Rudra tandava of Ardhnarishwar

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Kedarnath and Badrinath, two most beloved northern tirthas, have for the past two weeks witnessed an apocalyptic spectacle of pralaya with an enraged god and angry goddess stomping a dance of death in fierce tandem. As clouds burst, mountainsides crumbled, and torrential streams hurtled multistoried buildings, hydel projects, roads, humans and animals alike towards assured destruction, survivors and onlookers could only bow before the unmasked power of the elements.

Hopefully, puny men will stop believing they can “conquer nature”, play havoc with the divinity of earth and water, and expect benign gods. Not one corporate that lobbied energetically in Delhi and Dehradun for the back-to-back hydro projects choking the sacred Ganga could resist when Shiva and Parvati united as Ardhnarishwar and performed Rudra Tandava, crushing their grand delusions and constructions into nothingness. Gentle Vishnu, Badri Vishal, stood mute.

Some believe the Himalayas are the body of Shiva and Parvati as Ardhnarishwar; hence the divinity of the mountain range. The Himalayas look different in Nepal and India. The Nepalese side is harsh, rugged, male; the Indian side is softer, verdant, female. Actually, being the unity of Mahadev and Devi, the mountain is both, and the entire range is dotted with Shakti peeths special to both.

On a pilgrimage to Badrinath last year, a friend heard an unusual tale explaining Vishnu’s presence in Shiva’s abode. The guide was unable to tell the source of the narrative, but shopkeepers at the site were playing cassettes of this story.

The asura Utunga performed deep penance for thousands of years to please Surya, and sought the boon of immortality. Surya said such a boon could only be granted by Shiva, so instead Utunga asked for a thousand armours that no one could pierce to reach him; hence he is also called Sahasra Kavach (one with thousand protective covers).

Utunga conquered the three worlds and unleashed great tyranny on his subjects. The unhappy rishis urged Vishnu to help, but He was unmoved, telling Lakshmi that the kavach were so powerful that to attain the powers to kill Utunga, he would have to do tapasya for ten thousand years.

Lakshmi advised him to perform penance at Kedar Khand where Shiva and Parvati reside, as tapasya for a single day at that place was equal to hundred years elsewhere. So Vishnu appeared before their dwelling as a weeping child, moving Parvati to bring him inside her home though Shiva warned against it.

The child immediately took the form of Vishnu and revealed his purpose. Having brought him inside as a son, Parvati permitted him to do tapas there and the divine couple moved to the present Kedarnath shrine. Vishnu performed penance at the place which came to be known as Badrinath dham, in the form of Nar and Narayan. One day Narayan did tapasya and Nar fought Sahasra Kavach; the next day Nar performed tapasya while Narayan battled the asura.

In this way, 999 shields of Sahasra Kavach were pierced. The frightened asura sought refuge with Surya, who implored Vishnu to spare him while he was under his (Surya’s) protection. Vishnu obliged, but vowed to pierce the last shield and destroy Sahasra Kavach in the next yuga. In the dvapara yuga, Sahasra Kavach was born as Karna; his ishta deva was Surya. Krishna (Narayan) fooled him to give away his last kavach and Arjuna (Nar) slew him.

That is how the Pandavas are associated with both dhams. They went to Kedarnath to seek Shiva’s forgiveness for slaying their own relatives in the devastating war. And that is why Badri Vishal as son of Parvati could not stop her as she vented her divine wrath on disrespectful humans. The local people have suffered because they joined the ‘development boom’; the only penance is to restore the Himalayan vegetation to full glory over the next decade. No more dhabas near the Gangotri!

This brings us to the story of the iconoclasm at Dhari Devi’s temple, as highlighted by Pandit Sanjay Raut. It is said that in the British period, in 1882, there was a move to shift the Devi shrine, which immediately unleashed havoc in Kedar Valley; the goddess is the guardian deity of the Char Dham.

Dhari Devi (Kali) is a unique form of Parvati and Ganga (earth and water). Her open air temple on the banks of the Alaknanda in Srinagar, Garhwal district, is one of the 108 Shakti Peeth mentioned in Devi Bhagavat. It houses the ‘head’ of Devi. The body of Devi, in the form of a Sri Yantra, is housed at Kalimath temple in Rudraprayag district, in an exact NE-SW alignment, symbolizing Kali sleeping. The Kedarnath jyotirliñga is exactly north from Kalimath.

Uttarakhand’s woes began when, on June 15, 2013, under permission from the Supreme Court which has a tendency to rush in where angels fear to tread, Dhara Devi’s murti was removed to facilitate the construction of a dam against stiff resistance from locals who knew this would misalign the body of the sleeping goddess and agitate her. A few hours later, death and destruction rained upon the region.

Even the samadhi of Adi Sankaracharya was not spared as the Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, and Mandakini (three of the seven streams in which Ganga descended on earth) frothed at the sacrilege. Deforestation having destroyed the ‘locks’ in which Shiva controlled the power of the mighty river, nothing could be done but surrender till the goddess deemed fit to calm down herself.

Photographs beamed from the devastated region show the Kedarnath shrine wiped clean of all ‘development’, resembling its pristine serenity of five decades ago when not a single structure stood nearby to detract from its splendid isolation. This is how it was meant to be; the Pandavas and equal eminences went to all the holy tirthas on foot.

The gods have shown their will. But the debris of human mischief remains to be cleaned up – the destroyed infrastructure, cement, concrete, steel, bridges, heavy machinery, et al. It is a safe bet that the corporates and contractors behind the idea of ‘urja pradesh’ would have lost the courage to continue the projects in this volatile region. But they cannot be allowed to simply walk away. Having created the mess, they must be made to clean it up, even if they go broke in the process. The Supreme Court must ensure this, if only to atone for its own guilt in the environmental and spiritual genocide.

First published Click here to read.

Also read
1. Kedarnath – Wrath of the Devas
2. Don’t blame nature for the Uttarakhand flood disaster
3. Divine Retribution in Many Ways
4. MoEF Changes Stand on Relocation of Dhari Devi Temple for Alaknanda Dam
5. The dark side of Urjapradesh
6. CAG’s warnings ignored