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10    Tirtha Mahatmya

Yasya hastoucha paadou cha manaschaiva susamyatam/

V idya tapascha kirtischa sa Tirtha phalamshrutey,

pratigrahaadupaavruttho laghvaahaaro jitendriyah/

Nishpaapas tirthayaatri tu sarva yagnaphlam labhet,

Anuposhya triraatreena Tirthaanyanabhi gamya cha/

Adatvaa kaanchanam Gaascha Daridro naama jayate,

Tirthaabhi gamaney tatasyaadyadyajnaanenaashyatey phalam/

(That sinless Tirtha Yatri whose hands, feet and heart are well-regulated and that person’s Vidya (learning), Tapasya (strength of meditation) and wide fame are well- recognised should be able to reap the fruits of performing Yagnas. That person who had not peformed fasts for three nights, nor gave away charity of gold and cows; nor is even undertaken Tirtha Yatras must be considered as a Daridra (Pauper). The fruits of Tirha Yatras would excel those of Yagnaas too.

Pushkar:  is an important ‘Tirtha’, where Lord Brahma is stated to take baths along with Indra and Devas. Performance of Pujas to Devas, Shraadhhas and Tarpanas to Pitaras and daanas to learned Brahmanas especially on Purnima day in the month of ‘Kartika’ bestows the ‘Punya’ of Ashwamedha Yagna and achivement of Brahma loka. Jambu Marg and Tandulik Ashram are the holy Tirthas nearby. Other significant Tirthas include Kanvaashrama, Koti Tirtha, Narmada and Arbuda (Mount Abu). Charmanvati (Chambal), Sindhu, Somnath, Prabhasa, Sarasvati-Sagara Sangam, are also notable Titrhas. Pindaraka Kshetra, Dwaraka and Gomati are sacred Places.     

 Kurukshetra is another Holy Spot, frequented by Lord Vishnu and others. It is believed that the dust of this Kshetra assures ‘Parama Gati’ The entire region where the River Ganga  flows is sacred; those who view the River, touch it, drink its holy water or even pronounce its name and chant its ‘Mahima’are purified along with previous generations.         

Prayaga, the point of confluence of three rivers-Ganga, Yamuna and the under-ground river Saraswati -is a sacred place where Brahma, Vishnu, Indra, and many other Gods are present, besides Pitru Devatas (fore- fathers) await offerings from their offspring. Three baths at ‘Prayaga’ during the month of ‘Magha’ are considered equal to a passage to Brahmalok after one’s departure from Life. This sacred Place is stated to be the personification of Vedas and Yagnaas. Chanting the Mahatmya of Prayaga or even feel its Earth are stated to be the demolisher of sins. At this unique Tirtha, ‘Pitru Karyas’ viz. Shraddhaas and Tarpanas along with ‘daanaas’ would yield far-reaching fruits.                     

   Varanasi: Lord Shiva told Parvathi that He would never like to leave Varanasi; the Holy Ganges confluencing with two Rivers, viz. Varana and Asi. Parama Shiva confirmed to Devi Gauri that her had never left the Place (‘Avi’ + ‘Mukta’) and was ever-present there. Deeds including ‘Snaan’, Japa, Homa, Deva Pujana, Shraaddha, Daana, Nivaasa (residing) and Mrityu (death) are expected to yield far-reaching benefits. Eight most illustrious Tirthas viz. Harischandra, Aamraatakeswar, Japeshwara, Shri Parvat, Mahalaya, Bhrigu, Chandeshwar, and Kedara Tirtha are all hidden in this Avimukta Kshetra.           

There are several other sacred places dotted all over in the Karma Bhumi of Bharat, especially where rivers flow. But Gaya is stated to be an outstanding holy spot for reasons more than one. Gayasura, a King of Rakshasas did fierce meditation of which Devas were afraid. Vishnu appeared before Gayasura and granted a boon to him that the latter should be the most Sacred Thirtha. As Vihnu granted the wish, all the human beings and Daityas had the darshan of Gayasura and reached Vaikuntha. Thus Devas and human beings did not have to pray none else but at Gaya. Brahma and Devas approached Vishnu and the latter advised the former to approach Gayasura to let him perform Yagna on the Asura’s body. Gayasura agreed and Brahma performed the Yagna on his head. At the time of ‘Purnaahuti’or the climax of the Yagna, the Asura bacame shaky and was trying to wriggle out from the Fire-Pit; Vishnu advised Yama Dharma Raja to keep a very heavy stone on the Asura’s body and let all the Devas occupy his body; so that the Asura could not wriggle out at the time of the Purnahuti. Yama Dharma Raja fetched that stone which was the same that got materialised as a result of a curse given by Maharshi Marichi to his wife  called Dharmavrata;  she disregarded Maharshi’s order to press his legs as he slept off, but Brahma arrived meanwhille and she disturbed the Maharshi’s sleep and hence the curse. Dharmavrata gave a return curse to Marichi to face Shiva’s curse to him eventually since after all she was confused whether to welcome Brahma, the father of Marichi or to obey Marichi’s instruction. She kept aside the curse in the form of the stone and entered Agni to perform Tapasya for thousands of years. As Vishnu was pleased, he decided to turn the curse as an advantage to her as the stone was blessed with the foot prints of all the Devas and thus set it against the huge body of Gayasura and thus would by famous as the Devashila, Sarva Deva Swarupa, Sarva Tirtha mayi and the Punya shila. But even after placing the Shila on the Asura’s body with the feet of all the Devas there on, the Asura was still breathing and hence Vishnu had to keep his ‘Gada’(mace) to fully sniff him out  by adding his own presence to the Place.Thus the Tirtha has the paramount significance due to its association with Brahma’s Yagna on the forehead of Gadasura, with the footprints of all the Devas, the memorable stone of Satyavrata and finally the presence of Lord Vishnu himself by the Adi Gada which was originally the backbone of Gadaasura killed by Vishnu and turned into a Gada by Viswakarma the Architect of Devas! It is this most Sacred Tirtha where till date ‘Shraddhas’ are performed. There are no restrictions of time or day to perform Shraaddhas at Gaya. It is believed that ‘Pitras’celebrate when the sons decide to travel for Gaya. Brahma Jnaanam Gayaa shraaddham Gogruhey maranam tathaa, Vaasam pumsaam Kurukshethrey muktireshaa chaturvidhaa/ (The four major means of attaining ‘Mukti’ are Brahma Gyan, Shraddha performed at Gaya, death in a Goshaala, and residence at Kurukshetra.) The aspiration of Pitaras is that their progeny would arrive at Gaya to perform Shraaddha so that they could be redeemed! The Shraddhas at Gaya are ‘Nava Devaatmak’viz. father, grand father, great grand father, mother, grand mother and great grand mother, father’s mother, father’s grand mother and father’s great grand mother.  

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