Historical Elements in the Matsya Purana

by Chaitali Kadia | 2021 | 91,183 words

This page relates ‘Pilgrimages in the Matsya Purana’ of the study on the historical elements of the Matsya-purana: one of the eighteen Mahapuranas which are Sanskrit texts that have preserved the cultural heritage, philosophy, religion, geography, etc of ancient India. This Matsyapurana was originally written in 20,000 verses and deals with topics such as architecture, ancient history, polity, religion and philosophy.

The Pilgrimages in the Matsya Purāṇa

There is more analysis of religious information in the Purāṇas . So the importance of the religious pilgrimage sites in different Purāṇas is also significant. However, in the context of the description of those pilgrimages, the Purāṇas have provided different geographical information. Like, the geographical location of the pilgrimage sites, their surrounding places and their location etc. are the part of geography. Some of these pilgrimages are mentioned in the Matsya Purāṇa . Although the religious descriptions and magnificence of those places are the main purpose of the Matsya Purāṇa , few geographical explanations have been given about those places.

The chapter 181 contains the glory of Avimuktakṣetra or Vārāṇasī . In the last part of this chapter, through the words of Lord Śiva, some names of geographical regions have been mentioned.

They are–

vastrāpathaṃ rudrakoṭiṃ siddheśvaramahālayam |
gokarṇaṃ rudrakarṇaṃ ca suvarṇākṣaṃ tathaiva ca ||
amaraṃ ca mahākālaṃ tathā kāyāvarohaṇam ||
etāni hi pavitrāṇi sāṃnidhyāt saṃdhyayordveyoḥ ||
kālijjaravanaṃ caiva śaṃkukarṇa sthaleśvaram |
etāni ca pavitrāṇi sāṃnidhyāddhi mama priye |
avimukte varāroha trisaṃdhyaṃ nātra saṃśayaḥ ||
hariścandraṃ paraṃ guhyaṃ guhyamāmrātakeśvaram |
jāleśvaraṃ paraṃ guhyaṃ guhyaṃ śrīparvataṃ tathā ||
mahālayaṃ tathā guhyaṃ kṛmicaṇḍeśvaraṃ śubham |
guhyātiguhyaṃ kedāraṃ mahārbheravameva ca ||
Matsya (Ch-181/25-29)

In the 183 chapter, some information about this place (Avimuktakṣetra ) are also available through the conversation of Lord Śiva and devī Pārvatī. Here Avimuktakṣetra is referred as the Kāśī . According to verse 60, the goddess Pārvatī questioned and want to know more about the Avimuktakṣetra .

Then Lord Śiva said in his response–

dviyojanaṃ tu tat kṣepraṃ pūrvapaścimataḥ smṛtam |
ardhayojanavistīrṇaṃ tat kṣetraṃ dakṣiṇottaram || 
varaṇā'sī nadī yāvat tāvacchuklanadī tu vai |
bhīṣmacaṇḍikamārabhya parvateśvaramantike ||
Matsya (183/61, 62 )

That is, the area is 2 yojana from east to west and half yojana from south to north. From the place where the Varuṇā and Asī river located, the Śukla river is located from Bhīṣmacandika to the Parvateśvara range. Again in the 184th chapter, the spread of this place is mentioned in the context of Kāśī Mahima –This field extends from east to west about two and half Yojana and half yojana from south to north. This land of Lord Śiva, Vārāṇasī extends to the Śukla river.[1]

In the 186th chapter some geographical descriptions of the river Narmadā are found through the conversation of Yudhiṣṭira and Lord Mārkaṇḍeya .

The verse 10 of the chapter 186 states that the river Ganges of Kankhala and the river Sarasvatī of Kurukṣetra are very much virtue.

puṇyā kanakhale gaṅgākurukṣetre sarasvatī |
grāme vā yadi vāraṇye puṇyā sarvatra narmadā ||
Matsya (Ch-186/11)

But the Narmadā river is virtue everywhere. The river originates from the Amarkantak Mountain which is located on the western border of the Kaliṅga country.

kaliṅgadeśe paścārdhe parvarte'marakaṇṭake |
puṇyā ca triṣu lokeṣu ramaṇīyā manoramā ||
Matsya (Ch-186/2)

According to the present natural geography, this river has been generated from the Amarkantak Mountain, located in the Anuppur district of Madhyapradesh and has been flown through the state of Madhyapradesh, Maharastra and Gujarat and finally has been fallen into the Arabian sea.

In this section, the names of two other rivers have been mentioned—near the south beach of the Narmadā river situated a huge river named Kapilā and another big river named Viśalyā which has been fallen into the Narmadā River—

dakṣiṇe narmadākule kapileti mahānadī |
sakalārjunasaṃcchannā nātidure vyavasthitā ||
Matsya (Ch-186/40)
taiśca sarvaiḥ samāgamya munibhiśca tapodhanaiḥ |
narmadāmāśritā puṇyā viśalyā nāma nāmataḥ ||
Matsya (Ch-186/12)

Reference of the Narmadā River is also found in the Skanda Purāṇa .

189th chapter has been described about the glory of place where the Narmadā and Cauvery River has been meeting together.

In this chapter it is said that the confluence is as sacred as the confluence of the Ganges and the Yamunā .

gaṅgāyamunayormadhye satphalaṃ prāpnuyānnaraḥ |
kāverīsaṃgame snātvā tatphalaṃ tasya jāyate ||
Matsya (Ch-189/19)

There are no other geographical descriptions in this chapter. Then there is mentioned about some pilgrimages to the Narmadā coast in the 190th chapter. The verse no. 1 is told that on the north bank of the Narmadā there is a pilgrimage site called Yantreśvara which is one yojana wide. Verse number 3 refers to the pilgrimage named Garjana , verse 4 to Meghnada and verse 5 to Āmrātakeśvara . Verse 3 mentions the famous pilgrimage site, called Dhārātīrtha , on the north shore of the Narmadā . The pilgrimage mentioned in the verse no. 7 is famous as Brahmāvarta . Then, the pilgrimages mentioned in the verse 9 to 14 are respectively–Aṇgāreśvara, Kapilā, Karaṇja, Kundaleśvara, Pippaleśa and Vimaleśvara . There is mentioned about the sacred place, Puṣkariṇī in the verse 15 in the same chapter (190).

Then the 191st chapter also narrates the importance of the sacred places near Narmadā . There, verse 5 is mentioned as theholy pilgrimage Śulaveda . Verse 5 and 6 refer to the journey of the great virtuous PañcatīrthaBhīmeśvara, Nāradeśvara, Ādityeśa, Varuṇeśa and Svatantreśvara . Verse 7 refers to the context of the Kotitīrtha pilgrimage. Verse 14 contains about the pilgrimage called Bahunetra in the Trayodaśītithi . Verse 15 is referred to as Agrateśvara and verse 19 is referred to as Balākeśvara tīrtha . This chapter refers to the Ṛṣitīrtha in verse 22. Then several references to the pilgrimage can be found in several successive ślokas . The names of pilgrimages in verses 24 to 30 are gradually–devatīrtha, Amarkantaka, Rāvaṇeśvara Ṛṇṭīrtha , Vateśvara, Bhīmeśvara, Turāsanga and Somatīrtha . Verse 32 refers to the Pingaleśvara pilgrimage. Verse 36 contains about the Karkatakeśvaratīrtha . Then there are references to some of the more famous pilgrimages near the Narmadā , as–Nanditīrtha in the verse 37, Dipeśvara tīrtha in the verse 38, Airandītīrtha in the verse 42, Subarṇasalila tīrtha in the verse 47 etc. Here in verse 49, there is mention of a river called Ikṣu . Then the names of many more pilgrimages are found in this chapter like–Skandatīrtha in the verse 50, Liṅgasāratīrtha in the verse 51, Bhangatīrtha in the verse 52, Vateśvaratīrtha in the verse 54, Sangameśatīrtha in the verse 55, Kotitīrtha in the verse 56, Angāreśatīrtha in the verse 59, Ayonisambhava tīrtha in the verse 61, Pāndaveśa tīrtha in the verse 61 and Katheśvara I the verse 63. Referring to the pilgrimage sites, verse 64 also refers to the famous river, the Candrabhāgā . The great pilgrimage name Brahmāvarta is mentioned in verse 70. The significance of the Kapilātīrtha is mentioned in verse 72.

There are the best sacred place Sangameśvara

tatra snātvā naro rājannaśvamedhapha laṃ labhet
na
rmadādakṣiṇe kūle saṃgameśvaramuttamam ||Matsya (191/74)

In the south coast of the Narmadā and beautiful and holy place Ādityāyatana -

sarvalakṣaṇasampūrṇaḥ sarvavyādhivivarjitaḥ |
nārmade contare kūle tīrthaṃ paramaśebhanam ||
ādityayatanaṃ divyamīśvareṇa tu bhāṣitam |
Matsya (191/76)

In the north coast of the Narmadā . In verse 82, there is a context of Gargeśvara tīrtha . Near this sacred place there is a Tapovana named Nāgeśvara

modate svaraglokastho yāvadindrāścaturdaśa |
samīpataḥ sthitaṃ tasya nāgeśvaratapovanam ||

Verse 85 mentions a pilgrimage named Kāleśvara

kuberabhavanaṃ gacchet kubero yatra saṃsthitaḥ |
kāleśvaraṃ paraṃ tīrthaṃ kubero yatra toṣitaḥ ||

Then there is the best pilgrimage, Mārutālaya .

tatra snātvā tu rājendra sarvasampadamāpnuyāt |
tataḥ paścimato gacchenmārutālayamuttamam ||
Matsya (ch.191/86)

Verse 88 tells us that one should go on the Yavatīrtha in the time of Caturdaśī of the Kṛṣṇapakṣa of the month of Māgha .

puṣpakeṇa vimānena vāyulokaṃ sa gacchati |
yavatīrthaṃ tato gacchenmāghamāse yudhiṣṭhira ||

Then verse 90 mentions about the Ahalyā tīrtha

ahalyātīrthaṃ tato gacchet snānaṃ tatra samācaret |
snātamātro narastatra hyapsarobhiḥ pramodate ||

There mention in the verse 93 about the famous Rāmabhūmi Ayodhyā

strīvallabho bhavecchrīmān kāmadeva ivāparaḥ |
ayodhyāṃ tu samāsādya tīrthaṃ rāmasya viśrutam ||

Verse 98 has a reference to Subhatīrtha and verse 99 to Viṣṇutīrtha .

Verse 102 describes the significance of the Tāpaseśvara tīrtha.

tato gacchet tu rājendra tāpaseśvaramuttamam |
hariṇī vyādhasaṃtrastā patitā yatra sā mṛgī
  ||—Matsya (191/102)

Verse 104 has the context on Brahmatīrtha which is also known as Amohaka .

tena tāpeśvaraṃ tīrthaṃ na bhūtaṃ na bhaviṣyati |
tato gacchet tu rājendra brahmatīrthamanuttamam ||
amohakamiti khyātaṃ pitṛṃścaivātra tarpayet |
pauṇamāsyāmamāyāṃ tu śrāddhaṃ kuryād yathāvidhi ||—
Matsya (ch. 191/104,105)

It is said that there have done paternal tarpana and Śrāddha on the full moon and the new moon in this holy place. There are two another pilgrimages mentioned here: Siddheśvara tīrtha and Kusumeśvara tīrtha , which are the most beautiful places on the south coast of the Narmadā .

Chapter 194 mentions some other shrines near the Narmadā . Verse 1 of the chapter 194 refers to the Ankeśośvara tīrtha . Verse two has been mentioned another pilgrimage named Narmadeśvara . Then the verses 3, 4, 6 and 9 have mentioned about the pilgrimages respectively Aśvatīrtha , Paitāmaha tīrtha, Sāvitritīrtha and Kunjatīrtha . The verse 8 contents about the famous and sacred Hindu pilgrimage, Mānasatīrtha . There is mentioned about the famous Tridaśa Jyotitīrtha in the verse 11. This place is also known as Ṛṣikanyā . After this pilgrimage, the another holy place which is important to travel, has been mentioned in the verse 15.

The name of the place is Svarṇavindu .

tatra snātā naro rājan sarvapāpaiḥ pramucyate |
tato gacchecca rājendra svarṇavindu tviti smṛtam ||
Matsya (ch. 194/15)

The next pilgrimage named Apsareśatīrtha is mentioned in the verse 16.

tatra snātvā naro sajan durgati na ca paśyati |
apsareśaṃ tato gacchet snānaṃ tatra samācaret ||
Matsya (ch.194/16)

Of particular note is that here mentions a famous pilgrimage named Naraka in verse 17.

krīḍate nāgalokastho Spsarobhiḥ saha modate |
tato gacchet tu rājendra naraketīrthamuttamam ||
Matsya (ch.194/17)

Bhārabhūtitīrtha is mentioned in verse 18. Then a pilgrimage named Āṣāratīrtha is mentioned in verse 30. According to verse 31, there is a pilgrimage site named Śtrī where all sins are destroyed. There are also some more pilgrimage sites which are at the junction of the river Airaṇḍi and the Narmadā (verse32). Verses 34 and 35 show that there is a pilgrimage called Jāmadagnya at the confluence of the Narmadā and the sea.

Verse 40 describes the significance of the Kauśikī pilgrimage site.

saptajanmakṛtaṃ pāpaṃ hitvā yānti śivālayam |
tato gacchet tu rājendra kauśikītīrthamuttamam ||
Matsya (ch.194/40)

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

Matsya Purāṇa, Ch.–184/50, 51

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