vow not to take rest until Trishanku got absolved of the evil influence of the curse given by Vashishth's sons'. I have not achieved success in my objective till date, so I have decided to renounce the world.

Seeing Vishwamitra in such desperation, Markandeya consoled him and instructed him to go to Haatkeshwar where taking a holy dip in Patal Ganga would purify Trishanku and solve all his problems.Both Vishwamitra and Trishanku reached 'Haatkeshwar' and bathed in the holy Patal Ganga. To his pleasant surprise, Trishanku found that he had indeed become purified and all the lowly qualities had vanished within no time. Vishwamitra was delighted as the first condition for Trishanku's departure to Heaven had been met. He decided to go to Brahma loka to request Lord Brahma to be present at the Yagya which was to be performed for the success of Trishanku's departure to heaven. But before leaving, he instructed Trishanku to make all the necessary preparations before his return.

After reaching Brahma loka, Vishwamitra narrated the whole story to Lord Brahma and requested him to grace the Yagya by his presence. Lord Brahma told him that it was just impossible for any mortal to attain to heaven in his physical form but he added that if Trishanku performed the rituals diligently then he would certainly attain to heaven after his death. Vishwamitra did not like Brahma's words and challenged him that no power on earth could stop him from sending Trishanku to Heaven.

VISHWAMITRA COMMENCES NEW CREATION

Vishwamitra then instructed Trishanku to make preparation for the Yagya. After everything was ready, Vishwamitra initiated Trishanku into the rituals of Yagya. Trishanku made offerings in the sacrificial fire at the instruction of Vishwamitra. The deities readily accepted all the offerings that were made to them. This way, the yagya continued for twelve long years but still there was no sign of Vishwamitra's desire of sending Trishanku to heaven getting fulfilled. Trishanku became dejected and told him about his decision to renounce everything and spend rest of his life doing penance as chances of attaining to heaven appeared impossible. He was also sure that Vashishth's sons would make fun of him if he went back to his kingdom without achieving his objective. But, Vishwamitra consoled him and said--' No power on earth can stop you from going to heaven with your physical form. You just need to have some patience and your desire will be certainly fulfilled.'

Vishwamitra decided to please Lord Shiva as he was convinced that Shiva was the only deity who could help him achieve his goal. He eulogized Shiva by singing hymns of praise in his name. At last, Shiva appeared before him and expressed his desire of fulfilling any wish of Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra requested Shiva to bestow on him the power of creation just like Brahma had. Lord Shiva blessed him and disappeared.Now, Vishwamitra was eager to test his powers so he began creating different things. He created Sun, Moon, Stars, oceans, Rivers, so on and so forth. In a short time the whole world was filled by his creations resulting into chaos all over. As the result of his creations, every natural thing became double in number- one that had already been created by Brahma and the second created by Vishwamitra. Now there existed two suns, two moons, so on and so forth. Vishwamitra's amazing deeds had catastrophic fallout on the natural course of events.

Deities were scarred and rushed to seek the help of lord Brahma. They told Brahma that if Vishwamitra was not stopped the whole world was doomed to destruction. Lord Brahma appeared before Vishwamitra and ordered to stop doing creations. Vishwamitra told him that he was ready to do that if Brahma helped Trishanku attain to heaven with his mortal body. Seeing no other option, Brahma accepted Vishwamitra's condition. This way, Vishwamitra was able to send Trishanku physically to heaven with the help of Lord Brahma.

DESCRIPTION OF PURANAS AND UP- PURANAS

Once, while describing the origin of puranas, Sutji told the sages who had assembled at Naimisharanya-' Lord Shiva had first revealed the contents of Skanda puran to Parvati at Kailash Mountain. Lord Brahma and few other deities were also present there at the time when Shiva was narrating the tale. Subsequently, Parvati narrated this tale to Skanda, Skanda to Nandi and Nandi to sages like Sanak, etc. and finally Sanak narrated it to Vyas. Now I am going to tell you the same tale which Vyas had narrated to me.'

Sutji began by saying-' During ancient times, Lord Brahma once did a very austere penance resulting into the manifestation of all the four Vedas. Later on, all the eighteen Puranas too appeared from his mouth. These eighteen Puranas were- Brahma Puran, Vishnu Puran, Shiva Puran, Bhagawat Puran, Bhavishya Puran, Narad Puran, Markandeya Puran, Agni Puran, Brahma vaivarta Puran, Linga Puran, Padma Puran, Varah Puran, Skanda Puran, Vaman Puran, Kurma Puran, Matsya Puran, Garuda Puran and Vayu Puran.Apart from these eighteen main Puranas, there are also similar number of secondary Puranas known as Up- Puranas. These Up- Puranas are - Sanat kumar, Narsimha, Skand, Shiva Dharma, Durvasa, Narad, Kapil, Manu, Ushana, Brahmand, Varun, Kalika, Maheshwar, Saamb, Saura, Parashar, Maarich and Bhargava.'

Sutji then went on to describe the other features of each Purana-' Brahma Puran contains ten thousand shlokas in it whereas Padma Puran contains fifty-five thousand shlokas. Similarly, there are twenty-three thousand shlokas in Vishnu Puran. Vayu Puran contains the tales related with Lord Shiva and it contains twenty-four thousand shlokas in it. Similarly the remaining Puranas like Bhagawat, Narad, Markandeya, Agni, Bhavishya, Brhmavaivarta, Linga, Varah, Skanda, Vaman, Kurma, Matsya, Garuda and Brahmanda Puran contain 18,000, 25,000, 9,000, 16,000, 14,500, 18,000, 11,000, 24,000, 81,100, 10,000, 17,000, 14,000, 18,000 and 12,200 shlokas respectively.'

Sutji told the sages that all the Up- Puranas owe their origin to the main Puranas which are eighteen in number. He also revealed to them that they could be categorized into three main types- Satvik, Rajas and Tamas. Satvik Puranas contain the tales of Lord Vishnu while Rajas Puranas contain the tales of Brahma and Tamas Purans contain the tales of Agni and Rudra. One of the chief characteristics of Puranas is that each of them is divided into five sections- 'Sarg' (Description of how creation began), 'Pratisarga', 'Vansh' (Description of prominent dynasties), 'Manvantar' and 'Vanshanucharit' (Tales related with the descendants of the famous sages).

PRABHAS TERTH

On being asked by the sages about the prominent places of pilgrimage, Sutji named many holy places but according to him Prabhas Teerth was the crown of all the places of pilgrimage and was incomparable. Recounting a tale when Parvati had once asked Lord Shiva the same question, Sutji said-' At that time Shiva had told Parvati that Prabhas Kshetra was supreme among all the holy places and capable of liberating a man from all his sins. He had also told her that due to prevalence of sins in Kaliyuga people would not attain virtues despite going on pilgrimages. Shiva had also told her that this was the reason why he had created numerous holy places and kept them secret so the holiness of these places remained intact. I have manifested myself in the form of a divine Shiva linga at Prabhas kshetra. The whole universe has originated from it and merges into it ultimately at the time of deluge. The Shiva linga is called Somanath and very few people are aware of it's existence. This Shivalinga continue to exist since it's manifestation in a particular kalpa named Bhairav long ago. Unfortunately, people of kaliyaga under the influence of all pervading ignorance would fail to recognize the importance of holy places. Such people would try to demean the value of holy places and make fun of those people who go on pilgrimages. Being blinded by their superficial intelligence they would try to find faults with rituals and religion. Such would be the condition of the mortals in kaliyuga that they would criticize everything that is religious and spiritual in nature. How can one expect from these unfortunate people of kaliyuga to understand the significance of Prabhas kshetra and which is revered even by me ?'

Parvati, who had been listening to the tale with rapt attention, became even more curious to know about Prabhas kshetra. So she requested Lord Shiva to shed more light on the other important aspects of this sacrosanct place. Lord Shiva, continuing with his description of Prabhas kshetra, said- ' This sacrosanct place has temples of three deities on it's three sides. To its east is situated a grand temple of Surya Narayan while there is a magnificent temple of Madhav to it's west. In the same way there is a beautiful temple of goddess Bhavani to the north of Prabhas kshetra and towards it's south lies the ocean. This holy place is spread in the area of five yojans and is divided in three major areas- Maheshwar, Vaishnav and Brahma. There are about one crore temples related with different deities in Vaishnav and Brahma kshetras while Maheshwar kshetra contains one and half crore temples. As the name implies, each area has been named after one God forming the Trinity. Anybody who has the good fortune of living in the central part of Prabhas kshetra becomes absolved of all his sins even if he has committed most abhorrent sins. The significance of this holy place can be understood by the fact that a man born there does not take a second birth and attains salvation. One whom scholars of the Vedas call 'Kaalagni Rudra' is famously known as Bhairav in Prabhas kshetra.

SOMNATH LINGA

Emphasizing on the significance of Someshwar linga and its deep association with the Vedas, Lord Shiva told Parvati-' The divine Someshwar linga exists since time immemorial and will remain for eternity. This revelation descended on me while I was engrossed in a deep state of meditation. Someshwar Linga has deep association with the Vedas and it enhances their sanctity by establishing itself in each of them at different periods of time during the day. During morning time Someshwar linga establishes itself in the Rigveda, during noon in the Yajurveda, during afternoon in the Sama veda and during evening time it establishes itself in Atharva veda.

DIFFERENT NAMES OF SOMNATH

Parvati curiously asked Lord Shiva about the reason why Somnath was known by so many different names. Lord Shiva said- ' Since the time this divine linga first manifested itself very few blessed souls had the knowledge of it's existence. Brahma has a life span of one kalpa at the end of which even he ceases to exist giving way to his successor- a new Brahma. In the same manner this divine Linga acquires a new name at the end of each kalpa. The present kalpa is seventh in order as six kalpas have already passed. The name of the present Brahma is Shatanand and this divine Linga is presently famous by the name of Somnath. Similarly it was famous as Mrityunjay during the time of Brahma named Virinchi. During second kalpa this Linga was famous as Kalagnirudra and the name of Brahma was Padmabhu. The third kalpa had Swayambhu as Brahma and the Linga was famous as Amritesh. The name of the fourth Brahma was Parmeshthi in fourth kalpa and the linga was famous as Annamay. In the same way the names of the fifth and sixth Brahma were Surajyeshtha and Hemagarbha respectively and the names of the Linga during their periods were Kritiwas and Bhairav Nath respectively.'

Lord Shiva also revealed to Parvati that the next kalpa- eighth in order would have Chaturmukh as Brahma and the divine Linga would be known as Pran Nath.Goddess Parvati then asked Shiva about the exact location of the Linga in Prabhas Kshetra. Lord Shiva told her that the sacrosanct place of Prabhas Kshetra was situated between the plains of two rivers Vajrini and Nyankumati. He also told her that the eternal Linga was not very far from the sea coast. Dwelling at length about the good fortunes of those living in Prabhas kshetra, Lord Shiva told her-' Anybody who does not abandon this holy place despite his hardships and troubles is certain to attain to my abode. One who has the good fortune of dying at Prabhas kshetra attains salvation. There will be prevalence of sins in Kaliyuga. As a result of this people would experience all sorts of hurdles and problems in their lives. To minimize their sorrows and to lessen their miseries, I have personally instructed Ganesh not to abandon this place even for a moment. Of all the Lingas present on the earth, Somnath is specially dear to me.'

SIDDHESHWAR LINGA AND SIDDHA LINGA

Describing the reason why this sacrosanct place was named Prabhas, Lord Shiva told Parvati- ' I dwell in the entire area stretching between the ocean in the south and river Kaureshwari. Being situated at the western coast, this entire area is radiated by Surya's light for a relatively longer period of time and hence it has been named 'Prabhas' meaning luster. This is the reason why there is situated a grand temple of Lord Surya in Prabhas Kshetra. Not far from this Surya temple is situated a magnificent temple of Lord Siddheshwar, which was famously known as Jaigishavyeshwar in ancient times.'

Lord Shiva then went on to describe why Siddheshwar was called Jaigishavyeshwar during ancient times-' There lived a sage named Jaigishavya in previous kalpa. He used to daily worship a Shiva linga named Mahoday, which had manifested on its own. Keeping in view Shiva's fondness for ashes, he used to smear it on his body hoping to please his deity. Not only this he even slept on ashes. He thus led an extremely austere life. At last he was able to please Lord Mahoday by his devotion. When Lord Mahoday appeared before him and expressed his willingness to fulfill anything he wished but Jaigishavya wanted nothing but total devotion in his deity (Mahoday). Lord Mahoday blessed him with immortality and said-' There would be nobody as powerful as you. Your feats achieved in spiritual things will be unmatched and you would become famous as 'Yogacharya' or teacher of Yoga. One who regularly worships this particular Linga which you have been worshipping with such deep devotion till now is certain to get absolved of all his sins.' Having blessed Yaigishavya thus, Lord Mahoday disappeared from his sight. After this incident, Mahoday linga also came to be known as Yaigishavyeshwar. In course of time, when the Kaliyuga of that Kalpa arrived, some sages named 'Balkhilyas' had gone to the same place and worshipped Lord Mahoday. Similarly, many more sages went there and attained 'siddhi' or accomplishment. This is how this Linga came to be known as 'Siddheshwar' (the lord of all accomplishments). There are many holy places in the vicinity like Siddha linga, which was installed by lord Surya. Anybody who worships this linga on the auspicious day of trayodashi of the bright half of the hindu month Chaitra attains virtues similar to the accomplishment of 'Pundareek Yagya'.

CHANDRA DEVA EULOGIZES SHIVA

Parvati asked Lord Shiva about the reason Chandra deva had to install a Shiva linga at Prabhas Kshetra. Lord Shiva replied that Daksha had got married twenty seven of his daughters to Chandra Deva. Chandra Deva was very attached to Rohini, who was one of them and neglected others. When Daksha came to know about this he cursed Chandra Deva as the result of which he lost his luster and started waning day by day. The worried Chandra Deva did an austere penance for thousand of years to please Lord Shiva. At last Lord Shiva became pleased and appeared before him. Subsequently, Chandra Deva got a divine Shiva linga installed by Brahma and worshipped it for thousand of years. Lord Shiva appeared once again and expressed his willingness to fulfill any wish Chandra Deva expressed. Chandra Deva requested Lord Shiva to dwell in the very Shiva Linga he had been worshipping till then. Lord Shiva revealed to him that there was no question of dwelling in the Shiva Linga as he had never abandoned it in the first place. Chandra Deva had regained his luster on account of his arduous penance. Lord Shiva blessed him and said- ' Since you have regained your luster (Prabha) by dint of your austere penance, this holy place will become famous as 'Prabhas Kshetra'. This Linga would be named upon you and become famous as Somnath Linga.'

Having blessed Chandra Deva thus, Lord Shiva disappeared. Later on Chandra Deva instructed Vishwakarma to build a magnificent temple at the sight. He also built a city nearby so that all the priests who were supposed to supervise the rituals of worship could live there.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GETTING ONE'S HEAD TONSURED

Dwelling on length about the significance of getting one's head tonsured at holy places, Lord Shiva told Parvati-' A man should get his head tonsured whenever he gets an opportunity to visit a holy place because hair are believed to contain all the sins he has committed. There is a holy place called Padma teerth, not far from Somnath temple. A devotee should first get his hair removed at Somnath teerth and then immerse them at Padma teerth. This way he becomes absolved of all his sins. Women should have a symbolical cut of their hair. It is necessary to perform the rituals of tarpan in the names of ancestors after the head tonsuring ceremony. According to the scriptures, an ocean is considered holy and nobody should its holy water in an impure state. While bathing a devotee should chant the following mantra-

'Om namo Vishnu guptaaya Vishnu rupaaya namah;
Saannidhye bhava devesh saagare lavanaambhasi.'

There are about five crore Shivalingas submerged in the ocean near Somnath. There are also other holy places situated nearby like Agnikunda, Padma sarovar etc.

THE EMERGENCE OF SARASWATI IN PRABHAS KSHETRA

On being asked by Parvati about the emergence of river Saraswati at Prabhas Kshetra, Lord Shiva narrated the following tale to her-' The holy Sarswati flowing in Prabhas kshetra constitutes of five different streams- Harini, Vajrini, Nyanku, Kapila and Saraswati. Lord Vishnu once instructed Saraswati to carry 'Badwanal' (Submarine fire) and dump it in the ocean near Prabhas kshetra. After taking permission from Lord Brahma, her father Saraswati flew towards her destination. Ganga became sad at her departure so she asked her as to how could she have a glimpse of her now that she was going to such a distant place. Saraswati consoled Ganga by saying that she would be able to see her whenever she looked eastwards. The swift currents of Saraswati penetrated the earth and reached Patal Loka carrying Badwanal along with her.She continued to move beneath the ground towards her destination. As she reached Prabhas Kashetra, four learned sages, who were well versed in Vedas arrived there and invoked Saraswati to give them the privilege of separate bath by dividing herself in four different streams.

The names of these sages were Hiranya, Vajra, Nyanku and Kapil. While Saraswati was about to comply with their request, suddenly Samudra arrived there and he too expressed the same wish. Thus Saraswati divided herself into five different streams- Harini, Vajrini, Nyanku, Kapila and Saraswati. Eventually, when Saraswati reached near the ocean, Badwanal whom she was carrying was surprised to see the high tides rising in the ocean. He thought that the Samudra was frightened of his fury so he asked Saraswati- Why is the ocean scarred of me? Saraswati inflated his ego by saying that who would not be scarred of him. Badwanal was pleased and wanted to grant her a boon. Saraswati remembered Lord Vishnu, who instantly gave his divine appearance in her heart. She narrated the whole story and sought his advise. Lord Vishnu advised her to ask Badwanal to make his appearance small like the eye of a needle. Saraswati, following the advise of Lord Vishnu asked Badwanal to become small like a needle and keep sucking the ocean. Subsequently, Saraswati summoned Samudra and told him to accept Badwanal to which he agreed. This way Samudra devoured Badwanal, who continues to suck the water of the ocean even today as per the instructions given by Saraswati. It is believed that tides are nothing but the manifestation of Badwanal's exhalations. This was how Saraswati emerged in Prabhas kshetra.

PRABHAS -THE ABODE OF TRINITY GODDESSES

Lord Shiva revealed to goddesses Parvati that Prabhas kshetra boasted of possessing many more Shiva lingas apart from the famous Somnath Shiva linga. He also gave names of some of the prominent Shiva lingas situated over there and said- ' To the North-East of Somnath temple is situated a grand temple of lord Sarveshvar Deva, who is also famously known as Siddheshwar. The reason behind this is that Shiva linga over there had been installed by the 'siddhas' (accomplished ones) in ancient times. People who are desirous of acquiring siddhis throng this holy place and engage themselves in austere penance. To the east of Siddheshwar temple is situated one more temple called Kapileshwar. It has been named after sage Kapil, who had installed the Shiva linga over there. A Shiva linga named Gandharveshwar is also situated nearby. This particular Shiva linga had been installed by a gandharva named Dhanvahan. To the east of Gandharveshwar temple is situated Vimaleshwar temple. It is believed that anybody suffering from tuberculosis gets cured after he worships in that temple. Dhandeshwar linga was installed by Kuber, who was bestowed with the lordship of wealth on account of his austere penance.'

Lord Shiva told Parvati that there were also temples of three goddesses in Prabhas Kshetra apart from Shiva temples. These three goddesses were Mangla, Vishalakshi and Chatwar representing the three types of power-will power, power of action and power of knowledge. Lord Shiva said-' The pilgrimage to Prabhas kshetra is believed to be incomplete until and unless these three goddesses have been worshipped. Goddess Mangla represents the power of lord Brahma (Brahma shakti) while goddess Vishalakshi that of lord Vishnu. Goddess Chatwar represents my power. Goddess Mangla holds the privilege of getting worshipped first. During ancient times Chandrama did an austere penance for thousand of years and all the deities including Lord Brahma had gone there to witness his amazing feat. At that time goddess Mangla had blessed them and this was how she got her name.'

Lord Shiva then went on to describe how goddess Vishalakshi got her name-' A fierce battle had taken place between the deities and demons during Chakshus manvantar. Lord Vishnu fought along with the deities and helped them in defeating the demons. Demons fled towards the south but were chased by the deities. Realizing that it was not easy to annihilate the demons, Lord Vishnu remembered goddess Mahamaya and sought her help. Mahamaya appeared instantly and looked at Lord Vishnu with her large eyes. This is how she got her name. In the present kalpa she is also known as Lalitoma. To the south of Vishalakshi temple is situated the temple of goddess Chatwarpriya. Goddess Chatwarpriya is the saviour of people living in that area. Anybody who worships her on the auspicious day of Mahanavami with appropriate rituals is blessed.

DWARKA MAHATMYA

SAGES' QUERIES TO PRAHLAD

Once, few sages asked Sutji about the means by which Lord Vishnu could be realized in kaliyuga- the era dominated by sin and decaying moral values.

Sutji started by describing how Lord Vishnu on seeing the prevalence of sin in Dwapar yuga had to take incarnation as Krishna to liberate the world from the sinners. He also described in detail all the incidents culminating into the killings of many cruel demons -Kaaliya serpent, Chanur, Shishupaal and ogress like Putna. He gave in depth description of the events leading to the war of Mahabharat and how the infighting among the mighty Yadavas led to their destruction. He told them how a fowler mistook Krishna's feet to be a deer and killed him.

Sutji also told the assembled sages how the magnificent city of Dwarka had been submerged in the ocean ultimately. He revealed to them that the passing away of Krishna marked the advent of Kaliyuga and the situation became even worse. On finding how difficult it was to realize lord Vishnu in the Kaliyuga- the era dominated by sin, some prominent sages decided to seek Lord Brahma's help in this regard. After reaching Brahma loka, they eulogized Brahma and received his blessings. Lord Brahma told them to go to Patal loka and meet Prahlad, the supreme devotee of Lord Vishnu who according to Lord Brahma was in a better position to help them.

All the sages went to Patal loka as per the instructions given by Lord Brahma. There they not only found Prahlad but also the most charitable king-Bali. After the pleasantries were exchanged, they came to the real issue and said-' We are very much distressed by the prevailing situation where it appears that the evil forces have overshadowed the virtuous ones. The ways shown by the Vedas are no longer in practice and the Brahmins are being tormented by the Shudras, who have become the rulers. We have come with a request and a desire to know whether there was any possibility of realizing Lord Vishnu in this dark era of 'Kali'. If yes then where can we find Lord Vishnu?'

THE SANCTITY OF DWARKAPURI

Prahlad, being an ardent devotee of Vishnu himself, understood quite well, the desperation with which a devotee seeks his Lord. So he told them-' By the grace of Almighty Vishnu, I am revealing to you the name of that sacred place which has remained a secret till now. Kushasthal Puri is a divine city situated on the western coast. Nearby is the place where river Gomti meets the ocean and at this convergent point is situated the sacrosanct city called Dwarawati Puri, where you can find Lord Vishnu in all his glory of sixteen kalas. Blessed be the Dwarka Puri, which The almighty Vishnu has chosen as his abode and where he dwells in his glorious Chaturbhuj form. This is the very place, which even liberates the most fallen sinner from all his sins. There is a famous temple of Lord Trivikram at the bank of river Gomti and not far from this temple is a divine pond. Anybody desirous of salvation must bathe in this pond for the fulfillment of his wish. It is believed that before leaving for heaven, Lord Krishna had transferred all his divine powers into the Trivikram idol. So, there is no place as holy as Dwarka and if you are desirous of having a divine glimpse of Lord Krishna then you must visit Dwarka.'

All the sages thanked Prahlad for sharing his secrets with them because nobody else except Prahlad was aware of the fact that Lord Vishnu had given Dwarka the privilege of being his abode. These revelations made them more curious about Dwarka, so they requested Prahlad to disclose how the holy Gomti descended down to Dwarka.

Prahlad began by describing the virtues of going on a pilgrimage to Dwarka-' The mere resolution of going on a pilgrimage to Dwarka is enough to liberate one's ancestors from the tortures of the hells. Each step that a devotee takes towards Dwarka gives virtues similar to what is attained by performing Ashwamedh Yagya. One who encourages others to go on a pilgrimage to Dwarka certainly goes to Vishnu Dhaam.'

Prahlad then switched over to the second part of the sages' question and said-' There is an interesting tale describing how sage Vashishth had brought down Gomti from the heaven to earth. At the time of deluge when the whole world had submerged in water, a lotus flower manifested from Lord Vishnu's navel on which was seated Brahma. Lord Vishnu instructed him to perform his duty as a creator to which Brahma agreed. First of all Brahma created his ten manasputras (Sanak, Sanandan,etc.) and sought their help in increasing the population of the world by becoming householders. But, all of them were extremely virtuous and did not show any inclination towards getting married. Ultimately all of them went to the western coast and engaged themselves in austere penance. Their penance continued for a number of years after which 'Sudarshan chakra' appeared before them. As all of them looked up in bewilderment, they heard a heavenly voice -' O sons of Brahma! Very soon the almighty Vishnu is going to manifest himself. The 'Chakra' you are seeing is his. You all must perform the rituals of 'ardhya' in the name of Lord Vishnu to show your reverence towards him.' All the Manasputras eulogized Sudarshan-Chakra with deep devotion. All of them wished that there were a holy river, with whose water they could perform the rituals of ardhya. But to their utter dismay there was no such holy river nearby. They then remembered Lord Brahma, who immediately understood what they desired. Lord Brahma instructed Ganga by saying-' Ganga! Go to the earth, where you would be known as Gomti. Sage Vashishth will lead you to your destination. Just follow him like a daughter follows her father.'

Finally, when sage Vashishth followed by Gomti reached their destination, all the Manasputras were delighted. They eulogized Ganga and expressed their gratitude to Vashishth for bringing Ganga on earth. All of them thanked Vashishth by saying-' Since you have brought Gomti on earth, you would be considered as her father.' They offered 'ardhya' to Gomti and subsequently eulogized Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu appeared after being pleased and blessed them-' Your unflinching devotion in me has pleased me no bound. Since you did this penance with the objective of Moksha (salvation), this place would become famous as Moksha Dayak (giver of salvation). This sacrosanct place would also be called Chakra teerth because of Sudarshan chakra, who informed you all of my manifestation at Dwarka Puri. I assure you that I won't abandon this sacrosanct place even for a moment.'

This way, all the Manasputras were finally successful in their objective of offering ardhya to Lord Vishnu with the holy water of Gomti. At last, Gomti having fulfilled her mission for which she had descended down to Earth merged with the ocean. Lord Vishnu disappeared from there and Manasputras continued to live there.


END OF SKANDA PURAN