Saturday, May 22, 2021

Book Review: Shri Swami Samartha Akkalkot Maharaj Chintan Ani Chamatkar

Book Review

श्री स्वामी समर्थ 

अक्कलकोट महाराज 

चिंतन आणि चमत्कार 

I took up this book immediately after completing the study of Dnyanadeva Mahatmya. My father in law has read this book many times and he suggested that I take a look at it. So far, I had not read anything about Shri Swami Samartha or any of his disciples. Therefore, I started studying this book with interest.

The book is written in Marathi language by V. K. Phadake and published by Shyam Dayarnav Kopardekar of Indrayani Sahitya, Pune. The first edition of the book was published in 1986 and has 150 pages.

As the name suggests, the book is about a well known saintly personality Shri Swami Samartha who stayed mostly at Akkalkot which is situated near Solapur in Maharashtra, India. The book has three parts. In the first part, the appearance of Swamiji, his travels, his arrival and stay at Akkalkot, the most notable of his dealings and finally his disappearance (Samadhi) are briefly described. The second part is the core of the book. In this part, 57 different incidences and stories of Shri Swami Samartha are briefly related. With each story, the important take away is also described in a small initial paragraph. For any devotee, this is the most pleasurable part of the book. These stories are not only full of surprise but also full of philosophy and spirituality. In the third part, why the devotees consider Swamiji as one of the incarnations of Lord Dattatretya is briefly pointed out. On the last page, the essential points of his teachings are listed. Finally, the list of reference texts is provided at the end. The unique organization of the text makes this book very simple to understand.

This book gave me a first glimpse in the life and teachings of Shri Swami Samartha. I found that Swamiji always stressed the importance of chanting holy names as the best means to progress in devotional service of Lord. He often quoted verses from Bhagavad Geeta. He performed many miracles to increase the faith of the devotees and also to make the atheists aware of the presence of higher power of the Lord. Thousands of people approached him for finding ways to overcome their spiritual and material difficulties. From this book, we can easily understand that Swamiji was a spiritually perfect, self realized person. Instead of engaging in philosophical discourses, he always preferred teaching by simple and practical examples.

As most of us are busy in enjoyment using our body and mind, it is very difficult for us to recognize the self realized personalities who are always on spiritual platform. Also, we seldom recognize the need of a genuine spiritual teacher who can show the method for making some tangible spiritual progress in our limited lifetime. I feel that this book can help in understanding how to approach and serve such a Guru with humility and achieve spiritual happiness. Many times we are facing different difficulties in our lives. I feel that reading of this book in difficult times can provide some satisfaction to our souls.

The title page of the book.

A passage from the second part of the book.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Book Review: Dnyanadeva Mahatmya

 Book Review 


Dnyanadeva Mahatmya 

I consider myself very fortunate to have come across this book. An old copy of this book was first shown to me by my father in law. This copy originally belonged to his mother who has passed away. The book is published in 1978 and I am not sure if it is still available for sale.  Still, I am inspired to write about it due to the importance of the topics and personalities mentioned inside and also due to the pleasure I felt after studying it.

The author and publisher of this books is Govind Ramachandra Moghe. The books is composed in Marathi poetic verse form commonly known as Ovi. The main text is divided into 8 chapters having total 1380 verses. The book has 52 pages.

As the title suggests, the book is about the life and works of one of the greatest saintly personalities in India i.e. Dnyaneshwar also known as Dnyanadeva. After the preface, the author takes us 3 generations back before the appearance of Dnyanadeva. Author has dedicated first five chapters of the book for the detailed descriptions of lives of Dnyanadeva's grandparents and parents who all were people dedicated to spiritual realization and devotional service to Lord Krishna. In the remaining chapters, the author describes the birth and early life of four children Nivrutti, Dnyanadeva, Sopan and Muktai, their extraordinary  qualities as well as the challenges they had to face due to early departure of their parents and strict social customs, the miracles performed by Dnyanadeva when he was merely a child, their meeting with Changadeva, the composition of Bhavartha Deepika which is also known as Dnyaneshwari, the explanation of Bhagavad Geeta of Lord Krishna in Marathi and finally the departure of Dnyanadeva in the presence of Lord Krishna. In addition, the books also has 8 verses in praise of Dnyanadeva and the summary of Bhagavad Geeta presented in only 18 verses. The text is concluded with 8 verses of heartfelt prayers by the author to Lord Krishna where he humbly expresses his limitations. Author has described all these topics in extremely enjoyable way and one is sure to feel spiritual bliss after studying the book. This book is a rare treat for devotees of Lord Krishna, especially those who can read and understand Marathi verses.

For me, I felt humbled and inspired by the way Dnyanadeva has taught us the goal of human life and the way to achieve it by Bhakti. This book will be an important addition to the collection of those who are looking for satisfaction, inspiration and happiness on the spiritual path.

If you wish to read this book, please send me an email at I will reply with the scanned pdf of the book.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Srirangam and Thanjavur

Srirangam, Thanjavur


Nearby Places

In February 2020, I had a unique opportunity to attend a winter school organized at Srirangam in Tamilnadu by Bhaktivedanta Instinstite, Bangalore. The winter school took place during 7 to 9 February and I was invited as one of the speakers. I started from Goa on the night of 5 February and after a change of flight in Bangalore around midnight, I reached Srirangam in the morning of 6 February. The winter schools was starting on the next day. Therefore on 6th, I visited the main temple in Srirangam which is the Ranganath Swamy temple and rested in the afternoon. The winter school started early in the morning on 7th Feb. In the 3 days of winter school, after attending different talks throughout the day, we would spend some time in the evenings visiting different places. Following is a brief account of my visits to some of the holy places in and around Srirangam.

Ranganath Swamy Temple, Srirangam

The town of Srirangam is located on an island formed on the holy river Kaveri. The river separates into north and south branches, creating an island on which one of the largest temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu stands. The deity of Lord Vishnu here is known as Ranganath Swamy. The deity originally appeared before Lord Brahma and it was subsequently handed down to Raghu dynasty on the Earth. Lord Rama gave this deity to Vibhishan who put this deity at Srirangam. Currently, this deity is present inside a  huge temple complex surrounded by seven walls and twenty one gopurams. The temple encompasses almost entire town of Srirangam. 

On the first day of the winter school, we visited the Ranganath Swamy temple in the evening. There was long queue and everybody waited for almost one hour to finally get darshan of the Lord. The deity is beautiful and huge. It is difficult to see the full form of the Lord in one glance due to the huge size. Lord reclines on Ananta Shesha and faces the south direction. The deity of Lord Ranganath is accompanied by Bhu Devi and Nila Devi. After taking darshan of Lord, we visited some of the other shrines  present inside the temple complex. These included the temple of Lakshmi Devi and Samadhi of Shri Ramanujacharya. There, a story of how Lord Ranganath planned to bring Ramanujacharya from Kanchipuram to Srirangam to fulfill the instructions of Yamunacharya was discussed. Our devotee guide explained this story in the most enjoyable manner. After spending some time in this way, our first day of winter school was concluded.

Shri Jambukeshwara Temple, Srirangam

On the second day of winter school, 8 February 2020, when all the invited talks were over in the late afternoon, we boarded buses and smaller vehicles to visit some of the important temples in and around Srirangam. The first temple visit was to Shri Jambukeshwara temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Parvati. This temple is located near the Ranganath Swamy temple. The temple is surrounded by a huge wall and the area is quite large. On the way into the temple, we see an image of Shiva Lingam drawn on the roof of a small stone structure. The specialty of this image is that it can be always seen to be pointed in the direction of the seer. The passage ways of the temple are surrounded by huge and beautifully carved stone pillars. The room where Shiva Lingam is situated is a very small. The priests were allowing only 5 to 7 people at a time to come inside, have darshan of the Lingam and perform puja. Inside this small room, a large size Shiva Lingam is situated under a Jambu tree in a pond of water created by a natural water spring. Therefore, this Lingam is known as Jambukeshwara as well as Appulingam, the form of Shiva representing the water, one of the five pancha bhoota elements. The shrine of Parvati in her form of Akhilandeshwari is present in the other part of the temple complex. Lord Shiva, being pleased by the penance of Parvati, blessed her at this place. This temple is built around 2500 years ago by the Chola king Kochengat who in his previous birth of a spider worshiped Lord Shiva.

Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, Srirangam

The next temple to visit was the Lakshmi Narasimha temple which is situated around 2 km towards the east of the Ranganath Swamy Temple. The temple houses a deity of Lord Narasimha with Lakshmi Devi sitting on his lap on the left side. The Deity is in sitting position and around 6-7 feet tall. This temple was not as crowded as many other temples in the area and everyone had a nice and peaceful darshan of Lord. The priest showed the deity with a ghee lamp and offered puja on behalf of devotees. This temple is older than the Ranganath Swamy temple. The deity of Lakshmi Narasimha is self manifested and it is known by a special name Kaatu Azhagiya Singar. The place where the temple is situated was a forest in ancient times. The devotees, rishis and their families living in this forest were troubled by the attacks of elephants and other wild animals. Instead of using their mystic powers to stop these attacks, they prayed to Lord Narasimha for protection. Lord along with Lakshmi Devi appeared here and devotees constructed temple for Him. The wild animals slowly stopped coming in the forest and Lord stayed at this place on request by His beloved devotees. As this area was once very inaccessible, the utsava deity of this temple is traditionally kept at the Ranganath Swamy temple. Lord Ranganath visits this temple every year on the day of Vijaya Dashami on his horse and performs the pastime of killing a hunter.

Pundarikakshan Temple, Thiruvellarai

Next, we again boarded the vehicles and visited the Pundarikakshan located at a nearby place named Thiruvellarai. This is one of the oldest temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple is originally built by King Shibi, who ruled the earth much before Lord Rama. The architecture of the temple is also quite different. After we enter the outer wall decorated with gopurams, we enter the inner wall and then the main building of the temple can be entered from a door which leads to a stone staircase. After climbing the stairs, we get the Darshan of the deity of Lord Pundarikakshan. The deity is huge and it is in standing position and the Lord is decorated with very big eyes having a shape of Lotus petals. Because this deity self manifested on a hill, the temple is build around the hill itself. The brief history about this temple is as follows. 

When King Shibi decided to come to south India to defeat some demon kings such as Ravana, he faced an army led by a White Boar at this place. When the king started chasing the boar, it went around the huge ant hill and disappeared. The king found Markandeya Rishi near the ant hill who told the king that the boar was Lord Vishnu in the form of Varaha. Rishi also asked the king to unearth the deity of Lord from the hill and build a temple. When King bathed the ant hill with milk, the deity of Lord Pundarikakshan appeared. Lord then instructed King Shibi to return to the North and promised that He will defeat Ravana in his incarnation as Rama.

Appala Ranganath Temple, Koviladi

Next, we visited the Appala Ranganath Temple which is situated on the banks of Kaveri river at a place called Koviladi. This temple has beautiful Gopurams on the outer wall. Inside, we climbed some steps and entered an inner hall where Lord Vishnu in his reclining posture on Ananta Shesha is present along with Bhu Devi and Kamala Devi. The deity is as big as that in the Ranganath Swamy temple at Srirangam. But here, Lord holds a pot in one of His hands and His other hand is pointing towards heavens. The deity is very beautiful and this temple is very peaceful with comparatively less visitors. Lord appeared here to King Upamanyu who was previously cursed by sage Durvasa and had lost his physical strength. On instruction of Durvasa, King Upamanyu was feeding one lakh pilgrims every day at this place. One day, Lord Vishnu appeared at the place in the form of an old brahmana and ate all the food prepared for the day. King humbly asked the brahmana if he needs anything more. Brahmana then replied that only Appam prepared with sweet and butter can satisfy Him. When King presented the pot of Appam, Lord was very satisfied and freed the king from the curse. As a result the Lord became known as Appala Ranganath or Appakudanthan. 

After taking darshan, we performed Kirtan in the courtyard of the temple and one of the participants in the winter school demonstrated a Bharata Natyam dance. After the performance, one of the priests of the temple served a special Appam prasadam offered to Lord. After staying in the temple for some more time, we returned to our rooms and rested for the night.

Brihadeshwara Temple, Thanjavur

On the third day of the winter school, 9 February, there were no talks and we boarded the vehicles early in the morning and started for Thanjavur. By 8:30 AM, we reached Brihadeshwara Temple at Thanjavur. This temple is a fort surrounded by large walls and a moat. Very high gopurams provide the entrance to a very large temple complex. Inside, there is one of the biggest deity of Nandi. In front of Nandi, there is a main temple hall with very high and articulate pillars. At the end of the hall sits a 29 feet high Shiva Lingam known as Brihadeshwara. It is said to be the biggest Shiva Lingam. On both sides of the Lingam, there are structures on which priests can climb to make offerings. The temple is built by a Chola king Raja Raja 1. The temple construction was completed in 1010 AD and many other additions and renovations have taken place later. The temple complex is very huge and has other shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Subramanya, Parvati and Chandeshwara. Many other temples in south India are styled after this temple. Thousands of tourists were present in the temple. Due to limitation of time and large area of the temple complex, we could not visit every shrine in this temple.

Shri Veera Narasimha Temple, Thanjavur

Our next destination was Shri Veera Narasimha Temple situated on the banks of Vennar river towards the North of Thanjavur. This area consists of three temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu and together they are considered as one divya desham in Shri Vaishnava tradition. The presiding deities in these three temples are Lord Neelamegha, Lord Manikundra and Lord Shri Veera Narasimha. This is known as Parashara Kshetra after sage Parashara who performed penances here. The sage was troubled by three demons named as Thanjaka, Thandakan and Tharaka who were having the boon of immortality by Lord Shiva. The sage prayed to Lord Vishnu to chase away these demons. Lord Vishnu assumed three different forms to defeat the demons. In his form of Lord Shri Veera Narasimha, He defeated Thanjaka demon who had the form of an elephant. When Lord was about to kill the demon, the demon learned his lesson and begged forgiveness. The demon was excused by the Lord and on his request, Lord stayed at this place in the deity form. The other two demons were killed. The other two temples are very close to this temple towards the West. The deity of Lord Narasimha is 10 to 12 feet high and He is accompanied by Shri Devi and Bhu Devi on His sides. Priest offered worship to the Lord on behalf of all the participants. A separate shrine dedicated to Mahalakshmi is also present in the temple complex. After taking darshan, we took breakfast under a tree present in the courtyard of this temple. Everybody was experiencing a spiritual joy in this temple.


Shri Tyagaraja Temple, Tiruvayaru

Our next destination was the temple of Saint Shri Tyagaraja located on the northern bank of Kaveri river at a place known as Tiruvayaru. Tyagaraja is considered as a chief proponent of Karnatic type of Indian classical music who wrote twenty four thousand compositions during his lifetime. He was also a great devotee of Lord Rama. Most of his compositions are dedicated to Lord Rama. This temple is a place where Lord Rama along with Lakshmana gave darshan to Tyagaraja. Also, at this place, Tyagaraja entered his Samadhi alive. In this temple, we see a deity of Tyagaraja along with Shiva Lingam made of crystal. We can also see the deity of Lord Rama worshiped by Tyagaraja and his descendants. There are smaller shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Anjaneya, Narada and Tumburu. The temple has a hall where devotees can sing devotional songs in dedication to Tyagaraja. Many artists come here to sing the compositions of Tyagaraja. After taking darshan, we performed Kirtan in this hall for 15 minutes. One of the descendants of Tyagaraja family explained that chanting the holy name of Lord Rama was the most important activity in human life. Tyagaraja himself demonstrated that by his own example. Everyone felt very fortunate after visiting the temple of such a great saint and musician.

After visiting the temple of Shri Tyagaraja, we went back to Srirangam and took lunch. After Lunch, the winter school was concluded. Due to this event, I not only got a chance to visit these wonderful places but also could reconnect with my friends and well wishers at BI, Bangalore. After spending some time with my friends, I said my good byes and left for Trichy airport aroud 4 PM. On my return journey, I changed a flight at Bangalore and reached Goa in the midnight. Due to enlightening sessions by invited speakers as well as visits to holy places and temples, the winter school 2020 at Srirangam is the most memorable event of 2020 so far.

Sunday, September 24, 2017



Why Lord Krishna arrived and stayed here?


Pandharpur is one of the most well known holy places in India due to the temple of Lord Krishna situated here on the banks of Bheema river. Millions of devotees across the world gather here during the Dindi festival. The particular form of the deity of Lord Krishna present here is known as Panduranga and Vitthala. The part of Bheema river which flows through Pandharpur is known as Chandrabhaga river. On the map, Pandharpur is situated in Solapur district, South-East of Maharashtra state in India.

Every saintly personality in India has a special connection with Pandharpur. Some of the greatest spiritual masters who visited or stayed in Pandharpur are Dnyaneshwar, Namadev, Tukaram, Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha, Shankara, Nimbarka, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda prabhu. As a result, a huge amount of literature is available which describes Lord Krishna's dealings with these devotees. A volume of information is also available in audio visual form and in newspaper journals due to yearly Dindi festival. Despite all this, I have found that the clear understanding of the most basic historical facts about Pandharpur is still lacking. Therefore, I am inspired to emphasize the history of Pandharpur right from the beginning of why Lord Krishna decided to come and stay here in the form of Panduranga.

According to Vedic literature, Lord Krishna is the supreme personality of Godhead. Although He stays in His spiritual abode, He creates the material world for giving facility of enjoyment for those having material desires. At the same time, He gives opportunity to the living beings in the material world to purify themselves by the process of Bhakti, by developing love for Lord Krishna. He takes the form of Vishnu for the maintenance of the universe, He takes the form of Shiva for the destruction of the worlds at proper intervals and He appoints Brahma for the secondary creation within the universe. This is confirmed by all the books of Vedic knowledge and especially emphasized in Bhagavad Geeta as well as Shrimad Bhagavatam. Whenever it is necessary, Lord Krishna comes to this world in His original form to protect His devotees and destroy the disturbing elements as well as to re-establish the religious principles. It is a specialty of Lord Krishna to fulfill many purposes by performing a single act. When Lord Krishna came to Pandharpur, He fulfilled three different purposes. All these three purposes are related to the personal dealings of Lord Krishna with some of His most exalted devotees.

1. Promise given to Dindirava

In the ancient times, Pandharpur was known by two names: 1. Dindiravana, meaning the forest of Dindirava and 2. Lohadanda kshetra, meaning the land of iron club. Why Pandharpur was known by these names can be understood by the following historical account.

In the ancient times, there was a great demon named Dindirava. He was very cruel, fierce to look at and huge in size. He disturbed all the planetary systems in the universe and threatened the demigods who were in charge of different managerial functions of the universe. At that time, all the demigods went to their king Indra for protection. Indra, unable to offer any protection from Dindirava, took all the demigods to Lord Vishnu. The demigods prayed to Lord Vishnu by chanting His holy names such as Shridhara, Shesha-shayana, Garuda-dhwaja, Adi-purusha and Hari. Lord Vishnu was pleased with the prayers offered by demigods and assured them of protection. Lord Vishnu informed them that He would appear on earth as prince Mallikarjuna and kill the demon Dindirava; thereby accomplishing their task. Lord also instructed the demigods to return to their respective posts and resume their duties.

When Lord Vishnu decides to appear on Earth, He chooses His parents who are qualified to have Him as their son. At that time on earth, there was a king named Shrichandra. He was truthful, always engaged in religious activities and extremely brave. He was performing penances in Himalaya mountain for thousands of years. Lord Shiva became very much pleased with the king's austerities and appeared to Shrichandra. Lord Shiva asked the king about what he wishes to achieve by performing the penances. The king told Lord Shiva that he wished to have a powerful and intelligent son who would be just like Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu. Lord Shiva then granted the boon to Shrichandra that the king will have a son who would be just like Lord Vishnu. His name would be Mallikarjuna and that Mallikarjuna would kill the demon Dindirava and rule the earth. After receiving this boon from Lord Shiva, Shrichandra became very happy and returned to his kingdom. In due course of time, Mallikarjuna was born to king Shrichandra and his wife.

When Mallikarjuna was twenty years of age, He confronted demon Dindirava in the forest which was situated in the area of today's Pandharpur and the battle issued between the two. This fight went on for many years. When Dindirava found it very difficult to fight Mallikarjuna on ground, he leaped into sky and started attacking from the air. Lord Mallikarjuna also went to sky and started countering the demon. Finally Mallikarjuna used His iron club to attack the demon on his head. This attack resulted in demon's defeat as he was severely injured. Most surprisingly, when the demon was on the verge of death, he chanted "Hari, Hari", the holy names of Lord Vishnu.

Hearing the Dindirava chanting the holy names, Lord Vishnu's heart melted with compassion for the demon. Lord appeared to Dindirava in His Vishnu form and embraced the demon. All the sinful activities of Dindirava were nullified due to Lord Vishnu's grace. Lord Vishnu told Dindirava that He was very pleased and asked the demon to wish for anything. At that time, Dindirava said to Lord, "Oh Lord, I have been hit by this Lohadanda (iron club). Therefore let this place be known as Lohadanda kshetra. Let Lord Mallikarjuna, who is none other than your other form, become the protector of this place. Let this forest become known as Dindiravana. I request you to stay at this place and bless the people on earth so that they will be purified of all their sins." On hearing this, Lord Vishnu became extremely pleased with Dindirava. Lord granted all these desires of Dindirava and took him back to the Spiritual world. Today's Pandharpur is situated where these events took place and the promise given to Dindirava is one of the reasons why Lord stays here.

2. Rukmini's arrival in Dindiravana

About five thousand years ago, Lord Krishna appeared on earth in the city of Mathura. Lord Krishna's childhood activities took place in Vrindavana where He grew up as a cowherd boy. During His stay in Vrindavana, Lord Krishna displayed extreme love for his cows, cowherd boys and girls. Among the cowherd girls (gopis), Shrimati Radharani was the dear most friend of Lord Krishna.

At the later stage in His life, Lord Krishna left Vrindavana and established His family in Dwaraka. As a result, He was separated from His childhood friends for a very long time. In Dwaraka, Lord Krishna accepted many wives and the most principal among them was Rukmini Devi. From her childhood itself, Rukmini grew up listening to wonderful activities of Lord Krishna. She always wished to have Krishna as her husband. When Rukmini's brother decided to marry Rukmini to Shishupala, Rukmini was unhappy and secretly sent message to Lord Krishna, asking Him to kidnap her. Lord Krishna also wished to marry Rukmini because of her loving devotion. In the heroic act, Lord Krishna travelled from Dwaraka to Vidarbha, kidnapped Rukmini, fought with the army of Shishupala, then married Rukmini in Dwaraka.

At Dwaraka, Krishna was always immersed in the memory of His childhood friends in Vrindavana. One day, Shrimati Radharani arrived in Dwaraka to see Lord Krishna. Both Krishna and Radharani were extremely happy to see each other after a very long separation. Due the overwhelming love, Lord Krishna seated Radharani very near to Him. When Rukmini observed Krishna seated so close to Radharani, she felt transcendental anger and left her palace as well as the city of Dwaraka. Rukmini wished to find a suitable holy place for performing penances. Rukmini chose Dindiravana as the most suitable holy place and started performing austerities in this forest.

When Rukmini left Dwaraka, Lord Krishna became unhappy and started searching for Rukmini. He first went to Vrindavana. After taking his cows and cowherd friends with him, He traveled to South and finally reached Dindiravana. Lord Krishna tried to console Rukmini, but even today we can see Rukmini Devi standing at Pandharpur, apparently angry with Lord Krishna. Therefore in Pandharpur, we can see Lord Krishna and Rukmini in two separate temples. Thus, the arrival of Rukmini in Dindiravana was the second reason why Lord Krishna came to Pandharpur.


3. Prayers of Pundalika

When Lord Krishna consoled Rukmini Devi, He remembered one of His best devotees named Pundalika who was staying at Pandharpur. A following historical account describes how Lord Krishna arrived in Pandharpur to visit his dear devotee named Pundalika (also called as Pundarika).

There was a brahmin named Janudev living in the Lohadanda kshetra (Pandharpur) along with his wife Muktabai. Janudev and Muktabai were pure devotees of Lord Krishna. By grace of Lord, a son named Pundalika was born to them. During the early stages of his life, Pundalika developed a lot of bad qualities. He was disrespectful to his parents and ill-behaved. Therefore the parents of Pundalika were very much aggrieved and decided to leave home and go on the pilgrimage to the holy place of Kashi. Although initially hesitant, Pundalika also decided to go to Kashi independently.

One day on the way to Kashi, Pundalika came across the residence of sage Kukkuta. Sage Kukkuta was extremely holy person and the great devotee of the Lord. Pundalika enquired the sage about the road to Kashi, but sage replied that he was unaware of the road as he had never visited Kashi. On hearing this, Pundalika ridiculed the sage.

The same night, Pundalika saw three very ugly women coming to the residence of sage Kukkuta. These women started cleaning the residence of the sage. When their work was completed, the three women suddenly transformed into divine goddesses. On seeing this miracle, Pundalika approached them and inquired about their identities. The divine ladies replied that they were the personal forms of holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. They informed Pundalika that they become very ugly due to sins of people taking bath in their waters. But when they perform a small service to the pure devotee like Kukkuta, they get rid of all the accumulated sins and resume their original divine forms. The holy rivers also informed Pundalika that only by the grace of Lord Krishna, he was able to see the residence of sage Kukkuta and the divine forms of the rivers, therefore now he must understand the greatness of the sage and give up all the bad qualities.

This incidence happened to be the turning point in Pundalika's life. Pundalika realized his mistakes and started living a pious life characterized by austerities, study of Vedas, service to Lord Krishna and properly caring for his parents. Because the parents of Pundalika were pure devotees of Lord Krishna, by serving them, Pundalika also gradually developed all the symptoms of a pure devotee. Lord Krishna became so much pleased by the devotional service of Pundalika that after he had consoled Rukmini, He wanted to personally visit Pundalika to bless Him.

When Lord Krishna arrived at Pundalika's house, Lord saw that Pundalika was engaged in messaging the feet of his parents. Pundalika saw that his house was filled with a divine light emanating from Lord's body. Pundalika was filled with extreme joy when He saw Lord Krishna standing behind him. Pundalika requested the Lord to kindly wait for a few moments until his service was complete and Lord happily agreed. When Pundalika saw the divine and the most enchanting form of Lord Krishna, he was thrilled with amazement and happiness. Pundalika sang the most wonderful prayers to glorify the beautiful form of Lord Krishna. Lord told Pundalika to ask for anything that he wished for. At that moment, Pundalika requested Lord Krishna to eternally stay there in the same form for blessing all the people of this world. Lord granted this request and also told that this place will be known after Pundalika and hence will also be called as Pundarika kshetra. The place where temple of Lord Panduranga is situated today is said to be the house of Pundalika. Thus the devotional service of Lord's greatest devotee Pundalika is the third reason why Lord Krishna arrived and stayed in Pandharpur.


It is simply impossible to describe the spiritual significance of the holy place like Pandharpur in a brief article such as this. There are so many other temples, holy places and holy water ponds in the area of Pandharpur, each with a separate history of its own. As a result, I could only briefly write about the most basic history of this holy place. Naturally this article will sound incomplete for a person who is looking for a more detailed information. Ref. [1] is an excellent text for such a detailed information about Pandharpur.

The most common conclusion that we can draw from all the three incidences described above is that Lord loves His devotees and wants to fulfill all their wishes. The devotees of the Lord also think about welfare of all the common people of the world and because of their prayers, we can still see Lord Panduranga and mother Rukmini even today in Pandharpur. Lord Krishna is so much compassionate that He became pleased with the demon Dindirava although his past life was full with sinful acts. Finally it a devotee's love that binds Lord Krishna who otherwise cannot be bound by anything else.

The person like me who is expert in making false show of humility is unqualified for describing the glories of Lord Krishna and His holy places. Still I have dared to do so in the hope that such an effort will give me an opportunity to engage my thoughts and time in the right manner. I beg forgiveness for the mistakes and inconsistencies present in this essay and request all the glorious devotees of Lord Krishna to accept it as an offering to their lotus feet.


Format: Number. Book name, Author, Publisher, Year (Language).
1. Bhuvaikuntha Pandharpur, Loknath Swami, Padayatra Press, 2012 (Marathi).
2. Shri Panduranga Mahatmyam, N. R. Dwarakanath Acharya, Jagadguru Madhwacharya Moolamahasansthanam, 2004 (Sanskrit).

Friday, June 12, 2015


A holy place of Ahobilam is situated in Andhra Pradesh, India. The history of Ahobilam spans over a huge time period, starting from the earliest times after the creation of this universe. Therefore it is difficult to summarize everything in an article of a few pages such as this. As a result, all I can do is to give you a small glimpse.

Brief history of Ahobilam

According to the Vedic history, Lord Brahma is the first living entity born in this universe from the naval lotus of Lord Vishnu. According to the instructions of Lord Vishnu, he continued the secondary creation inside the universe. In the beginning, Lord Brahma gave birth to the four sons from his mind. These four sons are the great sages and their names are Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanatkumar. They are famous as 'four kumaras'. Although they were great sages, they purposefully kept their bodies very small, so they looked like small children.

Once, the four kumaras wanted to see the supreme personality of Godhead Lord Vishnu. So they visited the spiritual world Vaikuntha. By the sweet will of Lord Vishnu, the two gate keepers in the spiritual world, named Jaya and Vijaya, did not allow the kumaras to see Lord Vishnu, thinking them to be ordinary children. The kumaras were very eager to see Lord Vishnu. When they were not allowed to see the Lord, they cursed the gate keepers Jaya and Vijaya to fall into the material world. Lord Vishnu then appeared on the scene and told Jaya and Vijaya to accept the curse of the kumaras. Lord assured them that this incidence has happened due to His will only. Lord also told them that they will be born as demons in the material world and Lord Himself will kill them and deliver them back to the spiritual world.

In their first life in the material world, Jaya and Vijaya were born as the demoniac sons of sage Kashyapa. They were known as Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakahipu. Hiranyaksha was killed by the Varaha incarnation of Lord. Hiranyakashipu was killed by another wonderful incarnation of Lord in the form of Narasimha, the half lion - half human form. Ahobilam is a place where Hiranyakashipu had his huge palace and where Lord Narasimha appeared to finish him.

When his elder brother Hiranyaksha was killed by Lord Varaha, Hiranyakashipu developed enmity towards Lord Vishnu. To acquire power to kill Lord Vishnu, he started performing a very severe and difficult penances. Due to his performance of penance, a tremendous amount of heat was generated and the entire world was disturbed. In order to save the world from this heat, Lord Brahma appeared before Hiranyakashipu and told him to ask the boon for which he was performing the austerities.

Hiranyakashipu initially asked Lord Brahma the boon of total immortality, but this was not possible even for Lord Brahma to give, as Lord Brahma himself has a limited lifespan (although it is very large). Then Hiranyakashipu  asked Lord Brahma the promise that he will not be killed by any living entity which Lord Brahma has created, he will not be killed by any weapon, by any man or animal, or in a day time or night time, or inside the house or outside the house etc. By acquiring such a boon from Lord Brahma, Hiranyakashipu became almost unbeatable and immortal. He controlled almost entire universe single handedly.

When Hiranyakashipu was performing the penances, his kingdom was attacked and destroyed by demigods. During this time, Hiranyakashipu's pregnant wife Leelavati was taken care by sage Narada. Narada instructed Leelavati about how to perform a devotional service to Lord Vishnu which is the highest goal of human life. Hiranyakashipu's son in the womb of Leelavati also received these instructions. When the son was born, he was named as Prahlada. From the very beginning of his life, Prahlada was the great devotee of the supreme Lord Vishnu. He was always totally immersed in the meditation on the beautiful form of Lord.

When Hiranyakashipu returned home, he started ruling all the directions. He opposed all the activities dedicated towards Lord Vishnu. He sent Prahlada to the sons of Shukracharya to learn the political sciences. Prahlada however was not interested in learning these subjects and instead he used to teach his classmates about how to worship Lord Vishnu. When Hiranyakashipu understood that Prahlada is the great devotee of his enemy Lord Vishnu, he was totally disappointed. Despite all the good qualities Prahlada had, the anger of Hiranyakashipu reached such an extent that he arranged to kill his son Prahlada in different ways.

Although different terrible means to kill Prahlada were tried, Lord always protected Prahlada. When Hiranyakashipu himself tried to kill Prahlada by his sword, Lord Vishnu appeared from the pillar of the palace and manifested his wonderful form of Narasimha. Lord was extremely angry and within no time, He took Hiranyakashipu in his lap and killed him by piercing his body by his nails.  Lord also destroyed Hiranyakashipu's army. Lord was so ferocious even after killing Hiranyakashipu that even demigods like Lord Brahma could not pacify Him. When His devotee Prahlada offered wonderful prayers to Lord, He became pacified.

According to Brahmanda Purana, Ahobilam is a place where these incidences took place. The place where Prahlada attended his school, the place from where Lord Narasimha appeared from the pillar and many other places of spiritual significance can be found in Ahobilam.

After the appearance of Lord Narasimha, Garuda wished to have a vision of Lord. Therefore he performed penances on the mountains of Ahobilam. Therefore these mountains are also known as Garudadri or Garudachalam. Lord Narasimha granted Garuda the vision of His form and Lord manifested Himself in the deity forms at the different places in these mountains. Nine self manifested deities of Lord Narasimha are present in Ahobilam. Most of the temples housing these deities are situated on the two mountain sides which are separated by the Bhavanashini river. Each of these nine deities also has a separate history related to it. The brief description of the nine forms of Lord Narasimha is as follows.

The first of the nine deities of Lord Narasimha in Ahobilam is Bhargava Narasimha. This deity appeared from the fire sacrifice performed at this place by Parashurama. The temple is situated at the banks of a holy water pond called Bhargava kunda.

The next deity is Ahobila Narasimha or Ugra Narasimha situated at the base of the two mountains at the bank of river Bhavanashini. This is said to be the place where Prahlada pacified Lord Narasimha after killing Hiranyakashipu. This deity of Lord was worshiped by Prahlada himself.

The next deity of Lord is known as Kroda Narasimha or Varaha Narasimha. Here Lord is present in His Varaha form carrying mother Bhudevi on his shoulders. Lord sanctified mother Bhudevi at this place from the sin of studying the Vedic literatures herself, as women are not supposed to study the Vedic literature on their own, without any guidance.

The next deity is knows as Malola Narasimha. In this form, Lord Narasimha can be seen with mother Lakshmi as her beloved. Ma means mother Lakshmi and Lola means beloved. The place where Prahlada's school was situated is near from this temple.

The next deity is known as Jwala Narasimha. This is a place where Lord killed Hiranyakashipu. A small water pond is also present here, where Lord washed the blood on his hands after killing Hiranyakashipu. The Ugra Stambha or the pillar from which Lord Narasimha appeared is close to this temple.

The next deity of Lord is known as Pavana Narasimha. It is the only deity which is situated on the other side of the mountain. Sage Bharadvaja performed penances here to please Lord and Lord manifested his form here to bless the sage. All the deities mentioned till now are situated in the mountains covered by thick forest.

The next deity is known as Karanja Narasimha due to a Karanja tree situated nearby. Sage Kobila performed penance at this shrine to free himself from the curse given by sage Durvasa.

The next form of the Lord is known as Yogananda Narasimha. At this place, Lord Narasimha instructed Prahlada about the science of Yoga and Prahlada performed the meditation.

The last deity of the Lord is known as Chatravata Narasimha where two Gandharvas (celestial singers) sang the glories of the Lord and Lord appeared there, being pleased with the service of the Gandharvas.

I have mentioned these nine deities in a sequence in which I visited them. Other authors have described these deities in a different order.

Apart from these Nava-Narasimha temples, another shrine of Lord Narasimha is situated in Ahobilam village. This temple is called Prahlada Varada Narasimha. In this temple, Lord Narasimha along with His consort Lakshmi is worshiped. The history of this temple is also very interesting.

Shrinivas Acharya, a great saintly personality, was living in Kanchipuram in the house of his spiritual master (Gurukula). He was only 20 years old, when Lord Narasimha instructed him in dream to go to Ahobilam. After taking permission from his spiritual master, Srinivas Acharya came to Ahobilam where Lord Narasimha Himself came in a form of sanyasi and gave him the spiritual order of Sanyasa. Lord named him as Sathakopa Jiyar and instructed him to develop the holy place of Ahobilam. Lord also told him to select one the utsava murtis among the nine temple of Ahobilam. Sathakopa Jeeyar found it very difficult to select the utsava murti  and prayed to Lord  for help. Then the utsava murti of Malola Narasimha came by itself to the Jeeyar who was praying for Lord's mercy.

Lord Narasimha instructed Sathakopa Jeeyar to establish a proper temple for the deity of Prahlada Varada Narasimha. Following the Lord's instruction, Sathakopa Jeeyar established this temple by taking a help of a king who was ruling this region. The king was a devout follower of Lord Shiva. He used to make a golden shiva-linga everyday and after worshiping it, he used to donate it to Brahmanas. Once when the king came in the vicinity of Ahobilam, all the shiva-lingas that he used to make were getting converted into the deities of Lord Narasimha. When Sathakopa Jeeyar approached the king for requesting him to help build the temple for Lord Narasimha, King, inspired by Lord by showing this miracle, agreed to help build this temple.

The deity of Lord Narasimha in this temple was worshiped by Lord Balaji of Tirumala for one month. A temple of Lord Balaji and Lord Rama is also situated here.

In Ahobilam, mother Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Narasimha is known by a special name called Chenchu Lakshmi. According to the tradition of Ahobilam, mother Lakshmi appeared in Chenchu tribe of Ahobilam region and Lord Narasimha married her. Therefore the people of Chenchu tribe worship Lord Narasimha as their son in law.

My pilgrimage to Ahobilam

We visited Ahobilam in November 2014. Our Pilgrimage was planned for three days. We took a bus from Bangalore and reached Allagadda in the early morning of the next day. Then we took another bus from Allagadda to Ahobilam. On the first day, we celebrated an appearance day of His Holiness Bhakti Swaroop Damodar Swami. For the next two days, we visited different Narasimha deities of Ahobilam. Due to a huge gathering of wonderful devotees of Lord Narasimha, the whole pilgrimage became the constant source of inspiration and happiness, despite a good amount of trekking on the mountains. I thank Lord for giving me this opportunity.


Although Lord Narasimha's form is very angry, He is very merciful. He has mercifully allowed me to come and visit his home in Ahobilam, although I am very unqualified. My heart is full of unwanted things and I request Lord Narasimha and His devotees to help me in purifying it. I offer this essay as an offering to Lord Narasimha. I request Him and His devotees to mercifully accept it, though it is far from complete.

I thank Bhaktivedanta Institute, Bangalore for organizing a wonderful pilgrimage to Ahobilam.

1. Spiritual India handbook, Stephen Knapp, Jaico Publishing (2011).
2. Shrimad Bhagavatam, A C Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (2005).
3. Oral information received from the devotees of Lord at Ahobilam (2014).

On the way to Bhargava Narsimha Temple

The temple of Bhargava Narasimha

Devotees discussing the glories of Ahobilam in Pralhada Varada Narasimha temple

The entrance of Ugra or Ahobila Narasimha temple

Ugra stambha, the place from where Lord Narasimha appeared

The view of mountains from Jwala Narasimha temple

The cave in which Jwala Narasimha temple is situated

The way to Jwala Narasimha temple

The place where Pralhada's school was situated

The cave where Prahlada meditated on Lord

Chatravata Narasimha temple

The view from Chatravata Narasimha temple

Yogananda Narasimha temple

Pavana Narasimha temple

The view of a mountain seen from the way to Pavana Narasimha temple

Malola Narasimha temple

Friday, January 2, 2015


2 January 2014

Most of us are aware that long time ago, during Ramayana period, mother Sita was taken to Lanka by demon Ravana. Lord Rama and Lakshamana travelled in Southern direction in search of her and eventually reached a city named Kishkindha where they developed friendship with Hanuman, Sugriva and other Vanaras (Celestian monkeys and bears). Many wonderful events that happened there are vividly described in Kishkindha Kanda of Ramayana. Millions of years have passed since the time of Lord Rama but the record of historical events happened during that time is still available to us. Today, in this age of science and technology, we may wonder about the exact geographical location of the Kishkindha. It was a pleasant surprise for me when I came to know that the Kishkindha is situated on the banks of Tungabhadra river around the place called Hampi.

Hampi is a village situated near the Hospet city in the state of Karnataka. It is surrounded by many hills which are full of huge rocks and caves. In Puranas, this place is mentioned as Pampa Kshetra. Pampa is a presiding deity of Tungabhadra river. She performed penances and worshipped Lord Shiva here. Lord Shiva in His aspect called Virupaksha accepted Pampa as His wife. The temple of the self manifested Shivalinga and mother Pampadevi is a primary and huge complex of Hampi village. This temple, called as Virupaksha temple, is generally the first place that we see when we enter Hampi.

However the first place in Kishkindha where Lord Rama and Lakshmana arrived is a lake called Pampa Sarovar. After they observed the exquisite beauty of this lake, they visited Shabari who was a great devotee of Lord. Lord enjoyed the fruits offered to Him by Shabari on the banks of Pampa Sarovar. During those times Pampa Sarovar was a huge lake decorated with beautiful lotus flowers and different kinds of birds. Today also Pampa Sarovar is a very serene and beautiful place surrounded by hills from three sides. Although now it is smaller in size, the place is spiritually so vibrant that we can feel immediate spiritual nourishment when we go there. We are exceedingly sure about the purity of this holy place because Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also took bath in this lake.

After visiting Shabari, Lord Rama and Lakshmana proceeded towards Matanga mountain to meet Sugriva. This Matanga mountain can be seen when you stand in the door of the Virupaksha temple and see towards the East. Sugriva was a younger brother of the king of Kishkindha named Vali. He was living there along with his four ministers. Hanuman, who is the great devotee of Lord, brought Lord Rama and Lakshmana and introduced them to Sugriva. Sugriva and Lord Rama became great friends. Sugriva was living in hiding in sage Matanga's ashrama as Vali wanted to kill Sugriva due to a previous misunderstanding. Sage Matanga's asharama was the only safe place for Sugriva and his ministers because Matanga muni had previously cursed Vali to die if Vali enters the area of his ashrama. Lord Rama helped Sugriva by killing Vali and installing Sugriva on the throne of the kingdom of Kishkindha. In return Sugriva helped Lord to search and rescue mother Sita. Sugriva gathered all the vanaras and sent them in different directions in search of mother Sita. It was the search party of Hanuman and Vali's son named Angada who discovered that Sita was present in Lanka. Once mother Sita's location was known, Lord Rama proceeded towards Lanka along with the huge army of vanaras. They built a bridge to Lanka and after the great war with Ravana and his army, they rescued mother Sita. Sugriva, Hanuman along with millions of other vanaras and their leaders played a very instrumental role in this rescue operation conducted to bring mother Sita and Lord Rama together. After these events, Angada, the son of Vali, was made king of the Kishkindha.

Today we can find many places in Hampi which witnessed these events. Pampa Sarovar, Malyavan mountain, Hemakuta mountain, Anjaneyadri which is a birthplace of Hanuman, the entrance to Vali's cave, temple of Durga whom Vali worshipped, a place where Lord Rama and Lakshmana stayed during the months of rainy season, Shabari's cave, the place where Sugriva stored the jewels dropped by Sita when she was being taken away are some of these places.

Apart from the places of Lord's pastimes, Hampi is also famous as a capital of the Vijayanagara Kingdom. Many structures constructed by Vijayanagara kings are present in Hampi. Looking at these works of huge and beautifully carved stones to construct palaces, temples and water ponds, one can only imagine the prosperity that prevailed when the saintly kings like Krishnadevaraya ruled their kingdom on the basis of dharma. King Krishnadevaraya was a disciple in the line of Madhva Sampradaya and a great devotee of Lord. Today all we can see in Hampi is broken temples and palaces. The worship of Lord is absent in many of the temples as there is no deity. For a devotee and a spiritualist, looking and admiring the beauty of these vacant temples may not be enough.

Me and my wife visited Hampi during 24 to 26 December 2014. We spent the first day in Hampi looking at the palaces and temples constructed by Vijayanagara kings and it caused only pain and exhaustion in me. I actually started enjoying the Hampi trip when we visited the places related to Lord Rama and his devotees. On the second day, we walked towards Vitthala temple along the Southern bank of Tungabhadra river. On the way we visited Kodanda Rama temple. This temple has very big and beautiful deities of Lord Rama, Lakshmana and Sita. The place where the temple is located is extremely beautiful. Situated nearby are the temples of Hanuman and Lord Ranganath. Then we proceeded towards the Vitthala temple where we crossed the river by boat and reached a village named Anegundi. This is where Pampa Sarovar, Shabari's cave and Anjaneyadri are located. First we visited Pampa Sarovar where I found myself very happy. After briefly visiting Shabari's cave and nearby temple of Lord Shiva, we proceeded to the birth place of Hanuman, Anjaneyadri. This hill is named after Hanuman's mother Anjana. She performed austerities on this hill and demigod Vayu impregnated her with Hanuman. I found myself fully energetic even after climbing around 600 steps to the top of Anjaneyadri where temple of Lord Rama, Lakshmana, Sita as well as Hanuman and Anjana is located. After visiting these places, we came back to Hampi by the same way. Spending every evening in the devotional environment of the Virupaksha temple in the central Hampi was also a nectarine experience for me. I spent a good deal of my time on the third day by just sitting on the banks of Tungabhadra river at different places. I also went to the base of Matanga mountain but did not climb up this time.

I was very fortunate to listen the story Ramayana from my maternal grandmother since childhood. During the beginning of my stay in IISc, Lord gave me opportunity to relish the reading of Ramayana in detail. This pilgrimage to Hampi, the Kishkindha of Ramayana, was a reminder for me to continue the spiritual journey which has started long ago.

There may be many people who may question whether Ramayana actually happened, whether Lord Rama was actually there or the information that I have written above is really true. The answers to these questions will be easily obtained when we associate with the devotees of the Lord, study the authentic Vedic literature like Ramayana in which activities of Lord are recorded and visit the holy places where these activities took place. This will bring a spiritual change in us, which is good. There will be always some people who will point out the contradictions in scriptures and different religious systems. But a genuine devotee is sure that all the contradictions are present in the Lord and still He is simple to understand for a devotee. He is वेदेषु दुर्लभं अदुर्लभं आत्मभक्तौ.

This article is certainly not a good guide to visit different places in Hampi. It also does not focus much on Vijayanagara history in which many people may be interested. But it is my hope that it will bring out some interest to carefully study Ramayana as well as to visit this place where the ancient events mentioned in Ramayana took place.

I am not very good at writing but the merciful devotees of Lord may accept this article and offer it to the lotus feet of Lord. I will be very happy if devotees become happy after reading this article.

I thank all the devotees of Lord and especially those in Bhaktivedanta Institute, Bangalore because of whom I can hope to make some progress in spirituality. I thank my wife who enthusiastically proposed to visit Hampi. I thank my friend Sudeep Nakhe for helping me in organizing this trip and giving me some important tips about food and climate. I also thank the people of Hampi and Anegundi villages.

1. Spiritual India Handbook, Stephen Knap, Jaico publishing house, 2011 (English).
2. Valmiki Ramayana Volume 1 and 2, Geeta press, Gorakhpur (Sanskrit, Hindi).

Virupaksha - Pampa Devi Temple

Tungabhadra river

Pampa Sarovar


Matanga Parvat

View of Kishkindha from Anjaneyadri

Kodanda Rama Temple

View from Kodanda Rama Templa

View of Virupaksha Temple

Malyavaan Parvat and the temple of Lord on the top

Tungabhadra river

Pampa Sarovar

Saturday, September 27, 2014


27 September 2014 

The valley of Manipur is situated in the North-East region of India. It is surrounded by the trailing hills of the Himalaya Mountain. Many of us are not closely familiar with Manipur as it is situated in comparatively remote region. Therefore the ancient history of Manipur may come to you as a surprise. In this humble attempt, I will try to share with you some information I could gather from the ancient books.

From the Puranas, we understand that long time ago this valley was a huge lake. Lord Shiva emptied this lake and thus the valley was created. The valley was decorated with wonderful gems by the celestial snakes for the pleasure of Lord Shiva. Hence the name Manipur (Mani means gems).

The later history of Manipur is very closely related to Arjuna who is known as the great hero of Mahabharata war as well as the great devotee of Lord Krishna. In the Adi Parva of Mahabharata, we find that once Arjuna went on a pilgrimage. After visiting some holy places in Himalaya mountains, he reached Hardwar and stayed there for few days. While taking bath in the Ganga river at Hardwar, he was taken to the nether world of celestial snakes by a girl named Ullupi. She requested Arjuna to marry her. Arjuna in response accepted her in marriage but stayed there only for a day. Then he continued his pilgrimage towards the holy places in Eastern direction and eventually reached Manipur.

At that time, Manipur was ruled by a king named Chitravahana. He had a very beautiful daughter named Chitrangada. Arjuna requested Chitravahana to give him Chitrangada in marriage. Chitravahana happily agreed to this on a condition that the son of Chitrangada will be given the throne of Manipur. Then Arjuna was married to Chitrangada and a son was born to them. This son was named Babhruvahana. Arjuna stayed in Manipur for next three years and then continued his pilgrimage along the cost of Southern ocean. After returning to Manipur, Arjuna instructed Chitrangada to stay in Manipur and take care of Babhruvahana. He invited her to Hastinapur in future at the time of Rajasuya sacrifice to be performed by Yudhishtira.

In the Ashwamedha Parva of Mahabharata, we find that after the war of Kurukshetra, king Yudhishtira decided to perform a Ashwamedha sacrifice. In this sacrifice, a sacrificial horse is allowed to freely roam around the world for one year. The kings of different countries should either capture the horse and fight with the Pandava army or accept the sovereign of Pandavas over the world. After travelling to many kingdoms, this horse reached Manipur where, by that time, Babhruvahana was ruling. When Babhruvahana was told that a sacrificial horse has entered his kingdom, he captured it immediately. But when he understood that his father Arjuna himself was protecting the horse, he went to meet Arjuna in a humble and respectful mood. He wanted to return the horse to Arjuna but Arjuna, on other hand, wanted to see the valor and strength of his son. Therefore Arjuna did not receive the respect as well as gifts brought to him by Babhruvahana. In contrast, Arjuna challenged Babhruvahana to fight in the battle.

Babhruvahana was in dilemma about whether he should fight his father or not when Ullupi appeared there. She advised Babhruvahana to accept the challenge of Arjuna. In a great battle that followed, Arjuna's army was utterly destroyed and many great warriors on Arjuna's side were defeated. To our great surprise, Arjuna himself was beheaded and killed by Babhruvahana. After the battle was over, Babhruvahana and Chitrangada were overwhelmed with grief due to loss of Arjuna. But Ullupi, the only one who new the secret behind Arjuna's death, reassured both of them. She procured a powerful gem named Sanjeewani from the nether worlds. She brought Arjuna back to life by using the power of this gem. Ullupi also related the reason behind Arjuna's death to Babhruvahana and Chitrangada. She told that in the Kurukshetra war, because Arjuna had attacked Bhishma while putting Shikhandi in between them, the demigods named Vasus cursed that Arjuna will have to die in the battle. After hearing this, Arjuna was happily reunited with Chitrangada, Babhruvahana as well as Ullupi and continued his journey with the sacrificial horse.

The Ashwamedha Parva written by Jaimini gives a few more details of this incident. It tells us that Lord Krishna played a key role in bringing Arjuna back to life. Although the Sanjeewani gem was procured, the head of Arjuna was stolen by two envious celestial snakes and as a result the gem could not be used. It was Krishna who brought back Arjuna's head by using His mystic powers. This book also tells that although Arjuna's head was separated from his body, it was chanting the holy names of Krishna such as Govinda, Madhava etc.

The later kings of Manipur were faithful followers of Vedic culture. But it was during the time of the great King Bhagyachandra in 18th century AD that the Manipur accepted the culture of pure devotional service of Lord Vishnu (Krishna). When Bhagyachandra was a small child, his father was killed in the battle and his uncle took over the affairs of the kingdom. When Bhagyachandra grew up and started to rule the valley, his uncle became envious and conspired with Burmese kingdom to attack the valley of Manipur. Under this attack, Bhagyachandra and his mother had to flee and take shelter under the king Rajarshee of Ahom (now Assam).

A nice friendship developed between Bhagyachandra and king Rajarshee. King Rajarshee provided Bhagyachandra everything required for his peaceful and safe stay in Assam. But Bhagyachandra's uncle sent a letter to king Rajarshee saying that the person who is staying with the king is not a real Bhagyachandra but an imposter. The king of Assam was puzzled upon receiving this letter and decided to test Bhagyachandra. In this test, Bhagyachandra was to tame the wild elephant. If he could do that, the king of Assam would accept him as the real Bhagyachandra.

On a night before this test, Bhagyachandra was praying to Lord Krishna to guide him about how he should handle this difficult situation. In night, Lord Krishna appeared in the dream of Bhagyachandra. He told Bhagyachandra to approach the wild elephant with nothing but a flower garland and chanting beads. Lord Krishna also told Bhagyachandra that in future he will be the only ruler of the valley of Manipur. Krishna also asked Bhagyachandra to construct a temple for Lord Krishna with Lord's deity made in the exact form in which Bhagyachandra was seeing Him. Lord told that Bhagyachandra will find a jack-fruit tree on Kaina hillside. The wood of this tree would be used for making the deity. Lord also revealed the Rasa-Leela (Krishna's spiritual dance with gopis in full-moon night) in Bhagyachandra's dream and instructed the king to arrange for such Rasa-Leela dance performances for the pleasure of Krishna.

In the morning the crowds gathered to see if Bhagyachandra can control the wild elephant. When Bhagyachandra entered the arena, the elephant immediately charged towards him. As he neared, it was stopped by some unseen force as if it was hitting the invisible wall. This happened several times and finally the elephant knelt down in front of the king. Only Bhagyachandra could see Lord Krishna sitting on the elephant in full control. After taming the elephant, Bhagyachandra thanked Lord Krishna by giving him a flower garland. When Bhagyachandra mounted the wild elephant, the crowds as well as the king Rajarshee became cheerful. Then with the help of king Rajarshee and his army, Bhagyachandra defeated Burmese army and reestablished his kingdom in Manipur.

After regaining his kingdom, Bhagyachandra became so busy in organizing the state that he forgot the promise of building a temple for Lord Krisha. To remind the king of this promise, Lord Krishna appeared as a small boy and started to play trick with an old lady working in the farm. This farm was located near a hill where a particular jack-fruit tree was located. Krishna wanted Bhagyachandra to make a deity from the wood of this jack-fruit tree. Krishna then sent a message for the king through the lady. After making some tricky effort to gain an access to the king,  the old lady related a story about this boy. Bhagyachandra could understand that the boy was none but Lord Krishna. He immediately followed the lady to the spot where she had seen Krishna. Although Krishna had disappeared from there, the king found the jack-fruit tree for making a deity.

The king employed artists to make deity of Lord Krishna and told them about the form of Lord he had seen in the dream. The artists made five deities but none matched the description of the king. Each of these five deities were installed with great festival at different locations in Manipur. The king became  worried as the wood of the jack-fruit tree was about to finish. But when he saw the remaining piece of wood, he could understand that it was already having the required form. He immediately ordered the artists to prepare the deity from the last piece. This deity of Lord Krishna is known as Lord Govinda and is installed in the temple which is known as Govindji temple.  

King Bhagyachandra, his ministry as well as his citizens were all dedicated to the service of Lord Govinda. The king did not force anyone to give up their culture but encouraged everybody to engage in the service of Lord Krishna by his own example. He also engaged the artists to make the dresses of Lord Krishna as well as gopis exactly as he had been revealed in the dream by the Lord. Then he started the performance of Rasa-Leela dance for the pleasure of Lord. This is the origin of Manipuri style of classical dance as well as Manipuri dresses.

In the 15th century AD, the same Lord Krishna who protected the Pandavas in the times of Mahabharata, appeared in the secret incarnation of Lord Chaitanya to teach people about the glories of chanting the holy names of Lord. In 17th century AD, His great follower Narottam Das sent some of his disciples to Manipur to preach the glories of holy name. Even today the songs of Narottam Das are sung in the valley of Manipur. King Bhagyachandra later retired from the duties of the king and took shelter of Narottam Das. He stayed in Nawadweep Dham in West Bengal, dedicating his life for the devotional service of Lord Krishna.

Even to this day, the people of Manipur follow the Vedic culture of Vaishnava principles. Although the people following many other religions live in Manipur, traditional Vaishnava as well as tribal practices are highly regarded by everyone. The birthday of Lord Krishna is one of the biggest yearly festivals of Manipur. Other festivals related to the pastimes of Lord Krishna, like Holi, are also celebrated. A Rasa-Leela performance initiated by King Bhagyachandra is still a most important part of the culture. Apart from these practises, Manipur is also known for its martial arts as well as drum-dance.

In recent times, due to the efforts of His Holiness Bhakti Swaroop Damodar Swami (also known as Sripad maharaja), the culture and practices of Manipur have been rekindled. Apart from constructing a huge temple of Their Lordships Shri Shri Radha-Krishnachandra, he established The University of Bhagavata Culture to study and promote the ancient practices of Manipur. He has made special efforts to present the ancient Vedic culture in a modern scientific way as well as to spiritually unite the people following different religions. His contributions for preserving and promoting the culture of Manipur are priceless. Although today he is not present among us in person, his disciples are working hard to follow his instructions and continue his mission.  

I was given an opportunity to visit Manipur by the Bhaktivedanta Institute, Bangalore along with the other members of the institute. We took a train from Bangalore and reached Kolkata. From Kolkata we took a flight to Imphal, a capital of Manipur state. A huge festival to celebrate the 75th birth anniversary of Sripad maharaja was organized. This festival was the essence of Manipuri culture because it displayed all the aspects of Manipuri life and arts. A drama on the life of King Bhagyachandra, a Sanskrit drama based on Geeta Govinda, a drum-dance as well as Rasa-Leela dance were the performances which one can never forget. Apart from their spiritual nature, they were performed with a very high professional accuracy and creativity. We also visited the Govindji temple and other Krishna temples established by king Bhagyachandra. The deities of Lord Krishna in these temples are extra-ordinary in their beauty. We were staying near Radha Krishnachandra Mani Mandir of Imphal where festival was organized. I had a chance to have a wonderful interaction with some school students in Imphal. I found the people of Manipur very gentle and kind.

Many authors have written books about Manipur and its history. Compared to them, my research is very limited. I have considered only the spiritual history of Manipur, ignoring everything else. Therefore this article can not satisfy all the students of history. But it is my hope that this article becomes useful to devotees of Lord Krishna and persons who know His Holiness Bhakti Swaroop Damodar Swami who hails from Manipur.

My visit to Manipur has left some strong impressions on my mind. I was overwhelmed by the good qualities of Manipuri people. I feel it was an opportunity given to me by Lord to introspect myself in the best possible surroundings. Although I was in Manipur only for five days, I tend to think that I know Manipur.

Although I am unqualified to write this essay, I request the devotees to accept it as a humble offering. I hope the devotees will like this article because they are unlimitedly merciful. I thank Lord and His devotees because they have ignored my faults and given me opportunity to write this essay. Although my words are like that of a child who is just learning how to speak, I request the reader to forgive me for such a talk. 

1. Mahabharata, Krishnadwaipayana Vyasa, Geeta Press, Gorakhpur (India), Vikarama year 2070 (Sanskrit, Hindi).

2. Jaimini Ashwamedha, Vishnushastri Bapat, Varada Prakashan, Pune (India), 2002 (Marathi).

3. Srila Sripad in Switzerland, No authorship, Bhaktivedanta Institute, Kolkata (India), 2013 (English).

4. Spiritual India handbook, Stephen Knapp, Jaico Publishing House, Mumbai (India), 2011 (English).

5. A glimpse of 25 years of ISKCON in Manipur, No Authorship, Bhaktivedanta Institute and The University of Bhagavata Culture, Manipur (India), 2002 (English).

I thank Bhaktivedanta Institute, Bangalore for giving me an opportunity to visit Manipur. I also thank the devotees in Manipur for making our stay pleasant. I thank all the people of Manipur who have preserved the culture despite all kinds of challenges. I thank my friend Appala Naidu for sponsoring the entire set of books containing Mahabharata (Ref. 1). I also thank my wife for obtaining a copy of Jaimini Ashwamedha (Ref. 2) after taking much efforts.

Shri Shri Radha Krishnachandra Mani Mandir, Imphal.

A picture depicting Lord Krishna's Rasa-Leela dance with Gopis

Inside of Shri Shri Radha Krishnachandra Mani Mandir

A wood carving of Garuda created by devotees from Bali, Indonesia. All the wooden art in the temple is in Balinese style.

Govindji temple established by King Bhagyachandtra

Lord Krishna along with Radha, Lalita and Vishakha dressed in Manipuri dress.

Performance of Drum-dance
Portrait of Narottam Das Thakur

A Picture of Shrila Bhakti Swaroop Damodar Swami (Dr. T. D. Singh, PhD.)

Portrait of King Bhagyachandra of Manipur, A great devotee of Lord Krishna.