“ In India rivers are worshipped as a mother, matru upasana. Respect to rivers is respect to water as without water there is no life.” – HH Paramahamsa Prajnanananda ji Maharaj on Prachi Parikrama
Story of Prachi River
Prachi Mahatmya in the Uttarakhanda of Padma Purana describes the glory of the Prachi River. The puranic origin of river Prachi is from the ashram of sage Kapila.
Prachi Mahatmya mentions that a huge submarine fire, baḍabāgni (great fire), originated from the ocean with the power to destroy the three worlds. Humans, asuras, and devas prayed to Lord Brahma to save the three worlds.
Lord Brahma asked everyone to pray together to the lord of the ocean, Sagara. He expressed his helplessness. Then they went to the great rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and Rewa. They also expressed helplessness. Finally, they prayed to Saraswati. She said, “I will be destroyed in the extinguishing of the fire, but for the greater wellbeing of creation I will make this sacrifice.”
All the Devatas advised her to go underground and that they would protect her from being completely scorched by the fire. She went underground and originated from the ashram of sage Kapila, who was doing Yagna to protect the Devatas, Asuras, and humans from the fire.
River Saraswati emerged from the place of the fire ceremony of Sage Kapila. Though she originally flowed westwards, she changed her direction and flowed towards East, Prācī. This holy river is since then known as Prācī Saraswati. Fulfilling their promise, Devatas reside in her bank.
Prachi is one of the only two holy rivers mentioned in our scriptures, which have the tradition of being a circumambulatory passage (parikramā) from source to sea and back, on a pilgrimage or yatra. The other is the river Narmada.
Under the guidance of Guruji, H.H Paramahamsa Prajnanananda ji Maharaj, Prachi Parikrama was launched on 04, Chaitra, Krishna Paksha, Chaturthi, 2069 Vishvavasu, Vikram Samvat (11/03/2012). Guruji personally leads disciples and devotees around it. He pioneered the project in collaboration with Prachi Parikrama Charitable Trust.
According to the Chairperson and Managing Trustee of the trust, Swami Shuddhanand Giri “The holy journey commences from Andhakapileshwar temple. The source or origin of the river has two aspects – one is geographical and the other is spiritual as stated in our Itihasa -Puranas.
A tributary to Mahanadi, river Prachi presently flows from Phulnakhara or Dakamba near Naraj. This is the geographical origin, but geography keeps changing. What is unchangeable is the tatwa or the source as described in our ancient scriptures. As per Prachi Mahatmya, the source is the temple of Andhakapileshwar in Niali, Cuttack.
In summer, the rest of the area is dry but the submerged linga remains in the water, that is underground in the temple. This is the real origin of river Prachi.”
When is Prachi Parikrama Performed?
Prachi Parikrama is done 6 days before Panka Udhar or Vijaya Ekadashi. It culminates on the day of Panka Udhar Ekadashi.
Panka means sludge or ooze. It refers to the flowers and leaves atop the Shivalinga offered during one year. As it is not removed, the lord remains underneath it all and is not visible. Only this day, all the offerings are removed and shiva linga is visible to devotees.
In 2024 the parikrama dates are from 1-7 March 2024. 07-03-2024 is Panka Udhar Ekadashi.
Significance of Prachi Parikrama
A parikrama of river Prachi has two distinct significances.
First, Prachi Valley Civilization has hugely contributed towards the flourishing of different faiths as evidenced by innumerable temples, maths, and ghats on its banks. Most of these are in ruins today.
Along the banks of Mother Prachi, hundreds of Jaina and Buddhist images are interspersed with Sambhus, Madhabas, and Shakti images. It corroborates the fact that religions flourished without any discord with the religious and spiritual speculations of any section of people.
Second, the existence of the Dwadasa Sambhus, Dwadasa Madhabas, and Dwadas Shakti pithas. Fulfilling their promises to River Prachi, Devatas reside on her bank as the Ashta Sambhu, Ashta Madhaba, Ashta Shakti Pitha, Ashta Math, Dwadasha Tirthas, Dwadasa Sambhus, Dwadasa Madhabas and Dwadas Shakti pithas etc.
The Kapila Samhita gives an eloquent account of the Prachi and its sanctity.
“Ekamra Kanan Purve Yejononte Mahipate,
Naame Prachi Vikhyata Saridete Saraswati
Prachya Dese Mahessaya Yatrasyat
Sangram Gama Krose krose Tate Linga
Tatah Prachi Saraswati”
Meaning: On the eastern side of Ekamrakanan, the Prachi Saraswati flows eastward and on both its banks Shiva is worshipped in the form of Lingams.
In Sanskrit, tīrtha literally means “a ford, a “crossing place” in the sense of “transition or junction.” The emphasis in the Upanishads and Hindu epics is on spiritual knowledge, instead of rituals, and this theme appears in the Hindu epics as well.
A parikrama of Prachi River bestows innumerable blessings and moksha to oneself and one’s ancestors, after taking a bath and offering prayers to the reigning deity of the tirtha.
A devoutly conducted parikrama with Guruji constitutes in one single act a triple sadhana of uplifting the body, mind, and spirit.
7-Day Prachi Parikrama Route
Padayatra or walking on foot, is performed keeping the river to the right. It reaches the confluence and returns keeping the river again to the right.
Parikrama begins and finishes at the Andhakapileshwara temple with a total of 108 kilometers to walk. It takes seven days at an average of 20 km per day to complete the parikrama.
The parikrama commences from Andhakapileshwara temple at Kapileshwarpur in Niali tehsil of Cuttack district. It is about 51 km south of Cuttack.
The Shivalinga is a part of the Dwadasha Sambhus in Prachi Valley. The linga here is always submerged underwater. On Pankodhar Ekadashi day, three days before the famous MahaShivaratri festival, all the water is drained out. Shiva linga becomes visible enabling thousands of devotees to worship the Lord.
Parikramawasis then reach Gokarneshwara, about one kilometer from Kapila Muni Ashram. It is considered the second Sambhu in the series of Dwadasha Sambhus.
Radhakanta Math is the last destination of the first day. Located on the left bank of the river Prachi, the Radhakanta Math is situated at Nuagaon village in Niali tehsil. It is about one km north-west of Sobhaneshwara temple of Niali.
Established in 1886, it has its own landed property. Being a Zamindari math it is self-funded. Legend says that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu resided here during his visit to Puri. During Nabakalebara, Vaishnavas of the Radhakanta math take part in the sankirtan while Daru of the lords is carried in the procession. They received this right from the period of King Pratap Rudra Dev.
There is a tree on the premises of Radhakanta Mutt, which grew from the remaining part of the wooden twig that Sri Chaitanya used to brush his teeth. He buried it and it came to life in time and turned into a big tree named Briksharaj Tamal.
An interesting aspect of this tree is that with the downfall and upcoming of the mutt, the tree becomes dormant or blooms accordingly. Between 1969-85 the monastery was in a state of ruin, and there was no Mahanta Guru. At that time, Briksharaj Tamal shed all leaves and became dormant.
At the end of this dark period, new leaves and shoots appeared giving an indication of a new dawn. This is when the new Guru Mahant Madan Mohan Das Baba arrived. After a lifelong struggle, of 25 years, the condition of the monastery changed due to Guru Mahant’s efforts. Since then, Briksharaj Tamal stands tall in full bloom.
From Radhakanta Mutt, parikramawasis travel towards Musibaba Mutt. Musibaba math in Sahanajpur village near Jallarpur, about 200 mts. off Niali Charichhaka Road. Also known as Artatrana Gadi, regular recitations of the Bhagabat are held here every evening.
After the morning aarti parikramawasis commence the padayatra to the ancient Shiva temple of Sobhaneshwara in the Bangalisahi village. It is 45 km from Bhubaneswar and 300 meters off the Niali-Madhaba Road.
The temple is located on the left bank of the river Prachi, at the entrance of the village. Nakonia Pathar, a nine-point stone, in this temple, is known to punish anybody who gives false statements or lies after touching the holy stone. People believe the liar will die within days.
Ramayan Era Temple
After breakfast walk continues towards Tola Gopinathpur for a darshan of Rameshwara temple, 2 km east of Jallarpur in Niali Tehsil, very close to the Prachi river bank.
The origin of the deity goes back to the Ramayana era. Sri Ramachandra installed the Shivalinga in the temple, worshipped Shiva, and received his divine blessing. From this place, he went to Sri Lanka where he killed Ravana. Thus the deity became famous as Rameshwara.
From Rameshwara to Somnath temple, the journey is short even by foot. There is no record of the establishment of Somnath temple. According to the priest, it is about a 100-year-old temple.
Madhabananda temple is located at a distance of 1.5 km southeast of Panimal Chowk on the Niali-Madhaba road, 6 km from Niali. The worship of Madhaba, one of the twenty-four manifestations of Sri Vishnu is very common and an immense influence in the Prachi valley.
The temple is also sometimes referred to as Durga Madhaba because of the presence of a Durga Murti next to Madhaba in garbhagriha. This joint worship of Durga and Madhaba is unique to Odishan Vaishnavism and is yet another testament of the great Odishan process of synthesis.
This temple is known as mamughara or maternal uncle’s home of Sri Jagannath of Puri and many rituals of the Jagannath Temple are associated with Madhaba temple.
Picture 6a – Madhabananda Temple Picture 6b – Unique Garuda idol in the temple
Padayatra continues till Kathakuha Hanuman Temple. No official records, but it is the oldest temple in the region. It is a south-facing or Dakhinamukha temple just like Jagganath temple at Puri. Every devotee or visitor experiences direct communication with Kathakuha or talking Mahavir and hence the name.
Next, the holy journey makes a stop at Angeshwara Mahadev in the village of Angeshwarapada. On the left bank of the Prachi River, the presiding deity is a black chlorite Shivalinga placed within a square yonipitha. It is one of the Astha Sambhus of the Prachi Valley. The temple is a good example of the confluence of Shakta, Shaiva, and Vaishnava paths in the Prachi Valley.
After breakfast, padayatris reach Nibharana village and seek the blessings of Grameshwara Mahadev. The present temple is recently renovated. The priest informs that the original temple was constructed before the Jagannatha temple of Puri. It is a protected temple of the State Archaeology Department and the daily affairs is managed by a village committee. This is one of the Dwadasha Sambhu of the Prachi Valley.
Kakatpur Mangala Temple
On the way to Deuli Math, pilgrims on Prachi Parikrama visit Maa Mangala temple in Kakatpur town in Puri district. After a darshan of Maa Mangala, a pradakshina of the divine mother in the temple courtyard is done. The Black Murti of Ma is beautifully decorated with colorful clothes and ornaments. She has large and powerful eyes.
Out of eight major Shaktipithas of Odisha, the most important one is Kakatpur Mangala on the eastern bank of the river Prachi. She is being worshipped as Parama Vaishnavi for ages. The temple was built by a local Zamindar Panchanan Mitra Roychudamoni in 1548 CE.
During the Nabakalebara, priests of Puri come to Kakatpur Mangala, to seek directions from Mother, for locating the sacred trees. Acharya, the Pati Mahapatra, and the Brahmin priest of the Banajaga jatra prostrate before the Devi seeking divine directions. Devi guides them, by appearing in dreams and giving them directions to the place where the trees are located. The Daru is located within seven days.
The sacred journey continues to Deuli math for noon prasad, afternoon aarti, evening Satsang, night prasad, and rest. Deuli Math is located on the right bank of the river Prachi in Bajpur village of Puri district. This math is directly involved with the Nabakalebara rituals of the Jagannath. The group which comes from Puri in search of Daru stays in this Mutt.
Maa Mangala first appeared in this mutt. Patitapabana is worshipped inside this Mutt. After the arrival of the sevakas from Puri in Deuli Math, the news is sent to Maa Mangala temple. Then all servitors proceed to the temple of Maa Mangala with garland, Mahaprasad, and other puja materials in a colorful procession and do many secret rituals.
Then they return to Deuli math and stay there till the identification of the Daru of Lords. It was built in the 12th century CE. Its antiquity is closely linked to the Jagannath temple at Puri.
After an early morning puja at Deuli math, padayatris proceed to Sudarshana temple in Apsara kshetra of Saripur in Astaranga tehsil. Apsara khetra is located at Sudarshana Mutt.
As per a folk tale, one cowherd name Hai Behera saw the Apsaras taking a bath at the Prachi River near the Mutt. He asked them about their identity. Apsaras told the cowherd about themselves but warned him not to disclose it to anybody, otherwise, they will die. But gradually the incident spreads in the village.
As per Prachi Mahatmya, on Baisakha Purnima also known as Narsimha Chaturdashi, devotees came here for Apsara Buda or a sacred dip. They also offer prayers to the deity.
The cyclone shelter in Keluni Muhana or estuary in Keutajanga village in Astaranga tehsil in Puri district is the resting place for the day. Keluni Maa temple is a small temple designed like a chariot that is perched on top of a platform.
Maa Keluni was originally worshipped inside a small Casuarina grove by the local fishing community. The present temple was made in 2005. It is the last temple of the Prachi Valley, just before the Prachi River merges into the sea.
After an early morning Prachi puja in Keluni muhana, the return journey commences. River Prachi has changed course during the past years and now it encompasses three small islands. In order to do the parikrama one has to go by boat. There are also two other rivers that merge into ocean about the same place. So river Kadua is crossed by a boat to come back to the mainland.
The walk resumed at Tandaghara where the boat journey was completed. After breakfast at Tentulia gadi ghara, parikramawasis take darshan at Ananda Bazar Jagganath temple. Then the group reaches Sankareshwar temple near Kundhei haata in Kakatpur tehsil about 60 km away from Puri. More than 200 years old Sankareshwar Mahadeb temple is one of the twelve Sambhus.
Darshan is also done at Ram Mandir in Kundhei haata. After lunch, and a short break the walk recommences around 3 pm, stopping at Pathika Ram mandir briefly.
At Rameshwar Prachi ghat aarti is performed. Then the journey continues till Prachiguru Dharmakhetra Math in the village Narasinghapur of Kakatpur tehsil on the right bank of the Prachi. This place is on the border of Puri and Khordha. Guru Madhusudan Das was a great disciple of Vishnu. With an order from Maa Mangala, he came here to preach Santana dharma and tell Sri Vishnu Katha.
There are 16 temples on this campus of various deities. It is a place of great significance in the Prachi Valley region devotees and sadhus visit here throughout the year. This is a popular place for religious meetings of sadhus. This is the only Mutt that has the name of the sacred river attached to it.
The day begins with a darshan at the 300-year-old Vasudev temple at Nuahaata. Rituals performed here are similar to Lord Jagannath temple of Puri.
Khiragacha Mutt in the village Amaraprasadagada in Puri district is the next stop. Also called Parasarmuni Math, this monastery is more than 1000 years old. Devotees and saints from different parts of India and Odisha visit here throughout the year. In ancient days the place was used for religious meetings.
Darshan at Amareshwara temple follows morning arti. Amareshwara is situated on the Charichhaka – Kakatpur road. Lord Amareshwara of Sarala Mahabharata is one of the Dwadasa Sambhus of the Prachi valley. The temple is a listed and protected monument of the State Archaeology Department.
The ancient Buddhikeshwara temple of Bhanaragada is the subsequent halt where noon prasad is organized. The temple is called Paschim Sambhu among Ashta Sambhus. The land of this temple belongs to the king, and he established it. The temple is nearly 150 years old, but history refers to it as belonging to the era of Konark Temple.
The Antarvedi Mutt at Trivenighat, where river Prachi, Manikarnika – a distributary of the Kushabhadra and invisible Saraswati meet, is located in the village Kantapada Sasana of Cuttack district. It is about 7 km from Nuagaon Chhak on state highway 60. It is hardly 100 meters east of the Beleshwara and Trivenishwara temples of Bhapur in Khordha district.
Legend says that Mutt was established at the end of Dwapara and the beginning of Kali Yuga. It is the Aadi Pitha, then comes Sri Jagannath Temple. Sadhus and sanyasi used to stay here to offer prayer to the almighty.
The Triveni buda or a dip at the confluence at Triveni Ghat, is held on the new moon day in the month of Magha. Thousands congregate here to take sacred baths. A fair is organized here for more than a week. People also take baths on the Magha Amavasya. After taking a dip, they visit the Antarvedi math, where Krishna is worshipped. Shiva temple close by is known as the Beleshwara.
Social rites such as marriage, engagement, thread ceremony, asthi bisarjan, and pinda dana are performed here. The Mutt has its own landed property and garden that is maintained by the Mahanta. The locals believe that there is a Guptadhara or secret channel, which flows in the Prachi.
Jayadeva is believed to have had sacred baths at this Ghat during the Triveni Amavasya. Sri Krishna breathed his last at this place as per Padma Purana and Varaha Purana. After Jara Sabara injured him with an arrow near the forest, Lord Krishna left this material world. Pandavas tried to burn the body of Lord Krishna but did not get success. So, they floated it in the Prachi River.
The parikrama resumes before sunrise. The first stop is at Trivenishwara temple in village Anjira, about 13 km from Bhubaneswar. Then parikramawasis proceed to Antarvedi Mutt on the banks of the River Prachi. At sunrise, Prachi Puja and Arati are performed.
Another village temple whose antiquity is buried in time is Trivenishwara temple. It is the 3rd Sambhu in order amongst Ashta Sambhus. The present renovation of the temple was done by the villagers themselves. Lord Sri Ram established the Linga during his stay at the place as per Puranas. The Pandavas also stayed here when they spent their life in the jungle near Prachi River Valley.
Andhakapileshwara temple, the starting point of the parikrama and the source of the Prachi River is also the final destination of Prachi Parikrama. Purnahuti is performed here on Pankodhar Ekadashi day.
After the removal of all offerings in the past year, the lord glistens and shines. The first darshan is by Guruji, monks, and villagers. A grand yajna is performed. Before the final oblation, the group travels to the origin of the river Prachi to perform puja and arati there. On return, the final oblation of purnahuti is done and prasad is served. It is a great experience to be in the holy company of Guruji, and many monks, in continuous divine spiritual surroundings for six beautiful days enjoying nature and chanting the name of God.
Picture 16 – Purnahuti at Andhakapileshwara Temple
Travel Tips for Prachi Parikrama
Contact Prachi Parikrama coordinator at – [email protected]
Dates for 2024 are 29 February – Mar 6
This is a guest post, including images, by Dr. Sruti Mohapatra.