This is the afternoon of the third day of Karthika Masam, SuklaPaksham, Somavasaram when I toured Amarkantak.
Karna’s Sun Temple :
There is a ASI protected site in Amarkantak with many Konarak style buildings in it. The locals will tell you that the Sun temple was built there by “pandava” Karna. The ASI which is not allowed to believe that the son of the Sun (Surya), ever walked the earth, tells us that this temple was built by a later king also called Karnadeva of the Kalchuris (Heyhayas).
I have seen a temple near Machilipatnam in Andhra, where the Pratishtha (first establishing a vigraha for worship) was done by the Karna, the son of Kunti and the king of Anga, but even the priest who told us dismissed it as a “pukkiti puranam” or oral tradition. This is Peddinti Amma, near Kolleru Lake, close to Machilipatnam. Of course for all ancient temples, the prakaras (walls etc) are built later, and when ASI gives dates they usually refer to the prakaras and never to the pratishtha. (Kolleru on Google Maps.)
Pataleshwar Temple :
None of the temples were open at this Amarkantak site save the Pataleshwar temple, where Puja happens till today. Pateleshwar is important because it was the meditation place of Markandeya. Later, Sankaracharya installed a Siva Lingam there and worshipped it. Also this is the place where Ganga herself comes from the ground once a year to wash Siva’s feet!
Since there was no one else at the time I went for a darshan, I sat and chanted some Veda Mantras and Sanskrit Slokas and was totally delighted with the experience of worshipping Siva in the same place where before people of such extra-ordinary genius and devotion had worshipped him, using same sounds which they had originally used. (Yes, Chandrasekhara, Chandrasekhara..! I also wished I had committed more stuff to memory). When Siva is everywhere, why do we give importance to a few places where some exceptional people invoked him before us? I don’t know, but they feel very special!
Bhrigu Kamandal :
Post-Lunch I was taken off on a relatively ‘light trek’ to see Bhrigu Kamandal, locally known as bharagu kamandal (water pot). It was the meditation place of Bhrgu (Bhrigu, Bhrugu) Maharshi.
I saw some relatively ‘wild’ black-faced, grey backed, graceful hanuman langurs who cleared off the track in a hurry when we approached. This was unlike the ‘tame’ ones at Sonmudi who clutched at my leg requesting food! I liked the wild ones better I guess and was surprised that they ran away from people. I heard that in the north-east also, it is animals who are scared of people. In my urbanised environment we are scared of rodents, lizards, insects, monekys, dogs….. and so on.
In Bhrigu Kamandal, I had to stick my arm into a deep cylindrical hole in a boulder to feel some moisture with my finger-tips, which I then applied on the Siva Lingam in front of it. I also clambered up some rocks to look down on the cave where intially Bhrigu, and later Tulsidas and others meditated and composed works of great merit. I was told that the Bhrigu Kamandal was initially very small and that it later kept on growing in size.
I checked on the internet later for water in rocks whether found on the earth or in the moon and found that there are many different kinds of rocks which contain moisture to actual water (see geodes). My sister said that what I probably saw was a fractured rock where a system of cracks could connect it to a ground water table. The guide told me that the water level is never the same. To me it makes sense that the Ganga washing Pataleshwar’s feet as well the water in Bhrigu Kamandal would be some fo rm of fractured rock groundwater system. It also makes sense to me that the Rishis would know about such a thing and select such quiet spots where they got good water as meditation places. The manas (sensory mind) is delighted with the magic and the buddhi (educated mind) is thrilled to understand how the magic works!
I was taken then to Kapildhara, were Kapila Maharshi meditated and there was a water-fall.
Though hundreds of people had gotten down millions of steps to enjoy the water., it was starting to rain and I was very exhausted and nothing could persuade me to do more steps and treks to see dudh-dhara waterfall where Durvasa Muni had meditated. I begged off and the deeply disappointed guide, took me off to see Jaleswar/Jwaleshwar.
Jaleshwar and Jain Temple :
It was dark and completely misty en-route Jaleshwar. The driver drove with the eyes in his mind, not those on his face. It was a wonderful darshan, but I cannot recall which rishi was responsible for this prathistha. We went back to Narmada Mandir stopping to see Rishabha Deva Jain temple under construction. For all the strict simplicity of both main sects of Jainism, they have beautiful and grand temples funded by bottomless purses. Any Jain temple is a visual treat and regularly visited by (other) Hindus too.
Narmada Mandir Aarati and Lights.
This another never-forgettable experience. In a clean white temple, surrounding the beautiful Narmada Kund are hundreds of Sivalingams established by the likes of Rishis like Durvasa and later saints. In one of them the echoes are so perfect, that if you say Om, the temple reverberates and echoes the Om back at you in a specially enchanting way.
This Narmada Kund is kept very clean and no one can bathe/wash in it etc. Here Narmada is a young maiden and no longer a young girl. The aarati is reminiscent of the aarati to Ganga in Haridwar. And you get your prasadam only if you say Jai Narmade! What a wonderful place to spend time. And the vigraha of Narmada is so attention-holding and senses-binding. Even though the sculpture can never match anything you see in the south, the divine feeling is arresting. You don’t want to go away or talk to anyone or even look at them. It increases your own divine to human ratio.
Divine to human ratio is a number I defined. Everyone is a mix of humanity and divinity. In some divine and sublime places, your own mind gives up much of its human concerns worries etc and turns to and into divinity. I guess the trance that some folks get into is related to this. It is called poonakam in telugu or ‘devi chad gayi’ in hindi (I think). When the divine to human ratio becomes very high, you feel you can confer boons on people and when your human to divine ratio is high you feel you can achieve things.
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