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Traditionally, Guru Gorakshanath is believed to have been born sometime in the 8th century, although some believe he was born hundreds of years later. He traveled widely across the Indian subcontinent, and accounts about him are found in some form in several places including Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Punjab, Sindh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Nepal, Assam, Bengal, Kathiawar(Gujarat), Maharashtra, Karnataka, and even Sri Lanka.
There are varying records of the spiritual descent of Gorakshanath. All name Adinath and Matsyendranath as two teachers preceding him in the succession. Though one account lists five gurus preceding Adinath and another lists six teachers between Matsyendranath and Gorakshanath, current tradition has Adinath identified with Lord Shiva as the direct teacher of Matsyendranath, who was himself the direct teacher of Gorakshanath.
The Nath tradition underwent its greatest expansion during the time of Gorakshanath. He produced a number of writings and even today is considered the greatest of the Naths. It has been purported that Gorakshanath wrote the first books on Laya yoga. In India there are many caves, many with temples built over them, where it is said that Gorakshanath spent time in meditation. According to Bhagawan Nityananda, the samadhi shrine (tomb) of Gorakshanath is at Nath Mandir near the Vajreshwari temple about one kilometer from Ganeshpuri, Maharashtra, India. According to legends Gorakshanath and Matsyendranath did penance in Kadri Temple at Mangalore, Karnataka.They are also instrumental in laying Shivlingam at Kadri and Dharmasthala.
The temple of Gorakhnath is also situated on hill called Garbhagiri near Vambori,Tal Rahuri ;Dist Ahmednagar.
One legend states that Guru Gorakshanath, the "eternal sage" traditionally associated with Hatha Yoga, has been around for thousands of years watching the welfare of humanity. Other legends ascribe different stories to his birth and the period of his worldly existence, and they vary greatly. The Nath Rahasya, which literally translates as "the mystery of the masters", recounts the birth, work, and death of nine such Naths (masters); and Guru Gorakshanath was the ninth Nath, preceded by his Guru, the eighth Nath, namely, Matsyendranath.
The Gurkhas of Nepal take their name from this saint. Gorkha, a historical district of Nepal, is named after him because it was the place where he appeared for first time in this universe. There is a cave with his paduka (footprints) and an idol of him. Every year on the day of Baisakh Purnima there is a great celebration in Gorkha at his cave, called Rot Mahotsav; it has been celebrated for the last seven years. Gorakhpur, the district headquarters of Gorakhpur District, is believed to derive its name from Guru Gorakhnath.
In Tamil Siddhar tradition
Korakka Siddhar (தமிழ்: கோரக்கர்) (Devanagari: गोरख्खर्) is one among the 18 Siddhars and also known as Goraknath amongst Navanathar. Agattiyar and Bogar were his gurus. His Jeeva samadhi temple is in Vadukupoigainallur of Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu. According to one account, he spent a portion of his growing-up years in the Velliangiri Mountains in Coimbatore.
Other sanctums related with Korakkar are Perur, Thiruchendur and Triconamalli. Korakkar caves are found in Chaturagiri and Kolli Hills. Like other siddhas, Korakkar has written songs on Medicine, Philosophy, and Alchemy.
Another important aspect of Korakkar was that he was given the duty of safeguarding the secrets of Alchemy. This authority was said to be given by his guru Agathiyar. It was said that a student of Alchemy must worship Korakkar first and seek his grace if he was to excel in the field of Alchemy.
Romola Butalia, an Indian writer of Yoga history, lists the works attributed to Gorakshanath as follows: "Guru Gorakhnath is thought to have authored several books including the Goraksha Samhita, Goraksha Gita, Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, Yoga Martanada, Yoga Siddhanta Paddhati, Yoga-Bija, Yoga Chintamani. He is believed to be the founder of the Nath Sampradaya and it is stated that the nine Naths and 84 Siddhas are all human forms created as yogic manifestations to spread the message of yoga and meditation to the world. It is they who reveal samadhi to mankind."
Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati
The Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati is a very early extant Hatha Yoga Sanskrit text attributed to Gorakshanath by the indigenous tradition which describes the Avadhuta, as Feuerstein (1991: p. 105) relates:
"One of the earliest hatha yoga scriptures, the Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, contains many verses that describe the avadhuta. One stanza (VI.20) in particular refers to his chameleon-like capacity to animate any character or role. At times, it is said, he behaves like a worldling or even a king, at other times like an ascetic or naked renunciant."
- Adityanath (2005). Gorakshanath. Retrieved Mar. 7, 2006.
- Briggs, G.W. (1938). Gorakhnath and the Kanphata Yogis. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 0-8426-0549-5
- Butalia, Romola Butalia (2003). In the Presence of the Masters. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-1947-0
- Dhallapiccola, Anna. Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend. ISBN 0-500-51088-1
- Mahendranath, Shri Gurudev. Notes on Pagan India. Retrieved Mar. 7, 2006.