Saturday, 31 December 2016

DESTINATION INDIA DAY 2

Destination India Day 2

7. Arulmigu Swetha Vinayagar Temple, Thiruvalanchuzhi

We got up early and left for Swamimalai that we missed seeing last night as our very first day in India was packed to the brim. As we came alongside a temple by the roadside on the way to Swamimalai, Shankar asked if we wanted to drop in and worship at the temple. It was the Sweta Vellai Vinayagar Temple. Immediately I recalled having been there earlier and that the speciality in this Vinayagar Murthy was that he was said to be made of sea froth or foam.

We alighted from the Tempo and bought bunches of Arugampul to place at Lord Vinayagar’s feet. We walked across the large courtyard towards the temple. All along the path there was numerous coconut trees laid out beautifully giving us a sense of walking on the beach. Along the way the temple priest joined us and I picked up a conversation with him. He gets about to open the temple for the day and we became the very first to receive Lord Vinayagar’s darshan that day. The priest obliged us by narrating the history of the temple when I asked him for details on the temple. When I asked him to repeat what he had just told us for the camera he very humbly turned us down saying that ‘Anna’ or elder brother has the authority to speak on the temple, in public. 





As we arrived at Swamimalai, our destination, we came across the temple chariot, a wooden one, that was placed at the crossroads and was being decorated to bring the Lord around (at 10am as we soon found out). Walking towards the temple, we could not but notice numerous unfortunate people begging on the streets leading to the temple, many women carrying children in their arms. As we began to contributed to some, word spread that we were giving out money, and more came asking. Somehow we seemed to manage them. We spotted a building dedicated to carry out Ramalinga Adigal’s mission for feeding the poor and unfortunate, the Samarasa Sudha Sanmarga Sangam. An elderly man clad in a clean vesti and a white shirt arose from his chair at the entrance and led us to the sanctum where there were paintings of Adigal and the founder of that mission. He lit the arati and we began to sing the Arutperunjhoti Maha Mantra with his permission. When asked about his mission he told us that they feed around 500 people each day. We passed him a small donation in cash for their kind effort towards humanity and moved on to the temple.

After paying for the special passes we stood in line to climb the steps of Swamimalai. The line slowly progressed in a zigzag manner till we stepped into the presence of Lord Swaminatha. Coming around the sannadhi we realized that both Agathiyar and Lobhama installed outside the inner sanctum, on Lord Swaminatha’s left. We stopped to light up lamps and sing songs of praise at Agathiyar’s sannadhi after the police personnel on duty gave us some leeway to do so.





As we alighted from the Tempo the girls purchased items for performing puja. Shanga and I picked up a basket each and headed for the Sri Mullaivananathar sannadhi.  Sri Mullaivananathar is said to be made up of hardened mud and there is no libation or Abhishegam carried out for him. We adjoined to Sri Garbarakshambigai Amman sannadhi where an elaborate abhisegam, alangaram and puja was going on. After satisfying the numerous wishes of the devotees already gathered at the packed sannadhi and sending them off, the priests came and received our puja items and performed a similar puja. He handed back the basket of prasad to us and asked us to deliver the garland to Sri Mullaivananathar. We headed back to the Lord's sannadhi. 

As for the girls they were made to draw a kolam or pattern in ghee at the doorstep to the sannadhi and worship the Goddess, a ritual unique to this temple. We understood from the booklet on Stala Puranam for this temple that here lies samadhi’s of two Siddhas, Gowthama and Gargeya. Read their story at http://garbaratchambigaitemple.org/history/

10. Arulmigu Adi Kumbeswarar Temple, Kumbakonam

As we started this pilgrimage Bala Chandran told me he would like to bring the boys and girls to the Adhi Kumbeswarar Temple, to have the darshan of Agathiyar if time permits. And so we stopped over at the temple as we re-entered Kumbakonam after visiting Swamimalai. After paying homage to Adhi Kumbeswarar Bala hastened along the outer corridors looking for Agathiyar’s sannadhi. But there was none to be seen. Then we went around another corridor. Neither was Agathiyar there. Now disillusioned Bala seeked information on Agathiyar’s sannadhi from the temple priest as we stayed some distance away, observing. After a long briefing by the priest, Bala came to us and led us out of the temple walls and took us to the streets again and there he was at the back of the temple compound in his own premises. We walked into his sannadhi. The grilled door was locked. We took our places and began to chant the Siddhar Potri. 

A lady leaves a bottle of sandalwood water in our midst and steps aside to listen to us chant! 

A man arrives to open the grilled door! He enters the sannadhi and lights up the lamps and leaves with the lady. 

Another lady clad in rainbow saree covering her head completely, stoops low and enters the sannadhi, lights up a lamp, shows the arati before exiting the sannadhi in reverse. She too leaves, not showing her face to any of us. 

As we end singing the Potri, the man hastens to Agathiyar’s sannadhi from the temple grounds. He informs us that he was going about his chores when Agathiyar instructed him over to his sannadhi and have the doors open. He introduces himself as Shankar, a Siddha medicine practitioner. He and his wife took upon themselves to take care of three Deity sannadhis: that of Agathiyar, Murugan and Ambal, all laid in a line in the outer premises of Adhi Kumbeshwarar temple. He spoke long and obliged us by speaking about the temple in front of the camera. He led us to the other sannadhis under his care and introduced us to his wife. Before we bid farewell to him, we asked that he bless all of us which he did after some persuasion. 







11. Arulmigu Suriyanar Temple, Kumbakonam

As we alighted at the entrance to the temple, a young man approached us and told us that he was willing to take us around and help guide us to conduct the Navagraha puja for a small fee. We engaged him. As promised he took us around and showed us what to do at each sannadhi. The girls lighted the ghee lamps at each sannadhi of the planets before gathering and waiting at the Kol Theertha Vinayakar for the temple priest to come along and start the puja. Soon the temple priests began to arrive to open up the temple for the afternoon and conduct prayers. Completing the puja at Kol Theertha Vinayakar sannadhi, we are then led into Suryanar’s temple. Planet Guru will go unnoticed till we are told as he is placed inside the sanctum and opposite and facing Lord Suryanar here. A priest then led us to each individual sannadhi of the nine planets again and performed puja. 

12. Arulmigu Sri Kalyanasundareswarar Swamy Temple, Thirumanancheri

Kalyana Sundareswarar and Kokilaambaal grace this temple. Here the girls were asked to sit in an adjacent courtyard where the priest explains the rituals to be conducted and its benefits. We understood that as the actual courtyard for this ritual was being tiled, the temple authorities had a makeshift temporary shrine to continue conducting this ceremony without hindrance.


13. Arulmigu Sri Mayuranathaswami Temple, Mayiladuthurai (Mayavaram)

As we drove into Mayiladuthurai, Sankar told us that there was a big temple of Lord Vishnu at the end of the road where we stopped for dinner. Over dinner, Bala remembered that there was a Jeeva Samadhi at a temple in this town but could not recall the name of the Siddha. Enquiring from the restaurant staff, we were informed that Kuthambai Siddhar had his Jeeva samadhi at the Sri Mayuranathar temple closeby. After paying homage to Mayuranathaswami and Abhayambikai who grace this temple, we began to look for the two samadhis. We located Thakshanamurthy’s sannadhi and discovered Kuthambai Siddhar’s samadhi next to his. We began lighting the lamps and reciting the Siddhar Potri. This was one spot so energized that we, ordinary folks too, could feel the Siddhas presence. We just could not move away from this spot and continued sitting in “their” presence for a very long time, imbibing the energy radiated. Finally we decided to move on and who do we see as we turn the corner – Sattainathar sitted majestically some two storey above us! Man, how did they place him there? We look to see if there was stairs leading to his sannadhi but there was none. It still remains a wonder to us. We worshiped him from where we stood and moved on.


14. Arulmigu Koraka Siddhar Jeeva Samadhi Peedham, Vadakku Poigai Nalloor 

Now moving on to our last destination for the day, as Dyalan was asked to spend a night at the Koraka Siddhar Jeeva Samadhi Peedham, the boys decided to accompany him while the girls were driven to a hotel at Velangkani some 7 kms away. But Bala chose to stay with the girls for company while at the hotel. Along the way we happened to come across a lodge and enquired if we boys could take a bath. The motherly caretaker showed us another option. Rather than book a room and pay the price of the room, just to have a bath, she offered to fill up water in pails in the hotel courtyard of this tiny village. We paid a small token and were given the privilege to bath in the open while the rests waited. During this time I joined the rests after my bath, to witness how Thirukarthigai Deepam was celebrated in the Indian villages. The homes were lighted up with oil lamps and kuttu vilakku. It was a beautiful sight. The kids blasted the crackers and fireworks. There was a small Ambal temple next to the lodge and the homes where prayers began. Sankar and I attended while waiting for Shanga, Dyalan and Sugu to have their baths. Now refreshed after the bath, we continued to Korakar's Jeeva Samadhi Peedham. It was indeed a sight to see the homes lined up with oil lamps all along the way.

As Sankar and the rests left Shanga, Dyalen, Sugu and me at Korakar’s Jeeva Samadhi Peedham, Shanga was taken aback to realize that we had to sleep it out on the road shoulders as many others did. It was already way late at night and the gates to the Peedham were shut. Shanga decided to give a try and open the gate. As he pushed, the gate gave way and we were inside the Peedham complex. Many were already asleep in this portion of the Peedham too. We noticed a raised platform or tinnai just right for all four of us: Shanga, Dyalan, Sugu and me to lay out for the night. We have come prepared with a blanket and vesti. As we laid the vesti out to sleep, we heard a voice ask, “Where are you from?”(Yengiranthu Varinga?) Peeping through the darkness we could not spot who was asking. We kept quiet. Again the voice asked, “Yengiranthu Varinga Aiya?” This time Shanga replied that we were from Malaysia. Immediately the voice ask if we would like to enter? (Ulle Varingala?) Almost immediately a figure arises from his sleeping position on the raised platform next to the door to the inner Peedham and unlocks the doors for us. We find that there were many sleeping in this space too and that they were locked in! We chose a spot to sleep near Korakar's Jeeva Samadhi. Sugu was still awake as I dozed off to sleep.

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This blog postings are those of beginners who have taken the first step exploring the mysterious & mystical world of Siddhas. It is purely about devotion (Bakthi) and miracles. For those who think or feel that they have advanced spiritually and passed these initial, preliminary and primary stages, please reserve your comment.