6.02.2006

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

18 comments:

Third Eye Closed said...

Hi,

That was a very interesting history behind the architecture of the Temple.
One more thought that runs my mind at the current post. Every being is a devotee by one way or the other. Each carrying thier own ways of worshiping the Lord. Just because one finds it difficult or unable to accept one form of devotion that wouldn't mean the other manner is wrong.
In simpler ways humans (due to mental laziness, more than incapability) always tend to react the unknown (or un-understanding) as something that does not exist or wrong.

Besides I love this post ... I love insects :)

~fEelix

Aswin said...

Hi Kavitha, it was very interesting to read about the hostory of Thiruvanaikkaval, but i think there is also a similar story behind the origin of Kalahasti, the holy place found near chittoor district.

Aswin said...

Hi kavitha, this link will show you the similarities between the two stories
http://www.indiantravelportal.com/andhra-pradesh/pilgrimage/srikalahasti.html

JC Joshi said...

Hi Kavitha,

I give below what I wrote to a friend as reply to her narration of a friend’s mobile robbed from her forcibly by a boy while his two friends waited in a motorbike…

“Perhaps those who do not get involved in such events are 'lucky'. Maybe 'time itself is bad' - in the words of the 'wise' ancients who described 'time' moving from Satyuga or the age of perfection or 100% human efficiency (as Creator's instrument for His purpose, unknown today to man) to 0% towards the end of Kaliyuga, which in fact is the beginning or the 'starting line' from where the Creator apparently began His advancement in 'material field' to achieve perfection (in Satyuga), starting from 'nothing' or 100% 'spiritual' or energy form only - maximum possible during it being 25%...In the story related to the 'churning of the milky ocean under the supervision of Brihaspati, that is, Jupiter' also, in the first stage it was 'halahal' that appeared in the beginning. Only Shiva (our 'blue planet', Earth) could come to the assistance of the selfless (devtas) by holding it in His throat - to be called by the name 'Neelkantha' or 'blue throat' also... Later on, He retired with His second spouse, Parvati the daughter of the Himalayas, to the holy mount Kailasha, the source of the holy rivers - clean and life giving Ganga, and Yamuna, relatively the more polluted and 'killer', i.e., the sister of Yama the deity that rendered transient nature to physical forms, to cover the 'opposites' apparent in 'Nature'. They handed over the charge, related to 'spirituality', to their son Ganesha (planet Mars) while the other powerful son, Kartikeya (Venus or planet Shukra, where shukracharya was considerd as the Guru of the demons or selfish men) continued with the 'material' aspect to keep the majority away from the 'Truth' or the formless Creator... And, so on

In view of the above, one could at least get to know from our mythology that there exists in 'Nature' an unknown aspect that needs 'reading between the lines', which was of course realized by them and the knowledge since then has been lost in the sands of time... Correction can be applied only if the cause is known - otherwise we would continue to live in fear only...”

The story, a legend carried over through time, on Spider (like eight handed Durga), elephant (head transplanted on infant Ganesha’s body) and shivalinga (representing the formless Creator) obviously - read between the lines - similarly conveys the ancient ‘Hindu’ belief on Yoga for activating Kumdalini or rise of energy at Mooladhar Bandha to Sahasrara Bandha to reach the 'Truth' of the illusory universe and apparent hierarchy amongst 'animals' :-)

kavitha said...

Hi Aswin,

This post is made with respect to spiders. There will be subsequent posts where i will talk about Kalahasti, which also involves something similar with regard to spiders though Kalahasti is known for Vayu Linga and Rahu Ketu related doshams.

I was very intrigued by the design of the garbha griha which is very very unique unlike all other temples and of course does not follow the norms of architecture.

Hence the post.

Regds
Kavitha

Revathi said...

I really will think twice about destroying a web again. Incedentally I noticed more webs in the puja room and forming more frequently. Initially I thought they just got to be more distinct because they took the soot from the lamps and the camphor and turned black. But now Kavitha's story has made me think.
BTW, the kalahasti story also has a serpent entangled in this fight.

Gayathri Varma said...

Hi Kavitha,
Reading this post was indeed a learning experience. I would love to pay my obeisance at this shrine. Btw, have you written about the Shiva temple in Gokarnam and the hauntingly beautiful Shivarathri Maahatmamyam stories woven around the shrine in Gokarnam?

Third Eye Closed said...

Heya,

Seems your post will gain a lot of thanks for Spiders all over :)

Hi, Uncle: Reading between the lines you say, how would one read this post in the manner you mention?

~fEelix

JC Joshi said...

Hi Felix,

I would like to share a personal experience to show what I believe is an example of the 'mischievous nature' of the ‘unborn’, and how he apparently puts us between the horns of the dilemma at times, as in the cited legend, i.e., whether to ‘seek the truth’ (by allowing ‘elephant’ or Ganesha to remove the ‘curtain created by the spider’ or Durga for us) or remain ignorant throughout the life? :-)…

It was after office hours and I was alone in the office for I used to travel by motor-bike and attended French language classes at the Alliance Francaise in the evenings those days. A peon, who wasn’t attached to our group, came to me with concern written over his face and said, “The cashier has closed the window and gone!” I asked, “So what?” He said that he was to receive medical reimbursenment and wanted to purchase medicine for his ailing daughter. I asked him how much was needed. He said that five rupees would do...

I gave him the amount. However, no sooner had he gone out, our peon turned up from nowhere and asked me why he had come to me. I told him the story and also that I had given him rupees five. He said smilingly, “He doesn’t have a daughter. In fact he isn’t even married!” And, added, “He is a gambler and takes loan from others – not to repay the loan though!”

I told him that I had given the money with a good intention and if as you say he wouldn’t return it, I would believe that I am let off cheap!

It happened as was expected. Since that day he avoided any encounter with me while I enjoyed the drama over many days in just five rupees :-)

kavitha said...

Hi Revati, Gayatri

Long time since i heard from you both and am glad the blog has been a good place to keep in touch with both of you.

I am yet to look into the stories and folk lore of all the temples that dot the south indian landscape but yes, i have started and thanks to requests from a few readers i have started to look for more detail than just historical evidence.

Yes talking about spiders there is definitely more to this, which i plan to cover in my next post.

Regds
Kavitha

JC Joshi said...

Hi Kavitha, Felix…

In the ancient times temples were generally built at isolated locations, where occurrence of certain phenomena were observed for which the ‘wise’ men available during that period and in that region apparently didn’t have any ‘scientific’ or logical explanation…

The ancients in the ‘golden past’ having realized the Creator to be formless, ‘unborn’ and ‘unending’, and the physical forms in the universe to be the result of its ‘Maya’ or illusory thoughts in its head (to conform to it being ‘unborn’ or ever within the womb of its mother - as also conveyed through the ritualistic practice of worshipping the ‘kunwari Kanya’ or a ‘Virgin’), the ‘wise’ ancients attempted in their own different ways to convey the thoughts carried forth since time immemorial on ‘Absolute Truth’ and ‘Truths of the Untruth’ through mythological stories/ temples, and so on…

Kavitha has cited here the story made popular for the benefit of the common ignorant public during a certain period since the fall of the ‘Vedic era’, “The spider in his next birth was born as King Kochchengan…built the sanctum sanctorum in such a way that no elephant would be able to enter the Gharbha Griha…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…”

Felix, I think that now with the background of 'Hindu' realization perhaps you can attempt reading the story between the lines, and maybe then, like a Yogi, you would be able to enjoy the story more :-)

JC Joshi said...

Hi all,

It would be noticed that ‘Maya’ or illusion generated through the ‘physical’ senses, that gave a false sense of doer-ship, was understood by the ‘wise’ ancients (vide Chapter V of Gita also) and attempts made to convey this through certain stories about the 'real doer'…

I recall one such story about Lord Vishnu (or Naadbindu) and His favourite medium, Narada Muni who traveled from one place to another with Veena as the source of sound energy, and popularly shown uttering, as he manifested himself at any location on an errand on behalf of the Lord, “Narayan…Narayan!” I would like to share it for the information of those who haven’t heard it before…

It so happened that one day, when both Vishnu and Narada were walking together, he asked Him to explain what 'Maya' was…

The Lord told Narada that as the narration would take long, before He did it, He would like Narada to get Him some drinking water…

Narada then went in search of water… He reached a farm-house on the bank of a river. While he waited for the drinking water from a well to arrive, he learnt from an old man - who turned out to be the owner of that large farm - that he had lost his wife long ago and that she was survived by their only daughter who continued to reside with him as he couldn’t manage to find a suitable bridegroom for his beautiful daughter…

No sooner had the girl arrived with water, they were both attracted to each other… The old man also was happy and while declaring the couple as man and wife he requested Narada to stay in his farm-house and take care of his belongings also…

In due course, the old man passed away and Narada in hte meantime had many children from his wife…

However, after many years had elapsed, the river in spate overflowed its banks and destroyed all his properties. And, his wife and children were also lost one by one as the swelling water swallowed them. He himself became unconscious…

When he regained consciousness, he found himself lying at the Lord’s feet, who immediately demanded from Narada why he hadn’t brought him water to drink?! Narada thanked the Lord, saying, “Thanks! I have now understood what ‘Maya’ is :-)

JC Joshi said...

Hi again Kavitha, Felix, Aswin...

I give below the reaction ‘I’ offered yesterday to a newspaper on ‘666’ that apparently got reflected in the date, 06-06-’06, based on ‘Hindu Philosophy’ on the ‘Absolute Truth’ and the “Truths of the Untruth”…
I might add here that the ‘wise’ ancients advised only the ‘devta’ or the selfless to have intoxicants…

“666
On this auspicious day, I would like to offer comments as below.

Those who are ‘Slaves of the West’, the direction believably ruled by Satan, (and thus the misnomer planet Saturn instead of planet ‘Shukra’ or Venus ), the demons or ‘rakshashas’ (‘raksha’ meaning protection or defense), i.e., those who act as forces that keep away the generality of man away from the ‘Absolute Truth’, cannot ever know the significance of ‘Eastern’ or ‘Hindu Philosophy’ related to the ‘Absolute Truth’ of ‘real time and space’ as zero for the Creator (‘Naadbindu’ the point source of Supreme Energy, the omnipotent and omnipresent, i.e., the ‘unborn’ and the ‘unending’) and ‘Truths of the Untruth’ related to ‘apparent time’ generated with the apparent creation of Solar system associated with the behaviour of apparent physical forms (having a transient nature)…

Even the ‘born Hindus’ and also others who claim to know about ‘Hinduism’ do not in reality know why the Hindu mythological stories believably indicates human efficiency reducing from 100% at the beginning of Satyuga to 0% at the end of Kaliyuga, i.e., from perfection of material form to ‘nothing’ over a believably long duration of time (4.32 million human years), and again and again 1000 times (corrected by me to 1080 to result in around 4.66 billion years and not 4.32 billion years as the duration of Creator’s one day as compared to His model’s)… The end of ‘Kaliyuga’ obviously indicates the beginning of the Creation of the physical universe by the purely ‘spiritual’ being…

The death of ex secretary of Late Shri Pramod Mahajan, Shri Bibek Moitra, and the apparently embarrassing situation his son, Shri Rahul Mahajan and some typical samples of youth in the country today find themselves in, could perhaps be explained by the ‘Hindu’ mythological story of the ‘churning of the milky ocean’ under the supervision of Brihaspati or planet Jupiter, that resulted in ‘halahal’ or the deadliest poison in the ‘first stage’ (out of four which ultimately led to ‘perfection’ or Satyuga), which only Shiva or our Earth (4.6 billion years old today) could withhold in His throat, being the Physical model of the ‘unending’ or immortal Creator…”

JC Joshi said...

Hi Kavitha,

It's a strange 'coincidence' that even my grand daughter decided to discuss 'spider' at her school in Canada. Her mom e-mailed the following about it.

"Tanvi had a show and tell yesterday and the theme was any animal or insect. So she cut a spider out of a black sheet of paper, dangled it on a thread and took it to school. Had a few lines to say that she wrote down. As soon as she took it out of her bag and said Une Araignee everyone screamed Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa So she was very thrilled with their reaction."

anil joshi said...

The lord himself appeared before both the elephant & the spider & explained to them that he is pleased with both ot them.still the spider carried the "grudge" against the elephant in his next birth & did everything possible to prevent the entry of the elephant in the sanctum sanctorum.Some people never really learn!

JC Joshi said...

Hi, Anilji

If the entire physical forms in the universe are dancing to the tune of Shiva, the Naadbindu, and symbolically represented through the dance of Natraj or Bhootnath, it could perhaps be hoping against hope to expect all ‘animal forms’ to be aware of the ‘Truth’, and not get carried away by ‘Maya’, at any time other than at the beginning of the Satyuga…

The ‘Hindu’ mythological stories are meant to enjoy while 'seeking the truth' hidden in those. For example, the stories depict the formless Creator or Vishnu, i.e., Naadbindu the point source of supreme energy/ knowledge, lying in the middle of ‘Kshirsagar’ or ‘Milky Ocean’ on a bed formed by five hooded Ananta(naga) or Sheshnaga, who holds our Earth, (along with its four other ‘ghosts’ - sky, fire, air, and water - which together with it form the ‘Panchbhoota’ or literally the ‘five ghosts’ or ‘Pancha Tatvas’ or ‘five elements’ that go into the formation of all the physical forms in the universe), and that earthquakes happen as and when, on getting tired, it shifts the earth from one hood to the other :-)

The foregoing could also be seen as the basis of the age old science or art of ‘Palmistry’ for predicting the ‘future’ of individuals, which also perhaps is 'past' only. The five fingers, and the four spaces between them, total nine spaces, representing the selected members of the Solar system (‘Navagraha’) - including Earth and the model of the formless ‘zero’, ‘Krishna’ or the ‘Black Hole’, that resides at the centre of our galaxy (as it is symbolically formed with thumb (representing orange colour as energy and physically planet Mars as the ‘Mooldhar’ or the ‘basic root’ - at the root of which on the wrist one can feel the throbbing pulse) and index finger (representing Moon and colour Yellow) in the ‘siddhasana’, at the bottom of which one finds the roots of the ‘Life Line’ and the ‘Head Line’. The root of the ‘Heart line’, however, lies in line with the little finger, on the opposite end, that represents the core or ‘heart’ of earth and red colour, the force that is represented by the ‘red tongue’ of Ma Kali in the mythology) – that is also present within each form in some hierarchical order as relatively a weaker gravitational force. It is because of weaker gravity that moon became a satellite of earth after it evolved and got separated from it...

The essence of the wise ancients’ realization, as conveyed in the saying, “Satyam Shivam Sunderam,” was that our Earth - whose description fits with that of Shiva – believably being the physical representation of the formless Creator of the universe, was ‘perfect’, unborn and unending or ageless and immortal. For, it was also said, “Vishnu is Shiva, and Shiva is Vishnu”. In other words, our earth was realized as a model of the universe, which apparently is an infinite balloon-like (or football-like) void that is filled up with innumerable galaxies. Similarly, just as it is found that the microcosm and the macrocosm function on similar principles, among the transient forms man also was realized as its model or ‘image’…

The instant ‘football fever’, with the above as background, could perhaps be better enjoyed and understood to communicate the ‘unborn’ Creator’s pastime, i.e., viewing the earth revolve in its orbit around the Sun - the goals scored communicating the possible escape of the earth from within the gravitational field of Sun due to pushes and pulls exerted by the other members of the Solar system as represented by the players, which He has taken care of eternally, while man ever remains ignorant because of the design through the spider-like Parvati or Durga (Moon) spinning the web through Kartikeya while the elephant headed son, Ganesha continuously attempts to break it to reach his mother, i.e., overcome the illusion :-)

JC Joshi said...

Hi all,

In support of my earlier writings on illusion related with planet Venus (and not Saturn), I give below certain extracts from Wikipedia available on teh Internet. And, who doesn't know that hte ancient 'Hindu Siddhas' were great 'Astronomers' also...

"A Venusian day is 243 Earth days and is longer than its year of 225 days. Oddly, Venus rotates from east to west. To an observer on Venus, the Sun would rise in the west and set in the east...

It has no oceans and is surrounded by a heavy atmosphere composed mainly of carbon dioxide with virtually no water vapor. Its clouds are composed of sulfuric acid droplets...

The Venusian topography consists of vast plains covered by lava flows and mountain or highland regions deformed by geological activity. Maxwell Montes in Ishtar Terra is the highest peak on Venus. The Aphrodite Terra highlands extend almost half way around the equator. Magellan images of highland regions above 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) are unusually bright, characteristic of moist soil. However, liquid water does not exist on the surface and cannot account for the bright highlands. One theory suggests that the bright material might be composed of metallic compounds. Studies have shown the material might be iron pyrite (also know as "fools gold"). It is unstable on the plains but would be stable in the highlands. The material could also be some type of exotic material which would give the same results but at lower concentrations..."

The above as the background knowledge on Venus, with its 'fools' gold', poisonous atmosphere, etc., comprehension of the mythological story - about Ravana kidnapping Sita (Moon, that remains within the gravitaional field of Earth) in the garb of a 'Sadhu' or a sage by sending Rama (Sun) first to chase a 'golden deer' (a model of Venus)and then Lakshamana (Earth) also in search of his apparently lost elder brother - becomes easier...

Perhaps now one can better appreciate the 'Maya Jal' or spider's web-like stories related with the Solar system - with Moon as the Guru or the superior most form, read with the realization of humans as predominant models of some 'Heavenly Body', as reflected in the ancient practice of Astrology, or Palmistry...

spiders said...

very interesting mythology about connection between elephant and spiders, i never heard before about that