One of the most ancient Shiva temples on the banks of the sacrosanct Rewa River is the Gupteshwar Mahadev Mandir in Jabalpur. Jabalpur is a part of the Narmada Parikrama and thousands of devotees come here every year to have darshan of Maa Narmada and participate in the aarti.
This temple has been mentioned in the Koti Rudra Samhita of the Shiva Purana, the Ramayana and the Skanda Purana. According to the Hindu scriptures, Lord Rama and Lakshmana reached the banks of the Rewa River while searching for Sita Mata during their exile. Lord Rama and his younger brother stayed at the ashram of Sutikshan Rishi and decided to look for Jaabaali Rishi who was living in solitude on the north bank of the Narmada River engaged in tapas (penance and austerities).
Lord Rama headed south from Sutikshan Rishi’s ashram towards Dharkundi where Sharabhang Rishi’s ashram was on the banks of the Rewa River. He climbed the Gupteshwar Hills to have darshan of Jaabaali Rishi. He created a Shiva Linga out of sand and performed abhisheka with the water he collected using his hands from the Rewa for a month. Lord Rama spent his time in tapas (penance and austerities) incognito at the Tripuri Tirth by the banks of the Narmada River.
Lord Shiva and Maa Shakti were pleased with his devotion and gave darshan to Lord Rama, Lakshmana and Jaabaali Rishi and said that as they had done sadhana in secret, this Shiva Linga would now be called Gupteshwar Mahadev. According to the Puranas, it is in this place that Lord Rama, Lakshmana and Jaabaali Rishi had darshan of Adi Shakthi (Supreme Energy) who manifested Itself in this place and took the form of jyothi in this Shiva Linga.
Lord Rama is believed to have spent a year on the banks of the Rewa River living in the ashrams of sages. It is during his stay here that his eyes fell upon a cave. A stream of the Narmada River used to pass through the cave. This sacred Shiva Linga is worshipped as the Upalinga of the Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga.
Rani Durgavati used to come often to this cave through a secret tunnel from the Madan Mahal Fort. This cave remained undiscovered for centuries. In 1829 (some say 1890), some children were digging around the cave that was surrounded by large boulders. A natural pond of rainwater runoff had formed because of the stones.
The formation of the cave was slowly revealed and the stones around it shifted its position. The children were scared to enter the cave and called the elders of the hills. The elders discovered the Shiva Linga of the Treta Yuga consecrated by Lord Rama and quickly realized its significance.
Locals began worshipping the Linga and interestingly, the Linga has been growing in size since then! Devotees throng this temple during the auspicious month of Shravan.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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