Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Spiritual Diary: Chapter 21

Within the next few days, my daughter and I had the opportunity to visit a few temples in Tamil Nadu along with my sister in law. We first went to Pudukkotai ( near Trichy) to pay a visit to the Bhuvaneswari temple established by my guru, Santhananda Swamigal. After paying respects to the samadhi of his guru, Judge Swamigal, at that temple, we proceeded to the famous rock temple of Pillayarpatti.

Here, Lord Ganesha was awaiting to give us his blessings dressed in his golden armour. It was truly an awe inspiring sight to witness this gigantic seven foot sculpture hewn out of a massive piece of rock on a cliff side. Dating back to the early 12th Century, the image of Pillayar is considered as Swyambu or self- made!

We proceeded on our journey towards the beautiful temple town of Tanjore. Here, we visited and marveled at the glory of the Brihadeeshwara temple. Built by the great Raja Raja Chola, it took nearly 12 years until its completion in 1011 A.D. The Chola kingdom ruled this part of the world during 10th to the 14th century and many of the temples in the state bear the unmistakable stamp of the artists and sculptors of this period. For the pallavas, the gigantic temple complexes functioned not only as a place of worship but also a seat of government and provided an important venue for most of the social and economic events .

We walked around the precincts of this vast temple/ fortress complex in awe. The central stone of the towering Vimana is supposed to weigh 235 lbs and it must have been a true feat of engineering ingenuity to have hoisted it into place at the very top.

We marveled at the intricate carvings of Gods, dancers, dance poses , and mythical beasts on the several terraces of the temple tower.

However, one particular shrine tucked away in the corner of this vast temple complex caught my attention. Upon enquiry it proved to be the shrine of one of the Siddhars ( yogis or holy men who have mastered all the Siddhas or yogic powers). Indeed, Karuvar Siddhar is regarded as one of those immortal beings who has lived for centuries and continues to exude his presence in this shrine. He had apparently helped the king ( Raja Raja Chola) through his yogic powers to both construct as well as consecrate the temple.

This was my first visit to a Siddhar’s shrine, but I felt a strong magnetic attraction to the site.

As will be explained later, this visit too set off in train a long sequence of events that has allowed me to immerse myself more fully into the lives of the 18 great siddhars and study huge masterpieces like Tirumoolar’s Tirumandiram.

Our short temple tour concluded with a visit to the famous Murugan shrine at Swamimalai and the nearby temple at Tirukkadaiyur dedicated to the Goddess Abhirami.

I reflected on the time I had spent learning the 100 verses composed by Abirami Bhattar in his famous Andhadi , all in praise of this great and powerful Goddess.

I was looking forward to the darshan with great anticipation on this fnal leg of the tour . However, during the car drive from Swamimalai to Tirukkadaiyur, my sister- in law who was accompanying us, got a phone call. It was bad news . Her uncle in Bangalore had been admitted in the hospital and was fighting for his life. We had an hour to go before reaching this famous temple and I prayed that he might live.

It was an irony that we should receive this news while travelling to a temple famous through antiquity for being able to save people’s lives. The legend goes that the young Markandeya prayed to Lord Shiva to prevent the King of Death, Lord Yama from taking his soul away. In fact, Lord Shiva is propitiated here as Kaala Samhara Murthy, or as one who has conquered the passage of time--- and therefore Death itself.

Just as we drove into the precincts of the temple another quick telephone call confirmed the worst. The uncle never recovered conciousness. I suggested we return immediately. However, my sister in law insisted we finish our tour of the temple.

We walked inside to witness the awesome sculpture of Shiva killing Yama, while Markandeya is shown as clinging on to the shiva lingam near the base of this statue, expressing total sharanaagathi.

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