By Swami Amarnathananda

A couple of years back I went to India to attend the holy ‘Maghi Purnima’ festival at our central office, in Kolkata. As soon as festival was over, my mind wanted to go somewhere, away from crowd, calm, quiet, peaceful and mind fulfilling. After consulting with some of my brother monks, they suggested that I should go to ‘Naimisharanya.’ Hearing them, I wondered where is this place? How far it is from Kolkata city! Since I joined ‘Bharat Sevashram Sangha’ monastic order many years back, I have been hearing about this place in countless spiritual discourses. During the period of our daily scriptural study, I read about this place in many ancient religious texts. By continuous hearing and reading, it is natural that I developed a silent hunger to visit this place. But I had no idea where it is existed in India. I requested Pujjya Swami Biswatmanandaji Maharaj, the Secretary General of ‘Bharat Sevashram Sangha’ to help me in this matter. He was very kind to book two railway tickets for me. He also made a phone call to our Naimisharanya Ashram to receive us at the railway station.

Journey started:

Howrah-Amritsar mail took almost twenty-three hours of time to drop us at ‘Hardoi’ railway station. It was early in the morning. But the Swamiji in charge at our Naimisharanya center was extremely dutiful to come to station to receive us. It was so nice of him. On our way, we could see that this place was is not a city area. Green forest, farming land, village people walking at road and chirping of birds created a heart touching experience for us. It is to mention here that a visitor can come to Naimisharanya from Kashi, Ayodhya, Allahabad and Lucknow by bus or by private car.

‘Bharat Sevashram Sangha’ has a beautiful ashram at Naimisharanya. It is Swami Trigunanandaji Maharaj who took first initiative to open this chapter. We were happy to reach at our own ashram and bowed at the lotus feet of our master, Acharya Swami Pranavanandaji Maharaj.

Where is Naimisharanya Located?

It is located on the bank of sacred river ‘Gomati,’ in the district of ‘Sitapur,’ Uttar Pradesh, India. Locally, Naimisharanya is also known as Nimsar or Nimkhar. It is located at the junction of the roads from Sitapur and Khairabad, 32 Km from Sitapur and 42 km from the Sandila railway station, 45 miles north of Lucknow city in Uttar Pradesh.

Significance of Naimisharanya.

It is believed that the ancient forest of Naimisharanya, was once the home of 88,000 of Rishis. They meditated together here, making it one of the holiest places of ancient India. As we know, life in India was designed in to four capacities. Up to twenty-five years was reserved for study and build up good health, morality, purity and character. It was known as Brahmacharya Ashrama. From twenty-five to fifty, this period of time was selected to get marry and raise children. It was known as Garhastha Ashrama. How a married couple should live a healthy life and the purpose of marriage life is also given in ancient texts. From fifty to seventy-five of age was designed for ‘Vanaprastha Ashrama.’ This time the couple live at home, but process was there to start handing over family things at the hands of next generation. Age seventy-five to hundred years was time to leave home and live at Naimisharanya or at Tapovana and spend time in austerities or spiritual practices. It’s a period of preparation to taste divinity and start our eternal journey. It is because of this, Naimisharanya and Tapovana were crowded with spiritual seekers. It is those places where you could hear chanting, recitation and religious singing for twenty-four hours of time.

Though time changed and our way of living also changed, but Naimisharanya remained as spiritually uplifted as it was. It is still giving the taste of God to its visitors.

Historical Importance of Naimisharanya:

‘Tirtha tu Naimisham nama sarva-tirtha phala pradam.’

There is a pilgrim site known as ‘Naimisha’ which can give the result of visiting all holy places of this world. There are so much of important things happening here. I categorized factors this way –

  1. This is the place where Lord Rama did ‘Aswamedha Yajna.’ It is the place where saint Valmiki handed over Devi Seeta and her two sons Lav and Kush to Lord Sri Rama. It is this place where Devi Seeta took her final shelter at the lap of mother earth.
  2. Saint Vashistha was the spiritual master of King Dasharatha and Lord Sri Rama. Naimisharanya is the place where Saint Vashistha lived. His Ashram and Gurukul was here at Naimisharanya.
  3. Famous Rishi Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa divided Vedas in to four parts and put it orderly sitting at this place. He also created all Puranas sitting right here. The place is known as Vyas Gaddi.
  4. Manu-Satarupa tapasya sthal. This is the place where King Manu and his wife Devi Satarupa practiced austerity to get God as their son. Family who wants to have a child, could do prayer service here.
  5. Gomati river. It is one of the most ancient rivers of India. Visiting Gomati River, means you visit ancient India.
  6. Naimisharanya is the place where Rishi Dadhichi sacrificed his precious life and offered his bones to help Gods to destroy notorious demon Vrittasur.
  7. During the period of exile, Lord Rama with his wife Devi Seeta and younger brother Laxmana, spent sometimes here.
  8. Classic Ramayana was introduced to public first at this particular place. Poet Valmiki taught it to his disciple Lav and Kush first. It is Lav and Kush sang the beauties of Ramayan at the ‘Aswamedha Yajna,’ performed by Lord Sri Rama.
  9. At recent time, Ma Anandamayee visited this place many times. She built a beautiful Ashram here to reveal the beauties of this place again.

What Puranas said about Naimisharanya?

  1. It is one of the holiest places on earth. It grants material enjoyments and finally, complete liberation from all type’s illusion, delusion and bondages. (Agni Puran)
  2. This place awards immediate enlightenment. It is the best holy places of all. (Garur Puran)
  3. If anyone practice austerity at Naimisharanya, he surely attains the planet of Lord Brahma.
  4. If anyone die at this place, he doesn’t go through the pain of agony. (Skanda Puran)
  5. It is a place where Gods worshipped fire. There are various holy spots are here. There is the holy river Gomati is flowing through here. The Sun God specially blessed this place. (Mahabharata)
  6. Naimisharanya is the sitting place of Lord Sri Vishnu. This is the place where Rishis and Munies did tapaswa. (Goswami Tulsidas)

Over all, this is a place where you could feel the touch of God quicker. The entire environment of Naimisharanya is full of divinity. As soon as you go there, you feel you are at a different world, a world of peace and serenity.

Important places to visit here:

There are several places to see at Naimisharanya. Among them ‘Chakra tirtha’ is the best. Apart from ‘Chakra tirtha, there are Bhutanath, Sri Gokarna Nath Mahadev, Sri Ram Dham, Sri Sringi Rishi, Pippaladi Muni, Gomati river, Lalita Devi, Manu–Satarupa spiritual practice place, Kashyap–Aditi spiritual practice place, Nar Narayan austerity place, Sri Parashuram austerity place, Ayodhya Mandir, Chandra Bhagavan Mandir, Jagannath Mandir, Janki Kund, Tatamvari Ashram, Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Saint Dadhichi place, Venkatesh Mandir, Dayaldas Mourya Ashram, Mata Anandamayee Ashram, Naradananda Ashram, Puran Mandir, Place where Lord Rama did ‘Aswamedha Yajna,’ Bhola Baba Ashram, Vyas Gaddi, Ram-Savari Mandir, Savitri Ashram and there are many more places.

Story of Chakra tirtha:

(a) Shiva Puran mentioned – there was a time when all Gods and Goddesses together went to Lord Brahma. They asked – Lord! please tell us about a place where people can attain complete liberation. Also please tell us how they can attain ‘Moksha’ in life. Hearing them, Lord Brahma said, ok, for that, you all need to pray to Lord Shiva for a while. Later, I will be sending Wind God to you. And he will tell you everything in detail of liberation. But before, I need to tell you the place where you could please Lord Shiva quickly. Saying this, Lord Brahma created a mind captivating spinning wheel, he bowed to Lord Shiva. He then released the wheel. The place this wheel stopped its journey, it is Naimisharanya. It is Chakra tirtha. It is the most sanctified place on earth.

(b) Devi Bhagavat Puran described this story how this place got the name of Naimisharanya. One time, being afraid of Kali Yuga, all saints and holy men went to meet Lord Brahma, the creator of all. They said to him – Father! We all are afraid of approaching dark age. Please guide us how to handle this sinful Kali Yuga. Hearing them thoughtful, Lord Brahma created a big size spinning wheel and released it. He told all saint to follow the wheel. He also told them that the place where this wheel will stop and broken down, that is the most sacred place on earth. It is out of the touch of Kali Yuga. It is out of all sins. This is the best place to practice Jap, silent meditation, yoga and other forms of austerities. Ultimately, the wheel was stopped at Naimisharanya.

My personal experience:

Except walking around the holy river Narmada (Narmada Parikrama), I visited almost all pilgrim sites of India. I visited Gangasagar, Gaya, Kashi, Puri, Haridwar, Vrindavan, Kanyakumari, Kamrup Kamaskhya, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, Goumukh, Yamunatri, Amarnath cave in Kashmir, Kailash Manas Sarovar in Tibet and many other known holy places. But Visiting Naimisharanya was completely different. Except ‘Bharat Sevashram Sangha’ and few other places, there is hardly any good accommodation. But that was not the matter. Twenty-four hours of discourse on ‘Sreemad Bhagavat Mahapuran,’ Visiting ancient pilgrim spots, the environment, Gomati River, various Maths, Mission and Ashrams gave us the real taste of divinity, the touch of God. Altogether we stayed only seven days at Naimisharanya. Company of Swami Trigunanandaji Maharaj, simple village people of Naimisharanya, ever green farming land and there are so much things we still cherish deep in to our heart. Naimisharanya is the soul of India, it is culture of India and it is the history and heritage of India. I read about and imagine of heaven. But to you, honestly, I speak, Naimisharanya is the cherished ‘Vaikuntha Loka,’ the Planet of Lord Sri Vishnu on earth.