Dakor: Some 90 km off Ahmedabad the Capital City of Gujarat Dakor is a great attraction to Yatris, most essentially the Rancchodraya Mandir. As to how Rancchod Krishna was transferred from Dwaraka to this Place has already been explained in describing the Dwaraka refernece above. Dakor’s extraordinary devotees named Vijaysingh Bodaana and his wife Gangu bhai always used to literally measure the miles of distance from Dakor to Dwaraka back twice a year to bring ‘Tulasi Dala’ to place at the feet of Dwarakaadheesh earlier called Rancchod Bhagavan twice a year for 82 years. As the couple became too old still persisting the yatras, Bhagavan had extreme compassion and told them that then onward there was no need to visit him but would himself come to Dakor. Then Bhagavan Rancchod travelled by a bullock cart and the royal couple installed the Pratima at Dakor itself to facilitate them to worship eversince till their final departure and absorbed them into Vaikuntha! This appears to have occured in 1212 AD. and eversince then Kartika Purnima celebrations have never stopped there after. Meanwhile the Bodana Murti of Rancchod was stolen and was hidden locally. Once the Dwaraka Pujari visited once to Dakor and identified the Murti there but out of avarice ageed to exchange it against that much of gold in weight even as it actually weight to a Tulasi Leaf and the nose jewel of the wife of Bodana Chief’s wife; simultaneously the Dwarakaadheesha appeared in the dreams of the Dwaraka Pujari and summoned him to return to Dwaraka forthwith and some six months later the Murti was recovered from a well in Dwaraka itself and that Murti was finally installed in Dwaraka Kshetra! Besides on all the Purnima days of the year, Sharad Purnima celebrations at Dakor are so significant and crowded that special buses and ralways have to be organised especially from important cities, towns and villages of Gujarat, Rashastan and Maharashtra.Besides Rancchod Mandir, the other important Places to be visited are Gautami Sarovar, Maakhani Aaro where the Bodani Chief’s wife used to tender with her own hands butter balls to Bhagavan and even now the processions from Dakor are halted at this place and naivedya is offered with sweetened butter and distributed! The processions are also necessarily haleted at Lakshmi Mandir on the banks of Gomati Talaab. Galteshwar is some 15-16 km away from Dakor and its ‘Shikhar’ fell down long ago and is approachable by broken roads but the Mandir as such is full of life with a sparkling Shiva Linga and now the abode of several Sadhus and yogis with wall paintings of Murtis facing a canal called Galti merging into Mahi River. This was the famed Galva Maharshi’s Ashram, referred to in Puranas. Many visitors from not only Dakor but Anand the big township called the Milk City of India.
Mahi Sagara Sangama: The unique importance of this Maha Tirtha -near Vadodra in Gujarat State- is vividly described in Skanda Maha Purana’s Koumara Khanda. The Purana describes its legendary back- ground as follows: Lord Brahma convened a Conference of various Tirthas which were well known by Devotees from all over Bharat. Skanda Deva was also present and so did Dharma Deva. Brahma said that it might not be fair for Him to unilaterally decide on the Supremacy of a particular Tirtha and hence the invitees could air their special features considering the Sacredness, Boons secured by the Devotees from the respective Gods, and the general popularity and the turnover of the devotees at their respective Tirthas. The Mahi Sagara Tirtha Representative said that his Tirtha was unparalelled; in the past King Indradyumna did such Tapasya that Prithvi who was the ‘Sarva Tirthamayi’ (the bearer of all the Tirthas) herself acknowledged the Supremacy of Mahi Sagara and none else could make a claim over the Maha Tirtha! Dharma Deva, the elder son of Brahma Deva, reacted sharply against what Mahi Sagara said and condemned the highly self-opinionated views; he said that virtuous persons never made statements like that since that tantamounted to boasting, ego and a blatant display of ‘Ahamkar’which was against the established norms of morality, especially referring to the merits of others. So saying, Dharma Deva gave a curse that the Tirtha be destroyed! On witnessing the proceedings at the Conference, there were ‘Hahakars’ or Great Commotions. Skanda Deva objected to Dharma’s ‘Shaapa’ (Curse) and defended the fact that there was indeed no other Tirtha in the Universe that was comparable to Mahi Sagara. In turn, Dharma Deva became ready to resign, which meant that the entire World would become irreligous, full of Adharma and lawless! Narad intervened at this juncture that on the one hand, Dharma Deva’s role was oustanding in upholding virtues while Skanda Deva was actually the Son of Bhagavan Ishvar and the Commander-in- Chief of Deva Sena. Any friction between these two illustrious personsalities might jeopardise Universal balance and as such the compromise formula suggested was that Mahi Sagara Tirtha be declared as a Gupta (Secret) Kshetra and as an Unknown Destination; but any devotee observing fast and worship on Amavasya falling on Saturdays in the name of the Mahi Tirtha would be reaping worth ten times more of Prabhasa Tirtha, Seven times of Pushkar Tirtha Yatras, and eight times of Prayag. This was also acceptable to Brahma, Dharma and Skanda and all the Sacred Deities represented at Mahi Sagara including Paramatma Vishnu, Maha Deva and Maha Devis. Mahi River flows from Maalava mountain still its merger into the Western Arabiam Sea till a ‘Vijaya Stambha’ or Victory Column as Devas requested Skanda Kumara to celebrate and set it up to signify the termination of Tarakasura by the valour of Skanda. Skanda experienced extreme remorse to have killed Tarakasura a Brahmana by birth. Then Lord Vishnu advised that the only Prayaschitta or Purification would be to set up a Kumarswar Complex containing Three Vishuddha Shiva Lingas viz. Pratigneshwar, Kapileshwar and Pancha Mukheshwar-Tatpurusha, Aghora, Sadyojata, Vaama Deva and Ishana-all in the presence of Brahma and Devas. As Kartikeya after the Linga Pratishtha, he recited Shata Rudreeyam and an ever pleased Maha Deva appeared and demolished the former’s Brahma Hatya Maha Pataka on the termination of Tarakasura. Since Kumareswar Complex was set up already, Skanda Deva agreed to the request of Devas to put up a Victory Tower named „Viswanandak‟ and before it a Siva Linga. Skanda put in His ‘Shakti’ and created ‘Patala Ganga’ in a Well atop the Victory Tower, where on Magha Krishna Paksha Chaturdasi, human beings would take bath in that Well, offer ‘Pitru Tarpans’ and worship to Vijaya Sthambheswar with Flowers and Sandal Paste; these acts would be as significant as Gaya Shraddh and Vajapeya Yagna Phal respectively. In fact, the Tarpan and Worship could as well be repeated every Pournima and Amavasya in the Mahi Sagar Sangam for similar results. When this Victory Tower and Procedure were announced, Indra, Brahma and Vishnu were highly enthusiastic and appreciative. Meanwhile, a Demon named Pralambasura, who ran away from the army of Tarakasura, hid himself in Patalaloka and tormented the Devotees of the Siva Lingas set up by Skanda as a Prayawschitta of Brahmahathya Sin; this information was given by Kumud, the son of Sesha Nag, the Deva Serpent to Skanda who utilised the Shakti named arrow, tore apart a line through Prithvi and smashed the Demon Pralamba and his associates. As a follow up, Brahma and others set up a ‘Siddheswar Linga’and Devatas themselves dug up a Sarovar and Skanda named it as ‘Siddha Kupa’( which incidentally was the route through which Pralamba and company were killed in Patalaloka); they all prayed to Shakti Siddhamba to be present and bless devotees, especially on Ashtamis and Chaturdasis. Again, in the Siddheswara Tirtha, Devas requested Lord Ganesh too to stay at the Siddha Kshetra in the form of Sidhha Vinayaka. In fact, Devas and Brahma set up Seven Siddha Entities viz. Siddheswar, Siddh Vat (Vriksha), Siddhambika, Siddhi Vinayak, Siddha Kshetraadhipathi, Siddheswar Tirtha and Siddha Kupa.
Abu (Arbudachala): Both Maha Bharata in Vana-Tirtha Yatra Prakarana and Maha Padma Purana in Adi Parva extolled the Arbudaachala Mahatmya or Abu Kshetra: Tato gacchet Dharmanjna Himavatsuta- madbhutam, Prithivyam yatra vai cchidram purvamaaseed Yudhishtara/ Tatraashramo Visishthasya tripu-lokeshu vishrutah,Tatrepya rajanimekaam gosahasra phalam labhet/ ( Dharmagjna Yudhishtara, then if you visit Himalaya Putra Arbudaachala (Abu), there there is a cave mouth where there is the most illustrious Vasishtha Ashram famed all over the three lokas; if a human being could manage even a night’s stay then he or she would be eligible for the MahaPhala of thousand Go daana!) Abu mountain- peak of some 9 km length and 4 km width is some 225 km from Ahmedabad where Bhagavan Shri Krishna halted at Maharshi Vasishtha’s Ashram en route Mathura to Dwaraka at Hrishikesha Mandir seen in the old way known as Dwarka Dwaar up to the peak. King Ambarisha performed his tapasya near that Mandir. Among the notable Places at Mount Abu are Suya Kunda with the adjoining Kanweshwara Shiva Mandir, Manikarnika Tirtha, Maharshi Gautama Ashrama where Naga Kunda is stated to be popular especially on Naaga Panchami celebrations are organised as also the popular Delwada Jain Mandirs including those of Adinath, Vastu paala, Teja paala, Parshava natha and Deva Rani Jethani; Yagneshrara, Agnin Tirtha, Kankhal Tirtha, Guru Dattatrya Sthana on the Mountain top, Achaleshwara ShivaMandira, Bhrigu Ashram, Achala gadha Jai Mandira, and Arbuda Devi Mandira atop mountain top.
Ambaji: Arasuri Mata Temple of Vedic times considered as one of Shakti Peethas-as per ‘Tantra Chudamani’ where a part of Devi Sati’s mortal body’s severed heart piece fell as sliced off by Vishnu Chakra; the body part is stated to have fallen and is retained with Gupta Vishwa Sri Yantra which is situated atop Gabbar Hills at a height of 1600 ft. -also connected by ropeway- popular as Ambaji, some 185 km from Ahmedabad while Ambaji Mandir down the hill is as popular as the original Shakti Peetha. The Shakti Peetha is stated to be eternally lighted up with an Akhanda Jyoti or an everlasting flame.Both the Mandir and the Temple up the hill attract thousands of visitors turning up for worship each day; the rush becomes unbearable during Nava Ratras in Aswiyuja Month as also on all Purnima Days. Besides, Satyanarayana Pujas are performed on Shudda Ekadasi evenings and special worships and organised services on all ‘Parva dinas’ coinciding Dussera, Deepavali, Krishna Ashtami Rama Navami, etc. as notified in advance. Large crowds are attracted on week ends and there is frenzied but organised activity throught out the year. Visit tot this Tirtha is indeed significant and worthwhile. Nearby to Ambaji are Kamakshi Mandir, Kaiasha Hill Sunset, and Koteshar Shiva Linga. Of the two main routes from Ahmedabad to Ambaji, one way leads to Mount Abu, Siddha pur, Modhera and Becharaji while beyond Mount Abu is another route leading to Udaipur and Nathdwara. From Nath dwara and Udaipur back to Ahmedabad there is yet another route is Shamlaji.
Siddapur: Maha Bharata as also Maha Padma Purana describing the Tirtha Mahima make a special mention of Dharmaranya Mahatmya: Dharmaranyam hi tatpunyamaadyam cha Bharatarshabha, Yatrapravishtha matre vaui sarva paapaih pramuchyate/ Archayitwaa pitrun Devaan niyato niyataashanah, Sarva kaama samriddhasya Yagjnasya phalamashnute/(Bharata sreshtha! This Dharmaranya is an Adi Tirtha of distinction and by even entering it all kinds of sins are demolished; if a person be being a limited eater and observer of Dharmic restrictions performs sincere worship to Pitru Devas and Devas shall indeed reap the fruits of performing Yagna karyas).The Center of Dharmaranya is Siddhapur which indeed is the Matru Gaya Kshetra or the Siddha Raja Kshetra, where the desires of yatris and devotees are fulfilled forthwith by not only the grace of Siddha Purushas like Maharshi Kardama and Kapila Maha Muni whose Ashrams are in position as also of Aoudichya Brahmanas whose centers are aplenty besides of their Kula Devata viz. Govinda Madhava. Siddhapur is on the Mt. Abu Road from 5-6 km en route Modhera and Ahmedabad. The Tirthas near by are of Saraswati and of Saraswati Mandira as also Brahmandeshwara Shiva Mandir where Matru Shraddhas are performed; Bindu Sagara on the banks of Saraswati River where Govinda and Madhava Mandirs are worthy of worship. It is locally believed that Sindu Sagara was indeed the place where Samudra Mathana took place here by Deva Danavas and Devi Lakshmi appeared here itself! Modhera: Is the ancient Abode of Matanga Devi who was believed to have terminated a Daitya named Karnata and is settled as Modheshwari; Matanga Devi is an Ashtadasha Hasta Murti or manifested as with eighteen hands each with weapons as also of a book, Aksha Mala, and Veena.
Shyamalaji: is a Krishna Bhagavan’s Mandir of fame. This Tirtha is on the banks of Meshwa River. Besides the Main Murti of Krishna Bhagavan, in the same premises are the Temples of Rancchod, Girdhari Lala, and of Kashi Vishwanath facing which is a large Sarovara. In fact, Kashi Vishwanath Mandir is under ground. It is stated that Raja Harischandra performed a Putra Kameshthi Yagna at the behest of Vasishtha Maha Muni and the Yagna was performed under the supervision of Oudumbara Rishi. Shamlaji was first named as Chaturbhuja Gadadhara Bhagavan installed by Harischandra himself. The present Shamalaji is worshipped by Brahmana an Vaishya Vaishnavites mainly. The celebrations at this Mandir continue from Kartika Shukla Ekadashi upto Margaseersha Shukla Dwiteeya.
Bhimashankar: Located some 110 km from Pune in Maharashtra State in the Ghat region of Sahyadri Hills near the head of Bhima River which merges with Krishna River too, the fifth Jyotirlinga Bhima Shankar is the appearance Maha Siva who exterminated Demon Bhima, son of Kumbhakarna (Ravan’s brother). Demon Bhima on knowing from his mother Kartaki wanted to avenge the death of his father by Lord Rama, who was Maha Vishnu’s incarnation and performed penance to Lord Brahma to receive boons to conquer even mighty opponents. He defeated Indra and Devas and what provoked Lord Siva most was the tormenting of a great Siva Bhakta King Kamarupeshwara insisting that the latter should pray to himself rather than Siva Linga. As the Demon was about to destroy the Sivalinga by his sword, Lord Siva appeared and destroyed the Demon and His mighty anger caused sweat which flowed as River Bhima. The Jyotirlinga thus manifested is a powerful representation of ‘Ardhanariswara’ in the Temple provides proof of instant fulfillment of all desires thus attracting thousands of devotees, especially on all Mondays and definitely on Sivaratri festivals. As in certain other cases like at Ujjain, the Swayambhu Jyotirlinga is set at a level lower than the normal Ground; also there is a speciality here that there is a constant flow of water from the Linga! The Bhima Shankar Temple is also associated with the killing of Demon brothers Tripurasuras along with Devi Parvati in Her manifestation as Kamalaja whose temple is also nearby the main Temple. Devi Kamalaja was worshipped by Brahma and hence She was called so. Sakini and Dakini were among those whose contribution was significant in the battle against Tripurasuras and their worship too is performed at the Temple. ‘Mokshakund Tirtha’, the Holy Waterbody adjacent the Bhimashankar Temple is associated with Sage Kausika. [Maratha Rulers especially Nana Phadnavis who built the Temple ‘Sikhara’ and Sivaji who made donations to its maintenance were intensely associated with the progress of this illustrious Temple].
While the above version of the location of Bhimashankar is convincing, Siva Purana which is relevant in the context of the current source states in Rudra Samhita: ‘Dakininam Bhimashankara’ while outlining the broad references of the Dwadasa Jyotirlingas; more clearly the Koti Rudra Samhita states: Bhimashankara sanjnaastu Shashtha Shambho Maha Prabho/ Avataro Maha leeloBhimasuravinashanah/ Sudakshinabhida Bhaktam Kamarupeshwaram vrisham / yoraraakshasadbhutam hatvasaram tha bhakta duhkhadam/Bhimashankara naamaa sa daakinyam samsthitaha swayam/ Jyotirlinga Siva rupena prarthesena Sankarah/ The sixth incarnation of Shambu and His ‘Leela’( miracle) was the killing of Bhimasura and saving of King Sudakshina of Kamarup whose grateful prayers resulted in the manifestation of Siva at Dakini. The belief is the Bhimashankar Temple at Bhimapur Hill near Guwahati in Assam is the one where the King Sudakshina was saved and the Jyotirlinga was consecrated. Sivaratris are celebrated with pomp and Show in this Temple. Yet another version relates that the Temple of Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga at Kashipur near Nainital which was noted as a Dakini Country in the past is the one where the Jyotirlinga appeared. The legend in the Region was that Bhima of Pandava brothers married a Dakini woman named Hidimba and that Lord Siva appeared in that Place as a Swayambhu Jyotirlinga in that Temple area.In this Temple too, there are Idols of Bhairavanath and Devi Bhagavati as also a Temple Tank, called Sivaganga. Siva Ratri Jagarans and Worship are observed with religious fervour and devotion in this Temple too.