The Temple, Abode of the Self.

Its a moment of lull again
the heart opens the emotions flow
a strange restlessness that draws me close
to the one and only great abode

One step at a time I walk
the towering gateways rise
guarded by gatekeepers, the imperial look
their assertive stance, the fierce eyes

Stone by stone I cross
rock by rock I touch
the texture so rough, the base so strong
as they hold the roof above.

Dark interiors, thick deep walls
that consume the light, the heat, the sound
leaving you in a silent world
of mystery, a cosmic conspiracy?

On every stone do damsels dance
on every rock do Gods reside
on every curve a message imprinted
the ignorant fool stares on

A thought in the mind
does all this make sense
such wealth, effort and energy spent
to walk you through a silent spell?

Or is it a deeper truth they hide
and show only those who care to seek
such knowledge beneath my feet
as I walk on unknowingly.

And then I see a million lights
lit up under the moonless night
the warmth, the fire, the smoke rise
into the air to cloud my sight

I wonder what really brought me here
is it devotion or is it fear
or is it a thirst for peace i seek
or another task unclear?

I watch the priest bathe the stone
with water, milk and sandal wood alone
in reverence he raises the fire to reveal
the presence of a Goddess Divine.

Strange patterns down on the ground beneath
hidden gracefully under Her lotus feet
the heat rises, the prayers resound
as I watch on anxiously

My memory fades, in my ears a tear
my mind hounded by fear
is it wealth, fame and glory I value
or is it silent peace and tranquility my dear?

My ego pierced, my thoughts at war,
whom do i please who do I cross
my thoughts so fast, my ego so strong
Oh Mother where do I belong.

And as the sounds of the bells thunder
it dawns on me a moment here
what comes and goes are the people, the time
the Goddess Divine stays forever near

Isn't that what I look for
as I live on tirelessly
trying to know what life means to me
waiting for that moment to set me free.

A strange peace engulfs me
as I stare up at this great abode
its timeless, precious knowledge at hand
the truth prevails beyond life itself.

And as I walk step by step away
this great abode I leave behind
A realization sublime in my mind
Like many others in the years to come.


Shiva Veenadhara, the Great Musician.

Waking up to the sweet notes of the veena pouring into my ears is a very peaceful experience in a strange way, an experience so rare that its exotic. I was having a peaceful afternoon nap, escaping the burning afternoon sun outside, a fairly deep sleep which gave way to a silent consciousness that woke the mind, the senses, my being and gently brought me back to reality. And on the way I wonder, if I were to wake up to such sweet notes I really wouldn't have nothing to lose.

Sweet notes of tunes that ease the senses, that make all problems disappear and that which elevate the aesthetics of the notes in the mind. I envied emperor Akbar, for his life every day was a sweet journey laiden with notes that were strung together by Tansen. Classical notes with subtle nuanses that he didnt just appreciate but felt exaltation in the soul with it. Such peace that the mind rests even when awake. Akbar slept and woke up with the tunes played by Tansen, what a luxury, sweet notes that raise the senses, warm your blood, bring life to your muscles while you rise back to consciousness.

As I watched my cousin rhythmically pull at the strings to produce these tunes that flowed through the house she followed it with the physics of playing the instrument. This brought in the thought of Shiva Veenadhara, a form so graceful and gentle that it reveals in complete form the very exponent of performing arts. The great teacher, the Lord of all music, the notes just flow as he plays with his gentle fingers, the cosmic tunes of existance and life, that which reverberates in every being, universal music that appeals to all!

Shiva veenadhara, the river of music flows forth from Him, the river of consciousness, that could not just wake up the soul but cause it to rain, to shine at the mind's will. Such was the power of Tansen's music, that he brought the rain down to cool his heated body that didn't withstand the very notes he played. Such passion for music, is so hard to find now... its not about skill and performance, its about worship that it takes you to a different realm where every note, every sound is a new world of miracles revealed.
Such was the music then.. purity in its fullest that it milked the very potency within it and let it flow to all those who seek its pleasure.

Music is about reviving the soul, merging into the supreme, its not just about tapping the hands and feet.


Rameshwaram - Temple for a cosmic bath

Temple of faith infinite
Temple of baths unlimited
Temple of a million hopes
Temple of over 4000 pillars
Temple of 22 sacred wells
Temple of the 9 grahas(navagrahas)
Temple of 3 prakarams
Temple of 3 Shiva Lingas
To worship just 1 Lord - Shiva

Rameshwaram: An island off the Tamil Nadu coast

Pamban bridge, is a name so familiar and yet a feeling of fear came in when I remembered what my mother had told me, "Its a low bridge over the sea and scary when you see the lashing waters of the waves in turmoil just dashing against the old bridge as the train moves on swaying with the wind, towards the coast of Rameshwaram."

This is a beautiful sight, to see a vast expanse of water below my feet as I stood at the door feeding my eyes with the early morning sunlight reflecting over its waters. This had to be Pamban and it fitted the description perfectly. The early morning sun colored the blue sky orange and my heart felt light for I had finally made it to Rameshwaram!

Its a small town, smelling of fish everywhere, with no waves for the sea God was cursed by Lord Rama for having destroyed the Navagriha while he worshipped them. Lord Rama had cursed, "there shall be no waves here" and sure enough there are none. A sleepy little town that lives around the temple, where its not too strange to see people walking around dripping wet for its the land that promises you the longest shower, a shower that doesn't clean your body but cleanses your soul!

I started first with well water; being told it was important before I made it to the sea. Soon I descended into the sea, wading through the water to do my prayers there for an hour taking 3 dips in the water before and after my recital of assigned mantras. I walked back towards the temple, to be told my shower has just about begun.

With an old man leading the way holding a bucket and rope in his hand, I walked on, from pillar to wells through a wet labyrinth of halls. I stopped at various points within the temple complex to get a view of the rising sun, having my vision covered with a sheet of silvery water just pouring down my head. A sheet of water, often sweet, often salty and sometimes in between, a sheet of water crystal clear with the sun locked in every drop!

The temple floor has never been dry, with people trooping in for a complete shower. It is an open bath, with pure well water washing away my past karmas. A bath I should not wash away with a regular bath later.

“Yahi hamaaraa samskar hai, we should follow our sampradayam.”

Devipattinam, Mainland India, 1 hour from Rameshwaram:

Having had my cosmic bath, I moved on to Devipattinam, a place so silent and hosting my ticket to a better life. The Navagraha are 9 rocks of various sizes that stand out of seawater occasionally disappearing with the tide. I descended into the water thanking God for the grainy sandy floor, for I really didn’t want to know what else lived among these waters.

"Vettalai paaku, pazham and sarpam" - beetle leaf with bananas and a silver snake, was an offering of fruit I made to the Navagriha, also hoping for assistance to know where Rahu was, and the curious people of Devipattinam are most willing to help with that. These are not temple sculptures; they are large chunks of rock in water, with peculiar shapes expecting you to know them before you show up. Having placed the "sarpa" at Rahu, I circum-ambulated the navagriha in the water, leaving no room for doubt. I stood in the water, looked at the sun and recited my sankalpa:

My salutations to the Navagriha - to Rahu, ketu, Shani, Surya, Chandra, Shukra...and I cant remember the rest - all this in Sanskrit.

My last deed of the day before I caught the afternoon train back to Chennai was to visit Lord Shiva's shrine. I went straight to a beautifully lit up sanctum, with plenty of oil lamps. Deep within is a Shiva linga, mythologically placed there by Sita, originally made out of sand and called Ramalinga or Rameshwara, while Hanuman was sent to Kailasa for a Shiva Linga and didn’t make it in time for the muhurtham. It is a strong Linga, which Hanuman could not uproot, when he was upset that Lord Rama didn’t wait for his return. A potent Linga that would save Lord Rama from any curse, an eventuality of the death of so many people including Ravana in the great war of the Ramayana, a ritual advised by Sage Agastiyar to Rama to be performed, and hence the temple, that hosts it much later in time.

Among the various shrines that Rameshwaram temple hosts are also two other Lingas that were brought by Hanuman and eventually installed and worshipped here as well known as the Visvalinga, for which abhishekam is done well before the main shrine hosting Sita's Linga is worshipped. Rameshwaram relives the events of the Ramayana bringing every aspect of it to life. It’s an endless list of myths and legends starting with a cosmic shower from 22 wells each of which tasted so different.

A disgusted Brahmin priest once said:
Science wale bolte hein ye artisan well hai. Ab hum kya bolein?


The spider and the elephant.

Thiruvanaikkaval, Srirangam: We would love to consider that we are super intelligent beings on this planet. Well let’s hold onto our egos a bit and take a look at this story.

There was once a vast forest that surrounded the interior lands around the Kaveri river in Trichy district. It was a forest rich with Jambu trees under one of which was installed a Shiva Linga. Back in the serene world that surrounded this Linga lived an elephant that used to come and worship the Lord every day. The elephant was an ardent devotee of the Lord.

At the same time there was yet another unassuming devotee who used to worship the Lord with as much devotion. A spider used to live around the shrine and tie a web above it so that the leaves from the Jambu tree would not fall on the Lord himself.
But there was a problem for every time the spider made his web to protect the Lord, the elephant would destroy it thinking it was absolute sacrilege. This resulted in a mounting fight between the spider and the elephant, a massive clash of egos.

Finally the spider decided one day that it would not take this any more. The next day when the elephant came to worship the Lord he as usual decided to destroy the web the spider had spun over the Linga. This time the spider got smarter and entered into the elephant’s trunk and bit him. The following duel killed both the elephant and the spider. This is when Lord Shiva appeared before both of them, and said that they both had pleased him well with their devotion.

The spider in his next birth was born as King Kochchengan who built the current temple at Thiruvanaikkaval, in the island city of Srirangam to worship Lord Shiva. Interestingly, he built the sanctum sanctorum in such a way that no elephant would be able to enter the Gharbha Griha. Hence this is the only temple where the Garbha Griha is built low, has a very small vestibule (Antarala) and an even smaller chamber within which the Lingam resides. The entrance is extremely small such that no elephant can even find its way in. The only way to view the Lord is through a Jali window placed in front of Nandi, through which the Lord can be seen. It is considered very auspicious to be able to view the Lord through the horns of Nandi Bull through the Jali window.

The story of Lord Shiva’s temple at Thiruvanaikkaval does not end here; they say that even if the Kaveri river dries up in peak summer, the water within this shrine chamber never dries. There is water that surrounds this Linga the year round even if there is extreme heat around this area of interior Tamil Nadu. Such is the power of the Lord.
This temple at Thiruvanakkaval is also called Jambukeswara temple as an extension of the Jambu tree under which the Linga was originally installed.

This is about Thiruvanaikkaval, there is more to the spider. Incase tomorrow you decide to clean up the spider webs in your Puja room, think twice before hitting the spiders. Spiders are great devotees of the Lord, and if there is serious devotion in your house, spiders will come and make webs within this section of the house. So next time you decide to clean up, leave the spiders alone!

Photo courtesy: templenet.com