Essence Of
Kurma Purana


13    Varanasi Mahatmya: Krittivaasa, Kapardesha, Omkaaresha, Madhyesha & Vishweshwara

Suta Maha Muni quoted Veda Vyasa’s reported conversation between Devi Parvati and Maheswara about the significance of Varanasi or Avimukta Kshetra, where Maha Deva was stated to have assumed Kaala Swarupa and intiated Samsara Samhara or the Universal Destruction at the time of Maha Pralaya. Parama Shiva affirmed that this was his most beloved Kshetra and the devotees worshipping there with Ganga Snaana, Daana, Japa, Yajna, Tapas, Karma, Dhyana, Adhyayana of   Scriptures and Jnaanaarjana or Earning of Jnaana would have multiplier effects; those who enter the Kshetra would have their thousands of past and current sins destroyed while by chance they die at the Place-be they Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, others, women, Mlecchaas, or any other species like animals, repliles, birds and even Krimi/ Keetaas- would instantly assume Shiva Swarupas and attain Kailasa:

Naavimukey Mritaha kaschinnarakam kilimbishi,

Ishwaraanugraheetahi Sarvey yaanti Paramam Gatim/

Moksham sudurlabham matvaa Samsaaram chaati bheeshanam,

Ashmanaa charanou hatwaa Vaaranaasyaam vasennarah/

(Those extreme and confirmed sinners who die at Varanasi would certainly not visit Narakaas and by the grace of Ishwara would secure ‘Parama Gati’. That should be the reason that human beings might even break their feet with stones but still prefer reside at Varanasi). Those who suffer hurdles and difficulties but still prefer to stay at Varanasi  would indeed never regret as they were sure of permanent bliss instead of shirking passing troubles. Indeed there are countless Sacred Tirthaas in Bharata Desha such as Prayaga, Naimishaaranya, Shrishaila, Kedara, Bhadrakarna, Gaya, Pushkara, Kurukshetra, Rudrakoti, Narmada, Amraatakeshwara, Shaaligraama, Kubjaagra, Prabhasa, Vijayeshaana, Gokarna and Bhadrakarna and so on and their Mahima too  was of consequence, but those bhaktas who attain the Punya by dying at Varanasi were stated to be of unparalleled impact. Bathing in Ganga which was called ‘Tripatha Gaamini’ or the Holy River that travelled in Triloklas of Swarga-Bhumi-Pataalaas has unique signficance as it washes of the blemishes of thousands of births.The presence of Ganga, the superiority of Maha Deva’s residence there and the combined effect of Shraaddha, Daana, Tapa, Japa and Vrata woud indeed make the stay of Bhaktas the most important event ever and also the easiest in terms of effort.This Kshetra is called Avimukta as it should be never left away nor deserted; it provides Brahma Gyaan and those who die there are provided the ‘Upadesha’ or Instruction of Tataka Brahma by Maha Deva Himself!

Yat tat parataram Tatwamaviktamiti shrutam,

Ekena Janmanaa Devi! Vaaranaasyaam tadaapnuyaat/  

(That Paraatara Tatwa as instructed to the persons on death bed is called ‘Avimukta’and that Upadesha might indeed be possible in a single life itself!)

Varanasi Kshetra is basically in between the two Rivers called ‘Varuna’ and ‘Asi’. The Kshetra is famed for Five Sacred Lingas viz. Krittivaaseshwara, Madhyameshwara, Vishweshwara, Omkaareshwara and Kapardeshwara.Veda Vyaasa showed the Five Lingas to his disciples and explained to them of their significance:

Krittivaasa Linga was signified as a Daitya who assumed the Form of an Elephant used to kill Brahmana devotees in meditation of Shiva and the latter killed the elephant and sported the wearing of the elephant skin and hence the name of Krittivaaseshwara. The Mahtmya of Kapardeeshwara Linga or Shiva of Matted Locks was explained by Vyaasa to his students: Once a Tiger chased a deer-kid and killed it in the presence of Kapardeshwara Linga and most surprisingly the killed deer-kid was received by a Shiva-like Purusha and Gandharvas sang melodies and rained flowers on it!

Vyasa said that those who performed Kapardeswara Lingaarchana after taking bath in a Pishacha Sarovara would be blessed by Maha Deva at once and narrated the legend of a Learned and Virtuous Brahmana named Shankhukarna who was always engaged in Shiva Linga Puja with high earnestness. One day, he saw a Piscacha swooning with hunger and thirst approached him crying as it was unable to withstand its pitiable condition. Shankhukarna asked the Piscacha about his background and the latter revealed that he too was a Brahmana but he never performed any worship nor Atithi (Guest) Puja and not even a small good turn excepting looking after himself and his family. Only once he came across a Shiva Linga, touched it and greeted it with sincerity and almost at the same time died suddenly; the ‘Yama dutaas’arrived but converted him as a Piscacha and eversince then was wandering with extreme hunger and  thirst! Shankhukarna heard the story and appreciated that atleast once the Piscacha before his death visioned touched and greeted a Shiva Linga as he died and became a Piscacha! That occurrence was significant enough and asked to take bath in a Pond near the Kapardeshwara Linga; as the Pischa took bath as advised by sincerely praying to Mahadeva and instantly the Piscacha fell and a Celestial Form emerged and flew up in a ‘Vimana’as Gandharvas and Apsaras welcomed him into it! Shankukarna witnessed the happening about the Piscacha and could not resist the recitation of a long Prayer to Kapardi which began and ended as follows:

Kapardinam twaam Paratah Parastaad Goptaaramekam Purusham Puraanam,

Vrajaami Yogeshwara meeshitaaramaadityamagnim Kapilaadhirudham/

Vrajaami nityam  sharanam Guhesham Sthaanum prapadye Girisham Puraarim,

Shivam Prapadye Haramindumoulim Pinaakinam twaam sharanam vrajaami/

(I seek ‘sharanam’or sanctuaryto you Paratara, Paraatpara, Adwiteeya, Sarva Rakshaka, Purana Purusha, Yogeshwara,  Niyamaka, Aditya,­ Agni Swarupa, Vrishabha Vaahana!- I crave for the protection of Shaanu Swarupa, Guhesha or Buddhi Incarnate, Gireesha, Chandramouli Hara, Shiva, Pinaakidhara!). As Shankukarna’s Stuti  ended, he fell down unconscious and Kapardi Swami appeared before him  and absorbed in his fold!

Omkareshwara Linga Mahima was explained by Veda Vyasa to his sishyas that even by pronouncing its name, massive sins get crunched. Maha Vidwaans who comprehended the purport of Jnaana realised that Pashupati was an embodiment of ‘Panchaartha’viz. Ateeta Shanti or Supreme Bliss, Shanti or Harmony and Amity, High degree of Vidya or Knowledge, Pratishtha or Utmost Reputation and Nivruitti or Detachment or Path of Liberation; all these Five Essentials were derivated from Omkara Swarupa as the composite Form of the Panchayatana Rupa of Maha Deva; a devotee who had the comprehension of the Omkara Swarupa at the Time of his / her termination would enter into that Territory of Effulgence and through it would get absorbed into Parameshwara. That indeed was the most powerful worship possible to Omkareshwara, stated Veda Vyasa. Devarshis, Brahmarshis and Maha Siddhaas do realise the scope, depth and intensity of worshipping Omkareshwara as a part of ‘Nyasa’or Unification of the Self and the Supreme!

Veda Vyasa and his pupils visited  Madhyameshwara Linga on the banks of River Mandakini an extension of Ganga and some of the very keen devotees of Madhyamesha enquired about Veda Vyaasa and the latter’s followers introduced their Guru as Krishna Dwaipaayana Vyaasa of the ‘Amsha’of Narayana himself and the regular devotees of the Linga extended their courtesies to Vyasa. It was learnt that in the past Shri Krishna performed Paashupata Vrata to this very Linga and stayed there for a year  by shaving his head, applying ash and wearing Rudraksha Malaas and finally had Shambhu’s darshan and secured boons. Even one time worship to Madhyeshwara in one’s lifetime after taking bath in Mandakini, daana, tapas, shraaddha and Pindadaana to Pitras would annul life time sins of even Brahmahatya nature, said Vyasa. He affirmed that Mandakini snaana and worship to Madhyameshwara would yield ten times bigger fruits than that of Kurukshetra at the time of Solar Eclipse.

While referring to Varanashi Kshetra Mahima, Veda Vyasa enlightened his followers about several Punya Tirthas attached to the banks of Ganga such as Vishwarupa Tirtha, Taala Tirtha, Akaasha Tirtha, Gauri Tirtha, Prajapatya Tirtha, Swarga Dwaara, Jambukeshwara, Jnaana Tirtha, Yama Titha, Agni Tirtha and so on and finally reached Brahma Tirtha. It is believed that once Brahma brought a Linga and went to have his bath and meanwhile Vishnu installed it and told Brahma that he had greater faith in Rudra Deva than Brahma but however the Linga would be known to have been installed at Brahma Tirtha. Having further visited quite a few other Tirthas, Vyasa finally had his bath along with his sishyas and performed Vishweshwara Linga Puja; he settled down at Varanasi for some time and asked his sishyas to settle down at their will. Mahatma Vyasa then stayed there by performing Rudraabhishekaas thrice a day while taking food from his ‘bhiksha’ or charity. One day, he could not secure the bhiksha and a furious Vyasa threatened that he would curse to the inhabitants of Varanasi to create ‘Vighnas’or obstacles and Devi Parvati appeared and requested Vyasa not to curse but take food from herself instead. Having given the bhiksha, Devi asked Vyasa not to stay in Varanasi further since he was short tempered; Vyasa apologised and requested her to let him visit the Place only on Chaturthis and Ashtamis and Devi agreed accordingly.

Suta Maha Muni gave Phala Shruti of about the Mahatmya of Varanasi as follows:  as follows:

Yah pathedavimuktasya Mahatmyam Shrunuyaadapi,

Shravayeda vaa Dwijaan Shaantaan sopi yaati paraam gatim/

Shraaddevaa Dauvikey Kaarye Raatraavahani vaa Dwijaah,

Nadeenaam chaiva Teereshu Devataanataneshu cha/

Snaatwaa Samaahita manaa damhamaatsraya varjitah,

Japedisham Namaskrutya sa yaati Paramaam Gatim/

(Whoever would read, hear or narrate about the Avimuta or Vaaranasi Kshetra would definitely secure Maha Punya; if a person took bath and engaged in performing ‘shraaddhaas’, Deva Karyaas, either in the day or night, on the banks of Ganga or in Mandirs, freed from ‘dambha’or self-pride or Matsara or narrow-mindedness, and meditate Maha Deva, would indeed secure ‘Parama Gati’).     

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