[This post features the significance of Pancha Prayag. The significance of Prayag Raj will be posted next in the blog!]
PRAYAG : Ya means moving; Ga means knowledge. Yag or Yaga (or Yagna) means to move ahead with knowledge. Pra means special or total or complete. Therefore, PRAYAG means to move forward in life with the right knowledge or spiritual knowledge.
PRAYAG also means confluence of two or more factors. In our inner world of thoughts or in the outer world of things and beings, it is not easy for any two factors to come together and move ahead. If it is possible, then it is a whole-hearted cooperative endeavour, because the two factors coming together can have different distinctive features and characteristics. Hence, Prayag also denotes diminution of ego.
In the Himalayan region, wherever two river streams come together, merge and then proceed, it is called as PRAYAG. It is indeed a cooperative endeavour and a mahayagna because the two river streams come from two different directions, move through different terrains and have different characteristics (depth, velocity, mineral content and even colour). Inspite of their different identities, they reconcile so beautifully and merge together and proceed further as a larger river. There is a silent, profound and constant message to us: “Inspite of all differences, it is possible to realize the oneness in all diversity, multiplicity and plurality. It can be in any field like, knowledge, culture, tradition etc. Wherever two or more factors harmoniously meet and proceed further, a greater purpose in life is fulfilled”. And the message of transcending individual identity becomes more pronounced and intense and reaches our inner depths easily because of the very pure and conducive, natural and divine Himalayan environment. Hence every Prayag is considered as a pilgrim centre – a strong reminder of what one has to accomplish within oneself.
This is beautifully demonstrated in “Pancha Prayag” – the five sacred places in the Himalayan region of Uttarakhand. At each Prayag, two river streams from different directions meet, merge and proceed further. From the higher region downwards, they are: VISHNU Prayag where Alaknanda meets Dhauliganga. NANDA Prayag where Alaknanda meets Nandakini. KARNA Prayag where Alaknanda meets Pindar. RUDRA Prayag where Alaknanda meets Mandakini. DEV Prayag where Alaknanda meets Bhageerathi. From Dev Prayag onwards, the confluence of these five rivers is called as GANGA. She carries with her the characteristics – the speciality and uniqueness of all the rivers!
The route through the Pancha Prayag is supposed to have been taken by the Pandavas and Draupadi during their Swargaarohana (ascent to heaven). The Pandavas represent an individual with his five sense-organs under restrain. Draupadi represents the mind under perfect control. The uphill path through Pancha Prayag denotes the spiritual path to the State of Enlightenment. Prayag or Yagna (moving ahead with spiritual knowledge) alone can take the seeker to the State of Absolute Perfection.
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