Vishnu's Footprints

Vishnu’s Footprints

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Several places in India have become pilgrimage sites where reputed footprints of the god Vishnu are located. In Hindu mythology, the universe unfolds from Vishnu’s dream, and whenever disorder enters the universe, the god, or one of his many incarnations, battles the forces of chaos. In these battles, he often steps on the earth, leaving his imprint.

Among the best known of these footprints is one found stamped on a rock called Dharmasila in a Vaishnava temple in Gaya, Bihar State. Gaya is anancient pilgrimage site. The origin of the footprint is lost to history. Surrounded by a silver frame, it is commonly provided with offerings of food and flowers. Vishnu’s footprint is regarded by believers as an axis mundi (world axis) for the region, and the temple as the meeting point of heaven, earth, and hell. Non-Hindus and, until the founding of the modern Indian state, people of lower castes, were barred from entering into the temple.

Another of Vishnu’s footprints is found in Guwahati, the capital of the Indian state of Assam that is just south of Bhutan. According to the legend, Lord Vishnu was in the area to battle a demon king named Narakasur. In the midst of the battle, he left his footprint behind in a stone. As with other similar honored places, one day each year pilgrims flock to the site to make offerings to their ancestors; such offerings are meant to free the soul from the cycle of reincarnation.

In recent years, shifts in the course of the Brahmaputra River have created a problem. Vishnu’s footprint, located on the eastern section of the Aswakranta temple in North Guwahati, is now under water for a period of time each year during the monsoon season. The wall is already showing signs of erosion, and temple officials fear that the river might soon obliterate the footprint.

Another footprint can be found in Hardwarin northern India. It is found on the Hari-ki-Pairi ghat, which is one of the bathing steps used by pilgrims to make their way to the Ganges River. The ghat is located on the western bank of the Upper Ganges Canal. Yet another place cited as having a footprint of the deity is the Humayun Tomb in New Delhi.

Sources:

Singh, Rana P. B., John McKim Malville, and Anne L. Marshall. “Sacredscape and Manescape: A Study of Gaya, India.” Posted at http://www.colorado.edu/Conferences/pilgrimage/papers/Singh-3.html. Accessed March 31, 2007.
Wilson, H. H. The Vishnu Purana: A System of Hindu Mythology and Tradition. London: Trubner & Co., 1864.