Dr A K Chatterjee, a Gynecologist by profession, is an enthusiastic traveler, researcher on religious places, an author and blog writer.
Part III : 79 degrees East Meridian and some Natural objects considered holy by the Hindus
After discussing the curious relationship between the 79 degrees East meridian and a large number of important Hindu temples, we'll now discuss the relationship between 79 degrees East Meridian and some Natural objects considered holy by the Hindus. The "Natural objects" here include mountains and mountain peaks, confluences of rivers (called SANGAM in vernacular) and lakes.
Let us start with mountains and peaks.
(All photos are by the author).
79 degrees East and holy mountains : 1
1. KEDARNATH PEAK & KEDARNATH DOME :
These two great Himalayan peaks are situated right behind the temple of Lord Kedarnath, standing like sentinels guarding Lord Shiva's temple. The co-ordinates of Kedarnath Peak (altitude 6,940 metres) is 30 degrees 47 minutes 42 seconds North, 79 degrees 04 minutes 10 seconds East, and that of Kedarnath Dome (altitude 6,831 metres) is 30 degrees 48 minutes 31 seconds North, 79 degrees 04 minutes 44 seconds East.
79 degrees and holy mountains 2
2. Mount NILKANTHA :
This magnificient 6,596 metres high Himalayan peak stands just behind the temple of Badrinath. Its co-ordinates are 30.7299 degrees North, 79.4042 degrees East.
79 degrees East and holy mountains : 3
3. Mount SHIVLING :
Situated beyond Goumukh, the mouth of Gangotri glacier (considered as the origin of the holy river Ganga) this 6,543 metres high beautiful Himalayan peak is often considered as the largest SHIVALINGAM in the world. Its co-ordinates are 30.8769 degrees North, 79.0656 degrees East.
79 degrees East and holy mountains : 4
4. Mount SUDARSHAN :
This 6,529 metres high beautiful Himalayan peak stands just beyond the holy place Gangotri. Its co-ordinates are 30.9769 degrees North, 79.0933 degrees East.
79 defrees and holy mountains : 5
5. Mounts Bhagirathi I & II : Named after BHAGIRATH, the legendary King of the IKSHVAKU dynasty who brought the holy river Ganga to the earth from the heaven, Bhagirathi Peaks have four summits ranging in height from 6,856 metres to 6,193 metres, three of which are beautifully seen from Goumukh region -- Bhagirathi I, II and III. They are situated just beyond Goumukh, the origin of the holy river Ganga. The co-ordinates of Bhagirathi I are 30 degrees 51 minutes North, 79 degrees 08 minutes 57 seconds East; those of Bhagirathi II are 30.88219 degrees North, 79.13349 degrees East.
79 degrees East and holky mountains : 6
6. Mount Nanda Devi and Sunanda Devi : Nanda Devi (7,816 metres), the second highest mountain peak in India (23rd highest in the World) is considered as the Gurdian Goddess of Uttarakhand. Sunanda Devi (7,434 metres) is actually the East summit of Nanda Devi massif. It is considered as the sister goddess of Nanda Devi. The co-ordinates of Nanda Devi are 30 degrees 22 minutes 33 seconds North, 79 degrees 58 minutes 15 seconds East, and that of Sunanda Devi is 30.3759 degrees North, 79.9709 degrees East.
Photo of Arunachalam Giri
79 degrees East and holy mountains : 7
7. ARUNACHALAM GIRI : This 814 metres high non-Himalayan mountain belonging to the Eastern Ghats range, is considered as the body of Lord Shiva. It is situated at Thiruvannamalai, Tamilnadu. It is associated with Arunachaleswarar temple, the TEJ LINGAM of Lord Shiva. A circumambulation around this mountain, called GIRIVALAM, is cosidered highly auspicious. The co-ordinates of Arunachalam Giri are 12.1800 degrees North, 79.0400 degrees East.
Holy mountains on 79 degrees East
79 degrees East and holy mountains : 8
The other holy mountains on 79 degrees meridian include the following, though the list is not complete :
1. Mount Trishul : Often cosidered as the trident of Lord Shiva, this 7,120 metres high magnificient Himalayan peak with three summits is situated at 30.3117 degrees North, 79.7767 degrees East.
2. Mount Sri Kailash : Not to be cofused with Mount Kailash of TAR, China, Sri Kailash Parvat is a 6,932 metres high peak in the Gangotri region. Its co-ordinates are 31.0175 deghrees North, 79.1775 degrees East.
3. Mount Dunagiri : This 7,066 metres high mountain is the legendary GANDHAMARDAN PARVAT mentioned in the epic Ramayana from where Hanuman came to collect VISHALYAKARANI / MRITASANJIVANI, a medicinal plant for the treatment of the gravely wounded Lakshmana, the brother of Lord Rama. Its co-ordinates are 30.5155 degrees North, 79.8661 degrees East.
4. Mount Vasuki : Mount Vasuki or Vasuki Parvat is a mountain in Garhwal region of Uttarakhand Himalayas. This 6,792 metres high peak has a strong similarity with a hooded cobra and is often equated with the mythical snake Vasuki.The co-ordinates of this peak are 30.8750 degrees North, 79.1752 degrees East.
5. Mount Bhrigupanth : Associated with the name of the sage Bhrigu, this 6,772 metres high mountain in the Garhwal Himalayas is situated on the the co-ordinates of 30.8808 degrees North, 79.0025 degrees East.
6. Mount Satopanth : This 7,075 metres high mountain peak in the Garhwal region derives its name by combining two Sanskrit words "SATO" meaning "Truth" and "PANTH" meaning "A figure of devotion". Its co-ordinates are 30.8450 degrees North, 79.2125 degrees East.
7. Mount Chowkhamba : With four summits (the highest being Chowkhamba I with a height of 7,138 metres) this massive mountain is situated in the Gangotri region. It is the source of the Satopanth Glacier, which in turn gives rise to the holy river Alakananda (one of the two staring tributeris of the holy river Ganga, the other being Bhagirathi which has its origin at Goumukh from the Gangotri Glacier). Mount Chowkhamba is also associated with the journey of the Pandava brothers to the heaven, as described in the epic Mahabharata.
Chowkhamba I has the co-ordinates of 30 degrees 44 minutes 59 seconds North, 79 degrees 17 minutes 28 seconds East.
Photos of some important holy places on 79 degrees East
After discussing mountains, let us now take up the cases of some rivers and lake.
A. First, rivers.
Rivers, or more accurately confluences of rivers are considered as holy by the Hindus, and are called PRAYAG. There may be confluence of two or rarely three rivers at these Prayags.
Let us take the example of PANCH PRAYAG (The five holy confluences).
PANCH PRAYAG-s are the five confluences of the holy river Alakananda with other rivers at five different palces in the Garhwal region of the Himalayas. These are VISHNU PRAYAG ( Dhauli Ganga merging with Alaknanda), NANDA PRAYAG (Nandakini merging with Alaknanda), KARNA PRAYAG (Pindar Ganga merging with Alaknanda), RUDRA PRAYAG (Mandakini merging with Alaknanda) and DEVA PRAYAG (where Bhagirathi merges with Alaknanda thus creating the holy river Ganga). All five Prayags are considered holy by the Hindus.
Now look at their co-ordinates :-
1. VISHNU PRAYAG : 30.5626 degrees North, 79.5763 degrees East.
2. NANDA PRAYAG : 30.3320 degrees North, 79.3205 degrees East.
3. KARNA PRAYAG : 30.2587 degrees North, 79.2183 degrees East.
4. RUDRA PRAYAG : 30.2844 degrees North, 78.9811 degrees East.
5. DEVA PRAYAG : 30.1459 degrees North, 78.5993 degrees East.
So, three of the five Prayags are situated on 79 degrees East, the the other two are very close to it.
Here we can mention another "Prayag", which though not included in the list of PANCH PRAYAG, still is a holy confluence. That is KESHAV PRAYAG.
KESHAV PRAYAG : This is the confluence of SARASWATI and ALAKANANDA rivers near MANA village, about 4 KM from Badrinath. Its co-ordinates are 30 degrees 40 minutes 13 seconds North, 79 degrees 29 minutes 41 seconds East.
B. Some sacred lakes and 79 degrees East meridian :
Some lakes considered holy by the Hindus are also situated on 79 degrees East meridian.
Examples are SATOPANTH TAL (30.74 degrees North, 79.35 degrees East), DEORIA TAL (30.52 degrees North, 79.12 degrees East), VASUKI TAL (30.9070 degrees North, 79.1717 degrees East), CHORABARI TAL or Gandhi Sarovar (30.7449 degrees North, 79.0521 degrees East), KAGBHUSANDI TAL (30.6331 degrees North, 79.67336 degrees East) and MAHAMAHOM POND at Kumbhakonam (10.9556 degrees North, 79.3821 degrees East).
Now let us discuss about some places which are considered holy by the Hindus.
1. GOUMUKH : Traditionally it is considered as the place of origin of the holiest of rivers GANGA, though geographically it is the origin of BHAGIRATHI river, one of the two principal tributeris of Ganga at the mouth of GANGOTRI glacier. Geographically Ganga starts at DEVA PRAYAG at the confluence of BHAGIRATHI and ALAKANANDA rivers. Whatever it may be, the co-ordinates of GOUMUKH are 30.92678 degrees North, 79.08079 degrees East.
2. LAKSHMIVAN : It is situated about 12 kilometres from Badrinath, and is considered traditionally at the place where the youngest of the PANDAVA brothers NAKUL fell to death during the Pandava brothers' journey towards the heaven as depicted in the epic MAHABHARATA. Its co-ordinates are 30 degrees 46 minutes 56 seconds North, 79 degrees 26 minutes 6 seconds East.
3. CHAKRATIRTHA : It is considered traditionally at the place where the third PANDAVA brother ARJUNA fell to death during the Pandava brothers' journey towards the heaven as depicted in the epic MAHABHARATA. Its co-ordinates are 30.7519 degrees North, 79.3736 degrees East.
4. GAURIKUND : This the starting point of trekking to Kedarnath Dham, the abode of Lord Kedarnath. Its co-ordinates are 30.6529 degrees North, 79.0257 degrees East. Gaurikund itself is a holy place associated with legends of Goddess Parvati (also called Gauri).
5. GUPTKASHI : Guptkashi is a town in Rudraprayag district of the state of Uttarakhand. It is an ancient holy place with temples like Vishwanath temple (like that in Kashi) and ARDHANARISWAR temple (the deity here is the combined forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati). Guptkashi is situated on 30.5229 degrees North, 79.0777 degrees East.
6. ALKAPURI : Alkapuri is situated about 15 km from Badrinath. It is believed to be the abode of Gandharvas (mythical creatures with half human-half Bird bodies who are excellent musicians) as well as gods like Kubera, the god of Wealth. Its co-ordinates are 30.7762 degrees North, 79.4915 degrees East.
7. UKHIMATH : Ukhimath is an ancient holy place. The Omkareswar temple at Ukhimath is the winter abode of Lord Kedarnath and Lord Madamaheswar. It is also believed to be the place where the marriage of Usha, the daughter of Vanasur, and Aniruddha, grandson of Lord Krishna took place. The name UKHIMATH is derived from USHAMATH, named after Usha. The co-ordinates of Ukhimath are 30.5149 degrees North, 79.0960 degrees East.
8. JOSHIMATH : Joshimath is a town in Chamoli district of the state of Uttarakhand. Joshimath is the Northern Jyotirmath, one of the four cardinal religious institution established by Adi Shankaracharya (The other three are at Puri in the East, Sringeri in the South and Dwarka in the West). The Narasimha temple of Joshimath is the winter abode of Lord Badrinath, and is one of the 108 Divyadesham. The co-ordinates of Joshimath are 30.5506 degrees North, 79.5660 degrees East.
9. BHIM PUL : It is a natural bridge over the holy river Saraswati at Mana village, about 4 km from Badrinath. It is believed that this bridge was made by palcing a huge rock by the second Pandava brother Bhima so that Draupadi could cross the river. The co-ordinates of Bhim Pul are 30.7726 degrees North, 79.4953 degrees East.
10. HEMKUND SAHIB : Hemkund Sahib (altitude 4,160 metres) in the Chamoli district of the state of Uttarakhand is a holy place for Sikhs. It is said that the 10th Sikh Guru Govind Singh meditated here. The co-ordinates of Hemkund Sahib are 30 degrees 42 minutes 78 seconds North, 79 degrees 36 minutes 57.54 seconds East.
So, in Part III of this article, we see the relation between some natural objects and places considered holy by the Hindus and the 79 degrees East meridian. Again, the relationship is highly interesting. Why so many natural objects and places are situated on a particular meridian?
In the next or concluding part of this article, we'll try to find an answer to this riddle.
(To be continued in Part IV)