Long ago in the forest of Naimisharanya, the rishi Shounaka asked the suta (narrator of scriptures) to tell him which was the place best suited for tapas and the attainment of siddhis. The suta replied that foremost among such places was the kshetra known as Sri Harihareswara, where the trimutis, (Hindu trinity) consisting of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara were located, along with Prakriti who was known by the name, Parvati. He added that this kshetra was the best place for the uplift of the downtrodden and that is why the great yogi and guru – Dattatreya selected this place for his abode!
I had no clue about any of this when I decided to go there for a pilgrimage. I can only say that the whole thing was planned by the deities themselves who had decided to bless this poor ignorant soul. The whole thing came about when my Italian daughter, Sahaja asked me to meet her in Pune where she was going to visit Swami Kriyananda, her guru. In the meantime my Maharashtrian daughter Anjali was also asking me to go to Pune so I felt that this was definitely something which I had to do. Sahaja wanted to go and chill off for a couple of days on a good beach and I wanted to warm off near a temple so of course I checked the web and the very first place which came up was Harihareswara. Obviously it was all pre-arranged by divine dictates. Needless to say a good hotel also came up.
The trip from Pune to Harihareswara which was supposed to take only 3 hours eventually took 6 but the route was so beautiful. We passed along the Konkan coast with blue waters and burning sands and reached the hotel which was run by the sweetest couple. Hearing that I was from an ashram they had bought new sheets and blankets and the room itself seemed quite new. They were so good that the wife cooked all our meals herself and at the end of our stay they refused to take any money for the meals and even presented us with shawls etc. I was happy that the room rent had already been given before I came.
That evening we went to the temple. We had to walk through a colourful, rustic, village market filled with all the delicacies of the Konkan coast. Suddenly we came into the open and saw what looked like a big house which turned out to be the temple. There was a small house which housed Kalabhairava and a bigger one for the other deities. All temples of this district are a blend of the traditional Indian architectural style with the Maratha method of construction. We were asked to enter through the Kalabhairava temple and then go to the Shiva temple. The temple was totally empty – no priests, no people, nothing at all. The shrine was inside a cave into which a set of steep steps led. The sort of wicket gate leading to it was closed. When I peered in I couldn’t really make out what was there. I couldn’t see the lingam or anything. I went back to the man who was in charge of the Kalabhairava temple and asked him to get a pujaris (priest). He said they came only in the morning and I would have to make an appointment with the one who was in charge on Thursday morning (the next day was Thursday)! He told me to go and check the board outside which gave the telephone numbers of the pujaris who had been allocated for the various days of the week. Unfortunately the numbers were all in Maratti so I couldn’t make out anything. We found a girl who helped us to make a call and were told that the pujari for Thursday had another appointment so we had to contact the one for Monday. He reluctantly agreed to come the next day at 9 am. I was quite vexed about the whole thing and went and asked the man at the Kalabhairava to kindly let us into the cave since I was confident of doing the puja myself. After some reluctance he agreed and opened the door so we went right inside and there were the three lingas which denoted the Trimurtis. It was quite an experience. With no fanfare and no one to interrupt, I was able to complete the whole of the Shiva puja which I was used to doing every day. In fact I realized that I had brought my I- pod with me so was able to take close ups of the deities. It was really an unbelievable experience. After this we went to the ocean which was hardly a few yards away. The tide was coming in and the sun was setting. The whole background was just made for us. Slowly but surely the sea was swallowing up the land which seemed quite willing to be swallowed. I watched fascinated as the water roared up with every intention of conquering the bay. At last after the sun went down in a burst of orange, we wandered back to the hotel along the beach road, in the gloaming. That evening I asked the manager to give us a list of temples in the district which we could visit the next day. He said that this place was such an ancient and holy site that it was filled with all sorts of antique temples.
Lingam at Harihareswar
Kalabairava is an incarnation of Shiva which he took to kill the asura Shatagna. He is also the lord of all manthrasastras. Shiva blessed him and told him that anyone who came to see him would have to go through Kalabairava’s temple. Since he was helped by Devi you will find that his Shakti is shown beside him and goes by the name of Yogeeswari. The idol here is facing north and the idol of Kalabairava in Kashi is facing south since they are supposed to want to meet each other. These two deities are able to remove all mental problems and this is experienced even today.
Next morning again we went to the temple at crack of dawn. This time the man in the Kalabhairava temple was quite happy to allow us to go in and do the puja since he knew that we would give some dakshina. It was a unique experience and I was allowed to conduct the puja for this ancient temple three times which I considered to be truly remarkable. The full extent of this grace could only be realized the following week when we went to the Bhimashankar temple which was so crowded that we had to inch our way forward just in order to get a darshana.
Lingam at Harihareswar
The temple of Harihareswara is apparently known as Dakshina Kashi or the Kashi of the south. Kashi is the ancient name for Varanasi which has the most famous temple to Shiva. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva have taken residence here in the form of three mountains known as Harihareshwar, Harshinachal, Bramhadri and Pushpadri. It is considered auspicious to do a circumambulation of the mountains but unfortunately we couldn’t do it since one of the mountains rises from the sea and we have to take the tide into consideration before doing it. There are many theertas or ponds along the way. There is one called the Gayatri theerth which is right inside the sea. It can only be seen at low tide and strangely enough the water is sweet even though it gets covered by sea water every day.
Sri Dattratreya Guru Disappearing into Mataji's Sahasrara Chakra
That evening when we meditated on the sea shore I had a vivid vision of Sri Dattratreya Guru striding across the waves and disappearing into my sahasrara chakra. Later on when I described this to our host he nearly fell at my feet and said that I was indeed blessed to have this vision since it is said that Dattatreya visits this temple daily.
The next morning after doing the puja at the temple we went to the city of Shrivardhan by car. The city takes its name from the temple of Lord Narayana. Sri vardhan means the place where Sri or Lakshmi dwells and Narayana is the Lord of Lakshmi. Apparently you can also make the trip by boat but since we had the car we decided to take it. Again the drive was really fabulous. The road went along the Konkan coast with pure white sands and dark blue sea thundering on to the beach. Sahaja was dying to jump out but I persuaded her that it would be best to finish the temples first since most of them might close by noon.
The first temple we went to was the Samajayi Devi temple which again looks exactly like a house. This is obviously the Maharashtrian architecture. The goddess is famous for being able to cure all poisonous bites. Many people who come running after being bitten by poisonous snakes are cured by staying there and eating the prasadam given to them by the priests.
The next temple was very big and had the most beautiful figures of Lakshmi and Narayana and was obviously the one which gave the name to the city.
Next we went to the attractive Shiva temple of Jivaneswara. Strangely enough I could plainly see a ray of light emanating from the top of the lingam and curling its way right to the roof. The phenomenon was seen even in the photo I took. Nobody else saw it.
The last temple on our list was the striking Rupnarayanan temple which had fantastic Orissan design and was made of red stone. This was the only temple which had architecture which was worth commenting on. The idol was pretty big, the size of a man and was really beautiful. It is said that it was brought by someone in the Chalukyan dynasty and installed here.
In the meantime our thoughtful host from Harihareswara had called his friend and told them to make lunch for us so we had our meal at a simple wayside restaurant. It was a typical Konkan meal but of course the most famous Konkan dishes are made with fish and since we were vegetarians we were left to try a variety of other dishes.
Next morning we reluctantly made our way back to civilization..
Hari Aum Tat Sat.