Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Spiritual Diary: Chapter 34

The following day, April 8th, 2007, my husband flew in from London and on the very next day we set off to Madurai and then on to Tirunelveli since I had a tryst with the Bhairavar at Tirukkurungudi temple on the 10th of April.

On the evening of April 9th, we had the opportunity of visiting a small village called Cheranmahadevi, a few kilometres away from Tirunelveli. This was apparently the ancestral home of my husband’s maternal grandparents and he wanted to see the house where his grand parents once lived.

Cheranmahadevi remains an unspoilt little village with just one main streeet and a few side lanes branching off it. On one of these side streets there was a row of attached town houses and one of these, upon enquiry, turned out to be the ancestral home.

A modest two room house, with a kitchen, each room leading into the other is the lay out of most of these village houses. The bathroom is typically located right at the back of the house. After a nostalgic look at the old house and reminiscing about his child hood memories, my husband took leave of the current occupants and we carried on our journey to a Shiva temple situated on the outskirts of this village.

Located among rice fields, on the edge of the banks of the Tamraparni river is perhaps one of the oldest Shiva temples in the state of Tamil nadu. Lord Kailasanathar and his consort AvudaiNaayaki are enshrined in this ancient temple at Cheranmahadevi, and this forms part of the nine temple group constituting the Nava Kailasam or nine abodes sacred to the Lord Shiva. All these nine temples ( somewhat similar to the Nava Tirupathi temples), are located within a short driving distance around the town of Tirunelveli.

In the ancient and rather dilaphidated temple at Cheranmahadevi, the sanctum housing the Shiva Lingam is rather large and impressive. The shrine of the Goddess is located separately and what impressed me here was the beautiful image of the Ambal and the aura of power that I could tangibly feel!

Stepping outside the temple, I paused to admire the idyllic setting of this temple situated amidst the patchwork quilt-like fields with the river meandering slowly on its way towards the distant ocean.

The story here, is that a great saint called Romachha Muni, a disciple of Sage Agastya, wished to attain liberation and prayed fervently to Lord Shiva. However, Shiva wished the Muni to follow his Guru’s advice. Agastyar took nine lotuses in his hands and gently placed them in the river. He told his disciple to establish nine Shiva lingams at the places on the shore where these flowers came to rest. After carrying out these instructions, the Muni was asked to reach the spot where Tamraparni joined the ocean; he would attain Moksha or liberation, here.

Thus it came to pass that one of the lotuses released into the river by Agastyar docked near Cheranmahadevi and thus this ancient abode of Shiva came to be established at this hallowed spot!

Our last stop for the evening was at Krishnapuram, another town on the Tirunelveli to Tiruchendur route.

It was late in the evening when we reached this temple and there appeared no one about. We walked into the totally deserted temple only to come face to face with some of the most stupendous and outstanding works of art I have ever seen!

In the dusky gloom of the interior rose gigantic columns of granite. Each pillar was carved with a profusion of magnificent sculptures; there were horses, mythical beasts, warriors on horseback chasing villains; princesses being carried away by gypsies; a fortune teller reading the palm of a queen. Assorted images providing a peek into the lives of a bygone era.

Preserved as a national heritage site, this beautiful temple at Krishnapuram overwhelmed me by the poetic intensity of its sculptural treasures.

The following day, April 10th, my husband and I got up fairly early in the morning to visit the temple at Tirukkurungudi.

We reached the temple by 8 a.m. and were greeted by the priest who was going to perform the puja. Slowly, we made our way to the shrine of the Bhairavar. The small sanctum wore a festive look today. Floral wreaths had been fashioned into a skirt for the stone statue and outside the sanctum, a small flower pandalor awning, had been constructed. I sat under this flower arbor, on the doorstep of the shrine and watched as the priest gathered together all the materials for performing the puja. We had brought with us a thousand lotus buds for the archanai and the coconuts that had to function as ghee filled lamps.

The coconuts were duly broken, filled with ghee and then lit up. This was placed in a large tray and positioned at the feet of the Lord. Then, the prayers began. I sat with my eyes closed, praying fervently to the lord.

Time passed and I sat rooted to the spot for a long time. During this period, I noticed the priest had finished his puja; my husband and our escort had moved further away and were talking , seated on the steps of another nearby shrine. However, I did not move from my initial spot. Slowly, the noises around me faded into insignificance. I concentrated on the Lord and requested his help. Three hours flew by and by the time of the final arathi, I noticed that the little coconut lamps were still lit.

The priest said that this portended good news. He told me “ Bhairavar is very pleased you have sat near his shrine and prayed to him for three hours. Your desire will be fulfilled in three months time. You don’t have to do anything else to satisfy this LORD. Your devotion alone was sufficient”.

My husband and I returned to Chennai later that evening and shortly afterwards, left for London.

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