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Cave where sage Vyasadeva lived

BIBHUTI MISHRA

About two kilometres off the main road connecting Rourkela and Sambalpur is Vedavyasa, believed to be the hermitage of sage Vyasa.



SYLVAN SURROUNDINGS: The ashram of Sage Vyasa.

"To the west of the river Brahmi, in the midst of a deep jungle was the `ashram' of Vyasa. Every morning the saint took bath in the waters of the river Saraswati and offering paeans to Lord Vishnu, sat in meditation." Thus goes a `sloka' in `Srimad Bhagavatam,' the immortal Sanskrit poem composed by the rishi and poet Vyasadeva, indicating where the poet lived. The river Brahmi is taken to be the Brahmani river in western Orissa. A thickly wooded area called Vedavyasa, traditionally believed to be the place where the great saint-poet Vyasa lived, lies to the west of this river 14 km away from the steel city of Rourkela. In fact, the hallowed place is at the confluence of three rivers — the Koel, the Sankh and the Saraswati.

Legend has it that the great saint Parasara lived near this place in a village known as `Parasharamunda.' Whenever he wanted to cross the river a boatman used to ferry him across. Once when the boatman's daughter `Matsyagandha' offered to ferry the saint across the river, the saint fell in love with her thus the latter gave birth to Vyasadeva. Vyasa was born in a `dweepa' (island) and hence he was christened `Dweepayana.' But as he was dark he came to be known as `Krushna-dweepayana.' The place where he lived is known as Vedavyasa because it was Vyasa who divided Vedas into different parts.

Seat of saivism

About two kilometres off the main road connecting Rourkela and Sambalpur is Vedavyasa. The `ashram' (a ruined cave) of Vyasadeva is on a small hillock beside the river Brahmani and it is famous A flight of stairs leads to the top of the hillock where there are many temples. viz., like the temples of Lord Jagannath, Lord Rama and Lord Mahavira. as a seat of Saivism. But it is the Balunkeswar temple of Lord Chandrasekhar that attracts devotees from far and wide. Its striking natural beauty it is a hit with tourists has made it a popular tourist spot. People firmly believe that Vyasa lived in this holy place and offering one's worship to the gods at the temple after a dip in the river is supposed to be a gateway to heaven. Since the Saivite shrine is so famous here, a large fair is held on the Sivaratri day every year and thousands of devotees throng the place. But Vyasa Purnima (The full moon day of the Asadha) is celebrated with more pomp here. It is commonly believed that Vyasa completed the epic `Mahabharata' on this day. This day is celebrated with a lot of pomp and gaiety by the devotees who come from different parts of Orissa and outside. The `prasad' is cooked here and shared by all irrespective of caste and creed.

The holy connection

Apart from these fairs and festivities and the regular inflow of devotees, `Vedavyasa' has always been the abode of many saints. If one goes round the place one can find a number of small caves bearing the names of the saints who have lived here.

Everyday many come here just to take bath in the river Brahmani. Sage Vyasa is believed to have taken bath in the river and performed puja before composing the epic. Therefore people take a dip in the river with a belief that it would wash away all their sins.

About a decade ago, some sadhus gathered at vedavyasa and conducted a `sankirtana' at the prayer hall adding to the holy atmosphere of this `tirtha' (place of religious sanctity).

`Gurukul Vedic Ashram' has been set up here by Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. It is just 150 yards away from the hillock and has an ashram and a school run on the lines of `Gurukul.' Many parents send their children here.

For the mortals Vedavyasa has a `Muktidham' (literally a seat of salvation). It is a burning ghat on the bank of the river and cremation here is supposed to take one to Heaven.

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