This sacred place is where Ved Vyas’s grandson Shukdevji Maharaj has preached Srimad Bhagvat Katha to King Parikshit for seven days as King Parikshit sought to absolve himself of a curse. King Prakshit was the son of Abhimanyu and the grandson of Arjun, Parikshit, sat under the Vat Vriksh with eighty-eight thousand saints.
Here’s how Shringin, son of sage Shamika, cursed Parikshit
Parikshit was cursed by Shringin, son of sage Shamika, to die of snakebite in seven days for insulting sage Shamika. After the death of King Parikshit of Takshak, the snake bites him.
Parikshit also dies from another flashback when the Pandas conquered Khandavaprastha (now known as Indraprastha). Takshak is the head of snakes, which inhabited Naglok without any human disturbance. When the Pandavas arrived, Takshak realized that his freedom had been disturbed, and with anger he ordered his soldiers to attack the Pandavas and their subjects. The widespread attack resulted in the death of several people, except Pandas and his wife Draupadi. After this incident, the third Pandava Arjuna raised his bow and set fire to Naglok. Takshak became even more furious and vowed to kill one of the clan of Pandavas. Takshak’s vow and the curse of Shringin, the son of sage Shamika, gave Parikshit the ultimate destiny that he would be killed by snakebite.
Now, upon hearing of his father’s death by Takshak, Parikshit’s son Janmejaya II vowed to kill Takshak within a week. He begins the Sarpamedha Yagna, which compels each snake of the entire universe to fall into the Havan Kund. However, a snake got stuck around the chariot of the Sun and due to the force of the yagna, the chariot was also being pulled inside the Havanakund. It could have ended the rule of the Sun from the universe by taking the chariot of the Sun to the sacrificial altar. With this, all the gods argued to stop the yajna. When Takshak arrived, this yagna was stopped by Astika Muni from doing so, which resulted in Takshaka. That day was Shukla Paksha Panchami in Shravan month and since then it is celebrated as the festival of Nag Panchami.
The Katha of Srimad Bhagvat has been lifting the hearts of people since time immemorial. The message of the Katha pervades every particle of this sacred place. When devotees arrive at the compound, a sense of universal love, and peace of mind, overwhelms them. Their self-confidence also receives a unique boost. All this finds mention in the Srimad Bhagvat:
‘Tam Satyamanandnidhim Bhajet- nanyayatr sajjet yadatmpath (Satya, or truth, should be worshipped at this sacred place. No one should lose focus to suffer degradation and deterioration of the soul).
Akshya Vat Vriksh, Towering at a height of 150 feet, this five-thousand-one-hundred-year-old Akshay Vat Vriksh is verdant even today, casting soothing shadows and a sense of ‘quiet’ upon the temple premises. Its branches appear like hands showering blessings on devotees.
Here’s how Swamiji Kalyandevji revitalise Shukteerth
The Vat Vriksh is perceived as a living symbol of Shukadevji by his followers. Like other Vat Vriksh, fibrous parasitical roots do not emerge from this ancient tree. The mythology that surrounds the Vat Vriksh has turned it into an eternal symbol of forgiveness and peace. Sources of inspiration for the revival of Shukteerth were the founders of the University of Banaras.
Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya ji, a famous scholar of India, the revered Shri Gokulnath ji Vallabthcaharya of the Mota Mandir, Mumbai, and the revered Shri Nimbarka Charya ji, Ramanujacharya ji, and Shri Swami Krishnbodhashaam. These great personalities had urged Swami Kalyandevji to help revive and revitalize Shukteerth. Once, on the occasion of the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, the renowned scholar of Srimad Bhagvat, the revered Shri Prabhu Dutt Brahmachari, accompanied Swamiji to the banks of the Ganges. When they arrived at the banks, he urged Swamiji to help restore Shukteerth’s past glory. It was on the banks of the Ganges that Swamiji vowed to transform the otherwise abandoned Shukteerth into a coveted destination for the devout.
The process of reviving Shukteerth began in 1944 with the revered Shri Kalyandevji performing a great religious sacrifice and oblation on the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi in order to attain world peace. This was the period when India was under the British. The British officers had great respect for the revered Swamiji.
Many great sages, scholars and devotees from all parts of the country were present on this great occasion. It is said that a religious sacrifice as great as the one the revered Swamiji carried out has not been performed in India since the days of Mahabharata. After completing this religious sacrifice, Swamiji left for Shukteerth, which looked like a barren forestland those days, and was inhabitable. Ferocious beasts like tigers and leopards used to stalk the area at that time. The Vat Vriksha was still there, but stood precariously on a mound of sand, and was on the verge of ruin.
The devotees used to come here in groups to avoid being mauled by the beasts. After a quick offering of Gangajal and a darshan of the wooden sandals of God Shukdevji kept under the Vat Vriksh, they used to leave for home before dusk. Apart from a motley bunch of devotees and a handful of spiritual leaders, few at that time knew about Shukteerth’s existence.
Given this perilous situation at the holy site, the task of restoring glory to the place was onerous. But not enough to discourage Swamiji to achieve this goal, he meditated under the Vat Vriksh. It is said that one day, when the Swamiji was meditating at night, he felt Shukdevji presented himself and showered his blessings on him.
Having imbibed divine power, Swamiji performed the Srimad Bhagvat puja continuously for one year under the Vat Vriksha. To witness a watershed in India’s religious history, many great scholars from Varanasi and Vrindavan were invited. The expenses for this one-year-long pooja were borne by his devotee, Shri Shambhu Nath Goenka, a resident of Delhi. It was not long before this pooja began producing miracles.
As one of the main aims of Swamiji was to keep the Vat Vriksh from falling, he turned the sand mound into a concrete plinth with the cooperation of generous devotees. In this endeavour, Swamiji was assisted by Lala Rajender Lal and Lala Narender Lalji, the sons of former Chief Justice of Punjab. They spent lakhs of rupees on this project. In fact, they were inspired by Prof. Shri Rama Nandji and Shri Shiv Kumarji to take up this noble cause. Not just them, Lala Sohan Lalaji and Lala Manohar Lalaji, who were landlords at Suktal, had saplings planted around the mound. Today, this mound, called the Shukarteela, is the pride of Shukteerth.