Nag Vasuki, an ancient temple located on the bank of the holy Ganges to the north of the sacrosanct Triveni Sangam draws lakhs of devotees on the auspicious Kumbh, Ardha Kumba, Magha Mela, Naga Panchami and the month of Shravan. A trip to Prayagraj is deemed complete and successful only if a pilgrim has a dip in the Sangam, has darshan of Bheeshma Pitamaha and offers prayers in this temple of great antiquity.
According to the Hindu scriptures and Puranas, Vasuki wrapped himself around the mighty Mandarachala to help the Devas and Asuras churn the Milky Ocean (Samudramanthana). After the elusive Amrit was extracted from the unfathomable depths of the Milky Ocean, Vasuki found lacerations all over his gigantic body caused by the sharp edges of the mountain. He suffered from a burning sensation and took refuge in Lord Vishnu.
Lord Vishnu took pity on Vasuki and told him to have a bath in the Saraswati River in Prayag and rest. A dip in the Saraswati River relieved Vasuki and he settled down in Prayag and immersed himself in tapas (penance and austerities). Thousands of years went by and Vasuki decided that he was well enough to return to Patala Loka.
However, the devathas and Manasa Putras of Brahma residing in Prayag tried to dissuade him from leaving and appealed to him to stay here forever. Vasuki consented on the conditions that anyone who desires to receive the fruits of their visit to this divine city must pay obeisance to him after taking a dip in the Sangam and customary rites and rituals and offerings must be made on Shukla Paksha Panchami in the month of Shravan thus, establishing the tradition of Naga Panchami. The devathas agreed and the Manasa Putras requested him to take up permanent residence in this place.
It has also been mentioned in the Puranas that when Ganga descended from the locks of Lord Shiva, she flowed from earth into the nether world at a tremendous pace. A few water droplets fell on the hood of Vasuki who was residing in Patala Loka and this is said to be the origin of the Bhogavati River. Both Vasuki and Sheshanaga made their way from the nether world to have darshan of Veni Madhav and this is how the Bhogavati River also came to Prayag.
As Vasuki and Bhogavati River are believed to be inseparable, Bhogavati River resides along with Vasuki in this temple. The scriptures state that the western portion of the Ganga River to the east of Nag Vasuki Temple is the venerable Bhogavati River. When the Ganga River is in spate, its waters reach the steps of Nag Vasuki Temple and devotees take a bath in the Bhogavati River.
Both Nag Vasuki and Sheshanaga are consecrated in the middle of this temple complex. The priest says that devotees come here in the month of Shravan to rid themselves of the deadly Kala Sarpa Dosha. They offer Rudrabhishek and Mahabhishek to overcome physical and mental ailments.
Locals say that when Aurangzeb entered Prayagraj, he headed straight to this temple. The army was sent ahead to destroy the idols and the temple. However, they failed in their mission and reported the same to Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb came rushing inside the temple with his sword raised to strike down the idols in the sanctum sanctorum. Suddenly, the radiance of the idols enveloped Aurangzeb and he became overcome with fear and fell down unconscious.
Interestingly, besides Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva and Parvati Devi in the temple premises, there is a reclining Bheeshma Pitamaha in the temple. No one is able to give a logical reason for this and one can propound that Bheeshma Pitamaha like Vasuki Naga came here to heal himself after the bloody war at Kurukshetra.
The original structure is said to be of the 10th century though there are several stones found within the premises that are older. The present structure has been built by the Marathas. Asi Madhav Temple, one of the Dwadash Madhav Temples in Prayagraj is located within the complex.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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