Shiva temple, Villianur

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This is a small quaint temple, near Pondichery hosting a unique Shiva linga. The Linga being made of mud does not endure a direct abhishekam hence the Linga is always covered in the brass vessel before the water is poured. It’s a small temple that speaks volumes on devotion.

I walked around, savoring every minute of this temple. As we did the pradakshanam and walked behind the main sanctum, 63 Nayanars caught my attention. A quick photo and it was a snap to keep.

A collapsible gate separated them from me. 63 Nayanars with hands folded stared out at me. They looked imprisoned to say the least. I looked free, or was it the other way around? It seemed like a one to one with them. We stared at each other for a while.

63 enlightened souls appeared to have been barred from walking out and breathing the fresh air, or was it me taking in the foul realities of life.

63 enlightened souls glistened in the darkness while I paled out in the bright sunlight

63 nayanars silently worshipped the Lord in His heavenly abode while I thought I was freely walking the earth.

63 nayanars found a place next to the Lord while I still hunt for my identity.

63 nayanars didn’t care for freedom while my soul breaks every rule in the way

63 nayanars display humility with folded hands while I carry a heavy ego through my living days

63 nayanars silently speak faith while I voice mine like I know it all

63 nayanars have given up their souls for peace while I still hold on to mine, fearing to let go.

63 nayanars taught devotion to the world while I drop ego into every word.

63 nayanars glow with enlightenment while I still look around in the dark.

63 nayanars forever worship the Lord while I drift away trying to control my mind.

63 nayanars teach the meaning of freedom while I try to understand mine

63 nayanars appear to be imprisoned while I still try to break mine.

The Lord works in strange ways towards those willing to learn, it’s a test of endurance for us to see ourselves through. Spiritualism is tough stuff, its something I still do not know how to define.


A call to the Lizard

Varadaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram:

Animals have played an integral role in Indian mythology, with snakes and eagles topping the list. In Indian mythology we have a special consideration for "vahanas" or vehicles of deities. Others come with signals when animals make a visit during a ceremony. For example, it is believed that when a temple is being consecrated and "prana prathista" is being done to both the idol within as well as the main gateway/ roof of the temple, the presence of three parrots fly by during the homam/havan. Subsequently it is considered a success in ritual when an eagle (garuda) flies above the main gateway when water is being poured over it and the flag is being hoisted.

Among the lesser known animals that are known to be great devotees of Lord Shiva, the spider and the elephant seem to top the list. In the south there are specific temples dedicated to them as worshippers of the Lord, namely Shiva temples at Kalahasti and Thiruvannaikavval.

One creature seems to have a lot of impact not just by being a devotional creature but also as a mechanism of communication between our world and God's kingdom - devaloka. They say that when you are completely devotional, the Lord Himself comes in some form and resides within the chamber where you worship Him. The lizard is considered to be a very important creature in such modes of communications. When a lizard steps into the puja room and stays there it's considered auspicious. They say that either your Guru or the Lord Himself rides on the lizard when they come "visiting". The nature of the lizard in such cases is quite different. They tend to be fearless, hang around the deep dark corners of the room and come closer to the devotee as and when they wish, sometimes it's too close for comfort. A family is considered blessed and the home is believed to have positive vibrations when lizards come to live within the walls of its puja room.

Lizards seem to have held a very strong place in function! Killing or harming lizards is considered one of the greatest "doshams"(negative effects) committed ever. Even more intriguing is the fear that is triggered with the accumulation of "doshams" when a lizard falls over a person. They say that if a lizard fell over our head, something very inauspicious is going to happen, like probable death in the family, while if it falls on the foot it means travel. It looks like our ancestors didn't take to traveling very well, not half has lightly as we take it today. There might have been dangers they would have to face in the journey so avoiding travel was probably recommended. In order to rid one off these negative effects our ancestors thought a lot for the masses.

Interestingly found only in the Varadaraja Perumal temple at Kanchipuram is the silver and gold lizards on the ceiling of a small chamber in this temple. With mystical diagrams of the sun and moon near it, this large lizard is supposed to wipe out all the accumulated "doshams" if we get to touch it. There is an endless list of "doshams" given in our panchangam. The sun, moon and the lizard (palli) are related to astrology and give remedies with relation to our horoscopes for a more peaceful living.

Touching these lizards on the ceiling nullifies the negative effects that we might have accumulated in the course of our living, knowingly or unknowingly. Maybe they are consecrated up there with mantra concentrate done ages ago when the temple was built, so that the oncoming generations would benefit from it with a simple touch.

All in all it has not just caught the strong belief of the ancients but also the caught the faith of million Indians today who flock there. Can we question the lizard? Maybe, but can we doubt Indian faith… no, it can only be admired!


UP, Vrindavan: Gopisvar Mahadev

Rasa lila is the aesthetics of love and beauty expressed in the song and dances of Radhe Krishna as much as it is in the dances of Shiva and Kali/Parvati. Rasa lila brings to the mind, the nectar of love, untouched and flowing in abundance that the heart and mind get locked in it forever. Rasa Lila is an exalted feeling within the self that exists and needs to be unraveled in devotion to the Supreme. Rasa lila brings with it fragrances of the blooming flowers that are otherwise left to the wild. Rasa lila intoxicates the mind making the beloved surround the self and appears just about everywhere.

Rasa lila is a feeling in the heart, an expression of emotion in sublime!

Krishna's Rasa lila in the gardens of Brindavan can only be imagined by mortals for even Lord Shiva needed to do penance to be an audience to this beauty. In the form of Mahadev Shankara Shiva descended from Mount Kailasa to have darshan of one of Krishna's Rasa lilas. As he approached the gates of Brindavan, a Gopi at the gate stopped Him, as no male except Sri Krishna could be a part of this Rasa Lila.

Mahadev Shankara did not give up very easily. As instructed by the gopis he began to worship Yogamaya Paurnamasi (Purnima) for assistance. Purnima knowing fully well about Mahadev Shankar wish, instructed Him to take a dip in the waters of the holy Brahma Kund. When He rose out of its waters he was transformed into a beautiful damsel, another gorgeous Gopi who found her place inside the Kunj of the Rasa sthala. Soon after the Rasa Lila began, sweet love notes swept the floor of the kunj covered with the fragrance of wild flowers. But this time it left the gopis strangely uncomfortable. They had understood there had been an intrusion and were now trying to find out who was the uninvited guest.

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Having come upon this gopi, with no name and no village to name from where she came, the remaining gopis attacked her with a barrage of questions. "Where are you from? Who is your husband? Who is your father in law?" This left her in a pool of tears and speechless at the same time. Yogamaya Paurnamasi has not prepared her for this onslaught of questions, for neither was her birth arranged from the womb of a gopi nor was she given a name. Nor did she marry a gopa so she was left speechless in the middle of all the commotion.

Paurnamasi's heart melted seeing the plight of Mahadev Shankar, and appeared to release the gopi from the situation. She requested the Gopis and Sri Krishna to be merciful to the nameless gopi. Sri Krishna, having understood Paurnamasi's desire, gave Mahadev Shankar the name of Gopiswar and granted Him a boon that any sadhaka who came to Brindavan, would not be able to enter without the blessings of Shankar Mahadev.

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Vajranabha the great grand son of Sri Krishna later installed a Shiva linga at this temple. They say that a big pepal tree here is the kalpa vriksha, which fulfills all desires.

"O Lord Mahadev, O Lord Gopiswar, O glorious one, salutations to you.
O Lord, one who carries the moon on his head
Worshipped by great sages Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Narada
O Lord Gopiswar Bless me with thy divine power
Bestow upon me the love to seek the feet of Sri Radha Madhava and experience the Rasa Lilas in Brij-dham
I offer you my prayers at your feet forever."

Sankalpa Kalpadruma, 103 by Visvanath-Cakravarti Thakur


Folklore: Radha kunda and Shyama kunda

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Radha Kunda, Uttar Pradesh:
Walking down a street, and knowing nothing about the place brings with it a whole new experience of the unfamiliar. With the wind in the air and the warm sun shining down on a chilly morning searching for the story that rules the minds of a charming little town can quite be a task.

Armed with a book in hand that gives the basic directions, and then looking expectantly at all the local faces hoping to get more information, its a silent walk down an unknown alley.

This is a small town with no pollution in the air, clear breath warmed by the sun as I sip at a glass of local Chai looking around at people going about their business. Simple people, with lots of goodwill and warmth and no corruption that looks for my wallet, or so I hope!

It’s a quaint little town, completely charming, the old forgotten India that one would have loved to see. The town dotted with temples, with flags flying high still symbolizing victory against time through so many centuries, singing the praise of Radhe Shyam and slowly begins to unravel herself.

This is a land precious to Gaudiya Vaishnavas, hosting the great ponds of Radha Kunda and Shyama Kunda that sing the tales of Krishna killing the demon bull Aristhasura. On the pilgrimage tracks to Mount Govardhana, this town is not too far from Mathura. This little town hosts 5 dead trees that represent the Pandavas singing Bhajan. Folklore has it that Dharamaraja Yudhistira appeared in the dream of Raghunatha Dasa Goswami and directed him not to cut the trees on the banks of the Shyama kunda while he reconstructed the ponds. This is the land of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, that sings about the pleasure times of Radha and Shyam.

A small town that hosts the kunjas (garden groves) of the 8 main sakhis - Sri Lalita Sakhi (north), Sri Vishakha Devi (north east), Sri Chitra Devi (east, multi colored), Sri Indulekha Devi (south east, all white), Sri Champakalatha devi (south, gold), Sri Ranga Devi (South west, Shyama blue), Sri Tungavidya Devi (west, crimson), Sri Sudevi Devi (northwest, green) and their respective Sakhas Madhumangala (north), Ujjvala (north east), Arjuna (east), Gandharva (south east), Vidagdha (south), Kokeela (south west), Sanandananda (west), and Subala (north west).

Well I can almost here the jingle of anklets and the laughter of damsels and the happiness and joy of love once displayed among these blooming gardens into a world of colour and enjoyment. A little town so peaceful later ravaged by war and yet retaining it’s original splendor now singing folklore of Radhe Shyam.

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And here too, Lord Shiva resides. A small white marble temple, attributed to Sri Kundeswar Mahadev on the roadside is not as small and insignificant as it would seem. There are four such temples, each in a cardinal direction protecting Radha Kunda from the uninitiated. No one gets to Radhakunda if Lord Shiva doesn't permit him or her to do so. Therefore it is tradition that one visits Sri Kundeswar Mahadev temple first before setting foot into this holy land of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas.

Jai Bholenath!

Photo courtesy: http://www.vaisnava.cz/ind_en.html
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