Omkareshwar by the river Narmada
The peace of the night descended as Srinivasan walked down to the banks of the Narmada at Omkareshwar. Across the river, covered in a veil of lights stood the main temple housing the Jyothir Linga. At his feet were the still and gentle waters of the Narmada, ripples that whispered a lot more in the deafening silence. These waters flowed from the very being of Lord Shiva, and as they did they carved out the bed rock into tiny forms of the Lord himself, into Bana Lingas that drew the essence of worship from other worlds within themselves.
Srinivasan recited a Shloka to himself, the origin of which was in folk lore as he pondered:
gangA gItA ca gAyatrI govindeti catuShTayaM |
Catur-gakAra-samyukte punar-janma na vidyate ||
That which started with the syllable "ga" meant emerging forth and being constantly present. As the verse goes, Ganga, Gita, Gayatri and Govinda are constants. In fact the very meaning of Linga in the Agama context signifies "ling" which means to destroy and "ga" which is to emerge. Bana Lingas emerge as natural swayambhuva Shiva Lingas. These are found only in the Narmada river bed and are very sacred stones as they contain the very form and energy of Lord Shiva similar to Jyothir Lingas. They are naturally powerful and hold the essence of divinity within them.
According to the Aparajita-pariprchchha (205, 1-26) there is mythology attached to the Bana Lingas association with the Narmada River. It is believed that when Lord Shiva destroyed the flying city of Tripura (Tripurantakamurthy) which had been obtained by the arrogant demon Banasura, He let go a fiery dart from his bow - Pinaka. This destroyed the three cities into tiny bits, which fell in three spots - on the hills in Sri-kshetra (of unknown identity), on the peaks of Amarkantak in the Vindhya range, and on the banks of the holy river Narmada. These soon multiplied into crores of Lingas and as they were part of the possession of Banasura, they came to be called Bana Lingas. The Padma Purana reveals that the holy river of Narmada has many ghats all of which are associated with Bana Lingas and Raudra Lingas.
Bana is also known to be the eldest son of Bali, who in turn was the son of Virochana and the grandson of Prahalada who was the son of Hiranyakashipu and a great devotee of Narasimha. Banasura himself was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and having done severe penance Shiva granted him in the form of Natural Lingas - Bana Lingas (banrchartham krtam lingam).
Srinivasan watched the silent ripples wash the shores and wondered in amazement over the potency of these waters. These waters protected rounded bed rock within its darkness, that when polished revealed to us, their beauty within. He pulled out a Bana Linga from his pocket and stared at it closely. The Siddhanta Sekhara (an astronomical work by Sripati in 1039 cen A.D.) revealed that the Bana Lingas have already been worshiped by deities and contain the impress of their worship visible in the marks on the Lingas:
Lotus mark (padma) reveals it was worshipped by Brahma
Mark of a parasol (chhatra) indicated Indra
Mark of two heads (siro-yugma) indicated Agni
Three steps (Pada) mark indicated it was Yama
Mark of a mace (Gada) indicated Isana Shiva
Mark of a water vessel (kalasha) indicated varuna
A banner mark (dhwaja) indicated the energy of Vayu
This rendered Bana Lingas as Daiva lingas and hence these Bana Lingas are considered extremely superior compare to other lingas.
The power of the Bana Lingas is felt in a few conditions. A Bana Linga, carrying the marks of Indra when worshipped fulfills all the desires of the devotee and bestows upon him respect and wealth. The Agneya variety of the Bana Linga is warm to touch, and contains the marks of Shakti's weapon. The Yamya Linga has the forms of a cudgel or that of a tongue. The nairutti Linga appears like a sword and carries stains on its body and bestows the benefits of gyana and yoga; however it should not be worshiped by a Grihasta (householder). The Varuna Lingas are round in shape and can be distinguished by the marks of a noose (pasa) and it is worshipped to secure wealth and prosperity. Lingas that signify the energy of vayu are black or ash gray in color and carry a flag post symbol on its head. The Kubera Linga also has the form of a mace (gada) or arrow (tuna) depicted by a hairline like line in the center. The Raudra Lingas are lustrous like a block of ice but bear the marks of a bone or spear. Vishnu's symbols could range from conch shell (samkhabha-mastaka), discus, mace, to the jewel on the chest (sri-vatsa and kaustubha) or foot print.
Srinivasan recollected the ancient verses of Adi Shankaracharya. In the ancient days all cults, namely those of Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Devi and Surya were independent and fighting for supremacy till Adi Shankaracharya set the rules to unite all of them. The result was the performance of the Panchayatana puja, by the Smartas towards their Ishta Devata, that deity being placed as the central altar. Each deity was represented in that aniconic form. This was the worship of the 5 sacred altars. In this orthodox tradition initiated by Adi Shankaracharya, five stones each representing the respective deities are placed on the sacred altar for the Panchayatana worship.
Sun God Surya is represented by a crystal found in Vallam in Tamil Nadu
Mother Goddess Shakti is represented by the Swarnamukhi stone found in Swarnamukhi river in Andhra Pradesh
Vishnu is represented through Salagramas found only in the Ghantaki river in the Himalayas
Ganesha is represented by the red Shonabhadra stone found in the river bed of the Sone river flowing into the Ganges.
Shiva is represented by the Bana Lingas found in the Narmada river bed near the island of Mandhata.
Different sets of rules apply to the Brahmacharya, Grihasta, Vanaprastha and the Sanyasa.
Srinivasan got up to leave these waters, reliving his darshan of Narmada Bana Lingas at other potent Shrines. Here was the ancient belief and promise to a pious and happy existence, and across these waters Srinivasan could see the new world of dams almost submerging all of this reality into the depths of the raging Narmada. Would all this just come to an end? Would this knowledge be submerged into the depths of time and ignorance?
Click on photos to view enlarged picture
Brihadeshwara Tanjore Temple
Somnath Jyothir Linga
Kashi Vishwanath Varanasi
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Shlokas and meaning: Copyright© V. Krishnamurthy
Last updated Oct 2005. Copyright Ajit Krishnan [ 1999 - 2005 ]