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!