The next stop on the sacrosanct Kashi Panchkroshi Yatra after Kardameshwar Mahadev Mandir and Bhimchandi Mandir is the ancient Rameshwar Mandir situated on the bank of the Varuna River in Rameshwar village. This temple of great antiquity is considered by many to be the most important kshetra or tirthasthala in the Panchkroshi Yatra.
According to the Kashi Khanda of the Skanda Purana, Bhagawan Rama along with Sita Mata and his brothers had visited the sacred shrines on the Panchkoshi Yatra on two occasions. The first was to liberate their father Raja Dasharatha from the curse of the parents of Shravana Kumar (Putrashoka) and the second was to be rid of the deadly Brahmahatya dosha incurred after killing Ravana, Lord of Lanka.
The Hindu scriptures state that Lord Rama decided to stay overnight in this holy place. After performing Sandhyavandanam at dusk, Lord Rama created a Shiva Linga with a handful of sand and consecrated it in this place. The construction of the temple, the ghats and balcony were commissioned by Maharaja Jankoji Rao Scindia and completed by Maharaja Jivaji Rao Scindia. The temple was built with red stones carved in Gwalior. The nearby fort was commissioned by both the Scindias and Punyashlok Ahilyabai Holkar.
There are Shiva Lingas consecrated by Bhagawan Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana, Shatrughna and Hanuman within this temple complex. Someshwara, Agneshwara, Dvaavaabhumishwara, Nahusheshwara, Bharateshwara, Lakshmaneshwara, Shatrughneshwara and others have also been established within the premises. There are innumerable Shiva Lingas consecrated on the bank of the Varuna River that are worshipped with the waters of Adi Ganga and Varuna and offerings of Bael patra, chandana, pushpa and akshat are made in a copper vessel followed by Rudrabhishek.
There is a very old temple of Tulja Bhavani close to the Rameshwar Mahadev Temple that was revered by the Marathas and considered by locals to be the protector of Rameshwar. It is said that Aurangzeb in 1669 marched towards Rameshwar Mahadev Temple with the intention to raze it to the ground. However, as Aurangzeb’s army tried to enter the temple, they were attacked by bees, snakes and scorpions that manifested out of thin air! Locals say that Tulja Bhavani also fondly known as Kalyaanadaayini Ambe answers all your prayers and gives you the strength to face obstacles and challenges.
Over the years, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has tried to renovate this temple and restore it to its former glory. Unfortunately, the harsh weather conditions have weakened the structure in certain parts. The richly embellished mandapa and external facades are an excellent example of the Scindia architecture. There are brass pinnacles seen on the four sides in four directions above the stones. A lot of the original decorations are now falling apart even though efforts have been made to support the structure.
There are many rare idols of Lord Dattatreya, Rama, Lakshmana and Janaki, Lord Hanuman, Lord Ganesha, Lord Kala Bhairava, Surya Narayan, Sakshi Vinayaka and Narasimha that appear to be from the ancient times.
Thousands of devotees throng this temple on the sixth day of Krishna Paksha in the month of Agrahāyaṇa (Mārgaśīrṣa) when the famous Lota Bhanta fair is celebrated. All the devotees take a dip in the early hours of the morning and prepare baati, chokha, dal and cook brinjal and potato over the fire and offer it as bhog to Bhagawan Shankar. Interestingly, this tradition came into existence centuries ago when a childless couple prayed to Bhagawan Shiva on the sixth day of Krishna Paksha in the month of Agrahāyaṇa and sought his blessings for a child. Lord Bholenath was pleased with their dispassion and devotion and blessed them with a son. Since then, many childless couples come here to seek the help of Lord Shiva on Lota Bhanta and offer baati chokha.
The jala abhishek of Rameshwar Mahadev in the month of Shravan and during the Panchkroshi Parikrama is a divine experience. The Pancha Pandavas along with Draupadi offered prayers in this temple during their exile. There is a Shiva Temple consecrated by them close by.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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