Since ancient times, fasts, auspicious days and festivals have held special meaning in India’s proud dharmic and cultural tradition. Therefore, be it Rishi tarpana related Rakshabandhan festival, which denotes respecting eternal gyana; be it pride filled Vijayadashami festival, which denotes definite victory of sat over asat or victory of dharma over adharma; be it the illuminating festival of Deepawali, which denotes the journey from tamas towards light; be it colourful festival of Holi, denoting waves of exhilaration of a free heart and getting rid of vikaar – in all our national and community living, faith, belief and happiness and not doubts or sadness have stayed prominent.
In the long ritualistic tradition of vrat and festivals, Makar Sankranti has special place and significance. Pointing to the mighty truth of this materialistic world, Rigvedic Rishi say that Sun itself is the soul of this visible and jangam/wandering world. According to Jyotish acharyas the orbital path of Sun is called Kantivritta and it is equally divided into 12 zodiacs like Mesha, Vrishabha, Mithun etc. The soul of this world i.e. the Sun year-round keeps moving in these 12 zodiacs. The movement of Sun from one Rashi to another is known as Sankranti. Thus this way when Sun enters Makar Rashi from Dhanu rashi, Makar Sankranti festival occurs. Therefore Sankranti basically is the festival to venerate the Jagatpita Surya. There are 2 ayana – uttarayana and dakshinayana. When Sankranti happens in Makar Rashi, from then onwards to Mithuna rashi Sun remains uttarayana. This period is considered auspicious for many types of dharmic samskars and celebrations. Sun becoming uttarayana makes days become bigger and nights become smaller.
In Magha month when Sun enters Makar rashi, then the auspicious period is important for bathing as well as daana. Nationwide different areas celebrate this day in different names and celebrations. Hindi speaking areas call this Khichadi (the mixture of rice, dal) and relate Sankranti to dining and donation of khichadi. While in Maharashta til and jaggery is used profusely on this day. In Bengal it is called Tilwa Sankranti and in south India festival spans over 3 days and is called Pongal and is celebrated as Mahotsav.
According to the dharmashastras, on the day of Sankranti, with a Sankalp in mind, lay red cloth on vedi/ chowki and make an ashtadal of akshat (rice), place golden vigraha of Sun god and do panchopachaar with proper process. This day Ganga snana and donation of dal or rice or black sesame seed etc. is considered very liberating. Shastra also mention donation of wood as well as warm clothes. Because of cold weather this daana is also considered important, so that needy gain necessary warm clothes and blankets. In Sankranti time, bathing in ocean, Gangasagar, Kashi and Teerthraj Prayag is considered very special. But those who cannot go to such pilgrimages due to some reason, for them there is procedure to mentally evoke 7 pious rivers and have a ceremonial bath at any river or water body so that the vrati gets the punya of pilgrimage and gets Suryalok as blessing.
On one hand where Makar Sankranti holds importance as giver of good gati in different lokas, and so it is celebrated with fanfare and festivity, on other hand this auspicious day is special for Gorakhpur as it is related to Shivavtar Mahayogi Gorakhnath ji. In this context, according to the known history in Treta yug Mahayogi Gorakhnath on one of his excursions, reached the place of Jwala Devi in Kangra District (Himachal Pradesh.) Upon seeing Mahayogi, Devi manifested herself to welcome him and requested him to receive alms in the dhaam itself. At Devi’s place, Vaamachar path being followed, the food was tamasic and Gorakhnath ji did not want to have that. He requested Devi that he eats khichadi and that too in the way of madhukari (it is a way of collecting alms like bees, food is obtained from different places in small amounts by the sadhus). The Devi replied, ok I will get the cooking area set up, you may go get the khichadi as alms. It is said that for alms Gorakhnath ji walked towards that part of Ayodhya area, which is now known as Gorakhpur. He took samadhi at this peaceful and quiet area in the foothills of Himalayas at this pious land. The begging bowl which was kept to collect khichdi never got full even when the devotees kept donating khichadi and he never returned to Kangra, where the water kept boiling by the blessing of Jwala Devi. Devotees have been donating khichadi to that very akshay patra begging bowl of Gorakhnath ji since then. As shraddha and bhakti increased, number of devotees have thronged the temple and lately since many centuries fairs have been organized in which many lakhs of devotees take part.
Mahayogi Gorakhnath ji’s personality is beyond generations and eternal. Due to his calm spiritual impact, the importance of sadachar (good behavior), sanyam (self-control) and naitikta (morality) in yoga-sadhana became more prominent, and also the yoga-sadhana became more easily available for all jatis and varnas. Social and cultural unity icon and flagbearer Sant Guru Gorakhnath ji, his disciples and other related Nath Sidhhas through socially unifying works, created dhunas and mathas at various places. Their manifestations and impact are mentioned in various historical accounts.
Neighbouring Hindu nation Nepal’s Shah dynasty, due to Guru Gorakhnath Ji’s blessings, could unite the small kingdoms named Baaisi and Chaubisi and could consolidate them under current Nepal. In remembrance of Shri Gorakhnath ji’s blessings Nepal’s national currency has Gorakhnath Ji’s name and his charan padukas inscribed. Mahayogi Guru Gorakhnath presented blessed khadag (weapon) to Veer Bappa Rawal who established a great Mewar royal kingdom in 8th century. The credit of making Vir Vikramaditya’s elder brother Bhratihari mahayogi by giving yoga diksha also goes to Guru Gorakhnath. The credit of respect to Rani Mainavati and Raja Gopichand by giving Yoga diksha also goes to Guru Gorakhnath. Not just in India, Guru Gorakhnath is respected figure in Burma, SriLanka, Tibet, China and Mongolia. When such a mahayogi came to Gorakhpur, due to his sadhana, the glory of current temple increased itself. People started coming to witness the compassion of Mahayogi. Eventually later people settled and in its current form the place is called Gorakhpur Nagar and District.
On Makar Sankranti since time immemorial the annual fair of devotees takes place. After bathing in Bhim Sarovar people do Nath ji’s darshan, offer khichadi and get their wishes fulfilled. Although when did the fair started is difficult to tell, still in Brahmleen Gorakshpeethadheeshwar Yugpurush Mahant Digvijaynath ji Maharaj’s time the place had earned international repute and also the Khichadi Mela had become famous. Except Shaktipeeth Devipaatan, any other dharmic fair in eastern Uttar Pradesh is not this big.
On Makar Sankranti, to facilitate devotees, temple and administrators and self-help organizations do proper arrangements beforehand. In all North Indian temples, Shri Gorakhnath temple has its special place. Temple has Mahayogi Gorakhnath ignited akhand jyoti which is still burning unchecked despite disruptive attacks and calamities. There are Devi murtis consecrated in the chambers. There is a Nataraj mangal Murti of Bhagwan Shiv in the Southern entrance and before it is Bhagwan Ganesha Murti consecrated. Bhagwan Ganesha is considered as destroyer of obstacles in Indian culture and is also the provider of worldly luxuries, peace and material and spiritual life attainments. The North western area of Temple has consecrated murti of Mata Kali dancing on the chest of Bhagwan Shiv. It is she who is known as Mahamaya Kali. Temple’s Northern direction has Kaal Bhairav’s murti consecrated and is worshipped as kotwal (policeman) and dwarapala (guard) of Bhagwan Shiva. Besides these Mata Shitala, Trishul Bhairav, Bhagwan Shankar, Mata Durga and Shri Ram’s messenger Mahabali Hanuman Ji and Radha Krishna temples are also worth visiting.
Near the temple itself is akhand dhuna ignited by Mahayogi Shri Gorakshnath Ji. Alongside temple premise has a pond and Mahabali Bhimsen temple beside the pond. Nearby itself are Mahant Baba Brahmnath Ji, Yogiran Gambhirnath Ji, Yogpurush Brahmleen Mahant Digvijay Nath Ji Maharaj samadhi temples and spacious hall in remembrance of latter which is definitely worth seeing. It has many murtis of our aaradhya Devi Devatas, Maharshis and mahapurush inside. Navgraha Temples, Bhagwan Shri Ram Temple, Vishnu Bhagwan, Mata Santoshi, Baal Devi, Hatthi Mata and grand yagyashala is also situated in Temple premises itself.
Sadhana bhawan for those who come for the purpose of sadhana, Sant Niwas for visiting sant and mahatmas, Yoga Prashikshan Kendra for those interested in learning and practicing yoga, health centre with modern equipments for physical exercise and dharmashalas and travel houses for visitors are also present. The Temple complex has religious / charitable hospital and dispensary with latest medical equipments and 300 bed facility. There is Samskrit Mahavidyalaya for studying and teaching Devavaani Samskrit. Withing Gorakhnath Temple, there is huge library on Hindu dharma, darshan, yoga and nationalism related literature and a research center. To propagate and encourage yoga, temple as a special edition of Yoga literature called “Yogvaani” which is published as monthly magazine.
In this manner, Shri Gorakhnath Temple is diligently and methodically working to propagate Yoga, Dharma, Spirituality, Hindutva, Nationalism and social cooperation and is earning good repute for itself.