Siddh Baba Balak Nath
In India, the cult of the Bābā Bālak Nāth especially popular in the State of Himachal, where his main shrine is situated, and in the eastern part of the Punjab State, which is attached to it. At past, the small shrines consecrated to him mostly could be seen all over the area of the Himachal State. At present, the cult of the Baba Balak Nath is slowly spreading all over India, and many temples consecrated to him were built at the various cities of the country, mostly by the people who originated from this state, and who worship him as their patron deity.
Although the name of the Siddh Bābā Bālak Nāth is one of most well known amongst other names of the Great Natha Siddhas, in accordance with most legends about him, he never became the member of the Natha order (or the disciple of Goraksh Nath). His relationship with the Nātha yogis in general, and with Guru Gorakh Nath in particular, are not easy to understand. It is much possible that he was the yogi of the Natha Sampradaya, but at the same time, from the various legends about him it appears clearly that he tried to estabilish himself as being apart from the Natha sect. What is most remarcarable about him, is that he repeatedly refused to perform the splitting of his ears by the Guru Goraksh Nath and preferred to remain aughar life-long. As can be seen from his name, posibly he was intitiated into the Natha order by some yogi of the sect, whose name became lost in time; in accordance with some legends by Guru Goraksh Nath, and in accordance with others by the Lord Shiva himself. The name Bālak Nāth is the common name used amongst the Natha Yogis even today, and usualy it is given to those of them, who became yogi while they still were very young (Bālak means a boy-child). At present, there are few Natha yogis who have such names within the Natha Sampradaya. It is difficult to say was Baba Bālak Nāth the disciple of the Guru Goraksh Nath or not, but all legends unanimously agree that he met him, and even have the contest of the magical powers with him.
The Main Place
The main shrine secred to the Baba Balak Nath and the place of his penance, also known as the Baba Balak Nath Siddh-Peeth, are located at the places Deot Siddh and Shaha Talai in the district Hamirpur of the Himachal Pradesh (state). The small city Shaha Talai is situated in the lower part of the mountain and Deot Siddh on its peak, about six kilomiters above it if go by motor road and about one kilometer if go by the direct way. The both places form one complex consecrated to the worship of Baba ji, consisting from the different temples scattered on places associated with various periods and events of his life. The most of those temples appear as being built not long time ago, although the tradition related to them is of older origin. Today this place is the popular spot of pilgrimage, and visited through the year by the thousands pilgrims as from the Himachal State, as well as from the other states of India.
The main place of worship of Baba Balak Nath, known as Deot Sidh (Siddha), situated in the natural cave on the top of the hill. Inside the cave there is an stature of Baba ji, seated in padma asana, and using the yogic stand as the support of his hands. In older times, the use of this kind of staff for the supporting of the body weight was widely prevalent amongst the Natha Yogis, and in India this tradition undoubtedly associated with them. About the origin of the name Deot Sidh, the local legend says that the light of deot (local spelling of Hindi word deepak or oil lamp) lighted by Baba Ji was extraordinary, and could be seen in the distant villages. Because of this phenomenon, the people started calling Baba ji ‘Baba Deot Sidh’, and later the place became famous under this name.
In his main shrine, Baba Balak Nath is worshiped by the offering of rot parsad (the food which is first offered to the deity, and then distributed amongst worshipers), which is prepared with ghee (clarified butter), wheat flour and jaggery (brown half-refined sugar). There are many different kinds of parsada associated with the various deities of the Hindu Pantheon, out of them the name 'rot parsad' is always associated with the Nath Panth and with the Guru Goraksh Nath, although their formula of its preparation is more complicated then used in this place. The original rot prasad, as it prepared by the Natha Yogis, include in itself many costly components, and the process of its preparation consumes lot of time and energy. However, many Natha yogis, situated in the remote ashramas, who doesn't have that much resources, sometimes prepare its simplified form, which is similar with the mentioned above. Probably this tradition was started by the Baba Balak Nath himself, and now, after the money issue is no more problem, it is still maintained in its original form, which came down from his time. As it is customary in many others mountain temples, sometimes goats are also offered to the shrine, although nowadays they are not slaughtered, but left unbound. It is belived that Baba Balak Nath is still present around this place, being invisible, and that by visiting it, his blessings could be obtained, and all desires become fullfilled.
Presently the temple complex is not in the possession of the Natha Yogis, and it is said that it never was. After Bābā Bālak Nāth departed from there, it was managed by the local priests, and nowadays, it was taken over and managed by the Government of the Himachal State (Siddh Baba Balak Nath Temple Trust). The trust conducts many religious activities and maintains the premises of the place.
Baba Balak Nath as the Lord Kartikeya
In accordance with the ancient custom maintained in the temple, women are not allowed to enter in the main shrine of Deot Siddh, but they cany see the image of Baba ji from distance, from the platform raised opposite the cave. Probably this custom has originated from the association of the Baba Balak Nath with the Deity of the Hindu Pantheon, known as the Lord Kārtikeya, who is the son of Shiva and Parvati. In the same way as Kartikeya, Baba Balak Nath is always shown as accompanied by peacock, standing on the snake. The peacock is known as being the natural enemy of the snakes, and on some images of the Kartikeya he is shown as having snake in his mouth. Also, the peacock is associated with the Bhagavan Krishna, who always carries its feather on the top of his head. Kartikeya also known as Shakti-dhara, because he keeps the spear in his hand, which is symbolizes his control over the personal Power (Shakti) of Shiva.
Kartikeya is known under many names, each of which has its symbological meaning. He is Subrahmaṇya, which literally means 'one vho has perfected celibacy', or 'best Brahmana, or disposed to Brahmins; he is Kārtikeya (literally 'Him of the Kṛttikās') because he was breast-fed by the six Karittikas; he is known as 'Ṣaṇmukha' becouse he has six faces. Since he was born out of the life-source that slipped ('Skanna) from Shiva, he is named 'Skanda'. Because he is always known as young boy and unmarred, he is called 'Kumāra'. Amongst his other names are Gāngya (the son of Gangā), and Svāmi-Nātha (the preceptor of his own father), Agni-bhoo (born from fire) and Tarak-jeet (the defeater of the Demon Taraka). In the state of Tamil Nadu he is known as Murugan, which is a Tamil word meaning 'never decaying beauty or everlasting youth and godliness'.
The Family of Shiva
Kartikeya, along with his brother Ganesha recognized as the two children of Shiva and Parvati, and as the members of the Shiva's Family. At many Shiva temples, the main image of Shiva in form of the Shiva Linga often would be surrounded by the members of his family, consisting from his sons Ganesha and Kartikeya, his consort Goddess Parvati and Shiva's bull Nandi (Nandi is often placed in the front of the main entrance into the Shiva shrines). While Ganesha was born from the dirt of his mother's body, Kartikeya was born from the fire which came from the third eye of Shiva; Ganesha is worshiped as the God who removes all obstacles in this world, Kartikeya bestows on his worshipers the power of the mystical and spiritual knowledge. Kartikeya is worshiped as the separate deity mostly in the Southern India, the state of Tamil Nadu is one of main places of his cult, where he is recognized as the God of Tamils and the Patron Deity of the Tamil land. He is worshiped as the member of the above mentioned Shiva's Family, in the numerous Shiva temples scattered all over India. In the Siddha tradition of the Southern India, Lord Muruga is worshipped as the Guru to all Gurus, as the immortal, eternally youthful teacher, he symbolizes the awakening of the Divine Power Kundalini. In this his aspect he is known as Tarakari, the one who makes to cross over; he is also known as Deva Sena Pati or the Leader of the armies of Gods, because from the moment he was born, he collects the armies of Gods to fight the forces of darkness and ignorance.
The contest of Kartikeya and Ganesha
In accordance with the ancient legend, traced from various Puranas, when Ganesha and Karikeya became grown up, they asked their parents to arrange marriage for them. Now, in accordance with the Hindu customs, it is the older brother, which must be married first, and it became very difficult for the parents to chose to whom of them they would marry first. The both children were equally dear to them, and Shiva and Parvati did not want to hurt the feelings of any one of them. At last Shiva decided to solve this issue by performing contest between two brothers, and both of them agree to this condition. Shiva declared the rules of contest; he told that both of them have to travel around the world three times and return to the same place, and whoever of them will come back first, will be declared the winner, and married first. ”
On learning the task, Kartikeya became very happy, becouse he thought that his mount peacock is much faster then the rat of Ganesha. He immediately mounted his peacock and left on his journey, hoping to return first. After his brother left, Ganesha, asked both his parents to seat together, and then walked around them three times. When the three circles were completed, he declared them that for him both of them were complete universe. His answer pleased his parents and he was declared the winner of contest. Shiva and Parvati have arranged his marriage with the two daughters of Vishvarupa (image of the world), named Siddhi (magical powers) and Buddhi (wisdom). Ganesha had a son named Laksha (aim) born from his wife Siddhi and other son named Labha (benefit) from his second wife Buddhi.
When Kartikeya has returned back after encircling the universe for three times, he became furious to learn about happened, which he took as cheating. Shiva and Parvati tried their best to pacify his anger, but he was so upset by the situation that he declared that he never will be married. Because of this, one of his names became Kumara, which means ‘one who is unmarried. In the Natha folklore he is recognized as one of 'jatis', or those Ideal yogis who are perfectly free from the sexual desires. The name Ku-mara also can be translated as 'one who destroys evil'.
There is one more legend about the reasons why he remained unmarried. In accordance with it, after Kartikeya has accomplished the mission he was born for, of the defeating the Demon Tāraka (Asura), his parents were so pleased with him that they allowed him to enjoy indiscriminately, as he pleased. Kartikeya took the advantage of the situation and started sleep with the wives of gods. After gods complained about this to his parents, he was advised to restrain himself from this kind of activity, but he still persisted. No one else was there to contradict him, and to put stop to this, his mother, the Goddess Parvati has accepted the form of all wives of the Gods. When Kartikeya has realized that all women were the forms of his mother, he took a vow, to look on every woman as on his mother.
The Disciple of Shiva
About the reasons how Baba Balak Nath has became the disciple of Shiva, a local legend says that one old Sadhu has came on piligrimage to place caled Mani Mahesh, lokated in the Himachal State. There he was advised by the local woman to stay near the sacred lake, the spot, which she told, was occasionally visited by the consort of Shiva Goddess Parvati. After following her advice, the yogi was able to get the sight of the Goddess and through her grace of her consort Shiva. The divine couple, being pleased by his penance, blessed him with the never ending young age and magical powers (siddhis). Adi Nath Shiva has accepted him as his disciple and named him Balak Nath.
In accordance with the legend current presently at Shah Talai, Bābā Bālak Nāth has came there from city Kurukshetra, which presently situated in the state Haryana. This city mostly famous becouse it is belived that the Great battle Mahabharata, described in the epic with the same name, has taken place on the spot where it situated. At some distance from the place where the legendary battle has taken place, there exist huge tank filled with water, which is the popular place of pilgrimage. The spot is sacred, and at time of solar eclipses thousands of people come here to take bath in it. Presently there exist many religious estabilishmednts situated on the banks of the tank, one of which belongs to the Natha Yogis. As it usual at the places of piligrimage, there many sadhus staying at the place trough the year.
The known part story of Bābā Bālak Nāth starting from this place, and almoust nothing known about his life of before he came there, excuding above mentioned legend of Mani Mahesh. It is told that he with other saints (possibly Natha Yogis), has came to Kurukshetra to participate in one of such great bathing at the time of solar eclipse. After it he went towards mountains, and reached the place where situated Bachhretu Mahadev temple, and from there he went to place presently famous as Shaha Talai. It is said that the old name of the place was Changer Talai. There he has met an old woman, 'Ratno Mai', about which it is said that at time of her previous life at Dwapara yuga, she was in close relationship with ‘Maha-Kaul Baba ji ’(i.e. Balak Nath) and even was his spiritual guide (probably the same woman who advised him how to meet Shiva). As result, Baba ji has unfulfilled karmic debt to her from his previous life, without finishing which, he was unable to proceed further with his sadhana. To compensate her what she has done for him in their previous lives, Baba Balak Nath has accepted responsibility of taking care of her cows. He decided to settle in Shaha Talai, where he spent next twelve years of his life under the huge Banyan tree. He told to Ratno Mai that he would be taking care of her cows, and side by side with it his meditatins. He asked her daily bring him ‘roti’ (kind of unleavened bread) and 'lassi' (mashed curd left after removing butter) for food. Before accepting this commitment, Baba ji has put forth one condition, that he would work for her as long as she would remain satisfied by his work. Daily he was siting under Banyan tree, looking for her cows and doing is yogic practises side by side, Ratno Mai was bringing him roti and lassi, and in such way twelve yars has passed. There were not any complain from her during all this time.
Near the end of the 12th year, protests started coming from the people of the villege that cows neglected by Baba ji started damaging their crop. Ratno Mai tried to pacify people by herself, remembering about her agreement with Baba ji, until the day came when the village head scolded Ratno Mai for serious damage of his crop by her cows. This time Ratno Mai has lost patience and for first time in twelve years she started accusing Baba ji for his negligence. On hearing this, Baba Ji took Ratno Mai and the village chief to the field about which they were complaining. When they reached there, they saw that to their wonder, it was miraculously restored and there was no any damage at all. This miracle was seen by many people, who became much astonished to see this wonder.
Ratno Mai undertood that it was Baba ji who did this by his Yogic powers and regreted, but it was too late. Afer it, Baba Balak nath has taken her to the Banyan tree where their agreement has taken place and told her that now it was terminated and she should take care of her cows herself . He told her that his carmic debt was fulfilled and it is time for him to live the place. Ratno mai became very abset by happened, becouse she developed strong mothery afection for Baba ji who became as son to her during passed years. She tried pesuade him not to go, by accusing him for ungratefullnes, for all what she has done for him. She remined him that although his previous carmik debt was extinguished, he created new by taking food from her during twelve yars, and he must also recompense for it before goiing.
Baba Ji responded that destined events happening by their own way and it is impossible to change them. He told her that he has not created any new debt becouse he never used roti and lassi she used daily bring him. ‘Now take your roti, mai!’ By saying this Baba Ji thrown his 'Chimata' at the trunk of Banyan Tree under which he used to sit, the part of tree got splited and hole opened, where were heaps of roties collected in course of passed 12 years. Then he told ‘And here is your Lassi’, and pushed his chimta in the earth, from where came out spring of Lassi which soon became pound. This pond still situated in Shaha Talai, and place got its name duty it. Chach talai means ‘pound of curd’, and later word ‘chach’ became distored into Shah. At the place where was situated legendary Banyan tree presently was constructed hollow stucture symbolizing it, which is called 'Vat Vriksh Tapo Bhoomi’- The Land of penance under hollow tree. Near to it is a temple with images of Baba Balak Nath, Guga Chauhan and Nahar Singh. It is belived that earth of this place effective medicine against foot diseases of cattle.
Continue: Amazed to see happened Ratno Mai was not able further argue, but she stiil was very sad aboud separation with Baba ji so that she started weeping. Seeing her soorow Baba ji has told her that he is going not far away, but now he would be stay in jungle at the distance about half kilometer from the old place. There she could see him when she want. After it he has shifted his 'Dhuni' in jungle at the place situated below a thorny bush.
Baba Balak Nath and Guru Goraksh Nath
As it was mentioned above, the relations of the Baba Balak Nath with Nathas and the Guru Gorakh Nath were not much easy to understand. It is said that Guru Goraksh Nath wanted Baba ji to join His sect, in accordance with other sources he wanted only to split his ears and put kundals into them (in such way intending to became his chira guru).
In accordance with legend Goraksh Nath thought that it would be useful for Nath sect to get such a distinguished yogi into it. Baba Ji was not willing to do neither of these. Non-declared contest has taken place amongst both yogis as result of which Balak Nath finaly sucsed in not spliting his yars. There exist two different versions of the legend about this contest one wchich is circulated around the Temple and another amongs Natha Yogis. First shows Goraksh nath as being defeated by Baba Balak Nath and second as being victorious, but living him without spliting his ears.
The Natha Version
In accordance with the version of the legend circulated amongst the Natha Yogis, when Guru Goraksh Nath met Baba Balak Nath, he wanted to split his ears and put kundalas into them. Baba Balak Nath flew to air, trying to escape, but Guru Goraksh Nath has extended his hand to catch him, and dragged him back. When Goraksh Nath continued to persist in his intentions, Baba Balak Nath protested, and told him that he will split his ears by Shiva only. At this point, Guru Goraksh Nath has agreed, he blessed him and left his ears as they were. The practice of splitting ears by force is not prevalent amongst the the Natha Yogis, and before making cut into the lobe of ears, the candidate advised trice not to proceed further.
Probable explanation: In accordance with the tradition prevalent around the Deot Sidh, Baba Balak Nath was present through the four ages, and in his previous life was known as Maha kaul Baba ji. Matsyendra Nath is recognized as the greatest from all Kaula Yogis, and as the founder of the Kaula tradition. Also the legends about Matsyendra Nath describe him as one who was able to leave his body by his free will and enter into the other bodies. In this context, it is not impossible that after Matsendra Nath has left his old body, he was reborn in the new body as the Baba Balak Nath. The splitting of years is required for those yogis, who want to be liberated from their bodies, but doesn't needed for one who is already free. In this context, it appear as natural for the guru Goraksh Nath to have concern for his guru, and to show him respect by leaving his ears without splitting (it is not proper for the Natha Yogi to become guru of own guru).
The Shah Talai Version
Although this version of the legend shows erroneous image of the Guru Goraksh Nath, which is different from his actual personality, and contains some statements which are based on the ignorance in the questions related to the Natha Tradition, I still have placed it here for the information purposes. For example, the statement that 'for increasing his own fame Guru Goraksh Nath was recommending to forsake the worship of Shiva and to start worship him', by no means can be accepted as true, because Guru Goraksh Nath, along with other prominent exponent of Shaivism Adi Guru Shankaracharya, were two persons who contributed to the spreading the worship of Shiva all over India as no one else.
In accordance with legend current in Shah Talai, one day Guru Gorakh Nath came along with his 300 disciples to Baba ji dhuna (the place he was after he left Shah Talai). First of all he asked Baba Ji for providing them with a seat. Baba ji placed on the ground his towel which became enlarged abtill it became big enough to accommodate all 300 disciples of Guru Gorakh Nath. It is said that after this stiil big part of towel remained not ocupated. Then Guru Goraksh Nath asked Baba Balak Nath to fetch water from the mountain pound situated near on the way. When Baba ji went there and filled the bowl with water, he found that Goraksh Nath has aplied his magic on it, duty which whater poured into it was disapearing. He understend that Goraksh Nath was trying to bring him down by doing so. In response Baba Balak Nath has made the pound itself disapear, and when he came back, he told to Goraksh nath that there was no water as there was no pond. Goraksh Nath who saw the pond by the way, not belived him and send his disciple Bhartrihari to investigaste the matter.
Baba Balak Nath and he went there together and Bhartrihari who also saw the pond before, became astonished to see that it has disapeared. There Baba ji explained to the yogi that his guru Goraksh Nath was a haughty person, who for increasing his own fame was recommending to forsake the worship of Shiva and to replace it with his own worship. Bhartrihari whose eyes becames opened by told, decided to abandon companey of Goraksh Nath and started live there near the Baba ji.
This time also, Baba Ji returned without water and without Bhartrihari. Then Gorakh Nath sent Bhairon Nath to bring Bhartrihari back along with water. Bhairon Nath couldn't spot the water and came empty handed without water and Bhartrihari. After not having water, Gorakh Nath asked Baba Balak Nath to serve them milk. Baba Ji called a non-milking barren cow and patted her. The cow started milking and everybody have milk. After everyone have enough, there was still lot of milk left in the bowl. Then Gorakh Nath threw his seat made of skin of tiger to the sky and asked Baba ji to bring it back to the earth. Baba Ji has thrown his chimata (fire tongs) towards it and it tore the skin into pieces. At this, Baba Balak Nath asked Guru Gorakh Nath to bring his chimata back to the earth. Gorakh Nath asked Bhairon to do this, but he couldn't accomplish this.
Reaching to Deoth Sidh
After being defeated in every contest, Guru Gorakh Nath has ordered to his disciples forcibly put earrings in the ears of Baba ji, but everyone of them became faint before be able to accomplish this. During that struggle Baba Balak Nath made a loud cry and reached the place where modern 'Charan Paduka' temple is situated. From there, he went to the cave on the top of hill, presently known as his main shrine Deot Sidh. The cave then was occupied by the demon, and Baba ji withdraw him away by his yogic power. Then Baba Ji made that cave the place of his further staying and continued there his penance. (It is said that Bhartrihari also settled near that place.)
About how the tradition of the worship at Deot Sidh was originated, the legend says that Brahamin named ‘Banarasi’ from the nearby village Chakmoh, once came to the area where the cave of Baba Balak Nath was situated for grazing his cows. There he met Baba ji, to whom he complained about some of his barren cows. The Natha yogis are famous as being able to cure barren cows by their talismans and by the ash from their fire places, and Baba ji asked him to show his cows. When they reached to the place where the cattle was grazing, surprisingly there they saw only lions and tigers. Banarsi became astonished to see these animals instead of his cows, till Baba Balak Nath told him to call his cows. When Banarasi called, his cows appeared within no time, and he realized that this was the miracle of Baba ji. After seeing this, Banarasi became close devotee of Baba ji, and continue visit him. One day, Baba Balak Nath has told to him that his time to disappear has come, and asked him to continue the tradition of his ‘Dhuna’ (fire place) and worship as it was started by him. Banarasi followed these directions and maintained the tradition.