Vrindavan, 2016.08.20 (VT): I had the opportunity to visit the Ram Taal site near Sunrakh with the Braj Foundation’s chief engineer, Nandalal Sharma. The Braj Foundation has been working on developing the site and hopes to inaugurate the completed work with an official opening in November.
I had been there not so long ago and saw the tank when it was still empty. It was quite a pleasant surprise to see it brimming with water from the heavy monsoon. Indeed, the whole area is very green and lush, though there may be too much water in the fields for the farmers.
Mr. Sharma told me that the situation was unusual. He said that the tank has been nicely surrounded by stone ghats and pathways and that when the water level goes down it will be landscaped with trees and flower bushes. The depth of the water in the center of the tank is about 20-25 feet at the present time.
The Ram Taal site is said to be where Saubhari Rishi performed his austerities in hoary antiquity. A brief resume of his story as told in the Srimad Bhagavatam and other Puranas has been carved on stone tablets underneath the beautiful old banyan tree that dominates the site.
Under the tree a small shrine is being built to Saubhari Rishi’s memory, along with a yajna shala. I asked about the purpose of the yajna shala. Before the famous story of his being distracted from his meditation by seeing the erotic sports of some fish, Saubhari Rishi had been engaged by the king of Ayodhya, Mandhata, to perform a fire sacrifice to bring rain during a long drought.
As usual with Braj Foundation projects, a lot of attention is being given to tree planting and forest restoration. A large number of saplings are waiting to be planted and many are already reaping the benefits of the generous monsoon. So perhaps Saubhari’s sacrifice keeps on giving at Ram Taal.
One thing I observed, which I knew that TBF has been concerned about in its restoration of kunds around Braj, is how to maintain water levels in them. In general water table levels are being lowered by deep bore wells and so many of these tanks dry up after the monsoon. Water harvesting is one solution, the intent of which is to replenish the water table. For this purpose, a special well has been constructed near the yajna shala. Overflow from the well is channeled into the tank.
Another feature of the Foundation’s forward thinking here is the presence of toilets and an information center.
A few things are still left to be completed, like a front gate, steps, and another small building for storage. Then the only thing left will be to let the trees grow.
I thought to myself that this would be a great place for some modern-day sadhaka to benefit from life in Braj. Ram Taal is in the middle of a developing area, not far from the under-construction Vrindavan Chandrodaya Mandir. But the work of the Foundation assures that a green jewel will permanently remain in the middle of the this area.
The inscription reads: Ramtal is the place where Saubhari Rishi performed his penance in the golden age of Satya Yuga.
Saubhari was one of the great sages at the beginning of creation. It is known from the lists of the seers in the Rig Veda tradition that Brahma was the father of Angira, Angira the father of Ghora, Ghora of Kanva, and Saubhari was the son of sage Kanva.
Saubhari performed intense austerities and meditated on this spot for a thousand years. In those days, Mandhata reigned over the kingdom of Ayodhya, but the kingdom had been hit by drought bringing much misery to the people. Narada Muni advised the king to have Saubhari conduct a sacrifice to bring rain. Saubhari went to Ayodhya at the request of the Emperor and successfully performed the sacrifice, as a result of which there was plenty of rain. Everyone was overjoyed.
As a part of his daily austerity, Saubhari would make balls of dough and feed the fish in the Yamuna, which in those days flowed past here. The area in the middle of the river was known as Ramanaka Island. Here snakes, fish and all the other living creatures lived together in peace.
However, Lord Vishnu’s carrier Garuda used to feed on these fish as well as the snakes descended from Kadru living on the island of Ramanaka. The great serpent Shesh Nag heard of the snakes’ predicament and advised them to take shelter of Saubhari. Kaliya and many other snakes did as he said and came to Saubhari. The sage told them not to fear and cursed the snake-eating Garuda that if he set foot in this area of Sunrakh he would be consumed by fire and turned to ash.
One time, the great ascetic Saubhari was doing penance by meditating underwater in the river. There he saw the king of the fishes enjoying sexually with his wives. Seeing this, the desire to marry arose in Saubhari’s mind. Lord Vishnu directed him to go to King Mandhata who had fifty daughters. All the girls wanted to marry such a great ascetic sage, so the king gave them in marriage to the sage along with a huge dowry.
On Saubhari’s direction, Yogamaya made separate living quarters for each of his wives. Saubhari himself lived with all his wives simultaneously on the strength of his yogic powers.
One day the emperor Mandhata came to see how his daughters were faring. Saubhari instructed the king to give up anger, greed, attachment and egoism.
Maharishi Saubhari fathered more than five thousand talented and handsome sons and daughters, who also gave him many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
After enjoying family life for many years, Saubhari again became detached from worldly pleasures. He announced to his wives and children that once again he would take up a life of austerities. His wives decided to join him in this life of meditation and penance. Saubhari plunged deep into samadhi and soon had a vision of the Supreme Lord.
These stories are told in the Vishnu Purana, the Devi Bhagavata Purana and the Ninth Canto, sixth chapter, of the Shrimad Bhagavatam.
Those who perform austerities or religious rituals on the spot where Saubhari did his sadhan, will bring rainfall and family prosperity as well as having all their other wishes are fulfilled.
Mumbai industrialist Kamal Morarka’s generosity, dedicated to his late father Shri M. R. Morarka, has made the renovation of this divine spot possible. The work was done between 2011 and 2016. During the excavations, the 2,500 year-old Ramtal water tank was discovered.
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