VARANASI THE OTHER REALITY
VARANASI THE OTHER REALITY
Kashi outweighed the heavens because the whole cosmos is contained with in its five kroshas. All that is auspicious increation is here. All that is powerful and sacred is here. All the 330 million gods are here. All knowledge resides here. All tirthas are here. All eight directions radiate from here. All time is born here. Yet, though Kashi forms the heart of the mandala of creation, it is above it. It is lokattara or transcendent. The city sits atop Shiva’s trishul or trident,removed from the world and unmoved by itsrhythms. It is indestructible and in corruptible. While the world around it goes from sin to worse, Kashi lives in a permanent state of purity. It remains rooted in the Krita Yuga orthe Age of Perfection while the rest of creation has degenerated to the Kali Yuga or the Age of Imperfection And when Brahma periodically lets loose pralaya, the floodwaters that destroy all that hecreated, Kashi alone remains unscathed. It sits serene on Shiva’s trishul: ‘When all inert things sink, she, made of consciousness and bliss, does not sink. Were Kashi herself submerged, how could she rescue others?’ It was this salvation which Kashi promises that first drew Shiva to it. Having sliced off Brahma’s fifth head in a paroxysm of anger, the blue-necked god wandered the three worlds for endless aeons, searching for salvation. But to no avail: Brahma’s skull continued to stick to his hand, and the fury Brahmahatya continued to dog his footsteps. It was only when he entered the sacred precincts of Kashi that Brahmahatya melted away and the skull dropped from his fingers. So it was that Shiva made Kashi his own.
And when he needed a suitably luminous home for his new bride, Parvati, it was here that Shiva came to live. He so suffused the city with his presence that the very stones of Kashi became Shiva – Kashi kekankar Shiv Shankar. In Kashi, there is no piece of land, not even oneas small as a til or sesame seed, that does not bear the mark of Shiva, the linga. The god once counted the lingas in Kashi for Parvati and gave up after a hundred billion.
The jyotirlinga or the linga of light, also reside shere, giving Kashi the luminosity to dispelignorance and untruth. Kashi thus is the fount of all knowledge, an attribute commemorated in the seven steps a young Brahmin boy takes toward sKashi during his upanayana or initiation ceremony. Kashi is cosseted not only by Shiva but also by Ganga. Once she touches the earth, the heavenly river flows unwaveringly southwards in her quest for the sea. Kashi is also the most blessed of the sapta purior the seven holy cities that grant moksha or eternal escape from the cycle of life and death. The other six cities, however, can only offer indirect liberation – if you die there, you are reborn for the last time in Kashi. The ultimate guarantee of moksha comes only from dying inKashi, for Kashivam maranam muktiha or death in Kashi is liberation.
And this is because Kashi is thrice -blessed. It isholy in its very existence as the City of Light; it is washed eternally by the heavenly Ganga; andit is only here that Shiva himself whispers the taraka mantra in the ears of the dying. The only time she flows north is at Kashi, when she alters her divine course just to wash the banks of the holy city. Here she is Ganga maiyya,the mother who nourishes the very soul of Kashi, nurturing its life, sanctifying its ritual sand gathering up its dead. Being holy in untold ways, Kashi is then the holiest tirtha or ford across samsara, the river of life. A visit to any tirtha bestows punya on thepilgrim; but a visit to this city bestows spiritual benefit beyond measure. The rites and rituals of dharma get magnified manifold in Kashi .It is said that an upavasa, or fast, for three days in Kashi equals thousands of years of asceticism.