In the forests of Naimisharanya, sat the 88,000 Rishis and Ved Vyasa revealed the Vedas, Puranas, and Shastras to them. You read any Indian scripture, and you find the mention of Naimisharanya. The name itself contains the word ‘Aranya’ meaning it was a forest.
This is a forest where the Rishis lived, meditated, did their Sadhna. It is the Tapobhoomi or the land where the Rishis meditated. The collective energy they concentrated in this area makes Naimisharanaya the holiest of the Indian places. It is also referred to as Nemisharan, Naimisaranya, Neemsar, Naimish, Nimkhar, Nimsar, Naimisaranyam.
It is said that in the four Yugas there were 4 primary Tirthas or Pilgrimage places. In the first age, i.e. in Satyuga it was Naimisharanaya, in Treta yuga it was Pushkar, in Dwapar it was Kurukshetra and in Kaliyug there is Ganga. So, visiting it is like time travel back to Satyuga.
The forest no longer exists. A nicely paved roads take you to the pilgrim places which are haphazardly built temples around the trees that must have heard the original stories told by the Rishis. You can safely assume that it is one of the oldest places written about.
It is believed that when Bhrahma Ji wanted life on earth, he gave the responsibility to the first couple – Manu and Satrupa. Manu & Satrupa did Sadhna at Naimisharanya for good 23,000 years. So, they are the ultimate parents for all of us. In fact, I remember the Pandit Ji at Manu-Satrupa temple saying – Yeh mere Baap ka Ghar hai or this is my father’s house. Hope this emotion actually translates into bringing all of us together.
Sacred Land of Holy Scriptures: Veda, Purana & Satyanarayan Katha
Naimisharanya’s biggest claim on Indian history is that all our scriptures were written here. This includes 4 Vedas – Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Saam Veda, and Atharva Veda.
Then there 18 are 18 Mahapuranas like Skanda Purana, Vishnu Puran, Brahmand Puran, Ling Puran, Narad Puran, Garud Puran, Brahma Puran, Padam Puram, Kurama Puran, Bhagwat Puran, Agni Puran, Markandeya Puran, Brahma Vaivartaka Puran, Varah Puran, Bhavishya Puran, Narad Puran, Matsaya Puran, Brahmand Puran.
Six Shastras written at Naimisharanya are Sankhya, Yog, Vedant, Nyay, Mimansa, Vaisaishik.
We all know that Satyanarayan Katha is a part of Satyanarayana Puja that is done by householders across India. Usually done on a full moon day, it’s popularity comes from the fact that it can be done simply by anyone and along with family and friends. I discovered that Satyanarayan Katha was also spoken here by Ved Vyas to Suta here, who in turn told it to Shaunak and other Rishis.
Nabhi Gaya Kshetra
Another name of Naimisharanya is Nabhi Gaya Kshetra. It is said that Maha Vishnu killed the demon Gayasur by cutting his body into three parts. The head part fell in Badrinath which is also called Kapali Gaya, the feet part feel at Gaya and hence it is also called Pada Gaya and the middle part fell at Naimisharanya and hence it is called Nabhi Gaya.
Another legend says that Maha Vishnu killed demons who were troubling the sages in a moment or Nimish, hence the place got its name.
Sri Ram after returning from Sri Lanka performed an Ashwamedha Yagna, that was also performed at Naimisharanya. It is the same place where Devi Sita went back to earth. I wonder if it formed a part of Kosala Kingdom in his times.
Read More – Ramayana Temples in Sri Lanka
Goswami Tulsidas wrote Ramcharitmanas here.
Read More – Kushti at Tulsi Akhada in Varanasi
Adi Shankaracharya visited Naimisharanya when he was going around the country. Poet Surdas lived here. References are found in literature from Vaishnava saints of Tamil country. Mahabharata was spoken here during a congregation of saints headed by Rishi Shaunak.
Amavasya or the new moon day is considered very holy to take a dip here. There is an 84 Kos Yatra that takes place around Naimisharanya from the Amavasya to Purnima (new moon to full moon) of the lunar month of Phalgun.
Places to Visit at Naimisharanya
There are 5 major places to visit:
- Chakratirth and the temples surrounding it
- Sri Lalita Devi Mandir
- Vyas Gaddi near Gomti or Adi Ganga River
- Hanuman Garhi & Pandav Kila
- Dadhichi Kund
Each of these is located at some distance from each other and demands some time to be spent there.
I visited it during Pitrpaksha or the fortnight in the year that is dedicated to ancestors. I saw a lot of families, especially couples doing Pind Daan or ancestor worship.
This is the core Tirtha at Naimisharanya. It is a circular pond that is believed to be formed by the Chakra of Mahavishnu. The overflowing water is used by the pilgrims to have a holy dip in the Tirtha. It is believed that the holy waters of all the holy places in India or Bharatvarsha are present here at Chakratirtha.
Story of Chakratirtha
It is said that once the Asuras were troubling the rishis and interrupting their Sadhna. They all approached Brahma and he created a Chakra with the rays of the sun. He asked the Rishis to follow the Chakra or Disc and wherever it stops, they can live there, peacefully. The chakra stopped at Naimisharanya. Nemi means the periphery and it defines the periphery of the pond here. It is said that the water in the pond comes from Paatal Loka.
The chakra is called Manomaya Chakra. Chakratirtha is supposed to be the center of the universe.
As of now, this circular pond is surrounded by many small temples and a few smaller ponds. As we entered the circular periphery, we first saw a Krishna temple, then a huge hall with platforms to sit for people performing rituals for the ancestors. Going clockwise, we stopped at the Shiva temple – Bhuteshwar Mahadev Temple.
Bhuteshwar Mahadev Temple
This is an ancient temple with idols of all paths of Hinduism on its wall. The main wall behind the Mukhalinga has a large Mahavishnu Murti. Then there is Ganesh, Kartikeya, Sun, Ma Kali, Durga as Mahishasurmardini, Rishi Dadhichi & Brahma Ji. All
We reached around the morning Arti time and witnesses the morning Shringar and the Aarti. Priests were kind enough to allow us to stay inside the temple during Aarti while most people watched it from outside. I take it as a blessing.
The priest told me that the Bhuteshwar Mahadev is present here as Saakar Ling. He is worshipped in three different forms during the day. In the morning it is the Bholenath or the Childlike Shiva, in the afternoon it is Rudra or the aggressive form of Shiva and in the evening it is Karuna roop or the Compassionate Shiva.
After this is a Hanuman temple.
Shringi Rishi Temple
A small temple is dedicated to Shringi Rishi who meditated here. There is an interesting representation of the Rishi with two horns on either side. There are of course recent murtis in marble of both Shringi Rishi and Ma Shanta.
Gokarn Nath Temple
This is another small but ancient Shiva temple. The Shivalinga here is in a pit indicating that the ground around it has risen with time. Like Bhuteshwar Mahadev Mandir it also has the murtis of all the deities like Durga, Ganesha, Surya, etc.
Siddhi Vinayak is a small temple with a single murti of Ganesha along with a temple dedicated to Saraswati.
After this, we found two small tanks, one with a figure of Laxmi sitting on a lotus flower and another with Brahma figure. The wall of the steps leading to had some old idols fixed in them. I could recognize a few of them while others remain a mystery. Vermilion smeared on them told me that they are still worshipped.
We turned around passed by a bright yellow temple with the pillared corridor. A gentleman sat there reading the newspaper and board next to him said he is an astrologer. Now, I always find astrologers very interesting people to talk to. They have stories that can compete with the stories of Psychiatrists or doctors or maybe lawyers. It is fascinating how they talk and manipulate you into believing that they have answers to all your problems. After a quick chat with him, we moved ahead.
We found a small temple in yellow called Surya Narayana though it has a marble Shivalinga inside it. What I found interesting is that it has a basic Sri Chakra carved behind the Shivalinga.
Chakra Narayana Temple
This, in my opinion, is the most important temple at Chakratirtha or Naimisharanya. Vishnu here is present in the form of a Chakra. Vishnu sitting on lotus flower is enclosed within his Chakra or wheel. It is a beautiful image carved on the wall, which looked like a black stone to me. It was nicely decorated with some relatively new Murtis around it.
Next, we visited the Badri Narayan temple. On the day we visited many couples were doing rituals for their ancestors. We tip-toed around to have a quick darshan and we were back to where we started our circumambulation around the Chakratirtha.
Not many people know about this place, and spending some time here was like getting to know a part of our history and scriptures first hand.
Sri Lalita Devi Mandir
I have been chanting Lalita Sahasranama for some time now. I have been to many Devi temples like Kanchi Kamakshi, Kolhapur Mahalaxmi, Kamrup Kamakhya but never came across a temple dedicated to Lalita herself. Nor do I remember coming across her idol. Even when I was headed there, I was told there is a Devi temple but no one called her Lalita. So when I reached there and read – Sri Lalita Temple, I literally had goosebumps.
There are two temples within the same complex dedicated to Sri Lalita. A relatively new temple with a new idol sitting on a high pedestal. This is the one you visit first. When you come out and go around, you see the triangular Yagnakund and then you come across a smaller temple. This old temple has the old idol of Sri Lalita. This is where her form matches the description of Devi in Lalita Sahasranama.
I was happy to have discovered her. Maybe it was she who answered my curiosity as it was not really on my plan on this trip to UP.
Sri Lalita Devi Mandir is a Shakti Peeth. It is believed that the heart of Devi Sati fell here when Shiva was holding her body in a rage after Daksh Yagna. Here she is also called Ling-Dharini Shakti. Sri Lalita Devi is the presiding deity of Naimisharanya and your Yatra is not complete without paying respects to her.
Read More – 50 Cities in India named after Devi
Another legend says that when the Rishis came with the Chakra of Vishnu, the Chakra went inside the earth and too much water came out. It was Sri Lalita who controlled the water so that Rishis can meditate in peace.
Under a giant Vat Vriksh or Banyan Tree, Ved Vyas sat and narrated the scriptures that we now know as Vedas, Puranas, Shastras, et al. One of the old trees is believed to be more than 5000 years old dating it back to Mahabharat era or the time when Ved Vyas lived. It is this tree that is the real Vyas Gaddi. The tree is surrounded by modern temples once of which houses a Gaddi-like seat.
There is a small temple dedicated to Ved Vyas with a triangular pile of cloths representing him. Multiple boards tell you the scriptures written here at this spot.
An ancient Yagna Kund in a star shape that is now covered with ceramic tiles is worth a visit. It has a place for the Yajman or the sponsor to sit, surrounded by places for the Devtas and Yoginis to sit. A shelf there was lined up with scriptures – a perfect place to pick them up for your library, especially the Bhagwat Purana.
A temple dedicated to Satyanarayan Swami is located near Vyas Gaddi.
Adi Ganga or River Gomti
River Gomti that is also known as Adi Ganga flows close by. When I visited in early October, I had to walk a bit to reach the river. I assume the river would have changed course over a period of time. The giant idols of Kali, Bhiarava and some Saints. There is another old Banyan Tree along the river and I wondered if this might have the tree where the Rishis sat and spoke the scriptures.
A small island stood in the middle of the river and a person sitting there told me that there used to be a temple on that island. It was washed a few years ago during floods. I tried to look hard but could not find any signs of any temple there. But then rivers have their own ways of participating in the cycle of creation and destruction.
Manu Satrupa Temple
Manu and Satrupa are the first couple of mankind as per the Hindu belief system. It is here that they meditated for 23,000 years after which they were blessed by Brahma as their progeny.
Pandav Kila & Hanuman Garhi
Hanumangarhi is a what Hanuman temples are called in this region of Uttar Pradesh. Even in Ayodhya, all Hanuman temples are Hanumangarhi. There is a giant Murti of Hanuman. It is believed to be self-manifested. If you look intently, you would see small figurines of Ram & Laxman sitting on his shoulders.
The story goes that when Ram and Laxman were captured by Ahiravan during the Ram-Ravan war and taken to Patal Loka, it was Hanuman who brought them back. The place he came out is believed to be this temple. However, I heard the same story at Bet Dwarka that also has a temple dedicated to Hanuman and his son Makardhwaj called Dandi Hanuman.
At the temple, you can make out the antiquity of the Hanuman Murti and the fact that it has been worshipped for a long time. Rest of the temple is a recent construction.
Close to Hanumangarhi is a small temple with giant images of Pandavas & Krishna. It is called Pandav Kila or fort. I could not connect the dots, as it was just a hall with extremely mediocre images.
Not too far from it is a temple built in South Indian Style that has a golden pillar. The pillar has Garuda – the vehicle of Vishnu carved on it along with his other signs like Conch Shell and Chakra.
This is a typical tank that you find next to every temple. A fairly large tank with many temples surrounding it. The primary temple being dedicated to Rishi Dadhichi.
Dadhichi Kund is also called Misrikh Tirth
The story of Rishi Dadhichi is that of supreme sacrifice. Indra was once being troubled by Asura called Vritti. Vritti has a boon that he can not be killed by any existing weapon, nor can he be killed by any weapon made of metal or wood. It made it impossible to kill him. Indra approached Vishnu, who suggested him to take Dadhichi Rishi’s bones and make a weapon from them.
Indra approached Dadhichi Rishi at Naimisharnya and he agreed to donate his bones. However, he wanted to take a bath in all the holy waters around the country but had no time. So, Indra brought waters of all holy Tirthas to Naimisharanya. This is how Indra’s Vajra was created.
The tank is large and beautiful with ghats lines up all around it. The temple is simple and but tells a few scenes from the life of Rishi Dadhichi. How I wish there were authentic books available for people to take with them from all these places.
I think Sita Kund and Narada Temple is something I missed on this trip. There are many Mutts that one can visit if one is associated with them.
It is about 90 km from Lucknow. It is best to do it as a day trip from Lucknow or Sitapur.
There are some hotels in the town, but I have not used them. So can not comment on them.
Food options are also limited. If you are not comfortable with street food, carry your own food with you.
The Pandas are ruthless. They would ask for money at every step. Keep quiet and move on. Do not engage with them, they can get abusive.
You need a day to explore the place properly. Even if you do not engage in any rituals.