Naimisharanyam or Naimi sharanya ashram, as it was known in earlier years, is one of the most sacred ancient places of India and one of the 108 sacred Vaishnava Divya Desams. The place depicts Lord Vishnu in the aspect of a natural forest. As Lord Shiva is depicted at the source of the water, and as purusa, and Parvati is depicted as nature, as prakriti, similarly, Lord Vishnu is often depicted as a natural forest. The Srimad Bhagavatam was presented here to the gathering of sages here, for the first time, by Suta Maharshi, the illustrious son of the greatest writer and poet of all times, Maharshi Veda Vyasa. The Srimad Bhagavatam begins with detailed description and praise of the Naimisharanya Ashram.
There is mention of the Naimisharanyam forests and ashram in the Mahabharata, as an exemplary place, wherein the Maharshi mentions that whosoever fasts, prays and 'attains perfection' at Naimisharanyam, will find 'happiness in all the worlds'. The Naimisharanya Ashram is also recognised as the place of the devas, in the representation as Animishta Kshetram, meaning, the place of the people who do not have 'blinking in their eyes.'
At Naimisharanyam, the main deity, the Moolavar, is Sri Devarajan Perumal. He is presented here in the standing posture, facing the east. The other deities and devotees precious to Lord Vishnu, presented at Naimisharanyam include Indra, Sudharma, Suta, Brahmarishi Narada and Veda Vyasa. Similarly, the Thayar, or Amman, (= the aspect of Shree Mahalakshmi as consort to Lord Vishnu) is Shree Pundareeka Valli Thayar. The deities present at Naimisharanyam include Narayana's Sudarshana Chakra as Sri Sudarshana, Sri Ganesha, Sri Rama, Sri Lakshmana, Shree Sita, and Sri Hanuman.
Eight temples in India are recognised as swayambhu shrines. Four are located in North India and four are located in South India. The four swayambhu shrines in North India are (1) Naimisharanyam = Forest, (2) Badrinatha = Mountain, (3) Pushkar = Waterbody and (4) Muktinath = Stones or Sila.
The location of Naimi Sharanya Ashram was always depicted as very strategic to all the sacred rituals that were organised here, and therefore, there are four sacred theerthams (= sacred waterbodies) - (1) Divya Visrantha Theertham, (2) Chakkara Theertham, (3) Gomuki Nadhi or River, and (4) Nemi Theertham. It is thought that one must include a visit to Naimisharanyam when planning one's pilgrimage to Kedarnath and Badrinath.
The Gomati (= Go - water) River, also known as Dhenumati (= Dhenu - Cow), has water in plenty, due to its descent from the Himalayas and later meets the Ganges near Kanpur. Swayambhu Manu (= the first man), created by Brahma was married to Shatarupa. It is thus written that, Shatarupa used to bathe in the Gomati River and would worship Narayana, and was blessed to wed Swayambhu Manu.
The great Maharshi Veda Vyasa composed, classified and separated the vedas at Naimisharanyam, and arranged them as the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and the Atharvaveda. He has also composed and delineated the eighteen great puranas at this sacred place. The locations of Veda Vyasa and his son Maharshi Suta, are known as Vyas Gaddi and Suta Gaddi at Naimisharanyam. The Maharshi used to divide his time between Badrinath and Naimisharanyam during the year. In the winter months, he would travel up the Himalayas and return to Naimisharanyam where he would stay for six months.
It is said that Brahma desired to establish the centre of the universe and cast a giant wheel upon the great space. This wheel is supposed to have come to rest at Naimisharanyam and the circumference of the wheel depicts the span of the universe. Today, there is a perambulation path for pilgrims that presents the circumference of the legendary wheel of Brahma, and devotees walk around Naimisharanyam and offer their prayers. There are several sacred places on the perambulation path and these include representations of many sacred locations.
Naimisharanya Ashram, the place of the greatest of sages of India, has always had the most exemplary heroes, warriors, sages and gods visiting the place in search of answers, or in order to offer their prayers or in transit to other locations. Apart from Veda Vyasa and Suta, the greatest of all, including Krishna and Balarama, the Pandavas while in exile - Yudhistra, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva, and the great Sage Dadichi, of the Saptarishis, have been mentioned in age-old legends as having visited the ashram.
The Dadichi Kund is located about twenty kilometres from Naimisharanyam. The devas, led by Indra, met with Sage Dadichi, it is said, at Naimisharanyam, to seek his help in using his body that had been made stronger by the strength equal to diamonds due to the blessings of Shiva, and ashes from his death to create a weapon, Vajrayudha, that would be able to kill the powerful asura, Vritasura, since his boons from Shiva would prevent the asura from being killed by known conventional weapons.
It is said in the Ramayana, that Rama offered his prayers at Naimisharanyam, on his return journey to Ayodhya from Lanka after defeating Ravana in the great war.
Contemporary saints, including those who have written great treatises and rendered splendid compositions to the gods have visited Naimisharanyam. Swami Nityananda Prabhu and Swamy Ramanujacharya are known to have visited and sought blessings and inspiration at the sacred place. Several sages are reported to have performed the Deerga Sathra Yagna, the sacrificial prayers with no end, for several hundreds of years, in continuous succession.
Today, several thousands of devotees visit the Chakra Theertham on Pournima, to offer their prayers to Sree Lalitha Devi, the thayar of Naimisharanyam.
In one of the legends of Naimisharanyam, it is thus written, that the great sages went to seek audience with Narayana and requested his help. The sages recounted the great yugas that had gone by, and the manner in which right action and right deed (= dharma) had been victorious after several battles in each of the great time-eras (= yugas). It was now the time of the ever-sinful Kaliyuga, where dharma would be weakened perpetually due to the evil actions of many. The sages requested Narayana to create a safe haven on earth where there would be dharma and sinful action could not enter.
Accepting their request, Narayana cast his discus, the Sudarshana Chakra, on earth. The sacred discus, spun on its own and traveled all over the earth and finally came to rest at the place that is now Naimisharanyam. Upon its coming to rest at the place, a great new forest came up, and took over the region as an aranya. Since the Sudarshana Chakra is also known as Ne:mi and the place where it came to rest was known by its name, as Ne:misa:, and the forest, aranya, provided the safe haven, the sacred place was now recognised as Nemisa+aranya = Nemisharanya. Another rendition provides the name from the sacred fire, and the offerings to it as Naivedya, and therefore the sacrificial fire in the forest, was known as Naivesa+aranya = Naivisharanya.
The great sage-poet, Tirumangai Alwar, in his wonderful rendition to Narayana, Periya Tirumozhi, explained about the aspect of total surrender, Saranagathi, to the Lord. The great sage-poet surrendered to Narayana at Naimisharanya. Having led a questionable life, he recognised the manner of his actions and was determined to trust in Narayana to show him the path and surrendered at the sacred divya desam. The sage-poet described the unique aspect of Narayana as a sacred forest at Naimisharanya and as a sacred waterbody at Pushkar.
1. Naimisharanyam Divya Desam - at http://anudinam.org/2012/06/14/naimisharanyam-divya-desam/ as on 22.5.2013
2. Trip to Naimisharanya Divya Desam Temple - at http://templevisitsofashok.blogspot.in/2007/09/trip-to-naimisaranya-naimisharanya.html as on 22.5.2013
3. Srimad Bhagavat Geeta - http://saranathantg.blogspot.in/2009/08/bg-1826.html as on 22.5.2013
4. Naimisaaranyam, Divya Desam. - http://www.vaikhanasa.com/Naimisaaranyam-eng.html as on 24.5.2013
Sage Veda Vyasa presented all the Puranas. His father, a great sage, Parasara taught him all the Puranic knowledge. Sage Parasara got it directly from Brahma. So Vedic literature was passed on by Parasara to Veda Vyasa and Veda Vyasa used to sit there on the banks of river Saraswathi in Badarikasramam, used to write all the Puranas, write all the Brahma Suthras, divide all the Vedic mass into different branches. Then, he wanted to delegate responsibility to some people so that they can preserve that literature. If it is given to one or two they may not be able to pass it on to generations. In the course, he taught Rig Veda to sage Pippalada, he gave to Yajurveda to Vaisampayana and he gave Sa:mave:da to his disciple Jamini and Adharvana Veda to a disciple by name Sumantha. To give the Puranic literature he chose his disciple Ro:maharsha a great scholar. Ro:maharsha’s son was Su:tha. Su:tha’s another name was Rowmaharshani. He was born to a Vyasa. He was a very very great scholar. He is the powerful narrator of all the Puranic literature. Su:tha stayed in Naimisaranya. Vedavya:sa:s disciples used to teach them to many people when Veda Vyasa was at Badari. Some disciples used to go around the world to teach this Puranic literature to all the seekers.