Saturday, March 1, 2014

Machilipatnam

Machilipatnam

Hrishikesh Sonalikar
1 March 2014

Machilipatnam is a calm and peaceful town in the state of Andhra Pradesh of India. The climate is humid as the eastern ocean is very near. I had never heard of this town until I visited Vijayawada city, situated at 1 hour distance from Machilipatnam. In Vijayawada, my friends told me about a miracle which occurred in Machilipatnam in the year 1929 AD, less than hundred years from today. After briefly listening about this miracle, I developed a desire to visit Machilipatnam. I was further delighted to know that the visit to Machilipatnam was the part of our trip to Vijayawada.

India has a great cultural history and very often you will learn about very astonishing things. Machilipatnam also has a very unique history which is related to a deity of Panduranga which self manifested here in the year 1929. Lord Panduranga, who is none other than Lord Krishna, is very famous in the state of Maharashtra since time immemorial. Every year millions of devotees visit Lord Panduranga in Pandharpur in the months of Ashadha and Kartika. The specialty of Machilipatnam is that the same Lord Panduranga appeared in Machilipatnam in the modern times of science and technology because of the prayers of his great devotee named Narasimha.

I will try to briefly narrate the events that led to the self manifestation of Lord's deity in Machilipatnam. Bhakta Narasimha was born in the year 1889. He was the devotee of Lord Krishna since his childhood. His childhood was quite troublesome because he lost his mother when he was nine and he had to take the responsibility of the family because of his early marriage at the age of twelve. After recouping from a serious illness at the age of eighteen, he decided to make a pilgrimage to Tirupati. On the way to Tirupati, he visited Machilipatnam for meeting a relative and ended up in staying there itself. In Machilipatnam, he started a business and earned a large sum of money. Six years later, he completed his unfinished pilgrimage to Tirupati.

Due to constant listening to the holy books such as Bhagvad Geeta, Shrimad Bhagavatam and Bhakta Vijaya, he developed detachment from the worldly materialistic life and became more serious about the spiritual life. He started a free food distribution program for the poor people, but initially it did not receive a good response and the program was stopped. Later he decided to start the free food distribution again, but this time he sent a formal letter of invitation to Lord Panduranga in Pandharpur. In that letter, he requested Lord to attend the food distribution festival along with His consorts Rukmini, Radha and Satyabhama. This time the program was very successful and Narasimha had to pray to Lord Panduranga for His mercy because he was worried about how to feed the thousands of people who were coming to have food. Lord answered his prayers and everybody was miraculously satisfied. After this incident, Narasimha became an ardent devotee of Lord Panduranga.

One night, a divine figure appeared in Narasimha's dream and told him to construct a temple for Lord Panduranga. The figure also told him that Lord Panduranga will self manifest here in Machilipatnam. After having this vision, Narasimha also had several more divine visions which encouraged him to become a serious devotee of Lord Panduranga. Due to these experiences, Narasimha decided to undertake a pilgrimage to Pandharpur in Maharashtra. When he reached Pandharpur, he met Mahipati Maharaj, who later became his spiritual master. Mahipati Maharaj gave a spiritual initiation to Narasimha and instructed him about the rules and regulations to be followed by the devotees of Panduranga. He also asked Narasimha to construct the shrines for Dnyanadev and Tukaram who are the great devotees of Lord Panduranga. He told Narasimha that by their blessings, he will be able to erect the temple for Lord Panduranga.

Next year Narasimha visited Pandharpur again. Apart from visiting Lord Panduranga and his spiritual master, he also wanted to collect some pebbles from the holy river Chandrabhaga. He wanted to use these pebbles in the ground breaking ceremony for the temple construction. But the river was flooded and it was very difficult to obtain  the pebbles. Seeing this difficulty, Narasimha very intensely prayed to the presiding deity of river Chandrabhaga to help him. After his prayers, very surprisingly, river waters near the bank made a small clearing and a patch of land was visible. Narasimha and Mahipati Maharaj went to that patch in a boat and found a special round stone which was shining like a gem. They collected this stone along with other pebbles and kept at the feet of Lord Panduranga. They saw that a flash of light emanated from the deity of Lord Panduranga and entered the round stone. After witnessing this miracle, Mahipati Maharaj became sure about Lords blessings on Narasimha and instructed him to start the construction of the temple immediately.

After coming back to Machilipatnam, Narasimha started the construction of the temple. In addition to the main temple for Lord Panduranga, he constructed many other small shrines for the great devotees of Lord like Hanuman, Ambarish, Prahlada and others. Here in Pandharpur, Lord Panduranga appeared in the dream of Mahipati Maharaj and told him the day on which he will appear in Machilipatnam. Delighted to have this vision, Mahipati Maharaj immediately dispatched a message to Narasimha, telling him about the day of Lord's appearance. Narasimha completed the construction of the temple well in time and started eagerly waiting for the day of Lord's appearance.

The news of Lord's self manifestation quickly spread in the surrounding villages like a fire and people from all the directions started coming in. The British government officials were also keeping a keen eye on these happenings as they suspected it to be some kind of plot against the government. Because of their suspicion, the government locked down the temple and kept a police guard around it. They also threatened to punish Narasimha if the things do not happen the way he was saying they will happen.

The day of Lord's appearance arrived. In the morning, Narasimha became almost like a mad man due the excitement as well as anxiety. He went to the shrine of Hanuman and prayed to him, asking him whether the Lord will really appear or not. Listening to his prayers, Hanuman assured him about Lord's appearance. Hanuman told Narasimha that if Lord does not appear as promised, he will personally go and bring the entire Pandharpur and place it here in Machilipatnam. Saints Tukaram and Dnyanadev also appeared in his vision and encouraged him. After this, Narasimha went in front of the closed door of the sanctum sanctorum and started offering intense prayers full of love, and requested Lord Panduranga for His mercy.

When Narasimha was about to loose his life due to the anxiety and intense feelings, a tumultuous sound came from inside the locked doors of the innermost chamber of the temple. Hearing this great sound, the government officials ordered to open the doors of the chamber. But in spite of all the efforts, the doors could not be opened. At that time, Bhakta Narasimha could see that the great saints Dnyanadev and Tukaram were installing the beautiful deity of Lord Panduranga and Sage Narada was offering the obeisances to the Lord. Lord then ordered the doors of the temple to be opened. The doors of the temple then opened on their own accord. Everybody present their saw a divine smoke coming out the temple. After the smoke cleared, a beautiful deity of Lord Panduranga emerged. The form of the Lord was exactly same as that in Pandharpur. All the devotees of Lord present at that time became mad with the happiness. Everybody sang the glories of the Lord for his unlimited mercy.

Since that time Lord Panduranga is present in Machilipatnam. Even today one can go there and see Lord's self manifested form and touch His lotus feet. We might have heard about many miracles which happened hundreds of years ago, but I am sure we have never heard of such a wonderful appearance of Lord Krishna in the modern times. This appearance of Lord gives us a great faith in Him and encourages us to engage ourself in the efforts for spiritual enlightenment without any doubt. This incidence also shows us that Lord's interaction with His devotees was never limited to just ancient times, it is never limited by time or place. If one wants to see Lord face to face, all one needs to do is develop a pure devotion to Lord.

The temple of Lord Panduranga in Machilipatnam is quite spacious and it is situated in the area called Chilakalapudi. Apart from the self manifested deity of Lord Panduranga, one can also find other interesting things in this temple. There is a sacred water pond named Chandrabhaga. The water of this pond is considered as holy and purifying as that of river Chandrabhaga at Pandharpur. Also we can find a sacred Peepal tree. This tree is one of the seven sacred trees found in the area. Once Bhakta Narasimha told his third son named Venkata-Ramana that a great sage is engaged in penances under this tree for many years. Narasimha also enabled his son to see this sage. Also in the temple complex, you will find 108 shrines for different devotees, shrines of Rukmini, Radha and Satyabhama as well as many others shrines.

I encourage everybody to visit Machilipatnam and take blessings of Lord Panduranga.

This article is far from complete. I have given just a glimpse of a history related to the events occurred here. I have hardly discussed a deeper aspects of life of Bhakta Narasimha because of whose purity and prayers Lord appeared here. A complete volume can be written on the historical and spiritual significance of these events. I beg forgiveness of all the readers for the mistakes and shortcomings of this essay. I offer this article at the feet of the devotees of Lord Krishna. Without their blessings my life is devoid of any inspiration.

Source of information

This information is given by the third son of Bhakta Narasimha who is currently the priest of the temple. The description of incidences mentioned here can also be found in British historical records.

Panduranga tample

Holy pond near the temple

Other shrines in the temple complex

Sacred Peepal tree near the temple

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