The Pushkaram legend

Print edition : September 10, 2004

CIVILISATIONS have thrived along the banks of the rivers from time immemorial. The Krishna river, the lifeline of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, has witnessed many a civilisation thrive and dissipate along its course. Originating from the Sahyadri range in the Western Ghats, north of Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra, the Krishna flows in the south-eastern direction quenching the thirst of people and irrigating agricultural lands during its journey of more than 1,200 km.

The Krishnaveni Mata statue at the Prakasam barrage in Vijayawada.-VIJAYA BHASKAR

Hindu mythology attaches great religious significance to rivers, by likening them to goddesses. The Krishna emerges as a spout from gomukh, a rock formation like the mouth of a cow, at the Adi Mahadeva temple in Mahabaleswhar.

Although it is only a small stream of water when it comes out of the gomukh, the Krishna becomes a behemoth with its many tributaries merging with it along its course. The Koyna, the Varana, the Panchaganga, the Ghataprabha, the Malaprabha, the Bima, the Tungabhadra, the Musi, the Dindi, the Paleru, the Ahalya, the Muniyeru, the Wyra, the Chandravanka and the Naguleru - all these join it to make it one of the biggest rivers in the country.

Several pilgrim centres have flourished along the course of the river, including the Bramaramba Mallikarjuna temple at Srisailam, the Sri Amareswara Swamy temple at Amaravati in Guntur district, the Durga-Malleswara Swamy temple at Vijayawada, and the Yogananda Narasimha Swamy temple at Vedadri, which attract a large number of devotees.

Legends about the historical or mythological background of the river continue to raise the curiosity of people. An interesting myth is attached to the Pushkaram. A Brahmin called Tundila, after a prolonged penance, was granted a boon that he would remain permanently with Siva, who took the form of water, one of his eight incarnations. Ever since, Tundila became the chief of all water sources in the universe and came to be known as "Pushkara", the one who caters to the needs of the whole world.

Brahma, the creator, wanted water for creation. He pleased Siva through penance, and secured a boon that Pushkara would live in his kamandalam. However, the planet Brihaspathi sought a boon from Brahma that Pushkara be placed at his command, as water was essential for mankind. Pushkara refused to oblige Brihaspathi as he did not want to leave Brahma and laid the condition that if he were to go with Brihaspathi, Brahma should accompany him.

Brahma resolved this ticklish situation: Pushkara would stay with Brihaspathi for 12 days when the latter was entering a zodiac sign and 12 days when he was leaving it. On all days during the period in between, Pushkara would stay with Brihaspathi for a length of two muhurthams (auspicious time) in the afternoons. Brahma, accompanied by all the other gods, would go to a holy river ruling the moon sign in which Brihaspathi was staying for the stipulated period. Thus, Pushkara could be with Brahma as well as with Brihaspathi. This caused Pushkarams to take place in 12 rivers every 12 years.

During Pushkarams, people believe that their sins will be washed away and that they will become healthy, wealthy and purified if they take a holy dip in the rivers. People also pay homage to their departed ancestors during this time.

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