The Sacred Hill : Mandar Parvat
Mandar Hills, also called Mandar Parvat, is highly sacred to millions of Hindus as well as Jains as the hill is associated with Puranic mythologies & historical figures. Jains consider this hill holy as Lord Basupuj, the 12th Tirthankara of Jainism attained his Nirvana here. Hindus consider this hill holy as this is believed to be the churning rod used in churning the ocean by the gods & the demons in search of AMRIT, the Nectar of eternal life. It is attractive to the casual visitors too as the hill & the surroundings have excellent natural beauty. It is situated near Bhagalpur, Bihar, India.
The Puranic mythology
Amrit – the Nectar of Eternal Life – is the most coveted thing in the world & everybody wants it. Everybody wants to live for the eternity, to be immortal. It is the timeless dream of every living being. Even the gods wanted it. But where was the Thing, the Amrit? After many searches, the answer was that it was hidden beneath the seas. So, automatically the next question came, how to get it? The answer was simple, by churning the ocean. But that was next to impossible. Churning the ocean was not an easy task, even for gods. What was needed was a sufficiently big churning rod, & an equally grand rope. Now the most vital question was where to find such gigantic rod & rope, and it was a big problem.
The gods were at their wit’s end. Then came the answer : only a mountain could be the churning rod, & the Great Serpent Vasuki the rope. Gods were happy, but their joy was short lived as there was an acute shortage of manpower. They themselves were not enough to do this super-heavy work. So they did the only thing possible. They asked the demons, their arch-rivals, to join the task. The price? Simple, an equal share of The Amrit.
The demons agreed to do the job to get such an important thing, & the great churning began. Many things came out from the ocean, including the goddess Lakshmi, the Moon, & finally the Amrit. But the gods had decided not to give Amrit to the demons, lest they became immortal. So they asked Jayanta, the son of the king of gods Indra, to steal the pitcher containing the Amrit . Jayanta did just that, & the demons were cheated out of their legitimate share.
This is the story of the churning of the ocean as per Hindu mythology.
But is there any real evidence of the incidence? Obviously, no. But there is always the folk-lore, the inevitable attachment of something real to these mythological fables.
Thus we get the association of the very geological Mandar Hills in the Banka district of the Indian state of Bihar with the mythological story of the Churning of the Ocean.
The Puranas (ancient Hindu scriptures) also mentioned the hill. It is said that Lord Vishnu as Madhusudana killed the demon Madhu here & buried the body of the demon under this hill.
The hill is also mentioned in the Mahabhatrata, the great Indian epic as the place where the Panchajanya, the conch shell used by the Pandava brother Arjuna in the war of the Mahabharata, was found here in a small pond named Shankh Kund.
It is also believed that Lord Rama visited this place along with his brother Lakshmana & wife Sita Devi during their exile in the forest (Vanabasa).
All these make the Mandar Hill an extremely important holy place to the Hindus.
Mandar Hills : Facts
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Mandar Hills to the Jains
Jains believe that Lord Basupuj or Basupujyaswami, the 12th Tirthankara of the Jainism, attained his enlightenment or Nirvana in a small cave at the top of the hill. This makes the hill very important to the Jains too.
The Mandar Hill is also associated with a number of Jataka stories, thus relates to the Buddhism.
Near Mandar Hill, the Archaeological Survey of India has discovered some Buddhist relics.
The hill is said to contain markings on rock-face of the Great Serpent Vasuki used as a churning rope during the mythological churning of the ocean. The locals regarded this as highly sacred & organize the festival of “Visha hari Puja” (worship of the Snake) here with great pomp.
Mandar Hill is about 800 feet high and is situated about 50 kilometres south of the town of Bhagalpur in the district of Banka in the Indian state of Bihar. It consists of a huge mass of granite rocks overgrown near the summit with low tropical deciduous jungles.
The rock-face has a gentle slope with occasional steep rise. There are steps cut into the rock-face to help climbing. Even at some places there are iron railings for the benefit of the pilgrims, a large number of whom are elderly people, mostly Jains.
There is a small stream, called Gupt Godavari or Ban Ganga, arising near the summit & descending to the plains creating three small ponds or Kunds en route. One of the ponds is called Sita Kund & it is believed that Sita Devi (of the Ramayana fame) used to bath here during her journey through this area with her husband Lord Rama & brother-in-law Lakshmana during their Vanabasa (Exile to the forest).
The stream is connected to a large pond at the base of the hill called Papharani (The Abolisher of sins), which now has a beautiful temple at the centre dedicated to Lord Narayana & Goddess Lakshmi.
There are several temples on the hill, with the white coloured Digambar Jain temple dedicated to Lord Basupuj at the top. The sacred cave where Basupuj attained his enlightenment is also near the top. It houses a stone-cut footprint, said to be of Lord Basupuj.
There is a small temple dedicated to Lord Mandar Nath Shiva on a separate hump of the hill.
Beside the temples, there are numerous rock cut sculptures of different gods & goddesses on the rock-face. Moreover, there are a number of ancient stone statues, mostly broken now, in different parts of the hill, denoting it’s golden past.
Mandar Hills draw a large number of pilgrims, mostly Jains throughout the year.
The scenic beauty of the hill is excellent. This, & the association of religious fervour makes it a popular picnic spot for the locals.
How to go
Mandar Hills is well connected with Bhagalpur in Bihar & Dumka in Jharkhand by good road & a branch railway line.
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