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Reference of Holy Places*

by Raj Nath Bhat

The following is an extract from the Nilmata Purana (Sutra 74-181) where in mention has been made of holy rivers, mountains, lakes, etc. across the subcontinent. It also describes the drying up of Sati Lake that made it possible for human settlements to take shape in the valley of Kashmir:

The lotus-eyed Indra accompanied by Paulomi was once sporting on the bank of Sati lake. Induced by Death a Daitya-chief named Sangrha who was exceedingly difficult of being conquered, came there while Indra was sporting.

The semen of that demon who had seen Shaci, was discharged in that reservoir of water. Mad, due to being subject to passion and desirous of carrying away Shaci.

Thereafter a fight between Indra and Sangrha continued for one year. Having killed him at the end of the year, the Indra received honour from the gods and went to heaven.

A child was born in the waters out of that evil-minded Sangraha’s discharged semen which had fallen in the lake.

Due to compassion the Nagas brought up that child in the waters. As he was born in the water, so he was called Jalodbhava (water-born).

Having propitiated the god Pitamaha with penance, he obtained from him a (triple) boon, viz, immortality in the water, magical power, and unparalleled prowess.

Having obtained the power, that Daitya devoured the human beings who lived in various countries near that lake, viz; the inhabitants of Darvabhisara, Gandhara and Juhundara, the Shakas, the Khashas, the Tanganas, the Mandavas, the Madraas and the inhabitants of Antargiri and Bahirgiri.

They fled away in fear from the country and he roamed fearlessly in those desolate lands.

At this very time, the venerable sage Kashyapa travelled over the whole earth in connection with holy pilgrimage.

In this holy Bharatavarsha – he visited auspicious Pushkara, Prayaga, teeming with sacrifices and destroyer of all sins, Kurukshetra, the field of piety, Naimisha, the destroyer of sins, Hayashirsha, the holy abode of high-souled Fathers, the celestial Carankata, the remover of all sins, the holy Varaha mountain, the holy Pancanada, Kalanjana along with Gokarna, Kedara along with Mahalaya, Badhirashrama, the holy abode of Narayana, Sugandha, Shatakumbha, Kalikashrama, Shakambhari, Lalitika, Shaligrama, Prthudaka, Suvarnaksha, Rudrakoti, Prabhasa, Sagarodaka, Indramarga, Matanga-vapi, the destroyer of sins, the holy Agastyashrama, Tandulikashrama, the holy Jambumarga, the holy Varanasi, the holy goddess Ganga, daughter of Jahnu and girdle of the sky, Yamuna, the destroyer of the noose of Yama, the swift-flowing Shatadru, the Sarayu, possessed of the sacrificial posts, the goddess Sarasvati, the Godavari, the Vaitarani, the Gomati, the Bahuda, the Vedasmrti, the Asi alsog with the Varna, the Tamravarnotpalavati, the Sipra along with the Narmada, the Shona, the great river Paroshni, the Ikshumati, the Gauri, the Kampana the Tamasa, Gangasagara Sandhi and Sindhu sagarasangama. 

He visited the Bhrgutunga, the Vishala, Kubjamra, the Raivataka, kushavarta at Gangadvara, Bilvaka, the mountain Nila, the holy place Kanakhala and other sacred places also.

Having heard that Kashyapa was on a religious tour, Nila-the king of the serpents – went to the sacred place Kanakhala to meet him.

Having reached there, that king of the serpents saw his father, pressed his feet and saluted him after announcing his own name.

The father smelled his forehead and honoured him in the proper manner., Then he sat on the matting made of Kusha grass.

Then the seated Naga spoke respectfully to the father Kasyapa.

‘Having heard that you – lover of Darma (piety)- are visiting the sacred places, I, with a desire to serve, have immediately approached your honour.

‘O Brahman, all the sacred places in the eastern, the southern and the western (part of the) country have been seen by you. Let us go now in the northern direction.

O honour-giver, there are holy places of pilgrimage in Madra country and on the Himalaya – the best of the mountains.

There is the auspicious Vipasha, the pacifier of sins and giver of eternal bliss, the river Devahrada, the sin-removing god Hara Haririshvara and the holy confluence near Karavirapura.

At that place the Devahrada joins the Vipasha, the best of the rivers. In the Vipasha, there is the holy Kalikasrama.

There is the holy Iravati, the destroyer of all sins. Sixty thousand sacred places dwell in single Iravati, specially in Revati (Nakshatra) and on the eighth day (of a fortnight).

There are Kumbhavasunda, the river Devika possessed of holy water, the great river Vishvamitra, the river Udda which is highly sacred and the various confluences (of the rivers). The religious merit (lies) in the Iravati and also in the Devika.

Brought down by your honour for doing favour to the Madras, it is the goddess Uma who is famous on the earth as Devika and by seeing whom a man certainly becomes purified in this world. There are Indramarga, Somatirtha, the holy Ambujana, Suvarnabindu, the auspicious abode of Hara, the sin-destroying abode of Skanda, the highly sacred lord of Uma at Rudratirtha, Durgadvara, possessed of holy water, Kotitirtha, the sacred place of Rudra, Kamakhya and Pushpanyasa. O honour-giver, (there is) Hamshapada pronounced as holy and so also Rshirupa.

In the area extending over four krosas, there is Devikatirtha at all the places where every pool is holy in all respects.

There is the sacred river Apaga and the holy Taushi which pleases the sun. There is the Candrabhaga – the best of the rivers – whose water is cool like the rays of the moon.

Vaivatitlamukha is the meritorious holy place of the Candrabhaga and so also is the sin-destroying Shankhamardala.

There are Guhyesvara, Shatamukha, Ishtikapatha, the holy Kadambesha and the area around it.

The area extending from the holy Shatamukha upto the holy place Guhyeshvara, is equal, in holiness, to Varanasi or is even higher than that.

The great river Candrabhaga is always holy everywhere but is specially so on the thirteenth of the bright half of Magha in conjunction with Pushya.

All the sacred places on the earth, including the seas and the lakes, shall go to the Candrabhaga on the thirteenth of the bright half of Magha.

Vastrapatha is stated to be holy and so also the god Chagaleshvara, the second Bhaumi and also her birth place.

The sacred place of the lake which is an incarnation of the body of Sati, is the lake Vishnupada famous Kramasara, the destroyer of all sins.’

O sage, please visit immediately these and other holy places by bathing at which, even the evil-minded human beings are freed from the sins.

Addressed thus Kashyapa whose desire had already been aroused, said “Let it be so” and went to those holy places in the company of Nila.

Having crossed the river-goddesses Yamuna and

Sarasvati, he visited Kuruksetra where Sanniti is famous.

A multitude of the holy places in called Sanniti on the earth. It is, verily, the spot to which all the tirthas including the seas and the lakes always go in the end of the dark half of the month.

He, who performs Shraddha there at the time when the sun is eclipsed by Rahu, obtains the best award of (performing) a thousand horse-sacrifices.

Having seen the Sanniti, he saw Cakratirha also about which a verse sung by Narada is current on the earth.

“Oh! the persistence of the people for the suneclipse! The religious merit obtained at Cakratirtha is ten times more than the eclipse.’

Having visited the sacred places called Cakra and Prthudaka, he saw the holy Visnupada and Amaraparpata.

Afterwards, having crossed the rivers Shatadru and Ganga, the sage reached Arjuna’s hermitage and Devasunda.

Having crossed the illustrious and sin-destroying Vipasha, Kashyapa saw the whole country desolate at that time.

Seeing the country of the Madras desolate, he spoke to the Naga, “O Nila, tell me as to why this country of the Madras has been deserted ?

This has always been charming, devoid of the calamity of famine and full of the wealth of grains!”

Nila said: “O venerable one, all this is known to you that formerly a demon-child named Jalodbhava – the son of Sangraha-was reared up by me.

Now that impudent fellow, who obtained boons from Brahma , ignores me and I am incapable of keeping him under control due to the boon of the lord of the three worlds.

By that villain of evil intellect – eater of human flesh – this whole country of the Madras has been depopulated.

O lord, the countries rendered desolate by him are mainly Darvabhisara, Gandhara, Juhundara, Antargiri, Bahirgiri and those of the Shakas, the Khashas, the Tanganas and the Mandavas. O venerable one, make up your mind to check him for the welfare of the world.”

Addressed thus Kashyapa said “Be it so” and after taking bath in the holy places all around, he came to that transparent lake in the country of Sati.

After taking a bath there, he gave up walking on foot and went to the eternal world of Brahma, merely by his own power.

He went along with Nila, the high – souled king of the Nagas. Both of them reached the abode of Brahama and made obeisance to the lotus- born god and the gods Vasudeva, Ishvara and highly intelligent Ananta, who were present there by chance.

Honoured by them, these two told the activities of Jalodbhava. Then the god Pitamaha said to this Naga-lord and the sage of unparalleled valour, “we shall go to Naubandhana to subdue him. Then the god Keshava will undoubtedly kill him.

“Having heard this, Hari, the killer of the strong enemies, went (mounted on) Tarksya.

After him went Hara, mounted on the bull, along with his wife. Brahma went mounted on the swan and the two Nagas mounted on the cloud.

Kashyapa went by his supernatural power. Indra heard that and, in the company of the hosts of gods, went to that place where Keshava had gone.

Yama, Agni, Varuna, Vayu, Kubera, Nirrti, Adityas, Vasus, Rudras, Vishvedevas and the hosts of Maruts; Ashvins, Bhrgus, Sadhyas, the sons of Angiras, the illustrious sages, Gandharvas, the hosts of heavenly maidens; all the wives of the gods, the mothers of the gods, the hosts of Vidyadharas, Yakshas seas and rivers (all went there).

Ganga went mounted on crocodile, Yamuna on tortoise, Shatadru on bull and Sarasvati on buffalo.

Vipasha went mounted on horse, Iravati on elephant, Candrabhaga on lion and Sindhu on tiger.

Devika went mounted on wild ox, Sarayu on deer, Mandakini on man and Payoshni on goat.

Narmada mounted on peacock, Gomati on Saranga deer, Godavari on sheep and Kampana on swan.

Gandaki went mounted on hecrane, Kaveri on camel, the holy Ikshumati on crocodile and the holy Sita on shecrane.

Lauhitya went mounted on Camara deer, Vankshu-the fast going one – on Kroda (hog), Hladini on partridge and Hradini on rooster.

Pavani went mounted on a horse, Shona on a serpent, Krshnaveni on cloud and Bhuvena on hare.

These and other rivers also went mounted on their respective mounts. All these, with a desire to see fight, followed the lord of the world.

Having reached Naubandhana, Keshava, verily, took a firm stand.

Hearing the sound of the retinue of the gods, the evil-minded demon, knowing himself to be imperishable in the water, did not come out.

Having come to know that he would not come out, the pleased Madhusudana entered. 

Naubandhana, in the company of the gods.

Rudra stood on Naubandhana peak, Hari on the Southern peak, Brahma on the Northern peak and the gods and the Asuras followed them.

Thus, they entered the mountain. Then the pious minded god Janardana, with a view to kill the demon, said to Ananta:

“Breaking forth Himalaya today with the plough, make soon this lake devoid of water.”

Then Ananta, resembling a mountain and possessed of lustre equal to that of the full moon, expanded himself, covering the earth and the heaven and terrifying the hosts of demons all around.

Dressed in blue, wearing diadem fastened with gold, worshipped by all the gods, he broke forth Himalaya, the best of the mountains on earth, with plough.

When the king of the best mountains had been broken, the water flowed forth hurriedly with force, terrifying all the beings with its violent rush and sound and overflowing the tops of the mountains with curved waves like Himalaya touching the sky.

When the water of the lake was disappearing. water-born practised magic. He created darkness all around and the world became quite invisible.

Then the god Siva held the sun and the moon in his two hands. In a twinkling of the eye, the world was brought to light and all the darkness had vanished. Unfathomable Hari, assuming another body with the power of Yoga, fought with the demon and witnessed that fight through a different body.

There was a terrible fight between Visnu and the demon, with trees and peaks of mountains. Hari cut off, forcibly, the head of the demon and then Brahma obtained gratification.

*Source: Nilamata Purana by Dr. Ved Kumari

Source: Milchar

  

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