Fated Pradosham at the Sacred Shrine of Ukhimath

In the depth of her splendor
That covers my soul
Do I see the power of Mahakala
Within her sacred womb.
The heavens reveal
In true beauty and reverence
Lord Shiva and his graceful consort
And behold the supreme presence
Of the Shrine of Kedar.

With every step that progressed towards the shrine door, my heart beat faster. I couldn't cope with this excitement but I enjoyed every pleasurable moment of it. It was like a child jumps up in sublime enjoyment when it discovers treasure. Every bit of new vision sent my heart pounding.

This feeling awakens in me a child like happiness because I feel I belong here, I am a part of this pantheon, and I am present here and now in full consciousness at this magnificent sabha, which in my mind is real heaven. My mind and soul now have blended into the subtle reality of this divine presence within this symbolic world.

The shrine chamber of Ukhimath temple is covered in divinity. Lord Mahakala sports his manly mustache etched beautifully over silver with an elegant snake hood covered in flowers above him. The sacred shrine of Kedar sits closely behind with miniature parasols of silver carefully covering its shrine. How joyous was this moment to behold the stark male attire of the Great Lord Mahakala at the central shrine and the small and elegant Kedar shrine in silver, all within the same room. Behind these sacred symbols of divinity, stood the glaring sculpture of Kala Bhairava on the wall with his big silver laden eyes staring straight at me. The Kalabhairava here is very similar in flavor to that at Pashupatinath, Nepal.

The presence of Kala Bhairava and Mahakala as the primary shrines at this temple of Ukhimath, echoed the ancient tantrik rituals of the night. This was a great seat of tantrik practice, a little different from Tungnath but strangely similar also. The depths of Ukhimath temple's ambiance began to reveal itself to me. In the warmth of her peaceful garbha griha was housed the history of a serious and intriguing mystic past. 

With her inner shrine explicitly presenting more forms of Shiva than one, Mahakala's gentle look took me all the way back to Ujjain. Mahakala is probably the only form of Lord Shiva who sports a mustache. As I advanced to the adjoining mandapa, there were exquisite sculptures of Shiva and Parvati adorning this little room. The Shiva Parvati idols in copper have their own charm and Nandi stands in bronze at the center of this ardha mandapa.

Darkness had set in, the shrine doors had previously been closed in the early hours of the evening. We patiently waited for the priest to finish his endless conversation with another devotee, and open the sanctum to give us a better view. Little did he know that I had a plan to sit there longer than he thought. This was the most profound moment of the evening. Pradosham hour was coming to an end and the Lord Mahakala made sure we were there for it. He gave us darshan, as the priest came to open the doors to the shrine.

The grandeur of the inner chamber was alive and brimming as I sat at the door step quickly taking out my wicks and lamps. The ghee was stone cold and digging into its depths was a task. We lit two diyas and with all humbleness we presented Vilvam leaves that we had brought all the way from Chennai as a small gift from us. We stayed there for some time and the exclusivity of the moment made us feel even more special. For an active temple like this one, during the moment of pradosham at the Lord's feet with only a priest with us who didn't push us out because it was getting late, this was completely enjoyable.

What a difference this was from the rest of the temples across India that we had visited so far. The silence of this temple echoed my voice as I sang out the mantras. I felt blessed as my voice reverberated within the grand walls of this Sabha. All the heavens were there to listen to these prayers as the priest joined in the singing too. Rudram, rumbled through the walls as sacred vilva fell over the shrines. The Lord of Kedar had received our gift. I could have danced around the courtyard!! We took another 15 minutes well past closing time. The priest favored us saying it was God's will that we should visit and light ghee lamps. Our lamps were placed inside the inner shrine, to shine through the night as I bowed to the lord in all thankfulness.

This experience was strangely one of a kind in these times. There was no noise, there was no corruption but goodwill, there was no pushing around but patience, there was no haste but worship, there was no argument but respect for a devotee's time with the Lord. And all of heaven was open, listening to my heart sing out. What else could I have asked for!

Photo source: Unknown from the internet


Bart said...

Some people put questions behind visiting holy shrines: They say: "God is everywhere, so where are you looking for?" Or: "God dwells in our heart, so why would you go somehere to seek what you can find in yourself?" Both question are put with right, and both theses are true. But let us don't that God is equally spread all over the universe. There are places and persons in which and whom God's presence is more concentrated then any elsewhere, namely in sanctuaries and in saints. And when saints enter sanctuaries the concentration of divinity come to a higher level. To such a high level that both gain in holiness, the place and the person. Hence God seeks to maximize the holiness of places and persons God loves it when saints enter holy places. And when you have holy heart God and you enter holy places God let you know, let you feel, yes, let you blissful experience how much He love his presence in your sacred and devoted heart, within you body-temple, with you holy bare feet on holy ground, standing in a holy room on a holy place, your head filled with holy thoughts, your ears with holy sounds, your nose with holy smells, your with the reflection of the light of holy fire lightening holy objects, on you tongue the taste of holy mantras. Then comes the oneness, then stilness, the silence, the void. O, what a supreme peace can man find in God.

Kavitha said...

Hi Bart,

A person who asks that question needs to first understand the root logic of a faith before they pose a question. Its like this, before we study a subject in school, we dont ask questions over its logic, we try to understand it and if we dont get it then we ask and give opinions. The same holds good here.

There are reasons why temples and sacred shrines got built. Actually speaking, they are not required but given the limitations of the person who even asked this question, he/she needs to be educated into the realm, the nature and character of what they are dealing with and that is best done in an environment that is prescribed to give the right ambiance for them to understand theories deep and beyond our logic.

Hence a temple is constructed, rules are applied and related behavior is taught to first set the discipline in order and then let the aspirant loose into this world when they are equipped at least ask the right questions. After that its up to them to follow, but at least get educated first and trust me this theory is not easy to apply in our regular lives... its difficult and it will take a while to get it right.

Without knowing the basics, without living the rule, how can anyone ask a question??


JC said...

Hi Bart, Kavitha,,, Let us consider examples of, say as per 'Hindu' mythological stories, Prahlad and Dhruv, and so on, or say the 'child prodigies' in the 'present'...These indicate the characteristic property of 'Nature' that reflects a grand variety in all its aspects in humans/ animals also and the importance of 'place value' too, besides the Truth of 'Time' in any era (say 'Pradosh kal' around 4 'ghadi' after sunset, 'sandhya' or meeting point of day and night, where one 'ghadi' is equal to 24 minutes) as indicated by Kavitha, that is considered 'faultless' or OK for offering prayers to the one, the VIP, who is neutral or detached (like the blank side of a coin, or the 'middle path' advised by The Buddha - easier said than followed though due to the 'dwaitwad' or apparent duality in all aspects of human life, expressed by Shakespeare as "to be or not to be" :)...

JC said...

Having said that, 'I' might as well add further that four 'ghadis' would mean 96 minutes, ie, about one and a half hours beyond the meeting point. Similarly, one could consider an equal duration of time before 'sandhya' suitable for offering prayers (and also, similarly, during the morning, ie, 'Usha kal')....that would indicate a total time of three hours, ie, one hour each for the three aspects of 'Treyambakeshwar' the three-in-one God, representing formless 'Om' ('3')...

I give below a reference in the Gita that 'I' sent for the benefit of 'my daughter' for her two-and-a-half-year-old also now asks questions :) such as "what is abhyuthanam"? and she didn't know what to tell him :)

Chapter IV
यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवती भारत ! अभ्युत्थानंधर्मस्य तदात्मानम सृजाम्यहम !!७!! परित्राणाय साधुनाम विनाशाय च दुस्कृताम ! धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय संभवामि युगे युगे !!८!!

भारत = O descendant of Bharata.
अभ्युत्थानं = (there is) rise
तदा = then
हि = indeed

Arjuna, whenever righteousness is on the decline, and unrighteousness is in the ascendant, then I body Myself forth (7)

For the protection of the virtuous, for the extirpation of evil-doers, and for establishing Dharma (righteousness) on a firm footing, I am born from age to age. (8)

Questions should be welcome by a Guru to provide the answer if already known. Otherwise seek it within the self, or from a superior one, get elevated and reply in due course :)

YOSEE said...

I am glad you enjoyed such a soulful experience in that remote temple, free from the jostling and bustle of other, popular temples.
Its only some shrines that cast such a powerful spell on us ; sometimes when we least expect it !

( Re; Mustachioed images : most mukhalingas and kavachams in Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra have mustaches.)

JC said...

Lingams generally, symbolically, represents the formless God, and because three lingas are involved in physical human forms: 'pulling', 'napunsakalinga', and 'streelinga', perhaps the mustaches specifically identified the male, ie, physically powerful, aspect of Shiva the immortal, Neelkantha Mahadev...

'I' was also surprised to find a normal mustachioed face on Hanuman's idol, and not the typical' monkey's elsewhere, in Manipur when 'I' visited the famous Govindajee temple and a small temple near it on the bank of a small stream in the early eighties. It reportedly was dedicated to a dacoit who when chased by police on the other bank had reportedly jumped over and had landed there - but, unfortunately, only to die...

Vidya said...

wonderful Kavitha. Reading your posts gives me a feeling akin to being at a temple in the wee hours of the morning. So peaceful and serene. May God Bless...

Aswin Kini said...

Unbelievable, you are truly blessed. I appreciate the priest who respected a devotee's time and stayed till the devotee completed his/her prayers.
Wish they had such people at Tirupathi, wish people at Thiruvannamalai also behave like this.

What surprised me more was that you sang hymns in the temple. The only temple in Chennai, as far as I know, where devotees are allowed to sing, is the Karaneeswara temple at Saidapet.

Guess the Sacred Shrine of Ukhimath is 'truly' sacred.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Kavitha said...


Try to sing a hymn anywhere and lets see who stops you!!

I sing every where, and I sing aloud and I sing like there is no one around... and no one has ever dared to stop me!

Why would they stop you?

And if they try... just sing louder.