3.02.2009

Shakti Peetha, Chamundeshwari - Chamundi Hill, Mysore

Chamundi Hill, read the board as the car took the right to ascend the hill that overlooks the little town of Mysore. Civilization has since grown and is slowly replacing old world charm with new. As the car turns through hair pin bends, the mind looks over the landscape in anticipation of the Goddess, who has since resided here, ever since the previous yuga when Shakti destroyed herself and her hair fell here on this sacred ground.

My mind lingers over the twists and turns in my life that made me come and visit the Goddess Chamundeshwari again. She brings an aura along with herself, that of shakti, of silence, of a slight uneasiness that over powers the mind. There is a mixed emotion to want to realize what great powers are preserved here which have now crystallized into a small temple for Chamundeshwari devi.


As we approach the entrance, I look at the steps leading up into a smaller entrance. Silver covers the doors, and transforms this whole ambiance into a totally different world. Goddesses of all kinds descend down onto the doors and bless the visiting Bhaktas, this is a theatrical moment as one walks in and the cool air breezing through the walls wakes us up to a heavenly world of beautiful Goddesses echoing the realm of Shakti Peetha. This Shakti peetha echoes of ancient cult practices, of vermilion kumkum smeared across the Goddess forehead and that of the fresh offering lying in waiting - that of an animal, of man, of me.

I closed my eyes and thought deep, I feel I have been here as I descended towards the balipeetha. The power of the Goddess beckons, and I swoon to its tune placing my head over the Balipeetha in complete surrender. Inscribed with the Goddess's feet in the center, this broad stone has felt the knife edge and has been bathed in blood, my blood. Blood flowed loose here, with human sacrifices that might sound chilling but when I place my head here, it doesn't feel wrong anymore! I am here to sacrifice myself, this life, this breath at the feet of the Goddess. What better death can I wish for as I lay my head here for the Goddess to severe and hold in her hand, as my blood flow down as an offering in her cup that she holds in her left hand. My mind I place here for her to control, to take as I merge into her!

As darkness took over I lay here, long ago, my head resting on this sacred stone at this small temple, the walls echoed with mantra bathing my being. As the fire in every oil lamp lit up this little temple, the Goddess residing at its center, descended to my side. Chamunda, in her original wild and untamed form came close and gently towards me, emaciated and present as the consort to Bhairava now sat close by and looks at me with loving eyes. As I lay across this Balipeetha I turned in to look at the Goddess within, the same Chamunda Devi put on a very tamed and warm exterior, decked in flowers and jewelery.

Among the bellowing flames that rise, the Goddess is invoked in sacred syllables that bring her power alive. As the holy water is sprinkled over me and my forehead is anointed with holy vermilion, I breathe slowly listening to the sacred words go by.

Lankayam Shankari devi, Kamakshi Kanchika pure|
Pradyumne Shrinkhala devi, Chamunda Krouncha pattane||

Invoking the Shaktis, Goddess Shankari Devi in Lanka, Kamakshi in Kanchipuram, Goddess Shrinkhala in Pradyumna and Chamunda Devi in Chamundi Hill...

The mind sinks into itself, the water trickles down my spine purifying me the sacrificial offering, and the oil lamps light up my face as the incense forms a gentle cloud of dancing celestial world around me. As I look up to the Mother dressed in a garland of skulls, the sweet notes of a conversation pierce the silence of the night.

Sanaischara Uvacha|

Bhagawan deva devesa krupaya thwam jagat prabho|
vamsakhya kavacham broohi mahyam sishyaya|
they anagha yasya prabhavath devesa Vamso vrudhir jayathe||

Oh God, Oh God of Gods, Oh Lord of the universe, please be kind and reveal that Armour to this faultless disciple of yours, which deals about family and by the power of which, the family will grow.

Soorya Uvacha|

Kantam rakshathu Chamunda hrudayam rakshathachiva|
Eesani cha bhujou raksheth kukshim nabhim cha kalika||

Let my neck be protected by Chamunda Devi
Let my heart be protected be her consort Bhairava Shiva
Let my arms be protected by Isana
Let my belly and navel be protected by Kalika Mata

I look up as the mantras rise, I stare up to the axe that waits, I look up to the Mother who holds me covered in vermilion, fearsome to all but warm and pleasant to me, a beautiful garland of skulls she wears, a garland of which I shall soon be a part. Oh Mother of Parasurama, Oh divine form of Kali, Oh divine daughter of the sage Mathanga, Oh Shambhavi divine consort of Lord Shiva, I give up my life to you, I offer my blood to you, I offer my breath to you. I merge into you.

With the rising tempo that echoes among these walls, this theatrical world creates this illusion as I pass from this world to the next. The shining tip of the axe lets loose and the Mother awakens my soul, as it rises up from this sacred stone, this sacred bed of mine, this balipeetha.

This Balipeetha stands here today, silent and cold. It was once my bed, it was once wet with my blood, on it long ago lay my corpse, on this stony bed my life was an offering. Am here I stand, wondering why, wondering what, wondering how.

Related topics:
A night with Nava Shakti - Chamunda
Chaunsath Yogini temple
The killing of Mahishasura on Vijayadasami
Ekapada Shiva - The one legged Shiva

Photo courtesy:

Virtual Tourist® ©1994-2009 VirtualTourist.com
Flickr.com: Sundari

22 comments:

YOSEE said...

scary visions! Perhaps it was the Jwalamukhi temple at the foot of chamundi hill that instigated such spine chilling visions in you ! Funny, but The Chamundeswari temple has always made me feel as if i'm bang in the middle of a birthing process. The many heavy-bellied cows that roam the environs may have something to do with it.The Lady,radiant with an all embracing grace announces herself to me as the mother of a thousand children ,gathering all into her comfortable bosom.Though called chamunda the terrible,she always seems "ayi jagato janani ".
( wonder why our distant ancestors felt that gods, the givers of life , would want to have it snuffed out for their own propitiation. Did bali satisfy the gods or satiate a primal need of the creators of The Creator?)

Kavitha said...

Scary is it? I dont know, the feeling was just great while i was writing the post.

If we love life so much we may never appreciate death!

PN Subramanian said...

You are an elavated being. Thank you.

YOSEE said...

That statement is intriguing Kavitha.Is it necessary not to love life in order to appreciate death ? My thoughts : This life, however illusory, is still a device originated by the Intelligent Design of the inscrutable Brahman. There obviously must be a reason behind this grand opera of maayaa-maya jagat. When one has been fully alive and sensate to the myriad joys and sorrows ordained for this embodied being and ripened from the experiences thereof,Death becomes a looked-forward -to adventure, a corollary or suffix to the running song.
Life & Death are more unitary than the 2 sides of the proverbial coin. If one is fire, the other is its heat. There is no divorce possible between a blossom and its fragrance. Ardhanariswaram does not entertain selective appreciation. The Left Part, with its life bearing womb and nurturing breast is as beautiful as the Right Part powdered with pyre ash.
Death will come when it must. "The ripe gourd will relinquish the tethering stalk." It is not really necessary to fixate on it in anticipation or create a macabre theater-noir out of it. Welcoming it with dignity and equanimity at arrival will suffice. In the meanwhile, we have glorious life to adore the Sivam with.
I guess our perspectives differ because of the age gap between us. You are seeing salad days. I have started Q4 audit ! :-)

Kavitha said...

Your words are beautiful, i have not heard or read anyone else who as painted death so beautifully as another positive experience.

If life is fire death is heat... that was just amazing.

Death has intrigued me a lot, and a lot more than life has for I feel "my salad days" have fast passed me by. I dont know whether age has anything to do with it because its not keeping up with the mind.

When you observe death as a part of life, then why is there fear in the method of death?

Why was that vision scary... when the mother herself comes and sits next to us (in the mind) why is the axe, the blood, and gore of any importance?

I dont know... if i was lucky enough to have such a vision at such a state, and i had to go through it to reach the mother... i would not feel fear. I would willingly let go...

Just a reflection on your lines... i dont think i perspectives differ but if it does, i dont know what i missed in your message.

YOSEE said...

I meant "scary" as in the casual-colloquial meaning of non-likeable or repulsive, not as in " fear ". There's nothing to fear. Right from the time i started thinking of things, i have felt that death is just another phenomenon inherent to life and living,to be taken as it comes. like say, the pimple or that old incovenience, the menopause. Have always been impatient with theories that seek to make a big hoo-haa about death. Much less enchanted with ideas of sacrifice and violent self extermination for a cause ( religious or secular). I cant say i am right, i may even be a borderline moron, but i like to dwell on happy, sunny and pleasant thoughts. Sivam is satyam and Sundaram ; I seek to colour my concepts with that.

As it is ,we live in a violent and ugly world, why introduce violence into imagined scenarios of our transitions when there is no way of knowing what death really is or feels like ( or was,in the previous instalment)
I guess there's no harm in hoping for the Mother to come and take me on a picnic without employing the butcher's cutlery.

My first comment was my instantaneous reaction to the so utterly contrasting emotion to mine, that you presented in the post.Having grown up in the shadow of Chamundi hills and having had an almost "fav.Aunt"-like relationship with chamundeswari, i found the visitor's view of her a bit surprising! Thats it. Anyway, to each, her own !

Kavitha said...

:) In complete agreement with you in the context that I would prefer the Mother or greater still Lord Shiva himself to come in a less violent form to raise me to higher worlds. At this moment i prefer natural death to violence.

The average visitor to Chamundi hill would never have had this outlook. Having read so much of the esoteric cult that surrounds the Saktas, and the weird rites/rituals of ancient tantricism that baffle me with every read, i tried to reconstruct those times back here atop this hill since this was a major tantric center and I do know that decapitation was a part of life.

I have never been able to pen down these thoughts though i have been intrigued by the whole idea.

You have read my thoughts out loud, of wanting a more colorful existence, but the "dark" side has intrigued me ever since i read the poetry of Karaikkal Ammaiyar who felt very comfortable in the cremation ground!

It was probably the first time i felt no bias, that bhakti can be felt anywhere and doesnt need a good/bad place for judgment.

YOSEE said...

Right, like I said, to each , her own. I take it we each understand what the other is saying. Your experience atop Chamundi was an exercise in Virtual Reality which left a deep impression on you. Good.

Just a thought though. “ Bias” (or prejudice) is not a word I would use in this situation. If done, then no glory can be adduced to Adi Shankara’s zealous mission of scooting around the country, installing anti-virus yantras in all shrines captured from Shakthas, Kapalikas and Tantriks, and re-configuring the Motherboard with more user friendly applications. What he did would then seem totally unnecessary. He could have let them be. It is more about evolution . From chaos to order, darkness to light, ugra to sowmya. The method employed does have , at least some, bearing on results achieved.

Karaikkal Ammayyar is revered for her soulful hymns . Her CV is an incidental curiosity to her output which is brilliant and lasting. The Pei-uruvam was her expression of righteous indignation at being denied her dharmic conjugal rights / desertion by her husband and a defense against tormenting lechers. It was a form she adopted as a workable ruse to her freedom from irritating attention, social expectations and other disturbances which would impede her pursuance of her goal. There we have a truly Emancipated Woman ! She, as pretty Punithavathi, was already a bhakthai of high order ( as evidenced by the mango miracle) and would have progressed quite well, travelling in the same path. It cannot be said with conviction that her haunting of crematoria with ghouls helped propel her to higher planes of realization faster or more efficiently. ( BTW, i was pleasantly surprised to see a carving of K.Ammaiyyar in Angkor, where no other Nayanars are found. ). These are just my thoughts and not intended to be a critique of your inquiry into the mysteries of death .

Kavitha said...

I really like the way you frame your thoughts, its refreshingly new.

anti virus yantras... lovely :)
From chaos to order, darkness to light, ugra to sowmya - ugra to sowmya > interesting perspective.
never thought of it that way

what you intended to portray comes out so clearly.

I am open to criticism from you as the clarity in your thought and maturity is really very very evident. More than anything else i am getting to learn a lot from you on perspective to life.

Am just glad my blog caught your attention and brings you back to spend some time here.

Rwitoja said...

Hi Yosee, Kavitha,
Really enjoyed reading this interaction between you two!Yosee some lines you have penned are just brilliant!Especially, the 'butcher's cutlery'and 'reconfiguring the Motherboard'.Your writing is absolutely rivetting.

Being born a Bengali,I am a Shakth ,though I don't really subscribe to being placed in these boxes with labels on them, especially when it comes to relating with my God. But Kali does occupy a special place in my heart and life. When we look at an image of Kali,the Kharaga in her hand signifies the 'Gyan chakshu'or the'Eye Of Knowledge'using which she cuts of the 'head'of the bhaktha which signifies the false personality or the ego.The head is the part of body which is used for identification.She is the Mother who leads us to the Father,and liberates us by destroying the false personality superimposed on us by Her maya.The 'kharaga'is usually shown with an eye painted on it.Many famous Shaktha sadhaks like Ramprasad ,Kamalakanto have interpreted 'bali'in this way.Other people have interpreted it differently.Anyway, She has created the world and its by Her will that everything happens in it.Spending time in the smashan is advised for sadhaks because it is here that Maya's power is weakest and comparatively easier to break through.The smashan is the abode of Mahakaal.

I look at life as a learning process.The soul takes a body and chooses a life and a set of experiences for itself.On and on it goes till we have lived through the entire gamut of experiences.There is nothing good or bad. If I am a priest in this life, I was or would be a thief or a murderer in some other.Death is the interval in between,when the soul assimilates the lessons learnt during life.We obtain liberation when all possible experiences have been lived through and the lessons have been learnt.Opting for voluntary death is rather like opting out of a course midway because of finding it too tough!It does'nt really help because the lessons HAVE to be learnt.

One of Sri Ramakrishna's disciples had committed suicide.He was highly advanced spritually.On being questioned about it,Thakur said ,that in this case suicide was'nt a 'mahapaap' or sin.He said that inside all of us is a golden 'pratima' or image which is covered by one made of clay.When one discovers the golden pratima it is all right to break the clay one.

workhard said...

Nice post, i was surfing to get some visuals on indian temples, these pictures are great.

Haiku Poems

JC said...

'I' am sorry if 'I' sound a bit 'tangential' - as my eldest of the three daughters calls both of us (her ten-year-old daughter and myself)...

With my background of study of 'Science subjects' for filling the belly, my search - based on personal experiences and attempts to read those between the lines' - has lead me to believe 'maya' to mean exactly what it means today to all of us when 'we' get lost while viewing a film, based on a fictitious story projected on a 'silver screen', or a TV/ PC monitor TV and experience a variety of emotions just as 'we' do in 'real' life...for the 'real God' is indicated by ancient 'wise yogis' to be formless and related with zero time and space...And, therefore, 'creation' and 'destruction' of the physical infinite universe (and also the unending words) to also be related with zero time and space...And the apparent present thoughts and related words also thus to be like 'action replays' of events that happened in no time ('Hari anant/ Hari katha ananta' and therefore many versions of the same event possible through different eyes based on exposure a given individual has) in the 'past' in the life of SHAKTI that is energy, which is indestructible (amrit) or immortal (Shiva)!

'Krishna' says 'death' of a physical form, and adopting different forms by the soul, is like change of old garments for new by the body...For a 'scientist' it is similar to switching of light of a projector and then switching it off a little later when the story ends!

JC said...

It's a well known 'geological' fact that our 'sunderam' (in Sanskrit) or 'beautiful' planet earth has 'fire in its heart', ie., molten rocks or magma about 2000 miles beneath the surface, closest under the Himalayas that help revive the top-soil for sustenance of a variety of 'life forms' by a volcano when it erupts and initially turns all existing life forms to ashes ("applied by Shiva on His body") in its wake...and there are innumerable volcanoes on the globe that are observed in detail by 'volcanologists' only and an average man therefore is unable to correlate it with 'Kal Bhairava' the young and still evolving 'Shiva' - although 'scientists' also know earth to have originally been a 'ball of fire'...defined by the four Cardinal directions (N-E-W-S), also expressed as Chamunda Devi the four-headed omnipresent Mother (originl represented by Moon as the essence that is 'satva', and also its essence believably housed in human heads too as its model)...and also as the believable 'four faces' of Brahma (which refer to our Sun as the unique energy provider, that works in conjunction with earth-moon for sustenance of innumerable life forms in a cyclic manner, eternally)...

Words are necessary for communication but any numbers might prove insufficient to help one realise the intended meaning as there is possibility of 'misinterpretation' by the reader - as reflected by innumerable paths possible to reach the particular goal in one's mind, eg., Columbus travelled in search of 'India' but reached America!

JC said...

A 'Hindu' perhaps should basically accept the concept of soul, a component of the Supreme soul ('paramatma'), within each physical form, which because of illusion appear different from one other due believably to illusion...and that each soul must pass through 8.4 million animal forms before it can apper in human form that alone is 'a model of the universe', or 'image of God'...and therefore 'bali' or sacrifice (or even 'natural death') was realised by Yogis as part of a 'grand design' by the unique formless 'Creator'...for 'death' of physical forms also reflect the general formula of the grand variety in 'Nature'...

In view of the above, in simple words, each one of us is just a temporary form/ image serving some useful purpose to the Formless...and thus geting fooled because of the variety and limited time allotted to us in an unending cycle of death/ rebirth due to lack of overall knowledge (as 'Krishna' also indicates cause of 'wrong doings' due to lack of it)...

YOSEE said...

Rwitoja, i too belong to your club which swears by the credo that it is pointless to drop-out midway, because " lessons will be taught till they are learnt" We can do without arrears !
It was enlightening to read the pacific shaktha view, that sees Kali's sword and its decapitating action as an allegory of exterminating the ego.I feel this is a modern reading of the icon, perhaps less than 200years old. Before our sensibilities got altered with exposure to worldviews,before we felt it necessary to tone down the raw, the primal and the wrathful to a more civil symbolism that matched our changed circumstances, the bloodthirsty khadga was taken as just that,a bloodthirsty scimitar. And the action was replayed faithfully countless times ,as bali, in all earnestness.The beauty of our non-organised religion is that it is organic,renewable and and allows endless re-definition to meet the spiritual needs of any plane of intellect in any circumstance, and yet points to the same destination that always was,is and will be.

I found Sri Ramakrishna's take on self-extermination,even if in special cases only, rather startling.The only case of ritualistic suicide i'd heard of is the Santhara of Jain Munis.

( am unable to fathom how smashan is seen as relatively maya-free when the endless succession of births and deaths, the whole chain( movie, popcorn breaks,all) is considered illusory.If it is for the inbuilt "do not disturb" tag, then the old favourite -forest, is as good as a smashan, no ?)

JC said...

Hi all, Regarding 'suicide', 'I' would like to say that the 'vedantic concept' of existence of a Formless, unique supreme being, and rest all physical forms as illusory, 'images of God'/ 'model of universe' conveys all temporary life forms to, in fact, continue to commit 'suicide' (God HImself killing His own images - like human beings breaking glass mirrors/ photographs that reflect their own 'ugly appearing' images)!

Maybe, 'Sati pratha' among Rajputs in Rajasthan at a certain historical stage could also be considered as committing 'suicide', just as the mythological stories also indicate how Sati committed suicide on account of insult to her consort, Shiva...although Raja Ram Mohan Roy became instrumental in laying down laws to ban the ritual practice (that still happen even today - one would say on account of lax administration though - but, perhaps due to will (design) of Shiva the Destroyer!)

And, also one finds how some virtually commit 'suicide': when a diabatic is unable to restrain from consumption of rossogollas; or a smoker cannot keep away from 'prohibited drugs' (the 'forbidden fruit'?); and so on...although efforts are apparently on since ages to increase the life-span of human form - perhaps inspired by Shiva the immortal as reflected by the ever expanding universal void and physical world as the prototype!?

JC said...

Regarding 'smashan' or cremation ground being considered by thinkers and philosophers as 'maya proof', here it is intended to convey momentary realisation, called 'smashan vairag', among relatives and friends of the deceased, about the futility of one participating in the apparent 'rat race' generated by the desire to accumulate material more than actually required for day-to-day life when one knows that some day one would be obliged to quit empty-handed...and the material collected by one at times could become a source of unhappiness for the kith and kin...But, one forgets it when one is back home...

Perhaps it is akin to a piece of wood flowing in a river - with the sea as its ultimate goal - close to the banks, away from the 'middle path/ stream' and thus gets attached to the earth on the bank(s) instead...for an 'average person' either doesn't know or forgets one's goal...'Krishna' indicates the only purpose of human life is to seek the Formless as well as Gods with forms...as realised by 'wise ancients' and advice carried forth in the Gita...

Rwitoja said...

Hi Yosee,
Kali is worshipped in 'Bama '(left) and 'Dakhkhina'(right) forms in Bengal.Bama is the fiercer form and Dakhkhina the gentler one.I do not know whether Dakhkhina is new but I dont really think it is.Ramprasad and Ramakrishna were poor villagers in 19th century Bengal.I do not know how much of world view they would have imbibed.

About the Kharaga in Kali's hand ,so many of our Gods carry so many weapons.Even Ganesh in his Vir Vighnesh form is heavily armed and his consort Vallabai devi carries a sharp sword. Do they all signify violence literally?

About'sowmya' being ahead in the evolutionary scale than 'ugra',is it really so?It's the Lord who became the world and is whatever there is.So He is as much the storm as the calm after the storm.The 'ugra 'does not shun His terrible and destructive aspects and so it is a more inclusive and complete view.Kali is both a nurturing Mother and a destructive force.In Gita,
Arjuna is terrified when he sees the Lord's Virat roop, because it includes his terrible aspects as well.Along with the devatas, the demons also can be seen and also the dead and dying warriors.

The smashan is advised for sadhaks,because Maya has programmed us to be repelled by death.We might accept it on a mental level,but deep down there is an unwillingness to accept it in its finality.Spending time in the smashan.with all the paraphernalia of death around,helps the sadhaks to overcome the repulsion,horror which death evokes and to accept it as the natural and inevitable outcome of life.It is formatting and reprogramming of the brain.Hence all those aghori and tantric practices which the 'civilzed' society finds so abhorrent.

Rwitoja said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JC said...

Hi Rwitoja, 'Ugra'/ 'Soumya' that is 'violent'/ 'peaceful' forms of devtas from a scientific view-point could perhaps in a simple form also be realised/ visualised with the knowledge of 'natural' evolution of wild animals to domesticated pets, such as a wolf to a dog, or tiger to a cat, and so on...and earth as fire ball to the beautiful planet earth...

For a 'Hindu', that which remains unaffected by passage of time was understood as the 'Truth'...

Even today, a volcanologist while describing a volcano calls its crater as volcano's mouth, the red flame that gets projected from the crater in a volcano that is under eruption is called its tongue (Kali's red tongue?).

And when the magma spills over the crater, it starts flowing down the side of the volcano and in its wake burning whatever comes in its path: trees, animals, houses, humans...which can be called as the 'ugra' form of 'Kali'. And, the hot molten rocks that have spilled over in the beginning appear red and turn black (kali)when it cools down after coming in contact with air. And, if it flows into some source of water, say a sea, the material explodes, like Diwali crackers...
Perhaps the above might help realise why 'wise ancients' in Bengal called Diwali as 'Kali Puja'...when 'anars' (as models of a volcano) are lighted and crackers exploded...

The magma that had originally acted as a destructive force, after it cools down, enriches the top-soil that helps richer growth of plant life and sustain animals and humans dependent on those...

Even a near-earth asteroid could perhaps be visualised as a weapon of the devtas when, and if, it hits the earth, as it does often from time to time and creates craters...in fact, moon's surface is full of such pock-mark-like craters. It is interesting to learn that the 'wise ancients' had realised 'man as a model of the universe' and a 'scientist' perhaps is better placed to appreciate how models help understand behaviour of the prototypes...One can thus imagine anar that is pomegranate as a model of a volcano!

Sandy Shaw said...

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Param Shakti Peeth

Rishikesh Arumugham said...

Is this the Jwala Mukhi temple also called Chamudeswari ? The God here Siva is called Sankara Rameswarar ?? Please let me know , i need to visit this place. Earnestly waiting for your reply.