On a recent morning, Mahamahopadhyay Dorbhala Prabhakara Sharma explains the Sanskrit word ‘Nadi’. According to Vyakaran Shastra, he says, nadatinaadayatiitinadi: it flows, making sound; whoever takes shelter, takes bath in it, it makes them joyful, makes them cut capers. Then there is another definition- nadeesamvriddhau: that gives full growth. Yet another definition is nandayateetinadi- that protects people, gives happiness to people. Similarly, nada avyakthesabdewhose sound we cannot make out. The sound of waves could be ‘gala gala’. But listening to the sound gives us joy. Wells, ponds and some other water bodies don’t have the flow of river, nor the sound of the flow. The word ‘Godavari’ means that which destroys the sin of harming and killing of cow.
(go: cow; da:doavakandane: harm; avrinoti: removes the sin of harming or killing it. GohatyasamanaayaGodavari)
Sage Gautama had a gift: as soon as he sowed seeds, they would grow and bear paddy. After threshing it, he would cook the rice by afternoon and feed people. The Annasamaaradhana used go on in place circumscribed by what’s presently Rajahmundry, Kumaradevam, Kovvur, and Vijjeswaram. It was here the sage protected cows, cultivated land with their help. At nearby Arakarevula (araku means plough) that he would cultivate fields. This would happen every day.
Marveling at his power and intention, the Devatas and Munis thought it would be better to expand his munificence to a still larger number of people, and so they hatched a plan. They created a dummy cow, and let it loose in the fields, so that it would eat the crop. While the cow was eating the crop, Sage- Gautama tried to drive it away with a flick of his hand. Because it was a dummy cow intended to hurt by the sage, it got hurt. It roamed places, in agony, and hit a stone at what’s present day Chagallu (Chavuku means for death, kallu means stone or rock), and came back and fell down dead in the Goshpada Kshetram in and around Kovvur. The sage was distraught and inconsolable. Since he killed the cow, the other sages refused the food. They suggested he pray to Lord Shiva and bring the Ganga from his matted hair, and make the Ganga flow where the cow died. Only then, they said, he could absolve himself of the sin of killing the cow.
Sage Gautama, then, retired to Brahmagiri at Nasika-Tryambakam, and prayed to Lord Tryambakeshwara. The Lord graced him with a stream of water from His matted hair. While Sage Gautama walked all the way from there, the water followed him. Because the Ganga destroyed the sin of killing the cow, the river is called “Godavari”; because it followed Gautama all the way, it’s called “Gautami”.
Thus the other sages achieved their goal of bringing a large number of people, from where the river starts to where it merges with the sea, to the beneficence of the sage and the river.
“The Godavari was born for the welfare and prosperity of the collective, the Samishti,” says V.S.S. Krishna Kumar, the editor of eveninger “Netitaram Surya” in Rajahmundry. The river is not born for individual salvation and welfare, forvyashtiprayojana, he adds.
The Godavari’s birth took place in Kritayuga while Bhagirathi Ganga’s took place in Tretayuga. Thats why the Godavari is an elder sister to the Ganga. The Godavari, as Sharma says, is Ganga jyestabhagini, the elder sister.
By taking bath and performing other activities, rivers get polluted. Only a rushing, strong, vigorous flow washes away the pollution. Strong current cleanses it. As Sharma says, Nadeevegena Shusddhyati. The difference between wells, lakes and ponds, and rivers is that water flows in the latter.
“Therefore we shouldn’t have dams and things like that,” he says. We often hear that water is going into the sea and is wasted, and thus it should be harnessed. It’s not waste as we think and act upon, he adds.
That’s not how nature works. Water goes into seas, sea creates clouds, which hit mountains and the rain falls on land and rivers, then the rivers flow to sea and on and on. The rain falls equally in every area. This is cycle. Once we tamper with it, the rest goes haywire.
Just as you should not obstruct the flow of blood in your arteries, you shouldn’t obstruct rivers which are arteries of the comic person. We should pray for strong flows in the rivers, Sharma says. When it rains well, rivers flow well.
Sharma says, Pushkaram is defined as “Pushtimkarotiitipushkaraha”, “Pushyateetipushkaraha”- that gives strength, vigour, energy, well-being; that nurtures, nurses, and maintains. Pushkarudu is who gives all these. He is water. So, all rivers pray to Pushkara. To determine when Pushkara would go to each river, Lord Brahma sent Brihaspathi along. When Brihaspathi is in Simhasthaparvam, that river has the pushkaram.
“When you feel the respect for the river, when there are good flows, the pushkarudu comes.” In olden days, they never used much water for cleaning. Most of the cleaning was done by the earth itself and also cow dung. Water always inks into the earth.
“When Pushkara enters, Nadi becomes pure,” Sharma says, adding, “Whenever the flow is obstructed, conflicts arise. That’s why we have water conflicts. Dams make rivers impure and stagnate. It’s the flow, the Gati, the movement that gives the river its purity. If the earth stops spinning, what will happen, nothing will be here. The rivers shouldn’t be stopped. So is for life.”
When one bathes in the river during this time, its benefits are legion. “First, body becomes pure. Our ancestors tell us that Devatas dwell in the river during this time, blessing people. All the three and a half crore teerthas reach this place. All these benefit the bathers.” By simple bath itself, mind becomes pure, which, he says, “is to be experienced.” It’s not using soaps and shampoos, but the simple act of dipping into the flow of the river that makes our mind peaceful, joyful and pure. “We should not make the river more polluted. By itself, river is pure.”
Rivers give us peace. “They are in the midst of nature. Wherever there are rivers, trees grow along their banks. Winds blow. There are open spaces, mountains and hills. There are good, fertile lands. There is heat, and at the same time, the river cools us. Rivers protect nature, nourish it. When we are with the river, we are with one of the five elements. When you see the flow, the mind becomes peaceful.” Moreover, rivers inspire great, benevolent thoughts and actions.
Krishna Kumar points out that bathing during the pushkarams improves health, in that the rays from the sun during this time have special power to improve health. The food we take, the water we drink makes up our intellect. Because food ultimately comes from water, impure water begets impure intellect and pure water begets pure intellect. Sin, Sharma says, is a Samskara of mind. When you cleanse yourself with the pure water, the sin is removed.
During Pushkarams, teerthavidhulu and Pindapradhanalu are very important. Teertavidhulumeans taking bath, spiritual practice such as prayer, japa and meditation, doing Satkarma, that is, giving Dana like annadanam, vastradanam, andtarpanams, jala or tila, for our departed ancestors, pitrudevatas. “When you do tarpanam and pindapradhanam during Pushkarams, pitrudevatas will get rid of impurities and reach akshaya punyalokas.”