MARKATA BABA SRI HANUMAN MANDIR, YAMUNA BAZZAR, DELHI....
It was long since I had been to this place and everything seems new for me in this city of Delhi. While at Delhi, I planned to go to Haridwar and hence took a city bus to go to Inter State Bus Stand at Kashmiri Gate. The bus moving in the ring road along the river Yamuna, and I was enjoying the sight of many old monumental structures like Feroze Shah Kotla, Gandhi memorial Red Fort etc. On just passing of Red Fort, the conductor was calling passengers for Hanuman Sethu to get down. I was wondering at the call, since I did not expect a bridge across river Yamuna to be called Hanuman Sethu (thank God! the name not changed even after Ram Sethu controversy where even the very name of Sri Rama had been questioned). After few seconds the bus passed through a flyover, and I was told that the flyover is named Hanuman Sethu after the famous Hanuman temple nearby. Oh what a relief! I decided to visit the temple which had given the name 'Hanuman Sethu' to one of the land marks of Delhi. On my return I visited the temple at the banks of river Yamuna near Nigambodh Ghat.
City of Gods - Indraprastha
Present Delhi was known as city of Gods - Indraprastha, raised by Pandavas on the banks of Yamuna sister of Yama, king of death. The city of Indraprastha was one of the bones of contention between two houses of cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Nothing remains of Indraprastha above ground now. But recent excavations at the Old Fort have revealed fine gray earthenware that could support the theory of the existence of Indraprastha at that site.
Though it is customary to say there are eight Delhis, presently only two are only known namely Old Delhi and New Delhi. While Old Delhi denotes to Shahjahanabad built by Shahjahan with majestic red fort as the heart of it, British with present Rastrapati Bhavan as the heart of it built New Delhi. But this place even dates back to Mahabaratha or even to vedic period.
Shajahanabad alias Old Delhi
Shahjahanabad, the 17th century city of Shah Jahan and the seventh city of Delhi was completed in 1649. And was built like a huge fortress surrounded by strong rubble-built high walls from all sides with bastions, 14 high-arched openings gates and 16 windows.
The old city Shajahanabad had been well planned and had fourteen arched gates through which one could enter the city, in the sense the city itself was fortified. Most of the gates to the city had been named after the direction to which city they will lead one out. For example north had Kasmiri Gate, west had Delhi Gate, and northwest had Ajmeri Gate etc. Shahjahanabad had Red fort as its base or the central theme of the city. River Yamuna was the eastern boundary of Red fort, so also the old city of Delhi.
Nigambodh Gate and Ghat
It is worth mentioning here that there was a small fort named Saleemgarh fort in the island formed by the off shot of Yamuna and the main course of the river Yamuna. It was the northeastern corner of the city. The gate at this point is known as Nigambodh Gate. As per the practice of naming the gates after the place to which it will lead this gate had been named Nigambodh Gate since it leads to Nigambodh. The stretch of land along the river Yamuna known as Nigamboth dates back to the days of the Mahabharata and the Hindu period. The original ghat (river bank from where people can take bath in the river) extended towards the gate and near the Saleemgarh fort.
The name Nigambodh
It is interesting to know how this place got the name Nigambodh Ghat. According to legends, Brahma once lost His memory and also His palm leaf scripts. On counseling with wise it came to be known that He has to take a dip in the river Yamuna in Indraprastha. Accordingly He took a plunge in the river Yamuna recovered His lost memory and also discovered where he had kept his sacred books. The name Nigambodh is derived from Nigam signifying the Ved and Bodak the knowledge.
Presently one can see remains of the Saleemgarh - an old structure modified and constructed by the Britishers for their regimental needs. Still the arches right on the ring road in the island formed by the ring road and Bela road will remind one of Saleemgarh. The bridge connecting the Red fort and Saleemgarh is seen over the ring road. The river Yamuna had changed its course and drifted eastward, thereby shifting the Nigambodh ghat eastward and the off shot of Yamuna is no more there. The Nigambodh ghat is now known for the crematorium it houses. Less known is the Neel Chatri mandir dedicated to Lord Shiva said to have been built by Yudhistra the eldest of Pandavas. Ring road had come-up in place where Yamuna and its off shot were once flowing. But on one side of ring road is present day Yamuna Bazzar, which was once part of Nigambodh ghat before Yamuna changed its course.
Temple of Anjaneya alias Hanuman
There is an ancient temple for Lord Anjaneya known as Lord Hanuman here in Yamuna Bazzar. The temple had been reestablished by Sri Markata babaji during Mugal time. Presently this temple is popular as 'Yanuman Bazzar Hanuman Mandir - Markata babaji wale'. There are many versions which describe the coming up of Sri Hanuman temple at this place. Before we go to the narration of those versions of legend, let us visit the temple first. The temple entrance is east facing. As one enters the temple he comes across a big open space with lot of small mandaps built by various donors at different time. Hanumath devotees sit in groups in those mandaps and chant the glory of Sri Hanuman. Most of them chant Sri Hanuman Chalisa or Sri Hanuman Bahook. There are renovations taking place in these mandaps. The main temple is on the left side as one enters the temple complex. There is a long queue to have dharshan of the Lord in the main temple.
Lord Anjaneya alias Hanuman
The main temple is west facing and the Lord Hanuman is also seen facing west. The main moorthi of the Lord is seen installed at around fifteen feet depth. It is said over a period of time the ground level had been increased by along the ring road, with the development of the city. But the idol of the Lord Hanuman is said to be where it was originally installed. The moorthi is around three to four feet and the Lord Hanuman is seen as embossed in the stone and had been covered with senturam i.e., vermillion paste. There is water around the Lord and it will be seen as if Lord is standing in the water. Lord of this kshetra is seen holding the sanjeevi parvatham in His right hand, and the left hand is seen as if touching the ground.
The legend of the kshetra
It is very difficult to know how old the temple is. The first legend marks it to around end of kritha yuga and beginning of tratha yuga, when it is stated that Sri Brahma had lost the memory and also the scripts of Veda. On advise of wise and devas, Sri Brahma had come down to take a dip in the holy Yamuna here in this spot. On taking dip at this spot in the river, He had regained the memory and also got back the lost script. Thereby this river bank got the name Nigambodh ghat. Hanumanji had learned all Vedas and other arts from none other then Lord Surya himself. He had done this without disturbing the routine of the Lord Surya, by moving backwardly and facing His master. In the process Hanumanji came to know the story of lose of scripts by Sri Brahma. In His inquestness to know that no script is left behind at Nigambodh, Lord had come here and was searching. Hence the posture of Hanumanji of this kshetra is seen as if He is searching the banks of river Yamuna.
The second legend marks it around the Ramayana period. After Sri Ram's coronation and happy living in Ayodhya, Sri Rama sends Sri Sita Devi in exile on account of one of the citizen doubting the character of Devi [for full story see our Aliganj Lucknow]. In one of those days, when Sri Sita Devi was on exile Sri Rama and Hanumanji had set for hunting along river Yamuna. When they had come to this holy ghat of Nigambodh, they took holy dip in the river and sat on meditation. After a while Sri Hanumanji had gone and fetched some fruits for Sri Rama. Sri Rama had taken the fruits and refreshed. Sri Hanuamnji is seen picking up the remains of the fruits as Rama's prashad.
These are the two legends among the many variations in the legends narrated.
The temple and around
The temple is very well kept up, neat and tidy. A well maintained garden just behind the temple known as Hanuman vatika is used for discourses on Tulasi Das's Ramachand Manas, Valmiki's Ramayan, and Hanuman Chalisa.
Sri Hanumanji of this temple at Yamuna Bazzar, Nigambodh ghat bestows knowledge, discipline and courage to face the world to the devotees.
[Ed. March 2009