Friday, 2 September 2011

Vedic Legends about Origin of Narmada Bana Lingas :

There are many legends about the origin of the Bana Lingas and their association with the Narmada, in the Puranic Texts like Aparajita-pariprchchha, Yajnavalkya Samhita, Mathsaya Purana (Chapter 5), Hari Vamsa (Vishnu Parva - Chapter 173) and Bhagavatha Purana (10th Skandha - Chapter 62), with slightly varying accounts. Two of the most popular ones are narrated below :
Legend 1 :
The Asura Raja (Demon King) Bana was the eldest of the one hundred sons of Bali - Bali was the son of King Virochana, the grandson of Prahaladha (the famous devotee of Lord Maha Vishnu's incarnation, Lord Narasimha) and the great grandson of King Hiranyakasipu. King Banasura himself was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and to seek the Divine Blessings of Lord Shiva, he performed severe penances for a long time, in the Holy Himalayas, invoking Lord Shiva's favour. Finally Lord Shiva appeared in answer to his austerities and agreed to grant him a boon. Banasura wished for himself One Thousand Arms carrying a multitude of weapons to destroy his enemies and desired that Goddess Parvathi consider him as her own son - he was bestowed with what he asked. Drunk with power and arrogance, the Demon King started torturing all the three worlds. Honouring the requests of the Devas and Lord Indra, Lord Krishna (an incarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu) severed all the one thousand arms and the weapons they were holding, with his Sri Sudharsana Chakra, the Divine Discus. However, Lord Shiva honoured the Demon King (who was, inspite of being an Asura, was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva) by giving him his own representation in the form of Swayambu (natural, self-manifest) Shiva Linga, hence the name Bana Linga.
Legend 2 :
Once Lord Shiva wanted to destroy the Flying City of "Tripura", which had been obtained as a Boon by the Demon Chieftian Banasura. So, Lord Shiva released a powerful and fiery arrow from his Divine Bow called "Pinaka". The dart split and broke the "Three Puras" into tiny bits, which fell on Earth in 3 spots : (1) on the hills of Sri-Kshetra, which is of unknown identity to this day; (2) on the peaks of Amarakanthaka in the Vindhya ranges and (3) on the banks of the Sacred Narmada River. The bits that fell soon multiplied into crores, each bit becoming a Shiva Linga. As they formed part of the possession of the Banasura, they were called as Bana Linga. Amarakanthaka, the peak in Madhya Pradesh State of India, is in close proximity to the Source of the River Narmada, which according to the Puranic Texts, originates in the Vindhya Mountains 914 metres above the sea level, flows westward for 1,292 kilometres through Mandla and Jubbalpore Districts and joins the Arabian Sea in Cambay (Kambhat) near Bharoch in Gujarat State.
It should be noted here that the word "Bana" also means an arrow, a reed-shaft, cow's udder and pike, quite independant of the legend concerning the Asura King Bana.
The import of these legends is that the Narmada Bana-Lingas are self-manifest forms (Swayambhu) of Lord Shiva and Goddess Sakthi and that they are therefore holier than any other aniconic forms of Lord Shiva.   
What are the different types of Narmada Bana Lingas ?
There are many different types of Narmada Bana Lingas and depending upon the Sacred Markings and Holy Patterns over the body of the Linga, they are classified and their significance defined. However, please note that there is no necessity to make a micrographic study of the various types of Bana Lingas, to choose one for yourself - it is sufficient to take certain normal precautions listed at the end of this article.
The "Siddhanta Sekhara" states that the Bana Lingas picked up from the Holy River Narmada have been worshipped already by the Gods, especially by the Guardian Deities (Loka Pala) and the Sacred Stones are still said to contain the impress of such worship. There are Bana Lingas carrying the different marks characteristic of these Gods :

(1) Conch Shell mark on top (Samkhabha Mastaka) indicates it has been worshipped by Lord Maha Vishnu, the Protector of the Cosmos
(2) Lotus Mark (Padhma) denotes it was worshipped by Lord Brahma, the Creator of the Cosmos
(3) Parasol mark (Chharta) reveals it was worshipped by Lord Indra, the Ruler of the Deva World
(4) Heads mark (Siro Yugma) shows it was worshipped by Lord Agni, the Fire God
(5) Three Steps (Padha) denote it was worshipped by Lord Yama Khanda
(6) Mace mark (Ghadha) indicates it was worshipped by Lord Isana
(7) Water Vase mark (Khalasa) shows it was worshipped by Lord Varuna, the Water God
(8) Banner mark (Dhvaja) denotes it was worshipped by Lord Vayu, the God of Air
"Vira Mitrodaya", the celebrated gloss on "Mitakshara" (which itself is a commentary by Vijnanesvara on Yajnavalkya's "Dharma Shastra"), quotes "Kolottara" on the subject of distinguishing the characteristic marks on the various Bana Lingams. This text enumerates 9 varieties of Bana Linghas, 8 of them corresponding to the 8 Guardian Deities (Lok-Palas) and the 9th one called Vaishnava Bana Lingam :

(1) the Bana Lingas worshipped by Lord Devendra will fulfill all the desires and bestow sovereignty
(2) the Agneya Bana Linga will be rosy coloured and warm to touch and carries the mark of the weapon Sakthi
(3) the Yamya Bana Linga will have the form of a cudgel or of a tongue
(4) the Nairrti Bana Linga will look like a sword, carries stain on it's body and will bestow the benefits of Jnana (Wisdom) and Yoga, however, it is not for the householder's worship
(5) the Varuna Bana Linga will be round in shape and may be distinguished by the marks of a noose (Pasa) and will bring prosperity
(6) the Vayu Bana Linga will be of black colour or smoky complexioned or ash grey and will have the appearance of a flag post or may carry on it's head the mark of a banner
(7) the Kaubhera Bana will be in the form of a quiver or noose or mace and there might be a hair like line in it's centre
(8) the Raudhra Bana Linga will be lustrous like a block of ice and bears the marks of a bone or spear
(9) the Vaishnava Bana Linga will have the marks of Conch Shell or Discus or Lotus or Mace or Jewels on the Chest (Srivatsa and Kaustubha) or the foot prints of Lord Maha Vishnu and will have variegated colours
"Haemadhri" enumerates nine types of Bana Lingas  :

(1) Swayambhu - honey coloured with two dark rings
(2) Mrityunjaya - variegated colours with marks resembling spear and colis of matted hair
(3) Nilakantha - elongated and white coloured with a black spot
(4) Trilochana - white coloured with eye-like marks
(5) Kalagni Rudhra - lustrous and dark, stout with matted-hair like marks
(6) Tripurari - honey coloured with white marks resembling the sacrificial chord across and with lotus at the base
(7) Isana - clear crystal with the top twany brown and marks of a trident
(8) Ardhanariswara - white coloured on one side and red coloured on the other side
(9) Maha Kala - slightly red in hue, shining, stout and longish in shape
What are the colours of Bana Lingas ?
Each Bana Linga is unique with its own markings. The colour of the stone varies a lot, from grey to beige, to brown and a reddish brown. They may be honey coloured, white, blue, black or emerald-hued.
Are Bana Lingas worthy of Worship ?
Of the many categories of Shivalingas, the Bana Lingas come under the Swayambhu category, meaning they are self-manifest and have formed naturally, which makes them the holiest among the holies and the most suitable for worship. They do not need to be made worship-worthy by the preliminary rites of Purification (Cleansing) and Consecration (Prana Prathishta), as the Narmada Bana Lingas naturally contain the Vibhuti of Godhead present in them. They do not require the traditional rituals of transmutation - they are natural, self-evident and enduring. They cannot be defiled on any account and and do not lose their merit under any circumstances. The "Marka Bheda Tantra" (Patala 7) makes a summary statement to this effect. 
However, if the ideal concept of Programming can be accomplished by a competant professional, then the Narmada Bana Lingams will bestow better and faster results. Among the several varieties of Lingas, Bana Lingas are said to be the most Sacred and it's worship the most effective. It is therefore claimed that the Bana Linga when worshipped is a thousand times more effective than any other Linga. While "Suprabheda" (33) roundly declares that all Bana Lingas are worship-worthy, the "Suta Samhita" and "Meru Tantra" (Chapter 9) state that the ideal size of Bana Lingas for worship must be minimum four angulas or 4 inches or above. Those of smaller size may be used for carrying in person or worn around the neck as Power Pendants - as mobile Lingas, for Blessings and Protection.
Do Bana Lingas require Strict Worship and Elaborate Rituals ?
The Narmada Bana Lingas are similar to the Saligrama Stones (of the Gandaki River, Nepal) in this regard : both are Swayambhu. Being Self-Manifest, both are Divine Energy Tools and do not suffer from the many disadvantages and limitations of manushya-made forms and statues. They do not need to be ceremoniously installed or duly consecrated. They do not even require to go through the normal ritual of Invocation of Divine Presence (Avahana), for the Divine Presence is already there and will continue to be there, quite independantly of the rituals. This is clearly and boldly stated by the "Marka Bheda Tantra" (Patala 7). In fact, the "Yoga Sara" (Chapter 5) claims that by merely thinking about his/her Bana Lingam early in the morning, a person can gain success in all the tasks of the day.
Like the Sacred Shaligrams, there are no distinct prescriptions or procedures for the worship of Bana Lingams in Puranic Texts. There is only one Tantric Text "Yoga Sara" of Kaula influence that gives a separate dhyana and mantra for the worship of Bana Lingas, which is completely different from the standard worship ritual offered to Lord Shiva. This procedure in heavily tantric in orientation and involves a lot of visualising capabilities and might not be suitable to the householder.
Rigorous worship of any Sacred Object like the Narmada Bana Linga is always meritorious, but it is neither indispensable nor obligatory. The mere presence of a Narmadeshwar Shiva Lingam is said to grace its environment with harmony, mental peace, prosperity and protection. Regular worship of the Lingam with the Sacred Mantras, Vedic Suktams and Stotrams cause many intense and invisible effects. It is said that the sacred and powerful sounds from such mantras cause a powerful internal reverberation which is absorbed by the Bana Lingam. With consistent worship, this energy is slowly released and emitted to the surrounding environments, and is specially known to have the capacity to negate the accumulated karmic burdens of its worshipper - in other words, the Bana Lingam dissolves the negative karmic baggage (Praarabdha Karma) carried by the individual.
What are the benefits of having Bana Lingas ?
Numerous Scriptures acknowledge the superior merits of the Bana Lingams and extol the unsurpassed virtues of them, in bestowing many great benefits. The "Yajnavalkya Samhita" states that the benefits that can be obtained by worshipping a crore of other Shivalingas are got by worshipping just one Bana Linga. It is said that merely thinking about their Bana Lingaearly in the morning itself is likely to bestow success in all their enterprises of the day. It is also said that the Bana Lingams secure worldly welfare as well as emancipation from worldly involvement. It is the considered view of many that the Narmada Bana Lingams wash off sins and curses.
The Narmadeshwar Shiva Linga works with the breath and the fluids of the body creating a harmony in the body's flow.The Narmada Bana Linga helps one to unite the lower self (conscious) with the higher self (unconscious) so that we may know our own divinity as we seek to know God. It brings believers into the mystical union with God. It heals and helps opening the chakras to resolve issues. It helps with activating the kundalini energy and the seven chakras. It awakens the energy centers and brings feelings of peace and wellbeing. It enhances personal or group meditations for clearer flow of energies. It balances and brings harmony to it's surrounding environment, after cleansing the prevailing negative energies.
On one hand the Narmada Bana Lingam is the epitome of masculine power and attraction and oozes love and affection, on the other hand an adept can use it to suppress sexual energies and direct them to gain mental and spiritual development.
The Narmada Bana Lingas are highly communicative gemstones, each with its own individual personality, purpose and reason for being. It is believed that there is a Bana Linga destined for each one of us and that the Bana Linga will find it's way to us when the time is right and when we are ready to receive it into our lives.
The Sacred Narmada Shivalinga Stones can be used to remove negativity and harness and transmit harmonious vibrations throughout a home and office. A Mini Narmada Bana Linga can be carried by a person or worn around the neck as a Pendant to protect the person and also gain divine blessings.                                                         
Important :     
(1) No two Sacred Narmada Stones are alike and there are always variations in the Yoni patterns across the body.
(2) Certain Texts like "Kedhara Khanda" define some "Dushta Bana Lingas" - the Bana Lingas that are not auspicious : those with very rough surface, those which are fully flattened and those which are split at the top. Haemadhri in "Lakshana Khanda" insists that those Bana Lingas that are exceedingly corpulent or very thin, those with sharp edges and crooked tops are meant only for those who wish emancipation only and are not suitable for householders.
(3) Currently a huge dam is being built on the River Narmada. Once the dam is successfully completed, the rest of the Sacred Narma Stones will be submerged by more than a hundred feet of raging water and the chances for future harvests are extremely slim. The already harvested genuine Sacred Narmada Stones are becoming increasingly rare and are in high demand because of the exports. The high demands and scarce quantities will continue to boost the value of this unique Divine Energy Tool.
(4) Beware of spurious and fake Narmadha Bana Lingas. Not all the stones that are taken out of River Narmada are Bana Lingas. Similarly stones taken from Ganges and Yamuna Rivers too are sold as "Narmada Bana Lingas", because of the rising demand. The devotees are advised to approach a genuine organisation for obtaining an authentic Narmada Bana Lingam.

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