Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Sri Rangam: Bhuloka Vaikuntha

The Beginnings…
Lord Visnu in the Milk Ocean
The Adi Purusha in His eternal happiness remained afloat on the Milky Ocean and wanted to create the material universe. Lord Visnu appeared before Lord Brahma in the form of a swan. Lord Brahma questioned his identity, to which the Swan replied with two syllables; 'OM' and 'THAP' and disappeared.

The mysterious Swan (hamsa)

Lord Brahma construed this bewildering reply as a direction to start penance uttering the word 'OM'. After long years of penance, the four Vedas appeared. After years of further penance, Bhumi (land; the earth) appeared; then fire, the sky, Devaloka, human beings, animals, etc., gradually appeared. At that time, a demon, by name Madhu Kaitabha, appeared from the ear of Lord Brahma and snatched the Vedas from him and disappeared into the ocean. This incident annoyed Lord Brahma, who also plunged into the ocean to search for the miscreant.

Visnu took the form of a horse (Hayagriva) and annihilated Madhu Kaitabha and recovered the Vedas and taught the same to Lord Brahma. After the initiation by Lord Visnu Himself, Lord Brahma started creating the Universe comprised of the five elements.

Lord Brahma receives the Vedas from Lord Hayagriva

As one's karma becomes the decisive factor for the continuance of the universe under the influence of natural law, Lord Brahma realised in his observation that a time might come when his own actions would be put to judgement.
He felt the necessity of getting advice from Lord Lord Narayana. To invoke Him, he started penance in the Milky Ocean. After long years of penance, Lord Narayana appeared before him on Garuda and asked him what he wanted. Lord Brahma requested Lord Narayana to show him His real form

Lord Narayana

Lord Narayana replied that nobody has seen His real jyoti (effulgent) svarupa. He said further, "It is I who appeared before you as a swan. It is I who brought you the Vedas. It is I who took the form of Hayagriva and annihilated the demon. And now I have come on My Garuda. I have taken up the responsibility of protecting the universe and if you want to visualize My real form, you will have to utter the Astakshara Mantra - Om Namo Narayana- in deep veneration.”

Lord Brahma in deep meditation of Lord Narayana

At this Lord Brahma started penance. Like this a thousand years elapsed, and at the end, Lord Visnu appeared in a Ranga Vimanam from the Milky Ocean.  Ranga Vimanam is the name given to a special chariot-like conveyance having Lord Visnu inside the Vimanam (vehicle). Adi Sesa was holding the white umbrella in attendance. The Commander of Lord Visnu’s Divine army, Visvaksena was holding a cane and chamara (fan). Narada Muni with his tambura was uttering hymns in praise of the Lord; the demigods were in prayerful attention. Elevated sages headed by the the Sanat Kumaras were following the chariot. Lord Visnu appeared in this procession to Lord Brahma.

In deep veneration Lord Brahma went round the chariot four times chanting the four Vedas with his four mouths and stood before Lord Visnu in prayer. Representatives of all the worlds within the Universe, including Durga, Sarasvati, the Sapta Rishis, Navagrahas (nine planetary deities), constellations of stars and others were also in attendance.

Being pleased with the penance of Lord Brahma, for the first time the real svarupa of Visnu in the Ranga Vimanam, with His attendants, was shown to him as desired. Lord Brahma wanted to worship Lord Visnu in the Vimanam forever. Lord Visnu agreed to his request and Lord Brahma took Him to his abode in Satyaloka.

Lord Brahma was happy to worship the Vimanam. Vaivasvata Manu's son Maharaja Iksvaku cherished the desire of possessing the Ranga Vimanam for the benefit of the people on earth. He consulted his family preceptor, Vasishtha, who advised him to start penance uttering the sacred Ashtakshara Mantra.

Accordingly, Iksvaku started a severe penance which disturbed the demigods. Indra did not even hesitate to send the Vajrayudha (lightning weapon) to foil the penance of Iksvaku. But all failed in their attempts. In disappointment, they prayed to Lord Brahma, to save them from the baffling catastrophe. Lord Brahma for his part approached Ranganatha for advice.
Ranganatha consoled Lord Brahma by expressing His desire to go to Ayodhya where He would be worshipped by the descendants of the Solar Dynasty for four yugas, and at the end of the fourth yuga He would go to the kingdom of the Cholas in the South of India, on the banks of the Kaveri, where He would stay for 700 years. At the end of this period He would return to Brahmaloka. Lord Brahma was directed to part with the Ranga Vimanam to Iksvaku.

Maharaja Iksvaku receives Lord Ranganatha
Accordingly Brahma placed the Ranga Vimanam on the shoulders of Garuda who delivered it to Iksvaku at Ayodhya. Iksvaku erected a big temple in between the rivers Sarayu and Dhamasu, and installed the Ranga Vimanam therein. Ceremonial rites and rituals went on for ages. Iksvaku's son Dasaratha ruled the country in the Tretayuga and he, being childless, performed a great sacrifice, Putrakameshti Yajna, and got four sons. All the celebrated kings of the neighbouring countries attended the function. Among them, Dharma Varma, a Chola prince, was also present. After seeing the Ranga Vimanam, he desired to have it in his own country on the banks of the Kaveri. On return his from Ayodhya, he started a severe penance to get the Ranga Vimanam in his country.

Some sages, who had foreknowledge of the coming events, requested him to stop his penance as it was already destined that the Ranga Vimanam would go to the Chola country after some time.

Coronation of Lord Ramacandra

hus Lord Ranganatha was worshipped by successive rulers of the Solar Dynasty in great pomp and splendour. The deity was eventually worshipped by Lord Ramacandra Himself. After His coronation, Lord Rama gifted the deity of Lord Ranganatha to Vibhisana as a reward for his sincere devotion and in recognition of his being an unflinching ally in the battle to win back Sita Devi. Vibhisana was overjoyed.

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