Journey of India (14)
JOURNEY ACROSS INDIA FROM AYODHYA TO LOJ...
1. Neelkanth began His journey on June 29, 1792 (Ashadh sud 10, AS 1849) from Ayodhya. When Neelkanth reached the Saryu River, an evil man picked Him up and threw Him into the river. Neelkanth swam across and reached the opposite bank.
2. Neelkanth stayed at Naimisharanya, which is in today's Uttar Pradesh, for 4 days. This is the place where Suta Goswami retold Shukdevji's Shrimad Bhagavat to sage Saunak and the assembled saints.
3. Neelkanth then came to the Himalayan area of Haridwar, which is in today's Uttar Anchal.
In Shripur, Neelkanth declined the offer to be the head of a wealthy aashrama. The head told Neelkanth not to stay outside overnight because a ferocious lion terrorized the townspeople. To the surprise of all, the lion was put into samaadhi and Neelkanth lovingly put His hands on the now humble lion.
4. Neelkanth left Rishikesh for Kedarnath on September 16, 1792 (Bhadarvo vad 15), and then went from Kedarnath to Badrinath. Neelkanth took a meal with the priest there on Diwali in 1792. After going back down to Joshimath (or Jyotirmath) with the priest in mid-October, Neelkanth went up to Badrikashram (or Badrivan), reaching on November 7, 1792 (Kartik vad 8). Neelkanth stayed at the spiritual abode of Lord Nara-Narayan for 3 months.
5. Neelkanth then headed deep into the Himalayas into today's Tibet to the Manasarovar Lake (the source of the Saryu River; near Mt. Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva). Neelkanth stayed there for 5 days in February 1793, bathing in the freezing waters, and returned to Badrinath on May 13, 1793 (Vaishakh sud 3). He had fasted for the six-month duration.
In Badrinath, Neelkanth met King Ranjitsinh of Punjab; after going to Gangotri/Gaumukh (the source of the Ganga River), Neelkanth met the king again in Haridwar. Neelkanth retraced back to Ayodhya via Haridwar and then headed North, again through the Himalayas toward today's Nepal.
6. In Vanshipur, Neelkanth declined the king's offer to marry his two daughters and be the heir of the kingdom.
Traversing the dangerous Kali Gandki River, Neelkanth headed to Muktinath (Nepal). Closeby is the sacred place where Bharatji, son of Rushabdevji, meditated (called Bharatkund). At Pulhashram (named after Brahma's son, Pulha) Neelkanth underwent strict penance (standing on one leg with hands raised). He ended His 2 1/2 month penance on November 14, 1793 (Kartik sud 11).
7. After Muktinath, Neelkanth met Mohandas who was attached to Neelkanth's water-pot. Neelkanth shattered the attachment and told him to meet him in Gujarat (where he was later initiated as Vrajanand Swami).
Neelkanth then went to Butolnagar, where King Mahadutt and his sister, Queen Maya insisted that Neelkanth stay with them. When Neelkanth left the first time, the king's soldiers brought Neelkanth back to the kingdom. Neelkanth stayed for several months, leaving after celebrating Janmasthami on August 18, 1794.
In October 1794, in the forests of Nepal, Neelkanth met Gopal Yogi, whom He stayed with for about a year. Neelkanth mastered ashtaanga (eight-fold) yoga, and left after performing Gopal Yogi's cremation rites.
In Kathmandu (capital of Nepal), Neelkanth cured King Ranbahadur of his stomach ailment, thus freeing the saints that the king had imprisoned. After 1 month, Neelkanth continued his journey, crossing into Tibet, and then back through Nepal.
8. Neelkanth then traveled across East Bengal (today's Bangladesh). In Sirpur, Neelkanth met King Siddhavallabh (and was served by Gopaldas), revealing to the king the nature of negative ascetics. Neelkanth left there after Diwali in 1796.
In Assam, Neelkanth arrived at the Kamakshi Devi temple. Here, Neelkanth was confronted by Pibek, who terrorized the townspeople. (Pibek was once a pious Brahmin but was misled into a life of evil practices and black magic.) Pibek's own evil powers turned agasint him, and he finally surrendered to Neelkanth. After 1 month, Neelkanth headed south towards the spiritual Navlakh Mountain.
Neelkanth reached the Navlakh Mountain on January 13, 1797 (Poshi Poonam). At the Navlakh Mountain, Neelkanth satisfied yogis waiting for liberation (navalakha literally means nine hundred thousand, referring to the large number of yogis performing penance).
Neelkanth also stopped at Gangasagar and then stayed at Kapil Muni's aashrama at Sundarvan for 1 month.
9. On the way to Jagannath Puri (in today's Orissa), Neelkanth stayed at Jairamdas's residence. When Neelkanth left, Jairam found Neelkanth again in Jagannath Puri.
In Jagannath Puri, Neelkanth accepted the devotion of King Rajaram Mukunddev Pundit, the Governor of Orissa. Jagannath Puri is famous for the Rath Yatra festival where the moortis of Lord Krishna (Jagannath), Balaram (Baldev), and Subhadra are paraded on chariots. On June 26, 1797 (Ashadh sud 2), the king had Neelkanth sit on a chariot as well.
In Janakpur, Neelkanth displayed His compassionate nature and would not pluck vegetables at the behest of negative ascetics who destroyed themselves [ref. Vachanamrut Gadhada Middle 60]. After over half a year at Jagannath Puri, Neelkanth traveled through Tilang (Andhra Pradesh).
At Manaspur, Neelkanth warded off negative ascetics from King Satradharma's kingdom. After this, Jairam returned home - after an illness in Purushottam Puri, Jairam met Neelkanth in Loj and was later initiated as Jignasanand Swami.
Neelkanth graced Venkatachal (or Tirupati, the home of Lord Vanketeshwar) and continued South.
10. Neelkanth then met Sevakram [ref. Vachanamrut Gadhada First 10], stopped at Srirangakshetra for 2 months, and finally reached Setubandh Rameshwar, staying there for another 2 months. Lord Rama rested here while the bridge to Lanka was built to defeat the demon Ravan and rescue Sitaji.
11. Neelkanth then went up to Bhutpuri (or Sriperumbudur, birthplace of Ramanujacharya) and back down to Totadri (advising Jeer Swami, head of the seat of the Ramanujacharya Sampraday).
After reaching the southern tip of India at Kanyakumari (named in honor of Parvatiji) on around October 1798 (during Navratri), Neelkanth headed back North.
12. After crossing Melukote (sanctified by Ramanujacharya), Neelkanth entered Maharashtra.
Neelkanth stayed 2 months at Pandharpur at the bank of the Bhim River where the abode of Lord Vithala or Pandurang (a form of Lord Krishna) resides. He then spent 1 month in Pune, where Neelkanth stayed at the garden of the devoted Peshwa Diwan, Bapu Gokhale. After going through Burhanpur (in today's Madhya Pradesh) and Nasikpur (bathing in the Godavari River), Neelkanth entered today's Gujarat.
13. In Gujarat, Neelkanth traversed through Dharampur, Surat, towns near the Narmada River, Vadodara (meeting Amichand Sheth), Dakor, Vadtal (meeting Joban Pagi), Bochasan (meeting Kashidas Patel), Dholera, Bhavnagar, Mahuva (birthplace of Bhagatji Maharaj), Guptaprayag (revealing to Bhana Pathak His future name, Sahajanand Swami), Lodhva (staying at Lakhu Charan's place - a disciple of Ramanand Swami's guru, Atmanand Swami), Prabhas Patan (where Lord Krishna renounced his body, at Bhalka Pond), Junagadh (climbing Girnar Mountain), Piplana (revealing His identity to Narsinh Mehta), Madhada (gracing celibate Jetha Mer and his wife), Mangrol (meeting Govardhan Sheth) and finally to Lojpur. Neelkanth blessed many people before reaching His final stop.
14. On August 21, 1799 (Shravan vad 6), at Loj (near the port town of Mangrol in the Junagadh District) Neelkanth Varni meets Sukhanand Swami, a saint belonging to Ramanand Swami's group and ends His amazing travels.
Sukhanand Swami saw Neelkanth Varni meditating, and was immediately attracted by His brilliance. He asked Neelkanth Varni to meet Muktanand Swami, who was heading Ramanand Swami's group of about 50 saints in Loj. Everywhere Lord Swaminarayan had traveled, He had asked for the definition of the five eternal entities. Lord Swaminarayan was satisfied by Muktanand Swami's wisdom, and accepted Ramanand Swami as His guru...