A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ganga-Sagar Mela

Kapil Muni Temple at Sagardwip
Today is Makar Sankranti; a day when the sun makes a transition northwards to Capricorn from Sagittarius (Read more in This is Utkarsh Speaking: Makara Sankranti )

Besides maker sankranti, this day is also known for the famous Ganga-Sagar mela, a fair which is second only to the famous Kumbh Mela (For more on Kumbha Mela,
This is Utkarsh Speaking: Kumbh Mela). Ganga-sagar mela, or the fair of the river Ganga and the sea, is however an annual event, unlike the Kumbh Mela. Ganga-sagar mela is held at Sagardwipa, the confluence of the river Ganga and the Bay of Bengal and on this day millions of devotees take a dip at the holy confluence to seek salvation from the cycle of birth-death-rebirth.

Not far from the confluence is a temple dedicated to Kapil Muni and the pilgrims make it a point to visit the temple after taking a holy dip at the confluence. Let us know Kapil muni a little better.

According to a myth, King Sagar of Ikshvaku dynasty of Ayodhya had organized ninety-nine Ashwamedha yagnas. During the hundredth one, the sacrificial horse was let loose, as was the practice. The horse was followed by sixty thousand sons of King Sagar, who fought the opponents valiantly and had made King Sagar the head of a huge empire. Seeing King Sagar presiding over a massive empire, Indra felt intimidated and he hid the horse inside Kapil Muni’s ashram, who was meditating at that moment. When the sons saw the horse at the ashram, they assumed that the muni had stopped their horse. They were
Kapilmuni idol at the temple
angry, but since they could not kill a sage, they started to disturb him. This angered Kapil muni and cursed them to be burnt to ashes and within no time, the sons were a heap of ashes.

Anshuman, the grandson of King Sagar learnt about the death of his father and uncles and approached Kapil muni to seek a way for their salvation. Kapil Muni suggested that the only way to the salvation of their souls, was by getting the river Ganga to flow on earth, however that would need to propitiate the holy trinity and other deities too. Later, Bhagirath, the only great-grandson of King Sagar decided to perform the final rites of the sons of King Sagar.

Bhagirath undertook severe penance to appease all the gods and finally Ganga agreed to descend on earth. However, her torrential force needed to be held; else all on earth would blow away in her forceful descent. Lord Shiva’s entangled hair was the only way, to arrest the force of the river, and by the time it managed to find its way out of his locks, the river would have lost its force significantly. Lord Shiva is thus referred to as Gangadhar, in this form, where he accepts Ganga in his locks.
Before heading towards the sea, the river Ganga washed over the heap of ashes of King Sagar’s sons, leading to their salvation. It is said, that Kapil Muni had his ashram not far from the confluence. The local lore says that earlier the temple of Kapil muni was far away from the present day spot of the fair and the waters would recede on the Makar sankranti day enabling pilgrims to get a view of the temple. From the very next day of the sankranti, the waters would start moving in and the temple would be submerged for a year till the next sankranti. (There aren’t too many people alive to vouch for the veracity of this, though). Today, a permanent temple of Kapil Muni stands on firm ground. Ganga came to earth due to the efforts of Bhagirath and thus sometimes the river is also referred to as Bhagirathi.

An interesting aspect of this myth is that it was said that King Sagar had an ambition of become a Charavarti, one who is the ruler of a large empire, but had a tough time and failed in his final attempt. He had to bear the sad news of the death of his sixty thousand sons. His sixty thousand sons too had the same aggression of his. The grandsons of King Sagar, Anshuman and Dilip, undertook penances to get Ganga to flow on earth, but they too did not achieve their objective. Bhagirath, renounced everything and performed severe penance at the Himalayas and attained his objective as he was devoid of ego and greed. Many say that the later rulers of the Ikshvaku dynasty bore resemblance to Bhagirath, one of them being Ram of Ramayan.

Ganga-Sagar mela in West Bengal is considered to be one of the major festivals and pilgrims come from far and near. A popular adage says, ‘saare tirth baar-baar, ganga-sagar ek baar’, meaning all pilgrimages can be undertaken more than once, but ganga-sagar can be undertaken only once. While I am not sure if this has any religious reason to it, one thing for sure is that the infrastructure to reach and return from the pilgrim spot is extremely poor. The place has received no attention from the tourism perspective and everything is in a state of wanting. The religious significance and that too for only one day, with no decent and adequate accommodation facilities, the fair turns a nightmare at times.

But what are a few irritants on the way to achieve salvation? If Bhagirath could endure penances for his ancestors in the Himalayas, and get the heavenly Ganga to flow on earth, cant the modern day devotees undertake a few hardships to achieve their own salvation??

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