Lost in a small village in Madhya Pradesh are a series of 20 temples profusely carved, gigantic and dominating the otherwise insignificant countryside.
And we seem to have moralistic problems with it!!
Our society is known for its hypocrisy. The world's largest demo'crazy' boasting of the maximum population on this earth ironically blames Khajuraho for its erotic sculptures! Where did our babies come from?
The strange thing is these sculptures that Khajuraho is apparently so famous for are found in most of other Indian temples as well, we just didn't bother to look. Even stranger is the fact that we need to hunt them down in the jungle of profusely carved stone to spot them out and tell everyone, I went to Khajuraho!
So, the average tourist goes to Khajuraho, not with beauty or spiritualism in his/her mind to appreciate the grandeur of 20 temples along the landscape but to hunt down minute erotic sculptures... how perverted are they?
Is Khajuraho really x-rated as people claim it to be? Are we even trying to find out why they are there in the first place and appreciate our ancient society for it?
The truth behind erotica as researched by Art Historian Devangana Desai is this. India was known to have very learned men who knew more than one science. They were Tantriks. They knew the science of astrology, architecture and ritual. They advised kings over the construction of these great temples all over the subcontinent, but primarily around northeast India where they flourished the most. They are also known to have practiced ritual rather indigestible to think of today.
Being initiated into Tantricism is/was not the simplest thing. One needed a guru for the initiation and there after ritual practice/sadhana is/was a must. This sadhana involved a change of lifestyle which meant it was not just about how to worship and faith but also about how to live - eat, conduct yourself, practice the art of love making etc, everything offered to the Gods in complete surrender. Ritual went deep down into understanding of mystical diagrams and worship of powers unknown to us like those of the Mother Goddess, Lord Shiva, the yoginis etc. Everything is very interconnected, the ritual practices might have ceased to exist but the science continues to live.
So when one approaches these extremely lavish Tantrik temples, one needs to be initiated to even understand them. The moralistically infamous temples hide deeper secrets of faith within diagrams of ritual, potent in power but rather simple to look at - delightful erotica to the uninitiated i.e. you and me. These erotic sculptures are very geometric, fit within a square with imaginary lines meeting at strategic points which house powers to protect these temples from evil forces unknown to you and me.
The result - erotica, because that is what we see and we don't have the patience to find out more. Take trouble, dig for information and understand the subtlety of Hinduism before giving judgment. Hinduism runs deeper than erotica, and the people then didn't pull up temples to quench our thirst for erotica.
From the clouds of the heavens descends the all-encompassing strength of the universe, of all the Gods. A fury within the mind, vigor in the heart that crashes through space and descends into the battlefield of desire and illusion now almost clothed in a veil of death and gore of the self. One form of strength is the tiger* that growls, thundering through and is almost deafening to the ears. The other form of strength, is within those eyes* that see just one form to destroy that is the demon of desire. And yet a third form is that of my fortress*, the walls so thick that no evil can penetrate when I surrender to Her.
She is all power, She is potency, and She is energy in a feminine form, for all to see, feel, experience and worship. It is an enchanting moment when the silent energy of Lord Shiva now takes form, bringing down grace, beauty, power, goodness, warmth, faith, trust and surrender to this earth. It’s like the first raindrops on dry parched land that almost dies waiting, for the Lord’s grace to wake its soul and bring life to it.
The earth tremors to escape the gaping moment of doom, when the Mother descends to protect the world. The conqueror of desire, She rages ahead gracefully to protect our souls and destroys evil demons with one slash to tear up their very beings, to see Shumbha, Nishumbha, Mahishasura and Dhumralochana fall dead at Her merciful feet.
This glorious moment She presents when She yields Her trishul to dig it into the heart of Maya and destroy it forever, relieving us from this never ending cycle of misery called life.
To the Mother I play, to the Mother I offer myself, who saves me from the demons of my own mind that claw at me every moment through the waking hours of my day. Oh Mother, who protects the weak, who takes me as a child in her arms and destroys every form of misery that stops me from merging into You.
So small am I, so feeble is my being, so lost is my mind that I do not know what to feel even when You hold me in your arms. To me You show the world of green, of flowers and life, of peace and victory over the desires of my mind, and yet my miserable self fails to see Your ever shining grace on me. I pray to You O Mother, save me and grant me victory over this misery called me.
Ma Jayant Jayanti Jayanti
*Tiger - Her Vahana, * Eyes - The powerful eyes of the Goddess, *Fortress - The very name Durga stems from the word Durg which means the fortress that protects the Self from the demons of desire.
In todays world it is difficult to get the levels of intensity in devotion that our ancients had. Devotion is something that is freely available to anyone, it needs to churned and expressed in the right direction for better spiritual evolution. It independent of time, stature or materialism. Its a simple equation of emotion with the Lord.
One such example of a great devotee of Lord Shiva who didn't think much when it came to ritual or purity is Tinna a hunter. All he knew was to hunt, and get home the meat of his killing and protect his tribe. He was a great successor to his father who was the chief of the tribe.
One day after the hunt Tinna came to rest at an old Shiva temple. His Love for the Lord and the sanctity of the place made him decide he didn't want to go home but wanted to continue staying there and worshiping the Lord. He would take a bath and collect water in his mouth to bathe the Lord, he would chew at the meat and give the best pieces to the Lord and decorate the Linga with flowers that he tucked on his head and took back to the temple. After abhishekam he would stay at the door step and guard the shrine chamber.
In the morning a priest often came to the temple to perform the puja and found flowers and meat scattered all around the Linga every night. This upset him a lot and he would clean up the temple again and offer his worship. He would sorrowfully leave the temple and come back to see the same offerings the next day. He prayed deeply to the Lord to give him an answer. The Lord appeared in his dream and instructed him to watch overnight to see what happens at the temple.
Next night the priest arrived at the temple as instructed. When he saw the Shiva Linga he couldn't believe his eyes. The Lord had opened his eyes and was now looking at him. He fell on the ground in adoration. When he got up, one of the eyes were profusely bleeding. The priest got worried and decided to make a hasty exit.
Later Tinna came to the temple with the flowers tucked in his hair and water in his mouth and fresh meat in his hands as an offering. When he stepped into the temple, he was shocked with what he saw. He dashed to the Linga and tried to bathe it and clean the eye that was bleeding. It still refused to stop. Tinna finally decided to replace the eye with one of his eyes. He took out his arrow and dug into his own socket and offered his eye to the Lord. When he replaced the eye, the bleeding stopped for a while and then again started in the other eye. Tinna decided to give up his other eye. He placed his foot on the eye of the Shiva Linga to mark the spot and took out the arrow to dig out the second eye. When he was about to do it, Lord Shiva appeared out of the Linga and stopped him and blessed him telling him to come with him to Kailasa.
Tinna came to be known as Kannappa Nayanar in the years to come. His shrine now resides on a hill near the Swarnamukhi river at Kalahasti.
Also read: Kalahasti - the land where Vayu is felt
Photo courtesy: Shaivam.org
Grishneswar, 11kms from Daulatabad and
The Sthala Purana goes as follows. On a mountain called Devagiri lived a Brahmin by the name of Brahmavetta Sudharm with his wife Sudeha. They were a childless couple for a very long time which made Sudharm very unhappy. Sudeha tried every remedy and failed. Finally she had her sister Ghushma married to her husband. On her sister's advice, Ghushma used to make 108 Shiva Lingas and worship them and perform Abhishekam near a lake.
In due course of time Ghushma was blessed with a son. She in turn became very proud and this got Sudeha very jealous of her. In due course of time Ghushma got her son married as well and continue to worship Lord Shiva. One night in this fit of jealousy Sudeha went and killed Ghushma's son. Her daughter-in-law went to inform her about this terrible mishap while she was worshiping the Lord. Ghushma stayed calm, as if nothing had gone wrong. She continued to worship the Lord near the lake when her son came back alive. Ghushma was neither happy nor sad. This pleased Lord Shiva and he gave her a boon. She requested the Lord to emancipate Sudeha. The Lord was very pleased and granted her another boon. She prayed that the Lord should descend there in Jyotir Linga form and reside there for ever with her name. Hence this shrine is known by the name of Ghushmeswar Shiva Jyotir Linga.
We have come a long way since those times. The depth of faith has not changed in all these years or neither has the pinnacle for higher evolved living. The Jyotir Lingas pulled out events from time to teach us, that every thing can change around us, but it is the ever constant truth of devotion and faith that continues to ring in these temples. The Lord continues to get bathed in the milk and waters of life, purifying the world with potent syllables of devotion that have since then come down these centuries.
Photo courtesy: Liveindia.com
In the cold bleak regions of the Garhwal Himalayas lies one of India's holiest spots. The Jyotir Linga of Kedarnath rings a bell in anyone's mind towards the deep secrets of Indian spiritualism.
Kedarnath, is a magical name, a name that denotes spiritualism of a higher kind, that beckons one to make that journey against all odds to meet the Lord, in his holy abode in the Himalayas.
Its a world apart, where the Lord lives, within snow capped ranges and chilling weather. And in the backdrop of white snow and blue sky is a flash of color, an imposing facade decked in marigold. The dynamic facade of Kedarnath is an eyeful to anyone. One can experience the chill in the air, the fresh unpolluted breeze in the space around, the reverberating sound of the bells that hang down at the entrance constantly ringing and more than anything else a simple small temple housing a potent form of the Lord.
Brilliant colors light up the facade, with curtains of flowers raining down the entrance, almost waking us up to something quite similar to a Buddhist monastery lost in the mountains. Kedarnath lies at the head of the Mandakini River in the Chamoli district, dotted with a possible Ganesha in orange at its entrance. Bells ring through out the day reliving the very essence of sound - OM, that spreads over to the mountains beyond.
They say that Kedarnath is one of five shrines called the Pancha Kedar. After the Mahabharata war the five pandavas wanted to seek the help of Lord Shiva, for their redemption from the sin of killing their kith and kin and their guru. Lord Shiva avoided them repeatedly and took refuge in Kedarnath in the form of a bull. The second pandava, Bhima, tried to pick Him up, but the bull dived into the ground leaving behind His hump on the surface. Lord Shiva was pleased with their persistence and requested the Pandavas to worship His hump at Kedarnath. This hump is worshipped at Kedarnath in the form of a conical Shiva pinda form. The other parts of Shiva's body, his arms, face, navel and hair locks appeared at Tungnath, Rudranath, Madmaheshwar and Kalpeshwar. These four shrines along with Kedarnath are worshipped as "Panch Kedar".
When one stands in the middle of these towering mountains the mind just fills with peace and tranquility, with the very Lord Himself who descends down to earth to save us from our misery. Kedarnath, is one such abode, where the Lord resides forever.
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Photo courtesy: © All rights reserved. Arupdutta flickr.com