Kolhapur: Described as Kollamma in Kollapura in Devi Gita of Devi Bhagavata Purana, Maha Lakshmi is settled at the Karavira Kshetra and is famed as the instant provider of propesrity of all types that Ashta Lakshmis would provide viz. Adi Lakshmi or Primeaval Shakti, Dhana Lakshmi (wealth), Dhanya Lakshmi (Food), Gaja Lakshmi ( Manifestation of Elephants or of Huge Magnitude), Santana Lakshmi (Excellent Progeny), Veera Lakshmi ( Courage and Intrepedity), Vijaya Lakshmi (Victory), Vidya Lashmi (Knowledge), Aishwarya (Opulence and Luxury), Rajya Lakshmi (Royalty) and Vara Lakshmi or the Priovider of all kinds of boons). Skanda Maha Purana states: Yojanam Dasha he putra Kaaraashtro Desha durdharah, Tanmadhye Pancha koshaascha Kashyaadhikam Bhuvi/ Kshetram vai Mahat Punyam darshanaat paapa naashanam/ Tatkshetre Rushayah sarve Brahmana Vedapaaragah, Teshaam darshana maatrena sarva paapa kshayo bhavet/ (Karashtatra Desha’s length and breadth is ten yojanas and is difficult to achieve it without faith and devotion. In this Karavira Kshetra the singular Tirtha which is the destroyer of all kinds of blemishes even by its visit and vision; Veda Brahmanas and Rishi ganas assure that by its mere look itself the sins are dissolved). This memorable Kolha puri Kshetra is the permanent abode of Maha Lakshmi and is also believed to be one among the many Shakti Peethas where Devi Sati’s three netras fell down. The principal attraction at Kolhapuri of course is theMaha Lakshmi Mandir, nearby which are Pancha Ganga, Padma Sarovar, Kaashi Tirtha and Jagannatha Mandir. The Sanctum is readily approachable for worship by all males with dedication but females are forbidden to cross the threshold of the Shrine. Amba bai or Maha Lakshmi of one of the famed four Shakti Peethas in Maharashtra viz. Ambabai whose both sensitive organs viz. eyes of Sati Devi fell here, besides as Hingula or Tulja Devi, Renuka at Mahur, and Jwala Mukhi at Saptashiringi at Matrupattana/ Mahur. The legend of Maha Lakshmi Temple is also described as once SageBhrigu visited Vaikuntha and Vishnu ignored his arrival and coninued to romance with Lakshmi; the enraged Bhrigu kicked Vishnu at his chest the abode of Lakshmi; instead of reprimanding the Sage, Vishnu apologised to Bhrigu and enquired whether the Sage’s feet were hurt by the kick; as Vishnu’s aplogy enraged Lakshmi and left him in anger to Kolahapura for long Tapasya even meanwhile she learnt that Vishnu assumed the Swarupa of Venkateshwara and married Padmavati, Lakshm’s alternate form; it was only far later that there was the combined effort of Devas and Danavas to secure Amrit and in the process Lakshmi got re-incarnated and finally Lakshmi-Vishnu union became possible!The Statue of Maha Lakshmi at the Kolhapuri Kshetra is stated to be of 5th century AD, as adorned by precious stones of great antiquity; She has four arms, the right lower holds a Matulunga fruit of the specie of a large lemon, her right upper hand holds a shield; the lower left hand a mace, and the lower right hand a bowl to provide boons. She wears a cobra hooded crown and a Shiva linga, while behind her is a lion. The window of the western wall of her sanctum is kept open through which morning Sunrays fall on the Idol. The Temple celebrates KiranUtsavas on January 31 and November 9 when the Sunrays fall on the feet o the Idol, on February 1 and November 10 the rays fall at the feet of Maha Lakshmi and on Feb 2 and Nov. 11 the rays fall on the entire body of Lakshmi. Ratha Saptami festival for three days in January is celebrated with awe and piety.
Tuljapura Bhavani: Mother Bhavani is the Benefactor of Life, the Goddess of Power and Energy and at the same time the embodiment of boon providing mercifulnees. Bhavani at Tuljapur is the traditional Deity of Chhatrapati Shivaji the most powerful and popular Ruler of Marathas in Western India of the 12th Century AD who adored the Devi with to a Pratima of a meter high sature with a golden sword at the Bhavani Mandir; the Idol is made with eight arms each of these euipped with weapons while holding the head of a slain demon named Mahishasura. The Mandir which is situated on a hill called Yamunachala on the slopes of Sahyadri mountain range is the residing place of Devi who is tated to have slain two Rakshasas viz Matanga and of course Mahishasura the latter being in the deceptive form a buffalo. Thi Mandir attracts thousands of yatris every day and the crowds are indeed orderly and with patience in queues awaiting darshan and worship. Festivals are organised and jostling crowds are visible at the Mandir on all Tuesdays, and on all festival days lke Gudi Padwa in Chaitra month, Lalitha Panchami, Ratha Saptami, Sankranti and Nava Ratri Fesivals from Aswiyuja Shukla Prathama up to Dashami and so on with online Seva bookings in advance. Ritualistic worship with mantra-tantra is organised by priests on behalf of the bhaktas. The Mandir has elaborate arrangements for cctv and online facilities for comunications and advance worship and darshan facilities.
Mahabaleshwara: This Kshertra which is some 120 km from Pune in Maharashtha is an important Tirha Sthaan for several reasons: it is the most ancient Place where Trimurtis viz. Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara performed long tapasya before Srishti or Creation of the Universe; it was the most sacrosanct Place where Lord Brahma performed Yagna before he was authorised to do so by Vishnu and Maheshwara on the understanding that the Univerese hence to be created by Brahma would be preserved till periodical interregnums between one period viz. Yuga to another and get destroyed by Rudra Deva; it was also the Place where two Daityas named Ati Bal and Maha Bal attacked Vishnu but though Ati Bala was desroyed Maha Bala had the boon of invincibility by any male power.But this limitation was finally resolved as Devas headed by Brahma and Vishnu payed to Adi Maya who in turn killed Maha Bal too; yet another qualification of Maha Baleshwara pertains to the fact that the famed Krishna River as originated as a part of the Pancha Nadis viz. Krishna, Savitri, Venya, Kakujjati or Koyna and Gayatri Nadi; Krishna is of Vishnu Swarupa, Venya is of Shankara Swarupa and Kakujjati as also Gayatri were of Brahma Swarupas. Such was then legendary magnificence of Maha Baleshwara. At the Maha Baleshwar Mandir, the Shiva Linga is in the form of a Rudraksha as split at places and is is full of water always oozing out from the Linga and it is strongly believed that this water flows out from all the five rivers mentioned. The Place where Lord Brahma performed the Yagna is some two km away from the Mandir and from there the forest really looks fearful as it is infested with wild animals and serpents. There there is a cave inside which there is stated to be a Yagna Vedi. In Maha Baleshwar, there are also two other ancient Mandirs of Ati Baleshwara and Koteshwar too which are older than the Maha Baleshwar itself. Nearby there are also Krishnabai Mandir where there is a Brahma Kund which not only collects the water from the five rivers mentioned above but also of Saraswati River. The Swayambhu Shiva Maha Linga at Maha Baleshwara is one of the most Sacred Spots. Quite apart from being one of the Sacred Places, Maha Baleshwar is an ideal and excellent holiday resort hill station of some 5 hour drive of 180 km from Mumbai and 120 km from Pune, bound by green valleys and high peaks of 5000 ft. popularly called by tourists as Wilson Sun Rise Point as also known for Arthur Seat Point, Kate Point, Needle Hole Point and Three Monkey Point of Three Natural Stone Formations akin to Three Monkeys signifying Mahatma Gandhi’s sayings of: Do no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil!
Waavi ( Sacred Krihna River): On way from Pune to Mahabaleshwar, almost near the latter, is Waayi is am famed Tirtha Sthaana is Waayi is right on the Sacred Krishna River which actually originates from Jor Village near Waayi, ie.Wai Taluk, Satara District, near Mahabaleshwar. Just as when Brihaspati ( the Deva Guru) enters Simha Raasi, that period is supposed to be extremely auspicious for bathing in River Godavari, in the similar way, the period when Brihaspati enters Kanya Raashi is considered most propitious for Snaanas at this Vairaja Kshetra of Waayi for the year. On the banks of Krishna River at Waayi are the noted Mandirs of Yagnewshwara Shiva, Maruti, Shyama Varna Rama, and Bhanu Ghat, Joshi Ghat and several other Mandirs like Soneswar, Hatakeshwar, Badreshwar, Menavaleshrar in Nana Phaphadnaveshwar Village, and so on. This Sacred Tirtha on the banks of River Krishna, history reveals that Bhagavan Shri Rama along with Devi Sita and Lakshman took baths and Pandavas duringVana Vaasa too had their dips in the Holy Krishna. This Illustrious River Krishna passes through Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra pradesh finally merging at Hamsala Divi into the Bay of Bengal Sea and as it passes there are fertile lands causing rich fields of food grains and greeneries. River Krishna has large Tributaries such as Tunga Bhadra Rivers, Kudarli River, Venna, Koyna, Bhima, Mala prabha, Ghata prabha, Yerla, Varna, Dindi, Palera, Moosi, Tarli, Dugdha Ganga, and so on. Among the popular Mandirs on the Sacred Krishna are Yalguresha near Sangli, Amaravati, Kanaka Durga near Vijayawada, Shrishaila Maha Jyotir Linga at Srishailam, Lord Narasimha Swami at Mattapalli in Nalgonda and Vedapalli near Jaggayyapet and Dattateya Temples at Makal all in Andhra Pradesh and Raichur in Karnataka.
Pandaripura:Another very auspicious and popular Tirthas in Maharashtra is Pandarpur which is keenly worshipped and frequently visited by Bhaktas and by Yatris especially on Ekadashis, more so as this happens to be the Dham of Vithoba and Rakhumayi ( Devi Rukmini) besides the permanent Places of Tukaram, Namdeo, Ranka banka, Narahari and such other illustrious Sants. Maha Bhakta Pundareeka was originally responsible for the installation of the Idols on the Sacred banks of River Bhima also called Chandrabhaga. The installed Idol Vithoba carved in black stone stands on the legendary stone which Maha Bhakta Pundarika threw at Bhagavan to stall his entry into his room where his beloved parents were about to sleep, even with his full knowledge that Bhagavan himself was waiting the Bhakta’s door step! The Idol is standstill with both Bhagavan’s hands resting on his ‘kamar’ or both sides of his back. Devi Rakhu mayi is installed an a seperate Mandir in the vicinity. Mandirs of Balaram, Satyabhama, Jambavati and Radha Devi are outside nearby. On the banks of Chandra bhaga River are the Chandra bhaga Tirtha, Soma Tirtha and so on as also Narada Mandira and Ten Shiva Lingas, besides Vishnu Pada Imprint besides the Mandirs of Gapalji,Janabai, Ekanath, Namdev, Jnaneeshwar and Tukaram. The legendary background of Pundareeka’s installation of Vithoba is as follows briefly: A youth named Pundarika was living in a forest village with his aged parents named Janudeva and Satyavati and originally he was quite an obedient son but after wedding, he started ill treating them to a point that they decided to leave for Kasi even till their death. Pundarika came to know of the plan and he too decided to accompany the parents along his wife. On way to Kasi, he harassed the parents to their great discomfort. In a village on way, the were too tired and halted for a few days at an Ashram, even as Pundarika intensified his mal treatment to his parents. One night he dreamt that two maidens named Ganga and Jamuna provided great service at the Ashram; but after all it was not dream but reality. Pundarika tried next mornimg to talk to them and indeed their names were as per the dream. They gave him a curt talk and said that a person who treated his parents ill were like worse than animals as even beasts would not treat the parents as he did. Pundarika felt a shock and suddenly realised that parents were like Gods and since then there was a sea change in him. His bhakti to parents as well as to Vishnu got intensified; he had since treated the parents like Gods and Lord Vishnu was so pleased that he appeared at Pundarika’s door step. Even while the latter realised that Vishnu himself was standing out, he did not want to disturb the parents who were about to sleep after their meals so affectionately and devotedly he gave to them just then. To ensure that Vishnu should not enter the hermitage, he threw a brick outside to let the Lord know that the parents be better not disturbed! The Lord correctly got Pundarika’s message and waited at the door step. After the parents slept off peacefully, Pundarika came came out and aplogisingly fell at the feet of Vishnu and mumbled ‘Oh Lord, I did not want to leave on your arrival as I was just putting my parents to sleep! Do pardon me! The Lord was so moved that he offered to grant a boon to him and rightly Pundarika asked that he be near to the Lord for ever! The latter agreed to do so and said that by he be henceforth known as Vittoba since Pundarika addresed the Lord by that very name and the Place whereever the bhakta would install his Idol be known as Pundari pura!
Gokarna Kshetra: Atha Gokarnamaasaadya Trishu lokeshu vishrutam, Samudra madhye Rajendra Sarva loka namaskrutam/ Yatra Brahmaadayo Devaa Manushyascha tapodhanaah, Bhuta Yakshaah Pishasas -cha Kinnraah samagoragaah/ Siddha Chaarana Gandhharvaa Maanushaah Pannagaastathadhaa, Saritah Saagarah shailaa upaasita Umapatim/ Tareshaanam samabhyarcha Tri raatroposhito narah, Dashaaswedhaamaapnoti Gaanapatyam cha vindati/ Uposhya dwaadashaa raatram krutaartho jaayate narah, Tasminneva tu Gayatryaah sthaanam trilokya vishrutam/ Triraatramushitastatra gosahasra phalam labhet/ ( The fame of Gokarna is well known all over the Trilokaas, as greeted to all the Lokaas in the Sumudras. All the Loka are greeted to Maha Deva Shankara to whom Brahmaadi Devas, Tapodhan Rishis, Bhuta-Yaksha-Pishcacha-Kinnara-Naaga-Siddha-Chaarana-Gandharva-Manushya-Saagara-Sarita- Parvataadis do always prostrate and worship. Among all these species who observe fasting for three nights at a strech are stated to secure the performance of ten Ashwamedha Yagjna phala and a senior member of Shiva ganas and in the case of fasting twelve nights accomplish Shiva Sayuja itself! At Gokarna , the Place of Devi Gayatri who is the most revered and the most popular Deity among the three lokas and here if ove performs fasting for three nights continuously is stated to be eligible for achieving thousand Go-danaas!) The Gokarna Kshetra-one of the Mukti Kshetras acclaimed by Parashurama- which is situated in North Karnataka near Mangalore in Western India along with Karwar coast of Arabian Sea and Western Ghats, literally meaning the Cow’s ear, is the abode of Mahabaleshwar the Maha Deva of Physical strength. Lord Shiva emerged from the cow likened to Mother Earth and the shape of the Kshetra is of a ear too at the confluence of two rivers viz. Gangavali Aghanashani. Varaha Purana describes that Bhagavan Shankara assumed the form of a deer and moved around freely once; Brahma Deva, Indra and other Devas searched for Maha Deva but could not till they realised finally that Shiva assumed the swarupa of a deer. They tried to seize the horns but Shiva as the deer disappeared though the horns were caught. One horn was established at Gokarna, another at Bhagalpur, Bihar as Shringeshwara and the third at Indra Loka. Some other accounts of Puranas describe the legend that Sahyadri range of mountans at the reclaimed Sea shores lured Parashu Rama the Avatara of Vishnu from the Vindhya Rangeof mountains in central India after weilding his mighty axe killed Kshatriya Kings during some twenty one battles as the then Kings were ruthless disregard of the established norms of law and justice and harassed the elements of virtue and tolerance viz. their own common subjecs and public.The tired Parashu Rama landed at Gokarna to rest after the bloody erncounters and rested at Gokarna. Maha Bhagavata describes that Ravanasura, the Epic Villain of Ramayana, pleased Maha Deva and secured the boon of Shiva’s Atma Linga and desired to carry the Linga to his Kingdom in Lanka; Sage Narada scented about the boon given by Shiva to Ravana and got worried that the Asura would become immortal by worshipping the Atma Linga daily; he alerted Lord Vishnu who spread the net of Vishnu Maya and Ravana felt that evening was nearing for his Snaana-Sandhya Puja Vidhi; he beckoned a passer by cow herd boy to hold the Atma Linga just for a while but the boy- who actually was Lord Ganesha who was prewarned by Narada-replied that he was in a great hurry and could not wait but would call Ravana by his name thrice; even while Ganesha in disguise shouted Ravana’s name thrice, the latter just returned but the Atma Linga was kept on ground and the boy disappeared. He made all his efforts to lift up the Linga but to no avail.In the process of the struggle, only the top portion of the Linga fell at Gokarna and the rest of the pieces of the Linga were thrown away at Suratkal where Sadashiva Temple was built and other pieces fell on Sajjeshwara, Guneshwara and Dhareshwara some kms. of distances away, while the cloth covering the Atma Linga fell off at Mrideshwara now called Marudeshwara at Kanduka Hill surrounded by three sides by Arabian Sea. Mahabaleshwara at Gokarna Kshetra has established great significance-even as other places like Sajjeshwara.
Marudeshwara Temple, which is some 85 km from Gokarna, has gained reputation as much of Gokarna with its 20 storied and 340 feet high Raja Gopura besides a huge 130 ft high Shiva statue. At Gokarna, besides Mahabaleshwar which is famed and heavily popular visited by thousands of pilgrims in connection with Shivaratri festivals and daily Kartika Month austerities, Maha Ganapati Temple which is some thousands of years old signifying Bala Ganapati who deceived Ravanasura, Uma Maheswara and Bhadra Kali Temples as also Kotitirtha are significant while Om Beach and Nirvana Beach are world renowned.
Yana some 60 km away from Gokarna has two massive black stone rocks with Bhairava Shikhira of 400 ft high and Mohini Shikhira of 300 ft high. The Bhairava Shikhira has the abode of the awe-inspiring Swayambhu Bhairaweshwara Linga within a ten feet opening Cave with water drops ever dripping on the Linga sustaining the eternal sanctity of the Linga. The Purana based mythology stated that Bhasmasura performed intense and long Tapasya to Maha Deva and secured the boon from the latter that whom so ever’s head that the Asura would touch should turn into Bhasma or ashes; having secured this boon, the Asura wished to touch Maha Deva’s head itself! And Maha Deva ran for Vishnu for help and instantly Vishnu assumed the Swarupa of Devi Mohini and lured the Asura into a dance competition and made him touch his own head in the ‘natya’and the boon caused a self-head burning curse to the Asura himself!