Tirthyatra Parva – Narada Devarshi visits Yudhishtira and explains the benefits of pilgrimage quoting the conversation between Bhishma and Pulastya Brahmarshi

Vaishampayana uvācha, “Janamejaya! Dharmaraja Yudhishtira became sad hearing the words of anxiety expressed by Draupadi and his brothers towards the well-being of Dhananjaya. As he was pondering over this, Mahatma Narada Devarshi arrived in his midst. Mahatma Narada Devarshi was resplendent with the Supreme Radiance like the fire that rises in all its glory when ghee is offered to it.

 

On seeing him approach them, Dharmaraja stood up along with his brothers to greet him with respect. The foremost of the Kurus, Shreeman Yudhishtira was radiant like Devaraja Indra surrounded by his brothers. Like how Gayatri does not forsake the four Vedas and the brilliance of the sun does not forsake the Meru Parvat, similarly Yaagnaseni Draupadi also has not forsaken her husbands.

 

O sinless Janamejaya! After accepting their salutations and offerings, Devarshi Narada imparted proper solace to Dharmaputra Yudhishtira. After uttering kind words of assurance and comfort, he said the following to Dharmaraja Yudhishtira, “O foremost among kings of dharma! Tell me, what is it that you need? What can I give you?”

 

Then Dharma nandan Raja Yudhishtira and his brothers offered their pranāms to the deiform Narada and said thus – “Mahābhāg! O Maharshi who observes the most exalted vrat! I believe that if you who are worshipped by this whole universe is happy with our service, then all my missions are fulfilled with your benevolence. O sinless One! If I along with my brothers are deserving of your grace, then kindly destroy this doubt of mine in entirety. A man who is devoted to pilgrimage and does the circumambulation of this earth, what fruit does he receive? Please be kind enough to tell me.”

 

Narada Devarshi uvācha, “Hey King! Please listen to me carefully, I will tell you what the intelligent Bhishma Pithāmaha heard about this subject from the venerable Pulastya Maharshi. Mahābhāg! The saintly Bhishma Pithāmaha took refuge in the important vrat associated with the Pithrus at the sacrosanct place of Gangadwaar (Haridwar) that is served by Devathas and Gandharvas and stayed with the Maharshis. There, the radiant Bhishma offered tarpan to the DevathasRshis and Pitharas in accordance with the principles of the Vedas.

 

After sometime, Bhishma Pithāmaha was immersed in japa and saw the exemplary Pulastya Brahmarshi near him. That sage of immeasurable tapas was resplendent in all his glory. On seeing this excellent sage, Bhishma experienced unparalleled bliss and became astounded. Hey Bharata! Bhishma who is foremost among the observers of dharma offered salutations to the great sage. He became sanctified and focussed on Pulastya Brahmarshi after accepting the arghya offered to him and introduced himself.

“O Wise One! May You Prosper! I am your servant Bhishma. I have become liberated from all sins after having your darshan”.

 

Maharaja Yudhishtira! Bhishma who is the foremost among archers and known for his austere speech and words said thus and kept quiet. Pulastya Brahmarshi became pleased on seeing the weak body of Bhishma who had observed the principles, self-study and practices of the karmas of the Vedas diligently.

 

Pulastya Brahmarshi uvācha, “Hey repository of dharma! O saintly person and observer of austerities and exemplary vows! I am extremely pleased with your modesty, abstinence and adherence to the truth. O sinless child! It is because you have adhered to the most superlative dharma of seeking refuge in the ancestors, that you are having my darshan as a result of its potency and I have a lot of love for you.

 

O sinless Bhishma, foremost of the Kurus! My darshan is infallible. Tell me, which of your heartfelt desires shall I fulfil? I will give you whatever you ask.”

 

Bhishma uvācha, “Mahābhāg! You are worshipped by the entire gamut of creation. What have I not received from your approval of me? I am grateful that I have had darshan of such an exemplary Brahmarshi as yourself. O foremost among the repositories of dharma! If I am a vessel of your benevolence, then I lay my doubt in front of you. Please clear it.

 

I have suddenly got a doubt about the matter of dharma during pilgrimage and I wish to hear a resolution from you about the same; please be kind enough to enlighten me. O deiform Brahmarshi! One who traverses the entire universe with the intention of pilgrimage, what fruit does he receive? Please tell me this.”

 

Pulastya Brahmarshi uvācha, “Son! Pilgrimage is a great refuge for Rishis. I will tell you about this. Please listen to me carefully about the benefits of visiting sacred shrines. Only one whose hands, feet and mind are under control and who is endowed with knowledge, austerity and glory will receive the fruits of service during pilgrimage. One who stays far away from acceptance, is content with whatever is there and is bereft of ego will obtain the benefits of pilgrimage.

 

One who stays far away from conceit and other flaws, is devoid of the ego of being an agent, moderate with regard to diet and stoic will be liberated from all sins and will enjoy the true fruits of pilgrimage. Hey King! One in whom there is no anger, who is truthful, who observes the vows with determination and who looks upon all the beings as the ātma will enjoy the fruits of the sacred shrines.

 

Rishis have recommended appropriate yagnas for pleasing the Devathas and mentioned the fruits of those yagnas as well which will be obtained in this earthly and heavenly world. But O monarch! But poor persons will not be able to perform these yagnas; because many items are required for this. When various kinds of materials are collected, its scope increases. Hence, only kings and a few other prosperous persons only can perform these yagnas. One who has little wealth and bereft of help and who is alone and without resources will not be able to perform yagnas.

 

O great king! I will tell you that which can be done by poor virtuous people and those who can enjoy the fruits dispensed by yagnas through their good deeds. O foremost among the Bharatas! This is the most guarded secret of Rishis. Pilgrimage is a sacred deed. It will be far more efficacious then performing yagnas. The reason that man is so poor is because he cannot even fast for three days in sacred shrines, does not go on pilgrimage, does not give away gold and cow.

 

The kind of benefits that a man who goes on a pilgrimage receives is not attained by even those who presents plenitude of dakshina and who performs many yagnas. Brahma’s renowned place by the name of Pushkar is famous in the human world. Here any fortunate man can enter.

 

O great scion of the Kurus! There are over ten thousand crore sacred shrines at all three times in Pushkar. There are permanent holy places of AdityaVasuRudraSādhyaMarudganaGandharva and Apsaras there. O king! There devatha, daitya and Brahmarshis perform tapas and become endowed with virtue and are sanctified and united with Divya Yoga. A high-minded person who wishes to go to the divine place of Pushkar will find all his sins that suppress his entry to the heavenly worlds destroyed and will be worshipped in the heavenly worlds. Maharaja! Bhagawan Brahma who resides on a lotus eternally resides in Pushkar with great pleasure.

 

MahābhāgDevatha and Rishis who have attained great virtue and sanctity in Pushkar have accomplished their goal. It has been said by sages and seers that one who takes a dip there and is dedicated to the worship of Devathas and Pitharas will receive ten times the fruits attributed to the Ashvamedha. O Bheeshma! You should feed at least one Brahmin after visiting Pushkar. That good deed will see him partaking in the pleasures of the earthly and heavenly worlds. A man who lives on greens, fruits and roots should not see blemishes in others and offer it to a Brahmin. A wise man will obtain the benefits of the Ashvamedha through that. O excellent One! If a Brahmin, kshatriya, vaishya or sudra takes a dip in the sacrosanct shrine of Brahma, then he will not take a birth in any yoni (form).

 

One who takes a bath in Pushkar tirth on Karthik Purnima will attain the infinite worlds of Brahma. Bharata! It can be understood that one who folds his hands and offers salutations to the three Pushkars at dusk and in the early hours of the morning would have taken a dip in the tirthas and performed āchamanam. All the sins committed by a woman or man from their birth to their present state will be destroyed the moment they take a dip in the sacred tirth of Pushkar. Hey King! Like how Bhagawan Vishnu is the origin of all the Devathas, similarly Pushkar is deemed to be the origin of all the tirthas. A man who resides in Pushkar for twelve years observing abstinence and principles will attain the fruits of all the yagnas and go to Brahmaloka.

 

The fruits of one who performs agnihotra for hundred years and one who resides in Pushkar for at least one Purnima in the month of Karthik is equal. Three white summits of mountains, three times and three Pushkar are considered to be most accomplished tirth. On what basis have these been considered to be pilgrimage? We do not know what it is about. It is extremely rare for one to visit Pushkar, doing tapas in Pushkar is even rarer, performing charity in Pushkar is an excellent opportunity and even more rare and the good fortune of residing in this divine place is extremely impossible. One must control their sensory organs and have regulated and prescribed food and stay there for twelve nights and after circumambulation of the tirth should go to Jambumārga.

 

Jambumārga is a tirth that is revered by Devathas, Rishis and Pitharas. A man will be endowed with the fruits of his desires and receive the fruit of the Ashvamedha yagna. A man’s inner organs will be purified after residing in that place for five nights. He will never receive misfortune and will achieve exalted accomplishments. A man should go to Tandulikāshrama upon returning from Jambumārga. He will never be miserable after visiting this place and will attain Brahmaloka at the end. Hey King! One who goes to Agastyasarovar and worships the Devathas and Pitharas fasting for three nights will obtain the fruits of Agnishtoma yagna. One who stays there living on vegetarian food like food grains or fruits will go to the excellent Kumāraloka. He should then go to the ashrama of Kanva which is revered by Bhagawati Lakshmi.

 

O foremost among the Bharats! It has been called as Dharmāranya and known as the most sacred and supreme tirth. One is liberated from all sins the moment he steps into that place. One who resides in this place eating frugally and worships the Devathas and Pitharas will attain the fruits of the yagna that bestows all one’s desires. One should do the parikrama of that place and head to Yayatipatan. The one who visits this place will definitely receive the fruits of the Ashvamedha yagna. One should then go to Mahakālatirth. One should eat moderately observing all the basic principles. One will obtain the fruits of the Ashvamedha yagna by taking a dip in the KotitirthOne should then go to the place of Bhagawan Shiva that is renowned in the three worlds as Bhadravat.

 

A sincere traveller will attain the benefit of a thousand offerings of cows the moment he has  close darshan of Bhagawan Shiva and will after partaking the prasad of Mahadevi, become the leader of the ganas and become endowed with prosperity and wealth and be rid of obstacles from enemies. From there, he should go to the sacrosanct Narmada River and do tarpan to the Devathas and Pitharas wherein he will attain the fruit of the Agnishtoma yagna. After keeping the sensory organs under control and observing Brahmacharya, he should proceed to the southern ocean where he will attain the benefits of Agnishtoma yagna and will be fortunate to sit on a vimana. He should control the sensory organs, eat in moderation and observe the basic requirements of cleanliness and take a dip in the Charmanvati River. By doing so, he will receive the benefits of the Agnishtoma yagna sanctioned by Raja RantidevHey Dharmaraja Yudhishtira! From there one should visit the sacred shrine of Himalayaputra, Aabu.

 

There is the renowned ashrama of Vashishta Brahmarshi where one will receive the benefit of thousand godāna by staying one night. O foremost among kings! A Brahmachari or one who has control over his sensory organs must bathe in the Pingatirth where he will receive the benefit of dāna of hundred cows. Hey great king! Then one should visit the excellent Prabhaskshetra. Bhagawan Agni who is the face of the Devathas along with his charioteer Vayu reside there. There if one takes a dip and meditates, then he will receive the fruits of Atirātra and Agnishtoma yagna. If this is followed by taking a bath in the sangam of the Saraswati River and the ocean, then one will receive the benefits of thousand godāna and will attain the heavenly worlds. O foremost of the Bharatas! That pious person will always dazzle like Agni because of his inner radiance.

 

A man should bathe in the tirth of Varuna and reside there for three nights taking a bath daily and offering tarpan to the Devathas and Pitharas. A pilgrim who does that will shine like the moon. He will also receive the benefits of the Ashwamedha yagna. O foremost of the Bharatas! He should go to Varadāntirth from there. Yudhishtira! It is in this place that Durvasa Maharshi gave a boon to Bhagawan Shree Krishna. A man who takes a dip in Vardāntirth will receive the benefits of thousand godāna. The pilgrim should go to Dwarka from there. He should observe the basic principles and eat timely food. If the pilgrim takes a bath at Pindāraktirth, he will receive a lot of gold.

 

Mahābhāga! One can see lotus impressions on gold coins in that tirth even today. This is an extraordinary matter. That is only the residence of Mahadev where one can see the imprint of trishul on lotus. One should take a dip in the sangam of the Sindhu River and the ocean of Varunatirth and offer tarpan to Rishis, Devathas and Pitharas. One will attain the dazzling Varunaloka that is resplendent. There if one worships Shankukarneshwar Shiva, he will attain ten times the benefits of the Ashwamedha yagna.

 

O foremost of the Bharatavamsa! After completing the circumambulation of that holy place, one should then visit the renowned Damitirth that destroys all types of sins. There Brahma and the Devathas meditate on Bhagawan Maheshwar. One should bathe, eat food in moderation and have darshan of Rudradeva who is surrounded by the Devathas, for all the sins committed from birth to now will be destroyed if he does the aforementioned. All the Devathas praise Bhagawan Dami. One will receive the benefits of Ashwamedha yagna by taking a dip there. In the ancient days, Bhagawan Vishnu had purified himself in this tirth after killing daityasdanavas.

 

O repository of dharma! One should travel to Vasudhārātirth from there which is praised by all. One will receive the fruits of Ashwamedha yagna after going there. There, one should bathe and offer tarpan to the Devathas and Pitharas. A man who does this will enter Vishnuloka. There is a holy tank of the Vasus. A man will earn the favour of the Vasus by taking a bath there. There is a famous tirth there by the name of Sindhuttam which destroys all sins. One will attain plenitude of gold by taking a bath here. A pious man who goes to Bhadratungatirth will go to Brahmaloka and will attain an excellent position.

 

The holy Shakrukumārikātirth is venerated by devout persons. One will attain the heavenly worlds quickly by taking a bath there. The sacred Renukatirth is also there, where a Brahmin will become as pure as the moon after taking a dip there. After observing the basic principles and eating in moderation, a man should visit the Panchanadatirth where he will receive the fruits of the Panchamahayagna which has been described in detail in the scriptures. From there, he should go to the excellent place of Bhima. There he should take a dip in the Yonitirth to become the son of Devi. Her radiance is like the glowing golden halo. Hey King! A man will receive the fruits of thousand godāna by offering prayers in this tirth.

 

The pious man should then go to Shreekund and offer prostrations to Lord Brahma. He will receive the fruits of thousand godāna by doing so. From there, he should go to the excellent Vimalatirth where one can see fishes in the colours of gold and silver even today. A man will attain Indraloka quickly by having a bath there and will be rid of all his sins and attain the Supreme Goal. He should go to Vitastatirth and offer tarpan to the Devathas and Pitharas. By doing so, he will receive the benefits of the Vājpeyayagna. There is a renowned palace by the name of Vitasta of Nagaraja Takshaka in Kashmir which will liberate all sins. By taking a bath here, the pious will surely receive the fruits of Vājpeyayagna and will be free from all sins and attain a supreme place.

 

From there, the devout should visit Vadavātirth. There one should take a dip at the time of sunset and should  offer charu as per his capacity to Agnideva. There the items offered to the Pitharas is considered to be infinite. DevathasRishisPitharasGandharvasApsarasGuhyakasKinnaras, YakshasSiddhasVidhyādharasManushasRakshasasDaityasRudra and Brahma observed all the tenets of dharma and performed charity for thousand years in this place and offered charu to please Bhagawan Vishnu. They all gave seven āhutis to the seven mantras of the Rig Veda and pleased Bhagawan Keshav.

 

Bhagawan was pleased with them and bestowed the eight gunas (qualities) that beget fortune and prosperity and the eight siddhis. O King! Bhagawan Keshav gave them many boons as per their desires and suddenly disappeared like how lightning disappears in between the clouds. Hence, that tirth is famous in the three worlds as Saptacharu. There, the charu offered to Agnideva is more beneficial to one lakh godāna, hundred Rajasuya yagnas and thousand Ashvamedha yagnas. Hey King of Kings! One should visit Rudrapadtirth next. By doing puja to Mahadeva there, a pious man will receive the fruits of Ashwamedha. Hey King! One should then observe Brahmacharya and visit Manimāntirth and stay one night. By doing so, one will receive the fruits of Agnishtoma yagna.

 

O scion of the Bharatas! Hey King! From there, one should visit Devikātirth where the birth of Brahmins is heard about. That is the sacred shrine of Bhagawan Shiva who wields the trishul which is famous in the three worlds. One should take a dip in Devikā and offer prayers to Bhagawan Maheshwara and offer charu as naivedya. By doing so, he will receive the fruits of yagna that fulfils one’s desires. There is the Kāmatirth of Bhagawan Shankara there which has been venerated by the Devathas. If a man takes a dip there, then he will attain all that he wants quickly.

 

A man who performs a yagna and does the study of the Vedas and touches the sand, flowers and water there will overcome the grief that comes with death. There is an altar there that is five yojanas long and half yojana wide that is worshipped by Devathas as well as Rishis and Munis. O epitome of Dharma! One should then go to Deerghasatratirth. Brahma, Devathas, Siddhas and Rishis reside there. They observe all their vows, live on alms and spend their time in meditation. The moment one goes there, he will receive fruits that are equal to Rajasuya and Ashwamedha yagnas.

 

One should then visit Vinashanatitirth where Saraswati flows unseen by anybody and observe the principles of cleanliness and moderate food intake. Saraswati flows in three tirths here and one should bathe in the first to receive the fruits of Agnishtoma yagna. By bathing in the second, one obtains the fruits of thousand godāna. One will attain Nagaloka by bathing in the third. Sasayānatirth is extremely rare and one should bathe there. There, Pushkartirth is seen in the form of a rabbit hiding in the Saraswati River every year on Karthik Purnima. One will always be radiant like the moon if they bathe there. He will also obtain the fruits of thousand godāna.

 

From there, one should visit Kumārakotitirth and bathe there and do puja to the Devathas and Pitharas. One will receive the fruits of ten thousand godāna and advancement of their lineage by doing that. From there, one should go to Rudrakotitirth which is a place where one crore Munis had come filled with anticipation and joy to have darshan of Bhagawan Rudra in the ancient times. Each and every sage kept saying that he would have darshan of Bhagawan Rishabhadwaja first and departed for this place. Then Bhagawan Shiva took refuge in yoga and created crores of Shiva Lingas which manifested in front of all those sages to give peace to those saintly persons and rid them of their sorrow. Thus, each and every one of them had darshan of Bhagawan individually. Mahadevi was pleased with the devotion of the pure-hearted sages and bestowed a boon upon them –

“O Maharshis! The gradual progress of your dharma will happen from today. A man who becomes clean after taking a dip in Rudrakoti will attain the fruits of the Ashwamedha yagna and will reform his lineage.”

 

Hey King! One should then go to the renowned Saraswatisangamtirth where Brahma, Devathas and Maharshis rich in tapas offer prayers to Bhagawan Keshav. People visit that place on Chaitra Shukla Chaturdashi. By taking a dip there, one will get plenitude of gold and will be liberated from all sins and will attain Brahmaloka. Hey King! One should go to Avasānatirth where the Rishis have spent a great deal of time to receive the fruits of thousand godāna.

 

[Excerpt: Tirthayatra Parva, Vanaparva, Mahabharat]

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