The inhabitants of Naimiṣāraṇya, learned sages and brāhmaṇas, became most pleased by seeing this, and they offered their respectful prayers to Lord Balarāma. They offered their heartfelt blessings to the Lord, and all agreed that none of Lord Balarāma’s attempts to do something would ever be a failure. The sages and brāhmaṇas then performed a ceremonial bathing of Lord Balarāma, just as the demigods bathe King Indra when he is victorious over the demons. The brāhmaṇas and sages honored Lord Balarāma by presenting Him with first-class new clothing and ornaments and the lotus garland of victory; this garland was the reservoir of all beauty and was everlasting—it was never to be dried up.
After this incident, Lord Balarāma took permission from the brāhmaṇas assembled at Naimiṣāraṇya and, accompanied by other brāhmaṇas, went to the bank of the river Kauśikī. After taking His bath in this holy place, He proceeded toward the river Sarayū and visited the source of the river. Traveling on the bank of the Sarayū River, He gradually reached Prayāga, where there is a confluence of three rivers—the Ganges, Yamunā and Sarasvatī. Here also He took His bath, and then He worshiped in the local temples of the demigods and, as enjoined in the Vedic literature, offered oblations to the forefathers and sages. He gradually reached the āśrama of the sage Pulaha and from there went to the rivers Gaṇḍakī and Gomatī. After this He took His bath in the river Vipāśā. Then He gradually came to the bank of the Śoṇa River. (The Śoṇa River is still running as one of the big rivers in Bihar Province.) He also took His bath there and performed the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies. He continued His travels and gradually came to the pilgrimage city of Gayā, where there is a celebrated Viṣṇu temple. According to the advice of His father, Vasudeva, He offered oblations to the forefathers in this Viṣṇu temple. From here He traveled to the delta of the Ganges, where the sacred river Ganges mixes with the Bay of Bengal. This sacred place is called Gaṅgāsāgara, and at the end of January every year there is still a great assembly of saintly persons and pious men, just as there is an assembly of saintly persons in Prayāga every year called the Māgha-melā fair.
After finishing His bathing and ritualistic ceremonies at Gaṅgāsāgara, Lord Balarāma proceeded toward the mountain known as Mahendra Parvata, where He met Paraśurāma, an incarnation of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and offered Him respect by bowing down before Him. After this Lord Balarāma turned toward southern India and visited the banks of the river Godāvarī. After taking His bath in the river Godāvarī and performing the necessary ritualistic ceremonies, He gradually visited the other rivers—the Veṇā, Pampā and Bhīmarathī. On the bank of the river Bhīmarathī is the deity called Svāmī Kārttikeya. After visiting Kārttikeya, Lord Balarāma gradually proceeded to Śailapura, a pilgrimage city in the province of Mahārāṣṭra. Śailapura is one of the biggest districts in Mahārāṣṭra province. He then gradually proceeded toward Draviḍa-deśa. Southern India is divided into five parts, called Pañca-draviḍa. Northern India is also divided into five parts, called Pañca-gauḍa. All the important ācāryas of the modern age—namely Śaṅkarācārya, Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇu Svāmī and Nimbārka—advented themselves in these Draviḍa provinces. Lord Caitanya, however, appeared in Bengal, which is part of the five Gauḍa-deśas.
The most important place of pilgrimage in southern India, or Draviḍa, is Veṅkaṭācala, commonly known as Bālajī. After visiting this place Lord Balarāma proceeded toward Viṣṇukāñcī, and from there He proceeded on the bank of the Kāverī. While going to Viṣṇukāñcī, He visited Śivakāñcī. Lord Balarāma took His bath in the river Kāverī; then He gradually reached Raṅgakṣetra. The biggest Viṣṇu temple in the world is in Raṅgakṣetra, and the Viṣṇu Deity there is celebrated as Raṅganātha. There is a similar temple of Raṅganātha in Vṛndāvana. Although not as big as the temple in Raṅgakṣetra, it is the biggest in Vṛndāvana.
After visiting Raṅgakṣetra, Lord Balarāma gradually proceeded toward Madurai, commonly known as the Mathurā of southern India. After visiting this place, He gradually proceeded toward Setubandha, the place where Lord Rāmacandra constructed the stone bridge from India to Laṅkā (Ceylon). In this particularly holy place, Lord Balarāma distributed ten thousand cows to the local brāhmaṇa priests. It is the Vedic custom that when a rich visitor goes to any place of pilgrimage he gives the local priests houses, cows, ornaments and garments as gifts of charity. This system of visiting places of pilgrimage and providing the local brāhmaṇa priests with all necessities of life has greatly deteriorated in this Age of Kali. The richer section of the population, because of its degradation in Vedic culture, is no longer attracted by these places of pilgrimage, and the brāhmaṇa priests who depended on such visitors have also deteriorated in their professional duty of helping the visitors. These brāhmaṇa priests in the places of pilgrimage are called paṇḍā or paṇḍita. This means that they were formerly very learned brāhmaṇas and used to guide the visitors in all details of the purpose of coming there, and thus both the visitors and the priests benefited by mutual cooperation.
It is clear from the description of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that when Lord Balarāma was visiting the different places of pilgrimage He properly followed the Vedic system. After distributing cows at Setubandha, Lord Balarāma proceeded toward the Kṛtamālā and Tāmraparṇī rivers. These two rivers are celebrated as sacred, and Lord Balarāma bathed in them both. He then proceeded toward Malaya Hill. This hill is very great, and it is said to be one of seven peaks called the Malaya Hills. The great sage Agastya used to live there, and Lord Balarāma visited him and offered His respects by bowing down before him. After taking the sage’s blessings, Lord Balarāma, with the sage’s permission, proceeded toward the Indian Ocean.