|18 Gautami Ganga (Godavari) Mahatmya|
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 two 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.
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
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