Naimisharanya: The 41st Adhyaya of Uttarakanda of Kurma Purana makes a detailed reference of Naimisharanya when Suta Muni in his address to Rishis and Brahmanas said as follows: Idam Trailokya vikhyatam Teertham Naimishatanyyamuttamam, Maha Devapriyakaram mahapaatakanaashanam/ (This Naimisha Tirtha is reputed all over the Trilokas as the most beloved of Maha Deva and the demolisher of all kinds of blemishes and sins.) The Purana further states that Lord Brahma materialised this Tirtha to facilitate the Tapasya of Maha Munis like Marichi, Atri,Vasishtha, Kratu, Bhrigu and Angira and their generations as these Maharshis made express supplication to this effect. Brahma told the Maharshis: Satram sahasramaasadhwam Vaangmanodosha varjitaah, Deshamcha vah pravakshyaami yasmin desho charishyatha/ (Maharshis! Do perform thousands of Yagjnas by sacrificing all kinds of vocal and mental shortcomings; I shall specify a Sanctified spot where you could perform these deeds of virtue) So saying Brahma materialised a Manomaya chakra or Mind borne wheel and asked the Maharshis to follow it soon. He further said: Yatrasya nemih sheeryet sa Desha Purusharshabhaah, Tatomuvaacha tacchakram te cha tatsamauvrajan, Tyasya vai vrajatah kshipram yatra nemirashershayat, Naimisham tatsmrutam naamna punyam sarvatra pujitam/ (Where-ever the Manomaya chakra’s outside circle woud break off, that specific spot would indeed be worthy and highly auspicious of executing all deeds of virtue like Yagjnas and so on).hat Spot indeed has eventually become famed as having been frequented by Deva, Gandharva, Yaksha, Naaga, Rakshasas too besides Maharshis and Brahmanas who all seek Parameshwara. Anna daanam tapastaptam snaanam japyaadikam cha yat, Ekaikam paavbayet paapam sapta janmakrutam Dwijaah/ (What ever Punya Karyas like Danas, Tapa, Snaana, Japaadis are executed here should indeed root out all types of sins for seven previous births with retrospective effect). In the days of yore, Vaya Deva himself narrated the Brahmanda Purana as scripted by Brahma to Rishis performing yagjnas here. Also Rudra Deva along with Pramatha Ganas was inthe habit of freely moving about this hallowed Naimisharanya! Atra praanaan parityajya niyamena Dwijaatayah, Brahma lokam gamishyanti yatra gatwaa na jaayate/ (At the last stages of life the pescribed regulations are to eke one’s life and indeeed be eligible to pack up for Brahma Loka itself and would not have to have a rebirth!).
Besides Kurma Purana, Chapters of Shiva Purana, Maha Bhagavata, Maha Bharata and so on are devoted about the Naimisharanya Tirtha where Suta Maha Muni rendered discourses to congregations of Sages headed by Shaunaka Muni about the Eighteen Maha Puranas after performing daily Yagjnas at this hallowed Naimisharanya where the Kala Chakra’s paridhi or the circumference or outer circle called ‘nemi’collapsed here and hence the Hallowed Place has been called Naimisha on the banks of Gomati River, off 160 km from Luknow the Capital of Uttar Pradesh. Naimisha is also one of the major 51 Sacred Spots for Pitru Sthaanas and the practice of Somavati Amavasya Tarpanas are still organised. During Dwapara Yuga, Balarama Deva perfomed Yagjnas here, besides Veda Vyasa divided the single Veda to four distinct Vedas, scripted Maha Bharata here too and various other Scriptures. Lalitha Devi’s worship is performed at the main Mandir here while Chakra Tirtha is of legendary background. This Tirtha attracts thousands of devotees to perform ‘snanas’ till date especially on Pournamis and Solar/Lunar eclipse days.Chakra Tirtham maha Punyam sarva Paapa pranaashanam, Vateete madhya bhage tu prithvyaah sarvanathakam/ Kurukshetre tu yatpunyam Rahugrassita Divakare, Tat phalam labhate naiva Chakra Tirthasya majjananaat/ Naimishe Chakra tirtheshu snatwa Bharata sattama, Sarvavyaadhi vinirmukto Brahma loke maheeyate/ -Maha Bharata Shanti Parva. (Chakra Tirtha is Maha Punya Prada and Maha Paapa vinashaka; the Tirtha is as significant as that of the Chakra created by Brahma’s heart; the maha Phala that is accrued to snanas at Chakra Tirtha is stated to be that one attains at Kurukshetra on Solar Eclipse day when Rahu devours Surya. Snaanas at Chakra Tirtha are such as the unique smasher of all sins) It is believed that Chakra Tirtha is fathomless and delegations of British swimmers and navigators desirous of disproving the myth organised experiments by diving upto 1000 mts or 30,000 feet depth and gave up for want of oxygen reserves. There is also a 18 ft high Hanunan Idol carrying Rama and Lakshmana on his shoulders as having rescued them from Mahi Ravana hidden in Patala Loka. The local belief is that when Indrajit the son of Ravanasura was killed in the Ramayana Battle, Ravana asked his brother Mahi Ravana the King of Patala; a conspiracy was hatched to some how abduct Rama Lakshmanas and despatch them to Patala so that the brotheres could be sacrificed to Chandi Devi. Vibhishana now in Rama’s camp came to know of the plot and warned Hanuman to be vigilant but assuming Vibhishana Rupa, Ravana suceeded in abducting Rama Lakshmana in deep sleep and despatched them to Patala. Hanuman realised the deceipt and reached Patala and with the help of Makaradhwaja who was Hanuman’s sweat born son helped entry into Patala and destroyed Mahi Ravana and carried them on his shoulders to Chakra Tirtha at Naimisha.
Devi Bhagavata describes the significance of Lalitha Devi Mandira at Naimisha as that of Vishalakshi Mandira at Varanasi: Varanasyam Vishalaakshi Gauri Mukha nivasini, Kshetre vai Naimishaaranye proktaa saa Linga dharini/ It may be recalled that 51 Shakti Pithaas were given in detail in the earlier pages of this Script, but actually 108 Shakti Peethas are stated and the Linga Dharaini Lalitha Devi’s heart in part [besides at Baidhyanath Dham as Jaya Durga in Jharkhand] also fell of Devi Sati’s mortal body at Naimisha. Apart fromVyasa Shukadeva Sthaana afore mentioned, Swayambhu Manu and Devi Shatarupa ‘Taposthaana’ too is mention worthy as the lineage of Fourteen Manus including the current Vaivaswata Manu got initiated since then. The famed Dashaashwamedha Yagna or the tenth Ashwamedha performed by Shri Rama, Devi Sita and Lakshmanaadi brothers and wives was a memorable success here at Naimisha on Treta Yuga. Annapurna andVishwanatha mandir at Naimisha is known for devotees executing Pitru Karyas. Dadhichi Kund Snana is stated to be of great importance as that is the Sacred Place where Dadhichi Muni donated his backbone and body with which Indra made Vajrayudha and many other armoury of Devas with which Vritrasura was executed for Loka Kalyan or Universal Relief and Auspiciousness. Suta Muni Gaddi and Pancha Prayaga on the banks of which Akshaya Vata Vriksha are worthy of not missing by yatris. Naimisharanya Parikrama of some 4-5 km covering most of the Sacred Places mentioned is possible. More than this organised tours are conducted from far off Places upto Lucknow for Yagjna karyas and Bhagavata Saptahas for week long stays at Naimisha which provides unique spiritual solace and fulfillment. Hardly 5 km from Naimisha is Gomati River known as Dhouta-paapa and Sita kunda Tirthas too, where Devi Janaki was bathing getting ready for participating Ashmamedha Yagnas!
Prayaga (Allhabad):Maha Padma Purana eulozises Prayaga in Uttara Khanda as follows: Jahnavi Ravisutaa Parameshthiputri Sinndhutrayaabharana Tirthavara Prayaga, Sarvesha maamanugrahaana nayaswa chordhwamantastamo dashavidham dalaya swadhaamnaa/ ( Prayaga Tirtha Raja which wears the ornament of three Unique Rivers of Ganga from Vishnu paada-Yamuna the daughter of Surya-Saraswati the daughter of Brahma! Sarveswara! Be very kind to me and lift my stature and demolish the ten folded ‘Avidyaandhakara’ or the Darkness of Ignorance and enlighten me into knowldge of brilliance!) Vaageesha Vishnaveesha Purandaraadyaah Paapapranaashaaya Vidaam Vidopi, Bhajanti yatteeramaneela neelam sa Tirtha raajo jayati prayaagah/ (Victory to you Prayaga Tirtha Raja! You are so illustrious that Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva- Indraadi Devas as also Rishi-Maharshis vie with each other to rejoice the Pure White and Blue Kwaters of three Maha Nadis converging together!) Kaalindajaa sangamavaapya yatra pratyaagataa swargadhuni dhuneti, Adhyaatma taapatrayam janasya sa TeerthaRaajo jayati Prayagaha/ (Victory to you Prayaga Tirtha Raja! Manushyas on accomplishing the Sangama of Ganga- Kalindini-Yamuna witness themselves the complete destruction of ‘Tapatrayas’ viz. Adhyatmika or Issues of Psychological and Mental nature, Adhi daivika or God made problems and Adhibhoutika or of physical ailments !) Padma Purana further states: Victory to you Prayaga Tirtha! You assume bright blue colour and its varying shades which indeed do pacify human beings from the cyclical tribulations of deaths and births. Victory to you Prayaga Tirtha Raja! Brahma and all the Devatas do frequently take reprieve from their own duties only to enjoy your comforting diversion and even Yama dharma Raja too sometimes frees himself from wielding his ever whipping ‘danda’ just to refresh and rejuvenate himself with the tranquility of the Sangama Raja. Victory to you Prayaga Tirtha Raja! Those persons who dive and bathe in this Sangama of three illustrious Rivers viz. ‘Brahminaputri Tripatha- striveni’ would reap the ‘Akshata Yaga Phala’ and make way to Brahma Loka! Lokaanaam akshamanaa –naam Makhakritushu Kalou Swargakaamair japastutyaadi shtotrairvachobhih kathamamarapada prapti chintaaturaanaam/ Agnishtomaashwamedha pramukhamara phalam samyagaalocchhya saanga Brahmaadyaisteertha rajobhimatada upadishtoyameva Prayagah/ ( In Kaliyuga, human beings no doubt are desirous of attaing Swarga but are unable to execute Yagjna-Yaagaas but could resort to Japa-Stuti- Stotra-Paatha and the like; at same time they are desirous of achieving Ashwamedhaadi Yagjna phala too; so Brahma and Devatas thought over and materialised Prayaga Tirtha Raja to achieve the similar phala by merely but sincerely observe the bathing regulations and secure Salvation). Grahaanancha yathaa Suryo Nakshatraanaa yathaa Shashi, Tirthaanaamuttamam tirtham Prayagaasyamanuttamam/ ( Just as among the Grahas Surya is the outstanduing and among the Stars the Moon, Prayaga indeed the the Unique among the Tirthas) Prayage tu Naro yastu Maagha snaanam karoti cha, Na tasya phala samkhyasti shrunu Devarshi sattama/ (Those who perform Maagha Snana at Prayaga, they have no measure of Phala sampatti!) To know about the further ‘mahima’ or Unique significance of Prayaga, one might refer to Matsya, Kurma, Agni Maha Puranas also! The very fact that there is a Sangam of three Maha Nadis lends the credential of Prayaga to be the King of Tirthas in Bharat. As there are three distinct river flows have their confluence, this Tirtha rightly designated as Triveni distinguishes itself as Agni Swarupa or of Yagjna Vedi; the intermediate region of Ganga-Yamuna is of ‘Garhapatyagni’; where as the region beyond Ganga viz. Pratishthanpur-Jhansi is of ‘Ahavaniyaagni’ and the Region beyong Yamuna ie. Alarkapura and Araila is to be considered as ‘Dakshinaagni’. Hence those who decide to stay at Prayaga for three nights representing the Three Rivers signified as three types of Agni, would derive the benefit of three Sacred Rivers and three forms of Agni! There is a Magha month celebration at Prayaga and those visiting the Maha Tirtha are in this month are designated as Kalpa Vasis! Several such Kalpavasi Yatris residing at the Triveni Sangama make it a point to reside here during Soura Maasa Makara Samkranti upto Kumbha Sankranti and as per Chandramaana stay right up to the end of Maagha Month. Now every twelve years there is a Maha Kumbha at Prayaga when Brihaspati is in Vrishabha Raasi and Surya is in Makara Raasi; every such six years, Ardha Kumbha is observed and then again there is a srtong arrival of yatris and a big Mela is organised at Prayaga.Duties at Prayaga: Yatris to Prayaga Tirtha are expected to observe Upavasa or fasting, Japa, Daana, and worship. ‘Mundan’ is a normal duty for males and widows whereas for married women, ‘Veni daana’ or cutting of long head hair edges duly tied together smeared with Mangala Dravyas like turmeric powder and scented sindura powder are to be slashed with scissors and the hair pieces so cut along with recitation of Mantras blessing long marital life with longevity of husbands; there after ‘Mangala Snanas’ or Sacred and auspicious bathings are performed again with Mantra recitals while leaving the discarded pieces of their hair edges so slashed formally to the flows of Holy Triveni Sangam. The concerned husbands who would have already bathed earlier should once again perform three dips in the flow by holding the shoulders of their wives. There after at the designated Sangama Sthala where the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna waters of brightness and blueish hues and distinct temperatures of coldness and mild warmth-with Saraswati as the under current, puja is to be performed with three dips again possibly or if travelling by boat, by sprinkling of the Sacred Sangam flows on heads.Pinda Puja/ Tarpana and Pinda daana in favour of Pitru Devas would be the next duty to be observed on banks of Prayaga Sangam. Main Devasthaanas at Prayaga: Trivenim Madhavam Somam Bharadwaajam cha Vaasukim, Vandekshaya vatam Shesham Prayagam Tirtha naamakam/ (Triveni, Bindumadhava, Someshwara, Vaasuki naaga, Akshya Vata, and Sesha Naaga or Baladeva are the principal Tirthas worthy of including in the Prayaga Yatra itinerary. Veni Madhava is a renowned Vaishnava Peetha nearby Triveni Sangama adjacent to Akshaya Vata. This Bindu Madha in water form comprises twelve Madhavas viz. Shankha Madhava, Chakra Madghava, Gada Madhava, Padma Madhava, Ananta Madhava, Bindu Madhava, Manohara Madhava, Asi Madhava, Sankashtahara Madhava, Adi Venu Mahava, Adi Madhava, Shri Veni Madhava; these Madhavas are either Murtis, or Sacred Rocks or of Jala Swarupa Sthanas. Akshaya Vata is near Patalapura Cave as a dry tree bush on Yamuna River bank where several Murtis are on display like Annapurna, Maha Lakshmi, Gauri Ganesha, Bala Mukund, Maha Deva, Saraswati, Vishnu, Nrisimha, Rama Sita Lakshmana Hanuman etc. Besides these, the other Mandirs are Mankemeshwar Mandir of Shiva and Somanatha reachable by boat, Bindu Madhava already mentioned, Naga Vasuki and Bala Deva or Shesha Mandir, Shiva Kuti or Koti Tirtha, Bharadwaja Ashrama, all on Ganga Banks. Lalitha Devi Mandira as mentioned in ‘Tantra Chudamani’ is one of the Shakti Peethas at Prayaga where Devi Sati’s right hand finger fell following her mortal body parts slicing off by Vishnu Chakra and Devi’s name is called Alopi Devi. Prayag’s Antarvedi Parikrama is stated to take a couple of days commencing from Triveni sangama Snaana and Bindu Madhava worship followed by Yamuna bank’s Paapa vimochana Tirtha, ParashuramaTirtha, Govardhana Tirtha, Pischacha mochana Tirtha, Manah Kameshwara Tirtha, Kapila Tirtha, Indreshwara Shiva, Takshaka Kunda, Takshakeshwara Shiva, Kaaliya hrada, Chakra Tirtha, Sindhu Sagara Tirtha near Kakaraghaat, and on the road to Pandava Kupa, Varuna Kupa in Gadhayi Sarai, Kashyapa Tirtha, Dravyeshwara nadha Shiva, Surya Kunda and so on.There after, Hanumam darshana and Triveni Snaana would terminate the Antarvedi Parikrama. Bahir Vedi Parikrama is stated to be taken up about ten days but after this one has to undertake Antar vedi parikrama too. Kurma Purana details an account of Prayaga Mahatmya by narrating of Yudhishtara’s remorse and anguish on the conclusion of the Kurukshetra Battle where not only Kaurava cousins but even Bhishma, Karna his own elder brother, several uncles, Gurus and assiciates were killed; as he desired to perform ‘Prayaschitta’ or formal atonement/ expiation the Vedic way, Maharshi Markandeya suggested Prayaga Titha darshana and penance., since this Kshetra was protected against Evils by some sixty thousand bows and arrows in favour of Ganga and Sabita Deva riding seven horses protected River Yamuna, while Devi Saraswati flowing under ground has the protection of Brahma himself; Indra and Devas kept constant vigil, Vishnu is ever protective and Maha Deva resides on the Vata Vriksha / banyan tree on the banks of the Sangama. The Purana is quoted: Prayaagaam smaranaamasya sarvamaayaati sankshamam, Darshanaat tasya Tirthasya mnaamasamkirtinaadapi, Mrittikaa labhanaad vaapi Narah paapaat pramuchyate/ (The very thought of Prayaga would suffice to destroy sins; Prayaga darshana and naama samkirtana or even the touch of Prayaga sand would evaporate all sins). Along with the banks of Yamuna and Ganga are countless Tirthas each of which has a description; Kurma Purana highlights Yamuna’s southern side two Maha Nagas Kambal and Ashwatara who were great devotees of Parama Shiva stayed at that Tirtha and Snaanas there would ward off ‘sarpa badha’ forever. Another Tirtha named ‘Hamsa prapatana’ near Pratishthaanapura and the belief is that Apsara landed there by Hamsa/ Swan and bathing there enriches beauty of body and heart; Koti Tirtha bathing and possibly death is stated to ensure Swarga nivasa for crores of years. On Ganga’s eastern side is Sarva Samudra Gahvara or Cave and stay there for three days and nights observing fast and celibacy and mental control performing meditation would fetch Ashwamedha Yagna phala. Sangama snaana in Maagha month for three days ensures enormous material fulfillment and at the termination of life the assured passage to higher Lokas. Those who could perform ‘karishagni seva’ or tapasya within a circles of flames of dried cow dung on the banks of the Sangama Place would bestow and preserve diseaseless body and physical fitness. Yet another Tirtha on the northern side of River Yamuna ensures Runa Vimochana or freedom from indebtedness.
Chitrakut: Most significant fact is that Lord Shri Ram along with Devi Sita and brother Lakshman spent years together at this ‘Tapobhumi’or Meditation Land of Sanctity- where Maharshi Atri and his ilustrious follower Munis stayed too- during his forest life as per his father Dasharatha’s wish. Chitrakut is some 15 km from Karvey Station is on Manikpur-Jhansi Line of Indian Railways. At Chitrakut, the parikrama or circumambulation of Kamadagiri /mountain and Shri Rama Darshan are the significant tasks. The parikrama is to take some five days of some 30 km. Starting from Ragahva Prayaga ‘snana’ at Sitapur- Koti Tirtha, Sita Devi’s Kichen, Hanuman Dhara-Keshavaghar, Pramodavana, Janaki kund, Sirasa vana, Spkatika shila, Anasuya- Gupta Godavari snana, Kailasa Parvata darshana- and from Chabepura to Bharat kupa and Rama Shayya or Rama’s bed. On way in the Parikrama occur Mukharavinda where snana is of importance followed by temples of Hanuma, Saakshi Gopala, Lakshmi Narayana, Shri Ramas sthaana, Tulasidasa nivasa, Kaikeyi and Bharata Mandirs, Charana Paduka Mandir. There are three most hallowed ‘Charana Chinha’ or foot prints of Lord Shri Rama viz. Charana Paduka or His footwear prints, Janaki kunda and ‘Sphatika shaala’. The specific Spot where Bharata met Rama for the first time and the molten stone of Rama’s footprint is visible still. Among other hallowed Places nearby Charana Paduka are Lakshman Hill and Lakshman Mandir, Janaki Kund, Anasuya-Atri Ashram, Gupta Godavari and so on. Nearby Chitra kut are Ganesha Kund, Valmiki Ashram, Viradha Kunda, Sharabhanga Ashram, Sutikshan Ashram and Rama Vana.
Kaalanjar:Some 80 km from Chitrakut, Kajuraho 130 km and Allhabad 200 km. Kaalanjar literally means ‘Kaal’ or Time and ‘jar’ or destruction is famed for Nilakantha Shiva Linga of five feet height with a cave like opening. Both Maha Bharata’s Vana Parva and Padma Purana’s Srishti Khanda described the Mahatmya or Significance of Kaalanjara Mountain in the context of Chitrakuta Yatra on Manikpura – Jhansi Railway Line some 37 km off Karavi near Kakanjara village and Kalanjara Mountain. Atra Kaalanjaram naama parvatam loka vishrutam, Tatra Devahrade snaatvaa goshasara phalam labhet/ Yo snaarah snaanapayet tatra girou Kaalanjare Nripa, Swarga loke maheeyet Naro naanyatra samshayah/ This (Tungakaaranya’s) Kaalanjara named Mountain is world renowned and those who formally bathe in Devahrada water flows would achieve the fruit of charity of thousand cows; those who are instrumental to bathe likewise would carve out a place in Heaven withot doubt). It is possibe that there was also a mountain named Hiranyabindu and Agastrya Ashram too near by. In any case, the visitors to Kaalanjara would sight a Shiva Mandira; there are seven entry gates through which one would pass through to reach a Fort atop the Mountain and at the fourth gate one would sight a Bhairava Murti Mandir and a cave and its termination there would be Bhairava Kund and Bhairava Murti. Thereafter there is a gate leading to Hanuman Kunda and Patala ganga which is not accessible through a dark cave. Pandu guha or cave is further on leading to Buddhi Sarovar. Mriga dhara and Kotidhara are through the gate leading to the descending gate followed by Jata Shankara, Ksheera saagara and Tunga Bhairava. In all, there are many Trimurti Idols, but essentially this Tirtha is of Shiva cult. Maha Varaha Purana delineating ‘Ishwara Gita’ on Shiva Bhakti and Ishwaratwa describes Tirtha Mahima among others of Kaalanjara Tirtha narrates the Story of King Shwata of Kalanjara was a passionate devitee of Lord Rudra and having formally installed a Shiva Linga with high dedication worshipped it for several years. On one auspicious day, Maha Deva granted his appearance but as a scaryand dancing figure with a Trishula in his mighty hands with garlands of human skulls and serpents all over his gigantic physique. The Rajashri got startled and held the Shiva Linga tight reciting Shata Rudriya louldly with disbelief and shock. Shiva consoled the King and transformed into a Shanta Swarupa or of peaceful demeanor along with Devi Parvati and the King spontaneously broke out chantinig: Namo Bhavaaya hetawe Haraaya vishwa sambhavey etc.As the long chanting was over, Mahadeva granted Ganapatya to the King or the Celestial Status of the Chief of Shiva Ganas, vindicating the consequence of Shiva’s ‘para araadhana’!
Kajuraho Monuments:The Chatrapur District in Madhya Pradesh literally signify ‘Kharjura Vahaka’ or Date Palm Carrier is a World Heritage Site of UNESCO, considered as one of the seven Wonders of India, besides Nalanda (Bihar), Konarak Temple (Orissa), Hampi (Karnataka), Taja Mahal (Agra, Uttar Pradesh), Harmindar Sahib or Golden Temple (Amritsar, Punjab) and Gomakteshwara (Shravana belgola, Karnataka). This Place is connected by Air and Raiways from Mahoba, as also by road from Chhattar pur and Panna of Diamond Mine fame. Etotic Sculptures crafted by Chandella Artisans depicting explicit sex life as dedicated to Kandariya Maha Deva and Devi Parvati. Made of sand stone, Temples of 64 Yoginis, Brahma, Marthandeshwara Shiva, Lalgun Maha Deva, Varaha, Lakshmana, Parshavanath, Vishwanath, Edevi Jagadambi, Vamana, Adinath Jain and so on are popular and motifs of ‘Mithuna’ are adorned on the Temple Walls and so on. Essentially known as Kamasutra Temple with explicit sex life on the walls etc. this is the only such Temple in the entire world with variety of motifs on Sex. An outstanding feature of Khajuraho is the annual Dance Artistes from all over India and abroad.