Sunday, September 24, 2017

Pandharpur

Pandharpur

Why Lord Krishna arrived and stayed here?

Introduction

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.

Conclusion

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.

References:

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).

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