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1.25.2008

Temple of Eklingji Shiva, near Udaipur

Eklingji Temple near Udaipur, Rajasthan: There was chill in the air as Srinivasan walked on the cold stone floor of this remote temple, near Udaipur. The north has a charm; the rural west is so quaint, undeniably simple and slow and laden with tranquility. It’s like a village, with not too many people, no shops selling the familiar chips and coke, just clean untouched natural beauty lying spotless all around him.

He had cut out the noise of the city, of a busy life to come here, and what lay around him was pure historical magnificence. He walked slowly, pillar to pillar of this small Nagara styled temple breathing in the chill as he progressed towards the dark interiors of the shrine chamber. Within the deep silent darkness lay the stone idol of the Lord, as vibrant as it was centuries ago when this temple was first built. A small lamp glowed, lighting up the bare interior as Srinivasan just transported himself to another world, breathing in this fresh air around him. He sat on the floor, the chill eating into his veins as he looked on to the Lord ahead.

The temple bell rang, a single ring resounding in the air, reverberating through the temple interiors almost bringing alive the dancers on the walls. This was Eklingji, the one and only Shiva who is unattainable and only surrender is the way towards Him. Srinivasan, closed his eyes, as his heart sank, and he shut his mind down to hear the sounds around him. Birds chirped, peacocks shrieked, and the sound of water slowly began to cover the air. He opened his eyes and saw rays of sunlight beaming into the temple, lighting up the stage along the temple walls as stone idols played their music and danced to a different tune, one that was so pure, so clear and almost lost that it was left within the imagination of the self to really live this moment of silence.

Srinivasan yearned to just leave his work, and come to settle here, live a simpler life with fewer desires and worship the Lord. He breathed a sigh, one that echoed the bondages in his life, those that he could not leave due to karmic entanglement though he just wished to break free. But wasn’t this all in the mind! Srinivasan got up to walk around the temple. As he walked out of the pillared hall the beauty of the land just sprawled itself out in front of him. He looked around to see a large lake behind the temple, circled by low hills, dotted with many more such small temples. It felt like heaven had opened its gates to make us feel the presence of all divinity, such brilliance meticulously carved out by men. A heavenly paradise of a different kind, of which he was a part. The wind blew among the hills, causing small ripples in the waters of the lake that made the sounds like that of a woman’s anklet as they splashed gently along the stony temple floor. A lake, covered with green, untouched in the lap of rocky hills. This was nature in its purest form, all its elements being felt so close without any distraction. His mind was so much at peace.

Srinivasan thought, the beauty of this land is so subtle, it needs to be felt. Peace is hard to find, but here it was very much in abundance. Spiritualism can be found only in the silence of the mind, and there seemed to be so much tranquility here, he felt he was so far away from the familiar world he knew so much. He watched a lady pass by, rural in appearance singing an ancient folklore as she walked by with a pot of water. Srinivasan walked down to the lake, touching the chilling water surface with his feet, feeling the sudden chill through his bones as he sat looking around. He was but a small speck in this large panoramic world of the Lord, surrounded by hills and silent villages, with no apparent rules, just pure freedom with the self.

As the clouds covered the sun, draping the world into sudden shade, Srinivasan turned to see the silhouette of this small temple housing the very symbolism of his existence and the meaning to his life. As he stared on the temple bell rang again, a resounding echo which rippled out of the temple scattering itself into the space around bathing life on its way. Eklingji temple, another world, another reality, but running right through his being in this little paradise.

Click on the photos to see larger view

1.16.2008

Lakulisa - Founder of Pasupata Shaivism

On the road to Champaner, Guijarat: Lakulisa Temple

At the foothills of the great Kalikadevi temple at Pavagadh Gujarat, there is a sprawling peaceful lake dotted with temples displaying the splendor of rural Gujarat. On the way to Champaner this picturesque landscape produces one of the finest architectures both Islamic and Hindu.

Driving down during the monsoon time can indeed change the mood of the land such that it almost feels like divinity descended on earth in a chariot of mist. And here among rocky hillsides strewn with huge boulders lie one of India's most ancient temples now in ruins - Lakulisa temple. This temple dates back to the 10th century though the cult of Lakulisa existed well into the 1 cen.A.D and has been mentioned the Mahabharata. This delapidated temple holds the iconography of Lord Shiva thought it houses Lakulisa within its walls. Among its very rare and fine sculptures one can see Dakshinamurthy Shiva, Ganesha and Gajantaka Shiva. Most of the upper half of the temple has fallen off and merged with the surrounding boulders leaving standing walls with intricate sculptures to show the original spendor of this great cult icon.

Lakulisa was the founder of Pashupata Shaivism which was one of the oldest and prominent Shaivite schools that existed in the early 1 cen A.D, though dating it is still uncertain. Lakulisa's school of Pashupata Shaivism originated at Kayavarohan in Gujarat and extended to Payar in Kashmir and Orissa in the east. It later spread far and wide and penetrated into Tamil Nadu in the 7th to 14th cen A.D.

Lakulisa's images are found all over India indicating that his cult was very well established. The Pashupatas were ascetics
and were followers of the Bhakti movement. Lakulisa was almost considered an incarnate of Lord Shiva during his time. He is represented as a saint, teacher, yogi, and a man of divinity, very similar to the Buddha when it came to depiction in scupture. His teachings are codified in the Lakulisa Siddhanta, while in his images he is represented in Dharmachakrapravartana mudra with a Lakuta (stick) in one arm. His main desciples were Kausika, Gargya, Mitraka and Rusta.

Among may such temples and images, Lakulisa can be found in person in the ruined Bhairava temple on the banks of the Gangua river near Bhubaneswar where he is depicted as a four armed Lakulisa with the Jatamukuta and snake, very similar in appearance to Shiva Dakshinamurthy. Alternatively he is also found in the Orissa State Museum at Bhubaneswar.
What was this cult all about? Kaundinya in one of his commentaries on the Pashupata Sutras says that Lord Shiva taking the form of a Brahman as an incarnate at Kayavatarana, went on foot to ujjain and taught his doctrine to Bhagavat Kushika. The Pashupata doctrine was revealed by Lakulisa, the last of the 28 incarnations of Shiva. The worship of Shiva included strange practices which involved bathing in sand and holy ash thrice a day and living in isolation. I would suspect its quite close to our current day Nagas. What ever their practices and whether it conformed to the society at large, this once popular cult lost its dynamic presence and ceased to exist till today in its original known form.

What remains is a ruined temple dedicated to the last incarnate of Lord Shiva - Lakulisa, along the road to Champaner.

References: Religious Beliefs and Practices of North India During the Early Mediaeval by Vibhuti Bhushan Mishra

1.09.2008

The Perfect Nataraja, a perfect life


In the darkness of the night
the earth trembles
with the resounding drum
a sound that creates
the vibrations of life
the air that swirls

the purity imbibed

and the feet descend to earth
into a circle of fire
that silhouettes this form of the Lord.


Locked into metal is an energy so strong that one can barely imagine the potency of the Lord. A common name, Shiva, but a form so enigmatic and unknown that the more we dwell into His realm the more lost we feel. Such is the enigma that surrounds Lord Shiva. To feel His presence in the self is a moment of enlightenment well lived for.

Within this wall of fire He dances creating the rhythm of life, creating the essence of existance and clearing the clouds of illusion that shade our eyes.
Tirobhava - A ring of fire He lights up to kill the darkness of ignorance.
Samhara - A ring of fire He ignites to burn the self into His being.

Sthiti - A ring of fire He presents to preserve the soul.

Shrishti - A ring of fire that dances to the sound of creation.
Anugraha - A ring of fire that raises us from the misery of living.

It is a flame within, a tiny flame, a potent flame that can set the stage of life alight with Lord Nataraja, the King of dance. He has vigor in his movements and yet a calm in His eyes. He opens His third eye to burn the soul yet His hand rises in abhaya giving us reassurance. The flamboyance of His silent energy just makes the yajnopavita and the rudraksha sway to His gentle moves, to His enchanting presense. He has gentleness and warmth that can make the heart melt when one sets eyes on this form of the Lord. Locked in stone or metal, He shines with all His grace. Coated with dust on the outside but clarity of the being rules supreme. Gentle and tame on the outside but a brilliant flame of life engulfs us from within reminding us of His constant presence.

Such a perfect being, such beautiful imagery that has been painted, sculpted, drawn, sung about, written about and yet He is so difficult to come into our
reality. Such perfection that is forever there to stay. Such bliss that the mind rests even in trouble. Such sweetness that the world appears beautiful. Such brilliance that we can see beauty in life and appreciate it if only we make ourselves open to it.

Perfection is so undefined, yet we see it in Him, perfection is so unreachable yet faith in Him lends us that satisfaction. Perfection so unnoticed that He
sets us the examples to true and effective living. Perfection so unheard of that we need His presence to comfort us. Perfection is so unreal that we need Him to guide us into the unfamiliar world beyond this life.

Our life breath is a rhytm, one that we are never aware of, one that he creates with his damaru when we are born, our life is a saga, one that He preserves while we live these million births, our ego is our own enemy, one that He destroys and raises us into a new world merged within Himself, our path to heaven is through fire, a life that He destroys to bring us face to face with reality, our mind a whirlpool of ignorance, one that he smashes with His feet and lifts our helpless souls into His warmth.


There is so much more to Nataraja, there is so much more to Shiva, there is so much more to perfect living and no time to explore it. We are part of a man made rat race to higher living with assumed perfections that no one has defined or has a clue of. And all we have to guide us into that promised realm is a hint of the Lord locked into a silent dust coated metal sculpture out on display, the life of which is within us, unknown and untapped.