River Godavari Pushkaralu, a great river festival started on 14th July 2015 and will end after 12 days on 25th July. This celebration which occurs once every 12 years is of greater significance this time as it happens to be Maha Pushkaralu or Maha Kumbhamela of Godavari which occurs only once in 144 years. During Pushkaralu countless people will be taking holy dips and bathing in River Godavari, worship the River, offer rituals to their departed family members to express gratitude and seek their blessings. This 12 days event is being organized by the Telangana State Government in an elaborate and grand scale all along the course of River Godavari in the State, especially along the banks of Temple towns like Basara, Dharmapuri, Kaleshwaram and Bhadrachalam. Though there is a strong desire in me to attend Pushkaralu at Bhadrachalam, I am yet to firm up my travel plans.
Now for those of you who do not know of this age old tradition and celebration of Pushkaralu, here are the details:
Pushkara means Lotus, Sanctified water, Swan, Sword and Sky. In Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam we find a reference to the word Pushkara where Lord Maha Vishnu is referred to as Pushkaraakshah meaning the one who has Lotus like eyes, the one who provides nourishment to the entire Universe and the one who is always present in sacred Theerthas – Holy Rivers. The name Pushkara is related to Rivers. In Sanskrit Pushti means nourishment and Kara means one who does it and hence Pushkara means the energy that nourishes. And with reference to the sacred Rivers, Pushkara means the one who energizes the Rivers and provides spiritual purification. The water ponds/tanks at Temples are called Pushkarini.
The legend behind Pushkaralu is based on Pushkara the son of Lord Varuna - the Rain God and presiding deity of all the Rivers. It is said that Pushkara prayed Lord Brahma and asked him for a boon to reside in the sacred waters of his Kamandalam (an oblong water pot with handle)…in the sanctified water in it, that has emerged out from the foot of Lord Sri Maha Vishnu, and the boon was granted and he began to live there. And then Pushkara performed penance to Lord Shiva and acquired the boon of Jala Tattva Siddhi. And by virtue of these two boons from Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, Pushkara became the King of all Theerathas – Holy Rivers and was regarded as Theerthapalaka.
Pushkara also indicates the 12 years time factor in Vedic terms. Pushkara or Pushkaram is a festival of a particular River celebrated once in twelve years based on the transit of Jupiter (Brihaspathi) in the Zodiac. At the time when Pushkara acquired the boons, Brihaspathi the Devaguru also performed penance and pleased Lord Brahma. Looking at the perpetual sacredness of Pushkara, Brihaspathi wanted Lord Brahma to spare Pushkara to be with him permanently. But Pushkara was not prepared to go along with Brihaspathi. Then Lord Brahma resolved the situation by asking Pushkara to be associated with Brihaspathi for 12 days in the beginning and 12 days at the end of his sojourn in a particular Raasi (house) in the Zodiac, the transit of which generally happens once in a year. Accordingly, Twelve Sacred Rivers have been identified in which Pushkara enters each River once in twelve years coinciding with the transit period of Jupiter in twelve Zodiac signs.
Astrologically Brihaspathi the Devaguru is the most benevolent planet symbolizing wealth, fortune, learning, knowledge, divinity, progeny, domestic peace, auspiciousness and above all the reason (Karaka) for the occurrence of Pushkaram. Entry of Pushkara into a particular River signifies the Pushkara festival when all the Brahmaadhi Devatas, all the Sages, all the Pitru Devathas, all the Theerthas in this Bhoomandala (our planet) including Ganga enters into that particular River along with Brihaspathi and Pushkara. This period of their entry into a particular River is considered as highly sacred and celestial that has the power to diminish the ghastly and dreadful sins committed by people. Having Darshanam, taking bath, touching Pushkara waters, drinking the sacred waters of Pushkara is considered to be highly meritorious and soul cleansing. It is considered to be the most sacred time to perform rites to departed parents and forefathers on the banks of Pushkara River that will help them to attain salvation.
Pushkara schedule starts with River Ganga when Brihaspathi enters into Mesha Raasi which is the first sign in the Zodiac. Pushkara schedule for a particular river will be for one year, however the first twelve days known as Aadhi Pushkara and the last twelve days known as Anthya Pushkara are held to be highly sacred. At the top of this article you can see the list of the 12 Holy Rivers and the order in which their Pushkaralu are observed.Our ancient seers have prescribed certain rituals to be observed during Pushkaralu, known as Pushkara Vidhi. Most important of these rituals are Pushkara Snanam (Taking bath in the River), Pushkara Vaasa (staying by the river), Pushkara Darshanam (worshipping the River), Siro Mundana (tonsure), Pushkara Pithru Karma – a ritual to be performed on the banks of the River for the departed parents, forefathers and other family members. This is to express our gratitude to them and seek their blessings. And finally Pushakara Dhaanam, that is offering of food, money and charity in any form, to Brahmins and the poor.