Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Oppiliappan – Kshetra Purana

According to Brahmananda Purana, Long ago Narada muni prays to Brahma to enlighten him on the history and greatness of the holy Markandeya kshetra.  Hearing this, Brahma gladly started narrating the greatness of Tiruvinnagar and its presiding deity, whose glory cannot be described even by Adisesha with his 1000 tongues.

Sage Mirikandu had a son Markandeya. The astrologers predicted on his birth that he would die young. When Markandeya heard that he would not survive beyond the age of 16 he started a penance to save him from death. Pleased with his penance Lord Shiva gave him the boon of immortality. After receiving this boon toured many holy places and bathing in sacred waters, finally reached this holy place. He was so enchanted by the congenial surroundings here that he decided to stay here permanently. Wishing to get Laksmi as a daughter and Lord Vishnu as a son in law, he started doing sever penance to achieve his objective.

Tulasi Devi who was born along with nectar (amrita) during samudra manthan, told Mahavishnu as to why he has given a special place to Mahalakshmi in his Heart? Tulasi, also desired a special place in Mahavishnu’s heart begged Lord Narayana that she also be adorned by Him on His chest like Mahalakshmi.  Thereupon, the Lord replied that Lakshmi did very severe penance to gain a place on His heart.

Tulasi Devi

In order to fulfil her wish, Mahavishnu asked Tulasi to proceed to earth and appear on the banks of the Cauvery. Mahalakshmi would be born as Bhoomi Devi at a holy place near Kumbakonam, on the banks of the Cauvery. Tulasi was asked to appear  in this holy spot before Mahalakshmi. The Lord further said that those who worship Him with petals of Tulasi , shall attain all prosperity in the world and also the benefit of performing ‘Asvamedha yaga’. All those who reside in this holy place will attain Sri Vaikunta at the end of their lives. From then onwards, Tulasi lived in this holy place, which therefore came to be known as Tulasi Vana (Tulasi forest).   As directed Tulasi appeared before Mahalakshmi’s birth and at this juncture, Mahalakshmi appeared as Bhoomi Devi under the shade of the Tulasi .

Goddess Lakshmi took birth as a small child in the Tulasi forest and was found by sage Markandeya. With immense pleasure he lifted the divine child Lakshmi from the ground, fondled her, he named her as Bhoomidevi, as she was found on earth. The sage brought her up lovingly and as she grew up, he was very much worried about her marriage. He was in frantic search for a suitable bridegroom.  At this stage Lord Narayana appeared before the sage, in the guise of an old Brahmin, clad in torn clothes and with a walking stick in hand, on the day of Panguni Sravana at noon.   Markandeya, without realising that the old man  was Sriman Narayana himself, received Him with due reverence and respectfully proceeded to serve Him, attending to His needs like washing His feet and so on. The sage then reverentially asked the old man the purpose of His visit. The visitor then proceeded to state that He was on the look – out for a suitable bride, as He wished to marry settle down in life and beget good sons. He therefore sought the hand of Bhoomidevi in marriage to enable Him to attain His objective.

On hearing the strange request of the old man (Narayana), Markandeya was non-plussed and did not know what to do. He then started explaining to the old man that Bhoomidevi was very young and was too tender in age to run a family. Moreover the age disparity between the old man and the young girl was too much. He requested the old man to drop His idea. The old man would hear none of it. He threatened to commit suicide if the young girl was not given in marriage to Him.

The sage Markandeya did not know what to do. He tried all methods to dissuade the old man from insisting upon marrying the young girl. The sage told the old man that his daughter was too young and did not even know how to cook properly She might even forget to put salt in the eatables, which may result in the old man getting angry and cursing her. Finding the old man still stubborn and unrelenting, the sage silently prayed to Lord Narayana for guidance.

The sage also sought his foster – daughter’s views in the matter and asked her whether she was willing to marry the old man. She threatened to commit suicide, if she was forced to marry the old man, much against her wishes.  Sage Markandeya was caught between the old man who threatened to commit suicide, if the girl was not given in marriage to him, and his daughter who threatened to commit suicide if she was given in marriage to the old man. He fervently prayed to the Lord to show him a way out of the piquant situation.  After prayers to God for a long time, the sage opened his eyes and there he found before him Lord Narayana in all splendor and glory, in the place of the old man. Realising that the Lord had played a practical joke on him, the sage danced and cried in ecstacy.
The Lord, blessing the sage Markandeya, said that He will married Bhoomidevi and will take only saltless offerings in this temple. Anyone who brings salt inside the temple will go to hell.  Overwhelmed with joy, Markandeya readily agreed for the marriage and prayed for 3 boons: -

1. The Lord, after marrying Bhoomidevi, should stay in this place forever.
2. The holy place should be known in his name as Markandeya Kshetra.
3. Salt less offerings in this temple should also be relished by the devotees and He should also be granted moksha.

The Lord gladly granted the boons as prayed for and further blessed that the place will be known as “Tiruvinnagar” and “Tulasivana Markandeya kshetra” and stated the marriage would be held in the month of Aippasi on Sravanam day. At the request of the sage, the Lord also agreed to make all arrangements for the marriage.

Lakshmi and Vishnu

The Lord Himself wrote out the marriage invitation and instructed His vehicle Garuda to hand over the invitations to Brahma and all devas and further help Him in conducting the marriage on the day of sravanam in the month of Aippasi. The joy of Brahma and other devas knew no bounds on hearing the happy news of the divine wedding and they all duly came with their wives to attend and worship the divine couple at their marriage. The holy wedding of the Lord and Bhoomidevi was duly conducted on a grand scale according to Vaikhanasa Agamas.Then onwards, the Lord continues to reside in this temple, along with His consort Bhoomidevi, blessing His devotees and granting them their desires.

Read about Temple associated with this purana Here – Oppiliappan Temple

Read the story about churning of milky ocean Here - Samudra Manthan


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