Prabhasa Khanda (Prabhasa Kshetra)
Sutaji began by saying-' During ancient times, Lord Brahma once did a very austere penance resulting into the manifestation of all the four Vedas. Later on, all the eighteen Puranas too appeared from his mouth. These eighteen Puranas were- Brahma Puran, Vishnu Puran, Shiva Puran, Bhagawat Puran, Bhavishya Puran, Narada Puran, Markandeya Puran, Agni Purana, Brahma vaivarta Purana, Linga Purana, Padma Purana, Varaha Purana, Skanda Purana, Vamana Purana, Kurma Purana, Matsya Purana, Garuda Purana and Vayu Purana. Apart from these eighteen main Puranas, there are also similar number of secondary Puranas known as Upa- Puranas. These Upa- Puranas are - Sanatakumara, Narasimha, Skanda, Shiva Dharma, Durvasa, Narada, Kapila, Manu, Ushana, Brahmanda, Varuna, Kalika, Maheshwara, Saamba, Saura, Parashara, Maaricha and Bhargava.'
Sutaji then went on to describe the other features of each Purana-' Brahma Purana contains ten thousand shlokas in it whereas Padma Purana contains fifty-five thousand shlokas. Similarly, there are twenty-three thousand shlokas in Vishnu Purana. Vayu Purana contains the tales related with Lord Shiva and it contains twenty-four thousand shlokas in it. Similarly the remaining Puranas like Bhagawata, Narada, Markandeya, Agni, Bhavishya, Brhmavaivarta, Linga, Varaha, Skanda, Vamana, Kurma, Matsya, Garuda and Brahmanda Purana contain 18,000, 25,000, 9,000, 16,000, 14,500, 18,000, 11,000, 24,000, 81,100, 10,000, 17,000, 14,000, 18,000 and 12,200 shlokas respectively.'
Sutaji told the sages that all the Upa- Puranas owe their origin to the main Puranas which are eighteen in number. He also revealed to them that they could be categorized into three main types- Satvika, Rajasika and Tamasa. Satvika Puranas contain the tales of Lord Vishnu while Rajasika Puranas contain the tales of Brahma and Tamasa Purans contain the tales of Agni and Rudra. One of the chief characteristics of Puranas is that each of them is divided into five sections- 'Sarga' (Description of how creation began), 'Pratisarga', 'Vansha' (Description of prominent dynasties), 'Manvantara' and 'Vanshanucharita' (Tales related with the descendants of the famous sages).
On being asked by the sages about the prominent places of pilgrimage, sutaji named many holy places but according to him Prabhasa Teerth was the crown of all the places of pilgrimage and was incomparable. Recounting a tale when Parvati had once asked Lord Shiva the same question, sutaji said-' At that time Shiva had told Parvati that Prabhasa Kshetra was supreme among all the holy places and capable of liberating a man from all his sins. He had also told her that due to prevalence of sins in Kaliyuga people would not attain virtues despite going on pilgrimages. Shiva had also told her that this was the reason why he had created numerous holy places and kept them secret so the holiness of these places remained intact. I have manifested myself in the form of a divine Shiva linga at Prabhasa kshetra. The whole universe has originated from it and merges into it ultimately at the time of deluge. The Shiva linga is called Somanath and very few people are aware of it's existence. This Shivalinga continue to exist since it's manifestation in a particular kalpa named Bhairava long ago. Unfortunately, people of kaliyaga under the influence of all pervading ignorance would fail to recognize the importance of holy places. Such people would try to demean the value of holy places and make fun of those people who go on pilgrimages. Being blinded by their superficial intelligence they would try to find faults with rituals and religion. Such would be the condition of the mortals in kaliyuga that they would criticize everything that is religious and spiritual in nature. How can one expect from these unfortunate people of kaliyuga to understand the significance of Prabhasa kshetra and which is revered even by me ?'
Parvati, who had been listening to the tale with rapt attention, became even more curious to know about Prabhasa kshetra. So she requested Lord Shiva to shed more light on the other important aspects of this sacrosanct place. Lord Shiva, continuing with his description of Prabhasa kshetra, said- ' This sacrosanct place has temples of three deities on it's three sides. To its east is situated a grand temple of Surya Narayana while there is a magnificent temple of Madhava to it's west. In the same way there is a beautiful temple of goddess Bhavani to the north of Prabhasa kshetra and towards it's south lies the ocean. This holy place is spread in the area of five yojanas and is divided in three major areas- Maheshwara, Vaishnava and Brahma. There are about one crore temples related with different deities in Vaishnava and Brahma kshetras while Maheshwara kshetra contains one and half crore temples. As the name implies, each area has been named after one God forming the Trinity. Anybody who has the good fortune of living in the central part of Prabhasa kshetra becomes absolved of all his sins even if he has committed most abhorrent sins. The significance of this holy place can be understood by the fact that a man born there does not take a second birth and attains salvation. One whom scholars of the Vedas call 'Kaalagni Rudra' is famously known as Bhairava in Prabhasa kshetra.
Emphasizing on the significance of Someshwara linga and its deep association with the Vedas, Lord Shiva told Parvati-' The divine Someshwara linga exists since time immemorial and will remain for eternity. This revelation descended on me while I was engrossed in a deep state of meditation. Someshwara Linga has deep association with the Vedas and it enhances their sanctity by establishing itself in each of them at different periods of time during the day. During morning time Someshwara linga establishes itself in the Rigveda, during noon in the Yajurveda, during afternoon in the Sama veda and during evening time it establishes itself in Atharvana veda.
Different names of somnatha
Parvati curiously asked Lord Shiva about the reason why Somnatha was known by so many different names. Lord Shiva said- ' Since the time this divine linga first manifested itself very few blessed souls had the knowledge of it's existence. Brahma has a life span of one kalpa at the end of which even he ceases to exist giving way to his successor- a new Brahma. In the same manner this divine Linga acquires a new name at the end of each kalpa. The present kalpa is seventh in order as six kalpas have already passed. The name of the present Brahma is Shatananda and this divine Linga is presently famous by the name of Somnatha. Similarly it was famous as Mrityunjay during the time of Brahma named Virinchi. During second kalpa this Linga was famous as Kalagnirudra and the name of Brahma was Padmabhu. The third kalpa had Swayambhu as Brahma and the Linga was famous as Amritesha. The name of the fourth Brahma was Parmeshthi in fourth kalpa and the linga was famous as Annamaya. In the same way the names of the fifth and sixth Brahma were Surajyeshtha and Hemagarbha respectively and the names of the Linga during their periods were Kritiwasa and Bhairava Natha respectively.'
Lord Shiva also revealed to Parvati that the next kalpa- eighth in order would have Chaturmukha as Brahma and the divine Linga would be known as Prana Natha.Goddess Parvati then asked Shiva about the exact location of the Linga in Prabhasa Kshetra. Lord Shiva told her that the sacrosanct place of Prabhasa Kshetra was situated between the plains of two rivers Vajrini and Nyankumati. He also told her that the eternal Linga was not very far from the sea coast. Dwelling at length about the good fortunes of those living in Prabhasa kshetra, Lord Shiva told her-' Anybody who does not abandon this holy place despite his hardships and troubles is certain to attain to my abode. One who has the good fortune of dying at Prabhasa kshetra attains salvation. There will be prevalence of sins in Kaliyuga. As a result of this people would experience all sorts of hurdles and problems in their lives. To minimize their sorrows and to lessen their miseries, I have personally instructed Ganesha not to abandon this place even for a moment. Of all the Lingas present on the earth, Somnatha is specially dear to me.'
Siddheshwara linga and Siddha linga
Describing the reason why this sacrosanct place was named Prabhasa, Lord Shiva told Parvati- ' I dwell in the entire area stretching between the ocean in the south and river Kaureshwari. Being situated at the western coast, this entire area is radiated by Surya's light for a relatively longer period of time and hence it has been named 'Prabhasa' meaning luster. This is the reason why there is situated a grand temple of Lord Surya in Prabhasa Kshetra. Not far from this Surya temple is situated a magnificent temple of Lord Siddheshwara, which was famously known as Yaigishavyeshwara in ancient times.'
Lord Shiva then went on to describe why Siddheshwara was called Yaigishavyeshwara during ancient times-' There lived a sage named Jaigishavya in previous kalpa. He used to daily worship a Shiva linga named Mahodaya, which had manifested on its own. Keeping in view Shiva's fondness for ashes, he used to smear it on his body hoping to please his deity. Not only this he even slept on ashes. He thus led an extremely austere life. At last he was able to please Lord Mahodaya by his devotion. When Lord Mahodaya appeared before him and expressed his willingness to fulfill anything he wished but Jaigishavya wanted nothing but total devotion in his deity (Mahodaya). Lord Mahodaya blessed him with immortality and said-' There would be nobody as powerful as you. Your feats achieved in spiritual things will be unmatched and you would become famous as 'Yogacharya' or teacher of Yoga. One who regularly worships this particular Linga which you have been worshipping with such deep devotion till now is certain to get absolved of all his sins.' Having blessed Yaigishavya thus, Lord Mahodaya disappeared from his sight. After this incident, Mahodaya linga also came to be known as Yaigishavyeshwara. In course of time, when the Kaliyuga of that Kalpa arrived, some sages named 'Balkhilyas' had gone to the same place and worshipped Lord Mahodaya. Similarly, many more sages went there and attained 'siddhi' or accomplishment. This is how this Linga came to be known as 'Siddheshwara' (the Lord of all accomplishments). There are many holy places in the vicinity like Siddha linga, which was installed by Lord Surya. Anybody who worships this linga on the auspicious day of trayodashi of the bright half of the hindu month Chaitra attains virtues similar to the accomplishment of 'Pundareeka yagna'.
Chandra Deva eulogizes Shiva
Parvati asked Lord Shiva about the reason Chandra deva had to install a Shiva linga at Prabhasa Kshetra. Lord Shiva replied that Daksha had got married twenty seven of his daughters to Chandra Deva. Chandra Deva was very attached to Rohini, who was one of them and neglected others. When Daksha came to know about this he cursed Chandra Deva as the result of which he lost his luster and started waning day by day. The worried Chandra Deva did an austere penance for thousand of years to please Lord Shiva. At last Lord Shiva became pleased and appeared before him. Subsequently, Chandra Deva got a divine Shiva linga installed by Brahma and worshipped it for thousand of years. Lord Shiva appeared once again and expressed his willingness to fulfill any wish Chandra Deva expressed. Chandra Deva requested Lord Shiva to dwell in the very Shiva Linga he had been worshipping till then. Lord Shiva revealed to him that there was no question of dwelling in the Shiva Linga as he had never abandoned it in the first place. Chandra Deva had regained his luster on account of his arduous penance. Lord Shiva blessed him and said- ' Since you have regained your luster (Prabha) by dint of your austere penance, this holy place will become famous as 'Prabhasa Kshetra'. This Linga would be named upon you and become famous as Somnath Linga.'
Having blessed Chandra Deva thus, Lord Shiva disappeared. Later on Chandra Deva instructed Vishwakarma to build a magnificent temple at the sight. He also built a city nearby so that all the priests who were supposed to supervise the rituals of worship could live there.
The significance of getting one's head tonsured
Dwelling on length about the significance of getting one's head tonsured at holy places, Lord Shiva told Parvati-' A man should get his head tonsured whenever he gets an opportunity to visit a holy place because hair are believed to contain all the sins he has committed. There is a holy place called Padma teertha, not far from Somnatha temple. A devotee should first get his hair removed at Somnatha teertha and then immerse them at Padma teertha. This way he becomes absolved of all his sins. Women should have a symbolical cut of their hair. It is necessary to perform the rituals of tarpana in the names of ancestors after the head tonsuring ceremony. According to the scriptures, an ocean is considered holy and nobody should its holy water in an impure state. While bathing a devotee should chant the following mantra-
'Om namo Vishnu guptaaya Vishnu rupaaya namah;
Saannidhye bhava devesha saagare lavanaambhasi.'
There are about five crore Shivalingas submerged in the ocean near Somnatha. There are also other holy places situated nearby like Agnikunda, Padma sarovara etc.
The emergence of Saraswati in Prabhasa Kshetra
On being asked by Parvati about the emergence of river Saraswati at Prabhasa Kshetra, Lord Shiva narrated the following tale to her-' The holy Sarswati flowing in Prabhasa kshetra constitutes of five different streams- Harini, Vajrini, Nyanku, Kapila and Saraswati. Lord Vishnu once instructed Saraswati to carry 'Badwanala' (Submarine fire) and dump it in the ocean near Prabhasa kshetra. After taking permission from Lord Brahma, her father Saraswati flew towards her destination. Ganga became sad at her departure so she asked her as to how could she have a glimpse of her now that she was going to such a distant place. Saraswati consoled Ganga by saying that she would be able to see her whenever she looked eastwards. The swift currents of Saraswati penetrated the earth and reached Patal Loka carrying Badwanala along with her. She continued to move beneath the ground towards her destination. As she reached Prabhasa Kashetra, four learned sages, who were well versed in Vedas arrived there and invoked Saraswati to give them the privilege of separate bath by dividing herself in four different streams.
The names of these sages were Hiranya, Vajra, Nyanku and Kapila. While Saraswati was about to comply with their request, suddenly Samudra arrived there and he too expressed the same wish. Thus Saraswati divided herself into five different streams- Harini, Vajrini, Nyanku, Kapila and Saraswati. Eventually, when Saraswati reached near the ocean, Badwanala whom she was carrying was surprised to see the high tides rising in the ocean. He thought that the Samudra was frightened of his fury so he asked Saraswati- Why is the ocean scarred of me? Saraswati inflated his ego by saying that who would not be scarred of him. Badwanala was pleased and wanted to grant her a boon. Saraswati remembered Lord Vishnu, who instantly gave his divine appearance in her heart. She narrated the whole story and sought his advise. Lord Vishnu advised her to ask Badwanala to make his appearance small like the eye of a needle. Saraswati, following the advise of Lord Vishnu asked Badwanala to become small like a needle and keep sucking the ocean. Subsequently, Saraswati summoned Samudra and told him to accept Badwanala to which he agreed. This way Samudra devoured Badwanala, who continues to suck the water of the ocean even today as per the instructions given by Saraswati. It is believed that tides are nothing but the manifestation of Badwanala's exhalations. This was how Saraswati emerged in Prabhasa kshetra.
Prabhasa -the abode of trinity goddesses
Lord Shiva revealed to goddesses Parvati that Prabhasa kshetra boasted of possessing many more Shiva lingas apart from the famous Somnatha Shiva linga. He also gave names of some of the prominent Shiva lingas situated over there and said- ' To the North-East of Somnath temple is situated a grand temple of Lord Sarveshvara Deva, who is also famously known as Siddheshwara. The reason behind this is that Shiva linga over there had been installed by the 'siddhas' (accomplished ones) in ancient times. People who are desirous of acquiring siddhis throng this holy place and engage themselves in austere penance. To the east of Siddheshwara temple is situated one more temple called Kapileshwara. It has been named after sage Kapila, who had installed the Shiva linga over there. A Shiva linga named Gandharveshwara is also situated nearby. This particular Shiva linga had been installed by a gandharva named Dhanavahana. To the east of Gandharveshwara temple is situated Vimaleshwara temple. It is believed that anybody suffering from tuberculosis gets cured after he worships in that temple. Dhanadeshwara linga was installed by Kubera, who was bestowed with the Lordship of wealth on account of his austere penance.'
Lord Shiva told Parvati that there were also temples of three goddesses in Prabhasa Kshetra apart from Shiva temples. These three goddesses were Mangala, Vishalakshi and Chatawara representing the three types of power-will power, power of action and power of knowledge. Lord Shiva said-' The pilgrimage to Prabhasa kshetra is believed to be incomplete until and unless these three goddesses have been worshipped. Goddess Mangala represents the power of Lord Brahma (Brahma shakti) while goddess Vishalakshi that of Lord Vishnu. Goddess Chatawara represents my power. Goddess Mangalaa holds the privilege of getting worshipped first. During ancient times Chandrama did an austere penance for thousand of years and all the deities including Lord Brahma had gone there to witness his amazing feat. At that time goddess Mangala had blessed them and this was how she got her name.'
Lord Shiva then went on to describe how goddess Vishalakshi got her name-' A fierce battle had taken place between the deities and demons during Chakashusa manvantara. Lord Vishnu fought along with the deities and helped them in defeating the demons. Demons fled towards the south but were chased by the deities. Realizing that it was not easy to annihilate the demons, Lord Vishnu remembered goddess Mahamaya and sought her help. Mahamaya appeared instantly and looked at Lord Vishnu with her large eyes. This is how she got her name. In the present kalpa she is also known as Lalitoma. To the south of Vishalakshi temple is situated the temple of goddess Chatawarapriya. Goddess Chatawarapriya is the saviour of people living in that area. Anybody who worships her on the auspicious day of Mahanavami with appropriate rituals is blessed.
OM NAMO NARAYANAYA