Kardalibana (Karnataka - India)

Professor Kshitij Patukale
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ABSTRACT

Kardaḷībana is the holy secret place of Viśva-Guru Dattātreya and sacred incarnation place of Svāmi Samartha. The most holy place in Datta Sector is Kardaḷībana. According to a myth in India, one person out of every 10,000 gets a chance to visit Kāśi-Prayāga Sangama, one out of 25,000 visits Badri-kedar, one from 1,00,000 completes the Narmada-parikramā, one from Million goes to Kailāsa-Māna Sarovara and one from every 5 Millions can reach up to Svargārohiṇi. And yet there exists a harder and holier Spiritual Trek – the Kardaḷībana parikramā. Only one fortunate person in the population of ten million is destined to reach Kardaḷībana, the prime reason being its location and isolation from the rest of the world. It is spiritual trek where one can experience a rare worldly experience and divine vibrations. It was unknown before but from last 2 -3 years, its Spiritual Importance is increasing. There are 20 billions worshipers of Datta and Samartha Sect across the globe mainly in India, in the state of Maharashtra, and Gujrat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh.

Kardaḷībana is situated in the lush Nallamalai range in the Karnul district of Andhra Pradesh. This place known as ‘Nandikotakura’ is girdled by all sides by thick forest. It is 476 m (1500 ft) above sea level. River Krishna flows through the heart of the mountainous terrain and enhances its sylvan beauty. Kardaḷībana is located only 21 km. far from the jyotirliṇga of Mallikārjuna and the śaktipīṭha of Śrī Bhramarāṁbā Devī.

River Pātālagaṅgā, which is known as Krishna in this area, encircles the forest forming a thin, deep trench of water. This is due to the fact that the river-bed, as the river enters the Nallamalai; it is forced to shrink down to a width of mere hundred meters, pushing in consequence the depth of waters to a stygian mark of 1000 m. It is due to this abysmal depth that the Pātālagaṅgā owes its name!

Kardaḷībana Spiritual Trek would be helpful for scientists and adventurous youth. The biodiversity of the forest will open up a vista of opportunities for its students. This Spiritual Trek itself is a challenge. As the forest presents all sorts of adversities and is completely devoid of the presence of helping hands, it is bound to be an exciting experience to tramp the rugged paths fringed by 20-feet high ant-hills and 300-feet tall trees. It will fill their hearts with energy and enthusiasm. It will provide an opportunity to study the life of the native ‘Chenchu’ tribe, this will be like an’ Icing on the cake’.

From a spiritual point of view, Kardaḷībana Parikramā (A Spiritual Trek) is a highly rated undertaking. The Datta sect has put it at par with the Kailāsa-Māna sarovar and Badri- Kedāra parikramā. Which are believed to be homes to Lord Dattātreya.

From a strictly practical point of view, the Kardaḷībana Spiritual Trek is dearer than the Kailāsa- Māna sarovar and Badri-Kedāra. It awakens the divine element in a person, it vouchsafes to him a complete and contented life and more importantly, it is not as difficult mission as it is depicted. And therefore, every person must visit Kardaḷībana at least once in life.

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Introduction:

Śrī Narsimha Sarasvati, second incarnation of lord Dattātraya in Kaliyuga has called up to his devotee to inform them about ending his physical stay at Ganagapur, as narrated in 50th & 51st chapter Guru Charitra. As his name & fame spread over like perfume in nuke and corner of the Ganagapur .The people from various sect and religion started visiting him for fulfilling their worldly desires, thereby depriving his secluded peaceful life. He therefore decided to leave for Śrīśailyaṁ to in-habitat in the forest of Kardaḷīban. However he has assured the devotees that he will be staying at Ganagapur in subtle form permanently, giving them lively experience of his presence, in the forth coming period.

Once he reached there and asked the disciples to prepare a small, circular boat of bamboo enwrapped in the leaves of Kardaḷī and other plants and bedecked with flowers. It was Friday, the first of the dark fortnight of the month of Magha, a solstice day in the summer of Saṁvatsara Bahudhānya. In the wee hours of this day when planet Jupiter was in zodiac Virgo and the Sun in Aquarius, Śrī Guru perched himself on the floral seat of the little round boat and rowed on to traverse Pātālagaṅga to alight in the forest of Kardaḷībana stretched along the other coast of the river. Having promised the disciples to float some flowers on the water to indicate the conclusion of his journey he slowly passed for ever out of their sight. Some time elapsed after his departure, and some fishermen came from the direction of Kardaḷībana to assure the disciples of their master’s reaching into thick forest and remained out of sight delivering the following message to his devotees-

‘।ण॥ ण।ण॥’

Āmhāsa ājñayāpitī Munī | Āmhi Jāto Kardaḷīvanī || Sadā Vaso Gāṇagābhuvanī | Aise Sāṅgā Mhanitale ||

It was a clear confirmation that Śrī Guru, as he consummated his worldly work, went to Kardaḷībana and disappeared into it. The spirit, however, never faded off and can still be felt in every nook and corner of the enchanted forest as well as Ganagapur.

Svāmi Samartha of Akkalakot was once asked about his origin by a Parsi gentleman in Kolkata. The bohemian sage, who never spoke about himself, said in reply, “I started off from Kardaḷībana, and went from place to place. I visited during my journey places like Kolkata, privileged myself to the darśana of Kālīmātā, travelled along the coast of the Ganges to see places like Haridvara and Kedāreśvara and other important cities of India.” – which consistently suggests that the origin of Svāmi lay in Kardaḷībana.

There is an interesting tale about his apparition. Śrī Nrsimha Sarasvati, the second incarnation of Śrī Dattātreya in the Kaliyuga, disappeared in Kardaḷībana in 1381. There, he decided to remain in the state of trance (Samadhi) in a cave. This place was in the hilly regions of the forest, characterized by thick woods and unruffled peace. In the immediate neighborhood of the cave was a trio of trees- an Indian Banyan, Peepal (Ficus religiosa) and Udumbara (Ficus racemosa) – locked in a miraculous union. Śrī Guru settled in this cave and remained in meditation for more than 350 years. As passed the time, place grew shaggy with vegetation and an ant-hill grew around Śrī Guru which engulfed his body, so high was this ant- hill that it had outgrown the figure of the sage by 8-10 feet, and so menacing was it that snakes and cobras ran amuck in its interiors.

Once a Chenchu tribesman, wandering in the forest in search of wood came near place of Samadhi. Apparently ignorant about the mystery enfolded in the layers of the ant-hill, he tried to cut one of the trees nearby. His axe, by a curious coincidence, missed its mark and hit the anthill, and penetrated straight into the thigh of the Śrī Nṛsiṁha Sarsvati. Blood spouted from the wound and, his meditation thus been disturbed in an abrupt manner, emerged from the little mound to which the ant-hill was reduced now. He presented a breath-taking sight. More than six feet high, he was a herculean person with broad shoulders, wide chest, glowing skin and aquiline features- a look complete by a pair of penetrating, lotus-like eyes. The tribal man, dazed and shocked to the core by this sudden and unexpected apparition was all in tears and started to apologize for his deed

History:

As we peep into the history of Kardaḷībana the first question that arises in mind is how the forest came to endorse the title. One thing is certain that there is no real relation between the name and the plant known by the same word, i.e. Kardaḷī. A belief that the name as suggesting a forest full of marshy lands growing Kardaḷī plants in them, is erroneous. There are, then, several other theories that suggest themselves.

One such theory is that the land got the title from the leaves of Kardaḷī ( a local bush ) that adorned the boat of Śrī Nṛsiṁha Sarasvati as he crossed river Pātālagaṅgā in it. It is true that the leaves of kadalī ( banana) and Kardaḷī are employed generously for various tasks in the southern parts of India, and that these regions are rich reservoirs of the two species of flora; it is also true that the word ‘kadali’ means ‘mire’ in Telugu; but as the interiors of the forest do not boast of the presence of either of the two entities, we may jump to the conclusion that Kardaḷībana is a place which is mire-girt and approachable through wet and marshy routes.

The word may also have its origin in the name of sage Kardama who erected his hermitage in the forest. His daughter, Sati Anasūyā was born and brought up in this hermitage and married off to sage Atri. Sage Kardama foresaw the birth of Lord Dattātreya as his grandchild and handed over his hermitage to the blessed couple, himself retiring to the Himalayas. The couple then observed penance at the same place and went on to beget Lord Dattātreya as a son in reward.

This mysterious land is a part of the Śrīśailyam mountain range. An examination of stone artifacts in and around this range showed that they dated back to30000-40000 B C. This is the only place in the country where Mallikārjuna, a jyotirliṅga and Śrī Bhramarāmbā Devī, a śaktipīṭha are found together.

Many literary works including Mahābhārata (Vanaparva), Skanda Purāṇa (ch. 64), Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa (Ch. 11), Śiva Purāṇa (Rudra saṁhitā ch.6), and Bhāgavata Purāṇa (Ch. 10.80) have descriptions of this region. Ādi Śankarācārya is known to have performed penance and composed his famous hymn ‘Śivānandalahari’ here. Some other works like ‘Kathāsaritsāgara’ by Someśvara, ‘Mālatīmādhava’ by Bhavabhuti and ‘Kādaṁbari’ by Bāṇabhaṭṭa also speak about Kardaḷībana.

Kardaḷībana is verily a land of penance, a land of seers. From a spiritualistic point of view it is as significant as Mount Kailāsa and has, for ages, directed the course of life of the human being. In Tretā-Yuga it served as a place for penance to Hiraṇyakaśyapa. He got a bounty from Lord Śiva which forced Lord Viśṇu to descend to the earth as Nṛsiṁha. Lord Rāma established 1000 liṅgas at this place. In Dvāpar-yuga, this was the place where the Pāṇḍavas took refuge. According to a story once they were wandering in this place along with Draupadī in search of water. But even as their throats dried up with thirst no receptacle of water was anywhere to be seen. Angered Bhīma struck his fist against one of the hills. The blow produced a deep crevice in the structure and a jet of water squirted out from it. Today this place is famous by the name of ‘Bhīmakuṇḍa’.

Thus, over the years Kardaḷībana acquired a reputation of being a land of penance on account of its inaccessible nature and closely guarded serenity. And it has only been strengthened by monks, sages and recluses like Jamadagni, Paraśurāma, Kaṇva,Mārkaṇḍeya, Agasti,(sages) Macchindranātha, Gorakṣanātha and Jālindaranātha (Nāthpanthi ascetics) who have inhabited in the forest from time to time for solely spiritual purposes. This is the secluded place for undertaking rigorous with arduous physical discipline penance, uninterrupted, without any external worldly influence for Rishis. The story of the twelve jyotirliṅgas has the mention of Kardaḷībana in the episode of Mallikārjuna. Once, Pārvati, irked by Lord Śiva, descended from the Kailāsa to Kardaḷībana. She soon got accustomed to the life and ways of the forest and endorsing the life of a forest dweller, shrugged off all signs of her past. Lord Śiva, aggrieved by her absence, went on a searching spree and got to Kardaḷībana. He saw there a very beautiful tribal woman who in truth was Pārvati, but now her altered appearance deceived him and thus unable to find his estranged wife, he initiated a penance. The couple eventually reunited and stayed there in the form of Mallikārjuna and Bhramarāmbā.

Yet another episode in the Mahabharata tells the story of a battle between Arjuna and Lord Śiva. Arjuna, in his quest for divine weapons, had landed in Kardaḷībana and Lord Śiva, in order to put Arjuna’s valor to test, had disguised himself as a forest dweller. Both, as was preplanned by Lord Śiva, struck down the same beast with their arrows and fought over its ownership. A fierce battle took place which lasted for seven days, though without avail. In the end the lord, pleased by the display of grit and valor by Arjuna manifested his true nature before the other and rewarded him with his coveted ‘Pāśupatāstra’. Macchindranātha, one of the navanāthas, had stayed for some period in ‘the kingdom of women’ which was none other than Kardaḷībana. He indulged in life so much that Gorakṣanātha had to head to the forest to distract him from it. He was, however confronted by Hanumān at the gate. The latter was guarding the feminine kingdom from external invasion. Gorakṣanātha, thus restrained, called out to Macchindranātha with a thunderous roar- … (Come on Macchinder, Gorakh’s here).

The recent history of Kardaḷībana reveals that it witnessed the penance of Ādi Śankara, the debate of his disciple Padmapādacārya with the Kāpālikas and their annihilation by Lord Nṛsiṁha. The story is like this- It was the custom the Kāpālikas to immolate human beings to achieve supernatural powers, famous by the names of Animā, Mahimā, Laghimā, Garimā, Prāpti, Prakamyā, Iśitva and Vaśitva. One of the members of this sect once requested Ādi Śankara to allow self to be immolated. Śankara acquiesced heartily and asked the man to take him away in the absence of his disciples. The Kāpālika, thus assured, went on to make preparations for the ritual. However, Padmapādācārya grasped the precarious situation and invoked Lord Nṛsiṁha to save Śankara. Lord Nṛsimha massacred all Kāpālikas and brought back Śankara, safe and sound, to Padmapādācārya.

Śrīśailyam and Kardaḷībana have long been known as the centre of the Śaiva sect and have, as such, sheltered many ascetics belonging to sects like Śaiva, Kāpālika, Kālamukha, Pāśupata etc. Around the beginning of the twelfth century it became the hub of the Vīraśaiva sect. It was also the stronghold of the Siddhas. These were the people who practiced haṭhayoga, tantra and mantra to attain the eight superpowers. Their stories have found way into the works of Gunacandra Gaṇi, a Jaina. The works, titled ‘Mahavīra caritra’, ‘Kathāratnakośa’ mention two siddhas, one of whom had expertise in Jālandhara vidyā and could produce miraculous effects with the help of herbs while the other could make plants to blossom and to bear fruit in any season of the year. The thirteenth century work ‘Rasa Ratnākara’ of Nitya Nāthasiddha present a panorama of chemistry and metallurgy. Inspired by the works of Siddha Nāgārjuna the book talks about ‘kimayās’ i.e. occultist procedures to convert base metals into gold and silver by treating them with extracts of tree barks and leaves.

From references of Kardaḷībana in the Agni Purāṇa and other literary works it reveals to be a laboratory of the siddhas. It is still believed that it have retained certain magical plants like a mango tree known as ‘Bhramara’, the fruits of which abound with black bees. On cutting the fruit open they fly out and the now evacuated fruit is boiled with milk continuously for 21 days. An intake of this potion produces chimerical effects- it makes the body strong, extremely light and as supple as to be able to travel vast distances in few seconds.

The outskirts of Kardaḷībana are characterized by the presence of a number of caves, ponds and lakes. They are the dwelling places of superhuman species like Yakṣas, Gandharvas and Kinnaras who once endowed superhuman powers upon the siddhas. The fragrant flowers growing in there lakes are full of sensational qualities and their aroma renders a person oblivious of hunger and thirst. At some distance from the forest is a cave called ‘Padmāvatī’. There is a drum is this cave which, if played, awakens Goddes Padmāvatī who vouchsafes immortality to the player. In a nutshell, Kardaḷībana has, and had for a long time, hidden with many inscrutable secrets in its heart and their mentions are found in some Telugu works as well.

‘Vikramārka-carita’ by Jakkanna speaks of a certain ‘Siddhasārasvata yantra’ which renders upon a person knowledge of all sciences. Another work on the life of the navanāthas by author Gaurana tells how Gorakṣanātha, Alamaprabhu and Atreya had performed penance in Kardaḷībana. This Atreya was a disciple of Siddha Nāgārjuna and had succeeded in converting all elements in nature into gold. It was his ambition to turn the whole mountain range of Śrīśailyam into that shimmering metal, and he could have succeeded in it but for the intervention by Lord Viṣṇu who was certainly not keen to disturb the settled order of nature.

A cave near Kardaḷībana, now known as the cave of Akkamahādevī, was once an abode to a saint of the same name who prevailed in the twelfth century. She belonged to the Vīraśaiva sect and hailed originally from Udutadi, Karnataka. Born to parents Sumati and Nirmala by the blessing of Mallikārjuna, Akkamahādevī was from her childhood an ardent devotee of Lord Śiva. Endowed with all good qualities of body and intellect, she had penned a few books in Sanskrit.

Once while all sailing out with her friends she was noticed by Jain king Kauśika who immediately fell in love with her. He asked her parents for her hand, but they refused his proposal on account of the difference of religion between the two. The king was, however, so infatuated by her beauty that he began to force them to reconciliation. Such coercion bore no fruit and instead, propelled the couple to go on an indefinite fast. As the situation became more and more complex, Akkamahādevī accepted the king’s proposal, stipulating two conditions- that he must adapt the Vīraśaiva religion and that he should not touch her when she was busy in worship. The king accepted and they lived happily for some years. One day, however, a sudden rush of desire prompted the king to touch her when she was in worship. This breach of promise by him so enraged her that she threw her garment across his face.

Mortified, her husband prostrated himself before her, but even his apparent contrition failed to prevent Akkamahādevī from stalking out of the place to reach Kardaḷībana. She made a cave on the coast of Pātālagaṅgā her abode, and lived there till the end of her life, adapting the most austere mode of living. It is said that during this period her hair had grown long enough to reach her feet and provided her protection from the fateful elements of the forest. Today the cave has her idol established in it.

The Geography and Location:

Kardaḷībana is situated in the lush Nallamalai range in the Karnul district of Andhra Pradesh. This place known as in Nandikotakura, girdled on all sides by thick forest, is 476 m (1500 ft) above sea level. River Krishna flows through the heart of the mountainous terrain and enhances its sylvan beauty. In such territory, not more than 21 km far from the jyotirliṅga of Mallikārjuna and the śaktipīṭha of Śrī Bhramarāmbā Devi is located Kardaḷībana. River Pātālagaṅgā, as River Krishna is known in these parts, encircles the forest forming a thin, deep trench of water. This is due to the fact that the riverbed, as the river enters the Nallamalai, is forced to shrink down to a width of mere hundred meters, pushing in consequence the depth of waters to a stygian mark of 1000 m. It is to this abysmal depth that the Pātālagaṅgā owes its name. Technically River Krishna enters the range for the first time at Somaśila in Mehboobnagar district and flows smoothly to Siddhesvara, Karnul which is 75 km from Kardaḷībana. It is here that its pleasant run comes to a halt and the waters wedge into narrow passes between hills before squeezing their way out through thick woods to reach Nāgārjunasāgara. Hereafter, the journey to Kardaḷībana is merely of 21 km. and yet appears longer as the river takes a sinuous path, displaying snakelike convolutions. This stretch of land has two important projects in the form of Nāgārjunsāgara dam and a hydropower plant constructed upon it.

From ancient times the Nallamalai range has been known as another form of the Kailāsa and therefore has received epithets like Śrīparvata, Śrīśila-parvata, Siragiri, Śrīnaga, Siriparvata etc. The name ‘Nallamalai’ itself is a compound of two words, ‘nalla’ and ‘malai’, conjointly meaning ‘auspicious mountain’. Kardaḷībana, nestling in this sacred chain of hills, is believed to be the naval of the earth. This is the place where six rivers flow into river Krishna. They are known by the names of Venna, Tungabhadra, Bhima, Mala, Bhavana and Asmi. Beside their grand convergence stand three mountains namely Brahmagiri, Vishnugiri and Rudragiri. The names are evidently supposed to make an allusion to the image of Lord Dattātreya, so that one entering Kardaḷībana has a feeling of entering through the mouth of the Supreme amid the chanting of the Vedic mantras, very aptly represented by the gurgling of River Pātālagaṅgā.

This whole region is also reputed for its biodiversity. Being a place hardly ever intruded upon by civilized man, and therefore protected from the meddling of the modern world, it shelters more than 10,000 species of flora and fauna. As we have already seen in the past, the siddhas had made use of the ecology of the forest to achieve superpowers. The forest still abounds with multitudes of variegated natural phenomena, making it a very alluring place for the students of ecology. At the same time it is this very characteristic that has stultified man for ages, forcing him to hold back from the forest. The whole territory is so designed as to admit only those who are set upon penetrating it with the help of stalwart faith and indefatigable will power. It is only in the last two decades that some kinds of transport facilities have been laid around the place.

Still, in spite of its complex geography, Kardaḷībana is not entirely devoid of human presence. A tribe called the Chenchus has made its habitat in it. Their colonies, known as ‘penta’s, are untouched by any shade of sophistication. The Chenchus are extremely backward people making living by hunting and farming. Some of them rear cattle and all of them speak exclusively in Telugu.

This tribe is believed to be the saviour of Mallikārjuna. In fact the Telugu name for Mallikārjuna is ‘Chenchu mallayya’. A story goes behind the name- Long ago, a Chenchu king named Candragupta ruled over the 150 km long stretch of land along the Pātālagaṅgā. He had a daughter, Candrāvatī. She was fond of cattle and particularly of one cow in her herd. This cow had a singular habit. Every day she would climb up a hill and having arrived at a particular spot, release milk from her udder. The mysterious conduct of her cow filled Candrāvatī with curiosity. She had the spot dug up and found a Śiva lingam. Delighted at her discovery, the king constructed a temple at the place and established the lingam ceremonially in it. The tribesmen named the deity ‘Cutu Raja’. The name later changed to ‘Mallikārjuna’. It is said that Candrāvatī had worshipped the linga with the flowers of the nearby Mallika and Arjuna trees when she first found it.

From old times the Chenchu people have served the sages and hermits staying in the forest and their hospitality has not waned till date. Today, Spiritual Treks to Kardaḷībana have been made easier by transport facilities and more visitors than ever are paying occasional visits to the place. Devotees from Karnataka frequent the forest. Devotees from Andhra gather to celebrate ‘Ugādi’, the New Year day. It is quite a festival here as the Chenchus decorate their houses with festoons, flowers and rangoli, and revel in traditional dance. The nāthapanthis all over the country throng the place on the occasion of Makarasankrānti. It is a day marking the termination of the winter solstice and the beginning of the summer solstice. The period has religious importance as the Navanāthas are believed to be staying in the forest at that time. If pleased, they can confer upon their worshipper’s superpowers.

Śri Dattātreya Incarnetions and His Work in Kaliyuga:

According to the scriptures of the Hindu religion, man has inhabited this earth for millions of years. One of his ancient most colonies was India, a land where some of his oldest creeds and culture are still found in their purest form. The reason for their survival lies in their own ostensibly contrastive properties- eternality of fundamental principles and consistent updating of all secondary ones. The ‘ Sanātana ‘ ideology is not sanctimonious or orthodox in nature, but represents a culture that, like a flowing stream, changes itself with change in time and thus maintains novelty and freshness. It held nature as, God, honored the earth as mother and perceiving the whole humanity as one big family chanted a sincere prayer for its well-being. Many branches of knowledge developed through its purposeful endeavors to attain utmost elation of man. Wrong ideas of development do not direct one to pure joy. It might simplify and facilitate one’s hard life, but a pursuer of happiness needs to develop self from within by resorting to sacrifice. The sages have always held that human body is a part of nature, and therefore the means of liberation. Thousands of saints and sages have, in fact, attained this feat in full view of millions of other commoner souls. A fully evolved spiritual tradition of exceedingly high standard is an exclusive characteristic of this land. It has produced a string of names shining brightly in the skies of spirituality and the most august one, heading their list, is that of Lord Dattātreya. This god is ascetic, incredibly humble, matchlessly merciful and full of unselfish goodwill towards the world. Fathoming the extent of his life and work is not a common man’s dish.

Currently we are living in Kaliyuga, 5114 years of which are already over. Man has made tremendous material progress. His manipulation of natural resources with the help of modern science has equipped him with all means of pleasure. He is ruling the earth single- handedly as if denying the right of living to all other beings. And yet there is a paradox attached with his life- the richer he gets materially the poorer becomes his moral life.

Man is living in abject poverty-a state of mind constituted by desire, rage, pride, envy, avarice, hypocrisy, suspicion and worry. Each by itself suffices to create havoc in the society. Excessive desire leads to exploitation of women; uncontrolled wrath provokes violence and crime; haughtiness begets tyranny; envy nurtures hatred; greed results into corruption; hypocrisy turns humans into cheaters and swindlers; and extreme suspicion and worry bereave them off stability of mind, health and wealth, close at whose heels follow doom and destruction. In a nutshell, this kind of poverty gradually paralyses individuals, communities, nations and ultimately, the whole world. Destruction comes upon peace of mind and happiness of heart. Today all these theories are being transformed into reality and we have come to a pitiable pass. All these are doings of Kaliyuga.

And yet we cannot turn a blind eye to the merits of the same. This is a period that produces the fruit of good deeds within a wink. The ratio of truth to lie in Satyayuga is 90:10. It is reduced to 70:30 in Tretāyuga. In Dvāparayuga it is reversed to be 30:70 and slips further in Kaliyuga to become 10:90. This means there is no period in the history of man when the world is dominated by truth alone, and therefore the time required to produce the consequences of one’s deeds varies from Yuga to Yuga. Ten years of penance and good deeds in Satyayuga are equivalent to a year of Tretāyuga, a month of Dvāparayuga and merely a day of Kaliyuga. In other words the outcome of a day of good deeds in Kaliyuga is exactly equal to that of ten years of Satyayuga. This is a unique and magical feature of Kaliyuga, and therefore, as we witness today, the fruits of good deeds of someone take no time to realize while sins do not seem to yield anything. Thus a general perception is created that vile people, in spite of their misbehavior and aberrations, keep making progress. There is no truth in this. Everyone has to face the trial of Providence, and it is strict, just and capable of making one cough out wages of sins. Also, there is no possibility of blunting the harshness of afflictions by performing good acts. Sinners who amass wealth by exploiting others cannot avoid a tryst with the consequences of their actions by bribing God. The curses from those poor people whom they have bereaved off their legitimate deserts will keep haunting them till the end of their life and the life of their generations to come. The reason is that it is another salient feature of Kaliyuga that no man can escape his fate that he has himself constituted through his doings, and this makes the worship of Lord Dattātreya extremely important.

The story of the birth of Śrī Datta is wonderful, interesting and baffling for common people like us. Sati Anasūyā, the noble, loyal wife of Sage Atri, was envied by Sarasvati, Laxmī, and Pārvati, the wives of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśa (The famous Trio of Hindus) respectively. They demanded from their husbands an aberration on part of Anasūyā. The three gods tried to dissuade their wives from such thoughts, but they adamantly accepted the challenge unwillingly, they visited the house of Sage Atri and asked Anasūyā to serve them food, all in nude. Pressurized to abide by the tenets of atithidharma, Anasūyā , a lady of high character and caliber, turned with the help of mantras the three gods into a trio of infants and breastfed them in nude. The wives of gods, their scheme thus fallen flat, were shocked and begged Anasūyā to restore their husbands to their original forms. The noble lady acquiesced. The three gods, before leaving the bodies of infants, left behind their qualities. Thus the infants having the qualities of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśa grew up as Candra, Datta and Durvāsa respectively. The three infants, along with all endowed qualities merged into one to become Śrī Dattātreya, a three-headed god.

The ancient Indian literature has detailed accounts of the life and work of Dattātreya. His name has been mentioned in several purāṇas and darśanas. His work continues throughout the cycle of four yugas of the Hindu calendar. He seems to have taken the responsibility of running smoothly the life on this earth. Kaliyuga has witnessed three of his incarnations which, even after their disappearance, are still at work. They are known by the names of Śrīpāda Śrīvallabha, Śrī Nṛsiṁha Sarasvati and Śrī Svamī Samartha. Each of them has a set of characteristics of its own. The first of them, Śrīpāda Śrīvallabha, descended in Pithapur, Andhra, about 800 years ago. He lived there for 16 years and then performed penance at Kuravpur on the coast of the Krishna. This period was full of miracles and beneficent acts. At the conclusion of his work he disappeared in Kardaḷībana.

The second incarnation is Śrī Nṛsiṁha Sarasvati. He was a monk and lived in the fourteenth century. Born in 1379 in Lad Karanja, Maharastra, he left home at the age of eight in search of a guru, a quest which ended with his meeting with Guru Kṛṣṇa Sarasvati. The next twelve and a half year was a period of penance during which he stayed on the coast of the Krishna at places like Audumbara, Karavira and Kurundawada which is the place of the confluence of River Krishna and River Panchaganga. Later he shifted base to Ganagapur and successfully undertook the mission of re-establishing ‘sanyāsadharma’ (The Hindu order of monks) He also quenched the irascible, regulated the passionate and helped the noble ones to prosper. In the end of his work he too followed in the footsteps of Śrīpāda Śrīvallabha, and vanished into Kardaḷībana.

Śrī Datta last descended upon the earth about 300 years ago in the form of Svāmī Samartha. There are no accounts of his birth or growing years available. If asked, he states Kardaḷībana as his origin. It is his later life that is found comprehensively recorded, for he lived in a more recent period. His work in Kaliyuga is mind-blowing. He was surrounded by people from all creeds and classes. From kings to laborers, all clung to him for the solid psychological support that he provided. Even today, people can feel his reassuring existence and his unchallengeable power. His legacy to the world is his celebrated promise-

।। , ।।’

(Don’t be afraid; I’m always with you)
It is indeed a savior mantra in Kaliyuga. So are the other Dattamantras. There are three of them as following-

1) Śrīpādarājaṁ śaraṇam prapadye. 2)

Digaṁbarā Digaṁbarā Śrīpāda vallabha Digaṁbarā. 3) ।। ।।

Śrī Svāmī Samartha Jaya Jaya Svāmī Samarth.

।। ण,।।

A distinctive characteristic of all three Kaliyuga incarnations of Śrī Datta is that they were beyond the boundaries of caste, class, religion, nationality etc. All three of them embraced all forms of humanity and guided them individually to their aim, awakening the higher elements in them. Ostensibly each incarnation was different from the other two, but there was unity of purpose. These things are beyond our ken.

Episode in the life of Nṛsiṁha Sarasvatī describes how he blessed the Moslem king of Bider, and how the emperor took him in a palanquin to his capital. The biography of Śrīpāda Śrīvallabha has the mention of a German named John.

Here’s the excerpt from the fourth chapter of the work-

‘Śrīpāda meditated for some time, and then, calling Virūpākṣa, said to him, ‘Virūpākṣa, my boy, a white man has landed in Kuravpur to make my darśana. He has overcome many adversities in his quest, but now it has become difficult for him to locate me. Go and bring him here. All listeners were surprised to imagine a white man getting to this difficult place. But soon they saw him in flesh and blood, walking behind Virūpākṣa. The very first sight of Śrīpāda brought out all his finer emotions and falling at his feet, he wept incessantly like a child. Śrīpāda roused him. An omniscient, omnipotent soul, he was personification of over bound mercifulness. His eyes were showering love and his heart was tender than the hearts of thousands of mothers put together.

‘John!’ he addressed the newcomer and looked into his eyes, as if he was consecrating him with his auspicious glance. A moment later he touched the centre portion of his eye brow. At once the German was absorbed into some deep, divine joy. Then he asked others to look at the sky. A number written in Devanagari was shining on the blue expanse of the sky. Reading ‘170141183460469231731687303715884105727’, it was the number of Citragupta, Śrīpāda said, and added that it was going to be the most important mathematical figure in the coming century.

Śrīpāda spoke in Telugu. John understood it in German. John asked questions in German and Śrīpāda answered in Telugu. How wonderful was this relation! In fact, for all those fortunate who got to be near to the Śrīpāda, each moment was magical, celestial. He had all arts, all sciences, and all branches of knowledge at his feet. He explained the John mystery in the following way-‘I speak in Telugu and John understands in German. My speech, as I speak, is translated automatically to him. There’s nothing that I can’t do for my devotees. For me, none of their burdens is cumbrous, none of their problems intangible. Those who have pure minds and pure bodies, who denounce all forms of narrow- mindedness to trust me, are blessed. My love directs all beneficial waves all good vibes in the universe towards them. I am absolutely selfless. All I ask from you is dutifulness and faith in me. I’m personified form of full bound love and you can know me only by loving me.’

Lord Dattātreya is all-inclusive. Islam is, in principle, a part of him. A great soul, namely ‘Mahāmati’ was a devotee of Mukkheśvara. He addressed God as ‘Allah’. He had so far progressed as to be able to see the seven heavens, but wanted to see Allah. He lived with a Moslem friar and became an expert on Islam; he lived with a Hindu friar and became an expert on Hinduism. A mahāyogi in Varanasi taught him kriyāyoga. He then got darśana of a saint who was a partial incarnation of Lord Dattātreya, and asked for a gold coin. It failed to fill his bowl. The saint then put two dates in it, and Mahāmati was pleased. Thus the spirit of Lord Dattātreya entered his body. This is the story of Sāibābā. He had also become a disciple of Lāhiri Mahāśaya, the chief disciple of Mahāvatāra bābā.

All these stories make it clear how the Datta sect is superior to man-made communalism. In fact, it is a common thread running through all racial, religious or socio-economic groups to hold them together, and therefore its tenets have relevance even in Kaliyuga. Lord Dattātreya is the immortal, eternal manifestation of the Supreme. He is ‘smṛtigāmi’, meaning he can be reached through a mere remembrance. Existing from the first day of Svāyambhuva Manu, he is still working for the uplift meant of materially progressing, but morally degrading man, a product of Kaliyuga. And therefore ‘Śrī Gurucaritra’ is considered as the most authentic and most sacred work among his devotees. Its recitation is known to bring material and spiritual happiness. Most of the content of this work is the biography of Śrī Nrsimha Saraswati. Nowadays the Śrīpāda Śrīvallabha caritra by Malladi Govinda Dīksitulu is also emerging as an important scripture. Dīksitulu was a successor of Śrīpāda who belonged to his 33rd generation. He was a scientist and a professor. His book is a recent work having a number of subjects. That are new and beyond perception and reach even for the modern science. Full of mysterious content and translated in various languages, this work is indeed a challenge for the scientist fraternity. Devotees, on the other side, find it a very capable guide for many of their doubts.

Significance of Kardaḷībana Parikramā (A Spiritual Trek):

The importance & significance of Kardaḷībana Parikramā (A Spiritual Trek ) cannot be encapsulated in words. In fact the whole stretch of 150 km along the Krishna coast that includes the great mountain ranges of Śrīśailyam and Nallamalai is very sacred from the material and spiritual point of view. It is one of the holiest places of India put in the same league with the Kailāsa, Badri Kedāra and Māna-sarovara from the Himalayas, the Girnar range and Girishekhar from Gujrat, Tryambakesvara from the Western Ghats and Tirupati from Tamilnadu.

As mentioned again and again, Kardaḷībana has been favorite with sages, monks, friars and all such pursuers of divinity. And truly, even we can feel the sanctity of the place as soon as we enter it. The place is full of divine waves that bring to surface our own goodness. The dormant spiritual powers in our innermost mind are awakened at once and the spirit is aroused from its deep, indefinite slumber. Every darkened recess of mind thrills at having experienced enlightenment and ecstasy. Truly, we cannot imagine the greatness of Kardaḷībana, the beloved abode of Lord Dattātreya, where his incarnations merge in and stay in subtle form over entire space of Kardaḷībana.

It cannot be denied that scientists like Galileo, Descartes, Newton and Darwin revolutionized the outlook of man for science. And still there is no denying the gravity of threats that science has posed before the world today. The materialism that originated in the wake of renaissance in the sixteenth century seems set to submerge the whole world into destruction once and for ever. Resources formed over the ages by the seasoned, orderly hand of Nature have been exploited in three to four hundred years by man, and the consequences are apparent in the form of global warming, terrorism, collapsing of world economy, wars, famines and droughts. It is said that in 15-20 years from now all fundamental resources will go on waning, and then it will be extremely difficult to run the colossal machinery of this modernized, civilized world. Man will have to turn once again to nature, and adapt a very simple, natural lifestyle.

The current period is the first day of the fifty first year of Lord Brahma. Six manvantaras from this day are over, and we are living in the seventh, namely Vivasvata. Again, 27 mahayugas of this manvantara too are already concluded, meaning, 5114 years of Kaliyuga have come to end. The conclusion is- man has been present on this earth for 1,97,29,47,191 years. Unfortunately our generation is unaware of the history of millions of years before Christ. We are running so blindly after the Western civilization that the great abyss lying immediately before us has become inconspicuous to us.

The Kardaḷībana Parikramā (A Spiritual Trek) should be viewed against this backdrop. It is an experience that enriches and enlightens man by awakening the divinity in him. There is a cause behind the birth of every human being, and there is a specific work assigned to him by God who makes him carry it out. And yet, this Parikramā is important, because it can help one to realize this truth and facilitate one’s work on the earth. It renders upon one‘s efficiency, energy and zeal for work irrespective of one’s education, profession or interests there by initiating one for success.

This is the Kaliyuga era and a cycle of genesis-life-doom is coming to end. It is possible that human race will have to face the doom’s day at its termination. Our mother earth is capable of feeding 300 million people. Currently it is bearing the load of 700 million of them. Experts think it unlikely that the planet will brace itself to handle so many burdens. The mention of D-day can be found even in the works of Nostradamus. Those believers who want to survive it need to strengthen their spiritual, mental and moral character by paying a visit to Kardaḷībana. However, this is a matter of faith, and many people do not pay heed to these prophecies. They refute them by asking why they should spoil their present while the future is set to treat all human beings alike. On the other hand, those who wish for the welfare of the world and want it to run smoothly, those who are concerned about the existence of man, should all undertake the Kardaḷībana Parikramā (A Spiritual Trek) without scruples.

Very few people know about this Spiritual Trek. Our whole country is a hive of holy places. We have a plethora of places of worship divided among thirty three types of deities. The Indians are one of the most pious communities of the world. Religion, for them, is a way of living and religious values and virtues are inculcated in them right from their childhood. No wonder that here traditions and customs are observance of thousands of years.

There are two types of religious practices. One of them is individual practices that include daily worship, daily rites and rituals, practices pertaining to celibates and householders, individual penance, meditation, recitation of God’s name, chanting of mantras, following of family traditions such as goddess worship, traditional festivals and household sacrifices etc. The other group of traditions, consisting of worship in temples, occasional rites and rituals, ceremonies and festivals, collective prayers and chanting of eulogies, great sacrifices etc. can be classified as social practices. Another practice that can fall under either category is that of pilgrimage. It is a deep-rooted belief of every Indian that it should make a Spiritual Trek to Kāśi, at least once in life, for getting rid of the cycle of birth and death. Founded on such steadfast faith pilgrimages have become a part and parcel of the life of Indian individuals. So respected are these Spiritual Treks that even in the past when India was divided into continuously warring kingdoms, pilgrims could travel unhurt across the country.

In older days, lack of facilities made traveling difficult but modernization has brought it within networks of roads, railways and airways. Different modes of transport were made available and facilities like lodges, eateries and amusement were provided to tourists. These developments, though they certainly eased the life of devotees, resulted into a rush of people pouring into the quiet, sacred places of worship to turn them into tourist spots. Today most of these places are strangled by commercialization conspicuous in the form of five-star facilities coming at the heels of hoards of amateur tourists. The purpose and significance of pilgrimage, the quest for peace of mind, the yearning for heavenly experiences and all finer religious sentiments attached with such missions seem lost in the motley of vested interests of all factors of society. Fortunately some exceptional places have so far managed to fend off all these evils. Svargarohinī (the Santopantha Yātra), the Kailāsa- Māna-sarovara yātra, The Narmada Parikramā and the Kardaḷībana Parikramā are increasingly tougher undertakings, and the last of them is as good as impossible for weaker men.

One never hears of Kardaḷībana without wincing at some of the myths connected with it. Some of them are true, some tell only partial truth and some are grave misunderstandings. Those who have been to the place react to them in the following way-

Myths about Kardaḷībana Parikramā:

1. One can visit Kardaḷībana only if such is the wish of Lord Dattātreya.
-Kardaḷībana, being a dark, alienated forest is known by very few people. To try to penetrate it all by oneself is a gamble. And many people have come to this conclusion that the wish of an individual does not suffice in these matters. People have tried their hands at the task of exploration of the forest-some have succeeded at once, some have taken more than one attempt and some have failed out rightly, all their attempts going in vain. A number of them have, once or twice planned the Spiritual Trek, and some problems have descended out of the blue to block their progress, forcing them to abandon the task altogether. It is therefore said that the wish of Śrī Datta is the key player in this performance, right from the outset. But these things cannot be proved scientifically and depend upon the faith of the individual. People with meritorious character and religious conduct can certainly accomplish this mission.

2. It is risky to visit Kardaḷībana by oneself.
-This is true to the last word. Kardaḷībana is hidden in high mountains and thick forests. Some of its parts are permanently shrouded in darkness. The thick cover of trees more than 200-300 ft high has flourishing beneath it ferocious beasts and venomous reptiles. It is quite a task to find way through creepers, bushes and ant-hills. The receptacles of water are limited and cannot be approached without local guidance. The machinery for disaster management is absent. Cell phone networks are active but of little help. One has to carry one’s food, water and other necessary things, for there is not a sign of a market inside. Native people make living by hunting and farming. In such conditions, a guide is essential, and without one the traveler can lose his way.

3. Visiting Kardaḷībana is an encounter with death / Wild animals attack travelers in Kardaḷībana.
– There is not much truth in this. If travelers travel with a guide, in a group of 20-25, there is no danger of facing beasts. Besides, wild animals do not attack human beings unless provoked to do so. If let pursue their natural course of life they do not meddle with our affairs.

4. Kardaḷībana swarms with snakes and pythons.
– Kardaḷībana has ant-hills in it, but the number of serpents is far less than that of the anthills. They are present in considerable quantity, for the forest is dense and virgin, but we do not find them threatening. Travelers wandering alone have sometimes noticed cobras or pythons, but if we move in groups the creatures anticipate our presence and make an early exit.

5. We are blessed with the darśana of Lord Dattātreya in some or the other form.
– It is a question of individual faith and such experiences are entirely subjective. It has been noticed that singular things do happen to ardent devotees of Śrīpāda Śrīvallabha or Śrī Nrsimha Sarasvati. For example, one is accompanied on one’s way to the main cave by cows or dogs, the two animals generally found around Śrī Datta. Similarly the sight of a hooded cobra or a lustrous one is considered an indication of the presence of the lord around. These are beliefs, and they cannot be accepted or denied completely.

6. The way to the main cave is unthinkably difficult.
– There is an element of truth in this statement. Reaching the main cave is an arduous task, but it is not impossible, and the proof is that even octogenarians have accomplished it. Age, gender or physical abilities are no bar to make this little journey of 30 kilometers. As mentioned earlier, it is divided into three stages. The first consists of climbing up of
Six hills, four of which require strength and stamina. The seventh one is followed by a plateau leading to the cave of Akkamahādevī. The total distance to be traversed is 9 kilometers and it takes four hours on an average to cut it. Aged or handicapped people can manage it with the help of a little will power. The next 5-6 kilometers to the main cave are easier to tramp down, for the way passes through jungle and even if it keeps one on one’s toes, it is straighter and plainer when compared to the earlier one. On one’s way back one has to climb down seven hills and precaution is necessary. But it takes not more than 3-4 hours to reach the Vyankatesa coast. The bottom-line is, nourishing morbid fears about Kardaḷībana is really uncalled-for, and should not be encouraged.

7. There is no sign of human presence in Kardaḷībana.
-There are colonies of the Chenchus inside the forest. Some friars, monks and Nāthapanthis live around the cave of Akkamahādevī.

8. There are no facilities of lodging and refreshment.
– This is right. One has to take a little supply of food and water inside. There are no lodges, eateries or toilets.

Such are some of the popular beliefs about Kardaḷībana. Different people tell different tales awakening curiosity and fear simultaneously in the hearts of the listeners. Many are attracted to the idea of adventure, but disparities between travelers’ accounts confuse them. It would be wiser to keep faith in Śrī Datta and his incarnations and give a boost to our will power to fulfill our dream of experiencing the exhilarating Parikramā. Kardaḷībana is a celestial, magical, majestic place, and the ineffable joy of being inside it can only be experienced, not expressed.

On can visit www.Kardaḷīwan.com for more details about the Kardaḷībana and join a Divine Spiritual Trek there. ‘Kardaḷīwan Seva Sangh’ Trust is a spiritual organization and doing a great service for this place.

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