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Naimisharanya, Uttar Pradesh Overview

Located on the banks of Gomti River in Sitapur district of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Naimisharanya is a revered Hindu temple enshrined by the God Vishnu. Also known as Nimsar, Neemsar or Nimkhar, it is one of the ‘Divya Desams’ i.e. one of the 108 Vishnu temples mentioned in the works of the scholarly Alvars (saints). The temple has been mentioned in Nalayira Divya Prabandham which is a collection of verses by composed by the 12 Alvars. Apart from this, the temple is one of the eight venerated temples that is believed to have self-manifested itself and is also called as Swayamvyaktha Kshetra.

Popular as one of the most important pilgrimage spots of the Hindus, the highlight of the temple is a holy tank called Chakra Kundra where the devotees take a dip to cleanse themselves of any sins. This holy tank is said to have been created with the Chakra- weapon of God Vishnu. Known to be one of the most ancient temples, the construction and design has been improvised by several rulers over the years. It is believed that several sages have performed penance here; the land is so holy that just by visiting here, a person can rid himself of his sins and attain Moksha (liberation).

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Etymology of Naimisharanya

The devotees believe that Naimisharanya has been named after the Chakra of God Vishnu. ‘Naimi’ means the outer surface of the disc of Lord Vishnu and ‘sharanya’ means the place where it fell. Also, the tank in the temple where devotees take a holy dip is called Chakra Kundra, after the Chakra of Lord Vishnu again.

Legend of Naimisharanya

There are very many legends associated with the origin of the temple at Naimisaranya. A per one, it is believed that one revered sage Narada was in search of the best water body (teertha). During his search, he went to the abode of Lord Shiva- Kailasa and that of Lord Vishnu- Parkadal. Finally he settled on the water body in the Naimisha Forest.

Another legend goes on to state a tale when Lord Indra who was the king of the devas was troubled and driven out of the devalok by a demon (asura) named Vritra. The demon was apparently blessed by a boon that no weapon that was created till the date of him receiving the boon could kill him. So, disappointed and disheartened, Lord Indra seeked the help of Lord Vishnu to retrieve his kingdom. It was finally decided by Lord Vishnu that a weapon made from the bones of sage Dadhichi could defeat Vritra. When Dadhichi was approached for help, he gave in to the proposal and was ready to offer himself willingly but he wanted to go on a pilgrimage of all the holy rivers in the world. On hearing this, Lord Indra brought all the holy rivers to Naimisaranya to allow sage Dadhichi to fulfill his wish without wasting time. Soon after, the sage sacrificed himself and a weapon was created with his spine that was used to defeat the asura.

Yet another myth associated with the temple is that once when all sages were performing penance, Lord Brahma- the God of all creation brought out a ring from darba grass. The ring fell down at a place and Lord Brahma asked the sages to perform penance at that place. That same spot came to be known as Naimisaranya later. At the end of the penance, Lord Vishnu emerged and accepted the offerings. As per mythology, this forest still has God Vishnu and the sages as trees.

Religious Significance

As stated earlier, the temple holds enormous religious significance; it is one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage spots. The place has been visited by the renowned Shankaracharya and was the abode of Surdas for a considerable amount of time. Suthar, who was the author of the 18 puranas also lived here. Initially all the prayers and offerings were made to the forest; hence, even today, the pujas are done to the forest. The temple is one of the ‘Divya Desams’ - one of the 108 Vishnu temples mentioned in the works of the scholarly saints (Alvars). The temple has been mentioned in Nalayira Divya Prabandham which is a 7th–9th century Vaishnava canon. The temple remains especially crowded every full-moon day when devotees visit in huge numbers and take a dip in the holy Chakra Kundra. The pujas are especially effective if the new moon days fall on Mondays.

Religious Activities at the Naimisaranya

  1. Holy dip at the Chakra Kundra and River Gomti.
  2. Performing the rituals of Pind Daan, Thila Tharpaan.
  3. Charity in the form of Gau Daan (Cow), Vruksha Daam (Tree), Sayya Daan (Bedding), Vastra Daan (Clothes), Gehu Daan (Wheat) etc. It is believed charity made here in the name of forefathers and deceased people will cleanse them of all the sins and can grant them salvation.
  4. Sri Satyanarayana Puja

How to Reach

The temple is situated is 72 kms from Lucknow which is also the nearest airport. The nearest railway lines are at Hardoi, Balaanaur and Lucknow. Regular buses also ply from Lucknow, Hardoi and Sitapur.

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