Gautami ( Godavari) Mahatmya, Naganatha, Grishneshwara

Tato Gadaavarim praapya nitya siddha nishevitaam, Rajasuya- maapnoti Vayu Lokam cha gacchati/ (Maha Bharata extols the Mahatmya of Gautami River as the everlasting provider of Siddhis besides the maha phala of performing Raja suya Yagna and bestowing the Vayu Loka prapti). Brahma Purana explains further: Amritam Jahnavi toyam swarnamuchyate, Amritam gobhavam chaajyamamritam Soma yevacha, Gangaayaa vaarinaajyena hiranyena tathaiva cha, Sarvebhyopyaadhikam divyamaritam Goutami jala./ (It is stated that Ganges water is like gold, it is also said that pancha gavyas, Soma Yagnas are more valuable, but far more than Ganges water or gold, or even the pancha gavyas and Soma Yagnas, Godavari water is the best Amritam ever). Sapta Godavarim snaatwaa niyato niyataashanah, Maha punyamavaapnoti Devalokam cha gacchati/ ( Those who bathe in and drink the waters of ‘Sapta Godavari dhaaras’- comprising Vasishtha, Kaushiki, Vriddha Goutami, Goutami, Bharadwaaji, Atreyi and Tulya- are indeed blessed with Maha Punya and attain Deva  Lokas).

Details of Gautami Ganga (Godavari River) and its magnificence are detailed in Brahma Purana in a full chapter as Maharshi Gautam was indeed responsible to have meditated intensely for several years and pleased the ever meciful Maha Deva to let the flows of the celestial water come down to Earth in the form of Godavari as narrated here under:As Bali Chakravarti’s some of the Sankalpa Jala to donate the proverbial Three Feet to Vamana Deva fell on Shiva’s jataajuta, there were too recipients of that Sacred Water on Earth viz. a Maharshi called Gautama and King Bhagiratha of Surya Vamsha. Thus Ganga from Shiva Jatajuta took two manifestations, one as Ganga and another as Gautami. While Bhagirathi Ganga’s origin as was materialized by King Sagara’s descendant Bhagiratha and his tenacious efforts by meditation to Vishnu, Ganga Devi and Parameswara was well described in various Puranas, detailed account was provided in Brahma Purana about Gautami Ganga or the Dakshina Ganga. When Gautama reached atop Kailasha Mountain, he extolled Parama Shiva and the latter was pleased with the Maharshi’s Tapasya, Bhakti, Vrata and Stuti and gave Darshan to Gautama. As Mahadeva asked the Maharshi as to what was his wish, Gautama requested Bhagavan that a part of Ganga that was absorbed in Shiva jatajuta be please spared to fall on Brahmagiri so that in the interest of devotees who crave for a Sacred River, Ganga the Great Purifier should flow at least before enter the Sea and the Public would get a chance to sanitise themselves of their sins atleast at that Place. Shiva readily agreed to Gautami’s request in Public interest in that Region and affirmed that Gautami Ganga would most certainly be a very popular and Sacred River; as the prayed to Parama Paavani Ganga to descend from Maha Deva’s jataajuta, he first took her to wash Bhagavan  Traimbeskeswara’s feet and requested Bhagavan to prescribe the Puja Vidhi of Bhagavan. At the outset a devotee was required to perform Nandimukha Shraddha, satisfy Brahmanas with Bhojana Dakshinas, and take holy bath in Godavari, distribute Vastras and cash to Sadhus and the Poor and practice japa- homa- Puja as prescribed and thus complete the Tirtha Yatra with the Parama Manthra OM Namassivaaya with veneration and faith. Also perform Snaana and Puja at the Confluence Points of Trishna, Bhimarathi and Tungabhadra. Maha Deva blessed the sprawling Gautami and hailed it as his personal favourite with several names such as Maheswari, Ganga, Gautami, Vaishnavi, Godavari, Nanda, Sunanda, Kamadayani, Brahma Teja Samaaneeta and Sarva Paapa Pranashini. Brahma described to Narada Muni about various Sacred Tirthas that came up on the banks of the long Gautami Ganga : Vaaraahi Tirtha at Triamabaka Kshetra was the gift of Varaahaavatara of Vishnu who killed a Raakhasa named Sindhusena who defeated Indra and other Devas and obstructed the performance of Yagnas-the life line of Devas, the fruits of which were discarded in Rasatala; the blood of the Daityas, Danavas and Rakshasas headed by Sindhusena was washed in the Rasatala Ganga and Maha Yagnas were conducted again where Vaaraaha Titha was originated. Another Tirtha called Kushaavarta came to be formed in Triambaka to enable worship to Pitra Shraarthas and Tarpanas that emerged from Nilaparvatas in the Region popularly known as Nila Ganga. Kapota Tirtha had the back- ground of a hunter who was in the habit of killing several animals and caged many birds for his food daily; once he was caught badly in severe rain and rested under a Banyan Tree when he saw a male bird on the tree recognized a female bird in the hunter’s net; as the male bird found that the hunter was shivering with cond and suffering the pangs of hunger. The female bird inside the net requested the male bird on the tree to collect figs and some fire from a distance by its beak holding a fig and thus producing a fig-lit fire to jump in and satisfy his hunger and warm up his body- shiver from the fire! The hunter was ashamed of his past killings and was taught a lesson as he prayed to Mahadeva to absolve him of his past sins and converted himself as a saint eventually. Later on as he died, Bhagavan granted the Kapota, the Kapoti and the Hunter-converted as Saint and a Sacred Titha came up as a Symbol of Sacrifice by the Kapota birds and the penance of the Hunter! The Kapota Tirtha snaan is till date known as a Provider of Ashwamedha Yagna Phala and Salvation.The origin of Dashaashwametha Tirtha was that a King called Bhouvan desired to perform Ten Ashwamedha Yagnas simultaneously and engaged Kashyapa Muni for the purpose but there were some hurdles or other although tried many Tirthas like Prayaga and Kashyapa made an appeal to Brahma who recommended Gautami banks in Dakshina Bharata and finally succeeded performing the Ten Yagnaas side by side and after successful completion organized Anna daanaas to lakhs of poor persons and gave away Brahamana daanaas. It is stated that till date the Tirtha continued to be famed for Yagnas and Annadaanas and those who performed sacred bathings at the Tirtha would secure Yagna Phalas.The background of Paishacha Tirtha on the banks of Godavari related to Kesari the illustrious follower of Shri Rama along with other Vaanaraas of Kishkindha headed by Sugriva. Kesari had two wives viz. Anjana and Adri, both being Apsaras cursed by Indra to become a female monkey and a female cat respectively in the form of Mountains. But for their faces both the women had attractive physiques. As both the Devis approached Agastya Muni the latter blessed thm and Devi Anjana gave birth to Hanuman Deva with the blessings and Amsha of Vaayu Deva and Devi Adri gave birth to a King of Piscachaas with the blessings and of Nirruti Deva. The Paishacha Tirtha thus came to name and fame and not far from it known as Hanuma Tirtha and Vrishakapi Tirthaa which enjoyed considerable popularity as Hanuman had been a symbol of intrepidity, invincibility and unflinching loyalty who continued to be an Ever-living and legend in the Immortal Epic of Ramayana. Brahma affirmed that Pancha Tirtha was the Point of Confluence of his own progeney viz. Savitri, Gayatri, Shraddhaa, Medhaa and Saraswati and these were all connected to Bhagavati Ganga; snaanaas in Pancha Tirtha, followed by Pujas and Daanaas would  fully relieve several problems and insurmountable difficulties are overcome as though those never existed. All along the banks of Gautami Ganga were dotted several Tirthas of renown due their association of Devas, human beings, Maharshis and of Rakshasaas, Apsaras, who were all the Great Devotees of the Almighty despite their erstwhile past or because of it. Such Tirthas included Kshudhaa Tirtha, Ahalya Tirtha, Ashva Tirtha, Bhanu Tirtha, Aruna-Varuna sangama, Garuda Tirtha, Govardhana Tirtha, IndraTirtha, Rumna Vimochana Tirtha, Chakra / Dadhichi Muni Tirtha, Pancha Tirtha, Pururava Tirtha, Naga Tirtha, Maatru Tirtha, Avighna Tirtha, Sesha Tirtha, Shanaishchara Tirtha, Soma Tirtha, Dhanya Tirtha, Vidarbha Sangama and Revati Sangama Tirthas, Shri Rama Tirtha and so on. All these Tirthas provide multiple benefits of self-confidence, courage, knowledge and sin-demolishing.While the various Tirthas have been described as above in Brahma Purana, those mentioned in Maharashtra are identified include: Panchavati cluster or Rama Temples, Naroshankar Temple, Sundar Narayana Temple, Modakeshwara Temple,Gangeshwara Veda Mandir and Mukti dhaam Temple all in Nashik itself; besides Ekanatha Shrine in Paithan etc. In Andhra Pradesh, the Tirthas on the banks of Godavari are the famed Annavaram Satya Narayan a Temple, Dwaraka Tirumala, Draksha Rama, Kotilinga Pushkara, exclusive Shani Temple in Konaseema, Bhadrachala Rama Mandir etc.                  
Naganatha: Bhagavan’s tenth manifestation (of Jyotirlinga) is popular in save His devotees; a Demon named Daruka who obstructed virtue was destroyed to save His devotee Vaishaya Supriya. While this was the Statement of Siva Purana’s ‘Koti Rudra Samhita’ establishing that Nageswara Jyotirlinga was no doubt evident but there are atleast three claimants of Its Location viz. Nageswara Temple at Dwaraka, Gujarat; Naganath Temple at Aoudhya, Maharashta; and Jagasewara Temple at Almora, Uttarakhand. Happily, all are winners!The legend was that there a demon couple named Daruka and Daruki and the latter secured a grant from Devi Parvathi that wherever the Demoness went, the entire forest would accompany her. The Demons were spoiling Yagnas and all Spiritual tasks, there were protests from the harassed Brahmanas to Sage Ourva and the Sage cursed the demons and followers that they would all be destroyed on earth; the Demons had thus no alternative excepting to move into the Sea. Daruki’s boon from Parvati became ineffective since the forests were all submerged in the Sea. The Demons thus restricted only in the Sea and resorted to pirating the Ships moving in the Seas and one of extremely devoted Bhakta of Lord Siva named Supriya-a Vaiasya- was thrown into a prison on the ship. Bhakta Supriya who was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva made sincere prayers and Bhagavan appreared, killed all the Demons and released the prisoners especially Supriya. Commemorating this joyous moment, the Lord blessed that a Swayambhu Nageswara Jyorirlinga be manifested on the Sea Coast as the memorable Nageswara Jyotirlinga.Situated at Aoudha in Prabhasa Kshetra [Prabhasa Railway Station on Manmadi-Nanded Line] Naganath Jyotirlinga was referred to as follows by Adi Shankaracharya: Yame  (South)Sadanga (Old name of Audh)/ Vibhushitangam vividhaischa bhoga bhogai/ Satbhakti muktipradameesa mekam /Sri Naganatham saranam prapadye /
The legend of Aounda Naganatha Temple is that during ‘Aranya Vasa’ (Forest life of twelve years) by Pandavas pursuant to their defeat in a Game of Dice with Kauravas lived in a hermitage and their cows taking water from a river nearby were automatically giving milk back into the same river and finding this miracle act, Bhima found that the middle part of the River was hot compared to the rest of water. Bhima with his mace broke the middle portion of the River seeking to find out as to how had this happened; there was blood gushing out and when dug up to the great surprise Pandavas discovered a Jyotirlinga full of radiance. The Story of Demons Daruka and Daruki as also of Supriya the great Devotee of Bhagavan was also ascribed to Nageswara Temple at Dwaraka in Gujarat was referred to Naganath Temple at Audh in Maharashtra also.The architectural beauty of the Audha Temple of Prabhasa is distinctive, as was stated to have been built by Pandavas originally with heavy stones and spacious corridors and halls. The Court Hall is oval shaped supported by strong pillars and the Jyotirlinga of Naganatha Deva is in a Garbhagriha which is in a small internal area. While there is no Idol of Nandi before the Main Deity, there is a separate Shrine for him behind the Main Temple. On all the four sides of the Main Temple are separate shrines dedicated to Twelve Jyotirlingas, besides Vedavyasa linga, Bhadreswara, Nilakantheswara, Ganapati, Dattatreya, Murali Manohar, and Dasavataras- totalling 108 Shiva Temples and 68 Shrines, interestingly including Mothers in law and Daughters in law! Also interestingly, there is a picturisation of a Scene depicting a sulking Devi Parvati and a pacifying Lord Siva! It is said that Aurangazeb ordered to plunder the Temple and swarms of bees drove away the soldiers.

Ghrishneshwar: On a mountain called Devagiri, there was a pious Brahmana named Sudharma and his wife Sudeha but she was barren and had no child. Sudeha proposed that her younger sister, Ghushma or Kusuma who was a staunch devotee of Parameswara be wedded to Sudharma. Sudharma agreed and in course of time, they had a male child due to Lord Siva’s blessings. Ghushma was in the habit of daily worship by creating Sivalingas of clay and immerse them after Puja and Abhisheka in a pond nearby. Sudeha got jealous of her younger sister as she was blessed with a son. One night Sudeha killed the child out of jeaulosy and threw away the child in the same pond where the Sivalingas were immersed by her. The latter no doubt wept over the tragedy but continued her daily worship of Siva none-the-less. The dead body of the child floated in the pond where Ghushma used to immerse the lingas and there was commotion in the family and indeed in the village. Ghushma still continued her prayers to Lord Shankara who finally stood before her and desired to kill Sudhrama, but she requested not to do so out of her extreme kindness. Lord Siva brought back the child from death and also asked Ghushma for any boon and she requested Him to stay in pond and the Lord agreed to do so and hence the formation of Ghrishneswara as a Jyotirlinga. Alternative names of the Place are Ghushmeswar or Kusumeswar. This Temple is situated in the Village of Verul or Yelur where River Yala flows and is some 30 km from Aurangabad.

From Aurangabad, Ellora is 30 km, Ajanta is 106 km and Shirdi is 130 km. The Temple Complex is quite spacious (240 X 185 feet) enclosed by strong outer walls and the Garbha griha (Sanctum) admeasuring 17 feet X 17 feet are the Jyotirlinga of Lord Ghrishnaswara and Idol of Goddess Ghrishneswari; a Nandikeswara is facing the Deities in the Court Hall of the Sanctum. It is believed that long ago, the Patel of the Village discovered a treasure in a snake pit and the amount was spent on the basic construction of the original Temple and the Holkar Royal family renovated with Dasavataras and various other carvings in red stone were addded besides a lake named Sikharashingarapur. [Ellora and Ajanta caves which are World Heritage Sites are firmed up on the Tourist map of India].

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at [email protected]