In 2004, a young woodcutter was felling a tree in the dense Kardo jungle in the holy month of Shravan. Much to his amazement though, the tree did not fall down in the spot where it should have but instead changed direction and fell down a few kilometres away. The woodcutter was puzzled by this and searched between the tall grass and found a stone appearing above the surface. He understood immediately that there was presence of divine energy in this location and quickly ran to the priest of the local temple and told him what happened. The priest along with some others cleared a bit of the area and saw a natural stone formation with a snake marking. Their curiosity was piqued and soon the area was cleared.
They were stunned into silence when the natural stone formation was a huge Shiva Linga along another stone engraving of Parvathi Devi and Lord Karthikeya to its right, Lord Ganesha was to the left of the Linga with His trunk turning leftwards, Ganga was flowing at the base of the Linga and Nandi was lying under the earth with a very slight portion of it above the surface. On closer inspection, they found clear markings of Lord Shiva in standing posture wearing Rudraksha mala, Vasuki Naga at the top of His head and Bilva leaf at the head on the left side. The priests and elders of the village remembered the Nava Khand ke Satrahwa Adhyaya (17th chapter of the Ninth Khand) of the Rudra Khand of Shiva Purana which states that Lord Shiva will manifest His fiery form in a place called Lingalaya that will be then called as Arunachal.
This is the world’s largest natural Shiva Linga (25 feet tall and 22 feet circumference) situated at an altitude of 5,754 feet in the Apatani Plateau and was given the name of Siddeshwar Nath or Siddheshwar Mahadev. Locals say that the fortune of the young woodcutter who found this place changed overnight. The same has been echoed by all those who have had darshan of Lord Bholenath. Locals say that this place is sacrosanct and because of the intense tapas performed by Parvathi Devi here, one’s mental turmoil, ill health and financial difficulties disappear after offering prayers to Lord Mahadev.
This Shiva Linga is relatively unknown outside of the North Eastern states. There is no temple built around the Shiva Linga that is seated in the midst of exquisite natural beauty. However, a well, havan kund and bells have been installed in the premises. Priests are present here from dawn till dusk. Locals say that snakes worship this Shiva Linga every three years during Maha Shivaratri. Devotees throng this sacred place on Mondays and Sundays and in the holy month of Shravan.
The villagers say that there has been a lot of development to improve connectivity for people to have darshan of Lord Bholenath since 2004. The Archaeological Department has also conducted its studies and found that the base of the Shiva Linga is about 4 feet deep. More studies are planned to understand the layout of this natural Shiva Linga.
The journey to this place will require tremendous stamina and faith in Lord Bholenath as the path to this holy place is quite treacherous but, to spend time in this picturesque lush green forest in solitude and meditation is a great blessing on its own.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)