Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gnana Saraswati Devi, Basara.

Saraswathi Namasthubhyam, varade Kama roopini, 
Vidhyarambham karishyami, sidhir bhavathu me sada
My salutations to Goddess Saraswati,
Who can take any form,
Who is the bestower of all boons,
And I start learning now,
With the prayer to her,
To make it very effective. 
Saraswati Devi is our Goddess of education, wisdom and fine arts. Every house of a Hindu has an image or idol of Saraswati Devi, where prayers are offered regularly. As soon as children commence to utter few words they are taught ‘Slokas’ and prayers meant for seeking the blessings of Saraswati Devi. However, when it comes to Temples of Goddess Saraswati there are very few and the ancient and popular ones are perhaps two in the entire country. I must confess that I do not know the reason for this.
In the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad I know of one Temple of Lord Shiva at West Marredpally where there is an idol of Saraswati Devi along with few other Gods. This Temple is a recently constructed one and is just known to people in that area. Apart from this I do not know of any other Temple of Saraswati Devi in the entire city. In contrast I am told that there are over 700 Temples of Anjaneyaswamy in the twin cities. Since few years a modern Saraswati Devi Temple at Wargal, 60 Kms. from Secunderabad has developed into a popular place of pilgrimage. But it is Gnana Saraswati Devi Temple at Basara, 210 Kms. from our house in Secunderabad which is very ancient and popular all over the country. Basara is along the banks of river Godavari in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh. It is easily accessible from Hyderabad and other towns like Nizamabad, Bhodan and Nirmal. Basara is also conveniently reachable from many towns in Maharashtra State.
There are two legends linked with this Temple. According to one version prayers to Saraswati Devi were started here by Maharshi Vyasa. After the end of the ‘Mahabharata / Kurukshetra War’, Maharshi Vyasa chose to move south and stay at this beautiful and peaceful place along river Godavari. After bathing in the river the Maharshi used to bring three fistfuls of sand from the river bed and place it on the banks in three heaps and offer prayers to Goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kali. And soon these heaps of sand got transformed into idols of the three Goddesses. These idols are always kept smeared with turmeric. As Maharshi Vyasa spent considerable time here offering prayers, this place came to be known as Vasara and subsequently over a period of time it got transformed to Basara. According to another legend it is Maharshi Valmiki who installed the idol of Saraswati at this place, offered prayers and wrote the Ramayana here, much before the times of Maharshi Vyasa.
Devotees come here from all over the country and mostly from AP, Maharashtra and Karnataka throughout the year. Small children are brought here for ‘Akshara-abhyasam’ in the presence of Goddess Saraswati. ‘Akshara’ means alphabets and ‘abhyasam’ means practicing. At this ceremony in the temple the child is made to write for the first time, letters like ‘Om’ on a slate and practice.  And this ritual marks the formal commencement of the child’s education. Starting with ‘Abhishekam Seva’ early in the morning there are daylong rituals at the temple and Prasadam is distributed. The turmeric paste from Devi’s image is also given as Prasadam and this is believed to enhance ones knowledge and wisdom. The annual festivals of ‘Devi Nava Rathri’, ‘Dattatreya Jayanthi’, and ‘Vasantha Panchami’ are celebrated here very elaborately and in a grand manner.
The above photographs are of our recent visit to Basara. We started by Car from Secunderabad one afternoon at 3:00 P.M. and reached Nizamabad by travelling 168 Kms. by 7:00 P.M. We halted there for the night. The next day morning we went to Basara had Darshan of the Goddess and performed ‘Kumkuma-Archana’. Then we did some shopping close to the Temple, went for a boat ride on Godavari and returned to Nizamabad. After lunch and a short nap we started back and reached home by 6:30 P.M.
There is a very convenient train connection from Secunderabad to Basara so that one can have Darshan of Saraswati Devi and return back the same day. One can start from Secunderabad by the Nanded Passenger train at about 7:15 A.M. and reach Basara by 11:20 A.M. After visiting the Temple and Godavari one can conveniently board the Nanded-Secunderabad train at 4:10 P.M. and return to the city by 8:00 P.M. 

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