THE DEMONS- CHAND AND MUND

Once, the demon brothers, Chand and Mund were passing near the Vindhya Mountain when they saw Goddess Chandika there. Both these demons were stunned by her divine beauty. They had never seen such a beautiful woman in their life. They went to Mahishasura and told him about her beauty.

Mahishasura proceeded with a huge army, which comprised of valiant commanders like Vidaalnetra, Vishang, Vaayakal, Agraayudh, Chikshur, Raktabeej etc. The army assembled at the foothills of Vindhya Mountain. There, Mahishasura instructed Dundubhi to go and bring Goddess Durga by any means.

Dundubhi went to Goddess Durga and boasted about Mahishasura's might and power by saying- "The mighty Mahishasura has defeated all the deities who ran out from heaven to save their lives. He is lord of all the three worlds and is invincible but this victorious and mighty king has been enslaved by your beauty. You must not miss this chance of marrying him."

Goddess Durga replied- "I am aware of Mahishasura's feats. I am most willing to marry him. But there is one problem. There is a tradition in our clan according to which an aspiring husband is required to give a Shulk (tax) in lieu of getting married." Dundubhi was happy thinking that it would not be difficult for Mahishasura to fulfil her demand. He said- "Mahishasura can even give up his life for your sake."

Hearing this, Goddess Durga laughed loudly and said- "O demon! According to the tradition of our clan, only such a person can marry a woman who defeats her in the battle." Dundubhi went back to Mahishasura and narrated the whole story. Mahishasura instructed Chikshur to go and bring Goddess Durga after enslaving her. Chikshur proceeded with a huge army. Seeing him coming in the direction of Goddess Durga, Lord Brahma instructed her to use an armour to protect herself. The Goddess refused by saying- "No demon can stand before me in a battle."

All the deities then chanted Vishnupanjar Stotra for her safety. Protected by the Stotra, she was successful in killing many demons. Seeing his devastated army, Mahishasura himself came to fight her.

KILLING OF MAHISHASURA
Narad asked sage Pulastya as to how Goddess Durga kill Mahishasura. Sage Pulastya replied- "After the killing of Chikshur, Mahishasura sent Namar to fight Goddess Durga. Namar proceeded towards the Vindhya Mountain accompanied by a huge battalion. After reaching there, he shot a volley of arrows towards the Vindhya Mountain. As a result, the whole mountain was covered by innumerable arrows. This defiant act of Namar made Goddess Durga extremely furious. She attacked her enemies menacingly. She killed some of the demons by her sword, some with her mace and many more were killed by her arrows. Even her mount- Simha killed many demons. The demons were completely surprised by the ferociousness of the attack and fled from the battlefield.

Seeing his whole army fleeing from the battlefield, Namar came forward, mounted on an elephant to fight Goddess Durga. He unleashed his devastating weapon- Shakti towards her. At the same time, he also attacked her mount- Simha (lion) by releasing many arrows towards it. But Goddess Durga destroyed all the weapons. In the meantime, the elephant held the Simha with its trunk but the Goddess's mount somehow released itself from the trap and attacked Namar. Namar fell from the elephant and died.

After Namar's death, Chikshur came to fight the Goddess but both his hands and legs were severed by her. Ultimately, Goddess Durga severed his head as a result of which, Chikshur died. The news of Chikshur's death spread like a wildfire. Many more valiant commanders of Mahishasura's army came forward to fight her but all of them were vanquished.

At last, Mahishasura came forward to fight Goddess Durga in the guise of a buffalo. Goddess Durga started playing her damru (small drum) and Veena, which resulted into the emergence of numerous ghosts. He attacked the ghosts with his horns, four legs and by violently lashing his tail. He then attacked Durga's mount- Simha and his violent movements shook even the earth and the mountain. Goddess Durga grabbed his neck with the help of a noose. The next moment, Mahishasura transformed his appearance into an elephant. Goddess Durga then severed his trunk. Mahishasura again changed his guise into a buffalo. Goddess Durga attacked him by unleashing various weapons but the demon escaped unhurt.

Goddess Durga suddenly jumped down from her mount- Simha and climbed upon Mahishasura, who was in the guise of a buffalo. Mahishasura started jumping violently. Goddess Durga pressed Mahishasura's back with such force that he suffocated. She then severed his head. Suddenly, Mahishasura appeared in human form with a sword. Goddess Durga kicked him on his chest and again severed his head. The news of his death created havoc in his army and the demons fled from the battlefield and hid themselves in Paatal loka.

The deities became pleased at Mahishasura's death and eulogised Goddess Durga. She became pleased and after assuring the deities of taking re-incarnation for their welfare, disappeared from the scene

RE-INCARNATION OF GODDESS DURGA
Revealing the reasons for Goddess Durga's re-incarnation, sage Pulastya says- "Goddess Durga is also known as Kaushiki as she had manifested from the cell (Koshika) of Uma's (Parvati's) body. After the manifestation, she went to Vindhya Mountain with the objective of killing the demons- Shumbh and Nishumbh. She was accompanied by numerous Bhoot ganas (spirits).

After Sati's death, Rudra engaged himself in penance and became a celibate. He had even relinquished his responsibility of leading the deities' army. When Mahishasura came to know that the deities were bereft of their commander, he attacked them as a result of which, the deities were defeated. The deities went to Lord Vishnu who was at that time living at Shwetdweep. When they reached there, they were surprised to find that Lord Vishnu was aware of their defeat. Lord Vishnu then advised them by saying- "All of you must go to Mena- Maanasputri of Agnishwat and request her to give consent to marry Himalaya. The same Mena would give birth to a beautiful girl who in reality would be the re-incarnation of Sati. All of you must go to Kurukshetra and eulogise her on the night of Amavasya."

The deities were curious to know about the origin of Kurukshetra. Lord Vishnu told them- "During the initial phase of Satya Yuga, there was a mighty king named Riksh, who was the descendant of Soma. Samvaran was the son of Riksh. He succeeded his father at a young age. Samvaran was a great devotee of mine. Vashishth- the son of Varun was his chief priest and had taught him all the Vedas. One day, Samvaran went to the forest for hunting after entrusting his responsibilities to Vashishth. After reaching the forest, he started wandering in search of his game. He saw a beautiful lake full of numerous lotus flowers. He also saw many Apsaras and other divine beauties enjoying themselves by singing and dancing. Samvaran was infatuated by the divine beauty of one of those Apsaras- Tapti, who was the most beautiful among them. Coincidentally, Tapti too saw Samvaran staring at her. She was so infatuated by Samvaran's handsomeness that she fell unconscious. She was carried by her companions back home.

After returning to his capital, Vashishth was surprised to find change in Samvaran's behaviour. It seemed as if his mind was pre-occupied by something. By his Yogic power, Vashishth came to know about the whole incident. He decided to take the help of Tapti's father- Surya. He went to Surya and requested him to marry Tapti with Samvaran. Surya did not want to annoy his esteemed guest, so he gave his consent. Vashishth then returned to his hermitage accompanied by Tapti and ultimately Tapti and Samvaran got married.

THE TALES OF KING KURU AND KURUKSHETRA
In course of time, Tapti gave birth to a son, who possessed all the signs of royalty. After growing up, he mastered all the four Vedas and other scriptures within a very short period. At the raw age of 24, he became a scholar. When he attained marriageable age, he was married to Saudamini- the daughter of Sudama. Later on, he was appointed as the successor by his father, Samvaran.

After becoming the king, Kuru ruled his subjects in a just manner but very soon he got bored of his monotonous life. He knew that only those kings became immortal who accomplished amazing feats. He decided to do something for which people would remember him. With the objective of making his name immortal, he went to the most sacred place called Samantpanchak and decided to cultivate the eight virtues - Tapa, Satya, Kshama, Daya, Shauch, Daan, Yuga and Brahmacharya on its barren land. He started ploughing a piece of land with a golden plough, which was pulled by Lord Shankar's bull and Yamaraj's buffalo named Paundrak.

While he was busy ploughing the field, Indra approached him and asked suspiciously as to what he was trying to cultivate. When Kuru revealed his intentions, Indra made fun of him and went back. But Kuru was not worried and continued to cultivate the land. In a very short time, he had already cultivated the land measuring 7 kosas. One day, Lord Vishnu arrived and asked the same question, which Indra had asked. When Kuru revealed his intentions, Lord Vishnu was surprised and wondered as to from where he would get the seeds to grow these things. Kuru told him that all these eight virtues were present in his own body and it would not be a difficult task to cultivate these things. Lord Vishnu wanted to test his commitment and sincerity and said- "Give the seeds to me. I would sow the seeds while you should plough the field."

Kuru outstretched his right hand but Lord Vishnu cut it into thousands of pieces with his chakra. All the pieces were distributed among the deities but Kuru was unfazed and again stretched his left hand towards Lord Vishnu. But his left hand too met the same fate. In this way, the most generous and benevolent King Kuru offered all his organs to Lord Vishnu. But all the organs were severed by Lord Vishnu. At last, Kuru offered his head as he had nothing else to offer. Lord Vishnu was pleased by his generosity and asked him to demand anything. Kuru replied- "All the area cultivated by me should become famous as a sacred pilgrimage. All the devotees who visit or die at this sacred pilgrimage must attain salvation. This place should be known by my name."

This is how the most sacred place of pilgrimage- Kurukshetra came into existence

BALI- THE DEMON KING
Lomaharshan told the sages- "Bali was the descendant of Virochan and the son of Hiranyakashipu. After his father's death, he defeated the deities and drove them out from their abodes. Very soon, all the three worlds were under his control. He was a virtuous king and so were his subjects. During his reign, every corner in his kingdom would be abuzz with religious activities. As a result, the whole world became devoid of sin."

One day, Goddess Lakshmi arrived and said- "O brave king of the demons! I am pleased by your valiance with which you fought and vanquished the deities. This is the reason why I have come on my own will to bless you." After saying this, Goddess Lakshmi merged with his body. This way, Bali acquired all the splendours of the world.

DEITIES GO TO BRAHMA LOKA
The sages asked- "How were the deities able to defeat Bali and why did Lord Vishnu take the incarnation of Vaaman?" Lomaharshan replied- "After being defeated by Bali, Indra went to Meru Mountain where his mother Aditi lived and narrated the woeful tale of the deities' defeat. Aditi took her husband's (Kashyap's) advice in this regard. Kashyap thought that only Lord Brahma could solve their problem. So, he went to Brahma loka accompanied by the deities.

When they reached there, they found numerous Brahmins engaged in religious activities. Lord Brahma too was sitting among them. Sage Kashyap and all the deities made salutations to Lord Brahma and stood silently.

THE DEITIES DO PENANCE
Lord Brahma told the deities that he was aware of their plight. He was of the opinion that the mighty Bali could be defeated only by the Almighty himself and nobody else. Lord Brahma said- "You must go to a place called Amrit, which is situated towards the north of Ksheersagar. The Almighty God is engaged in an austere penance at that place. All of you must go there and try to please him by doing penance and after he is pleased, just request him to take his next incarnation as Aditi's son."

Sage Kashyap and all the deities agreed to follow Brahma's advice. All of them proceeded towards Shwetdweep. When they reached there, they were amazed to find the place devoid of any creature. Its boundary seemed limitless and even the Sun's rays could not reach it. Sage Kashyap initiated all the deities into the austerity named Kaamad- fulfiller of all the desires. After that, all of them commenced their severe penance.

LORD NARAYAN BLESSES KASHYAP
Lord Narayan became pleased by Kashyap's eulogies and austere penance. He appeared before the deities and asked them to demand anything they wished for. Kashyap requested him to give Aditi, the privilege of becoming his mother. Lord Vishnu agreed to take birth as Aditi's son.

The deities became pleased and all of them proceeded back towards Kashyap's hermitage. When they reached Kurukshetra, the place where Kashyap had his hermitage, they inspired Aditi to commence her penance to please Lord Vishnu. Aditi did a severe penance for 10,000 years. The place where she did her penance later on became famous as Aditivan. Lord Vishnu was extremely pleased by her devotion.

LORD VISHNU APPEARS
Lomaharshan says- Lord Vishnu appeared and told her that he was most willing to fulfil her wish. Aditi requested him to make her son- Indra, the lord of all the three worlds once again. Lord Vishnu assured her that he would take birth as her son and kill all the demons.

Aditi had apprehensions as to how she could bear the weight of Almighty God in her womb. But Lord Vishnu assured her by saying- "Don't worry. I will give you the strength to do that. In course of time, Aditi became pregnant. But soon after her pregnancy, the earth shook violently because of the unbearable weight of the foetus. Wherever she went, that particular portion of earth tilted down because of the enormous weight. Her pregnancy had significantly eroded the radiance of the demons.

BALI'S QUERIES TO PRAHLAD                    
Lomaharshan says- "When Bali saw the demons becoming devoid of radiance and power, he enquired about the reasons from his grandfather, Prahlad. He wondered whether it was a bad omen. Prahlad went into a deep trance and saw the whole earth shaking violently. He also saw high tides rising in the ocean. He was convinced that these signs went to prove the inevitable emergence of the deities' power. Prahlad then meditated upon Lord Vishnu and found him manifesting in Aditi's womb as a Vaaman (dwarf). He also saw the whole universe existing in his body. Prahlad was surprised but the next moment he controlled himself and told Bali- "Now I know the reason why the demons have become devoid of their radiance and power. Lord Hari is about to take incarnation as the son of Aditi and this is the reason why all the demons have become powerless."

Bali curiously asked Prahlad- "Who is this Hari, the tormentor of the demons? Why should we be scared of him as we have many valiant demons who could defeat him easily." Prahlad became furious at Bali's utterances and cursed him by saying- "How dare you say like this! I am ashamed that you have taken birth as my grandson. I curse you to lose your kingdom and fall from grace because you have criticised Lord Vishnu- the supreme saviour."

MANIFESTATION OF LORD VAAMAN
Bali felt sorry for hurting Prahlad's feelings. He said- "Dear grandfather! My intelligence has been overshadowed by my arrogant attitude. You have done the right thing by cursing me. I am not scared of losing all my prosperity and splendour but your anger is unbearable for me."

Now even Prahlad realised that he had committed a mistake by cursing his own son. He said- "Unable to control my anger, I cursed you but now nothing can be done and my words will definitely come true. But don't worry as my blessings would help you to become a supreme devotee of Hari and you would be protected by him."

Lomaharshan says- "In course of time, Lord Vishnu took birth as Vaaman. This incident of Vishnu's birth had liberated Aditi and all the deities from their sorrow. Lord Brahma appeared and performed Vaaman's Jaatkarm. He also eulogised Vaaman and worshipped him. Lord Vishnu was pleased by his eulogy and revealed to him that he took the incarnation of Vaaman to make Indra, the lord of all the three worlds."

Lord Brahma was pleased and presented a black coloured deer skin to him. Similarly, sages like Marichi, Vashishth, Brihaspati, Angira etc. presented Palaash Danda, kamandalu, sacred thread and silken clothes respectively. Lord Vaaman then proceeded towards the place where King Bali was performing his oblation. Lord Vaaman was in the appearance of a hermit. Though he was of diminutive size, yet each of his steps were enough to shake the earth.

LORD VAAMAN'S DEMANDS
Lomaharshan says- "The shaking and trembling of earth surprised Bali and he enquired about this strange happening to Shukracharya. He was also surprised by the fact that Agni was not accepting the offerings. Shukracharya, after contemplating for a while on this matter, came to know about Vaaman's incarnation. He informed Bali that Vaaman was on his way to the oblation site and his each step was causing turbulence on the earth.

Bali was pleased that he would get an opportunity to see the Almighty God whom the sages contemplate upon. He was proud of his good fortune that the lord was paying him a visit. Shukracharya aware of the reason for Vaaman's arrival warned Bali against making any promise to him. Bali replied- "How can I refuse if the Almighty God demands anything from me? I am willing to face any hardship to safeguard my benevolent image. I don't mind if the deities get benefited by my actions. Even if the lord is coming with the intention of killing me, I am not scared as that is how I would attain salvation. Come what may, I am not going to abandon my charitable nature."

As the conversation between Shukracharya and Bali continued, suddenly, Lord Vaaman arrived at the site. Vaaman's radiance subdued the power of all demons present there. Lord Vaaman being impressed by the grandeur of Vaaman's Yagya complimented him for organising such a magnificent Yagya. Bali eulogised and worshipped his esteemed guest. He requested Vaaman to reveal the reason of his arrival and promised that his wishes would be fulfilled. Lord Vaaman smiled and told him that he needed a small piece of land measured by three steps for the performance of Yagya. Bali was surprised by this demand and requested him to ask for more land but Lord Vaaman told him that he needed only that much land.

Bali agreed and took a vow to donate a piece of land measured by three steps. Hardly had Bali taken his vow, when suddenly Lord Vaaman expanded his size. His first step covered the whole earth. By his two successive steps, he covered the two worlds. This way, Bali was forced to donate all the three worlds according to his vow. Lord Vishnu then made Indra, the king of all the three worlds and sent Bali to the nether world named Sutal. He blessed Bali by saying- "You would enjoy a long life till the end of this present Kalpa. You would hold the post of Indra till the arrival of Saavarni Manavantar. As long as you remain supportive of the Brahmins and the deities, you would enjoy all the pleasures of life. But if you go against their wishes then you would be fastened by Varun's noose."

RIVER SARASWATI
The sages requested Lomaharshan to reveal about river Saraswati's origin, which flowed in Kurukshetra. Lomaharshan said- "Saraswati originates from Paakad tree (Indian fig tree). She enters Dwaitvan after passing through numerous mountains. While describing about her majesty, sage Markandeya felt that Saraswati was the source from, which everything originated- all the three worlds, three Vedas, Vidya (learning), heavenly bodies like Sun, Moon etc. Once, sage Markandeya eulogised Saraswati by saying- "O Saraswati! You manifest in the form of cryptic mantra- "OMKAR". You are the eternal form through which the Almighty God (Brahma) manifests himself in different appearances."

Saraswati was pleased by his devotion and said- "O Brahmin! I am willing to go wherever you want to take me." According to Markandeya, river Saraswati was initially known as Brahmasar. Later on, she became famous as Ramhalad. Sage Markandeya requested Saraswati to flow in the territory of Kurukshetra where sage Kuru was doing his penance. This way, Saraswati diverted her course towards Kurukshetra.

KURUKSHETRA
The sages requested Lomaharshan to describe about the geographical condition of Kurukshetra. Lomaharshan replied- "There are 7 different forest ranges in Kurukshetra. They are- "Kamyakvan, Aditivan, Vyasavan, Phalkivan, Suryavan, Madhuvan and Sheetvan. Nine rivers flow across Kurukshetra- Saraswati, Vaitarni, Aashga, Mandakini Ganga, Madhustrava, Vaasu, Kaushiki, Kaggar and Hiranyavati. Kurukshetra is believed to be the most sacred place of pilgrimage. A pilgrim visiting Kurukshetra should begin his pilgrimage only after worshipping the Yaksha. He should then pay a visit to the famous Aditivan where Aditi had accomplished a severe penance to get a son. By doing this, he is blessed with sons possessing all the good qualities. After that, he should pay a visit to a place called Savan where Lord Hari dwells. A devotee who pays a visit to Lord Vimaleshwar becomes liberated from all his sins and goes to Rudraloka after his death. Some other places of pilgrimage situated in Kurukshetra and which are considered to be very sacred are Paritlav, Kaushiki, Dharani, Daksha's hermitage, Shaalukini, Sarpeedadhi, the temples at the bank of Panchnad river, Vaaraha temple, Someshwar temple etc."

"A devotee should also pay a visit to Ramkunda where Parashuram had constructed five ponds and filled them up with the blood of the Kshatriyas, whom he had killed. He had pacified the soul of his ancestors by performing Tarpan with the blood of the dead Kshatriyas. The dead ancestors were pleased with him and blessed him in becoming free from the sins, which he had acquired because of killing Kshatriyas."

SAGE MANKANAK EULOGISES SHIVA
Sage Mankanak was the Manasputra of Kashyap. He had seven sons, who were famously known as Marud Ganas. They are the one who hold all the movable and immovable objects of this world.

Once, sage Mankanak injured his finger by the sharp edge of Kusha grass while he was trying to pluck them for his religious rites. But he was quite surprised when he found vegetative juice (Shaak Rasa) oozing out from the wound instead of blood. He thought that perhaps his blood had transformed into vegetative juice by the virtue of his penance. This abnormal event made him arrogant and he started dancing in joy as a result of which the whole world started to swerve. Lord Brahma became puzzled by this sudden development. He went to Lord Shiva and requested him to stop Mankanak from dancing so that the universe became steady.

Lord Shiva went to sage Mankanak and said- "O supreme sage! Being a hermit, you are supposed to have control over your emotions. May I know the reason of your extreme joy, which makes you dance." Mankanak told him that his penance had given him great power due to which vegetative juice was oozing out from the wound instead of blood and this was the reason for his extreme joy and happiness. "That is why I am dancing", said Mankanak. But Lord Shiva was not amused and wanted to teach him a lesson. He hit the thumb with the nail of his finger as a result of which, ashes poured out from the wound. Mankanak was surprised by this. Being ashamed, he said- "I know, you are none other than Lord Shiva because nobody else can perform this amazing feat. I am your great devotee. You are the one on whom, deities like Brahma and Vishnu are dependent. I need your blessings so that the virtues of my penance remain intact." Lord Shiva blessed him and promised to dwell in his hermitage forever.

SOME SACRED PLACES OF PILGRIMAGE

AUSHANAS TIRTHA
Describing about the greatness of Aushanas, the most sacred place of pilgrimage, Lomaharshan narrates the following tale- "During Treta Yug, Lord Rama had killed many demons while he was in exile. Once, while he was living in Dandak forest, he had severed the head of a wicked demon with his Kshura arrow. The severed head of the demon was carried by the arrow for quite a distance and coincidentally it got stuck on the thigh of sage Rahodar. It became very difficult for him to perform his religious duties. Bad smell emanating from the severed head was unbearable. Some sages advised him to pay a visit to Aushanas to become free from his problem.

Rahodar went to Aushanas and as soon as he touched the holy water of the river, the severed head got detached and fell in the river. Delighted, he went back to his hermitage. From that day, Aushanas also came to be known as Kapaalmochan.

VASHISHTHAPAVAH TIRTHA
The sages asked Lomaharshan about the origin of Vashishthapava Tirtha and about the reason why sage Vashishth was carried along by the powerful current of Saraswati river. Lomaharshan said- "There was great rivalry between sage Vashishth and sage Vishwamitra. In course of time, it turned into a bitter enemity. Vashishth had his hermitage at a place called Sthanu Tirtha and Vishwamitra's hermitage was situated just towards the west of it. Vishwamitra was jealous of Vashishth's accomplishment."

Once, Vishwamitra asked river Saraswati to bring Vashishth to his hermitage with the help of powerful currents so that he could kill him. River Saraswati became sad and refused to obey him, which made Vishwamitra angry. He again repeated his commands. Seeing no other option, she went to Vashishth's hermitage and narrated the whole story to him. Vashishth agreed to be carried away by her current.

When Vishwamitra saw Vashishth, he furiously started looking for some weapon to kill him. Saraswati became scared and carried Vashishth to safety as she did not want to acquire the sin of collaborating in the killing of a Brahmin. Vishwamitra angrily cursed her- "May your water be mixed with blood and may the demons thrive on your banks."

This way, Saraswati flowed with her water mixed with blood for one year. All the sages, deities, Gandharvas and Apsaras were worried at this happening. But, this was not the case with the demons, who lived happily at the bank of river Saraswati thriving on the blood mixed in her water. They used to live happily- dancing and rejoicing, as if they had won the heaven from the deities.

One day, some sages arrived at the bank of river Saraswati and became distressed after seeing her water mixed with blood. They asked her about the reason. She revealed the whole story and the misdeeds of Vishwamitra. The sages then requested river Aruna- the liberator of all sins to change her course and start flowing towards river Saraswati. As soon as river Aruna submerged into river Saraswati, she (Saraswati) regained her purity once again.

KAMYAKVAN TIRTHA
The sages asked Lomaharshan about the origin of Kamyakvan Tirtha. Lomaharshan replied- "Once upon a time, the sages of Naimisharanya came to Kurukshetra to take bath in river Saraswati. But, since they were large in number, the banks of river Saraswati could not accommodate all of them. In their helplessness, they created an imaginary place of pilgrimage named Yagyopavitik Tirtha and took an imaginary dip in it. But many of the remaining sages were unable to do even this."

When Saraswati saw such a large gathering of Brahmins, desirous of having bath in her holy waters, she created a garden (Kunj) and started flowing towards west. This very garden later on developed into a dense forest and became famous as Kamyakvan.

STHANU TIRTHA
The sages then asked Lomaharshan about the origin of Sthanu Tirtha and the importance of Sthanu Vata. They also expressed their desire to know about the reservoir named Saanihitya and how Indra had filled it up with mud. Sage Lomaharshan replied- "Once, Sanat Kumar upon being asked by Baalkhilya and other sages the same question, narrated the following tale- During the period of final annihilation, when the whole earth was submerged in water, Lord Brahma manifested inside an egg. He slept there for thousands of Yugas. When he woke up from his sleep, he found the world devoid of any inhabitants. Being under the influence of Rajo Guna, he planned to commence his creation. At the same time, Lord Vishnu awakened from his sleep and broke that egg after seeing that the whole world had merged inside him. Subsequently, Lord Brahma began his creation starting from the word- 'OMKAR'. After that, the terms- Bhur, Bhuvah and Swah respectively came into existence. The brilliant effulgence radiating from the egg had dried up the water as a result of which, the remaining water had turned into the shape of an embryo. The reservoir- Saanihitya is situated at the same place where the egg had manifested itself. Meru Mountain is nothing but the outer shell of that egg and all the other mountains are its membrane. The oceans and the rivers are the fluid inside that egg. There is a great reservoir near the navel area of Lord Brahma. A big Banyan tree is situated just in the middle of that reservoir. This tree appears like a pillar (Sthanu). All the three major castes (Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya) originated from that tree. Lord Brahma then created his Manasputras- Sanat, Sanandan etc. Subsequently, he created the Saptarishis and the Baalkhilyas. All the Baalkhilyas did a severe penance for thousands of years without having a morsel of food. They had become very weak but still Lord Shiva was not pleased with them."

Once, Lord Shiva and Uma were travelling by aerial route when suddenly Uma saw the weak Baalkhilyas engaged in penance. She was saddened to see their frail bodies and requested Lord Shiva to end their miseries. Lord Shiva told her that the Baalkhilyas had not attained a bit of virtuousness inspite of their severe penance. "They have still not become free from anger and desires", said Lord Shiva. But Uma was reluctant to believe his words. Lord Shiva then asked her to wait there and himself went to show their real worth to her to prove his point.

Lord Shiva then shed his apparels and became naked. As a mendicant, he visited the hermitages of all the Baalkhilyas. At that time the Baalkhilyas were engaged in penance and hence only womenfolk were present at the hermitages. The womenfolk, infatuated by Lord Shiva, started running after him. When the Baalkhilyas came to know about this, they uprooted his private organ (Linga) and threw it on the ground. Hardly had the Linga fallen on the ground, the whole world got engulfed by the process of destruction. All the sages and learned saints became worried and went to seek Lord Brahma's help. Lord Brahma revealed to them that this destruction was due to Shiva's wrath. He also told them about the futility of their penance as they were still under the influence of anger and lust. "You cannot attain perfection until your flaws are removed", said Lord Brahma.

SAGES TAKE LORD SHIVA'S REFUGE
Ashamed, the sages requested Lord Brahma to tell them the way to pacify Lord Shiva. Lord Brahma assured them that they would be forgiven if they took Lord Shiva's refuge. Lord Brahma went to Kailash Parvat accompanied by all the sages. After reaching there, he eulogised Lord Shiva with deep devotion. The sages also worshipped Lord Shiva.

Lord Shiva was satisfied by their eulogy and devotion. He instructed the sages to establish the severed Linga at Saanihitya Sarovar. "By doing this, you would have all your desires fulfilled. The Linga would become famous by the name of Sthanu- the whole world. A devotee who pays a visit to this sacred place of pilgrimage would become liberated from all his sins", said Lord Shiva.

The sages returned to the place of Lord Shiva's fallen Linga. They tried their best to lift it but were unsuccessful in their attempt. They became worried and went to Lord Brahma for help. Lord Brahma told them- "Since Shiva's Linga had fallen on his own will, hence nobody except him can lift that Linga." All of them went back to Kailash Parvat but Lord Shiva was nowhere to be found.

Lord Brahma went into a state of deep meditation and sighted Lord Shiva in the guise of an elephant. When Brahma and the deities proceeded on their way, they found a goddess with a kamandalu in hand and offered them Amrit. After being refreshed, the sages asked whether she knew of Lord Shiva's whereabouts. She told them that Lord Shiva was presently living in the middle of Saanihitya Sarovar. After reaching the reservoir, they found Lord Shiva in the guise of an elephant. They requested him to help them, establish his Linga at the desired place. Lord Shiva agreed. All of them then went to the site of Lord Shiva's fallen Linga. He lifted it with his trunk and established it towards the west of Saanihitya Sarovar. The sages were satisfied and expressed their gratitude to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva, pleased by their eulogy and devotion, decided to make


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