Naimisharanya, Part Eight
BY: SUN STAFF
Dec 13, 2012 CANADA (SUN) A serial exploration of the sacred Tirtha at Naimisharanya.
Another of the many holy shrines in Naimisharanya Dhama is the Manu-satrupa Tapsthala, built on the place where the great sage Manu Rishi and his wife Satarupa performed austerities. In sastra there is a description of how Lord Shiva explained to Parvati the reason for the three primary manifestations of Lord Ramacandra. The second of these reasons is connected to the penance performed by Manu and Satarupa here at Naimisharanya.
Manu and Satarupa were the first human couple created by Brahma on the earth planet. Both were highly virtuous and moral, and the Vedas sing of their great and pious deeds.
Their sons, King Uttamapada and Priyabrata are also sung in the Vedas and Puranas for their great accomplishments. Manu's daughter was Devahuti, who married the great sage Kardam, and these two gave birth to the sage Kapila.
Although living a royal life, King Manu also lived like a sage for prolonged periods. At one point he became frustrated by worldly matters, and handed rule of his empire over to his son. Taking his wife Satarupa, he went to Naimisharanya to take up residence in a hermitage.
Naimisharanya at that time was dense forest, and was a famous place for gaining siddhi, or concrete achievement in spiritual life. Many sages came to Naimisharanya for this reason, and they greeted Manu and Satarupa upon their arrival on the banks of the Gomati River.
In their hermitage, the couple led a very strict life, taking only fruits and roots as foodstuffs. Soon, however, they began to accept only water, and fell into a deep meditation. Their great desire was to have a vision of the Supreme Lord, who is the source of infinite pleasure, and from whom inconceivable incarnations and expansions emanate over the course of the kalpas.
For a period of six thousand years, Manu and Satarupa maintained their meditation, keeping the austerity of taking water only. At the end of this period, they ceased taking water, and began to live on air alone. This period of austerities continued for another seven thousand years.
Next, the couple entered into an even more stringent program of austerity, ceasing all breath. Standing on one leg, and taking no air, they remained in this state of meditation for ten thousand years. During this time Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva visited them several times, offering them boons to refrain from such extreme austerities. But nothing could deviate them from their meditation. Their bodies had become simply skeletons.
Eventually the Lord directly intervened, and both Manu and Satarupa heard a great voice from the skies, saying: "Ask for boons." The sound vibration restored their skeletal bodies, and they again became healthy and beautiful figures, appearing as fresh as if they had just arrived from the royal palace. In this state, they entered into a fathomless ocean of love for Hari.
Both prayed to get darshan of the Lord, in the same form as He takes, living in the heart of Shiva. It is this form upon which the hermits meditate. Thus the Supreme Personality, the devotee-lover, treasure house of bliss, the omnipresent and almighty Lord appeared before the praying couple. His hue was greater than the azure skies and blue hills; His face was like the full autumn moon, His throat decorated with three lines, like a conch. His eyes were like freshly blossomed lotus petals, His ears were ornamented with makarakundala; he had a jewel crown on the head and His chest bore the beautiful footmark of devotee Sribatsa. Jeweled garlands covered His neck and chest and He was dressed in yellow sapphire. His bow and arrow was in His hands and an arrow bag behind His waist. On His left was Janaki, from whom countless Laxmis, Parvatis and Brahmanis are born in due course.
Both Manu and Satarupa were content to stared without blinking at the beautiful Form of the Lord, and they lost their own bodily sense. Falling down at the feet of the Supreme, Manu prayed to get a son like Him. This wish was granted by the Supreme Lord, who assured the couple that He would take birth as their son in some future kalpa. Janaki would also take birth along with the Lord.
Thus, by Krsna's arrangements, Manu would become the king of Ayodhya, and Rama would take birth as his son. The Lord promised it for three times, then disappeared. Afterwards, Manu and Satarupa lived for a few days more in the hermitage, on the bank of the sacred Gomati, before taking their last breath.
It is interesting to note that in Rajasthan, there is a continuation of this pastime, handed down by oral tradition, which features the great Rajasthani hero, Devanarayan. According to this legend, the first time that Rama was born to Manu and Satarupa was in the Treta yuga, when Manu was born as King Dasarath and Satarupa as his wife, Kausalya. Ramacandra came as their son, to free the earth from the demon king of Lanka, Ravana.
But according to the Rajasthanis there was a second manifestation of Rama as the son of Manu and Satarupa. His second appearance was in the Kali yuga, in the region of Marwar. There, Manu /Raja Dasarath was born as Suvai Bhoj, and Satarupa/Kausalya as his wife Satvanti Sadu. Lord Rama is said to have again come as their son, being called Devnarayan. Again, He came to destroy Ravana, who this time was in the form of the Rajput ruler, Rana. Devnarayan is said to have freed the cows that had been captured by Rana asura, thereby relieving the earth of this burden of evil. While a famous element in Rajasthan's religious culture, we have not found mention of this Devnarayan elsewhere in sastra.
The Manu-satrupa Tapsthala (shrine) in Naimisharanya is the place where Rishi Manu and Satarupa sat in their long meditation. But elsewhere in the Holy Dhama, there is another worshipable place in honor of Manu-satarupa's association with Rama – the Janki Kunda.
There are several temples and shrines in Naimisharanya dedicated to great places of pilgrimage, including Kedernath, Badrinath and Ayodhya. Similarly, the pastimes of Lord Rama are manifest here in the form of Janki Theertham, a beautiful kunda in Naimisharanya. The original Janki (Janaki) Kunda is situated in Chitrakuta, Madhya Pradesh, upstream from the Ramghats, along the Mandakini River. This is the place where Sita Devi bathed in the crystal clear Mandakini River during her years of exile with Rama.
Janki Kunda at Naimisharanya
Editor's Note: Regarding yesterday's segment on Suta Gadi, a reader points out that Srila Sukadev Maharishi is said to be Srimati Radharani's pet parrot in Goloka. Our local source for the story reports that the parrot-headed deity at Naimisharanya represents Suta the person as well as the name derivation, 'parrot'. If anyone has more definitive information on this deity, please let us know.]
Some photos courtesy of Naimish Trust.
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