Aśvatīrtha

(‘place of pilgrimage connected with horses’)

Popular Hindu religion considers that visits to places of pilgrimage result in great merit as also destruction of sins. One of the minor places of pilgrimage (generally called ‘tīrtha’ or ‘tīrthakṣetra,’) is Aśvatīrtha situated near Kanyākubja (the modern Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh). It is stated in the Mahābhārata (Anuśāsanaparva 4.17) that when the sage Ṛcīka wanted to marry Satyavatī, the daughter of the king Gādhi (father of the famous sage Viśvāmitra) he demanded 100 white horses, with one ear black in colour, as bridal fee. Ṛcīka prayed to god Varuṇa by whose grace the horses rose from the river Gaṅgā at this point. Hence the name.

There are two more places of the same name, situated on the Narmadā and Godāvarī rivers. The latter is said to be the place where the twin deities, the Aśvins, were born (Brahmapurāṇa 89.43).