Saturday, May 13, 2006

Chapter 16


We returned to Chennai the following day. Many months later I had a vision of the Acharya. One night, I was somehow transported to Shringeri. I saw him performing a puja. However, even as I looked on, his physical form seemed to balloon out.
His image became fatter and more grotesque. His face filled out until his eyes disappeared under the enormous folds of his chin. Suddenly, with a puff of smoke he completely disappeared from my view. I woke up as if from a deep stupour and the first
thought in my mind was “ He showed me that name and form didn’t really matter. I have been foolish to underestimate and not fully realise the immense power of this very Holy man”.

I don’t really know if that idol was ever returned to Salem. Somehow, I don’t think that was the real intention of Swamigal. I got the distinct impression that this whole episode was a test of my faith in my Guru!! It had taken a lot of courage for me to convey
my Guru’s message to the Acharya, braving criticisms from my family. The Acharya, of course, could see through this “test” very easily! I was meant to get the blessings of a “living” Guru and this objective had been achieved.

Two further memorable events happened during this short visit to Chennai in January, 2005. However, before I start to elaborate on them, I must mention another vision I experienced on the very early morning of December 26th , 2004.

In this vivid dream, I found myself in a very old, but beautiful mansion . It seemed that I was here to meet someone special. I wandered around the vast, spacious corridors that seemed to enclose a courtyard. I remember seeing a tinkling fountain in the middle of the
courtyard. The broad verandah encircling the courtyard had cool marble flooring and was perfumed with the fragrance of various exotic flowers and plants that seemed to grow in profusion in the garden.

All of a sudden I came across a a raised dais set in the side of the verandah. I went closer and then saw her. There was a woman sitting on the raised dais. I could not really see her face too clearly but registered in my mind that she had a portly figure. Then, as I drew closer to her, I seemed to leave my body and literally “ float” towards her, or into her. It was a strange sensation, but not too unlike experiences in the past.
This Lady said in a soft voice “ Please tell your sister to come and see me. I have been waiting for her. She was supposed to come and see me earlier but did not show up. You will bring her to me. “ That was all, that was the message.

I awoke and realised it was my sister’s birthday. I called her up immediately and told her about my dream. She remembered that there was a psychic astrologer- lady in Chennai whom she had intended to visit in October 2004. But somehow, she never got around
to seeing her. We felt that perhaps it was this person who wished to meet her after all!

Bearing this dream in mind, when I was in Chennai during January 2005, I asked my sister if she wanted to visit this lady.We found out where she lived and fixed up an appointment to see her. Meenakshi Ammal lived in a tiny flat in a suburb called
Chrompet. We introduced ourselves and soon got talking. Apparently Meenakshi Ammal had been blessed by Lord Muruga of Tiruchendur. . She had this God given ability of reading horoscopes and making accurate predictions.
I had taken my horoscope and my sister had taken her daughter’s horoscope as she was anxious for her daughter to get married soon.
Meenakshi Ammal did predict many past events for my sister rather accurately and reassured her that her daughter would soon get married.
Then she turned her attention towards me. She looked carefully at my horoscope and that of my husband’s as well. Without the slightest hesitation she described with great accuracy all the troubles I had endured on several fronts over the past. She
mentioned a great dosha in my husband’s horoscope and told me to carry out some parihaarams for it , if I was interested.

There was a marked difference in the tone of her voice while she spoke to me and gave further information. I was meant to be there that day! Meenakshi ammal told me that in my earlier births I had been extremely religious. However, this had been
forgotten in the most recent janma. Hence the return to spirituality in the current janma or birth. She assured me that throughout all my problems I was assured of Lord Muruga of Tiruchendur’s support. “ He is surely guiding you and protecting your children. Don’t be afraid”. These were her final words.

Soon after this interesting episode and, towards the tail end of my trip to Chennai, I had the opportunity to visit Tiruchendur. This temple by the sea-shore is one of the famous battle- camps of Lord Skanda, so the legend goes, and is a truly inspiring
sight. Apart from the architectural splendour, there was an unmistakable vibration in the atmosphere that was soul- stirrring.
The temple was, as usual, extremely crowded. Although we were escorted by a few temple priests who allowed us to escape the seething mass, nevertheless we were jostled and pushed towards the main sanctum. Here too, there was a tremendous
commotion and chaos.
My sister in law and her daughter had travelled along with me. We were given permission to sit up front at the very entrance to the main sannidhi. From this spot I could get an uninterrupted view of Lord Muruga in all his glory. Yet, the noise outside was
deafening. The people in the crowd that was just behind us, were screamimg at the top of their voices. The few priests inside the sanctum seemed to rush back and forth between the main altar and the entrance carrying the arathi and prasadam. There were people who were shouting out their respective names, gothrams, etc for archanas. In the midst of all this din, there was a solitary priest inside the sanctum reciting the Murugan Ashtothiram
( 100 names in praise of the Lord).

I strained my ears but simply could not hear anything! I then focused my attention on the main idol and sat there simply looking at this glowing figure.
Within a few minutes I completely forgot the chaos outside. In other words I could either not hear it or it didn’t matter to me anymore because something really strange was going on that caught my complete attention.
Even as I sat there gazing at the deity, I could very distinctly see His mouth move. I could “ hear’ Lord Muruga reciting his own Ashtothiram. I thought I was mad!!!

Surely someone else might have noticed this as well?

However, in that crowded sanctum not one of the priests seemed terribly concerned that something unbelievable was going on. I waited for a few minutes, my eyes still on the deity. No mistake here. I could see Lord Karthikkeya move his lips and now I could hear the priest chanting as well. The deity’s mouth moved in unision with the chanting!! I could not tear my eyes away. Now another strange thing happened. Lord Senthil Vel Muruga was giving me a darshan as Pazhani Andavar. Gone were the crown and robes that had been adorning this idol. The face looked young, the head was completely shaven, adorned with rudraksha beads. There he stood in solitary splendour wearing nothing but a loin cloth and holding his Dhandam in his right hand. His youthful face
smeared with sandal paste looked so calm and serene. His mouth was parted in a smile, but at the same time still mouthing the many namams of his own Ashtothirams.

I think at this point I screamed to my sister in law who was sitting next to me- ‘ Look , Look, don’t miss this sight. He is actually talking!!! Can’t you hear?”
Later, after we left the temple premises she told me that she had been really quite concerned about the state of my mental health.
As soon as the Astothirams were over, we did leave the main sanctum. However, I caught hold of one of the priests and told him what I saw. He did not really know how to respond! Clearly, he must have thought I was completely mad.
In any event, I can never forget what I had witnessed. That image of Tiruchendur Murugan who also revealed himself to me as Pazhani Andavar is something I will never forget for the rest of my life.

After I returned to London in eatly February, 2005, I decided to do a portrait of my Guru Sri Shanthananda Swamigal. I had meant to paint a large portrait of him earlier but could not find a suitable photo to copy from. The night before I departed Chennai, I
visited the Mel Maadi puja room to get a few minutes of peace. I sat in front of the photo of my Guru and said a silent prayer. I closed my eyes to meditate. A single thought appeared and despite all my efforts I could not cast it aside. This was the thought
message. “ Take my photo from this puja stand back with you to London and paint that image”.
Why had I not considered this option before? Well, I did not really think I should remove the photo my mother worshipped everyday!
Anyway, I went downstairs and asked her permission . She replied immediately I could take it as long as we substituted another one in the same place. That was easy to accomplish. Then, I asked her if there was anything special about this
particular photo. Apparently, after the death of my father, the rather neglected puja room upstairs did not really have a photo of Swamigal. So, during one of his visits to Madras my mother personally requested him to give her a copy. He had given her this
particular laminated photo with great love and affection. That was why it was so precious to her!

I promised to return this photograph once my painting was finished.
I started this painting of Guru with utmost devotion. I immersed myself in Slokas on Lord Dakshinamurthy, the Guru of all Gurus, as well as Avadutha Sri Datta Guru. I listened to the Sahasranamams in the praise of these two great spiritual masters
and then commenced my painting.

I must admit that this painting was the most difficult one to finish and although the photograph from which I copied our Guru had been taken about 30 years ago when he was relatively younger, by the time I finished, the face was totally different.
I was not very happy with the finished painting. I reasoned to myself that perhaps this was how He wanted it. So, I left it at that.

Soon afterwards, my mother came to visit me for a few days in London.
This was a surprise visit. It was as though she was destined to see His painting just as I had finished it.In fact, over the past three years I had completed a lot of my paintings. My mother had never really seen any of them in the original size in which they had been executed. She had not visited me during this period, so, apart from viewing them in prints or photos she had never seen the originals.
With great pride, I showed her all the 80 or so odd paintings that it had been my destiny to paint!
The last one I showed her was my enormous painting of Swamigal. I propped it up against the wall in our living room. The painting seemed to dwarf the whole space. My mother looked at it intently for a bit then said that although his face looked
different in my painting as compared to the photo I had used as a guide, his face here looked exactly as it did during his last days!!
I was truly stunned to hear this. I had not really seen him during the last few years of his life. All I had done was to copy his image from a more youthful looking photo. What turned out was what He meant for it to be.

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