Char Dham Yatra – Pilgrimage to the Himalayas
Day 6 – From Rishikesh, Towards Yamunotri
As such, it is not necessary to go to Chamba when traveling from Rishikesh to Yamunotri. There are other routes one can take from Rishikesh to Yamunotri. One of them is via Mussourie but, while we were on the Yatra, I thought that I should let you enjoy a visit to this beautiful place Chamba also. Bageshwar temple is not situated in Chamba. It is located in Kumaon Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, which is a different side of Uttara Khand. However, in order that you know of the glory of this temple and experience the joy of having visited it, I described these two places also. I’m sure all of you enjoyed reading about these two places. For us to go to Yamunotri, there is no need to go to either of these two places. Nevertheless, we could derive the joy of these two places also, from this narrative of the pilgrimage. To summarise and recap, yesterday we traveled from Rishikesh to Chamba. While in Chamba we got to know of the Bageshwar Mahadev temple and its history. You will all secure the Darshan of this pilgrimage center also. Let us now return to Rishikesh from Chamba and let us begin our travel from Rishikesh to Mother Yamuna today. We will travel from Rishikesh to Mussourie via Dehra Dun.
Mussourie is a mountainous town of Uttarakhand, also known as Queen of the Hills. Located at a distance of 35 kms from Dehra Dun, Mussourie is one of those places that people frequent for holidaying. It is a prominent destination for a vacation and sight seeing. This mountainous tourist hill station is located right in the centre of the Himalayan range and is a part of this range of mountains. This hill station popularly called Queen of the Hills is full of dense green forests, beautiful mountains & varied species of wild animals. Snow capped mountains standing tall & proud are visible in the North-east, while the South hosts the Dun valley and the Shivalik mountain range. It is for this reason that this town gives tourists an impression of a fairy palace. Mussourie is also a gateway to Gangotri and Yamunotri. The vegetation, flora and fauna that one can find in and around Mussourie makes it all the more attractive for tourists. For those residing in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, this is a favorite summer destination during holidays. The markets here are also very attractive for shopping. This is a indeed a very beautiful place to spend time in, especially during summers. It is not possible to describe fully, its beauty. Just reaching here relieves one from tiredness. Let us move forward to the place called Lakhamandal.
Lakhamandal village is 128 kms from Dehra Dun and 75 kms from the Queen of the Hills – Mussourie. During that year the Pandavas had to spend incognito, King Yudhishthir installed a Shiva Ling in the courtyard of the Laksheshwar temple in Lakhamandal, which exists there even today. These are actually part of our great historical, Puranic & religious heritage. It is for this reason that at places where there should be a steady influx of tourists and travelers, we find only a limited few who are able to take the initiative to visit any of these great destinations. The mysterious caves of the Bhavani mountain in Lakha Mandal are perhaps the most invaluable heritage of Lakhamandal. The Puratan Shiv Mandir (temple) dedicated to Lord Shiva and Parvati dates back to the era of the Pandavas. When the Pandavas came to the Himalayas after the great war of Mahabharata, they built this temple and installed 1 lakh (a hundred thousand) Shiv Lingas here. The word Lakha means a lakh and the word Mandal means Linga. Thus, this place came to be called Lakhamandal, because of the 1 lakh Shiva Lings installed in the temple over here. Built in the same mould/style as the Kedarnath temple, this Shiv Mandir has in its Sanctum Sanctorum, apart from the idols of Lord Shiva & Parvati, idols of Kal Bhairav, Kartikey Saraswati, Ganesh, Durga, Vishnu, Suryadev, Hanuman & many other deities. Apart from these, there are idols of Yudhishthir too along with all his brothers. Looking at the idols in this temple, one gets the feeling of being in a magnificent museum. There are many other idols, smaller Shiva temples and Shiv Lings spread over the expansive premises of this temple, outside the Sanctum Sanctorum too. In the absence of adequate protection and guardianship, many idols have been damaged or destroyed. Many others lie broken here. Amongst the Shiv Lings in the premises, the dark green ones are from the Dwapara Yug when Lord Sri Krishna had incarnated. The red ones are from Treta Yug when Lord Rama had incarnated. There is one Shivling in the temple premises on which you can see your clear reflection when you consecrate it with water. You can also have the Darshan of Mother Parvati’s footprints in the Sanctum Sanctorum. There are hoove prints of the cow – Gau Mata on all the stones laid in the temple. The Shivling inside the Sanctum Sanctorum was discovered when a cow from nearby Yamunapur would go and pour her milk upon the Linga to consecrate it and that explains the cow hooveprints. In the western part of the temple are 2 idols that are those of the celestial gatekeepers – Jay & Vijay. This temple is exceedingly beautiful and ethereal. The ambience and atmosphere of the temple is very serene. We can sit in the courtyard of this temple to engage in meditation and Sankeertan (devotional singing). The joy of engaging in Sankeertan in this Divine playfield of Mother Parvati & Bhole Baba is something totally different, to be experienced. When the holy repetition of Om Namah Shivaya Sankeertan echoes in the precincts of these serene premises, one can only feel joy & bliss in every heart. Now we shall find out more about a mystical cave which is located in Lakhamandal only and can be accessed with a vehicle too.
Bhavani Parvat and Bhavani Cave
Bhavani mountain is like the Head of Lakhamandal. Mother Bhavani had performed penance here to grant strength and power to her son Kartikey, so that He could destroy Tarkasur. Tarkasur through his penance had pleased Lord Shiva and sought the boon of immortality from Him. Lord Shiva had declined saying that is impossible. Then Tarkasur prayed for a boon that his death be at the hands of Shivputr – the son of Lord Shiva alone. Lord Shiva granted his wish. Thereafter, becoming wicked and vicious, Tarkasur enslaved all the Gods and Demi-Gods in his service. Bhole Baba was a recluse and a hermit. So, the Gods with the help of Kam Dev (God of desire) and his consort Rati, making Parvati the medium, tried to lure Bhole Baba into the life of a householder. Bhole Baba, in anger, reduced Kamdev to ashes, but Parvati did not accept defeat. Parvati, instead of trying to entice or lure Lord Shiva with her form and beauty, chose the path of penance and austerity.
Finally, pleased by Parvati’s penance, Lord Shiva married her and Kartikey was born of this wedlock. The Gods appointed Kartikey as their commander-in-chief and then began the war between the Gods and the Demons. Thus, Kartikey slayed Tarkasur. He was just a child when he did this. The Bhavani form of Parvati performed penance in the Himalayas on the banks of the river Yamuna, with this pressing need that Kartikey should be able to slay Tarkasur even as a child. The river Yamuna once upon a time flowed by the spot where the Bhavani cave is situated today. Now it flows about half a kilometer below that point. There are several caves on Bhavani mountain. It is obvious looking at these caves that they must have formed due to the forceful flow of water through this area. Even on the Bhavani mountain of Lakhamandal, a temple has been built by the villagers. An Akhand (interminate) lamp lit from the oil of sesame seeds has been burning there for the last 3 years. The enigmatic caves of Bhavani mountain have their own unknown mysteries. Words are perhaps insufficient to describe the glory of these places. Their mystery and reality remains hidden within them. Yet, by going to all these places you can experience their splendour and energy.
(To be continued …)