A tirtha is a place of pilgrimage. At a tirtha named Nandikeshvara, there is a famous Shiva linga.
In a city named Karnaki there used to live a brahmana. He left his two sons with his wife and went to visit the city of Varanasi. It was then learnt that the brahmana had died in Varanasi. His widow brought up her sons and eventually married them off. She became old and it was time for her to die. But death would not come. It seemed to the sons that their mother was hankering after something and would not die until her wish had been satisfied.
Mother, they asked, What is it that you want?
I have always wanted to visit the tirtha of Varanasi, the mother replied. But now I am going to die without ever visitng the place. Promise me that when I am dead, you will take my ashes to Varanasi and throw them into the river Ganga there.
We will, said the sons. You can die inpeace.
The mother died and the sons performed her funeral ceremony. Then the eldest son, Suvadi, set out for Varanasi with his mother’s ashes. The way was long and he stopped to rest and spend the night in a brahmana’s house.
A cow was tied in front of the house and it was time for milking. Suvati saw that when the brahmana tried to milk the cow, the calf would not permit the milking and kicked the brahmana. The brahmana then hit the calf with a stick. The brahmana went away after the milking. But Suvadi was still there and and he heard the cow tell her calf, I am distressed that the brahmana struck you. Tomorow I am going to gore the brahmana’s son to death.
Next day, the brahmana’s son came to do the milking. The cow gored him with horns so that he died. This means that the cow had committed the sin of killing a brahmana. Immediately, because of the sin, the cow turned completely black.
The cow left the house. Suvadi followed, amazed at this strange sight. The cow went to the banks of the river Narmada, to the place named Nandikeshvara. She bathed in the river and became white once again. This meant that the sin of killing a brahmana had been completely washed away. Suvadi marvelled at this and realized what a powerful tirtha Nandikeshvara was.
He was about to leave for Varansi after bathing in the river himself, when he was accosted by a beautiful woman.
Where are you going, Suvadi? asked the woman. Throw your mother’s ashes in the river here. This is a far greater tirtha than Varanasi.
Who are you? asked Suvadi.
I am the river Gangaa, came the reply.
The woman vanished and Suvadi did as he had been bidden. As soon as he had done this, his dead mother appeared in the sky and told him that she was immensely gratified. She would now go straight to heaven.
Nandikeshvara is a wonderful tirtha because a brahmana woman named Rishika had earlier performed very difficult tapasya there to please Shiva.
OM NAMO NARAYANAYA