The Sages asked---'O revered sage! We would like to know more about Purushottamaa Kshetra, where there is a majestic wooden idol of Lord Vishnu.'
Sage Jaimini replied--The sacrosanct place of Purushottamaa Kshetra is graced by the presence of Lord Jagannatha. During ancient times, Lord Varaha had rescued Prithvi from the clutches of Hiranyaksha--the mighty demon who had abducted her to Rasatala. After Prithvi had been established in its original position, Lord Brahma commenced his creations. Lord Brahma wondered about the means by which human beings could get liberated from three major types of sorrow---Adhyatmica (spiritual), Adhidaivika (deities wrath), Adhibhantika (related with this world). He sought the help of Lord Vishnu who eulogized the greatness of Purushottamaa Kshetra and advised him to go there. Lord Vishnu said-- 'Purushottamaa Kshetra is situated at the sea-shore, to the south of river Mahanadi. This sacroscant place of mine does not get affected by deluge. I dwell at this holiest place as 'Lord Purushottamaa'. There is a holy pond called Rohini in the vicinity. Anybody who takes a holy dip in that pond gets absolved of all his sins. O Brahma! You must pay a visit to Purushottamaa kshetra where spending a day bestows virtues greater than all the austerities combined together.'
This way, Lord Brahma went to Purushottama kshetra as per the instructions of Lord Vishnu.
MARKANDEYA EULOGIZES VISHNU
Lord Brahma soon after reaching Purushottamaa kshetra sat down and started meditating. He was so engrossed in his meditation that he remained in that state for a very long time. This resulted into total chaos as Yamaraja found that his power of causing death had no effect on people living in Purushottamaa kshetra. Worried as he was, Yamaraja rushed towards Neelachala mountain and sought Lord Vishnu's intervention in the matter.
Lord Vishnu smiled and signaled goddess Laxmi to say something. Goddess Laxmi said--'O Suryanandana! Anybody residing at this holy place is freed from the vicious cycles of birth and death after becoming absolved of all his sins. This is the reason why you are experiencing this unusual problem. The whole world except this holy place will come into your jurisdiction.'
Yamaraja was amazed by this revelation so he asked Laxmi--'I would like to know why such a privilege is being given to this place?'
Laxmi replied--'O Ravinandana! At the time of deluge when the whole world was submerged in the water sage Markandeya was struggling to find a secure place for his survival. Although he was blessed with an unusually long life of seven kalpas but still he needed a place to live in. He started swimming and finally managed to reach Purushottamaa kshetra, which had remained unscathed by the turbulence of the deluge. There he saw a divine tree called 'Akshaya Vata'. Markandeya continued to swim along the coast wondering how that place had managed to remain unaffected by deluge when the whole world had been submerged. Suddenly he heard a voice, which appeared to be coming from the direction of the Akshaya Vata--'O Markandeya! Don't worry! Take my refuge and you shall be protected.'
Markandeya was very surprised and looked all around. He kept on swimming and saw Lord Vishnu, who was engrossed in his yoga nidra in Ksheera sagara. I (Laxmi) was also present there. Markandeya eulogized Vishnu in the following way--'Salutations to the supreme Lord- the source of all creations! O Jagannatha! Protect me from getting drowned.'
Lord Vishnu opened his eyes and found Markandeya gasping for breath. On realizing the gravity of the situation he said--'Raise your head and look at the top of this Kalpa Vata. You would find an infant sleeping on a leaf of the Kalpa Vata. The infant is none other than Kaala himself. You should enter inside his (Kaala's) body through his opened mouth and live peacefully as there is no other place for you to live in.'
Markandeya entered into Kaala's body as per the instructions given by Lord Vishnu and was amazed by the expanse of his belly, which appeared like a bottomless pit. He also saw all the fourteen Bhuvans existing within Kaala's belly including all the creatures-deities, sages, siddhas, gandharvas, etc. Markandeya wandered all over the place and after getting tired came out through Kaala's opened mouth. He found Lord Vishnu was still present there accompanied by his consort-Laxmi. Markandeya made salutations to both of them and narrated his experiences he had inside Kaala's belly. Lord Vishnu blessed him and made a revelation--' The place you had visited few moments ago is beyond the limits of creation or deluge. The name of this holiest place is Purushottamaa kshetra and it is my permanent abode for I do not leave it even for a moment. 'Markandeya was very impressed and requested Lord Vishnu to allow him to live there. Lord Vishnu replied--' O Brahmarishi! I shall remain at Purushottama-kshetra till the end of this kalpa. I shall also create a sacrosanct place, which would enable you to become immortal.'
Sage Markandeya then dug up a reservoir with the help of Vishnu's chakra. He did an austere penance to please Lord Maheshwara as the result of which he was indeed blessed with immortality. In course of time, this reservoir became famous as 'Markandeya kunda'.
HOLY PLACES IN THE VICINITY OF Purushottama - KSHETRA
Dwelling in length upon the majesty of Purushottama kshetra, goddess Laxmi said--Purushottama kshetra resembles a conch in shape and is graced by the presence of Lord Shiva. Towards its north is situated a temple of Lord Neelkantha. A famous Shiva Linga named Kapalamochana is also situated in the vicinity. One who makes a pilgrimage to Kapalamochana becomes liberated from gravest of sins. A temple of goddess Vimala Devi is also situated nearby.
Purushottama kshetra is considered to be supreme among all the places of pilgrimage and for this very reason it is aptly named 'Teertha Raja'. A divine pond called Rohini kunda is also situated nearby. Anybody who takes a holy dip there is freed from the vicious cycles of birth and death. It is believed that the increased level of water at the time of deluge ultimately recedes and disappears into this pond.
Goddess Laxmi said--' O Dhanaraja! This holy place is beyond your jurisdiction because people living there never experience death. It is well protected by eight goddesses from all the eight directions. The names of these eight goddesses are Mangala, Lamba, Kaalaratri, Marichika, Vimala, Sarvamangala, Ardhashini and Chandarupa. How can Lord Rudra be absent when Rudrani has manifested herself in eight forms, so, he has manifested himself in eight different forms as well- Kapalamochana, Kshetrapala, Yameshwara, Markandeyeshwara, Ishana, Bilaveshwara, Neelakantha, and Vateshwara. While describing the majesty of Purushottama kshetra, goddess Laxmi revealed to Lord Brahma--' In the coming Satya yuga there would be a king named Indradyumna and would be famous for his unflinching devotion in Lord Vishnu. Being pleased by the king's devotion, Lord Vishnu would ultimately manifest himself from a wooden structure to bless him. Vishwakarma would then carve out four idols (Jagannatha, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshana chakra) from the wooden block all of which would be installed by none other than you (Brahma).'
Once, while sage Jaimini was describing the greatness of Purushottama kshetra to the assembled sages, all of them curiously asked him--
' Where is Purushottama kshetra situated ?
Jaimini replied --' Utkal is situated at the eastern coast of Bharatavarsha. At the time of deluge, when everything gets submerged in water Utkala remains unaffected and it is the very place from where the knowledge of the Vedas spread in all directions. The residents of Utkala are not only learned but also very prosperous. There is not a single person in this land who is not a devotee of Lord Vishnu. All the people belonging to the four prominent castes (Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra) diligently follow their respective dharma. This holy place never experiences natural calamities of any kind.'
OM NAMO NARAYANAYA