Mysteries of a Siddhapith - Journey into Tarapith

I have never seen a more brimming tantrik locality up so close and Tarapith is in every word a land of intrigue, secrecy and divinity. With the break of day, what hits the eye is a glow of red everywhere in this busy little street that leads up to the temple. Red signifying the mother's presence in the hibiscus flowers, red in all the spiritual paraphernalia out on sale, red in the attire of the so called divine pandits who cloud the entrance to the main temple, red in the tilak or sindhur that is slapped on our foreheads and red on the walls of these ancient temples.

Tarapith is a busy little town, dirty and rural and there is just one road that leads up there from our urban world. This is the old rural Bengal, hardly visible in Kolkata though streaks of this lifestyle can be seen at Kalighat. And of course, I was well on my way to one of the most secretive locations of high tantrik activity with nothing to stop me! This was a trip I had been waiting for...for ages.

The spell of Tarapith is something different. This is the only place, to my knowledge, that potentially has no rules or restrictions. I found myself gliding into every forbidden territory without anyone stopping me. This was freedom of a different kind and believe me, for the first time I experienced the meaning of fearlessness from the tantrik perspective.

This school of thought defined by tantra, mantra and yantra that is so mystical and at the same time obvious in every Indian home is still such an undefined theory and yet so powerful. While nothing is apparent, and we do not get instant results for every ritual performed, the very power that governs the aura here doesn't leave room for doubt or the desire to test it. The green countryside of Bengal leads up to this red laden land, where every person looks at us in curiosity because we stand apart so much and in some cases, we appear to be the answer to their attempts of making a quick buck.

And I soaked myself in all this, while delighting myself with all the small ritual objects that sell in these little shops, and dipped into the traditional dish of luchi with alu torkari. It was easy to understand the first half of the visit, we just followed the crowd that led up to the temple. We crossed over the shops, bought a garland of bright red hibiscus and walked up to the main temple door to be met by a sleepy policeman who barely bothered to check us.

The only disgusting element of Tarapith was the level of corruption that beat every other place, be it Jagannath Puri, Kalighat or Lingaraj temple Bhuvaneshwar or the south. We were literally nabbed by a swarming bunch of brahmin priests with no sense of self respect or dignity. They were beggars, selling bits of mantra at a price, and that too came very cheap [Rs 10/-]. While I was a victim of this disgust, I managed to fight my irritation back and kept my focus glued to the Mother, but when the priest demanded money for just entry into the main sanctum, with no other way out of the temple, my hatred towards my race increased even more. It was so much the wrong feeling to have at the temple.

Despite the madness, despite the corruption, despite the money sucking brahmin priests who wouldn't leave our side up to the end, despite the demand for more dakshina at every step leading up to the main sanctum, the first sight of Ma Tara quite makes us forget everything. 

She is welcoming, warm and yet she is defiant of rules. She gives a feeling of freedom, seated on her throne decorated in red hibiscus flowers and at the same time has an aura of the wild depicted by the permanent circle of blood around her mouth with a lolling tongue. She is peaceful and has this power that surrounds her, she is so distant and untouched despite the chaos created by the men around her. She sits there with disheveled hair, matted locks that are so heavy and wet to touch. Her face shines in silver, with blood red sindhur always covering her forehead. Her eyes are powerful and yet there is this vast difference between our world and hers and that is so visible in her knowing smile as she watches us through this imaginary curtain of maya that separates her from us.

Truly, our worlds are so different. Ma Tara, the mysterious Goddess of the Shamshan ghat, the secret mother of the night is awake and alive at day break within this sacred shrine at Tarapith, to just remind us of this imaginary world we live in, blanketed by a web of rules.

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Divinity born from the depths of the ocean

The Great Preserver, the Lord who sleeps in Anantha Sayanam, the Lord who dwells in the cosmic ocean blessed this Yuga with sacred emblems of faith from the depths of the cosmic ocean of life.

It was in the ancient seas that a sacred log came floating back to shore, a log that was referred to as Daru in the Rig Veda. No one knows the origin of this piece of wood but it has powers, powers that could rule the world. It came ashore along the eastern coastline of India, finding its home within the topography of Shankha Kshetra. 

Subsequently it is believed, as the days of the great Buddha came to an end, his bones and teeth were buried within the sacred Stupas, a symbolism that depicted his Samadhi. One piece of tooth enamel is believed to have been embedded within this sacred log of wood. And this mysterious log of wood now became the center of worship not just for Hindus but also the Buddhists.

It is very rare, that the earth gets sanctified and carries on its surface the topography of a conch shell as rare as the Dakshinavarta Shankha. This rare form, with its south facing opening marks the land up to a distance of 10 miles along the coastline. It is believed only 40% of this sacred earth is accessible while the rest has been absorbed by the sea.

What possibly could the mysteries of this land be, to which four* of the greatest faiths that shaped this country stake a claim, where an ancient log of wood is most revered, and where mysterious temples sprung up to define the sacred contours of this holy land.  

This is the land of Jagannatha, the sacred soil of Puri that marks the iconic emblems of Lord Vishnu. This sacred earth is defined by Lord Shiva as Lokanatha and Nilakantha at its apex, followed by 8 other Shiva shrines that mark this land. The form of this Shankha is defined by 7 concentric folds, the first and the innermost being the navel of the Shankha, at the seat of which resides the sanctum of Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra.

This land is a representation of the heavens on earth, starting with the main temple of Lord Jagannatha that has 9 gates leading towards it. 4 gates in the cardinal directions lie along 2 boundary walls that surround the temple and one that leads towards the ethereal realm beyond. There are little intertwined streets that lead from the temple up to 114 other sanctified residences and Tirthas that surround this great temple.

This land that surrounds Puri is called Shankha Kshetra, that surrounding Bhubaneshwar is the Chakra Kshetra, Jajpura is the Gada Kshetra and Konark is the Padma Kshetra. This makes the land around this coastline conceptually powerful though when we descend into its real world, the Brahmin corruption kills every pulse of divinity on this earth.
And yet the air is powerful, the feel is mystical, the architecture is supreme and faith is unlimited. This is the land that gave birth to great poets and saints like Jayadeva and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. But slowly and surely with the chaos of today and the lack of understanding of this sacred divinity, in these times this faith is dying a slow death. 

Om Na Mo Na Ra Ya Na Ya

* [Vaishnavism, Tantricism, Buddhism, Jainism]

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Essence of Kali Puja

When we think of the pujas, the first thoughts are about the exotic pandals, the larger than life idols, the noise and the fine clothes people drape themselves in for the evening. But is this really what the pujas are about? Would anyone spend so much money to erect these exotic residences only to house a set of clay idols on a brightly lit stage? Clay is definitely not an ancient mechanism to pave the way to the spiritual world of the Goddess. So what exactly are we missing that is the main element of this worship?

Observing the decoration, my eyes traveled from the sculptural marvel to the potency at the feet of the clay idols. There "it" stood, a tantrik representation of the Goddess, what looked curious to my ignorant self but started making a lot of sense as the evening progressed. The structure was simple, covered with a cloth and decorated with vilva leaves and hibiscus flower garlands. At its feet were scattered a lot of marigold in offering. On one side was a loaded chilum and on the other side was a curious arrangement of small pots and darbha grass tied into the shape of a triangle with a rectangular piece resting over it. The central tantrik shrine had a shoot rising out of it that held bangles. All this was curiously enclosed within a fence of 4 sticks in the 4 corners tied together with a red thread. Next to this was lit an oil lamp glowing quietly in this flood lit stage.  

And then the priest walked in, an old man dressed in red, symbolizing the colors of the divine Mother. This was the opportune moment to rush up to him and ask him all that I could possibly know. And slowly I began to discover the mysterious tantrik representation.

What lay hidden beneath the cloth was the traditional kalash, a pot containing sacred water with possibly a dash of rose water to add fragrance to it. Above it was placed a coconut, not in the traditional kalash representation with its outer fiber removed, but horizontally with its green outer cover intact with the stalk rising out of it. This held the bangles of different kinds, red glass bangles followed by that of shankha [shell] and iron [loha]. There was a pot of water on one side and above it was darbha tied with red thread forming a triangle, possible a yantra representation of the Goddess. Above it was a rectangular wooden piece with a mirror embedded with Swastika painted on it. Above that was placed a perforated pot. While the puja would have had many more ingredients in place like Panchagobbo [5 extracts of the cow], Panchasashya[5 food grains], Panchapallab [5 varieties of leaves] etc. my interest floated towards the meaning of this arrangement which, to the common man outside of Bengal, would have looked curiously new. 

The theory behind this arrangement was wonderful as the priest explained it. Water is poured into the perforated pot at regular intervals to bathe the form of the goddess. The water flows over the mirror which reflects her form in the clay idol standing in front, symbolically bathing her as it trickles into the pot below. At anytime, the Divine mother can be viewed through the mirror. A loaded chillum is offered along with incense next to the oil lamp. All other items are lined up to be offered during arti.

And then the dholak began, rhythm so profound that it could send anyone into a trance. My feet tapped the floor as I clapped following the beats and my heart danced into the night with the three mothers. It was the best Kali Ma arti I had ever seen! The beats grew stronger and faster and the priests held up the fire, dancing in divine trance as they showed the great mother the flame. Fire was followed by the fan, choury, shankha, mud pots with food offering, sindhur chubri with a small mirror, comb, bangles etc and sweets, bananas, and finally the dhoop. The evening came to an end and the drumming halted making us realizing how deafening this trance really was. Kali Ma worship came to a close as man and divinity slowly came out of their spiritual trance.


The dance of ecstasy in divine embrace

The average panditji performs puja as a part of their job, with offerings and mechanical movements that displays their years of practice into the ritualistic worship of the divine. Corruption has been seen far and wide and nothing gets done without a few notes into their plate of offerings. The lack of divine love is very visible at temples where priests do not allow devotees a closer view of the shrine until money does the talking. And hence faith tends to die its natural death because the keepers of the faith have now begun to sell the treasure they have preserved for so long.

All this changes when we visit the pandals of Kali puja. The thick air of corruption is pierced with the divine arrow of trance. This trance takes us back into the wild intriguing world of Ma Kali. The clay idols model her presence in her divine feminine form and the kalash with the coconut define her iconic presence. The curiosities that are offered along with it give a hint into a world beyond our imagination.

The crowd slowly gathered for the evening arti to the Goddess kali. There within the pandal she stood in her three forms, Kali Ma of kalighat, Kali Ma of Dakhineshwar and Kali Ma of Tarapith. I drifted into this beautiful world and took a seat at the feet of the Goddess, realizing suddenly that I had no plans to leave in a hurry.

The sun dipped behind the clouds to wake up the night sky and the stage where this celebration would soon commence. The priest lit up the divine light to the Goddess and started with the offerings. In the divine world, the smoke of chillum rose into the air and the sacred syllables of divine chant were slowly heard echo through the heavens. The Goddess is alive, her feet adorned with anklets gracefully descended to the floor as she stepped into this wild world to perform her dance. In rhythmic movement she moved herself, her disheveled hair dancing to her tunes as she raised the dust around herself. In the cremation ground she rules and the lights of the fires dot the floor where she dances and blesses the dead in their last journey home. Bhaktas give up their lives in divine love, sacred blood turns the bali peetha into red and fire forms the path to the world of eternal divinity. Ma Kali brings life to the night with her rhythm, her trance, her intoxicating presence.

Back in our world, the drum beats echoed through the floor as the priests alight their positions on the stage. The Dholak thundered through the pandaal and the drunken fervor raised the intensity of divine intoxication. The rhythm soared and with it the priests went into a trance. Ma Kali's arti began that evening with the joy of celebrating her presence and her victory over all evil. The rhythm thundered on and everyone present there danced to the beat, a wild dance of love and devotion as the priests proceeded with the arti. My feet tapped the floor as I clapped following the beats and my heart danced into the night with the three mothers.

It is the best Kali Ma arti ever! The beats grew stronger and faster and the priests held up the fire, dancing in divine trance as they showed the great mother the flame. Fire was followed by the fan, choury, shankha, mud pots with food offering, sindhur and divine beauty articles in a soop, sweets, bananas, and finally dhoop. The priest moved with the beat, in complete devotion making each offering with love. His steps followed that of the divine mother, his body turned into an expression of divine love and he could no longer contain himself. In divine trance he danced on with the mother culminating the arti into an art of love and divine intoxication.

The evening came to an end and the drumming subsided making us realizing how deafening this trance really was. Kali Ma worship came to a close as man and divinity slowly came out of their spiritual trance.


Memoirs of a Diwali evening - From glittering gold to drunken fervor.

Light and fire crackers rise into the sky on 2 occasions, during Diwali and during Karthikey Deepam. On the evening of Karthikey Deepam, here are a few memories of Diwali this year...

The silence of the afternoon broke with the first sounds of fireworks that lit up the evening. It was another Diwali and the evening looked exactly the same, that of Chennai didn't differ much from that of Kolkata. And yet there was a pulse in the Kolkata air that made a slight but significant difference to my outlook of Diwali this year.

The evening was glittering gold with the brilliance of bright light glowing out of the ghee and oil lamp that was lit up to awaken the Goddess Lakshmi and welcome her into our home as our sacred guest for the evening. To add to this glitter were the tiny lights that hung down like a curtain of light all over our apartment. There was light everywhere, as fire crackers began to spring up into the night sky and shimmered the darkness away. Goddess Lakhsmi had arrived in all her finery, in her brilliance bringing the light of a thousand suns now expressed in colorful fire crackers, diyas, candles and strings of lights hanging down our walls. The power of gold and prosperity could be sensed everywhere and could be seen dotting the otherwise dark cityscape.

Worship commenced, as the lamps were lit, and we broke into song praising the goddess for her generosity. Every sign of prosperity was expressed in offering and experienced, good food, delicious sweets, new clothes were the highlight with the profound moment of thanks giving to the Goddess for blessing us with comfort this far. And then the crackers rolled out. While old fire cracker styles gave way to new colorful glitter that sparkled across the dark sky we watched in awe looking at the spectacles of light and the creativity involved in their make based on the entertainment quotient. I wonder how many people looked at this fire crackers as a fun element and how many realized this is the symbolism of the beauty of goddess Lakshmi, shining in all her beauty with every light that formed streaks across the night sky.  

And then the sounds slowly died away. That of the fire crackers was now replaced by the rhythmic beat of the drums and the Shankh. This was the pulse of Kolkata, strangely missing in the buzzing city of Chennai. The Arti for Goddess Kali, the mother of the night had now begun.

At midnight we crawled down to the closest pandaal we could find. There within her home she shined in the flood light, her blue aura covered the stage as her red hands raised the sickle getting ready to strike. This was a completely different experience. The drums resounded, and the crowd went berserk, dancing in a trance making no difference between the people who bounced around in drunken hysteria. My heart jumped too, as my prayer of the evening had been answered. I finally managed to get to the scene of spiritual high. But I wished this was at Kalighat.

Blessed with the darshan of the great Mother, Ma Kali, I watched the crowd praise her calling out her name. I sat straight backed on my chair looking up to her, while my heart jumped around with the same fervor. Tonight was my night, my moment with Goddess Kali and no one could take this experience away. The drums beat in my ears, the smoke rose into the air, the diya light grew bigger and I danced in my heart.

The power of light continued to glow within the safe haven of my home while the brilliant goddess of the night, Ma Kali danced to her victory in my heart, killing the darkness of my ignorance within my being. All the Goddesses have come to us, all of them were invited to this beautiful night. While Ma Saraswati and Ma Lakshmi resided at home, within the warmth of ordered living, Kali danced the night out, in her wilderness, in her form as Chamunda and I was there to feel her presence around me.

To the great goddess, the divine mother, I bow and worship thee enjoying the thrill of thy sacred dance of victory. 

Photo courtesy: blogs.myspace.com


The miracle at Manimahesh peak, Chamba

In Rabbinical literature from the scene of the Law-giving, there are different names that have been attributed to the Mountain of Horeb, the sacred peak under whose shadow Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. Etymologically speaking, the name Horeb is thought to mean Glowing Heat which could reference the Sun. The alternative name given to this peak is Sinai, a name derived from Sin, alias the Moon God who is a Sumerian deity. Among other names, are the Mountain of Elohim and Mountain of Yhwh, but the peak finally settled with the name of the Mountain of Horeb while the land around it is called Sinai, and in Hebrew literature, this is referenced as a desert. 

Let’s go back to the moment, when the Lord appeared in front of Moses in the form of a burning bush and gave him the Ten Commandments of good living. Moses saw this bright fire while he was tending his sheep. Working back on what this vision would have been, Moses would have seen an extremely bright light on the peak of the Mountain of Horeb, a blinding light that glowed on him as the sacred rules came forth. What a miraculous moment in time it was, experienced by Moses and recorded for posterity. Further in this story as referenced in the bible, the Israelites came to camp at Rephidim after the Exodus from Egypt. Moses watched his people suffer from thirst and by the Grace of God and His command, he smote water from a rock on Horeb, and there is believed to be this rising oasis of water in this bleak region that surrounds the Sacred Mountain. 


Lost in deep mountains of the Himalayas, in the steep undulating landscape of Himachal Pradesh near the village of Bharmour, Chamba district is a mountain of equally great value. Proclaimed to be a replica of the great mountain of Kailash, this peak rises up into the landscape delivering a majestic view of itself. Gigantic in form that almost reduces us to mere ants in its monumental presence, this peak rises up into the sky draped in the white robes of the glacier that covers it. And right there, at its foot is the Shiv Kund, the natural lake that mimics the Mansarovar at the foot of Kailash Parvat.

The vision of this peak and the landscape around it as well as the value of sacred lore that covers it make this experience a lot more worth while. Apart from the treacherous trek of 13 kms up-slope following narrow paths along these steep slopes, the view of this Mountain is what we received when we finally reach the foot of Manimahesh Mountain, and this is a divine treat for all the hard work.   
The Lord's grace works in strange ways. While Moses had the opportunity to see the Grace of the Lord in what is referenced as a burning bush of fire, this piece of paradise in Chamba promises similar grandeur. The serenity of this location, in poetic terms is known to showcase the many aspects of Lord Shiva. In the backdrop of the blue sky, dotted with clouds that seem like celestial beings floating and gracefully dancing around, this peak mirrors itself in the reflection visible in the sacred Kund that stand directly below it. What a presence it has and what a view it is for us to imbibe.

They say that when the sky is clear, on a starry night, the moonlight falls on the white glacier of this peak and the reflection of it in the Shiv Kund below appears like the very Lord Shiva is seated here, draped in light with the same crescent moon on his forehead, glowing as it were on the peak of Manimahesh mountain. The moon, as it adorns this peak, appears like a sparkling jewel, alias Mani, which glows in the night sky giving this mountain its name - Manimahesh.

But what happens the next morning is an even more breath taking view. Strange at it is, the direction for the view and the location of the mountain with the Shiv Kund at is feet, is a magical placement to bring us one of the most divine spectacles of life. People flock to Manimahesh to catch a glimpse of this miracle, which in my mind equals that of what Moses saw on the sacred mountain of Horeb.

During the months of August and September, people scale these great slopes of the Himalayan foothills to reach this mountain and be granted this view. The idea is to wake up early and catch the first glimpses of the sun as it rises. And then the divine world strikes its chord. In the early hours of the morning, as the sky begins to slowly brighten up, this great mountain stands in front, as a silhouette to the phenomenon that is about to unfold. The day brightens slowly, and as we face east to view this great wall of earth, the first glimpse of the Sun God we receive is from the pinnacle of this mountain. As time passes by, and the light glows into the horizon, the sun rises up in dazzling light, like a blazing diamond glowing in its supreme self at the peak of Manimahesh, blinding us and blessing us with this experience. At this moment, the Mani on Lord Shiva's head shines out far more in brilliance like a thousand suns glowing in the morning sky presenting us this absolutely spectacular view. 

This divine experience, this breathtaking view is one such example that showcases the miracles of the supreme in its own strange way, making us relive the presence of Lord Shiva during our earthly existence. This is reality in our terms and this divine experience is not hard to come by, it just needs to be discovered!

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The Rebel Saints of Shaivism

History has showcased many types of Bhaktas who have searched for Lord Shiva through their lives. They have taken to different schools of thought and within Shaivism itself we see these variants. While the Pasupatas live in silence and mysterious solitude, the aghoris lead a esoteric lifestyle too far to fathom. 

And then there are the popular saints who have defined Shaivism for the ordered society. While Kannappa Nayanar and Karraikkal Ammaiyar found place in the list of 63 Nayanars, Adi Shankaracharya rephrased the laws of divine worship to the society we know today and this tradition has come down to us as accepted, agreeable and conformist to today's social principles. There are the other great poets and mystic writers like Sundarar, Thirugnanasambandar, Thirumular and Manikkavachakar who turned their love for Lord Shiva into divine rhythmic poetry and defined the Shaiva Siddhantas and continued to propagate worship as we know it.

Few have lived in our times, rekindling the laws of spiritualism during their lives. While Paramacharya Sri Chandrasekhar Swamigal brought back the joys of good living, humility and renunciation to the throne of the Shankara at Kanchi Mutt, Ramana Maharishi keeps the fire growing at Thiruvannamalai. And so Shaivism was defined, while Lord Shiva himself defines the truth of the self without the presence or the need of ordered society, we, who are within this system have tried to tame the wild side of Shaivism into the claws of social acceptance.

Little do we know that there was a movement of Shaivism that rocked the social landscape around the 11th century A.D. and this firey sect came to life as the Virashaivas more commonly known as the Lingayats. Few have been taught the path of spiritualism re-described by this sect for these great Kannada poets of the Virashaiva sect preached Shaivism without social rules or discrimination towards the weaker sex. Unlike the Brahmana order where women do not hold equal seat as men, in the Virashaiva order, Lord Shiva is accessible to all. Gender didn’t matter and society was always scorned for its hypocritical ways.

The Vachanas of Basavanna, Mahadeviakka and Allama Prabhu have resounded through the ages, bringing rebellion into conformist lifestyle. I am a rebel, and as I understand the suffering of these great saints in a small way, and I have come to love them for their thirst for the real truth. I remain speechless as I realize how much they have lived their lives fighting society and its many rules and finally have found freedom in the power of Shiva Bhakti.

Lord Shiva played with their minds, he was the unattainable supreme power to some and the elicit lover to some others. They lived their lives in the perennial game of hide and seek, looking for the Lord everywhere within and beyond. They defied the rules of ordered living, scorned at society for its misguided rules and even reduced the achievements of great tantriks and siddhas to ash.

This sect of great gurus, these super saints in their own right, describe spiritualism to be a lonely road beyond the powers of occult worship and warn of self destructive egoism with every candy bar of siddhis achieved. They awaken us to the fact that yoga gets us a superior body, alchemy achieves superior metal, knowledge and vedas give us superior control over a beautiful string of words, tantra achieves superior physical love but the spirit of Shiva Bhakta is scarcely available in any of these methods.

Quoting from "Speaking of Siva" translated by A.K.Ramanujan [Page 147]

The Vachana of Allama Prabhu goes as follows...

With your alchemies,
you achieve metals,
but no essence.

With all your manifold yogas,
you achieve
a body, but no spirit.

With your speeches and arguments
you build chains of words
but cannot define the spirit.

If you say
you and I are one,
you were me
but I was not you.

Drastic though this school of thought may sound to the ordered social environment we live in, I would believe this is meant for superior souls who have already been blessed with spiritual insight. For the lesser mortals like me who still struggle with the basics of spiritualism, siddhis and perfect yoga seem miles away in my list of spiritual achievements. Where does one like me go in search of the Lord in this vast spiritual landscape where every powerful thought I conquered only raises another question on my beliefs formed so far? 

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Talking to God in the Mother Tongue
A.K. Ramanujan


Analogy of the Tree of Life

The Tree of Life was first planted by Asoka as the backbone on which his edicts were inscribed, a code of conduct that engraved the principles of dharma presented for evolved living to the common man. Back then, the earth was dug open ceremoniously with great honor and respect, and a pot with pure water was laid inside it signifying the cosmic ocean over which this great stone edict was hoisted. With this started a new beginning, faith was reborn and the principles of good living were declared to the masses.

This was how Asoka had envisioned it, during the birth of the Buddhist era. The pot signifies the constant presence of the cosmic ocean, undying and enriching, sustaining all of life that flourishes across this land. This principle never died and through these ages, it took shape in different ways across regions. Hinduism adopted the essence of this principle, and extended the philosophy of water cosmology not just into its temples and art forms but into is life style and ritual as well.

Temples boasted this principle along their walls. The Bhiti [walls] was an elaborate canvas that displayed great Gods in their iconic representations seated or standing within their niches. The tree of life has been depicted as an elaborate decorative pot oozing with the cosmic waters supporting all of life, life that was blessed by the divine parent Lord Shiva and Parvati. These pillared examples, depicted deities as well as architectural structures that rose out of this pot of cosmic water.

Ritual brings out this very same principle by representing all of divinity in the sacred waters of the pot that is the main deity, pulsating with life during the course of the ritual. The Kalasha, brimming with sacred water, capped by mango leaves, signifying the king of all trees, holds a coconut in the center which in reality holds water within itself, signifying the larger principle of the tree of life rising out of its natural cosmic waters. 

These various representations of the tree of life, celebrate the miracle of life in Hindu mythology as the birth of Brahma in the center of tender lotus petals that bloom out of the navel of Lord Vishnu who floats in the cosmic ocean. This deep rooted law of life, curiously depicted by Lord Vishnu and Brahma is a representation of life as we see it in reality within the womb of the mother. The womb is the shell within which lies the cosmic waters, self generated miraculously by Shakti to house the unborn, the pulsating tree of life that is floats in this ocean, sustained by the lotus stem of the umbilical chord.

And then... the pot breaks, transitioning life from one realm into the next. The waters of the sacred Kalasha are sprinkled all over the house and its respective family members, as it soaks them in its divine blessings and transitions them to evolved living symbolically. In reality, the mother delivers her new born into this world transitioning it towards the next realm amidst much pain.

But all pots breaking may not result in happy endings, though they depict transition from one realm to a different realm. This is another journey to be done, another transition to be crossed. When life has come its full way, and all the waters of life drain out of the physical body, what remains behind is the corpse that awaits it final journey. Be it burial or be it cremation, the dead lie facing north/south and the final rites are performed.

Three rounds of circum-ambulation depict the transition of consciousness from one state to the next. With each round, a hole is punched into an unburnt earthen pot that releases this precious cosmic water that flows out gently around the dead, signifying the cosmic ocean at the center of which they lie asleep, awaiting to be woken up into the next realm. With the third hole punched, all of the cosmic waters are released, signifying the opening of the third eye of the dead for an enlightening journey ahead to the next world. With this life in our reality moves on and the pot now empty is broken to transition the soul to the next realm.

This journey doesn’t end here, for it is blessed with the glorious representation of the inner truth of the immortality of life, celebrating the journey of the soul in the presence of the trinity at this hour. A simple earthen clay pot carries much significance in the ritual representation of this transition of the soul, be it in the echoes of the sacred Asoka edicts or be it the loud cries of a mother in labor, life is born again.

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Photo courtesy: Kerala Murals


Invocation to Goddess Lakshmi - Part 2

Om Prabhaayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is radiant like the sun, surrounded by a golden hue she glows like a thousand brilliant suns.

Om Chandra Vadanaayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is moon faced, composed and subtle in her beauty and is the virtue of goodness.

Om Chadraayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is like ambrosia, like the sacred moon in the night, subtle energy that prevails within me.

Om Chandra Sahodaryai namaha: I bow to Her, who is also considered the second moon that rose out of the ocean of milk when the great Gods were churning it.

Om Chaturbhujaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the four armed who is the personification of supreme truth

Om Chandra Roopayai namaha: I bow to Her, moon faced ever radiant Goddess Lakshmi who is luminous to all.

Om Indiraayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is seated on a golden lotus throne in the Ocean of nectar

Om Indusheetalaayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is ever bright like the sun, who is sacred ambrosia like the moon, who is the power that rules our minds, who frees us from all our sins.

Om Aahlaada Jananyai namaha: I bow to Her, the source of all happiness who rules this universe and brings happiness to all her devotees.
Om Pustaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the ever youthful who is tender and always radiant.

Om Shivaayai namaha:
I bow to Her, the auspicious one who blesses this universe

Om Shivakaryai namaha: I bow to Her, the embodiment of auspiciousness, the primordial energy invoked by devotees.

Om Sathyai namaha: I bow to Her, the real truth, the all powerful, the ultimate reality.

Om Vimalaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the all pure and the most benevolent, most loving and the most powerful.

Om Vishwa Jananyai namaha:  I bow to Her, the mother of the universe, the compassionate and loving Goddess, the virtuous who brings happiness to all.

Om Pushtayai Namaha: I bow to Her, the one who glistens, the one who possesses all wealth. She blesses all her devotees with immense wealth and happiness.

Om Dharidhrya-nashinyai namaha: I bow to Her, who kills and destroys all inferior thoughts and actions that try to rule my mind

Om Preethi Pushkarinyai namaha: I bow to Her, O Lotus eyed Goddess who is so bewitchingly beautiful and compassionate, the graceful one who resides in my mind.

Om Shaanthayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is so calm and serene, who brings with her such peace and tranquility. The sky glows in the colors of the rainbow, seeing which the peacock dances bringing alive heavenly Paradise to earth.

Om Shukla Malyaambharayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is so pure and radiant, wearing a garland of imperishable fragrant white flowers.

Om Shriyai Namaha: I bow to Her, the Goddess of all the wealth in the universe.

Om Bhaskaryai namaha: I bow to Her, the radiant one, shining like the sun, virtuous and ever dazzling

Om Bilvanilayaayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is seated on her divine lotus seat, under the serene shade of the bilva tree.

Om Varaarohaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the sweet and compassionate mother who is always ready to grant boons and wishes.

Om Yashasvinyai namaha: I bow to Her, the slender and beautiful goddess who is reputed to be the embodiment of highest knowledge, the path to ultimate reality.

Om Vasundharaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the daughter of this earth, who is the embodiment of creation, preservation and destruction.
Om Kudarangayai namaha

Om Harinyai namaha: I bow to Her, who is doe eyed, slender and gentle like the deer

Om Hemamaalinyai namaha: I bow to Her, who shines so bright with the golden garlands she wears around herself.

Om Dhanadhaanya karyai namaha: I bow to Her, the killer of all poverty who bestows wealth and food grain over her devotees.

Om Siddhaye namaha: I bow to Her, who magically protects and saves all her devotees, defeating all evil 

Om Straina Sowmyaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the beautiful one who showers her compassion and protection towards women.

Om Shubha Pradaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the auspicious one, who is the fountain head, from whom all wealth in this universe is generated.

Om Nrupaveshma Gathanandayai namaha: I bow to Her, the flamboyant Goddess who loves to live in palaces, within those who have large hearts.

Om Varalakshmyai namaha: I bow to Her, who is bountiful and compassionate to all those who worship her with devotion

Om Vasupradaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the ever giving, who grants all kinds of wealth to her devotees.

Om Shubhaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the auspicious one who brings good fortune and prosperity.

Om Hiranya Praakaarayai namaha: I bow to Her, the shining one, resplendent with the glitter of gold all around her.

Om Samudra Tanayaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the daughter of the ocean of milk, one among 14 gems that emerged from its depths.

Om Jayaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the victorious one, faultless, brilliant and omniscient

Om Mangalaadevyai namaha:  I bow to Her, the auspicious and good one who takes form as a deity and resides within my heart as pure consciousness.

Om Vishnuvaksha Stala stithayai namaha: I bow to Her, the one who resides in Lord Vishnu's chest, who is his beloved.

Om Vishnupatnyai namaha: I bow to Her, the divine consort of Lord Vishnu, the preserver of this universe

Om Prasannakshyai namaha: I bow to Her, who is lotus eyed, golden hued, who holds gracefully a lotus flower in her hand

Om Naaraayana Samaashritaayai namaha: I bow to Her, who resides in Lord Vishnu's chest, who sort refuge within his being

Om Daaridrya Dwamsinyai namaha: I bow to Her, who brings richness and prosperity to all, who destroys all kind of inferior thought or action in the minds of her devotees.

Om Devyai namaha: I bow to Her, who is divine and gracious protecting and blessing this universe with riches

Om Sarvopadrava Nivaarinyai namaha: I bow to Her, who dispels all evil and frees her devotees from distress.

Om Navadurgaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the goddess who is the embodiment of the 9 Durgas.

Om Mahaakaalyai namaha: I bow to her, who is the terrific, taking the form of Ma Kali, the 8 handed Goddess, who destroy all evil

Om Brahmavishnu Shivatmikayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is the very embodiment of the trinity, who has within her being the presence and power of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva

Om Trikaala Gyana Sampannayai namaha: I bow to Her, the all pervasive Goddess who controls all time [past/present/future] and is present in all the three worlds at the same time.

Om Bhuvaneshvaryai namaha: I bow to Her, the controller of the whole universe, the all powerful who rings the bell of victory and possesses the pitcher of nectar in her hand.

Om Udaaraangaayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is all potent and full of energy, who is endowed with a beautiful and graceful body, sensuous and powerful at the same time.

Om Mahalakshmi Devataayai namaha: I bow to Her, the supreme Goddess, the divine one, the radiant one, the pure one.

Photo courtesy: Copyright © 2010 Cool Magazine All Rights Reserved


Invocation to Goddess Lakshmi

When the fire of pure knowledge burns
When the fragrance of divinity embraces the air
When the aura around her is resplendent with her beauty
When she sparkles in golden brilliance
I am at the feet of Goddess Lakshmi 

Om Pakrutyai namaha:  I bow to Her intrinsic nature that reveals the core of all that has manifested and the unmanifested

Om Vikrutyai namaha: I bow to this beautiful Goddess, who at the core is one and yet is multifacetted defined by attributes known and unknown

Om Vidhyayai Namaha: I bow to Her, the bestower of all knowledge and wisdom

Om Sarvabhoota hitapradayai namaha: I bow to Her who grants me all sensuous pleasures and the sacred wisdom to overcome them

Om Shraddhayai namaha: I bow to Her, the Goddess who blesses all those who intensely sing to Her in adoration to realize Her.

Om Vibhutyai namaha: I bow to Her, who gifts us with prosperity and happiness, who is the source of all divine bliss towards those who worship her.

Om Surabhyai namaha: I bow to Her, the enchanting form of Shakti, who is revered by the great Gods, Shina, Vishnu and Brahma.

Om Paramatmikayai namah: I bow to Her, the omipresent Goddess, the supreme energy of all the three worlds, protector of the distressed and the destitute.

Om Vaache namaha:  I bow to Her, the Goddess who is gifted with nectar like sweetness in her speech

Om Padmanilayayai namaha: I bow to Her, who presides on the throne of the sacred lotus emerging from the Ocean of milk with the sweet nectar of life, the source of all bliss and hapiness

Om Padmaayai Namaha: I bow to Her, who is as gentle and as radient as the divine Lotus

Om Shuchaye namaha: I bow to Her, the embodiment of purity, virtuous, compassionate, kind, loving, benevolent, and merciful.

Om Swaahayai namaha: I bow to Her, the personification of that which is always auspicious.

Om Swadhayai namaha: I bow to Her, who punishes those violating the universal law by taking on the form of that which is inauspicious

Om Sudhayai namaha: I bow to Her, the most endearing and lovable Goddess who dwells in everyone, as the sweet nectar of life, the source of all bliss and happiness.

Om Dhanyayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is the personification of all Gratitude.

Om Hiranmayaayai namaha: I bow to Her, who shines like a thousand suns, resplendent will all beauty

Om Lakshmyai namaha: I bow to Her, the source of all wealth, power and divine glory

Om Nityapushtaayai namaha: I bow to Her, who energises me, brings me strength and enhances my intelligence when I concentrate on her form

Om Vibhaavaryai namaha: I bow to Her, the radiant Goddess of wealth, the one who is the limitless ocean of beauty, whose vision overwhelms the mind.

Om Aadityai namaha: I bow to Her, who glows like the sun, radiant in her being, graceful and smiling. She is the center of all divine beauty that belittles the thousand kamadenus.

Om Dityai namaha: I bow to Her, who answers all our prayers, and dispells our fears

Om Deepaayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is as radiant as the thousand flames of lights

Om Vasudhaarinyai namaha: I bow to Her, the one who is the bearer of the burden of the earth, the one who protects and showers her grace and blessings over her loved ones.

Om Kamalaayai namaha: I bow to Her, The lotus eyed Goddess who has a lotus liked face and graceful arms and feet. She is the essence of energy just as nectar is the essence of the lotus.

Om Kaantaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the consort of Lord Vishnu, the light of the universe.

Om Kaamaakshyai namaha: I bow to Her, the Goddess with beautiful eyes who is radiant with love and compassion and dazzles the world with her knowledge and wisdom of the absolute reality.

Om Srirodhasambhavaayai Namaha

Om Anugrahapradaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the great one who grants wishes to her devotees, the ever-benevolent Goddess who blesses us with all kinds of comforts.

Om Bhudhaye namaha: I bow to Her, the self luminous who dispels all ignorance.

Om Anaghaayai namah: I bow to Her, who is pure consciousness, untainted and divine. Meditating over her forms converts every sin into a virtue.

Om Harivallabhaayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is the consort of Lord Hari, and as his beloved she takes various forms when he manifests himself as a man.

Om Ashokaayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is armed and ready to vanquish all evil and dispel all sorrow.

Om Amruthaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the keeper of the sacred nectar who brings bliss to all her devotees.

Om Deeptaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the ever radiant who overwhelms the mind of her beloved, she is resplendent in all her jewellery, exuding charm and sacred power.

Om Lokasoka Vinaashinyai namaha: I bow to Her, who removes the agony of all with her grace.

Om Dharmanilayaayai namaha: I bow to Her, who has established eternal law, the great ever-forgiving Goddess Lakshmi

Om Karunaayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is compassionate, she is the mother of the universe, the ocean of compassion and love. She is the embodiment of peace, praised by the Gods and giver of eternal wealth.

Om Lokamatre namaha: I bow to Her, the universal power who has no end, the one who is respected and adored by all.

Om Padmapriyayai namaha: I bow to Her, the lover of the lotus, she is seated on a lotus seat that emerges from the ocean of milk, who is fond of flowers and wears a garland of lotus flowers.

Om Padmahastaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the one who holds a dazzling lotus in her hand, the very same hands that are so soft and gentle like the lotus petals.

Om Padmakshyai namaha: I bow to Her, the lotus eyes who is so full of divine love and gentleness. She is the source of bliss and limitless happiness, the ever kind and compassionate.

Om Padmasundaryai namaha: I bow to Her, who is as beautiful as the lotus flower, her form is as slender as the lotus stem and she is as sweet as the nectar within the flower.

Om Padmodbhavaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the One who rises out of the milky ocean seated on her lotus seat, being praised by all the Gods alike

Om Padmamukyai namaha: I bow to Her, the lotus faced who speaks sweet words of wisdom.

Om Padmanaabhapriyaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the beloved of Lord Vishnu Padmanabha, she who is consciousness itself, she is a part of him.

Om Ramaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the protectress who walks the three worlds and saves her devotees and showers her blessings and grace on them.

Om Padmamaaladharaayai namaha: I bow to Her, the lover of flowers who is decked in a garland of beautiful lotus flowers.

Om Devyai namaha: I bow to Her, the deity who defines pure consciousness.

Om Padminyai namaha: I bow to Her, the beloved daughter of the Ocean of Milk from whose depths she rises on her lotus seat.

Om Padmagandhinyai namaha: I bow to Her, who has the fragrance of the lotus when she emerges from it, when it blooms in all its tenderness

Om Punyagandhaayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is enveloped in divine perfume and covers the universe with her all pervading divine fragrance

Om Suprasannayai namaha: I bow to Her, who is the embodiment of cheerfulness and is ever beaming in divine light, radiant in her splendor. She is full of charm, gracefulness, ever smiling, compassion and love. She is the all powerful and infinite in her presence.

Om Prasaadaabhimukhyai namaha: I bow to Her, who emerges to grant boons and fulfill desires and blesses all her devotees.

To be continued...

Photo courtesy: Pieter Weltevrede > Sanatansociety.com


Consciousness at the great mountain of Thiruvannamalai

Arunachala Mountain
When all knowledge fades into oblivion
When the curtains of faith are drawn to look beyond
When the essence of existence is defined by consciousness
I am here, and now, at the great mountain of Thiruvannamalai.

Srinivasan stared up at the great mountain of Thiruvannamalai and contemplated over his spiritual journey realizing that he had been so blind, so theoretical, so completely stubborn all these days. It had been such a struggle despite all the accumulated knowledge. He had read many books, he had researched well, he had taken to changing his lifestyle into a real, though provoking journey laced with ritual. He now sat in front of the great mountain of Thiruvannamalai wondering why he had missed the point for so long.

He stared on, the gentle clouds covered its peak, like a silent glowing halo that danced around its pinnacle. It was so beautiful and so breath taking and he kept staring at its majestic presence in the otherwise flat landscape. It had been theory till today, that this mountain was the Kailash of the south. These words rang in his mind as he took a deep breath, what did these words really mean?

Like the great Kailash of the north, that doesn’t allow any person to set foot on itself, this great mountain too has many myths that surround it. Considered to be the very form of Lingodbhava, this mountain gave Srinivas the feeling of the self. These moments while he stared at this majestic piece of natural art were all about him, all about his life energy as the breath he took in consciously and the stark view of the mountain in an otherwise silent afternoon. Nothing else really mattered.

All that he had read, all that he had assumed he had achieved, all that he had considered to be part of a supreme thought, were now only ways to get there. Each way, be it tantra, yoga, or ritual, embedded this truth very subtly into their methodologies. Srinivasa realized it was not any one route that would help him in his journey; it was a combination of all of them. And now he was here, he, his mind and his body present together, having kept aside all these prescriptions to salvation he had come across so far. It was only him, and the mountain, and the rest of his life was put to silence for a few moments of complete consciousness.

His problems slowly faded away, his activities slowly died in his thoughts, his memories faded into oblivion and his worries didn’t exist anymore, he was one with the peak, he was a part of this mountain, egoless, selfless, bodiless... just consciousness.

His body was the home; his breath was the passage as he felt the energy rising in and out of it. He was an entity, a drop of consciousness that felt imprisoned within these walls. With every breath, he felt the tingle in his muscles, the gentle movement of air through his lungs and the cool feeling at his throat that lasted even longer with every oncoming breath. He prayed in his mind, to all the great beings who rested at this peak, to all the siddhas who has lived and worshiped here, to come down and bless him in their own silent way.

The great mountain of Thiruvannamalai now represented a composite geometry of the great Lord Shiva himself, every peak on itself represented a gateway to inner truth guarded by cosmic dwarapalas who make their presence felt only when one is conscious enough to tune into them. This peak, with its undulating surface, rocky slopes and lush green vegetation, in its form somewhere appeared like a stone cold rishi always in meditation, seated in padmasana, with his jatas falling over the pinnacle of his being. His body was this form, his breath was the ever living energy that surrounds this mountain, his consciousness was the living reality; the swayambhu linga that grew over this ground to now stand here, stark in this pale countryside.

Srinivasa looked up at the mountain and felt, he was such a miserable example of the same great truth. He was pure consciousness that had lost its way, he was the atma linga that had not realized its potential and he was the very same atman that lay deep, dormant asleep still within his bodily home. Breath and consciousness were his only weapons to fight the great battle of silence in his head and bring him remotely closer to his inner self.

To the great mountain of silent truth, to the ever present consciousness he was blind to, Srinivasan bowed down and prayed in all reverence, hoping to achieve something during his lifetime.

Photo courtesy: http://davidgodman.org/asaints/powerofa1.shtml


Himalayas - A Living Power Center

 Shivling Mountain

When the ancient world leaves impressions of a superior world behind, we ignore it
When tradition tries to teach us its value we doubt it
When scriptures sing out the beauty of the superior world we don’t understand it
But when nature presents these secrets in gigantic imagery can we be blind to it?

The Himalayan soil echoes the presence of super powers of a different kind. Is it the beauty of this land or is it its magnetic presence, or is it its gigantic size that makes us feel ant like in this space or is it the presence of Gods that gives us this uncanny sense of bewilderment that leaves us slaves to its power?

This bewitching beauty added to the sheer size and unconquerable appeal almost makes anything on this soil appear Godlike. Daring to sound a little biased, the power of the supreme is felt far stronger here in these temples than in an adaptation anywhere else in the country. The feeling is not restricted to the shrines among these mountains alone, it envelops the earth that cradles the very temple.

From the theoritical stand point, there is no difference in what the temple of Ukhimath and Tungnath offer as compare to Tanjore or Ujjain. The power of the Shaivite rule echoes in stone as much on these high mountains as it does near a river in Thiruvanaikkaval or in a shrine like Ujjain. Yet there is an uncanny difference. Is it the lack of people, noise and endless queues, is it the lack of corruption or is it the stronger virgin appearance of this land or is there something more to it?

Baghirathi Mountain

The Himalayas present a platter of beauty, in snow capped mountain ranges rising one higher than the other with a majestic appearance that can humble our own presence. And yet we are familiar with only a few mountain peaks, each meticulously named after a person, symbol or event from our ancient mythologies. 

Kailash Parvat

The Maha Nirvana Tantra beautifully paints the possible aura of Mount Kailasa and Mount Meru, the most sacred mountain peaks in the mystical Himalayan range. Mount Kailasa, described to be the paradise of Lord Shiva towers above the Manasarovar lake on its north west side. This paradise is described to be the summer land of both lasting sunlight and cool shade, musical with the song of exquisite birds and bright with undying flowers. The air is scented with the sweet fragrance of the Mandara chaplets, resounding with the music and song of the celestial gandharvas. This mountain is Gana Parvata thronged with spirits of superior beings [devayoni]. And in this region, rises the peak of Mount Meru considered as the center of the world represented by a lotus. It towers above all nature clustered by the souls of many who have been blessed a home in these heavens, living here, and worshipping this supreme center of power and forming a string of stars garlanding around its pinnacle.

Such is the power of the Himalayas that it is written "He who thinks of the Himalayas, though he may not behold them, is greater than he who performs all worship at Kashi."

It’s uncanny that the description of Mount Kailasa in the Maha Nirvana Tantra matches with the description of nature when Madhana, the Lord of love descended on Kailasa to distract Lord Shiva and make him aware of the beautiful Parvati. It’s strange that on one side there is the description of the perennial warmth of spring and blooming flowers and on the other the reality we see is snow capped mountains and bleak regions.

And yet in this breath taking spectacle, there are mysteries that are so obvious, that we cannot look away from them. Chaukhamba, as the name suggests might be a mountain with four towering peaks, but when viewed from any direction, it presents the feel of a deadly trishul of Kala Bhairava. Kailasa has been described to be enveloped by spring and blooming flowers and blossoming love, but what meets the eye today is the powerful yet cold appearance of the dormant third eye on the center of its brow. But what is even  stranger are some staggering peaks that apparently have no character, but when the snow falls on them and the sky is cleared off the mystic clouds strange symbols appear inscribed on their very contours. The Om Parvat is an uncanny representation of the supreme, coincidentally carved out of rock in these bleak regions visible only when the heavens choose to display it to us. Trishul Mountain is another representation of the trident that has captured our imagination of religious symbolism.

Om Parvat

And then there are the other peaks that host sacred shrines at their feet or within them or are just named after mythological beings. While Mount Shivling and Bhagirathi are towering peaks with no apparent shrine or form, their presence is pronounced more by their geographical location, the sacred shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, and Gangotri speak of unknown powers of the other world that is yet to be touched and realized.

What leaves us wondering is the deep symbolic mysticism that is shrouded in these snow capped regions which makes an appearance to unsettle our otherwise uneventful ignorant lifestyles. Is there something beyond the spectrum of our daily life that we have not experienced yet? Are these mountains and scriptures trying to call us to something far deeper and potent that we fail to realize? How strange are these mountains that they melt our hearts when we set foot on their sacred soil?

To the sacred Himalayan Mountains that crown our land, I bow in reverence.

Photo courtesy: Google Images


The silent Tara of the night - Tarapith


She walks the earth
The silent Goddess,
Mother of the cremation ground
Mother to the Lord himself
The blue hued one
In the moonless night
Her anklets resound
Sweet notes of a damsel
Mystical in her form
Fierce and powerful within

Ma Tara, the real,
the powerful, the mystical,
I bow to you in all reverence.

Local legends believe that the third eye of Goddess Sati hit the earth at Tarapith, but strangely this shrine didn't make it to the list of 51 shakti peethas. Tarapith might not be as well known beyond the shores of Bengal but within this region there are still loud cries of ancient tantricism brimming with life. Shrouded in the dense mysticism of ancient tantric practices lies a small temple to the north of Bengal. Believed to be graced by the heavens to have the third eye of Sati fall on its earth, this little temple came into existence based on a few obscure events. 

Insulted at the great sacrifice of Daksha, Sati entered the fires of death to perish in the very flames of purity that emanated from her. This event shook the universe for it left Lord Shiva, infuriated by the act of Daksha. He scaled the landscape wailing over the death of his beloved, carrying her corpse along with him, never to let go. Lord Vishnu took the final step and sent his discus to destroy what remained of her. With dizzying speed it cut through the air, tearing the dead flesh of the Goddess, she fell, scattering herself across the sacred earth of bholoka, on prithvi at 51 divine locations. Here fell her third eye, the power of enlightenment, the power of life, the essence of all siddhas...Tara pith came brimming to life, completely magical, intoxicating, powerful...

Vermilion defines her world, kumkum marks her presence. She had descended into this world dressed in the deep hues of vermilion, adorned in hibiscus and her favorite meal is flesh and blood. She is the the silent energy that wakes up in the night and dances in the cremation ground among the dead, among the fires. Tara, she has such a pleasant name, such a potent form and yet such a deadly look, so fierce that she could destroy all evil in a single glance. She walks the earth in silence, she is the prime resident of the cremation ground. She came alive as a mother to rid Lord Shiva off the poison he consumed to save the universe. She suckled him as a new born and nourished him with cool milk, and she empowered him with life.

Her long tresses flow down, covering her very being. In her heart she carries the Great Lord of the universe as a baby. She is fierce in appearance with disheveled hair and yet she has such warmth towards him as an infant. Tara, also known as Shamshan tara resides at Tara pith, the only sacred temple that makes the cremation ground its sacred home. While the fires turn all that is impure to dust, isn't it strange that the only way to enlightenment, the synonym of pure faith and salvation is in the unknown and unthinkable path of vama marga.

The sweetness of the Mahavidyas, the potency of feminine power coupled with the mysterious presence of the sacred goddesses who are the essence of all consciousness - shakti is not just energy, she is a mysterious world far more powerful than what meets the eye. She rises in the night, her meal is flesh and bone, her thirst is quenched by liquor, her garden is the burning ground, her ornaments are the limbs of the departed, her blinding truth is the strength to overcome death, her weapon is that which kills all fears. And this is visible in the lifestyle of all those who live by her side.

They are the living tantrics who have no home, nor fear nor food. They live on what the burning ghats offer them. They live with this stark reality all the time, death is a common site and sadhana is a regular part of their lives. Tarapith is the host of this wilderness, a shrine where there is little room for you and me. Here is a zone, where fewer thoughts reside, illusions of life silently die and immortality is defined not by progeny but the reality of one's own consciousness.

In the dense haze of this ignorance do I thirst to know the true form of the Goddess that awakens the mysteries of the night. The moon shines out and in its pleasant light does she shine, Oh the blue hued goddess hungry again for her drop of blood. Oh Tara Devi, do reveal to me the sacred yet secretive path that attracts me to you. May I see beauty even in your terrific being, may I see light in your twinkling deep blue eyes. May i feel your presence in the crackling flames of the cremation grounds by the night, may I breath this potent air refreshed with your presence. I bow to you oh Mother, to your beauty and to your fury, to your feminine potency, to your dazzling form, bathe me with your light, with your presence, with your life.

||Ghora roope mahamaaye sarvashatruvashamkari
Bhaktebhyo varade devi traahi maam sharanaagatham||


Divine presence of Goddess Saraswati

Where there is abundance of wisdom there is love and worship
Where the value of wisdom is not as much there is ignorance
But where there is no wisdom left there will be anarchy

The great Mother Goddess Saraswati is the embodiment of divine wisdom, she is pure, she is white, she is the all knowing and she is the only one who can withstand the destructive flames that emanate from the awakened third eye of great Lord Shiva. As these fiery flames leaped through all the worlds destroying everything impure on their way, she saved the world from this terrible catastrophe. She blessed this earth with life and wisdom as she descended into this world as a sacred river, taking this burning molten river of light into the deep sea and transforming it into a fire breathing mare seeking to destroy the world when all divine wisdom perishes from these lands leaving anarchy and noise behind.

Time moved on, eras passed by and the celestial world mysteriously left behind traces of its existence on this sacred earth. The earliest known form of Goddess Saraswati that appeared in our era to the mortal world is on the coins of the Utpala Dynasty of Kashmir in the early 9th century. Here, at the crown of the Indian subcontinent Goddess Saraswati is revered as Sharda Devi in her three aspects – Sharda, Narada or Saraswati, and Vaghdevi. The records of Kalhana indicate that the earliest temple attributed to her is near the Sirahsila castle as references have been made to it during its seige, in the Upper Krishnaganga valley, Kashmir. This is possibly the most potent place with respect to Goddess Saraswati and also the most ancient where the first temple attributed to the mother was constructed.

Stories from mythology and accounts of the sthala purana indicate that sages, ardent devotees and great intellects have been blessed with the divine vision of Goddess Saraswati in the form of Sharda Devi or Dakshina Mookambika Devi. The Goddess descended again into our world and graced this earth to bless them at these sacred places which have since then grown into centers of worship and learning and now hosts temples built in various styles of architecture.

According to the Sharda Mahatmaya, the Muni Sandalya, son of Matanga performed great austerities to be blessed with the vision of the Goddess. Saraswati Devi directed Muni Sandalya to go to Syamala [present day Kupwara district] and from there to proceed to the springs of Krishna Nag to take a holy dip in its rich waters. It is believed that on taking this sacred dip, half of his body was covered in gold. This brings light into the richness and prosperity of the land that surrounded this sacred earth, the home to the divine Goddess. With his prayers being fulfilled; he was overwhelmed with this experience of being constantly guided by the Mother, Muni Sandalya sang in praise of the divine mother and her three forms. She reappeared and asked him to proceed to Shardavan, in Sirahsila where she would appear in her Shakti avatara.

Sandalya also performed shrads for his pitras at this sacred river. It is believed that when he took the waters of the Mahasindhu for the tarpana rites, the water turned honey sweet and flowed down in the form of a stream now known as the Madhumati River. Sandalya moved on to the Shardavan as directed, where he had a divine vision of the Goddess in all her grandeur and purity in Shakti swarupa of Sharda Devi. The Goddess blessed him and granted him this divya dristi.

It is said that she rose out of the spring waters at this kunda to bless him and then disappeared into the waters. This sacred place is now marked by a stone slab which is believed to cover the same Kunda out of which she rose. This came to be known by the name of Sharda Peetham at Kashmir.

Adi Shankaracharya is known to have visited this Sharda Peetham before he travelled to Sringeri to establish another Sharda Peetham, in the 1st millennium B.C along the Tungabhadra River in Chikmanglur district, Karnataka.

The enchanting presence of Goddess Saraswati brought life and bliss of a different kind to these places and blessed the earth with potent shrines attributed to her. Such was the experience that some of these sacred shrines grew into highly intellectual centers of learning and debate, where words of sweetness crowned the atmosphere charging it with intellectual thought and ideas as great men challenged each other to spectacular compositions of divine wisdom.

Sharda Peetham in Kashmir was one such place covered in mysticism and divinity. It is believed that many men had tested their wisdom but few managed to cross the gate into the inner shrine chamber of the Sharda Nilayam. Adi Shankaracharya is known to have outshined all those who confronted him in debate. This shrine had four entrances and few great men had walked into her sacred gates. Adi Shankaracharya was the only saint to walk through the southern gate of the Sharda Nilayam to ascend the Sarvajna Peetam. The presiding deity of all learning, Sharda Devi set a test for him, which he overcame and alighted the seat of supreme enlightenment. The goddess blessed him and proclaimed his omniscience.

Such was the intellectual energy in the air that surrounded this small temple which attracted pilgrims from everywhere to witness debates that covered all known philosophies of living. This center didn’t just grow to have a temple dedicated to the Goddess but also had a center for learning as well as a great library that was revered by all. The sacredness of this soil still held strong until this temple fell to invasion. It is a tragic story that all that stands of this great sthala today is a ruined temple that still continues to hum the presence of the Goddess in its own strange way.

 Photo courtesy: Gharib Hanif - Kashmir collection