Ulagam yavaiyum tham ulavakkalum
nilai peruththalum ningalum ningala
alagu illa vilaiyattu utaiyar avar
thalaivar annavar saran nangale
In our previous article, we saw the place in and around Shringiberapuram. As per the epic Ramayana, we are in the Prayag located in Allahabad known as Triveni Sangam or Tirtha-Raja (Prayag Raj), king of all holy places. We do not know exactly when the legend of the Kumbha first became crystallised and began attracting pilgrims, but we do know that the great Chinese traveller-historian Hiuen Tsang (otherwise Yuan Chwang) who came to India in the seventh century, witnessed this magnificent religious festival at Prayag, for he has left a graphic account of it. He writes that about half a million people gathered round about the confluence on that occasion and that the ceremony lasted for seventy-five days.
The Triveni Sangam in Allahabad is a confluence of 3 rivers, the Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati. Of these three, the river Saraswati is invisible and is said to flow underground and join the other two rivers from below. Here the muddy and pale-yellow waters of the Ganges merge with the blue waters of Yamuna. While the Ganges is only 4 feet deep, the Yamuna is 40 feet deep near the point of their nexus. The river Yamuna merges into the Ganges at this point and the Ganges continues on until it meets the sea at the Bay of Bengal. At the confluence of these two great Indian rivers, where the invisible Saraswati conjoins them, many tirtha yatris take boats to bathe from platforms erected in the Sangam. This, together with the migratory birds give a picturesque look to the river during the Kumbha Mela, in the month of January. It is believed that all the gods come in human form to take a dip at the sangam and expiate their sins.
All over India, the meeting rivers amplify the holiness of the tirtha. Two rivers are better than one three even more auspicious. The great site of the meeting rivers in north India is the sangam, the confluence, of the Ganga and Yamuna at Prayaga, where the city now called Allahabad stands.
The Ganga has long been seen as the white river, bearing the mica laden waters of her Himalayan course, and the Yamuna, the blue river. This description of the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna seems to be referred to in one of the latest sections of the Rig Veda, which says,“Those who bathe at the place where the two rivers, white and dark, flow together, rise upto heaven. More than a thousand years later, the classical Sanskrit poet, Kalidasa, describes the confluence of the white” waters of the Ganga with the blue waters of the Yamuna as if they were a string of pearls and sapphires combined, or a garland of white and blue lotuses intertwined.
According to the Puranas, there is also a third river, the Sarasvati, that joins the confluence at Prayaga, flowing in from underground. The Sarasvati was clearly one of the great rivers of Vedic India, so impressive that it is mentioned some fifty times in the Vedic hymns. The Sarasvati is known as the best of rivers, the goddess of river waters, and eventually her name became that of the goddess of arts and learning.
The Triveni Sangam is believed to be the same place where drops of Nectar fell out of the pitcher, from the hands of Gods. So it is believed that a bath in the Sangam will wash away all the sins and will clear the way to heaven. Devout Hindus from all over India come to this sacred pilgrimage point to offer prayers and take a dip in the holy waters. The Sacred Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years at the banks of the Sangam. According to myths, the Prakrista Yajna was performed here by Lord Brahma.
This is the leading place for all confluences and kumbamelas that go on elsewhere. Kumbamelas occur in 4 different places, recently 3 crore people came here on the final day of Kumbamela. Godavari prayag happens in nasik. In Haridwar - Ganga Kumbamela. Kshipra Kumbamela in Ujjain. The Kumbamela that happens here in Prayag is the most important of them all. If the kumbha mela happens once in 6 months it is called Ardha Kumbha Mela. Rama came here and stayed for a day and then went to Bharadwaja Ashram, the recount of which can be seen in Rama Charit Manas of Sri Tulsidas.
The exiled Rama, accompanied by Sita and Lakshmana, reach the ashram of the sage Bharadwaja at Paryag, the present day Allahabad, situated at the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna, Seven huts are grouped at the right with seven rishis.
Now let us see who is Bharadwajar. Let the Rishi's life guide us to good path. The sages are an important part of the Hindu religion. They are called ‘Rishis’. These sages had understanding of things and places which normal people like you and I could never even imagine. Even in sages there were different types of sages based on their knowledge.
The Deva Rishis were such sages who had complete understanding of everything in this world and the heaven. They could travel in all the 3 worlds and were close advisers of the Bhagwan. Narada is one such Deva Rishi.
The Brahma Rishis were as capable as the Brahma rishis but the difference was that they stayed on earth, with the other humans. Their aim was to serve the humanity. Thus they preferred to live among the normal people. Brahmarishi Vashishtha is one such Brahma Rishi and Vishwamitra decided to become a Brahmarishi himself.
The Raja Rishis were those sages who used to also live a normal life, like governing a kingdom and looking after their subjects. But at the same time they were highly learned in all the scriptures. King Janaka is such a Raja Rishi.
The word Rishi itself means 'Mantra-drashta', seer of a mantra or or Mantra Drashtaraha, one who sees mantras. Mantras were used by Rishis for the welfare of every being. Bharadwaja = Bhara (to bear) + Vaja (vigour), meaning ‘one who has strength or vigour’. His birth story is very interesting. His family tree as follows
Angiras (rishi or sage)
Brihaspati - Mamata
He was a disciple of Gauthama Maharshi as well as of Valmiki. In our first episode, we saw the place know as Bittoor where the mythical sage Narada came to his hermitage, Valmiki who received him with due honor, posed a question - who was an ideal man? The reply came from Narada in the form of Samkshepa Ramayana which formed the foundation on which the magnificent 24,000 verse edifice was built by Valmiki. Then, immersed deep into this story, Valmiki left for the river Tamasa with his disciple Bharadwaj. The pleasant and placid river reminded the seer of the mature and modest quality of his hero. He visualized a pure and pious man's mind reflected in the deep waters. In the next instant he witnessed a heartless hunter mercilessly killing a male bird that was in love with its mate. The piteous wailing of the distressed female moved the heart of the sage so much that he spontaneously uttered a curse on the hunter. However, this curse came out of his mouth in the form of a 'sloka', a perfectly metrical composition, which surprised the sage himself: "No - You shall not command any respect in society for a long time as you have shot dead an innocent bird engrossed in love". The sage had turned into a poet.
There is one interesting story about Sage Bharadwaja. Ghritachi was an Apsara, a dancer in the court of Indra. She is the spiritual mother of Drona and the sage Shuka. In both cases, she was merely the cause for their birth. When the sage Bharadwaja saw the semi-nude form of this Apsara, his vital fluid emerged from his body and was stored in a water vessel by him. The son born of that vessel was Drona (Dronacharya). He was the royal guru to Kauravas and Pandavas. He was a master of advanced military arts, including the Devastras.
Krishna devised a plan to bring down the invincible Drona. Sri Krishna knew that it was not possible to defeat Dronacharya when he had bow and arrow in his hands. Sri Krishna also knew that Dronacharya loved his son Ashwatthama very dearly. So, Sri Krishna suggested to Yudhisthira and other Pandava brothers that, if he were convinced that his son was killed on the battlefield, then Dronacharya would get dejected to such an extent that he would lay down all his arms on the ground and it would be easier to kill him.
In order to find a way out, Sri Krishna suggested Bhima to kill an elephant by name Ashwatthama and claim to Dronacharya that he has killed Drona's son Ashwatthama. Following this plan, Bhima located and killed an elephant named Ashwatthama, i.e. the same name as Drona's son. He then loudly proclaimed that he had slain Ashwatthama, so as to make Dronacharya think that his son was dead.
Dronacharya however, did not believe Bhima's words and approached Yudhisthira. Drona knew of Yudhisthira's firm adherence to Dharma and that he would never ever utter a lie. When Dronacharya approached Yudhisthira and questioned him as to whether his son was truly slain in the battle by Bhima, Yudhisthira responded with the cryptic Sanskrit phrase "Aśvatthāma hathaḥ iti, narova kuṃjarovā.... meaning 'Ashwatthama is dead. But, I am not certain whether it was a human or an elephant'.
Just previously, revered sages of old (Bharadwaja), came to Drona and chastise him for his cruel acts and unrighteous fight.
Sri Krishna also knew that it was not possible for Yudhisthira to lie outright. On his instructions, the other warriors blew trumpets and conches, raising a tumultuous noise in such a way that Dronacharya only heard that "Ashwatthama is dead", but could not hear the latter part of Yudhisthira's reply.
Out of grief, and believing his son to be dead, Dronacharya descended from his chariot, laid down his arms and sat in meditation. Closing his eyes, his soul went to Heaven in search of Ashwatthama's soul.
In the meantime, Drupada's son Dhrishtadyumna took this opportunity and beheaded the unarmed Dronacharya who was not aware of the whole proceedings on Earth. This was considered an act of cowardice on Dhrishtadyumna's part.
In this way, Drona was killed in the Mahabharata War. His death greatly aggrieved and enraged Arjuna, who had immense affection towards his teacher, and had hoped to capture him alive rather than killing him.
This Bharadwaja was a great sage, who studied the Vedas for full one hundred years; but, finding that the Vedas were Ananta (endless) he did Tapas for prolonging life, and from Indra he got two extensions of a century each. Even then, the Vedas could not be completed, so, he asked Indra again for another hundred years. Indra showed him 3 huge mountain ranges and said, What you have learned in 3 centuries form only 3 handfuls from out of the 3 ranges, which the Vedas are. So, give up the attempt to exhaust the Vedas. He explained that knowledge was boundless... Now we are at the Bharadwaj ashram in Allahabad. After this we shall visit two more important places in Allahabad. Lets see those places in our upcoming articles.