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THEERTHA YATRA - A PILGRIMAGE

THEERTHA YATRA - A PILGRIMAGE

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Published by bhargavasarma
Theertha Yatra has acquired lot of prominence especially in Hindu religion. It is a journey undertaken to a sacred or a holy place. India the country as such is a pilgrim centre and that is why it attracts lot of foreign tourists visiting India since historical days. Starting from Kashmir (Himalayas) to Kanya Kumari, from Bay of Bengal to Arabian Sea we find innumerable number of pilgrim centers spread across the country. Majority of the pilgrim centers in India are located on the banks of sacred theerthas. A pilgrimage is a Theertha Yatra and a pilgrim is a theerthayatri, the place where the Theertha is located is called Theertha Kshetra or Theertha Sthana.
Theertha Yatra has acquired lot of prominence especially in Hindu religion. It is a journey undertaken to a sacred or a holy place. India the country as such is a pilgrim centre and that is why it attracts lot of foreign tourists visiting India since historical days. Starting from Kashmir (Himalayas) to Kanya Kumari, from Bay of Bengal to Arabian Sea we find innumerable number of pilgrim centers spread across the country. Majority of the pilgrim centers in India are located on the banks of sacred theerthas. A pilgrimage is a Theertha Yatra and a pilgrim is a theerthayatri, the place where the Theertha is located is called Theertha Kshetra or Theertha Sthana.

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Published by: bhargavasarma on Dec 12, 2008
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Om! Gam! Ganapathaye! Namaha!Om! Sri Raghavendraya Namaha!Om! Namo! Bhagavathe! Vasudevaya!Om! Ham! Hanumathe Sri Rama Doothaya Namaha!
 
THEERTHA YATRA - A PILGRIMAGE
Theertha Yatra has acquired lot of prominence especially in Hindu religion. It is a journey undertaken to a sacred or a holy place. India the country as such is a pilgrimcentre and that is why it attracts lot of foreign tourists visiting India since historicaldays. Starting from Kashmir (Himalayas) to Kanya Kumari, from Bay of Bengal toArabian Sea we find innumerable number of pilgrim centers spread across the country.Majority of the pilgrim centers in India are located on the banks of sacred theerthas. Apilgrimage is a Theertha Yatra and a pilgrim is a theerthayatri, the place where theTheertha is located is called Theertha Kshetra or Theertha Sthana.
 What is a Theertha? What is its significance?
In simple language Theertha means sacred water and Theertha sthala or TheerthaKshetra is a sacred or a holy spot. It could be a river, a lake, or an ocean, or even amountain that is made sacred through association with a deity or a saint. It is spiritual,sacred and celestial.Theertha means sacred water. It symbolizes liberation of soul from the cycle of birthand death hence, it is obvious the land ought to be associated with water and waterbodies. It is said that the water element of Theertha is associated with Lord SriMannNarayana indicating the all pervasive nature of the supreme God as that of an ocean inwhich the never ending movement of birth, life and death of cosmos occurs. The wordTheertha means to float. Narayana according to this etymology is the one who moves(floats) in the infinite waters and is also the water itself.Narayana is a confluence of two words Nara + Yana = Narayana. Nara is generallyreferred to mankind and ayana as the ultimate stage. It is generally referred tomankind and ayana as the ultimate stage which is eternal without ending. Nara elementis also associated with another meaning of water. Nara means water and Yana meanslives. Narayana means one who lives in water. This close association of Narayana thesupreme God with water explains the significance behind a Theertha. That means Heis present in all the theerthas.Another meaning of Narayana is said to be Nara means human and ayana mean thepath or direction/goal of a human being towards salvation. For example Uttarayanaand Dakshinayana that denotes the direction of Sun God. Lord Narayana is the onewho shows the direction towards the ultimate reality that is salvation. That meansTheertha the place where Lord SriMann Narayana resides in the form of water is a place
 
of direction to the human beings towards liberation of the soul from the cycle of birthand death.Water mentioned should not be considered as mere water. It is said that before thecreation of Universe everything was in the form of water and the all pervasive energywhich was present in the very beginning is one that referred to as water in this contextand the all pervasive energy was Lord SriMann Narayana. A Theertha possess threeelements that make it so sacred and celestial. It is pure, it brings Punya, and it isauspicious (Suchi, Punya and subha)
SIGNIFICANCE OF THEERTHA YATRA
Theertha is a holy place of pilgrimage since time immemorial. Theerthas are seldomanonymous places. They all have their unique character and ambience. These placesare the living symbols of tradition and culture of history.Sthala purana, Kshetra Mahatya, speaks about a particular place/Theertha, itssignificance, culture and traditions in that place. These places are used by the greatsages for their spiritual activities which are evident from the sthala puranas. They havegained prominence depending on the merits of Theertha or the deity or the saintassociated with.It will help the pilgrims to cleanse their inner selves, wash out their evil tendencies andopen up before them a path or a direction for righteous living. They help in attainingGnana and Bhakthi to the individuals which helps in changing the direction of theirKriyamana Karma that ultimately lays foundation for the Agami Karma.It is a place where one can get enlightenment for achieving liberation. Theertha Yatrais also one of the karmas to be discharged in mundane philosophy. A Theertha Yatrais not only a physical act but it also implies the mental or moral discipline and learningtoward self realization. It is bliss.Visit to Theerthas and following Theertha vidhi is recommended as a Vedic remedy formany ills and sufferings. Theertha Yatra is an opportunity to the householder todetach himself for some time from worries and botherations of the materialistic dailylife and to devote that time spiritually
POURANIC & MYTHOLOGICAL REFERENCES
It is said that reference to Theertha Yathra (Pilgrimage) is available in many Puranaslike Maha Bhagavatha, Ramayana, Maha Bharatha, Sri Venkatachala Mahatya, SkhandaPurana, Matsya Purana, Brahma Purana, Brahmanda Purana, etc.,
 
Mythological reference can be seen from the stories of Maha Bharatha where Pandavasvisited many Theertha Kshethras during their pilgrimage, in Ramayana where Lord SriRama along with his consort Goddess Sita Devi visited many pilgrim centers andperforming Vedic rituals and worshipping, in Maha Bhagavatha Balarama (Lord SriKrishna’s brother) going on a pilgrimage.There are many references to pilgrimage we find in the history of many Kings andEmperors that ruled India. Even we also find such references in the life history of greatsaints like Sri Madhwacharya, Sri Raghavendra Theertha, Sri Sankaracharya etc.,
THEERTHA VIDHI
Theertha Vidhi is a part of Theertha Yathra. We would have observed that lot of peoplein India visit Theertha Kshethras across the country, take sacred bath in holy rivers,perform religious ceremonies especially during parva kala like, Makara Sankramana,Uttarayana, Dakshinayana, Eclipse days, Pushkara days etc.Though different walks of people follow different customs and traditions while visitinga Theertha Kshetra, Dharma Sindhu has prescribed certain uniform rituals (TheerthaVidhi) to be followed while visiting a Theertha Kshethra. Some of them are TheerthaSnana (Sacred bath), Theertha Upavasa (fasting), Theertha Mundana (Tonsuring ofHead), Theertha Sradhha (Pinda Daana), Theertha Darshana (Darshana of the deity),Theertha Dana (charity), Theertha vratha (Puja/worshipping), Theertha Sravana (Katharecital/parayana).Kasi, Gaya, Prayaga are the trinity of places where performingsacred rites to forefathers is a must.One of the maxims of pilgrimage says that one should tonsure ones head at Prayaga.At the same time theertha vidhi prohibits from fasting and getting ones head tonsuredat Gaya. Similar prohibition is also mentioned for other places like Badrinath,Kurukshetra, Jagannathpuri (Puri).Charity given in a Theertha Kshetra is highly fruitful and sacred. Generally peoplegive charity in cash (Hiranya Danam). Charity can also be given in kind if one isprepared in advance like Rice, Ghee, Jaggery, Honey, Grandha (Book), Vasthra, PaadaRaksha (Chappals), Umbrella, Hand Stick, Fan, Sayya (Bedding), Phala (Fruits), Bell(Ghanta), Paathra (brass/silver vessel), Asana (Mat), Nava Dhanya, which are calledshodasa Danas. The best is Anna Danam, feeding Brahmins. It is said and believed thatfeeding one brahmin at Gaya brings the same virtue what one would get by feeding onecrore Brahmins elsewhere.Observing Theertha Vidhi is very sacred, celestial and auspicious that yields lot ofphala, punyadayaka and also mukthidayaka. Performing Vedic rituals at TheerthaKshetra is infinitely more effective than performing in one’s home.

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