Called locally as Veeron ka Thaur (place or land of braves), Bithoor is one of the most sacrosanct tirthashalas located on the banks of the Ganges. This place of immense spiritual potency is the land of Nana Saheb Peshwa II, one of the principal architects of the 1857 First War of Independence. Even Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi took extensive lessons in the art of warfare in Bithoor as a young girl.
Bithoor was known as Utpalranya, Brahmasmatipuri and Brahmavrat or Brahmavarta in the ancient times. According to the Hindu scriptures, Lord Brahma performed as many as ninety-nine yagas here and spent a great deal of time in tapas (penance and austerities). It has been said that Swayambhu Manu and Shatarupa were created from the mind of Lord Brahma after these exhaustive sacrifices.
Bithoor is often referred to as the centre of the earth and a peg seen here marks the location. A nail from the horseshoe of the horse of the Ashwamedha Yagna is embedded here which is revered by locals. The padukas of Lord Brahma are also worshipped here. Besides the spiritual energy emanating from the tapas of Lord Brahma and pious sages from the days of yore, Bithoor is also known as the place where Sita Mata was abandoned by Lakshmana on the instructions of Prabhu Shri Rama.
Sita Mata known as vanavasini (resident of the forest) was given shelter in Valmiki Maharshi’s ashram and gave birth to her two accomplished sons Luv and Kush here. This is the place where Luv and Kush stopped the sacrificial horse of Prabhu Shri Rama and imprisoned Lord Hanuman.
Bithoor is believed to be the place where Valmiki Maharshi wrote the Ramayana. Bithoor is also where Sita Mata took samadhi. Even the devout son Dhruv of Raja Uttanpada had darshan of Lord Vishnu in Bithoor.
In the olden days, Bithoor used to be known as Baavan Ghaton ki Nagari which means the city of fifty-two ghats. Unfortunately, only twenty-nine remain today with Brahmavrat Ghat (Brahmavarta) considered to be the most revered. The most scenic ghat is Pathar Ghat built by Maharaja Tikait Rai Bahadur, the Diwan of the Nawab of Awadh, Ghaziuddin Haidar in the 18th century.
This magnificent ghat made entirely of red sandstone is built in the Indo-Islamic style of architecture with auspicious Hindu iconography adorning the perimeter wall. Beautifully decorated arches offer an excellent view of the Ganges and adds to the grandeur of this structure.
The most interesting feature of Pathar Ghat is the Shiva Temple built by Maharaja Tikait Rai Bahadur deemed to be an architectural masterpiece of its time. The external facades of the temple with their floral embellishments, jali work and sculpture of Lord Ganesha on all the four sides is an absolute revelation.
The Shiva Linga consecrated in the sanctum sanctorum is of kasauti, a rare type of black stone that never loses its shine. This temple is regarded by devotees to be as important as the Jyothirlinga of Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain. Thousands of devotees throng this temple in the months of Shravan, Karthik and Magha and on Maha Shivaratri.
Devotees have a dip in the Ganga and carry the holy water to do jala abhishek. Every Monday evening at 6 p.m., a bhasma aarti is performed similar to what is seen in Ujjain Mahakaleshwar. Locals say that if one offers prayers with sincerity, then they will receive all that they have asked for.
It is to be noted that this temple has no doors and is open throughout the day! However, the temple and the perimeter wall is crumbling day by day and a full-scale restoration by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is in order.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)