One of the oldest temples in Maheshwar also known as Gupta Kashi is Shri Raja Rajeshwar Sahasrarjuna Temple, a little distance away from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. As the name suggests, this temple is dedicated to the mighty Raja Kartavirya Arjuna or Sahastrabahu Arjuna (the thousand-armed one).
Raja Kartavirya Arjuna is believed to be Lord Sudarshana, the resplendent Sudarshana Chakra of Lord Vishnu and was blessed by his Guru, Dattatreya. His immense strength, knowledge, wisdom and tapas shakti (strength of penance and austerities) is legendary.
This great ruler of the ancient kingdom by the banks of the Rewa River even kept Shiva Bhakt Ravana captive for six months as per the Puranas, Ramayan and other scriptural texts and commentaries. On hearing the plight of his grandson, Pulastya Maharshi requested Raja Kartavirya Arjuna to release Ravana and the former consented and bid them farewell with love and respect.
After the valiant Guru Parashurama killed Raja Kartavirya Arjuna’s sons and chopped off his thousand arms after the latter killed his father and forcibly took away the divine cow, Kamadhenu, Raja Kartavirya Arjuna fervently prayed to his Guru, Dattatreya and was asked to pray to Lord Shiva.
It is in this sacrosanct place that Raja Kartavirya Arjuna received the darshan of Lord Shiva and became absorbed in the Shiva Linga consecrated here after discarding his mortal coil in front of his beloved Lord Vishnu. There is a small temple dedicated to this gallant king within the temple premises.
As Raja Kartavirya Arjuna’s splendour is comparable to the Sudarshana Chakra, there is an Akanda Jyoti inside the sanctum sanctorum that has been burning since the dawn of time. Thousands of devotees offer ghee for these eleven lamps whose radiance is enhanced by the mirrors on the ceiling. There are ashtadhatu idols of Lord Shiva and Parvati Devi here.
Priests say that the recitation of the moola mantra of Raja Kartavirya Arjuna will help one recover lost property and overcome the fear of death. There are shrines dedicated to Lord Rama, Shree Datta, Lord Ganapati and others within the complex.
Devotees come from far-flung places to worship Raja Kartavirya Arjuna on Shukla Saptami in the auspicious month of Aghan (Margashirsha). Bhaktas can see the Bhasma aarti on the first Monday of Shravan.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian