We are now standing before indranīla (sapphire) fort. At that time, Guru, who is leading us in our journey to Śrī Cakrā told us that we did not have darśan of an important goddess, who resides in this area (between vaiḍūrya and indranīla forts) by name Śātodarī (Lalitā Sahasranāma 130). She is known by this name because of her thin waist (śātodara means thin waisted). We are also able to see a number of great kings paying respects to her. After worshipping her, Guru gave us small lecture about this sapphire fort. “Sapphire is a highly auspicious stone. It is often compared to the colour or Bhramara (literal meaning – black bee), an analogue to Manmatha (Cupid) of ancient mythology. His complexion is said to be beautiful grey. This gem is available in other colours like the throat of Śiva (blue in colour) or the complexion of Kṛṣṇa (dark blue, more towards black). Depending upon the nature of the stone, it has the ability to augment one’s wealth, fame and prosperity in the family. It is the favorite stone of planet Saturn. Those who worship Lalitāmbikā only for material wealth, get their wealth from this fort.” After listening to Guru’s description about sapphire stone, we walk through this fort and reach a huge open space.
This space is really huge and beyond our comprehension. To whichever side we turn, we see only beautiful trees with flowers and fruits. We are able to see very huge glittering palaces. The whole place is reverberating with Divine energy. We have not experienced this kind of feeling so far. The length and breadth of this place is too vast to describe. Guruji told us that eight gods who are presiding over eight cardinals live in this place and they are known as aṣṭadikbālaka-s. We now proceed to have darśan of aṣṭadikbālaka-s and we begin from eastern side, where Brahmaloka (marked as C in the image in part I) is situated outside Śri Nagara.
Eastern side is presided over by Indra, who is the chief of all gods and goddesses. Indra also presides over aṣṭadikbālaka-s. We see Indra mounted on his elephant vehicle known as Airāvata (it is also known as Airāvaṇa, which is white in colour), produced while churning the ocean. He is seated on Airāvata with his wife Śaśī. He is holding a peculiar club (weaponry called thunderbolt) in his hand, known as vajrāyudha, which is his unique weapon. Vajrāyudha was given to Indra by Lalitāmbikā. Vajrāyudha is made of the spinal cord of a great sage Dadhīci, who was constantly meditation on Her. Lalitāmbikā, in appreciation of his penance, took him with Her by offering him liberation through Vajreśī, a goddess on the banks of river Vajrā, whose darśan we had when we were in the open space between 11th and 12th forts. The spinal cord of Dadhīci after his liberation was given to Indra as his weapon to destroy demons. Vajrāyudha is considered as one of the most potent weapons. Kṛṣṇa talks about Indra on three occasions in Bhagavad Gītā (Chapter X). He says, “I am Indra, among gods”; “Among elephants, I am Airāvata (Indra’s elephant vehicle)” and “Among thunderbolts, I am vajrāyudha.” After worshipping Indra, we now move on to South Eastern cardinal.
South East is presided over by Agni, the god of fire. We move forward to have darśan of Agni, who is the carrier of oblations to the respective gods. He is seated on a sheep with his two wives Svāhā (her body is said to consist of the four Vedas, and her limbs are the six Aṅga-s; she is the carrier of offerings made as oblations in fire rituals to gods and goddesses) and Svadhā (she is the carrier of offerings made as oblations in fire rituals to departed ancestors). Form of Agni is dreadful. He has two faces, six eyes and seven tongues. These seven tongues are worshiped in all fire rituals (sapta te agne samidhas-saptajihvā). Each of these tongues has a name. Agni is seen with a hand fan (used to kindle fire in the fire pits or fire altar, known as homakuṇḍa-s), sruk (स्रुक्), also written as sruc(स्रुच्), a large wooden ladle, made out of palāśa or khadira wood, used to offer ghee into the fire as oblations during fire rituals, sruva (same like sruc but small in size), ājyapātra (a vessel to hold clarified butter known as ghee, for offering into the tongues of fire, during oblations), tomara (a long stick) and annapātra (a vessel containing cooked rice for offering as oblations). Guru informed us that Agni is the best purifier. Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad Gītā (X.23), “Among eight Vasu-s, I am Pāvaka (Agni).” After praying to Agni that he should keep our mind clean, we move towards Southern cardinal.
(Further reading on Vaus-s: Vasu-s are a class of gods who are highly benevolent. Their names differ in various scriptures. Vasu-s are eight in number and generally known as aṣṭavasu-s. According to Vishnu Purana the names of these gods are Āpa (Water), Dhruva (the pole star), Soma (moon), Dhava or Dhara, Anila (wind), Anala or Pāvaka (fire), Pratyuśa (the dawn), and Prabhāsa (the light). Amongst them Anala or Pāvaka is said to be the chief.)
As we move towards South, we find darkness. This is known as Yamaloka, the world of Yama, the god presiding over death. Since Yama is known for dharma, he is also known as Dharmarāja. That is why Kṛṣṇa says, “Among the rulers, I am Yama”. He is upright in following dharma guidelines (Law of Karma) prescribed by Lalitāmbikā. Though every one of us is scared to go anywhere near this place, at the insistence of our Guru, we move forward to have darśan of Yama, the upright ruler. When we go near him, we are more scared on seeing his form, complexion and his vehicle. He is very dark in colour and two of his teeth are protruding outside his mouth making him look dreadful. He is seated on a wild ox, which is darker than Yama. He is holding a club and a noose in his hand. Because he is holding a noose, he is also known as pāśahasta (holder of noose). He uses this rope to take the lives of those who are about to die. There are a number of his assistants around him, who look terribly dreadful than Yama. He is seated on the ox along with his wife Śyāmala. After praying to Yama that he should bestow his grace on us to lead a meritorious life, we move on to South West.
South Western cardinal is presided over by a demon called Nirṛti. Nirṛti means dissolution, destruction, calamity, evil and adversity. His vehicle is said to be human and he has dreadful weapons made of iron such as knife, etc. He is dark to look at and he is with his wife known as Dhīrgā. Nirṛti sometimes is also referred as a female form of demon. After worshipping him, we move on to Western cardinal.
Western cardinal is ruled by Varuṇa, who presides over water bodies. He is bright in complexion and is seated on a fish vehicle (sometimes referred as crocodile or sea monster). He has a noose and is seated with his wife Kālī (not Goddess Kālī). In Vedic parlance, he is explained as the one with extraordinary powers and often worshipped along with Indra. He has extraordinary wisdom and those who violate dharma are punished by him. He is supposed to be presiding over immortality. After worshipping him, we move on North West.
North West cardinal is ruled by Vāyu, god presiding over air. He is known for the highest level of spiritual knowledge and is extremely wise. He is seated on his deer vehicle with his wives, suṣumna, iḍā and piṅgalā, the three nāḍī-s relating to the movement of Kuṇḍalinī, the subtlest form of Lalitāmbikā. Vāyu always lives amidst great yogis, the important one being Gorakṣa. After worshipping them and seeking his grace for spiritual knowledge, we move on to the next cardinal, North.
North cardinal is presided over by Kubera, god of wealth. His place is well lit, with huge gold palaces all-round. The world of Kubera reflects every symptom of prosperity. Kubera is the chief of yakṣa-s (yakṣa-s are said to be demigods, unlike Varuṇa or Vāyu). Kubera is also known as Vaiśravaṇa. He is seated on a horse along with his wife Citrarekhā (she is also known as Surāṅganā, one of the beautiful celestial women). He has only a knife as his weapon. Kubera is often seen with anotheryakṣa by name Māṇibhadra, who is also known as prince of yakṣa-s. All of them worship Lalitāmbikā with great reverence. Kubera worship Her with his own Pañcadaśī mantra. After paying our respects to Kubera, we move on to the next cardinal, North East.
North East is the eighth and last cardinal point from East and is presided over by Īśāna, who is one of the eleven Rudra-s (ekādaśarudra-s). Īśāna means wealthy and splendorous. This place has many palaces constructed with gold. There are many temples in this place. Īśāna with his wife Kātyāyanī is seated on a pure white bull (ṛṣabha vāhana). Īśāna has moon in his crown. Īśāna and Kātyāyanī are believed to be lower forms of Śiva and Pārvatī. The world of Īśāna has sixteen āvaraṇa-s (like roundabouts in temples).
With this, our journey in the space between indranīla fort and pearl fort (fort number 15) has come to an end. We have reached the starting point, Indra lokā, ready to move into the fort of pearls.