In an earlier blog I wrote about how different musical instruments affect different chakras. Now we will see another aspect of the 7 chakras in our body: how they correspond to seven holy pilgrimage cities in India. This shows a very interesting connection between the outer pilgrimage or ‘tirtha yatra’ that devotees undertake, and the inner journey of the Prana Shakti or kundalini along the chakras of the yogi’s subtle body.
7 Holy Cities
In the scriptures there is a beautiful shloka, that says ‘Ayodhya Mathura Maya Kashi Kanchi Avantika puri Dwaravati chaiva saptaite mokshadayakah’, that means ‘the seven (sacred cities) that can bestow liberation to the devotees that visit them are Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar (also called Maya), Varanasi (also called Kashi), Kanchipuram, Ujjain (earlier called Avantika), and Dwaraka.’ Many, however, do not know that these cities also correspond to different chakras and the emotions that manifest there.
- Maya or Haridwar
The holy city Maya, also known as Haridwar, is connected to the Muladhara chakra that is situated at the base of the spine. This is the chakra where inertia or lethargy, as well as enthusiasm manifest, and when enthusiasm comes up that is when you begin your journey. The word Haridwar means ‘the door to the house of the Divine’ and this is where one starts one’s journey.
The second holy city is Kanchi, which corresponds to the Swadhisthana chakra that is situated behind the genitals, has Kamakshi as the presiding deity, who is the goddess of ‘kama’ or desire.
The holy city that corresponds to the third chakra called Manipura, which is situated in the navel region, is Ayodhya. In this chakra the feelings of joy, generosity, greed and jealousy manifest itself, and all these emotions are connected to Ayodhya. Those who have read or heard the Ramayana, the story of Lord Rama, know that it was the jealousy and greed of Kaikeyi that led to Rama having to leave his home for the forest. Ayodhya, however, is also known for the generosity of Rama, and the immense joy that people felt on his return is still celebrated as Diwali every year. All these emotions are experienced in the navel region.
Mathura is the fourth holy city, and is connected to the Anahata chakra in the heart region. The heart is associated with mainly three emotions: those of love, fear and hatred. Mathura is a symbol for the love and devotion that the Gopis had for Krishna, as well as the fear and hatred of the evil Kamsa.
- Avantika or Ujjain
The fifth holy city is Avantika, which is also called Ujjain, and this city is connected to the Vishuddhi chakra in the throat region. In this chakra we experience the feeling of sadness and gratitude, and that is why we say that sometimes the ‘throat chokes’. The famous poet Kalidasa hailed from Ujjain, and the city is known for art and literature. It is also known as the city of king Vikramaditya, of grief and glory.
- Kashi or Benares or Varanasi
The holy city that is connected to the sixth chakra is Kashi, also known as Benares or Varanasi. This chakra is called Ajña and it is also known as the third eye or ‘jñana chakshu’, which means ‘the eye of knowledge’. Kashi is the city of scholars and pandits, and it has always been the seat of knowledge and Vedic wisdom.
- Dwaravati or Dwaraka
The last holy city, Dwaravati or Dwaraka, is connected to the Sahasrara, which is the crown chakra near the top of the head. The name Dwaraka literally means ‘Where is the door?’ and this refers to Infinity, which has no doors or walls. Sahasrara means ‘a thousand pathways’ and this refers to the pathless path. The path to liberation starts from Haridwar and culminates in Dwaraka, and this is the place where Krishna left his body.
Path to Liberation
The more one progresses on the spiritual path, one is able to the observe the Prana Shakti moving through these chakras or cities, transforming the negative emotions to the positive ones, until one finally experiences the bliss of liberation. There is a definite connection between the Macrocosm and the Microcosm – they are interlinked. And just like the seven sacred cities that are connected to the seven sacred places within you, there are also seven sacred rivers connected to them: the Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Godavari, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri. Maybe we will look at this more closely in a later post.