- 1. Guardian deity of a territory (kshetrapaldevata)
- 1.1 Meaning
- 1.2 Types
- 1.3 Deity of a place of pilgrimage (tirthakshetradevata)
- 1.4 Creation of deities of places of pilgrimage and associated deities
- 1.5 Do locations of places of pilgrimages (tirthakshetras) change?
- 1.6 Importance of a deity of a place of pilgrimage (tirthakshetradevata)
- 1.7 To which sect does a place of pilgrimage belong?
- 1.8 Importance of India with respect to deities of places of pilgrimage
- 1.9 The five great places of pilgrimage
- 1.10 Sub-places of pilgrimage (upatirthakshetras)
- 1.11 Ancient and newly created places of pilgrimage
- 1.12 The attitude while visiting places of pilgrimage
- 1.13 How much time should one spend at a place of pilgrimage?
- 1.14 Importance of maintaining sanctity of places of pilgrimage
- 1.15 Guardian deity of a field
- 1.16 Guardian deities of a higher spiritual level in India
Kshetra means a small or large plot of land and pal means to nurture or protect. Thus the guardian deity of a territory is the one which nurtures or protects a particular area of land.
Places of pilgrimages are of various kinds like prayags (places where there is a confluence of two rivers), four dhams (holy places), seven puris (small cities), fifty-one shaktipiths (seats of Divine Energy), twelve jyotirlingas (divine phalluses), eight seats of worship of Lord Ganapati (ashtavinayak), places of worship of Lord Datta and those of the Sun deity (Bhaskar).
A. According to the prevailing time (kal): Some deities have been existing since times immemorial, for instance the seats of Divine Energy and the jyotirlingas. However some other deities have come into existence later. For instance samadhis (tombs) of saints. We shall refer to such a place where there is a samadhi of a saint as a deity of the place of pilgrimage (tirthakshetradevata).
B. Depending upon the amount of energy: The energy in a seat of Divine Energy and a jyotirlinga is tremendous in comparison to the energy of a guardian deity of a field. We shall refer to such a deity as a guardian deity of a territory (kshetrapal or kshetradevata).
C. Depending on whether devotion is with expectation (sakam) or without expectation (nishkam): Seats of Divine Energy, jyotirlingas, etc. existing since times immemorial are usually appropriate for devotion without expectation whereas guardian deities of territories, etc. having an origin are appropriate for devotion with expectation.
The origin and meaning of the word tirthakshetra (तीर्थक्षेत्र), a place of pilgrimage is from two words - tirtha (तीर्थ) and kshetra (क्षेत्र). The word tirtha meaning a sacred place is said to be derived from the following concepts.
‘तीर्थं करोति इति ।’ means that which purifies is a tirtha.
‘तीर्यते स्थायते इति तीर्थ: ।’ means that which causes cessation of creation, sustenance and dissolution is a tirtha. Such a region (kshetra) is called a place of pilgrimage (tirthakshetra).
‘तरति पापादिकं यस्मात् ।’ means that due to which one can be salvated from sins, etc. is a tirtha.
‘तीर्यते अनेन इति’ means a tirtha is a means of attaining salvation.
A. Narayan and Vishnu: The Tantra text, Ganeshyamal states that each of the twenty-seven frequencies emanating from the twenty-seven lunar asterisms reaches the ajanaj region (ajanajlok) from the region of the lunar asterisms (nakshatralok / karmadevlok) and divides into four sections (charans). Thus 27 x 4 = 108 frequencies reach the earth. (Refer ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 25 - Composition of the Universe’.) These frequencies reach the earth through the media of absolute ether (akash), Aditya or Mitra (sun), clouds and air. Hence all these are considered as representatives of the dyu region (dyulok). These 108 frequencies are referred to as narayan. They divide further into four - yama, surya, prajapati and conjoint frequencies. They are identical in all aspects, that is with respect to speed, purity and spiritual knowledge and in combination are known as vishnu. Vishnu frequencies descend onto the earth and impregnate it. As a result, the earth gives birth to several offsprings. These four frequencies are referred to as providers of food (‘चतुर्महाभागा: ओषधं ददाति ।’) where ओषध means food. Hence Lord Vishnu is known as the ‘deity of nourishment (annarasadevata)’. Thus since the entire world is created from these four frequencies it is composed of Vishnu Himself.
The yama, surya, prajapati and conjoint frequencies of radiance which are emitted by the 27 lunar asterisms generally descend onto the earth with greater potential on certain days as mentioned in the table below
|The proportion of
|1. Chaitra||April||First day
of the bright
Chaitra to the
third day of
|2. Vaishakh||May||Akshay truti-
ya to the full
ma to the pa-
ssage of the
Sun into the
|11. Magh||February||Makar sankr-
man to Chait-
B. Shiva: There is dissolution of the four frequencies (vishnu frequencies) when they collectively unite with the earth.
C. The three components (triguns) and Shiva: When the confluence of the four frequencies strikes the earth, three types of particles are created. They are named sattva, raja and tama, the three components. Only one of the frequencies remains unchanged. Shiva supports these three components and hence He is associated with words like the trident (trishul), three-eyed (trinetra) and tripetalled (tridal). While rotating about their axes these three components travel in the eight directions everywhere in the atmosphere along with the 360 frequencies.
D. Shesh and Brahma: Of the four frequencies the conjoint frequencies directly reach the centre of the earth. The centre of the earth is known as shesh. When it is said that the divine serpent, Shesh supports the earth it is in this very context. When the four frequencies strike the earth simultaneously, at that point one gets a spiritual experience which is called Brahma. Frequencies of the three components sattva, raja and tama created by confluence with the earth and the fourth frequency of spiritual experience arising from the point of dissolution are called the four faces, four phalluses or four horns of Lord Brahma. Since spiritual experience results from contact of the vishnu frequencies with the earth and imparting such an experience is the function of Lord Brahma, He is said to have been born from the lotus arising from the navel of Lord Vishnu. Shiva is the central point of Lord Brahma, that is the central point of the three components and the spiritual experience. Hence He is also known as the centre of the tetrad, centre of the linga (divine phallus) or a jyotirlinga.
E. The hiranyagarbha and the 360 frequencies: Frequencies arising from shesh are referred to as hiranyagarbha frequencies. (This is how Sita was born from the womb of the earth.) They are also called ‘the mind of the earth’. When they reach the surface of the earth, they being 360 in number are called the ‘360 frequencies’. The following frequencies constitute the 360 frequencies.
|Element||Number of frequencies|
|1. Absolute earth (pruthvi)||56|
|2. Absolute water (apa)||52|
|3. Absolute fire (tej)||62|
|4. Absolute air (vayu)||54|
|5. Absolute ether (akash)||72|
|6. Mind (universal)||64|
The yama, surya, prajapati and conjoint frequencies of radiance are associated with the 360 frequencies arising from the various cosmic elements mentioned above. Ancient sages from this land of the Vedas have explained the importance of specific dates (tithis) through the media of sacrificial fires, ritualistic worship, vowed religious observances, the Shrutis, Smrutis and Purans. Their motive behind this was to emphasise that the effect of these radiant frequencies on the body is favourable and that they assist an embodied soul undertaking spiritual practice (jivatma) to make spiritual progress stepwise to the subtle soul (sukshmatma), divine soul (divyatma), purified soul (vishuddhatma) and liberated soul (muktatma) and to attain the Final Liberation from the cycles of birth and death.
These 360 frequencies revolve around the earth and exist in its atmosphere. They are dense near the earth and become sparse as one travels further. It is on account of these frequencies that the embodied soul remains bound to the earth and is born again and again.
F. Pure particles (pavitraks) and pure sub-particles (upapavitraks): Pure particles are created at the point of confluence of the hiranyagarbha frequencies arising from the centre of the earth and the 360 frequencies revolving around the earth. In the upper portion of the 360 frequencies more sattvik (sattva predominant) pure particles and superior deities are created. In the middle portion the sattvik nature of the pure particles and the deities decreases and in the lower portion both are the least. [The deity of a place (sthanadevata) is of the lowest cadre.] When the hiranyagarbha frequencies arising from the earth intersect the 360 frequencies in the lowermost stratum, pure sub-particles are generated from them.
G. Path of the Great Illusion (Prakruti) and that of its controller: The 360 frequencies resemble the serpents in a game of snakes and ladders. They envelop the one leaving the atmosphere of the earth and keep him in bondage. Due to the velocity of these 360 frequencies, the subtle body leaving the earth gets trapped in the atmosphere of the earth. This is known as ‘the path of destiny’. Contrary to this, the hiranyagarbha frequencies travel from below upwards with great intensity. At the point where they intersect the 360 frequencies the intensity of the latter is reduced. Taking advantage of this, that is using the points of intersection as sort of ladders the subtle body can cross this bondage of 360 frequencies and go beyond the earth. Within a moment Sage Narad would travel from the earth to heaven using the same ladder. This ladder is referred to as the ‘path of the Creator’, that is the ‘path of zero stress nature’. The influence of the Creator is important in places of pilgrimage, elsewhere destiny predominates.
In destiny, the eightfold Great Illusion (ashtadha Prakruti), that is upheaval of emotions is important. Destiny, that is absolute earth (pruthvi) tries to incorporate everyone into itself. People under the influence of destiny (those trapped in destined actions) feel ‘I am (aham)’ whereas those in constant communion with the Creator (seekers) say ‘He is I (So’ham)’. Shaivites who believe in the 360 frequencies apply holy ash (bhasma) in three horizontal stripes while Vaishnavites who believe in the 108 frequencies apply sandalwood paste (gandha) in three vertical stripes.
H. Angles of directions (dishakon): At the point where the hiranyagarbha frequencies leave the surface of the earth they make varied angles with it. These angles are called the angles of directions. (As jatu frequencies arise from these angles, the earth is called jataved. Jataved refers to the one who comprehends the meaning of the Vedas since birth. The 108 frequencies can be viewed separately due to the spiritual practice of the jataved fire as fire arises from these very frequencies.) Samyak (saman), tiryak and visphutit jatu frequencies are produced from these angles of directions. They are all closely associated with the earth. They are associated with the sattva, raja and tama components respectively.
All thoughts are borne by directions. In other words they reach us through the medium of directions. Samyak frequencies arise from the eastern, western, southern and northern directions. Thoughts from them are mainly sattvik (sattva predominant). Tiryak frequencies arise from the sub-directions, that is the angles of direction - the north-east, north-west, south-east and south-west. Thoughts from them are mainly rajasik (raja predominant). Mostly tamasik (tama predominant) thoughts arise from visphutit frequencies.
The 108 and 360 frequencies are of the samyak type. Heaven (svargalok) has samyak, the earth has tiryak and hell (patal) has visphutit frequencies.
A. Sites on the earth where the 108 frequencies intersect it at right angles are places of pilgrimage. Due to continuous rotation of the earth bands of these frequencies should have been created. However this does not occur because the speed of rotation of the earth and the timing of descent of frequencies onto it coincide so that the frequencies reach the same place. Frequencies do not reach the earth continuously.
B. Modern astronomers state that the axis of the earth is changing. Consequently the places of pilgrimages and the adjacent territories do not change because according to the influence of time the points from where the frequencies originate also change.
A. The 108 frequencies that reach the earth are of three types namely creation, sustenance and dissolution (prajapati, surya and yama). Conjoint frequencies (a combination of the three) are also included in the 108 frequencies. Since these conjoint frequencies contain the three frequencies, that is components of creation, sustenance and dissolution, the cycles of birth and death continue. However only three frequencies reach a place of pilgrimage. The guardian deities there prevent the entry of the conjoint frequencies. That is why if one dies in a place of pilgrimage the chances of rebirth are less in comparison to death occurring elsewhere.
The site where the three types of frequencies strike is known as a tirtha (sacred place). The word tirtha could also mean effulgence, semen, the ability to procreate, etc. The area extending from the tirtha till the point where conjoint frequencies strike is known as a kshetrapith. The area between both these points is called a place of pilgrimage (tirthakshetra).
Conjoint frequencies cannot reach a place of pilgrimage due to the hiranyagarbha frequencies. In short the place where 108 frequencies strike the earth is believed to be masculine and is called a tirtha. The adjacent area where hiranyagarbha frequencies are emitted by the earth is said to be feminine in nature and is called a kshetra. The area between these two places is called a tirthakshetra. The distance between a tirtha and kshetra can vary from a few metres to twenty-five kilometres.
The body means a territory (kshetra) and the soul the knower of divinity (kshetradnya). The words body and its knower are mostly used in this context. (Acquiring knowledge about the energy in a place of pilgrimage is based on the principle of the body and the knower of divinity.)
Places where the four frequencies strike the ground and bounce are pure. If there is a mango tree at such a place then that deity is called Amjai (deity of a mango tree). If a house is built in such a place then the deity of that premise (vastudevata) is more powerful than that of a mediocre premise.
B. When studying at a place of pilgrimage if one is inspired by one thought then that place generates ten more thoughts.
C. Since there are 108 pure frequencies at a place of pilgrimage, spiritual practice done there is far more rewarding. This is precisely the reason why formerly schools of Spirituality were established at places of pilgrimage.
D. A sacred place (tirtha) is meant for accomplishment of spiritual progress while a territory fulfills materialistic aspirations.
E. Saint Tukaram says, ‘Concentrate the mind remaining seated in one place where you live and contemplate on The Lord’. This quote might raise a doubt in the minds of some whether one should undertake pilgrimages. After fulfilling all worldly tasks instead of wasting one’s leisure one should undertake chanting, meditation, etc. Obviously for this one requires a liking for spiritual practice, concentration and a peaceful mind. In the absence of these one should go on pilgrimages, pay obeisance to saints by placing one’s head on Their feet and return home with the same spiritual emotion (bhav), foster it and let it grow.
F. Bestower of progeny: Since it distributes the 108 frequencies coming from Isham, everywhere, it is said to be a bestower of progeny.
The one who experienced either Shiva, Vishnu or Divine Energy (Shakti) in a place of pilgrimage for the first time considered that place as belonging to his sect. In sects such as the Shaiva, Vaishnav, etc. which are male dominant a sacred place is considered more important than a territory. However in the Shakti sect the converse is true. Hence at times, a place of pilgrimage has two names - one masculine and the other feminine. Male guardian deities of a territory are related to female deities by relationships such as the father, husband, son, servitor, charioteer, friend, assistant, etc. A territory is known as asthan and the guardian deity of that territory as asthanak. Such a deity of a place of pilgrimage has the following special features.
Capacity to endow the spiritual experience due to Brahma
Purity due to Shiva
A mind ‘that is pleased with a devotee’ due to the hiranyagarbha frequencies
Steadiness due to the earth
Seats of Divine Energy (shaktipiths) are mostly in the context of creation and dissolution. Tripur Sundari is a form in between creation and dissolution. She is a deity bestowing sexual pleasure. [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality: Vol. 9 B - Divine Energy (Shakti)’.]
Shri Parshuram circumambulated the earth twenty-one times and discovered 108 places of pilgrimage. In the Gita in the Kshetrakshetradnyayoga a mention of the gross body (kshetra) and the knower of divinity (kshetradnya) is made. According to one school of thought, kshetra refers to places of pilgrimage, that is 108 places of pilgrimage and kshetradnya to those who discovered them. The earth is linked with the energy system of the universe through the centres in India and the Alpine mountain ranges.
Of the 108 centres, 52 are in India. Their prominent feature is that they are activated synchronously. They have remained active in India because of religious rites and the presence of saints. The centres from Kanyakumari in South India to Kashmir in North India are elliptical in shape and resemble the birth passage (yoni).
Out of centres 53 to 108, half are devoid of energy as their activity has not been maintained. Besides other centres do not get activated synchronously.
They are 1. The earth (bhumi), 2. Clouds (megh), 3. The Sun deity (Aditya), 4. The phallus (father) and 5. The birth passage (mother). At times the earth is said to be the first territory and the sun and the clouds, the guardian deities of the territory.
A reservoir of water surrounding the territory of a guardian deity (kshetrapaldev) of a place of pilgrimage
A site prepared for a sacrificial fire, etc.
A place used for teaching e.g. a hermitage (ashram) of a sage
Kapaliks and other sub-sects from the Shaivite sect consider the crematorium itself to be sacred.
Ancient seats of Divine Energy (shaktipiths), jyotirlingas and places of pilgrimage such as Badrinath receive the 108 frequencies continuously and will continue to remain places of pilgrimage till eternity. As against this, places of pilgrimage created by saints do not remain so after two to three centuries of their creation according to the rule that ‘whatever is created has to undergo dissolution’.
Before the advent of the foremost (adi) Shankaracharya people used to embark on a pilgrimage to three places Kashi, Prayag and Gaya (tristhali yatra). It was only later that Shankaracharya began the concept of pilgrimage to four places Kedarnath, Rameshvar, Jagannath and Dvarka (chardham yatra). When undertaking such pilgrimages one can visit all the places of pilgrimage in India and study the entire country as well.
A. What should the attitude be like?: If a visitor to a place of pilgrimage has the following qualities then they prove beneficial to him.
The qualities are 1. Yearning to know the truth, 2. Dedication unto scholarly pursuits, 3. Realising that there is still a lot to learn even after extensive study.
B. What should the attitude not be like?: A common man carries the following when visiting places of pilgrimage.
Pride with regard to one’s birthplace.
Pride with regard to one’s birth.
Vanity that one is going to accomplish something.
Desire for respect (lokaishana)
People visit and respect me, I respect them, so everyone else should respect me.
One who does not respect me is mean and hypocritical.
Desire for money (vittaishana): Desire to acquire money as well as things which endow money.
Supremacy (vidvesh): Feeling that I am right, what I do is the most appropriate, I am more meritorious than others and that God exists in me alone.
These four attributes illustrate that man is indeed a four-legged animal!
The duration of one’s stay at a place of pilgrimage is not important, but the capacity to grasp Spirituality is and it is this which determines that duration. No matter how painstakingly a Guru teaches His disciple at a place of pilgrimage, when the disciple returns to the Great Illusion, he forgets what he is taught. However after acquiring absolute knowledge no matter where a disciple goes he can attract the 108 frequencies as he can create absolute ether (akash) [vacuum]. Once this occurs frequencies at a place of pilgrimage can reduce. Diverting a deity’s energy elsewhere in this way is referred to in the Konkan region in India as ‘keeping a deity in bondage’. However such a deity can ‘free’ itself from the bondage and help an earnest devotee.
Trustees along with priests and devotees should strive to maintain the sanctity of places of pilgrimage. Otherwise they remain as namesake places of pilgrimage and later since devotees do not get spiritual experiences there they lose their faith in them. The following examples will illustrate what happens if sanctity is not maintained.
Deities’ abandoning a place of pilgrimage - ‘Shri Datta Maharaj: Nowadays unrighteousness at Gangapur has increased tremendously. That is why I am fed up and am living at the confluence of the Bhima and Amarja rivers. Hence you could not meet Me in the hermitage (math). I suggest that you too should not stay at Gangapur.’
Saints abandoning Their samadhis (tombs): The sanctity and pleasant vibrations that are experienced at Shegaon, at the samadhi of Gajanan Maharaj are not experienced at Shirdi (the samadhi of Saibaba). This is because on account of commercialisation, beggars, politics, etc. the sanctity of these places has been destroyed. Consequently as many saints say, Saibaba has abandoned Shirdi. He may visit these places for the sake of some devotees, but only temporarily.
A. This deity is classified in the bhairav class of Lord Shiva’s retinue. Many a time it holds a lotus in its hand and is associated with a serpent. The lotus represents Brahma and the serpent, Vishnu and Shiva thus illustrating the relationship of the guardian deities with superior deities.
B. Other Names: In the Konkan region in India it is known as Khetri. Some people also consider deities such as Jotiba, Ravalnath, serpents, etc. as guardian deities.
Protection of a field.
According to some, apart from fields, the sex organs of a woman also constitute a territory. So the guardian deity protects and nurtures these organs and ensures proper growth of progeny. In this context a snake hole is a territory as it represents the reproductive organ of the earth, the serpent being its guardian deity.
D. Science behind the idol and instruments
The guardian deity of a territory is usually nude. Its idol is seen with a serpent wound around the waist, a mace in the right hand and a skull in the left. In some places the idol exists in the form of a serpent.
When it is ritualistically worshipped as a deity which bestows progeny, symbols like the serpent and the lotus are also used. The serpent is also considered an instrument.
Bhairav, the guardian deity of the earth being from the Shaiva sect, the territories of most of the guardian deities display a divine phallus (pinda) of Lord Shiva or the entire area has the shape of a Shivalinga and a shalunka (base of a linga) or simply a Shivalinga.
E. Family: A guardian deity is accompanied by a dog.
F. Vehicle: The vehicle of many guardian deities is a horse or a serpent.
G. Ritualistic worship (puja)
Various forms of the foremost deity Shiva are worthy of worship. In that too the guardian deities of territories and the bhairavs are specially glorified. Sorcerers (tantriks) first worship the guardian deities and then Shiva during ritualistic worship. Some tantras recommend a rice cake (pinda) and even an animal sacrifice (bali) for such guardian deities. These deities are deities of the populace.
During their festivals seashells, particular types of musical instruments, batons, palanquins, crowns, weapons, etc. are used. In some places this deity is offered liquor as an offering (prasad).
Norms of the guardian deity: A guardian deity has an independent existence. Though indirectly ritualistic worship of a guardian deity of a territory is worship of Bhairav, yet it is considered as that of only that particular guardian deity.
A. South Konkan and Goa
Male deity: Ravalnath (raval means snake hole). Parshuram is the creator and not the guardian deity of the Konkan region.
Female deities: Bhumika, Santeri, Shantadurga, etc. are worshipped in the form of snake holes.
B. Western Maharashtra
The Shaiva sect: Jotiba and Yamai, Khandoba and Mahalsa. [Jotiba means one born of accumulation of radiance (tej) or a farmer’s plough (jot).] Balaram too sports a plough on His shoulder.
Ravaleshvar (Ravalnath): He is called so because He was born from the fire of Sage Jamadagni’s wrath (ravagni).
The tortoise, horse and serpent are their main vehicles. The deities Bhairavnath, Ravalnath, Kartikeya and Jotiba Themselves are also seen in the form of serpents. It is also believed that these deities are capable of nullifying the effect of snake venom.
The Vishnu sect: Vithoba and Rai (a particle of the earth) and Rakhumai (Rakshamai), Balaji (Vyankoba, Vyankatesh) and Padmavati (womb) and Rukmini
India and the earth: Bhairavnath
‘Supreme God, God, Incarnations and Deities’, published by Sanatan Sanstha.