Guwahati is the largest and rapidly growing city in the state of Assam. In Assamese, Guwa means Areca nuts and Haat means market (courtesy-Google). We had the chance to go around Guwahati in July 2017. It was an enjoyable visit for us. Guwahati has good connectivity. We could make use of local transport to visit most places with some guidance from local people.
We stayed in Vivekananda Kendra Uzan Bazaar and just facing the Brahmaputra river and Umananda temple which is on the smallest island of Brahmaputra. Initially there were no boats plying to Umananda due to heavy water flow in Brahmaputra. So we had to wait for a week. The planetarium and Assam museum were at a walking distance from our place. We watched a show on stars in the planetarium. The museum was very informative and displayed culture, tradition, and life in the whole of north eastern region.
Having heard and read about Kamakhya, we were eagerly waiting to visit and get the blessings of the devi. The Kamakhya temple is one of the 52 shakthi peetams where Sati devi’s yoni (vagina) fell. There is actually no idol in the temple and only a triangular pit inside a cave where pujas are offered. This temple is an old one from 10th century but destroyed and later rebuilt in 16th century. The temple’s structure is very beautiful with a large dome and is situated on the Nilachal Hill. It was a fulfilling visit for us though the temple was crowded. Local people said it is always so and takes at least 3 to 4 hours to have darshan normally. There is another shrine above Kamakhya for Devi Bhuvaneswari which we could not visit. There is an idol of Adi Shankaracharya and also a museum in Kamakhya temple.
Once the boat service for Umananda resumed, we visited the temple one evening. Umananda is the consort of Kamakhya Devi. The temple is situated on the smallest island called Peacock Island on Brahmaputra and the boat journey was enjoyable in the mighty Brahmaputra. Luckily, the boat jetty was opposite to our place and we could see Umananda temple daily from there. The temple is also an old one with shrines for Shiva and other Gods.
Two more temples worth mentioning are Hajo Hayagriva madhav temple and Aswaklanta temple in the northern bank of Brahmaputra river. Both are very old temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Srimanta Shankaradeva Kalakshetra is a cultural institution in Guwahati named after the great poet and reformer who founded the Satras and Naam ghars for worship. There is a library, a museum with collection of cultural items of the whole of north eastern region’s culture and tradition, a children’s park, eateries, open air theater, and also an Artist’s village depicting Assam’s village life. The Bhupen Hazarika museum is another attraction showcasing the life and history of the famous lyricist and playback singer of Assam. One should not miss visiting this place which gives a clear picture on Assam.
Doul Govinda temple on the northern bank of Brahmaputra devoted to Lord Krishna. The temple is known for its scenic beauty. The temple also has a namgarh where bhajans and songs are sung by devotees. We also enjoyed the prasadh called Bhoga served after the puja in the afternoon. They served delicious milk and rice kheer (like our paal payasam) that was piping hot and also some fruits and sprouts to each and every devotee seated in rows in the temple hall. It was a sight to see the pigeons which come in large numbers and take their share from the devotees.
Our next trip was to Bashista in the outskirts of Guwahati where it is believed sage Bashista (Vashista) had his ashram. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The view of the streams from the mountains behind the temple which flow as rivers Bashista and Barula. It is a treat to the eye with the lush greenery behind and the flowing water. There is a small temple for Manasa Devi across the river
We also visited Ugratara temple which is a famous temple in Guwahati dedicated to Sati Devi with a shrine for Lord Shiva. There is a small pond behind the temple. The Sukreswar temple in Pan Bazaar on the banks of Brahmaputra has a large shivalingam which is believed to one of the jothirlingas. The temple also has a shrine for Lord Vishnu.
Yet another beautiful temple was the Navagraha temple situated on the Chitrachal hill for the nine celestial bodies in the form of nine shivalingams. The Iskcon temple for Lord Krishna with pure white structure and marble floor is another attraction. We chose janmashtami day to visit this temple and it was very crowded as expected.
As we are from South India, we were delighted to learn about Purva Tirupathi Balaji temple built with the blessings of Kanchi Sankaracharya and eager to visit the temple. This is efficiently managed by people from south and all pujas are done as in Tirupathi and all priests are from south and they are given accommodation in the temple premises. The temple is built in south Indian style with a big gopuram. Very neat and well maintained temple, beautifully illuminated in the evenings.
The Dighalipukhuri park in Latasil is a beautiful manmade pond which has boating facilities and children’s park. We had an evening well spent here. On the northern bank of the pond lies Guwahati War Memorial which is built to respect our jawans who died for the sake of the nation. There are imitations of the famous Saraighat Battle in the memorial.
We very much wanted to visit the Kaziranga National Park but due to recent floods in Brahmaputra, there was water logging due to which the park was not open to the public during our stay there. So we had to miss that.
There was a small park and walking path alongside Brahmaputra where we used to go for evening walks and enjoy the setting sun.
Last but not the least, we went on a shopping spree in Fancy Bazaar before we left Guwahati which is a big market place and bought some dresses, Assam silk sarees, and mementos to be given to our friends and relatives back home. Fancy Bazaar reminded me of our Ranganathan Street and Pondy Bazaar shopping.
We returned to Chennai the next day with loads of memories of unforgettable days spent in Guwahati.
After a hiatus (almost five months), back to blogging.
In January 2020, we heard about Corona that had hit China’s Wuhan in December 2019. At that time, no one thought this is going to be such an intense global problem soon. In the first week of March, we had a trip to Coimbatore and visited relatives and friends and this was not the hot topic then. Everything was usual for another 10 days and then came the one-day Janatha curfew and we sort of became more serious. News started pouring from all sources and of course our daughters from New Jersey and New York and other relatives in the US about the severity of the situation and numbers doubling every day. They were updating us regarding the shutdown there and all started working from home. As the number of infections was going up in India, our government too announced the 21-day lockdown to bring the situation under control. Then lockdown second phase continued followed by lockdown third phase. Some relief was announced in few places but most of India went to the lockdown fourth phase which is now on, expected to end by May 31, 2020. Another week to go now.
As senior citizens and retired, we both do not have much change in our lifestyle. Our routine is the same as before except for the walking and evening shopping has been cut now. Otherwise life goes on as usual. Still we too feel depressed at times due to the uncertainty looming over the entire World. We both continue our Samskritam studies through online classes. I do some sewing and attend Narayaneeyam and Thiruppugazh classes on Zoom. With the internet everything is possible now without stepping out of our houses. Still sometimes I get a feeling, “Something is missing.”
A friend of mine had mentioned in the Whatsapp that she has not opened her wardrobe for long and was wondering if those dresses will ever be used? I too get the same feeling sometimes.
This Corona has triggered my memories and I was just thinking of a few of the calamities I have come across so far in my lifetime.
The two wars, Indo-China War of 1967 and the Indo-Pak War of 1971 happened when I was very young. We were in New Delhi then. I was in school then and I remember those days vaguely. We used to paint our glass windows black or paste black paper on the glass so that light will not be visible outside. We were mostly indoors. They used to say when you are outside and if you hear a siren warning of an attack, you have to hide in the pits made for this purpose. People will shout in the evenings “Batthi Bandh Karo” and we have to put off the lights immediately. There was a scarcity of rice those days and we had to manage with chapatis and whenever we could get some rice, we were like going to have a feast. Living in South India, life is comparatively calm and peaceful as we do not get the first-hand experience of war times.
Cyclones and floods in Chennai need no mention. With the city’s not so well planned infrastructure, we get hit every time there is a cyclone. The very first flood in my memory is from my college days in 1978. I was having my semester practical exam in the afternoon. My college is just opposite Marina and suddenly it became too dark that visibility was very less inside the lab. Somehow we hurriedly completed our examination and came out. It was November and rainy season but that day it was windy and so dark and heavy rains started pouring. My friend and I could not get any bus back home and had to walk for some distance. Then we got a bus to some point and from there walked again. All the roads were flooding and we were scared to walk in that knee-deep water without knowing where manholes are and with numerous creatures flowing through the water. Those days we had no phone or mobile and we could not inform our people home about our status and they could not get in touch either. Somehow we reached home fully drenched. Later on after a week or so, I went to the flood-hit areas of Kotturpuram along with my friends as part of NSS. It was a horrid sight. All houses were completely destroyed and we could see so many household articles strewn around. We also saw a small baby’s dead body in the mud.
During the Tsunami of 2004, we were actually traveling to Pondicherry to visit Mother’s Ashram with family members. When we were nearing Pondy, we started getting calls from friends and relatives from other states inquiring about Tsunami in Chennai. After calling home, we knew that that same morning the Tsunami has killed thousands of people in Chennai Marina and other coastal parts. With all these updates we reached Pondicherry, visited Mother’s Ashram. and were told to leave as early as possible. On our return journey we had to take a roundabout route as ECR was already closed. We could see people moving here and there and carrying whatever they can from their homes and running to safe places. I can relate that to today’s migrant laborers going back by walk to their own native places. Later we witnessed the fury of floods again in 2015 which again devastated Tamil Nadu and in 2016 the cyclonic storm, Vardha. (During Vardha, of course, we were not in Chennai. We had been in Imphal to attend. wedding and saw on TV only).
We moved to Mumbai in April 2008 as part of my husband’s transfer. That November we witnessed the terror attacks in Mumbai’s Chatrapathi Shivaji Railway station, Taj Mahal Hotel, Cama Hospital, and Nariman House. This went on for four days. My father and I used to watch the happenings on TV and it was really scary and heartbreaking. So many innocent people died without any reason.
Life definitely normalized after these events though we needed some time to get over the shocks. Corona will also be history after a few years but what we learned from this threat should be remembered and we should be prepared for future emergencies.
Let us pray with Mahaperiyava’s lines – SREYO BHUYAT SAKALA JANANAM! meaning “May all people all over the World attain all Goodness.” This is taken from the song “Maithreem Bhajatha” rendered at the United Nations on UN Day, October 23, 1966, by the renowned singer, Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi and Radha Viswanathan and received a standing ovation from the audience.
After Navarathri this year, we started our Kasi trip on 10th of October by Sangamitra Express leaving Chennai by 4:35 p.m. and reaching Pt.Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Junction formerly Mughalsarai on 12th October early morning 5:15 a.m. We took an auto from the station and reached Balananda Ashram which was booked for us by Voice of Rishis – Shri Nochur Venkatramanji’s Sapthaham organisers. The Ashram was spacious but maintenance was lacking. But somehow we managed the next six days there. As the Shivala ghat was nearby we could go and bathe in Ganga there. By 6 a.m. we would leave for Assi Ghat, the satsang venue, either by the E-rickshaws arranged by the organisers or just walk to the venue. We would have our morning coffee and then attend the satsang on the banks of Ganga till 8:30 a.m. After that would finish breakfast and then see the nearby places. Again around 10 or 10:30 a.m., we would have another session by one of the disciples of Shri Nochur Venkatramanji (Shri Shridharji or Dikshithar on Bhajagovindam and Adi Sankaracharya’s other works). After that, lunch would be served by 12:30 to 1 p.m. and would return to our rooms for a nap. Again, evening 3:30 p.m. would reach the venue, have tea and snacks, and attend pravachanam by Shri. Nochurji. Evening Arati was a treat to the eyes at Assi Ghat and would sit on the banks of Ganga watching her flow peacefully. Compared to Rishikesh where Ganga is young and vigorous, in Kashi she is calm and matured like an old woman as observed by Adi Sankaracharya in one of his works.
“Kasi” means light and this city of light is believed to be one of the oldest inhabited places in the world. The other name of Kasi, that is, Varanasi stems from the confluence of two rivers, Varuna and Assi, here.
The place in Assi Ghat which belongs to Koviloor Mutt was where Shri Nochurj’s sapthaham was arranged. It was really God’s grace and Ganga matha’s blessings that things went so smooth. The organisers showed us the videos regarding how water level from Ganga had reached the road and boats were used just 10 days before our program started and how the local people responsible had done a great job. It was raining continuously then and and luckily rains stopped and water started receding and they could go about the arrangements. We had both treat to our ears and our stomachs respectively by Shri. Nochurji’s pravachanam and good South Indian food by Arusuvai Natarajan caterers.
During our sapthaham days, as we had a fixed schedule, we could visit Kasi Viswanathar temple, Annapoorani, and Visalakshi temples twice in the evenings. We also visited Sankatamochan Hanuman temple, Bindu Madhava temple, Adhi Durga mandir, Tulasi Das’ Ramcharithamanas Temple, Tridev temple, and Kaalbairavar temple.
The main temple of Kasi, the Kasi Viswanathar temple is a very ancient one, destroyed and rebuilt many times. The last destruction was by Aurangazeb and he built a Gnanavapi mosque in its place. The current structure was built by Ahalya Bai, the Maratha ruler. There are separate shrines for Parvathy and Annapoorni. There is a temple for Visalakshi maintained by Nattukottai Chettiars and a separate temple for Annapoorani near Viswanathar Temple. The Annakut festival is a very famous one which happens during Diwali. Golden Annapoorani will be taken in laddu chariot only during Deepavali it seems. Unfortunately, we could not stay until then.
Our Sapthaham ended on 19th October by morning and after brunch we were given idli packets by the caterers as many were traveling back to their respective places the same day. We had arranged with Sankara Matam for performing rituals. So we went back to our room, packed our things and moved to Sankara Matam. We took an auto and visited Benares Hindu University, Kasi Viswanathar Temple inside the campus, etc.
The New Kashi Viswanathar temple in Benares Hindu University built by Birla under the initiative of Madan Mohan Malaviya is also known as Birla Temple. The temple has been constructed using marble and its tower is said to be the tallest in India.
Kaal Bhairav temple is one of the oldest Shiva temples in Varanasi. Bhairava is a fierce form of Shiva wearing a garland of skull. They say after one’s Kasi visit is complete before leaving the place, one has to visit this temple and get his permission. As most of the temples in Varanasi, this is also inside a narrow lane and one has to walk to the temple from the main road.
Bindu Madhava temple is near Panchganga Ghat and we can reach the temple after climbing a flight of steep steps. The temple is the oldest Vishnu temple in Kasi destroyed by Aurangazeb and rebuilt by Chatrapathi Shivaji. The idol is a very beautiful one. The three presiding deities of Kasi are Lord Vishwanath, Kaal Bhairav, and Bindu Madhava.
Ganga Arati is done in many of the ghats and we could see the ones on the ghats of Dashaaswamedha and Assi. Both were very nice visual treats. During the Arati, one can really forget the world around us and enjoy the divine show with the chanting. The boatmen are also taking people around the ghats during Arati time and one can see the different aratis from different ghats.The timing and coordinated movements of the people doing Arati is really amazing.
The next day early morning by 6 a,m. we left for Prayag Raj (Allahabad) to Triveni Sangamam for our first part of the rituals. Shankara mutt manager had already arranged for our rituals in Allahabad with Shiva Mutt. Our driver took us there and we were given a room to keep our things and changing our attire, me to madisar and my husband to panchakaccham. The place was so busy with people coming in batches and the sastrigals were taking turns to perform the rituals. When we were ready, we were called to join a batch of others. After Sankalpam, we did puja to the Veni Madhava (sand brought by us from Rameswaram). We were asked to take this to the Triveni Sangamam and dissolve the sand in water while taking the holy dip there. We had taken cans with us which we filled with water from Triveni Sangamam.
Triveni Sangamam is the place where rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswathi meet each other. Ganga from Gangotri after passing via Rishikesh, Haridwar, and Kanpur reaches Allahabad. Yamuna from Yamunotri flows via Mathura and Brindavan and reaches Allahabad. Saraswathi too starts in Himalayas near village Mana (near Badrinath) and she is “Antarvahini” meaning flowing underground unseen to mankind and she too joins the other two here in Triveni Sangamam and that is why the name Triveni. Here an important ritual done by married women is “Veni Dhanam” ( giving a part of hair as offering). While in the boat, the husband is asked to comb and plait his wife’s hair and decorate with flowers and finally the end is cut and offered as Veni Dhanam in the sangamam. The hair thus offered sink straight into the water though it is light, they say. Though many offer hair, one could not see any hair floating.
The Vadhyar also explained the connection between the Triveni and a woman’s woman’s plait. We make our hair into three parts before starting the plait but when one looks at it, one can see only two strands. The third one is not seen. In the same way, we can see Ganga and Yamuna and though we know Saraswathi is also there we cannot see her.
We returned to Shiva mutt after our holy dip and after doing Hiranya Srartham and pinda pradhanam for our ancestors, we were served homely food in the mutt. After lunch and after a short break, we started our return trip back to Varanasi. As the road was not a very good one with lot of blocks, we reached Shankara mutt around 8:30 p.m. and had our dinner and went to bed early as all were tired.
The next morning around 5 a.m. after bath, I prepared Havis (cooked rice used for pindams) in the mutt kitchen. Around 7 a.m. the boatman arranged by the mutt came and we all went for “Panchaghat snanam.” The Vadhyar accompanied us and we took the havis and we three ladies were asked to make required number of pindams while the men were performing the rituals. The five ghats we visited were Assi Ghat, Dashashwamedha ghat, Trilochana ghat, Panchaganga ghat, and finally Manikarnika ghat. We returned to Shankara Mutt and performed srardham, bhojanam and vastram for two brahmans. We then had lunch at the mutt and took rest.
Afternoon around 2:30 p.m. we started for Gaya by car. We stopped for tea on the way and then reached Bodhgaya around 8:15 p.m. We visited a Jagannathar temple here. The idols were similar to Puri Jaganathar Temple. We could visit only the main Buddhist temple here and the Bodhi tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. There are around eight temples in Gaya for Buddha it seems.
It took around 9:30 p.m. to reach the Sankara Mutt at Gaya where they provided us rooms and instructions for the next day’s rituals. Next day morning, we had bath in the room and went to Vishnupaadam Temple and did the rituals there. Then we offered one set of pindams at the Vishnupaadam inside the temple. After going around the temple, we went to Falguni river. There was very little water in the river and we offered another set of pindams here in the river.
The story goes that Rama and Lakshmana wanted to perform “srardham” for their father Dasaratha, Rama and Lakshmana went to collect the required things. Unfortunately they did not return in time and Dasaratha was hungry and asked Seetha to perform the rituals and offer pinda pradhanam. Seetha obeyed him and as she had no rice or grains, she offered him pindams made of sand and Dasaratha was happy. The Falguni river, Tulasi plant, Akshaya Vatam, Gaya brahmin, and cow witnessed this. When Rama and Lakshmana returned, Seetha told them she gave pindapradhanam to their father, Dasaratha. She asked the witnesses for support but other four except Akshaya Vatam did not help her. So she cursed that the Falguni river will always flow underground and will never have much water above the surface, the Tulasi leaves in Gaya will not have fragrance, the cows will never be worshipped from front in Gaya, and the Gaya Brahmins will never have contentment. When we visited, the Falguni had very less water, we could just dip our feet and do prokshanam, that is all. We saw cows being worshipped from behind and of course, the Gaya Brahmins’ case was 100% true. They just wanted more and more. Not only the pundits but other people around the Akshaya Vatam too. The Tulasi leaves of course, I am not sure as the Tulasi I got as prasad had fragrance. The Akshaya Vatam because it stood by Seetha and told the truth was blessed by her that those who offer pinda pradaan under the tree will be blessed and their ancestors will be satisfied. Here 64 pindams are given to one’s mother with the priest explaining Adi Sankaracharya’s Maatru Panchakam slokam with meaning. It was very moving and naturally everyone’s eyes were filled with tears remembering their mother’s sacrifices.
We returned after the rituals to Sankara Matam and after srardham with homam in the matam, we did vastradaanam to two brahmins (both were very young children between 12 to 14 years-they say due to heavy demand for brahmins for the rituals, such young children are called for this). After bhojanam and dakshina for them and dakshina to our main priest, we had meals prepared by a Brahmin staying in the matam. He packed some food for us for our travel back to Varanasi as we were not supposed to eat outside food after the rituals. We left Gaya around 3 p.m. again and drove back to Varanasi and reached around 9 p.m. As the trip was a bit hectic, we went to bed soon after having dinner in the Matam.
Next morning, we were supposed to do Dampathi Puja but due to personal reasons, we decided to do this after reaching home. My sister and brother-in-law left in the morning by flight and we three, my husband and myself and my sister-in-law had enough time to wander around for shopping. The two shops worth mentioning are The Chettiar shop near Sankara Matam in Hanuman Ghat where we bought brass items like chombu, annapoorani vigraham, etc., and the other one was a doll showroom “Agarwal Toys Emporium.” We could buy some dolls there as memoir from Varanasi.
We returned after our purchases to our room and did the final packing. Had lunch at Matam and took some rest. Our train, Sangamitra Express, was at 11:20 p.m. We took dinner and had asked the Matam Kitchen people to pack food for our journey. They prepared idli milagai podi, chapathi with thakkali thokku, and curd rice pickle. Nice homely food we had on train. We left Varanasi on 23rd of October and reached Chennai on 25th of October by 1:30 p.m. and reached home by 3 p.m. We left for Rameswaram again on 26th October and reached there on Deepavali day, 27th October. We had Deepavali snanam at Agni theertham around 5:30 a.m. My husband performed tharpanam in Sankara Matam and then we went to Ramanathaswamy Temple with the Ganga jalam we brought from Triveni Sangamam and did abishekam to Ramanathaswamy and visited other shrines in the temple and returned to our room. We had lunch at Telugu Brahmins Mutt as hotels were closed that day due to Deepavali. We got methi paratha packed from Gujarathi Bhavan for train and left Rameswaram to Coimbatore that evening.
Thus our long trip of Rameswaram-Varanasi-Rameswaram was successfully and satisfactorily completed and it indeed was a memorable pilgrimage trip from which we derived immense peace and contentment.
As the last leg of our spiritual tour from Mayiladuthurai to Rameswaram, we reached Rameswaram from Karaikudi by train around 8:30 a.m. on 16th September 2019. We hired a cab and visited the nearby places around Rameswaram that day as we had to perform the rituals as part of our impending Kasi tour the next day and also the Rameswaram temple which is huge enough requiring more time to go around. The cab driver came around 10:30 a.m. and we started immediately after breakfast.
We visited Lakshmana theertham and Lakshmanan temple and Panchamukhi Hanuman temple where they had kept the floating stones used for building “Sethu Palam” to SriLanka by Lord Rama with the help of the vanara sena.
It is said that two monkeys Nala and Neela had a curse that whatever they touch or throw in water would only float and not sink. Lord Rama used their curse and they helped in making the stones float and the bridge was built successfully in five days.
We then visited the Kothandaramar swamy temple which is at the southernmost tip of the island surrounded by Bay of Bengal and Gulf of Mannar. This temple is the only structure to survive the 1964 cyclone which washed away Dhanushkodi. The temple houses Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshmanan and Vibishanan who is one of the brothers of Ravana. It is said Lord Rama performed Vibishanan’s pattabishekam here after killing Ravana in the war. The walls of the temple have paintings of Ramayana very beautifully done.
Then we proceeded to visit Dr. Abdul Kalam’s house and his memorial which is a beautifully maintained one and the depictions are so informative and very well done. We could get a very clear vision of Dr. Kalam’s life. Such a noble person whose life is a lesson to all of us.
Next we proceeded to Dhanushkodi Beach. The Dhanushkodi town was destroyed in 1964 cyclone. The place looks deserted. Only tourists visiting the beach are seen.
The newly laid road to Dhanushkodi, the southernmost tip is a beautiful one with sea on both sides. Dhanushkodi got its name as it is said to be shaped like Rama’s bow itself. It was a flourishing port during the British period and connecting India and SriLanka through a rail and sea route. The train from the old capital Madras to Dhanushkodi was called “Boat Mail” and from there a ferry was used across the shallow Palk Straits to Thalaimannar in SriLanka.
From Dhanushkodi, we proceeded to Navabashanam where the navagrahas are in the form of stones in the sea. Some are visible and some are submerged in the water. We could do pradikshina on the walkway around. This is in Devipattinam. It seems Lord Rama calmed the sea to install the navagraha stones here and worship them.
Next we visited Uttharakosamangai which is said to be the world’s first Siva temple around 3000 years old and the Maragatha Natarajar (Emerald) here is a famous one. The Natarajar is always covered with sandal paste and on Thiruvadhirai day, the sandal paste is removed and new sandal paste is applied. Only at that time, devotees can see the real green Natarajar. The temple is a huge one and as per the legend, Lord Siva transferred the secret of Vedas to Goddess Parvathi. The main deity goes by the name Mangalanathar and the ambal Mangaleswari. This temple existed before the period of Ramayana it seems and there is an old Indian date tree (“ilandai maram” in Tamil), the age of which has been calculated as 3300 years by the archeologists.
After a very satisfying darshan at Uttarakosamangai, we then visited Thirupullani Adi Jagannatha Perumal Temple. This temple is one of the 108 Divya desams and has been glorified in the Nalayira Divya Prabandam. The shrine of Adi Jagannatha with Bhudevi and Sridevi in a sitting posture with a separate sannadhi for Devi Padmasini is there. In another sannadhi, Lord Rama is seen in a reclining position on a bed of Dharba grass with Lakshmana as Adisesha and Brahma in a lotus. Rama’s bow and arrow are seen on his chest. Lord Rama is believed to have done penance here on grass to worship and please the Ocean God to seek way to SriLanka. Thus this place gets the name “Dharbasayanam.” There is also another story that Dasaratha prayed here for progeny and worshipped the Santhana Gopala here. He got the payasam here which he offered to his wives and was blessed with Rama, Lakshmana, Bharatha, and Shatrugna.
Then we headed back to Rameswaram. We returned to our rooms at Sri Chunchinagiri Ashram after dinner for rest as it was already dark.
Next morning after an early bath, we proceeded to Shankara Mutt where we had arranged some rituals to be performed for our parents.
After doing Sankalpam, we Hiranya srardham for our parents and ancestors and went to Agni Theertham and had a dip in the sea and brought sand from the sea which we shaped into three lingams, Veni Madhavar, Sethu Madhavar, and Bindu Madhavar respectively. After doing puja to them, the Bindu Madhavar and Sethu Madhavar were dissolved in the sea in Rameswaram. The Veni Madhavar was to be kept safely by us until we were able to go to Kasi and Allahabad where this was to be dissolved in the Triveni Sangamam of Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswathi.
After this, we proceeded to Rameswaram Ramanathaswamy Temple for snanam in the 21 theerthams there. After a satisfying snanam in all the theerthas, we went back to our rooms for changing to new clothes. Again we reached Ramanathaswamy Temple for darshan. Though there was reasonable crowd, the queue was moving and we had a friend from Vivekananda Kendra who guided us through the temple explaining the importance of shrines. So we had a very good darshan.
This temple is a must visit one for all, a very huge one with marvelous sculptures. The architecture is just mind-boggling. The credit for this goes to the Sethupathy dynasty. The third prakaram is the longest corridor in the world which is just awesome with as much 1212 pillars.
This temple has one of the 12 Jyothirlingams. There are two main shrines of Ramanathaswamy and Viswanathar. Parvathavarthini amman is the consort of Ramanathaswamy and Visalakshi amman is for Viswanathar. As per legend, Rama after killing Ravana had to perform puja to Lord Siva to get rid of Brahmahathi dosham. So he told Anjaneya to bring a lingam for his puja from Kailash but as it was delayed, Seetha Devi made a lingam with sand and they did puja to that lingam. When Anjaneya arrived with the lingam he was disappointed. So Lord Rama, in order to please him, installed the lingam as Viswanathar and the first puja is always for Viswanathar and then only for Ramanathaswamy which is the sand lingam made by Seetha Devi. There are many other shrines around the temple along the three corridors. One such was of Sethu Madhavar with a marble statue built by Pandya Kings. Many other shrines of Natarajar, Santhana Sowbhagya Vinayagar are also there.
We returned to our rooms and then had lunch at a Vadhyar’s home arranged by Shankara Mutt and also got idli packets for our dinner as were to travel to Chennai that night. On the whole, it was a very fulfilling visit and we prayed to Ramanathaswamy that our impending Kasi trip should go without any hurdles and returned home.
Pamban bridge above connects the island of Rameswaram to mainland India. It is noted for its unique opening to allow ships to pass through. It was a thrill to pass through the bridge in train.
We had only one full day to go around Karaikudi as we were to leave the next day early morning by 4:35 a.m train to Rameshwaram. So we had some important temples in mind like Pillayarpatti and Thirukoshtiyur and others were to be added as per availability of time. We also had an idea to visit Chettinadu houses if possible. We discussed with the driver and he wanted some extra bucks to cover Athangudi palace as it was out of the way of our route. We decided to go ahead as this was a good chance to visit the palace.
So after our morning coffee at Arya Bhavan, we started around 7 a.m. to Pillayarpatti. This village gets its name from the deity Karpaga Vinayakar who fulfills the wishes of his devotees and blesses them like the . It is about 12 km from Karaikudi. This is one of the oldest rock cut temples in Tamil Nadu. This is a Valampuri Vinayakar with the trunk curved to the right side and 6 feet tall. As the Vinayakar is carved out of a cave formation, we cannot do pradakshinam (circumambulation) as in other temples. The pillayar is in yoga position with a lingam in one hand. The temple is very well maintained and we had a very good darshan as there was not much crowd. The other deities are Thiruveesar in the lingam form and another lingam Marudeesar and his consort Vaadamalar mangai. There is also Karthiyayani amman whom people pray for removing marriage obstacles.
The next temple we visited was Thirukoshtiyur Sowmyanarayana Perumal temple which is also a very ancient one and a huge temple but as renovation work is going on, we could not go around the entire temple. This is one of the 108 Vaishnava divyadesams.
Perumal is blessing devotees in four different poses. At the ground level, he is Narthana Krishnan(Bhoolokam). Again we could not have even a glimpse of this deity due to renovation work. The first floor has Sowmyanarayana perumal in ananthasayanam pose (Devalokam). Here they give a small lamp (ahal vilakku covered with paper) if we ask for it which we have to keep in puja at home until our wish is fulfilled. Once fulfilled, the vilakku has to be returned to the temple. The thayar is Thirumaamangai thayar. There are some steps going up to the vimanam near Thayar Sannadhi. There is a watchman who lets a limited number of people at a time to avoid crowds on the top of the vimanam. On the second level, Upendranarayana perumal is in standing posture (Indralokam). On the next level, i.e., third floor, perumal is sitting as Paramapadhanathar (Vaikuntam). If you climb further steps, you reach the top of the vimanam where you have pass via a narrow passage in sitting position and then reach the place from where Shri Ramanujar preached the ashtakshara mantra “Om Namo Narayana” to all people. The story is as follows: Ramanuja was advised by his guru to go to Thirukoshtiyur Nambi to know the ashtakshara mantra. Ramanuja went to Thirukoshtiyur Nambi and knocked the door. When asked who has come, he said, I, Ramanuja, have come.” For that, the Nambi said, “Naan setthu nee vaa.” Ramanuja was turned down for 17 times like this and on the 18th time he understood the meaning of the above that he should go to the guru without ego and said “adiyen dasan Ramanujan” and he was let in. He got the upadesam of the mantra and was warned that he would go to hell if he disclosed it to others but Ramanuja said he would prefer to go to hell if all others who chant it go to Vaikuntam. The Nambi realised his mistake and called Ramanujar “Emperumanaar” meaning my lord. Ramanuja’s statue is there on the top of Vimanam from where he preached facing Thirukoshtiyur Nambi’s house.
Thirukoshtiyur got its name as Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma came here as a group (Koshti) to discuss about Lord Vishnu’s Narasimha Avataram to kill Hiranyakashibhu.
THIRUPATTUR THIRUTHALINATHAR TEMPLE
The Shivalingam is Swayambu here and sage Valmiki did penance here for removal of his sins and Lord Shiva blessed him. As Valmiki was covered by ant hill (Putthu in Tamil) this place got its name Thiruputthur. Bhairavar is Yoga Bhairavar who also did puja to Lord Thiruthalinathar and did penance here to remove his sins from killing demons. There is a grand festival in April called Chithirai Bhairavar Vizha celebrated here. The ambal is Soundarya Nayaki or Sivakami.
VAIRAVANPATTI SWARNA BAIRAVAR
This temple is more than 1000 years old. It seems Kashyapa muni’s son Sooran got a boon from Shiva that no one else other Shiva can kill him. He started torturing others and killing them. So Lord Shiva took the form of Bhairavar and destroyed him. After this he took the form of celestial light and the Lord here goes by the name “Valar Oli Nathar” and the ambal is “Vadivudai Amman.” The Bhairavar is Raja Marthanda Bhairavar here with dog as his vahanam. Theipirai ashtami is very important day for Bhairavar and he is decorated with swarna kavacham. The temple is very well maintained.
SHRI LAKSHMI KUBERAR ALAYAM
This is a recent temple with Vinayakar and a big Lotus in the ground level and Kuberar and Lakshmi in the first floor. Green color Kunkumam is given as prasad as green is auspicious for Kuberar. There is a gift article shop in front of the temple.
KUNNAKUDI MURUGAN TEMPLE
Our next visit was to Kunnakudi Shanmuganathar Temple. We reached the temple after climbing few steps. The hill is called Mayil Malai as they say it appears as a peacock to many devotees. Lord Murugan with Valli and Devayanai are the main deities. Carrying Kaavadi, adi pradakshinam, anga pradakshinam and Sashti fasting are some of the popular prayers followed by devotees.
We next drove to Athangudi and we were waiting to see the palace. It was a huge one with 64 rooms and a big hall and also a dining hall. We could see only these places. The kitchen was not shown to us. Rooms were also locked. The hall was a magnificent one with lot of paintings and big Italian mirrors. The flooring uses the famous Athangudi tiles which are handmade and ecofriendly. The doors had beautiful carvings and the hall had a very tall roof with paintings on it. The caretaker informed us that they have not done painting after it was built in 1923. The paint used is from vegetable dyes and they just wash with water in between. The fourth generation people who live outside in US and UK and other foreign countries manage the palace with the help of caretakers as per the present in-charge. An entry fee of Rs.50 was collected per head which was worth it.
Our morning session came to a close after we had Chettinadu special lunch (did not meet our expectation though) and we were left in our room for some rest before the evening session.
ARIYAKUDI PERUMAL TEMPLE
We started our evening session around 4:30 after a coffee break. Our first visit was to Ariyakudi.
Then Thirupathi or ThiruVenkatamudayan Temple is a 17th Century temple around 4 km from Karaikudi Railway station. The history goes that Sevukan Chettiar used to walk to Thirupathi with other devotees in the month of Purattasi to have darshan of Perumal. Once when he was ill, he could not undertake the trip. When he was sad, he heard Perumal’s voice saying he himself will come to his place to give darshan. He was advised to go to Srirangam and get the abisheka murthy which Shri Ramanuja was doing puja and returned to Karaikudi and installed the idol in the forest area of Ariyakudi. Later the temple was expanded.
The speciality of this temple is that the idol is from Srirangam, Shatari is from Tirupathi, and agni is from Thirukoshtiyur. Sevukan Chettiar’s idol is also seen in the first prakaram.
THIRUMAYAM ROCKCUT TEMPLES
We could see the hill and the temple towers from train while we were proceeding to Karaikudi from Mayavaram. By the time we reached this temple it was very late and started getting dark and so we could not click any photos.
Originally it was Thirumeyyam meaning land of truth (mei in tamil meaning truth) that has changed to Thirumayam now.
There are two rock-cut temples here for Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu carved out of the same rock. The twin temples were built around 1300 years ago with just a compound wall separating them. Girivalam cannot be done for Shiva alone here. Both the temples are covered in the path. The temple is a good example of unity among Saivites and Vaishnavites.
The Shiva is in lingam form with the name Satyagireeswarar and ambal is Venuvaneswari. There is a huge lingothbavar carved out on the wall opposite the sanctum sanctorum.
The Vishnu temple has the presiding deity Satyamurthy Perumal in standing position about 7 feet in height with his two wives. Next, carved out in a cave is Lord Vishnu in ananthasayanam position lying on the Adisesha and Lakshmi on his chest. surrounded by other deities. Bhooma devi is seated at the feet of the Lord. Brahma is seen emerging out of his navel. Two demons Madhu and Kaitaba are seen trying to attack Bhulokam and at the request of Bhooma devi, the Lord’s weapons are flying towards them to defend the attack. Adisesha also spits venom on them and this is depicted very clearly on the rock.
As we went late in the evening, we missed the chance of seeing around the fort in the background and its historical importance.
NAGARATHAR SIVAN TEMPLE
This was a well maintained Siva temple by Nagarathar community people. There are around nine temples in Karaikudi managed by them. All are popular for their architecture.
This was another huge palace which we could see from outside only. It was really a big mansion.
SOLKETTA VINAYAKAR TEMPLE
The name “Solketta Vinayakar” is given to this Vinayakar as he instantly answers devotees’ prayers. This is a small temple with Vinayakar in beautiful alankaram. After we prayed at this temple, our driver left us at Nachiappa Palace where we were staying and left. We then went for dinner at Arya Bhavan and went to bed early as we were to catch the early morning train.
16th SEPTEMBER 2019, MONDAY
Left Karaikudi to Rameswaram by Chennai Rameswaram Express. Started from hotel around 3:45 a.m., reached railway station by 4 a.m. Had coffee and waited for our train which was right time at 4:35 a.m. Had a nice journey and reached Rameswaram by 8:30 a.m.
We were ready by 3:30 p.m. so that we could spend some time on the banks of Cauvery.
CAUVERY BANK THULA KATTAM
As Cauvery was brimming with water, we thought we will have a close look. We were taken to the thula kattam by the driver and we enjoyed seeing children playing in the water. Spent some time there. There was a small Kedaranathar temple near and we had darisanam there.
VAANMUTTI SRINIVASA PERUMAL TEMPLE
When Athi Varadar was blessing devotees after 40 years in Kancheepuram, we learnt about many other temples which have idols made of athi wood. One such is this Vaanamutti Perumal in Kozhikutthi near Mayiladuthurai. This is also a very old temple around built around 1200 years ago. The Perumal is a huge 14 ft idol and very beautiful. Thayar Mahalakshmi is in the form of Dayalakshmi in Perumal’s right chest. Bhooma Devi is in the form of idol on the left side of Perumal. As a huge athi tree has turned into Perumal, the roots are supporting Perumal’s feet.
The anjaneyar here is sapthaswara Anjaneya as musical tones can be heard on touching the idol but we did not have the luck to hear as it was locked and no priest was there.
KATHIRAMANGALAM VANADURGA TEMPLE
We are all familiar with Kathiramangalam due to the recent crisis there and protest against ONGC. The actual name of Kathiramangalam is Kadhir veindha mangalam that has changed over to the present name over time. Vanadurga temple has Durga as the main deity. Ragu Kala poojai is done in this temple. The Durga is believed to visit Kasi every night and returns early morning next day. Sage Agasthya and Markandeyar have prayed in this temple. Poet Kambar was here for a long time and he prayed Durga before writing Ramayana. Durga is a 6 feet tall very beautiful idol. They say she is similar to Patteeswarm Durga near Kumbakonam.
This was the place where Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvathi as she wanted to have an earthly marriage with all rites and rituals and the kanyadhanam was done by Lord Vishnu. Goddess Parvathi was cursed to be born as a cow and Lord Vishnu accompanied her as a cowherd. She got her curse removed with the help of Sage Bharatha and Lord Shiva married her at this place. Therefore, men and women who have some delay or obstacles in getting married come here and perform special pujas and they get married soon and visit the temple later with their partners.
The main deity is Uthvaganathaswamy and the ambal is Kokilambal. The urchavar is Kalyanasundaranar.
PARIMALA RANGANATHAR TEMPLE, THIRU INDALOOR
Parimala Ranganathar is an unforgettable deity in our whole tour this time. We actually visited this temple in the evening immediately after seeing Cauvery thula kattam. That time the priest said we cannot see then Perumal then as some puja was going on. He asked us to go to Thayar’s shrine and then return. So we went and had darshan and went round the prakaram and returned but again the screen was down and the priest asked us to go and visit other temples and return after 8:30 p.m. So we turned around and stepped towards the entrance. Immediately someone called us and asked us to come and have darshan. We ran again to the sanctum sanctorum. Some VIP had come and so they called us too for darshan. The perumal is in ananthasayanam reclining pose , a very beautiful perumal but as some 48 days mandala puja was there and that being the last day, they could not open the screen fully. Though we had darisanam, we could not see the perumal fully. We then visited the above temples.
After our visits to the other temples were over, we still had time and so we once again went to see Parimala Ranganathar. This time again, some puja was going on and the screen was down and we had to wait. We thought the Perumal is playing with us and we waited patiently. After puja and neivedyam was over, we were all given a piece of dosa and some sundal as prasadam. The priest who gave us prasadam told us to wash hands and come back for darisanam. He was so vigilant that when someone tried to go to the front without washing hands, he immediately spotted and made all the people go and wash. Though he was a very lean person, his voice was so commanding that all obeyed him. After this, we could go nearer and have a good darisanam of the perumal.
This is one of the 108 divya desams. It seems Ekadasi fasting gained importance in this place. Lord Moon had darisanam of this perumal and hence this place is called Thiruindaloor. King Ambareesha completed 99 ekadasi fasting and he was about to complete the 100th. The devas in the heaven did not like Ambareesh achieving equal status with them after completion of Ekadasi vratham. So they sought the help of Durvasa who came to Ambareesh. When Ambareesh asked Durvasa to dine with him, he said he will have a bath and come. He took his own time so that the auspicious time to complete King Ambareesh’s fasting will be over. The king’s pundit advised him to have a few sips of water to end his fast and wait for Durvasa. Durvasa knew this through his powers and he sent an asuran to kill Ambarish. Ambarish took refuge in the Lord and he was saved. Upon his request, Parimala Ranganathar stayed in this place for the sake of his devotees.
With that our Mayiladuthurai trip came to an end. Though still more and more temples are there to visit around, we had postpone to some other time. We went to have our dinner and then reached our service apartment.
SEPTEMBER 14, 2019SATURDAY
We got up a little late and finished our bath etc. by 8:30 a.m. and once again visited Mayuranathar temple. After spending some time, we went to a restaurant to have breakfast and coffee. After breakfast, returned to our room, packed our things and were ready by 11:30 a.m. The driver came soon and he left us at the railway station after getting us 5 packets of curd rice for lunch. The train was unexpectedly very delayed and so we had to finish our lunch in the station itself. Our train was due to arrive at 1:35 p.m. but was delayed by one hour and we reached Karaikudi by 7 p.m. We had asked a cab driver to pick us up and he left us at Nachiappa Palace where we had booked our rooms. We refreshed ourselves and went to the nearby Arya Bhavan for dinner and went to sleep so that we could go around Karaikudi next day.
We started around 7 a.m. once the driver arrived. Our first visit was to Thirupamburam.
The main deity is Thirupamburanathar or Seshagireeswarar and the Goddess is Vandaarpoonguzhali or Brahmarambigai. The place has lot of snakes and hence the name. They say no one dies of snake bite in this place. Even though lots of snakes are seen here, they do not normally bite anyone. This is a very famous Ragu-Kethu parihara sthalam. The tank in front of the temple is Adisesha theertham.
KOOTHANUR MAHA SARASWATHI
The name Koothanur was derived from Ottakoothan who was the poet in Raja Raja Chola II’s sabhai and he was gifted this village by the king. As temple to Goddess Saraswathi is very rare, people throng this temple with their children for education and also the Goddess relieves one of previous birth’s sins. The Goddess is very beautiful sitting in a white lotus wearing white vastram. Apart from Veena, she has olai chuvadi (palm script) in one hand and chin mudra on the other. The third has akshamala denoting penance and the fourth one has nectar pot conferring happiness and wealth. We did archana for all the children in the family. People even bring note books and pens and pencils and get them kept at Devi’s feet. Aksharabyasam (the first time a child is made to write at an auspicious time) also is being done here. Having had a very good darisanam, we moved on to the next place.
THILATHARPANAPURI AND ADHI VINAYAGAR
The next temple visit was to Thilatharpanapuri Muktheeswarar sametha Swarnavalli ambigai which is about 2.5 km from Koothanur. This place is also known as Sethalapathy. The name Thilatharpanapuri comes from “Thila” meaning gingelly seeds and “tharpanam” meaning rites to ancestors. This is one of the seven sthalams for performing pithru karmas, others being Kasi, Rameswaram, Srivanchiyam, Thiruvenkadu, Gaya, and Thriveni Sangamam. According to Legend, Sri Rama performed tharpanam for Dasaratha at various places but due to some issue, the pindams turned to worms each time. After praying to Lord Shiva, Sri Rama was advised to go to the Arasalar river and take bath and do tharpanam at the Mandhara vanam which is this place. This time, the pindams turned to four lingams and Dasaratha attained mukthi. The lingams are seen at the back of the temple and called Pitru lingams. They say one cannot plan a visit to this place. It has to happen per God’s will. In our case, we did not know about the place but the driver himself took us there after Koothanur.
There is also a separate shrine for Adhi Vinayakar or Nara mukha vinayakar here and Ganesha is with a human head which we do not see normally. The story of Lord Shiva beheading Naramukha Vinayakar and replacing with elephant head is a known one.
The next temple we visited is Thirumeeyachur Sri Lalithambigai I was waiting for some time to visit her and have darisanam after reading about this temple. It is said the Lalitha Sahasranamam originated here. We all started saying Lalitha Sahasranamam in the car itself and we could finish it exactly when we got down at this temple. Her consort is Lord Shiva known by the name “Meganadhar.” This is an ancient temple around 2000 years old. The Goddess is very powerful. The vimanam here is different from other temples and is called Gajaprishta vimanam looking like the back of an elephant. The Goddess’ beauty and alankaram are mesmerising.
As per legend, once Surya (Sun God) was cursed by Lord Shiva and he was asked to do tapas here for 7 months but he lost patience before that period and shouted and the Goddess Parvathi got angry. Lord Shiva pacified Parvathi (the sculpture can be seen below) and blessed her with peace and she is called Shanthanayagi. Surya was cured. The angels called Vasinis emerged from the Ambal and they sang thousand names of the ambal which is the Lalitha Sahasranamam. Later this was conveyed to Agasthiyar by Lord Hayagriva. Saint Agasthya also sang “Lalitha Navarathnamalai” in praise of this ambal.
On the outer prakaram, there is a sannidhi for Ashtabujanga Durga who has a parrot in her right hand. The parrot is supposed to be taking the prayers of devotees to Lalithambigai. If a parrot is spotted flying above when one prays, the devotee can take it that the prayer has been heard. We too saw a parrot flying above when we were in the sannadhi praying for all and were very happy.
People offer bangles mala and golusu (anklets) to Lalithambikai. There is a story for this golusu prarthanai. Once Ambal came in the dreams of a woman in Bangalore in 1999 and asked her to give her golden golusu. The lady wanted to give but she did not know which ambal came in her dream. Once she spotted a photo of Lalithambikai somewhere and she knew this was the ambal. She brought the golusus and gave it to the priest. He said there is no way of putting the golusu on ambal’s feet as there is no gap in the stone of the idol. When she insisted, he searched and to his amazement he found a hole in both feet of the ambal through which the golusus could be adorned. From then on people started offering golusus to ambal. We can see clearly ambal wearing the golusu when the arathi is taken.
There is a temple within this temple called Illam Koil housing Sakalabhuvaneswarar and his consort Minnumegalaiyal. Though it was a Friday, the crowd was comparatively less and we had a very satisfying darisanam here.
This temple is an ancient one with many significances. Parvathi was reborn as Karthyayani and married Lord Shiva here and behind the Shivalingam we can see the divine marriage scene. Lord Vishnu got his Chakrayudham back from a demon called Soundaran after praying to Lord Shiva here. He planned to do puja with 1000 lotus flowers but there were only 999 and Lord Vishnu gave one of his eyes in place of that flower.
When Appar and Sambandar visited this place, there was severe drought here it seems. Both of them prayed to Lord Shiva and he gave them each one gold coin every day called “Padikkasu” and they used that coin to buy food and serve people. The Padikkasu Peedams where they got the coin can be seen in the outer prakaram.
The deity is Veezhinatha swamy and ambal is Sundarakujambigai. The urchavar is Kalyanasundaranar. The Lord Kalyanasundarar is in Kasi Yathrai Kolam before marriage and hence he is called “Mapillai Swami.” There is a Padhala Nandhi here and it looks as though the entire temple is built on the Nandhi. There is a pandakkal pillar near the garbagriham. People praying for removal of marriage obstacles offer archana and go around the pillar thrice.
The temple got its name as this was a “Veezhivanam” (full of Veezhi plants) before and a saint named “Mizhalaikurumbar” lived in this place.
Thus our morning session of temple visits got over successfully. We had a very satisfying divine experience in all temples. We had lunch and went back to our room for a short break before our evening session.
After a couple hours’ rest in the room, we got ourselves ready for our next session of temple visits by 4 p.m.. We had coffee on our way and proceeded to Sirkazhi first.
Sirkazhi Sattanathar temple is an ancient temple around 1500 years old. The temple is a vast one and is very well maintained. It is managed by Dharmapura Adheenam. This temple has three Shiva shrines with Brahmapureeswarar in the form of lingam and Ambal Thirunilainayagi at the lower level, the second level shrine has huge forms of Thoniappar or Umamaheswarar and Perianayaki in a thoni or boat, and the top level has Sattanathar in the Bhairavar form. The Thoniappar and Ambal in such huge size can be only seen only here. Lord Shiva is in dhyana pose rendering spiritual knowledge to Ambal. It is really a very divine experience standing before them and praying.
Once Lord Brahma forgot Pranava Mantra and did penance here and Lord Shiva blessed him to regain it and so he is Brahmapureeswarar. During mahapralaya kaalam (heavy floods) when earth was submerged, Lord Shiva carried with him the 64 arts in a raft and stayed here with Goddess Parvathi. Hence the name Thoniappar, As Lord Shiva is head of all laws, the Lord is given the name Sattanathar (Sattam in Tamil meaning law). Lord Shiva. A special puja on every Friday until midnight is being done for Sattanathar where he will adorn punuku kappu which is a very auspicious time to worship this Lord.
Thirugnanasambandar, one of the four saivite tamil gurus, came to this place as a child with his father. His father left him and went for a bath. The child felt hungry and cried. On hearing him cry, Goddess Parvathi and Lord Shiva came in person and the Goddess fed the child with milk blended with wisdom. The child was happily waiting for his father with signs of fresh milk around his mouth. When his father angrily asked him who gave him milk, the child showed the sky and sang the first Thevaram verse, “Thodudaiya seviyan.” The vastness of the temple and the architectural beauty has to been experienced personally.
When we reached Vaitheeswaran Koil, it had rained heavily and just stopped. So it was very dark by then and water logging in roads. Hence could not take pictures and we had to walk through the water to inside the temple.
Lord Vaidyanathaswami is the “God of Medicine” whom people pray for relief from various ailments. The ambal here is “Thaiyalnayaki”. Selvamuthukumaraswamy (Murugan) got his vel here and he is given first preference in all pujas. Thiruchandurundai is a mixture of ashes from homakundam kept in ambal’s sannadhi in puja and given as prasadam. It contains healing properties.
This is a chevvai or Angaraka parikara sthalam. There is a shrine for Dhanwantri also.
It is believed that Rama and Lakshmana performed the last rites for Jatayu here in this temple and the tank is known as Jatayu Theertham. We prayed to Lord Vaidyanatha for everyone’s ayurarogyasowkiyam and returned to Mayiladuthurai.
VALLALAR KOILMEDHA DAKSHINAMOORTHY
This temple also comes under Dharmapura Adheenam. The main deity is Vada Aranyeswarar in Sanskrit and “Vallalar” in Tamil meaning one who gives boons without limits and ambal is Gnanambigai. As per legend, Rishaba deva became very proud thinking he is superior to others as he is carrying Lord Shiva and noticing this, Lord Shiva wanted to teach him a lesson. He placed one of his hair strands on Rishaba and he could not bear the weight and realized his mistake and begged for forgiveness. Lord Shiva forgave him and also gave him abundant divine knowledge.
This temple is a known guru parihara sthalam and the deity is Medha Dakshinamurthy. Medha means wisdom. Lord Dakshinamurthy here is sitting on Nandhi (which is a rare sight) with chin mudra. Rishaba deva is seated before him receiving wisdom from the divine teacher.
The time was past 8:30 p.m. and our driver said we may not be able to see much after this, so we called it a day and went for dinner at Hotel Annamitra again impressed by their service and food quality. After dinner, returned to our apartment and went to bed early so that we can start our next day energetically early in the morning.
SEPTEMBER 13, 2019 FRIDAY
We got up early by 4:30 a.m. and were ready by 5:30 a.m. As Mayuranathaswami temple was near our apartment, we could hear the thevaram from our place. The early morning breeze and the thevaram singing made our morning a real wonderful one when we walked over to the temple.
The beauty of the architecture of those days has no equal even in these days of modern technology and engineering. When we stood at the entrance of the temple, we could see the inner sanctum sanctorum straight and the small lamps shining clearly. It was as though symbolically suggesting to us that if we search inside us deeply we can find the Bhagwan inside us.
Mayiladuthurai or Mayavaram is named after this deity. When Daksha did not give due respect to his son-in-law Lord Shiva in his yagna, Goddess Parvathi wanted to correct her father but she too was humiliated by him. Lord Shiva as Veerabhadra destroyed the yagna and Paravati was cursed to become a peacock as she did not listen to Lord Shiva. She came to this place as a peacock and did severe penance and joined Lord Shiva here. Lord Shiva too took the form of a peacock and the famous Mayura thandavam happened here and hence the name Mayuranathar. The ambal is in a separate shrine “Abhayambigai.” The Devi is 5 feet tall adorned in madisar and with abhaya mudra. Sri. Nallathukudi Krishnaswami Iyer wrote Abhayambigai Sathakam consisting 100 verses on this Ambal which is a very powerful one.
Next to the Ambal, there is a shrine housing a Lingam adorned with a red saree and named Anavidyambigai. When we asked the archakar, he explained as follows:
Once a couple Nadha Sarma and Anavidhyamba came for Cauvery thula snanam here. Unfortunately, the 30 days of Aippasi month got over when they reached and Karthigai started. They were very sad and worshipped Lord Shiva. Then Shiva appeared before them and asked them to take bath before sunrise and they will have full benefits. Even now thula snanam continues till Karthigai 1st and is called Mudavan muzhukku. This couple later merged with Lord Shiva. The Lingam with which Anavidyamba merged is the one with red saree mentioned above near Ambal shrine and is called Anavidyambigai. It also signifies the oneness of male and female.
This place is the jeevasamadhi of Kudhambai siddhar who was one of the 18 great siddhars (Padhinen Siddhargal).
After a very satisfactory darisanam and wondering how such huge temples were built by kings those days, not just one or two so many all over our country, we stepped out of the temple. We had filter coffee in a nearby kiosk and returned to our apartment and waited for the driver to arrive. Our next session of temple visits will follow in the next blog.
Back from a very enlightening trip covering many important temples of the South from Mayiladuthurai to Rameswaram.
Started on 11th September 2019 from Chennai by Tiruchendur Express and reached Mayiladuthurai by 7 p.m. Had already booked a residency (a 2 bedroom flat) and an Innova through my nephew. The driver picked us up from station and left us at the flat. It was a service apartment with kitchen attached and spacious and comfortable. Had a good night’s sleep and got ourselves ready for the first day’s tour of temples. We had planned to stay for 2 days and had a list of temples in hand to visit. We had gopura darisanam of Mayuranathaswami temple from our flat. (Visited this temple the next day)..
On 12th September 2019, we started around 6:30 a.m. and visited the following temples till noon.
Being my 60th birthday, we visited Thirukkadaiyur first. This is the place where Abiramibattar sang Abirami Andathi. Abiramibattar lived always thinking of Abiramavalli. On a new moon day, he was asked by the King as to what thithi it was and he mistakenly replied it was full moon day. People made fun of him. At that time, he sang Abirami Andathi which has 100 verses. Andathi means each verse will begin with the last word of the previous verse. When he was singing the 79th verse, Goddess Abirami was pleased and she threw her ear ring (Thaadangam) into the sky which shined in the sky as a full moon. The King apologized for his mistake. The deity is Abirami and her consort is Amirthakateswarar.
There is also Kalasamharaswami here in this place who saved Markandeya from Yamadarmaraja. Yama was cursed and he lost his job of taking people’s lives and Bhooma Devi prayed to Lord Shiva as population was on the rise and Lord Shiva reinstated Yama back as Yamadarmaraja. This temple is always crowded as people celebrate their 60th, 70th, 80th birthdays here. We had a very good darshan here and I had a very satisfying birthday.
After we left Thirukadaiyur, we learnt about a temple just 2 km behind the Abirami temple called Thirumeignanam which is also known as Thirukadavur mayanam where Lord Brahma was destroyed and created by Lord Shiva. The temple is a very beautiful one it seems. We regret missing it.
Next we stopped at Thiruvidaikazhi Murugan temple. In this temple, Lord Muruga and Lord Shiva are in the same garbagriham. After killing Soorapadman in Tiruchendur, Lord Muruga killed his son in this place. A pleased Shiva gave his son the prominence and he is behind Lord Muruga here. Lord Muruga does puja to his father as he does in Thiruchendur. There too we can see the Panchalingams behind Lord Muruga. Goddess Devayanai is in a separate sannadhi. This is one of the paadal petra sthalams.
The moolavar in this temple is Devarajaperumal with his consorts Sreedevi and Bhudevi. The urchavar is Rajagopalaswami with his consorts, Sathyabhama and Rukmini. The Hanuman here is trinethra dasabhuja veera Anjaneyar. The Anjaneyar has different ayudhams given by different devas and the third eye on his forehead given by Lord Shiva. As per the legend, after destroying the rakshashas in Srilanka, he took rest here in Anandamangalam happily and hence the name.
Our next visit was to the famous sthalam for Budha bhagawan, Thiruvenkaadu. The main deity here is Swetharanyeswarar and the ambal is Brahmavidyambigai. The Sivalingam is self-manifested here. This is a very old temple being mentioned in Valmiki Ramayanam and Silapadikaram. Budha Bhagawan got rid of all his doshams in this place and hence this bas become a Budha parihara sthalam. It is customary to offer green colour vastram to Budha Bhagawan.
Lord Brahma also performed penance here in “Samadhu Nilai” holding his breath to regain his Brahmagnanam. Lord Shiva pleased with his penance gave him upadesam as Dakshinamurthy. The Ambal also gave him Brahma Vidya and hence her name Brahmavidyambigai.
One of the many forms of Shiva, “Aghoramurthy” can be seen only in this temple. Lord Shiva took this form to kill one asura called “Maruthuvan” who was blessed with a trident (soolam) by Lord Shiva himself. But he started torturing others. So Lord Shiva asked Nandhi to fight with Maruthuvan. He hit Nandhi with the trident in 9 places and tore one of his ears. The scar marks can be seen on the Nandhi here. Then Lord Shiva became furious and killed the asura himself.
it is believed that Thirugnanasambandar on arriving at this place felt it looked like Mount Kailash and all the sand dunes looked like Sivalingams to him. He called the ambigai for help as he could not step on them. The ambigai presented before him and carried the child to the temple and so the name “Pillai Idukki Ambal” given to her. People worship her for “santhana prapthi.”
As per legend, Lord Shiva performed Ananda Thandavam here and water droplets came out of his three eyes and formed the three theerthams of this temple.
KEEZHPERUMPALLAM KETHU STHALAM
The temple here is Naganathaswamy temple which is also a Kethu parihara sthalam among the Navagriha sthalams. The ambal here is Soundaryanayaki. Kethu is referred to as shadow planet. Kethu God here has a divine posture with a five-headed serpent as his head and with folded hands worshipping Lord Shiva.
As Poompuhar is just 2 km away, we thought we will visit the place before going for lunch break. Poompuhar was once a flourishing port city known by the name Kaveripoompattinam which was washed away by sea erosion and floods around 300 BC. Silapadikaram one of the great Tamil epics has Poompuhar as the backdrop. But we were badly disappointed by the present condition of Poompuhar beach. The historic significance of the city has been totally forgotten. Everywhere we could see trash and debris strewn here and there. Went to the museum but the man in charge was in a hurry to go for lunch and did not allow us to have even a glimpse.
The Kannagi Statue (Kannagi is the main character in Silapadikaram) was in such a bad situation with a torn old saree which brought tears in our eyes. We all were reminded of actor Vijayakumari who acted as Kannagi and could not compare.
From Poompuhar, we returned to Mayiladuthurai for lunch at Hotel Annamitra. The food was good and the service by the women waitresses was laudable. After lunch we returned to our apartment and took rest till 4 p.m.
Today being September 5 celebrated as Teachers’ Day marked in honour of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, former President of India, brings to mind memories of not only my school and college teachers but many others from whom I had the opportunity to learn different things. My respects and thanks to all those teachers. I remember my mathematics teacher, Ms. Valliammal, who made the more complicated mathematics (that was my thought) very simple, my English teacher, Ms. Stella who developed in me the love for the language and my Tamil teacher, Ms. Lalitha Bharathi (the great poet Bharathiar’s granddaughter) who taught the language so beautifully. We were all proud to be her students as we all love Bharathi’s poems. There are so many other teachers who are equally good and I respect all of them. As of now, I have three Sanskrit teachers who are so dedicated and make us enjoy the beauty of Sanskrit.
I had also the opportunity to teach for a few years in different schools. It was a wonderful experience overall though some difficulties with some mischievous students were always there. In fact, it was indeed a learning phase for me too. When some of those students recognize and wish me even after many years, it makes me really happy. What can be a more memorable gift for a teacher?
When we visited North East India, we were happy to meet and interact with so many dedicated teachers of Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalayas in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Many of them are living there in the remote places far from their hometowns with very less comforts just because they love teaching and their service mindedness in helping the backward people of Arunachal Pradesh. Many of their alumni are in very good positions now.
The above Sanskrit shloka means that the Guru or the teacher is the one who removes darkness of the unenlightened person by applying ointment (imparting knowledge) and he opens the eyes and my salutations are to him.
Our former President Dr. Abdul Kalam who himself was a great teacher and loved to be always with young students said on the role of a teacher as follows: “The aim of the teacher should be to build character, human values enhance the learning capacity of children through technology and build the confidence among children to be innovative and creative which in turn will make them competitive to face the future.”
Nowadays children are burdened too much in their young age with too many classes and no time for play or relaxation. Our education system is such that children are made to focus only on marks by both teachers and parents. Though parents know very well that scoring high marks is not the only criteria to judge their children they are helpless because the whole system of education and admission to higher studies depend only on these marks. They naturally do not want their child to lose his or her future opportunities because of marks.
Teachers again are pressurized for high results by school administration and they are compelled to reflect this on their students for their results. Only when teachers are comfortable and have freedom to work in a positive atmosphere, the same sense of wellbeing and happiness will be passed on to students who will develop in a healthy atmosphere.
A teacher has a greater role and he or she spends more time than the parents with the students. We come across many instances where the teacher observes and informs the parents of their ward’s difficulty in seeing the board or any hearing problems or any behavioral difficulties and helps them take care of the same.
A friend blogger Shri Shiva Narayan in his blog Learnography gives a clear picture on teachers, schools, and students. He says, “Teachers are not responsible for the introduction and decision of teaching system. The teaching theories of school system and its implementation have been decided by the educational authorities of the government. Teachers are always blamed in school system for the low performance of their classroom. Sometimes students do not pay attention to the topics described for learning and understanding. The teacher says that some students are creating problems in the classroom. Some students say the teacher is the pain of classroom. What’s this? This is the outcome of teaching performance and we have to change it for brainpage responsive classroom. We are talking about the teachers, but we never talk about the defects of teaching system. We criticize teachers but we do not discuss about the outcomes of teaching system.” The full article and other articles can be accessed from the link above.
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has framed a 10-point oath for teachers. Let teachers remember these on this Teachers’ Day. Parents and students should respect the teachers and school administration should make them feel comfortable and give them freedom to carry out their work. The teaching profession is losing its charm as it is not equal in pay and perks when compared to other industries now. Though the government schools and colleges pay good salaries, the private managements are extracting work from the teachers and paying them very less. The administrations should make necessary changes. Likewise, teachers should also update themselves on a daily basis in their respective fields and current affairs. Due to the advancement of electronic media, today’s children are more updated and they naturally expect their teachers to be more knowledgeable and clear their doubts.
As it is said teaching is the noblest of all professions and every teacher’s wish would be to be remembered as a good teacher as said by Dr. Kalam.
Teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, caliber, and future of an individual. If the people remember me as a good teacher, that will be the biggest honour for me.