The time God came to visit

Sthala Puranas of Bharat

It is said that there are 330 million1 gods shining throughout the temples and epics of Bharat. They take the form of men, women, animals and man-animals. They regularly come down from their heavenly kingdoms to interact with man, fulfill his prayers and uplift him spiritually. India’s Puranas tell tales of these gods competing with another, making families with one another and even giving birth to each other. To read the exploits of all of India’s gods could easily take one a lifetime. For not only are there the 18 Maha-Puranas and 18 Minor Puranas, but in addition to these practically every village in India has legends about the time, say, Lord Vishnu or a given mahatma deemed it fit for one of their divine plays.

Even before Amma’s time, Alappad Panchayat, the 18-kilometre-long peninsula upon which Amma took birth, had its own folklore. The fishermen there trace their lineage back to the Sage Parasara. It is Sage Parasara who married the fishermaid Satyavati, mother of Sri Veda Vyasa, the renowned codifier of the Vedas. And it is also the people of Alappad’s belief that Lord Shiva once cursed his son Subrahmanya to take birth as a whale. The whale terrorized the waters off Alappad for months until Shiva himself came in human form to rectify the situation. {Click here to read the full story}

According to India’s scriptures and mahatmas like Amma, God, in truth, is the eternal, all-pervading consciousness. In fact, to have God’s darshan in the ultimate sense is to come to identify with that consciousness as it illuminates both thought and the absence of thought. This consciousness is the ultimate reality of God, of the universe and of our very Self. But just as H2O can take the form of vapor, water or ice, so too can the supreme consciousness assume any form. The common man needs a human face to tell his sorrows and joys, to worship with all his heart, to meditate upon and dedicate all his actions. Through this finite and localized symbol, he can touch, the infinite and all-pervading. In this way, man can both unburdened himself and be uplifted. Consciousness has no limits. It can take any form. For proof, just look around you. According to the saints and sages, the very computer screen you see before you is nothing but solidified consciousness. To please 330 million people, God will gladly take 330 million different forms. What is your taste? How do you like your God? Man? Woman? Child? Animal? The element of water, earth or space? In India, the Lord aims to please.

As to what is fact and what is myth, it is impossible to truly say. Regardless, even the legends that were created out of the imaginations of the Saints and Sages have had their intended effect on humanity. Many stories were created to serve a given social purpose or to explain a certain principle. This was the intent of the storie’s authors from the beginning.

Furthermore, it is only because of Bharat’s 330 million gods that India has given rise to the richest spiritual culture on the planet—a land where one cannot look or listen without being reminded of the world’s inherent divinity. Without Vishnu, Shiva and Devi, etc, where would India’s dances and dramas have come from? Her poetry and epics? Her temples and festivals? Cities with names like “Gokarna2” or “Guruvayoor3” It is only because of India’s infinitude of gods and mahatmas and their divine plays on her very soil that when one walks down verily any village road in India all one need do is ask to learn about “the time God came to visit.”

Each year, as Amma travels across India as part of her Bharata Yatra, Amma herself adds to the country’s legends. Already villagers speak about the time “Mataji stopped and gave darshan” or the time “Amma came and sang bhajans”… in this field… by this river… in this truck stop… in this coal factory… Already villages have been renamed “Amrita Kupam,” “Amritamayi Nagar” and “Amritapur,” etc.4 From now on, as Amma travels the width and breath of Bharat, not only will we report on the “Sthala Puranas in-the-making,” but also on the ones millennia old.



1 The figure 330 million is stated in numerous Puranas. It is said that there are also an equal amount of demons. Perhaps that was the population at the time the Puranas were written. Now, as the population has grown, the number of gods and demons should be at least 10 times that, in order to reflect the subtle likes and dislikes of each man, woman and child.

2 Literally meaning “cow’s ear,” Gokarna is the place in Karnataka where the demon Ravana was tricked out of a sacred Shiva Linga by Lord Ganesha. The lingam became fixed to the ground there, and Ravana, in his anger, tried to uproot it, but only succeeded in deforming it into the shape of a cow’s ear.

3 When Sri Krishna’s kingdom of Dwaraka started sinking after Krishna’s maha-samadhi, Guru and Vayu Deva (the Guru of the devas and the God of Wind) rescued an idol of Krishna and installed it in this central Kerala city).

4 The three villages that the Ashram reconstructed after the 2001 Bhuj earthquake—Mokhana, Dagara and Modsar—were renamed by their village chiefs as “Amritapur,” “Amritamayi Nagar” and “Amrita Nagar,” and Samanthempettai, a Tamil Nadu village reconstructed by the Ashram after the 2004 tsunami was renamed as “Amrita Kupam,” by its people.

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The places & the legends

Shiva, Parvati & Subrahmanya: A Legend of Alappad Panchayat

The City of the Peacock: Legends of Chennai

Legends of Kovai, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu

Legends of Kanya Kumari

Meenakshi & Kannagi: Madurai’s Women of Power & Grace

The Golden Fish & other Legends of Nagapattinam

Legends of Ramanathapuram

Legends of Tiruchirapalli

Padmanabha Swami: The Reclining God of Tiruvanantapuram

Brahma Mystified by Vishnu & Rama’s Children Raised in Wayanad

Mysore: The City of the Buffalo Demon

Mumba Devi Reclaims Bombay

Dadhichi Saves the Gods in Ahmadabad

The Nose of Brahma’s Pot: Legends of Kumbhakonam

Pune’s Lord of Knowledge