CHAPTER – 6
Namadharaka asked, not surprised a little, “While Kasi, Badrinath, And Kedarnath have been esteemed since hoary times for their holiness, we can understand why Sreepada visited them. But what is great about Gokarna that he should go all the way to visit it? Please enlighten me on this point!”
Siddha replied, “Once the mother of Ravana, wished to attain Kailasa and with this object, she started worshipping an earthen Shiva Linga. Ravana who was proud of his might wished to remove the whole of Kailasa to his mother’s presence. Using all his might, he lifted up the whole mount of Kailasa on to his head. This caused a great commotion in all celestial realms of existence and the whole of our earth shook, as though the very end of creation was at hand. Goddess Parvati prayed to Lord Shiva to duly protect the worlds from so untimely an end. Then the latter pressed down the mount Kailasa under his foot till the mighty Ravana was almost crushed beneath the pressure. In great fear of death, the demon king Ravana humbly prayed to the Lord in desperation. The Lord’s heart was at last touched with compassion and he uplifted Ravana. Lord Shiva was pleased with his song and offered to grant him a boon. Ravana submitted, “My capital of Lanka is all built of gold and is beyond the reach of anyone. The Goddess of wealth is my maid servant. Brahma, the creator is my court astrologer. All the gods including, Lord of Death are my attendants. So there is nothing which I cannot secure. Now, my mother wished to live forever in Kailasa and serve you, and so I came to take it home. O Lord, if at all you wish to grant me a boon, grant me that I could take Kailasa along with you to my city of Lanka!” The Lord of Kailasa replied, “Ravana, what will you or your mother do with this mount Kailasa? I shall bestow on you my Atma Linga which is incomparably superior to Kailasa. By worshipping it, you will attain to my own state of being”. Ravana gratefully accepted the same and very happily returned to Lanka with it.
Sage Narada, the messenger of the gods, witnessed the whole incident and reported the matter to them. In great anxiety Brahma, Vishnu and Narada approached Shiva and asked him why he granted such a potent Atma Linga to a demon king like Ravana. They said, ‘Is it proper that he who is a thorn in the flesh of all beings attain to your power and glory?’ ‘I was too captivated by his charming song to consider the unwisdom of my spontaneous gesture and so bestowed it on him without a second thought. By now he could not have reached Lanka yet and something can be done at once to retrieve it.’, said Shiva and prompted Narada and Ganesha to contrive a way to somehow deprive the demon King of the Linga. Accordingly Narada at once approached Ravana with the speed of thought and addressed him, ‘Oh! Ravana, whence are you coming and withered are you bound?’ Ravana replied, ‘Having won the heart of Lord Shiva, I have gained this Atma Linga which I am taking to Lanka’ and showed it to him. Narada said, ‘Oh! Ravana, once a terrible beast started killing all the wild buffaloes near a forest. At last, the Holy Trinity hunted it down and made each one a Shiva Linga from its horns. They transformed them into their selves and henceforth treated them as their Atma Lingas. This is one of those three and can bestow the eternal proximity of Lord Shiva and hence immortality and infinite power. As he went on elaborating its glory, Ravana interrupted him and said, ‘Oh! Sage, I do not have time to hear its glory’. ‘But oh Ravana it is time for your evening prayer! How can you go away without attending to it?’ said Narada and sat there elated that he could find so potent a reason for delaying the demon king’s progress to his homeland. Meanwhile, Lord Ganesha came there in the guise of a young celebate. Ravana accosted him in a stern voice, ‘who are you? Where are you going?’ the boy celebate replied, ‘I am the son of one Uma and Shankara, I am frightened by your demeanor, let go my hand!’ ‘Hold this Linga just for a short while. I shall show you my golden city Lanka and you can happily live there’, insisted Ravana. ‘I cannot hold this heavy Linga. Besides, I will not come to Lanka which is the city of terrible demons’ said the celebate. However, Ravana pleaded with him again and again, thrust the Linga in the hands of Ganesha and made for the nearby sea to attend to his evening prayers. ‘O Ravana! When I can no longer hold this, I shall call out to you thrice and if, by that time, you do not turn up, I shall place the Linga down here itself!’, said Ganesha. No sooner did Ravana leave the spot than Ganesha called out to him thrice and when he could not turn up, the celebate meditated on Lord Vishnu and kept the Shiva Linga on earth! The gods above witnessed the successful accomplishment of that plan. Later, Ravana returned and at the sight of the Linga kept on earth, was much depressed. He beat the young lad Ganesha and, with all his might, tried to lift up the Linga. The whole earth shook under the force but the Linga came to be called ‘Mahabaleshwara Linga,’ i.e., the Linga of the Almighty Lord. As the Linga is in the shape of the ear of cow, the place of where it is located came to be known as the Holy Gokarna (Go meaning Cow). The place is as sacred as Kailasa. There Lord Shiva dwells with all his retinue of gods. Hence, the place came to be a resort of earnest seekers after Spiritual perfection. Gods, demons, mortals and even human beings have got their wishes fulfilled in this place by the grace of Lord Shankara. Thus it is one of the most sacred places. An ancient legend testifies to its great sanctity.
A king by name Kalmashapada became a fierce demon through the curse of Sage Vasishta. Once the demon king killed and devoured a pious Brahmin. The Brahmin’s wife then cursed him thus: “even after you regain your earlier human form, on the expiry of the curse of Sage Vasishta, you shall perish the moment you unite with your wife; for you have cruelly deprived me of my life’s companion!’ In course of time, the curse of the sage expired and the king returned to his capital city. When his queen received him with the utmost joy he recounted to her the curse the Brahmin’s wife! She was shocked beyond measure to know that the joy of their reunion after such a long separation was embittered by the curse. Both the king and queen went on pilgrimage in the hope of finding redemption from sin and the consequent curse. In the course of their wanderings, they met the sage Gouthama and confided to him their plight. The sage replied in compassion: ‘Do not fear, Oh King! When we have such holy and wish fulfilling places as Gokarna, what can sin of killing a Brahmin do to you? All the water in that place is as holy as Ganga and all the stones there are potent as Shiva Lingas. There is nothing which cannot be achieved in that place which is wholly filled with such holy water and innumerable Shiva Lingas. I shall recount an incident which I had witnessed there.
When a woman of Chandala clan died at Gokarna, the attendants of Shiva came to take her soul to Kailasa! When I asked them about it, they said: ’This woman was a Brahmin’s daughter in her previous life. When her husband died in her childhood, in that life, under the influence of lust, she lived as the concubine of a wealthy businessman. When her kinsfolk came to know it, they forsook her and performed the religious rites of retribution. Henceforth, she cast all sense of shame to the winds and started living a detestable life openly. She got addicted to liquor. One day she was drunk she mistook the calf of a cow for a goat and ate its flesh, keeping its head for the next day. When her lover arrived the next morning, she saw the calf’s head and started bemoaning that a tiger had killed the calf. She committed several such sins and, in consequence, she suffered much in hell and was reborn as a woman of the Chandala clan in this life. She was born blind and suffered from leprosy. After sometime, her parents who cared for her had died, Having no one to care for her, she arrived at Gokarna. She starved for several days and begged for food, on a holy Shivaratri. As it was customary for devotees to fast on that day, they had nothing to giver her except a handful of Bel leaves which were used for the worship of Lord Shiva. As they were not fit for eating, she dropped them down. One of them fell on a Shiva Linga. Thus, even without her knowing it, she happened to fast on the Shivaratri day and worship the Shiva Linga with a Bel leaf. Thereby, all the sins of her previous life were burnt out. And so we, the attendants of Shiva, have now come to take her soul to His abode in Heaven.’ So saying, they besprinkled her body with ambrosia (Amrutha) and took her to the higher world in divine vehicle. If the righteous act which she had unknowingly performed was so efficacious, you can imagine how much more so could continuous worship be. So, Oh king, you proceed to Gokarna and serve the Lord there. You shall be free from the sin’. In accordance with the counsel of the sage Gouthama, the king and the queen went to that holy place and freed themselves from the curse through austerity. In such a holy place as this, Sreepada lived for three years. Having uplifted several seekers there Spiritually, the Lord went to Kuruvupura and disappeared there.”