Yesterday I was blessed with another year of life, another year of living within this human prison, and I felt there may just be more purpose to my existence. The yearning was back, the calling grew stronger and for some reason I had the strong urge to go to Kanchipuram to seek the divine Mother.
I get crazy spiritual ideas, that may not make sense to anyone but they are paramount to me and I follow them more than any other rule ever written. I had the deep urge to wear rudraksha constantly, and sure enough quality thoughts flowed in during puja. It’s a time when I get instruction, it’s when I read every thought as divine grace, and it’s when I am conscious of which thoughts to kill and which ones to keep. During puja, I wait without expectation, without much wishing and seek the next steps as they pour in from the divine world into my little mind. And I just take what’s given, no arguments for the ego is dead at that moment.
The calling was loud, the thought persisted and the steps unfolded in my mind. I was not very far from the day I was born years ago, and I had to do things really fast. I was advised to take the rudraksha that I had worshiped with the Lord for the past several years and string them into a strong chain. There was a need for haste and I rushed over to the jewelers shop with my little precious rudrakshas to get them strung. I was thankful they arrived well ahead of time. They were consecrated at the feet of Tara Ma and stayed there for three days being worshiped.
Finally the night arrived, and though I planned to get sleep early, I could barely catch a wink, it was the first time, and I had spent the week mustering up my courage and fears to hit the road to Kanchipuram on the highway alone, and now the time had come. Up fresh at 3:00am and ready to go, I hit the road at 4:00am. The night sky was gloomy, the winds were strong and the rain had wet the roads. I had to be careful with my speed and through the highway with occasional vehicles around me, it was a crazy drive into the darkness. It was amazing for not a thought of fear ever struck me on the road. I felt free, free of bondage, free of humankind, free of karma, free of everything... I was driving into oblivion and enjoying every moment of it.
As I neared kanchipuram, I realized I might just make it in time for the Abhishkam of the great Mother. How lucky would I be! Armed with a gorgeous Saree, a garland of lotus flowers and some Archana offerings, I confidently walked in towards the sanctum. The crowds were huge and on this auspicious day of Chitra Pournami, I was just glad I was born on this day. I reached behind the main sanctum and placed my request to the security guard. While he couldn't promise me anything, he allowed me through to have an up-close darshan of the Mother. Seated in front of her, absorbing her divine presence, every anxiety to want to see her just flew off the mind. She was there, in front of me, in my heart and for now... my mind went blank. I shook in my seat, observing every bit of her form, her graceful body as she sat on her seat, getting ready for her bath. The shastris took the garland and the saree, while I held on to the silver chain that held my precious rudrakshas with me. I handed it over to the main priest, who was in silence right through the entire operation. He worked with gestures and the security guard deftly unfolded their meaning. (Reminded me of Karz for a brief moment, except that he didn't tap on a glass)
The rudrakshas lay on the Mother's lap absorbing all her divine grace while my heart worked hard to fill itself with love for the Mother, and my eyes worked even harder etching her form into my mind and I sat still for as long as I could, not disturbing any of the functions underway. In a short while, the head priest came back, returning the rudrakshas to me and having learned the strict aachaaram being followed I raised my hands but carefully didn't meet the eyes of the priest. He threw a pomegranate at me in typical Brahmin style, and I scrambled over the floor trying to catch it. (clearly I don’t play cricket yet with my kid)
I rose up, thinking this was the end for I wasn't permitted to continue sitting there to watch the abhishekam. He gestured me to see the other forms of the Goddess on the other side of the inner sanctum wall. This was a blissful moment intellectually for I learned of Varahi, Annapurni, Lakshmi, Mahishasuramardhini, Bhairava and a lot of other Goddesses who sat within the niches of this great shrine. Clearly during the Chola time, this temple was not as large as it is today, it was way smaller. The Vijayanagar Kings had added the other prakaras to this temple over a period of centuries and now they had merged so well into each other... the difference could hardly be seen. But this is a tantrik strong hold, and I love every bit of this shrine. Adi Shankara had got it so perfectly right.
I was ushered out of the chamber, and sent back to the guard. I was happy though I looked at him with a stray hope to get a glimpse of the abhishekam. He pointed me to another guard who took me to a seat directly in front of the mother, on a higher platform outside the sanctum. I was excited, I didn't ask for this, from here it was a bonus. I sat through the entire abhishekam, reciting Mrityunjaya swaying with the flow of the Mother being bathed inside the shrine. Every version of her looked gorgeous and Adi Shankarcharya was not exaggerating when he wrote the lines describing her form. They described her so well, I am tempted to go back again and read the Soundarya Lahari and map it to the etching in my mind.
She is straight backed, voluptuous, and slim. She follows the tenets of the making of a beautiful woman, she was the personification of that form. The curtains were drawn and the crowds went silent. I will never get enough of her, I knew that for sure. They drew the curtains again and this time she was ready, all her alankaram in place, she just looked every bit a bride, every bit a lover, every bit a damsel, every bit the great Mother, every bit ...
We were asked to get up to leave, the security guard sent me back to the earlier one and I was ready to pay what every he wanted. I was just so thrilled. I stood at the back of the sanctum, as I watched the head priest gesture in his silence, frantically asking for me to come in. I quietly walked in, not knowing what to expect. I was quickly palmed off to another priest who I figured was his brother. He asked me about myself, my where about and placed a vcard into my hand. I was confused but took it anyway. He told me to mail him and render any help that I could towards their website.
I was sent back into the sanctum, this time made to sit in front of the Mother again, and the whole thing played out once more, I saw her up close, this beautiful bride, this celestial being from heaven, this great Mother of Love. I quickly handed over the rudrakshas back to the priest and requested him to place it over the Sri Chakra. It was the only pending item in my divine list of activities. I was sent back to varahi and after bowing to all the Goddess around me, I returned back to the Great Mother. The chain was handed over, and the priest spoke with a lot of respect, considering he had been shouting at all the other folk, I was very lucky. As I turned to leave, the head priest broke his silence... all he said was "Call me when you get home".
I nodded and walked out without paying anyone anything. The purity of Brahmin culture was visible for a few seconds thanks to the divine grace of the Mother, as I paid the security guard handsomely for his effort. I was fulfilled with the experience, fulfilled with the calling, fulfilled with the strong belief that the Divine Mother indeed communicates with me in her strange way. I walked out on to the streets of Kanchi, free from bondage, free from attachment, free into the world of divine love as the warm sun blessed me with its light. I felt I was finally home, and more than anything else, I felt deep down that Tara Ma had reappeared in the form of Kamakshi Amman. Divine grace had touched me again and I couldn't have asked for a better gift on my birthday.