By Swami Harshananda
Visiting places of pilgrimage as a part of religious duty imposed by the scriptures of one’s faith or for getting spiritual inspiration is a universal phenomenon found in all the great religions of the world.
Historical Significance of Nāsik
Out of the several important places of pilgrimage listed by the purāṇas and the nibandhas, Nāsik is also the one. It is a district headquarters in Maharashtra 10 kms. from the Nāsik Road railway station. It was probably known as Nāsikya or Navaśikhara in the olden days. The first name might have been derived because of the cutting of the nose or nāsikā and ears of Surpaṇakhā by Lakṣmaṇa at this place.
Different Names of Nāsik
Alternatively, since there are nine peaks or nava-śikharas of small mountains nearby, it might have been christened ‘Navaśikhara’. It is sometimes called ‘Paścimakāś. The Godāvarī river on the banks of which it is situated is also named as ‘Gaṅgā’.
Religious Significance of Nāsik
Nāsik is one of the four holy places where the great bathing festivals and religious fairs known as ‘Kumbhamelā’ are held. It takes place when the planet Bṛhaspati or Guru enters the zodiacal sign Simha, once in twelve years. A bath in the Godāvarī during this period technically called as ‘Puṣkara’ is considered as extremely auspicious.
The Godāvarī river takes originates from the Brahmagiri hill near Tryambakeśvar, about 32 kms. from Nāsik. The temple of Tryambakeśvar contains one of the twelve Jyotirliṅgas. Pañcavaṭī, where Rāma, Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa camped during their banishment from Ayodhyā and from where Sītā was abducted by Rāvaṇa is to the north of Nāsik town. This spot was known as Padmanagara in the Kṛtayuga, Trikaṇṭaka in the Tretāyuga, Janasthāna in the Dvāparayuga and Nāsika in the Kaliyuga.
Nāsik, Ancient Temple City
In ancient times, Nāsik was abounded by the temples most of which were destroyed by Aurangazeb. Among these were the temples of Nārāyaṇa, Umāmaheśvara, Rāma, Kapāleśvara and Mahālakṣmī. Most of the surviving temples were built during the rule of the Peṣvas of Maharashtra.
The temple of Sundaranārāyaṇa is situated in the Āditwārpeṭ, facing east. There are three images in the shrine. They are:
- Image of Nārāyaṇa in black stone, 91.5 cms. in height is at the center
- Small image of Śrīdevī
- Small image of Bhudevī
The image of Nārāyaṇa is so situated that on the 20th or 21st March every year, the sun’s rays at sunrise fall on his feet.
The Kālārām temple is the temple of Rāma with the image in black stone. It is another well-known structure frequented by the pilgrims. It is built on a jagati (platform) which is 87 meters by 32 meters. It was constructed in A. D. 1798.
Other Pilgrim Attractions
- There are two more temples of Nārāyaṇa and Bhadrakāli which are also well-known.
- Another temple at Mālegāse built by the king Nāru Saṅkar, has a nice bell cast in Portugal.
- Sītāgupha or guhā in Pañcavaṭī is the cave where Sītā is said to have been kept and protected. It is another important spot visited by the pilgrims. It contains the images of Rāma, Sītā, Lakṣmaṇa and a liṅga of Pañcaratna Mahādeva.
- There are a few, very old and tall Banyan trees that are believed to have sprung up from the original trees that were there when Rāma arrived.
- There are numerous bathing places and pools known as kuṇḍas between Govardhana and Tapovana.
- The Rāmakuṇḍa near the left bank of the Godāvarī where it turns towards the south is considered the holiest of these kuṇḍas.
- Near Nāsik there are more than 20 Buddhist caves known as Pāṇḍuleṇā-guhās where the bhikkus used to live during the rainy season.
- Many archaeological findings have been discovered near Nāsik which belonged to the prehistoric eras like the stone inscriptions of later period.
- Nibandhas means digests.
- It is approximately 6.2 miles.
- Guru means Jupiter.
- Simha means Leo.
- It is approximately 20 miles.
- He lived in A. D. 1618-1707.
- It is approximately 3 ft.
- It is approximately 285 ft.
- It is approximately 105 ft.
- It is approximately 10 kms. or 6 miles to the west of Nāsik.
- It is approximately 2.5 kms. or 1 V2 miles to the south-west of Nāsik.
- The period is 200 B. C. to A. D. 200.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore