After subduing the arrogance of Vindhyachal by reducing its height below that of Meru Mountain and restored the free movement of Surya Deva across the Universe, Sage Agastya and his wife Lopamudra visited several Tirthas including Kolhapuri where Devi Lakshmi blessed and suggested them to visit Lohit Mountain where Kartikeya was performing ‘Tapas’. Kartikeya was delighted at the visit of the Sage couple and touched the body parts of the Sage who was fortunate to have lived at Kashi for such a long time. Asked about the origin of Kasi, Kartikeya explained that originally Kasi was situated on ‘Akash’ or the Sky and not in Bhu Loka and only those blessed Yogis and Maharshis were able to vision it. But the Sacred Kasi was materialised on Earth to bless humanity, after the Maha Pralaya or The Great Dissolution, when there were neither ‘Panchabhutas’ like Surya, Vayu and Agni; only the Unique Supreme Being existed and that Super Force created Prakrithi or Maya; as the Scriptures revealed : there emerged Ekameva Dweiteeyam. Purusha and Prakriti materialised Kasi on Earth itself not only as their Transit Abode but also as a Holy Place to destroy the Sins that human beings would tend to commit. In fact, Siva and Parvati never abandoned Kasi Kshetra even during the Pralaya and hence the Sacred Place was known as ‘Avimukta Kshetra’.This Place is the provider of ‘Ananda’ (Joy) as in the days of yore, it was known as ‘Anandavan’. Eventually, Maha Deva –and the Devi placed on His left side- materialised a ‘Purushottama’ full of virtues, ‘Kalas’ and ‘Gunas’and named Him as Vishnu; Bhagavan told Vishnu that from His breathing would emerge Vedas which would provide complete awareness about every task and activity and that from His navel with various fragrances of a Lotus would surface Brahma.Vishnu resorted to instant meditation and created a water-body named Pushkarini out of His sweat and duly dug with His Chakra (Sacred Wheel). As Vishnu made severe Tapasya in a manner that Siva could hardly believe it and moved His face across in disbelief, Siva’s ‘Mani Karnika’ (Ear-ring) fell in the water and was thus named as ‘Mani Karnika’ till date as the most hallowed Tirtha. Any being from an insignificant ant to Brahma were to lose life at the Manikarnika Tirtha, the person would attain ‘Moksha’; any virtuous deeds done by way of Snaan, Sandhyavandana, Japa, homa, Vedadhyayana, Tarpana, Pinda daan; charities of cows, Bhumi, Tila, Suvarna, Ashva, Deepa, Anna (food), Vastra, Abhushana (Jewellery) and Kanyas; performance of Yagnas, Vratodyapanas, Vrushotsarga (castration of bulls) and ‘Sthapana’ (Set up Siva Lingas) etc.ought to secure the corresponding ‘fruits’. Kasi is thus well known for securing ‘Punya’ of the Good Deeds done, being done, promised to be done and would be done. Visits to Kasi, extended stays at Kasi and if one is fortunate a death in Kasi are all matters of luck of human life. A youthful person feeling that the time is not yet ripe or ready for visiting Kasi since death is far away is as foolish as an old person thinking that let the few days left be enjoyed in family-life with children and grand children! The mere thought, or Vision or better still of the worship or the Abhisheka of the Holiest Linga of Lord Visveswara ought to create vibrations of life among the devotees whose faith and sincerity are directly proportionate to the intensity of their emotions. Ganga Snaan is an integral component of Kasi Tirtha. King Bhagirath was keen on reviving the lives of his grand fathers who were burnt into ashes by the curse of Kapila Muni as they misbehaved with the Muni; Bhagirath learnt that short of bringing Ganga from heavens to the Place where the ashes were still present and washing away the impact of the curse, there was no salvation the their tormented Souls. Stern Tapasya was performed to Ganga and Siva to release a bay of the Sacred River to travel down to Earth at ‘Aryavarta’and bestow salvation to the affected Souls.Those who bathe in Ganga would have bathed in all the Sacred Rivers, would have taken diksha of all Yagnas and would have completed all Vratas on Earth. Those who had amassed all kinds of sins in life would indeed get freed from them; those who suffer from ignorance, illness, poverty and the Six Enemies of life viz. excessive desires, anger, avarice, ego, jealousy and attachments would be freed by the Sacred Snanas in Ganga. Pitru Tarpans, Snaans during Solar and Lunar Eclipses, worship and Shodasopachars to Ganga are all means of securing boons from the Holy Ganga. Charities, Japas and Homas in the name of Holy Ganga as also Hymns in Praise of the River are all conduits of health, long and contented life in current life and Salvation thereafter.
Besides Ganga, Kasi also has Dwadasa (Twelve) Tirthas of Surya Deva’s Forms viz. Lolarka whose Snaan ensures freedom from Skin diseases; Uttararka (Bakari Kunda) bestows blessings of Maha Deva and Devi Parvati as they did to devotee Sulakshna and her Goat with contentment and long life; Sambaditya provides complete freedom from diseases; Draupad – aditya abolishes thirst and hunger; Mayukhaditya responds to devotees of Recitals of Stutis –Chaturashthak to Maha Deva and Mangalashtak to Gauri Devi** as also observance of Mangala Gauri Vrata; Kakoladitya / Garudeswara Linga grants good health and fulfillment of human wants; Arunaditya awards removal of grief, illness and difficulties; Buddhaditya provides youth, physical fitness and mental agility; Keshavaditya destroys sins instantaneously and paves the way for Moksha; Vimaladitya is best known as Roga Nashak (demolisher of disease) and provider of good health; Gangaditya gives grit and confidence and Yamaditya saves from the severity of Yamaloka.
**Maha Deva Chaturashtaka:
Deva deva Jagamaatapathey Vibho,
Bharga Bhima Bhava Chandra bhushan /
Bhuta natha Bavabheeti haraka,
Twam natosmi natha vaanchhita prada/
Chandrachooda Mrida Dhurjati Hara,
Thrayksha Daksha shatatanthushatanaha/
Shanta Saashwata Siva,
Twam natosmi Natavanchita prada/
Dyuklochana Virupa lochana/
twaa natosmi natavaanchitaprada/
Vaamadva Shitikantha Shuulabhruk
chandrasekhara Phaneendra bhushana/
Kaamakrut pashu pathey Maheswara
Twam natosmi natha vaanchhitaprada/
Triambaka Tripurasudane swara,
Traanakrutri nayana Trayeemaya/
Twam natosmi natavaanchhita -prada/
Sharvari rahita Sharva Sarwaga,
Swarga marga sukhadaapa vargada/
Shankarogra Girirajapathey Pathey Vishva –
natha Vidhi Vishnu samstuta/
Twam Natosmi Nata vaanchhita prada/
Viswa rupa, Pararupa varjita
Twam Natosmi Natavaanchhita prada/
Mangalashtak to Devi Gauri:
Devi Twadiya Charanamuja renu Gauri, Bhaalasthali bahati hah Pranati Praveenah/
Janmaamtaropi Rajani kara charurekha, tam Gaurayatyatiram kila taysya pumsah /
Sri Mangaley Sakala Mangala Janmabhumey, Sri Mangaley Sakala kalmashatula vastrey/
Sri Mangaley Sakala Daanava darpa hantri, Sri Mangalekhilaminda paripaahi Viswam/
Visweswara twamasi Viswajanasya katreem, twam Palayishyasi tatha Pralayopihantri/
Twannama kirtana samullasadacchapunya, Srotaswini harati paathakakula vrikshaan/
Matarbhavaani Bhavati Bhavateevra dhuhkha sambharana harini, Sharanyamihaasti nanya/
Dhanyasta yeva bhuvaneshu ta eva maanya, Yeshu sphuratteyva Shubham Karuna Kataakshaha/
Yey twam smaranti satatam Sahaja -prakaashakah, Kaasi pureesthamatheeh natamoksha Lakshmeem/
Taanu Samsaretsmiharo Dhrutasshuddha bhudheen, Nirvana rakshana vichakshana patrabhutaan/
Maatastwaanguli yugalam Vimalam Hridayasyam Yasyasti tasya Bhvanam Sakalam karasyam/
Yo naamatey japati Mangala Gauri Nityam Sidhyashtakam na parimuschati tasya geham/
Twam Devi Veda janamee Pranava –swarupa Gayatrasi twamasi vye Dwija Kaama dhenuhu/
Twam baahatriyamihakhila Karma Siddhavai Swaha Swadhasi Sunah Pitru tripti hetuhu/
Gauri twameya Shashi moulini Vedhasi twam Saavidhyasi Twamasi Chakrini Chaaru Lakshmih/
Kaashyaam Tasma Mula rupini Moksha Lakshmiratwam me Sharanamihi Mangala Gauri mathah.
Illustrious King of Kasi Ripunjaya also known as Devodas who practised Dharma as one of the noblest examples whose adminisration was impeccable with ‘Varnashrama Vidhana’ in full swing, ‘Deva Karyas’ most ideal, ‘Daana Dharmas’ unparalelled, and every aspect of life being such that neither human beings, Maharshis nor Devas could raise a finger in doubt and most significantly Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara were highly satisfied. Lord Brahma performed DashaswamedhaYagna in Kasi with the active assistance of Devodas. Ganesha visited Kasi as an old Vidwan and blessed the King and his subjects. Bhagavan Vishnu, Devi Lakshmi and Garuda too visited in the guises of Brahmana Devas and as advised by Ganesha, King Devodas waited for eighteen days for the arrival of the Punyakirti (Vishnu in disguise) who gave the final ‘Upadesh’ to the King, set up a‘Bhupa Lakshmi’Linga and had ‘Nirvana Prapti’finally. Kasi is also the abode of Dharmanadi Tirtha which came to be called Panchanadi comprising Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati as also Kiran which was the Maha Swedi or the sweat of Mayuraditya who performed severe Tapas to Siva and Dhutpapa River; the Tirtha’s importance improved manifold since Maha Tapaswi Agnivindu obtained a boon after hard Tapas to Bhagavan Vishnu that Panchaganga would be His habitat and those who perform Snaan, Tarpans to Devas, Rishis and Pitras and worship of Vishnu or Vishvanath who were both the same.Vyaghreshwar Linga was set up as a request was made by a Tapasvi Brahmana to Siva observing the Rituals of Siva Ratri with complete involvement when a Rakshasa named ‘Dundhubi nihlad’the maternal uncle of Bhakta Prahlada desired to kill the Tapasvi in the disguise of a ‘Vyaghra’-a Tiger. But Siva rescued the Tapasvi from the Vyaghra and the Tapasvi eulogised to Siva to set up a Siva Linga as ‘Vyaghreswar’. Himavan, the father-in-law of Maha Deva was on a visit to Kasi and having brought a beautiful Vijayanti mala full of most precious stones sparkling the sky as though brought from Swarga; he showed it proudly to a Tirtha Yatri but the latter made him realise the incomparable Wealth of Bhagavan Siva in the course of conversation and felt too small to gift that Mala to Siva; he then ordered that his entourage comprising several persons must build a Siva Temple overnight with a Chandrakanti Mani Linga installed in it.Siva Ganas informed Siva and Parvati about the setting up of the Temple overnight and the latter visited it and were pleased with the gift and commended the good work; Devi Parvati requested Siva to reside in the Linga and Himavan was immensely happy that He agreed to the request, thus blessing the devotees to worship the Linga called henceforth as Shaileswar Linga. At the same Temple, a Ratneswar Linga also manifested when Siva and Parvati visited the Place and Siva explained that the Ratnas (Jewels) brought by Himavan to gift to the Siva couple were also set up at the same Temple. Meanwhile, there was considerable confusion and noise ouside the Temple as Siva and Parvati were on visit; there were shouts and cries from the crowd saying ‘help, help’. Gajasura the son of Mahishasura was around and Siva threw His ‘Shula’at the Demon who obtained a boon from Brahma earlier that Gajusura could not be killed by anyone excepting the person who conquered ‘Kama’; indeed that was only Parama Siva who burnt off Kama Deva with His Third Eye as the latter released arrows of Love but got burnt off instead. Gajasura made his death wish to Siva that He should don Gajasura’s skin and Siva granted it. The Place where Siva’s Trishul killed Gajarasura manifested a Krittivaseshwara Linga.
As Lord Brahma performed Tapas for several Yugas, there manifested a huge mass of Light that emerged from His own ‘Anthahkaran’ (Conscience), the Akshar (Word) viz. AUMKAR indicating ‘A’ or ‘Akar’which was full of Satvika Guna, Adhishthan of Rig Veda and the Creator of the Universe viz, Srishti Karak; then came the Next Word ‘U-kara’ replete with Rajo Guna representing Vishnu and finally ‘Makar’ represented by Rudra full of Tamo Guna. The sum total of Pranava Swarupa, with the ‘Naad’ or Sound and ‘Anuswarup Ardha Matra’ being Maheswara or the Supreme Energy, appeared in the Form of Omkara Linga. Next in significance is Trilochana Linga which was manifested as Bhagavan Siva was in a Yogic trance breaking through the seven sub-terrestrial Lokas like Patala onto Earth and was stated to be an embodiment of Gyana Shakti; devotees taking bath in Pilpila Kund, observe day long fast, perform night-long Jaagaran, worship Trilochana and carry out Tarpans and charities would result in Jeevan Mukti.
There are innumerable Lingas in Kasi but among the Swayambhu Lingas, the front ranking ones are Omkar Linga, Trilochan Linga, Maha Deva Linga, Kritthivasa Linga, Ratneswar Linga, Chandreswar Linga, Kedareswar Linga, Dharmeshwar Linga, Veerotsar Linga, Kameswar Linga, Viswakarmeswara Linga, Manikarneswara Linga, Avimukteswar Linga and Vighneshwara Maha Linga. Besides, other Lingas include Shaileswar Linga, Sangameswar Linga, Madhyameswar Linga, Hiranya Garbheswara Linga, Ishaaneswara Linga, Gomrekshar Linga, Vrishabhadhwajesara Linga, Upa Shanteswara Linga, Jyeshtheswara Linga, Nivasheswara Linga, Shukreswara Linga, Vyaghreswara Linga and Jambukeswar Linga. Bhagavan Siva Himself described the magnificence of Vishweswara Linga [which stood the ravages of time dating some five thousand years of the past, flourishing through Yugas with values of life since Satya Yuga where Harischandra lived for the vindication of Truth, Perseverance and Sacrifice; the Treta Yuga and Dwapara Yuga dominated by Rama and Krishna respectively and during the first phase of Kali Yuga; by surviving foreign invasions, plunders, conflicts and religious fanaticism]. Siva commended the holy activities of each day’s early mornings climaxing through the day/night, especially by observing the most propitious Kartika month with the Sin washing Ganga Snaans, resounding notes of musical instruments, Maha Nyasas, Namakam / Chamakam recitations, Veda Parayanas, Linga Abishekams with Shodasopacharas, and so on. Bhagavan Siva described that the Temple’s ‘Pravesha Kaal’ (Entry time) witnessed a frenzied and emotional outburst of devotion when Gandharvas sang Siva Stuthis, Apsaras danced, while Nandi, Bhairav, Pramadhaganaas, Yakshas, Piscachas, the cream of Sages would go wild; Nava Grahas, Lokapals and Devas as also Brahma and Vishnu would go into trance and Siva, Parvati, Ganeshwara and Skanda bestow benevolences.