Pilgrims progress to Aundha Nagnath Jyotirlinga

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Nagnath is the sacred 8th Jyotirlinga among 12 Jyotirlingas.

It is also referred as Adya(First)Jyotirlinga set up by Pandavs of Mahabharat fame during their 14 years vanvas(exile). Situated in a village called Aundha in Hingoli District of Marathawada region in Maharastra, the place is not as easy to visit like other major Jyotirlingas and one has to plan a split journey.  

Two stories of Nagnath Jyotirlinga:

Like Baidyanathdham in Jharkhand, Nagnath Jyotirling is wrapped up in different myths about its origin. Some scholars are of the views that Nageshwar situated near Dwarka is the 8th Jyotirlinga. There is also different interpretation of the shloka which describes the eighth jyotirlinga.

However majority of the Hindu scholars claim that the Nagnath situated in present Maharastra state is the real one. In support of their claim they quote from Upanishads and Purans, mainly Shivapuran.

Shivapuran describes the geographical location of 12 Jyotirlinga. Lord Somnath is in the Saurashtra, Mallikarjuna is on the Shree Shailam, Mahakala is in Ujjayani, Parameshwar belongs to Onkar, Kedar in the mountain of Himalaya, Bhimashankar is in the region Dakini, Viswesh belongs to Varanasi, the Lord Trayam bakam resides on the shore of Gautami river, Baidyanath lies on the land of ashes and the Lord of snake lives in the wooden forest. Lord Rama stays near the sea where he built the bridge and Lord of Ghushma resides in the abode of Shiva.

It is said that If one recites the names of 12 jyotirlingas in the early morning, he gets rid of all sins and gets fruits of all  his efforts.”

When Pandav emptied the river

First story is like this: When Dakshaprajapati (Father in Law of Lord Shiva) held a Mahayagna, he did not invite Lord Shiva. Goddess Parvati (Wife of Lord Shiva) could not tolerate this insult of her husband by her father..  She jumped into the Yagnakunda (holy fire) and gave up her life. This made Lord Shiva very unhappy and sorrowful. He started to wander in the forests. He reached a huge ravine called Amardaka and began to live there.

Even here, he had to face some humiliations. As a result, he felt dejected and turned his body into ashes. After some time, Pandavas came here during their Vanvas (life in forests) and built a hermitage for themselves. Their cows used to go to the river to drink water. After drinking water, milk used to automatically flow into the river as if the cows were offering milk to the river.

One day Bhima (one of the pandavs) saw this miraculous event. He promptly told Dharmaraja (Yudhisthir) about the same. Then Dharmaraja said, “Surely, some great God must be living in this river”. Then the Pandavas started removing the water from the river. The middle part of the river was so hot that the water here was boiling. Bhima lifted his mace and attacked the river thrice. And there was a way. Soon there was a spring of blood. Lord Shankara’s Linga could be seen as the JyotirLinga.

Daruka tried to kill Shiva devotee

On the west coast in an area of 16 Yojanas, demons Daruka and Daruk and others were living. Harrasing hermits was their favourite pastime. These hermits sought the help of the sage Orvamuni.

Hearing the problem, Orvamuni cursed Demons that they would be destroyed. Consequently, devas launched an attack on the Demons. This made demons worry about their fate.

Demon Daruka was blessed with some special powers from Goddess Parvati. Using his powers he lifted the entire forest  and put it in the middle of the sea. Securing the safety, they continued their operation harassment with vengeance.

From their secured bastion they used to go by boats and capture the hermits and imprison them in the island. Once it so happened that they captured Supriya, a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Supriya was such a great devotee that he never took even water without performing pooja of the Lord Shiva. He continued his routine even in the captivity.

Enraged by Supriya’s devotion to the Lord Shiva, demons decided to put him to death. Supriya prayed to Lord Shiva for his life. The Lord appeared, opened his third eye and destroyed all demons. The Lord laid open the entire island for all the four classes of people for living. On the other hand, Parvati here granted a boon to Daruka. As a result, at the end of that era, only Demons would be created and she would rule Daruka. Lord Shiva accepted this. Then Shiva and Parvati stayed there. Lord Shiva once again assumed the form of JyotirLinga, with the name Nageshwar and Goddess Parvati was known as Nageshwari.

Temple Architecture:

The origin of the huge temple complex is traced to the period of Mahabharat. The Aundha Nagnath has Hemadpanthi style of architecture spreading for over 60,000 sq ft area. The four walls of the temple are very strong and the corridors are large. The court hall is supported by eight pillars. It is oval shaped. Both this and the Nagesha Lingamurthy is located in the small Garbhagriha, which is situated in basement in main temple.

Unique feature of Nagnath Temple:

The most unique part of this temple is that the idol of Nandi  is not present in front of the shrine of Mahadeva. Usually,Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva is seen in front of main shrine in all temples. However at Nagnath, a separate Nandikeshwara temple is built beside the main temple. The main temple is surrounded by small temples of 12 Jyotirlingas on all four sides. In all, there are 108 Shiva temple and 68 shrines of Lord Shiva. Besides, there are idols and temples of VedavyasaLinga, bhandareshwar, Nilakanteshwar, Ganapati, Dattatreya, Muralimanohar, Dasavatar.

Inside it, there is another shrine called Runamochan teerth. Both these shrines are called “Mother-in-law- Daughter-in-law” shrines. Every 12 years, at the time of Kapila Shashti, kashi Ganga offering as “Padarpan” is performed. During this the water in the teerth kund looks crystal clear. Again at a specific time it becomes ‘Shivala Yukt”.

Close to the Naganath temple, there are several statues of various gods. Besides these there are many more idols of animals, soldiers relating some stories. These stones idols are very beautiful.

Bee army defends the temple against  Aurangzeb’s attack

During Mughal period, Aurangzeb, who was a staunch Muslim  had initiated a drive to demolish all Hindu temples. Aurangazeb was intolerant towards other religions and wanted to destroy this Hindu temple also. When he tried, thousands of bees came out of the temple and attacked Aurangazeb and his army. He left the demolition work midway and fled away. The devotees rebuild the broken temple, which is seen today.

Main Sanctum:

Like most of the Jyotirlingas, the devotee can perform Pooja at garbhgriha. One can perform Abhisheka to the Jyotirlinga. Nagnath Jyotirlinga is situated in basement of the main temple. The area is very narrow and it can accommodate barely 10 to12 people. The Jyotirlinga is made from sand. The devotee can feel the sand while performing Abhishek.

Sometimes it also becomes risky for an aged devotee to enter into that part. There is a risk of skidding while getting down in basement due to wet floor. The administration however is putting its best effort to avoid such incidences. The authorities have also created a team of volunteers and security guards to help devotees. Garbhgriha is airconditioned which provides a great relief to devotees.

Temple Timings:

On a normal day, the doors of Nagnath Jyotirlinga open at 4 am. During the first hour, Pooja and Rudrabhishek is performed by temple priests. The temple closes at 9:00 pm on the normal day, but during Holy Shravan month, the timings are extended.

Unlike Somnath or Rameshwaram or Srisailam, here the devotees enjoy the privilege of offering Abhishek themselves on Jyotirlinga. There is a Mahanaivadya and Aarti between 12 noon and 12:30 p.m.Shrisnan and Pooja timings are between 4:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. During this time, the devotee can not enter into garbhgriha. There is a daily Shri Shayanarti pooja between 8:30 p.m and 9:00 p.m.

Importance of Pandas (preists)

The pandas who perform different poojans for devotees are very important persons. The pandas are very helpful and take minimum 20/30 minutes to perform any Poojans with devotee. They also help you to keep away from chaotic situation at the garbhgriha.

It is observed that Pandas in Nagnath temple are not much demanding in nature, which is a welcome difference. One can perform abhishek of Rs.51/- or Rs.101/- or Rs.151/- and so on .For example, in majority of other Jyotirlingas, one can not expect to perform an abhishek with an amount of Rs.51/-.But if you are in Nagnath, you can. It is a great facility by which even poors can offer Abhishek. What is more, pandas do not charge anything extra for poojans.

At Nagnath, the pandajis are not paid employee of temple trust .Somnath temple in Gujarat has also the same pattern.It is obvious that they will heavily market themselves with the devotee for the sake of their livelihood! This leads to heavy bargaining between devotee and pandas mostly common in this place.

Temple Administration:

The temple is looked after by a board of Trustee called Shree Aundha Nagnath Trust.

There are 11 members in Management Committee and five members are in advisory committee. Since last five years or so the temple is gaining worldwide attention. At present the development work is in progress.

Staying Arrangements:

Aundha is a small village in Hingoli district, which is 15 km away from Hingoli town. The population of Aundha is estimated to be more than 15,000 people. The economy of entire Aundha village is dependent on pilgrims. Despite its increasing popularity, there is hardly any staying place with reasonable facility. At present there is one lodge for staying.

The temple authorities are constructing Yatri Niwas for stay. At present one building of Yatri Niwas has been built. but  facilities are disappointing. However, there are plans to create more accommodation with better facilities.

Information that can make your stay better

The food available at Aundha Nagnath place is good, but the drinking water has odd taste. Many use  packed water bottle. There are many small restaurants which provide Marathi, Punjabi food. In some retsaurants Gujarati food is also available.

Mosquitoes are good enough to make sleep a daunting task. One can fight the problem if he is armed with some kind of mosquito repellent. It is advisable to keep anti mosquito cream or incense sticks to keep mosquitoes away. Necessary medicines and thin blankets are also advisable.

How to Get there?

In true style of Indian pilgrimage the journey to Aundha Nagnath is quite arduous. If we talk about pilgrims from Gujarat, there is no direct train or bus to this place. One has to change his mode of transport to reach here.

However, one can plan like this:

First from Ahmedabad or any other place go to Pune or Aurangabad. Private as well as state government buses are available and journey is overnight. There is no direct train to Aurangabad, but there is a daily train to Pune from Ahmedabad. Trains are also available for Pune. The distance between Aurangabad and Aundha is 210 km and Pune-Aundha is about 545 km. If you are going through Pune, the route would be like this: First go to Nanded, which is about 480 km from Pune. The distance between Nanded and Aundha is about 65 km. From Nanded, go to Basmath by state transport bus, which is 30 km from Nanded. From Basmath,again take state transport bus for Aundha which is about 35 km. From Pune local trains are also available for Nanded. However, one has to check the  availability of  train on the day one plans to go. There are many buses from Nanded to Basmath and Basmath to Aundha. Distance from Parbhani to Aundha is 40 km.

From Aundha, nearest rail head is at Chondi which is about 21 km away from Aundha. At present due to gauge conversion work, no trains are available. By road Aundha Nagnath is 579 km from Mumbai, 359 km from Nagpur. Aundha is connected by state transport buses from major cities of Maharastra. For example, at present, daily two buses are available from Mumbai, one each from Pune and Shirdi, three daily buses from Solapur and five from Nagpur are also available. So options, though few, are there, but one has to plan, else it could become a nightmare!

When to go there?  

Normally one can visit this place around the year. However, during April to June it is hot. But then, for Darshan and that too of a jyotirlinga, does it matter, whether weather is hot or cold!

Vipul K Shukla

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