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8.28.2006

The unknown side of Hinduism


















Hinduism is a whirlpool of knowledge, that which cannot be understood at first glance. To be a Hindu is not just about being gifted, but it’s an experience we need to live out in accordance with the Shastras.

Walking through a temple might be an overwhelming experience, where we would believe the superior powers are embedded within the deity. Sure enough, but how did this power get there? How did the idol get a life and how are we sharing this power? Or rather...what is this power that we define as "the ultimate truth"?

The power of the stone is not generate within the stone itself but is generated through the mystical diagram that defines the nature of the deity enclosed within the shrine. Various "bija mantras" attributed to the deity are embedded within this mystical diagram. For now this is just a copper/gold plate that carries the lines that define the true nature of the deity.

The real play starts at the dwajastambha, the main pillar in front of the temple. The fire of life is ignited along a darbha grass rope that connects the main dwajastambha to the shrine within the sanctum. The dwajastambha itself is a complex flag post, which contains designs all of which are attributed of the enclosed deity. Fire and ghee ignite the life of the mystical diagram placed within the sanctum followed by a series of hymns that are sung rhythmically along the cardinal directions within the shrine chamber. The mystical diagram comes alive when the fire with the burning ghee falls on its metal surface.

After this ritual the deity is placed over the metal plate and sealed to the floor using a mixture known as "ashtabandhanam". The idol, made of a specific black stone is the carrier of this energy. This energy is maintained and enhanced by constant worship. Worship includes the bathing of the idol with water, milk, sandal wood, fruit mix, honey, oil, ghee and the like. Food is offered in the form of incense, flowers, fruit and rice to the deity.

The inner power of the idol is maintained by constant "pradakshinam" or circumambulation around the main shrine chamber and various prakaras. Only oil lamps should light the interior chamber and electricity is strictly prohibited. Flower garlands should be strung with banana fiber and not thread. Every thing that is offered to the deity is in its purest form. Hence the power of the deity is maintained.

What is the real nature of this "power"?
The nature of this power is strangely electrical, meaning it can produce anything from a mild shock near your elbow to making you shiver if you cannot cope with it.
The point is, we need to be ready to receive this power and for that the body and mind need to be prepared. Hence the various philosophies of detachment and zero desire so that we can concentrate on the Self instead of getting distracted by the world around us.

I know I made this sound really simple but this is belief as it stands today and no, Western science cannot prove this in a hurry.

8.15.2006

A night with Nava Shakti - Chamunda.






















She woke up in cold sweat,
What was that?
All she remembered were those eyes.
A man moved around,
A lightning in the dark, two eyes so powerful
Swept the air as they danced to his beat.
He resounded again...

damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum |
damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum ||

She stood, silent looking at the sea,
The waves advancing with force washing her feet,
Giving additional rhythm to the drumbeat.
The moon swayed in the night sky,
Tossing among silent clouds
As the wind whistled on.
The mridangam beat reverberated in her mind...

She raised her feet, looked up to the air and called to the Goddess Chamunda.

Oh Mother
Help me perform the very dance,
The dance of fury
The dance of lightning
Those very steps that you walk...

damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum |
damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum ||

The feet raised, the body moves
The muscles wake up
To the calls of the night
The cat moves in stealth
Chamunda descends

damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum |
damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum ||

The dimly lit cloudy stage
The wet floor with waves
The slow beat in the waters
A trident gold the goddess awakes
The spirit invoked

damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum |
damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum ||

The muscles like a panther move
The feet agile, the body smooth
The steps sure, the earth resounds
Sending ripples through the wind
The fury within pours forth

damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum |
damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum ||

Together the beat, together the step
They yield the trident of death
The eyes glow, the limbs move
The grace within unfolds
The bodies arch back, and then attack

damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum |
damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum ||

A red glow in pure white skin
The Goddess shimmers in gold
A deadly trident circles around
Her deft hands behold
The power within

damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum |
damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum ||

The flames light up, the gods descend
The sea recedes and comes forth again
The clouds move, the moon reveals
The bright eyed goddess moves
Crossing the man in rhythmic outburst

damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum |
damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum ||

Their backs meet, their feet retreat
The tridents move like lightening
Circles of light that never meet
As they unite and depart
The energy within overflows

damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum |
damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum ||

The tiger moves, in similar step
As she takes her feet through the air
Her grace her light her charm revealed
She moves in fury
Her feet sink in the sand beneath

damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum |
damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum ||

Such force, the tremors felt
The heart pound the heat rises
Her skin glows, her dress in red
Sways to the wind as she flows
The trident now her halo holds

damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum |
damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum ||

The gods witness the performer go
The man gives the beat to her feet
Her moves so easy her mind so calm
That sways with such delicacy
Through the shaken air

damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum |
damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum ||

Such grace unknown, such power not felt
That brings the great gods to earth
Lord Shiva beholds her silent steps
The shastras of bharata unfold
The dance of fury, the dance of vigor

damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum |
damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum ||

The moon hides, the sea calm
The man bring down the rhythm
The dance concludes the body weakens
Chamunda withdraws from the being
A miracle engulfed into the silence again.

damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum |
damadamadama | damadamadama | damadamadum ||













Photo courtesy: Glossary of Indian Art | Shunya.net

8.08.2006

Expression in Abhinaya, the art of Bharata.

Kanchipuram, 1 hour from Chennai:

This is a brimming temple town, which hosts temples to all the Gods. This was the first time I had entered Kamakshi Amman temple. A small temple with at the most two prakaras, Kamakshi Amman temple is one of the more popular temples in Kanchipuram.

Its a lovely town, where every street has a shrine attributed to the Gods. The Pallavas were meticulous about building temples, making sure that Amman, Shiva and Vishnu got temples exclusively associated with them.

I walked in slowly observing the changes that had come about to the Amman temple. Old granite rocks had given way to modern glossy granite finish; stark rock had given way to color at places. Oil lamps had given way to tube lights that lit the interiors, the silence had given way to strong fans and voices of devotees, the pillared halls had given way to meandering queues separated by metal rods, and the Goddess's divine blessings had given way to "Archana" tickets.

Every thing had changed, from what had once been Pallava except the inner most sanctum and the ardhamandapa that preceded it. These chambers alone were dark, silent and carried a red hue of kumkum along the walls and floor. The ardhamandapa carried the priced Sri Chakra engraved in gold and installed within an octagonal pitha in front of the Goddess while another Sri Chakra lay beneath her feet, unknown to the world.

The Sri chakra was installed here by Adi Shankara to calm down the ughra swarupa of the Amman, that which resembles the Kali swarupa by day. Amman, a silent potent form, who resides within these walls, has the moon dancing on her mukuta giving a very tantrik feel to the chamber. The fire of the oil lamp blazed large flames that lit her ever-shining face, the chandan glowing in every flicker of the flame that seemed to dance in her praise.

It cast a spell, a silent spell that brought to life the very dance form of Bharata. The glowing light of the oil lamps brings alive a form of Amman draped in a madisaar covered with flowers in cosmic conversation with her only devotee who performs silhouetted in an ambience of Divine love.

The language of Bharatnatyam, the emotions in abhinaya, the speech in his very eyes as they dance along reflecting every human emotion that melts one's heart to the Divine Mother.



Around the pitha he places his feet, agile and light to the thundering beats of the mridangam, a slender form merges with the Goddess every move waking the mind to a lesson unknown, to a world unknown, to energy potent as he touches Amman, and casts a spell around.



The world falls at her feet, the drums resound, the power of the Sri Chakra is brought to life from within the Pitha, and Amman changes her form from Ughra to calm and resides within her home, the Mother touches my heart as the silhouetted form dances in vigour and the "chalangai" drive the beat down my spine. Tiny droplets of water wake the cells, the heat rises, a dialog in bharatnatyam wakes the air around to a silent world unknown thundering into the rhythm of the ancient drummers realm. The form sways, the fingers blooming into various mudra, a silent word spoken as the back arches to perform a rhythmic expression of complete devotion.

An ancient world brought to life, giving a wake up call, there is more to the aesthetics of living... its perfection within the chamber of Kamakshi Amman.