mysteries of nature
By Sandeep Silas and Satbir Silas
Here is a story which was written by Time not on the
face of earth, but within it mysteriously.
fable of the world is contained in the womb of earth, inside the deep dark black
stone caves, which live to relate the tale of not years but yugas (ages); not of
ordinary men, but of those who shaped the destiny of earth, the entire Hindu
pantheon. Patal Bhuwaneshwar, 1350 m above sea level, is still hidden from
public glare by mountain sentinels and an unaccessed village, 185 km. from the
hill station of Nainital in Uttar Pradesh. That the Kumaon hills would contain
something so unbelievable, so amazing, and a secret so well guarded, can hardly
be guessed till you see it with your own eyes.
The entrance to Patal Bhuwaneshwar cave is ordinary,
unpretentious. There are no indications to reveal the mysteries it holds within.
There are no claims to glory. It is a simple three feet high opening kept
ordinarily barred by the priest. Looks can surely be deceptive! You descend 82
steps into this cave, which is an over 100 feet deep wonder. The descent is
sharp, sometimes you have to sit from step to step in your downward journey,
sometimes you have to recline and pass the stone-way. As you move you become
conscious of descending inside the earth. When you pause to heave a sigh of
relief in the first cave enclosure, you realise that it is not one cave but many
more. It is actually a cave city. There are caves within caves, caverns clinging
to caves, niches peeping our of caves, holes leading to hollows, steps revealing
platforms, cave doors unmasking deep secrets, water sources and narrow pathways.
All within this cave. It is a natural wonder, not carved or created by hammer
and chisel! It is surprising that not many enthusiasts and pilgrims have
ventured to discover these secrets held by the nether.
What makes it more interesting is the fact that the
cave is not silent, it is a speaking cave. Each stone, each stalagmite, each
stalactite, each hollow, each cavern, each doorway, each step, each stone
erection, each drip of water reveals the story of Hinduism down the ages. It is
believed that King Ritupurna of the Sun dynasty discovered the cave in the Treta
era, which has been described in chapter 103 of Manas Khand in Sikandpuran.
The first Guru Shankaracharya in Kaliyug (The current age) consecrated
this cave, and since 1191 A.D. a Hindu priest performs worship. Each day, from
the times of the Kings of Chand and Katyuri dynasties, the priest descends 82
steps down into the cave and performs worship, keeps the incense burning, the
flower petals fresh...
The journey inside the cave begins as you let go of the
iron chains, which helped you alight and steady your steps to the feeble
incandescent light of some electric bulbs. In the cave enclosure you can make
out the massive hood of a snake, in one corner. Do not be alarmed, for it is the
Sheshnaga holding the earth on its hood as per Hindu belief. You are in patal,
the world below the earth. The teeth, jaws and poison sack of Sheshnaga can
be seen in stone. It is surprising how all this shape came to be naturally
acquired by stones. It is believed that there are three loks (worlds) - Patal
(below earth), Prithvi (earth) and Akash (sky). The Sheshnaga
performs its relentless duty, holding the earth on its hood, preventing it
from sinking into the Patal.
The stone body and ribs of Sheshnaga escort you
to the rocky torso of Adiganesh, the son of Lord Shiva and his consort
Parvati. Adiganesh had lost his head due to the anger of Shiva in a
misunderstanding. To the wails of Parvati, Lord Shiva realised his mistake and
gave new life to Ganesha, by placing an elephant head on his body. Ganesha, the
elephant headed god is highly revered by the Hindus. The stone commemorates the
headless Adiganesha. The Sastradal Kamal (lotus flower) rock just above
this torso lets water drip into it, regularly. It is believed to be a divine abhishek
Ahead is seen the Kali Kamli asan of Lord Shiva
in a rock. This asan (meditative pose) is believed to be the supreme.
Lord Shiva used to carry a jhola (cloth bag), and so we have inside the
cave a porous bag like representation. If you knock on it with your knuckles,
the sound shall tell you that the rock is hollow inside. Some truth! Next comes
the figure of Patal Bhairavi with a lion mouth to one side – amazing!
A turning brings you to a curious combination of cave
doors. Four cave doors reveal a story of their own – Randwar, Paapdwar,
Dharamdwar, and Mokshadwar, together called Chardwar (four
doors). Two of them are closed. The Randwar (door to war) was closed
after the Mahabharata war. The Paapdwar (door to sin) was closed after
the slaying of demon king Ravana by Lord Rama. Both Dharamdwar (door to
path of religion) and Mokshadwar (door to salvation) are still open to
man. The doorways exhort Man to take the path of dharma and achieve moksha,
which is salvation.
To your left is seen in black rock the Parijat
Vraksha, the tree that grants wishes. Legend has it that Lord Krishna
brought this from Amravati. The stone tree inside the cave started growing and
it would have broken the earth, had Lord Shiva not stopped its growth. You look
wonderstruck at the tale and the trunk. It looks an actual tree trunk. On top of
this trunk is a dense leafy structure, which leaves you stupefied at its shape.
How can this be? The marvels of nature are too intriguing to be understood.
The huge stalactites, called the jatas (locks)
of Lord Shiva are a beautiful sight. They flow down in stony silence and appear
a real-life mane of hair. A part of them are white, which adds colour to the
black stone cave. Tiny representations of Hindu gods and goddesses in stone
eruptions relate how these are in perpetual attendence to the Lord. The famous
Pandavas meditated inside this cave, below the jatas of Shiva.
As you move past this region the path is narrow and
very slippery. Your feet must find stone cuttings and depressions lest you
should lose balance. The Patal Bhuwaneshwar Mahadev – shivalinga in a trimurti
image, is being anointed by the jatas of Lord Shiva. It leaves you
expressionless as you observe that water drops, which drip from the jatas above,
fall one by one over all three representations of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh in
the trimurti linga image. Truth can be stranger than fiction!
All this while, inside the cave city, there was no
insect, no bird or flying mammal, not even a whiff of stale odour that is
associated with caves. It was most surprising that all life representations
within were forzen in stone. Stone was the master of the cave city; it gave it a
shape, a meaning and a reason to exist.
You return stunned after a two-hour sojourn. There are
still three reminders, which the priest has not yet spoken of. First is the
narration in rock of the yugas (ages) of the earth – Satyug
(11,000 yrs.), Tretajug (9,000 yrs.), Dwaparjug (4,000 yrs.) and Kaliyug
(4,000 yrs. completed). The stone erection representing Kaliyug has grown to its
one-fourth length in 4000 years. Once this stalagmite grows the remaining
three-fourth length in years and touches the roof, there would be pralaya (deluge)
leading to the creation of yet another yuga. It is believed that the
speed of this growth is determined by sin committed on earth. How rapidly would
sin grow and along with it this stalagmite is to be seen. That this is the key
to the world’s destiny is indeed surprising.
Second is the one thousand feet representation of
mythological elephant Airawat. The five trunk bearing elephant came out
of the churning of the ocean between the gods and the demons. The gods have him
and so will those whose deeds are godly. Between Airawat’s feet flows the
mythical river Saraswati, which is seen in white streaks. Third was the
priest himself, Dan Singh Bhandari, whose family has been conducting worship
here for the past 900 years. He is the 18th in the line of succession. Truly it
is said that the meek shall inherit the kingdom of God.
The author, a senior civil servant, is a noted