Vishnupad Temple

Vishnupad Temple

Introduction

The holy land of India is a conglomeration of all religions with temples, mosques, churches and other edifices dotting its skyline. Its sacred rivers, historical past and rich cultural heritage has always been eulogised by historians both in India and abroad. The temples are known for their architectural splendour and exquisite craftsmanship.  They are centres of spiritual energy and holy spaces meant to control the mind, contemplate and reflect on the Eternal truths. The temples house various deities and the core ideology of Hinduism lies in the fact that each pilgrim can worship on the deity of his choice and gain peace of mind and bliss.

 

One of the most famous temples of Bihar is the Vishnupad ( meaning Vishnu’s footprint) temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu located along the Falgu river in the historic city of Gaya which is 100 km from the capital Patna.

 

 

History

The present day octagonal structure facing East is said to have been built by Queen Ahilyabai Holkar, the ruler of Indore in the year 1787. The place is considered to be sacred as it is said that even Lord Rama along with Devi Sita had come here to pay homage to his ancestors by offering Pindadaan. Lord Buddha is also said to have preached his first sermon here. It is said that Gayasura after being defeated by Lord Vishnu became transformed into a series of rocky hills which dot the skyline of Gaya. Many great saints like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Madhvacharya and Ramanujacharya have visited the holy temple.

Legend behind the temple

Gaya is an important city in the history and culture of India in the Hindu as well as the Buddhist religion. The Vishnupad temple has an interesting story behind it. Once, a demon named Gayasura performed severe penances to acquire the boon of Moksha or salvation. Lord Vishnu appeared before him and placing his right foot on the Asura’s head pushed him to the nether world. Some other legends state that Lord Vishnu defeated Gayasura in a battle and banished him to the nether world. Lord Vishnu’s footprint is visible even to this day. The footprint consists of the nine different symbols of Lord Vishnu. Gayasura then pleaded with the Lord that he should not go hungry and the Lord assured him that he would be offered food everyday and whoever does so would attain salvation. This is the reason behind people coming here from all parts of the world to offer food to the souls of their departed loved ones. It is said that there used to be a golden Kalasha and golden flag at the top of the temple. Two thieves trying to steal them became stone, one of them at the top of the temple and the other as he fell to the ground. These stones are said to be still present for public view.

Temple Description

The footprint of Lord Vishnu known as Dharmasila is 40 cm long surrounded by a silver plated basin and imprinted in solid rock. There is a silver umbrella over it. The temple is built of large gray granite blocks joined with iron clamps and is at a height of 30 mts with its pyramid shaped tower at a height of about 100 feet. The sides of the tower are sloping with plain and intended sections alternating with each other to create a series of peaks joined at the top. The pavilion is supported by 8 rows of beautifully carved pillars.  The traditional priests of the temple are the Bhumihar Brahmins known as the Gayawar Pandas. A peepal tree called Akshayavat on the bank of the Falgu River is considered very sacred and worshipped by the pilgrims who offer final rites for the departed soul here.  To the South West of the temple is the Brahmajuni hill with a flight of 1000 stone steps leading to the top which offers a magnificent view of the temple.

Other Temples

There are 24 other temples in the temple complex along with the Vishnupad temple. Among them, one is dedicated to Lord Shiva as Phalgwishwara and the other is dedicated to Lord Narasimha. There are many interesting sculptures, artefacts, lingams and carvings from the Pala period of 9th and 10th century. The hill top temples which are part of the pilgrimage circuit are Mangla Gauri, Shringa Sthan, Ram Shila and Brahmayoni with grand staircases being built up to them.

 

 

How To Reach

Air – The nearest airport is at Gaya which is at a distance of 10 km from the temple and takes 25 min via NH 83.

Rail – The nearest railway station is Gaya railway station which is at a distance of 5 km from the temple. It is a junction which connects Gaya to all the metros and important cities.

Road – It is well connected to all the cities and towns as the NH2 is about 30 km from Gaya. The Gaya bus stand is 5 km to the temple and there are coaches and private taxis to facilitate easy movement.

Accommodation

There are many hotels at Gaya to suit various budgets of the pilgrims. There are also many dharamshalas near the temple complex.

Conclusion

In ancient times, temples were the hub of life as they were centres of education, music, dance and social life of villages and towns. They were symbolic of the various dynasties that ruled them in various periods. They were more than mere places of worship but were storehouses of culture and knowledge. Every state in India has temples which have been made powerful by prayers of devotees for thousands of years. They have stood the testimony of time, weather and invasions and have been a symbol of faith and religion for ages. Pilgrims and tourists from all over the world visit these temples which are the greatest legacies reflecting the glory of ancient India.

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