Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chapter Two: A Visit to Lord Agneeshwarar's Temple.



On the morning of Thursday, September, 23rd a very strong mental suggestion urged me to visit the ancient Shiva temple I had read about in Mr. Raju’s blog , near the village of Neyveli.

The history of Lord Agneeshwarar’s temple , written up by Mr. Raju and (later) told to me by Mr. Ramamurthy, is as follows.

Several years ago two youths from Chennai were visiting Lord Oondreswarar’s temple in the vicinity of the Poondy reservoir. Following the darshan of the Lord, they were poised to leave the temple, when all of a sudden a young boy appeared and urged them “don’t forget to pay respect to Lord Shiva in the village of Neyveli ”. The young lad “disappeared” before the astonished eyes of the boys. Later, these two young men , with the help of local villagers discovered a rare and beautiful Shiva Lingam in the middle of the paddy fields surrounding Neyveli, under a heap of thorny bushes favoured by snakes.

Back in Chennai, the two boys contacted Mr. Ramamurthi, a veteran in the field of temple restoration for several decades. Mr Ramamurthy is well known and respected in spiritual circles for being actively involved in identifying, rebuilding and renovating ancient places of worship throughout Tamil Nadu.

Intrigued by the story, Mr Ramamurthy visited this site and after experiencing several miraculous events and following consultations with astrologers, he obtained divine order to go ahead with the rebuilding of this temple.
The whole story is available at Mr Raju’s blog site, including contact details and phone numbers for those who are interested to get involved in this project!

In any case, I have given below an account of my experiences after visiting this temple.

On September 23rd, 2010 , I set off in the car from Chennai around 8 a.m. It was just before 11 a.m when we finally found the single track road leading up to the temple. A small shrine to the village deity, Ettai Amman marked the beginning of this bumpy road that cut right through the green paddy fields. In the distance I could see the white and red stripes on the compound wall that encircled the area where the temple was located.

Here is a video of the approach to the temple:

I noticed a group of dogs sleeping in front of the small shrine to the village deity. Awakened by the sound of the approaching car, they quickly got up and started to pursue the car up to the main gate of the temple.

I could see that work had already commenced on the restoration of the temple. However, no one seemed to be around when I arrived.

The place exuded peace and calm. My driver and I opened the entrance gate and stepped inside . The dogs ( about three or four of them) ran past me as if leading the way, urging me to follow them.

They ran in towards a tree that stood right in the middle of the fenced lot. This was a huge, imposing Banyan tree, its knobbly branches spreading in all directions forming a canopy almost like the gigantic hood of a snake!
The dogs circled the foot of the tree and finally reached the place where a large and beautiful Shiva Lingam was situated, under a makeshift thatched shed, right at the base of this venerable tree!

Although I was a bit apprehensive of being attacked by these stray dogs, they didn’t bark or approach me in a menacing manner. Instead, they seemed content to have brought me to their Lord and then disappeared into the distance.

In the brilliance of the midday sun, the Shiva Lingam glistened like polished emerald. I sat down in front of the Lord and closed my eyes. I had read in Mr. Raju’s website that this was a place where Karuvur Siddhar worshipped ( in fact, he still is worshipping) the Lord. I prayed for the Siddhar’s guidance in my spiritual path and started to chant “Om Nama Shivaaya” mentally. Very quickly I found myself slipping into a deeper state of concentration. I could see a bright red glow in between my eyebrows and the glittering tendrils of a gigantic red flower that seemed to open and wave its many petals. Then, a fierce white glow came circling down seeming to disappear deep inside me.

I slowly came out of my meditation and heard bees buzzing around my head. Yet, I could not see them and none came near me. The dogs circled me and the tree a few times and then left me alone in silence. I looked up at the tree. There were many cracks and holes in this ancient tree, orifices in which snakes lived ( I had read about their presence in Mr. Raju’s anecdote). However, that morning everything seemed deceptively peaceful, and I felt a sense of complete harmony with nature and the animals here. There was no sense of fear!

After a while the caretaker of the temple who lived in the nearby village stopped by and upon my request gave me the telephone number and contact details of Mr. Ramamurthy, the man in charge of the temple restoration project.

I called him on his cell phone straight away . After a brief introduction regarding the purpose of my visit and quest in search of Karuvur Siddhar, Mr Ramamurthy asked me about my impression of the spot. I replied “ I feel a lot of vibrations and energy exuding from the tree”. His response was swift “ Of course, this tree is unique. It dates back several thousand years. There have been many occasions when bolts of lightning have struck and rendered it lifeless. Nevertheless, this tree has miraculously survived the ravages of time and is a standing testimony to the authenticity of this temple!” In fact, the Banyan tree has grafted itself on to a Neem tree and both are growing together favourably”

I glanced at the tree once more. Certainly, looking at the thick cover provided by the swirling branches, it was hard to believe this tree had once been a mere, withered stump!

I made an appointment to meet Mr Ramamurthi in his home in Chennai for later that evening to get more information regarding this temple.

I wandered around some of the half constructed shrines for Lord Ganapathi, Murugan and Goddess Lalithambika. However, every few seconds my attention was directed back to the tree. I felt the most overwhelming feature of this location was definitely this mesmerising tree. I felt a thousand eyes were looking at me from inside. I felt a whole universe of deities had made this tree their home. Yet, on the surface, to the naked eye, there was no sign of life.
The atmosphere was soothing and peaceful.

Back in Chennai, later that day, I visited Sri Ramamurthi in his house.
Four fascinating hours sped by very quickly listening to this man narrate his incredible experiences associated with many of his temple renovation projects. A staunch Shaivaite, Mr Ramamurthi is actively involved in restoring many damaged, ancient Shiva temples in various parts of Tamil Nadu back to their original glory. He works closely with the local people living in the villages and imparts to them the importance of temple worship, the significance of rituals and the basic facts of Hindu religion. He is also involved in caring for animals and has set up Go Shaalas (Sanctuaries for cows) to shelter and protect cows that would otherwise have been cruelly slaughtered. Vehemently opposed to the current disturbing trend in India of converting Hindus to Christianity, Mr Ramamurthy canvases far and wide, spreading the values of Hindu Culture, Dharma and the rudimentary principles of our religion to the illiterate villagers who are often held back by superstitious beliefs.

Just as I prepared to take leave of Mr. Ramamurthi that evening, he asked me to step inside his puja room since he wanted me to see a picture of Karuvurar Siddhar given to him by a mystic called Balu Swami living near the temple in Karur. Balu Swamy is believed to be a reincarnation of Karuvurar, by some of the locals in the area. Also, since this Siddhar’s presence is undeniable at Lord Agneeshwarar’s temple, I was intrigued!

This led to yet another interesting story about why Mr Ramamurthi made a visit to Karur Temple and how he met Balu Swamy.

In Mr. Raju’s blog there is an incredible tale regarding the manner in which Sri Ramamurthi obtained Karuvurar Siddhar’s “uthiravu” or “CONSENT” to renovate the Shiva Temple in Neyveli. It had been ordained by Deiva Prasnam ( Divine will) that a Brahmin had to voluntarily approach Ramamurthy on a Monday and ask him to donate a “vastram”, or “veshti” ( Dhothi). If this incident came to pass, it indicated a “go ahead” signal ( from Karuvurar) for the temple project. The Siddhar’s wishes had to be fulfilled to ensure unhindered progress with regard to the restoration of this ancient place of worship.

Realistically, the probability of this event happening is pretty low!

That evening, Mr Ramamurthi narrated to me (once more), his visit to the Jeeva Samadhi of Karurar in the village of Karur. He reached the temple on a Saturday and sat in meditation for nearly 6 hours in front of Karuvur Siddhar’s Samadhi with the hope he would receive a positive signal from the mystic.
However, at the end of a tiring day, he got no response. As he rose to leave, the priest inside the shrine came out holding a sacred “veshti” (garment) that had been placed on the Siddhar’s statue. He offered it to Ramamurthi saying it was “Divine Command”. Although this wasn’t the “prescribed” day of the week ( i.e. Monday),and contrary to his expectations, a Brahmin priest was giving him the Veshti, Mr. Ramamurthy nevertheless, received the offering and returned home to Chennai.

While at this powerful shrine, Mr Ramamurthi observed a beautiful photograph of Karuvur Siddhar and asked the priest where he might obtain a copy. However, the priest replied no copies were available!

Now, the tale becomes more interesting!! On the following Monday, at 9 a.m. in the morning, an old beggar with a cloth bag suspended on his shoulders, rings the doorbell of Mr Ramamurthi’s house in Chennai. To Mr. Ramamurthi’s amazement, the old man says he has travelled from a place far away and is in search of alms to conclude his grand daughter’s wedding. He says “ The advocate’s wife in the house nearby donated a saree. Do you have a “Veshti” ( dhothi) to give away”?

Mr. Ramamurthi must have recounted this incident several times in the past five years. However, I could detect every detail was etched very clearly in his mind. There is absolutely no doubt about the veracity of this story!!

Here was a beggar who voluntarily approached him on a Monday asking for a garment!! Could this be Karuvur Siddhar himself, giving his blessings for the temple reconstruction?

Mr. Ramamurthi told me “ These days people ask for money. No one requests for a Dhothi , especially to help out with wedding expenses”!

Eventually, after many more miraculous experiences, this Neyveli Temple project has gathered momentum. Two more spiritual members, Mr. Lakshmi Narayanan and Mr. Shankar Trivedi are providing immense support to Mr. Ramamurthi with regard to bringing this renovation attempt to a quick conclusion.

After getting distracted by the above tale, I finally stepped inside Mr. Ramamurthi’s puja room to have a glimpse of Sri Karuvur Siddhar’s photograph!!

How did this come to pass? There is one more story!

While Mr. Ramamurthi visited the Karur Temple, he came to know that a man called Balu Swamy living near the temple is considered to be the modern day Karuvur Siddhar. The priests in the temple regard him as a mystic . However, he was warned that this old man was an eccentric and may not wish to meet him.

Mr. Ramamurthy, decided to try anyway as he was curious . He located the home of Balu Swami and after a long wait, finally entered his abode. Contrary to his expectations ( based largely on the warning given by the locals), Balu Swami treated him as a long lost friend and received him warmly. After spending many hours in the Siddhar’s company, Mr Ramamurthi, reluctantly departed since he had to catch the train back to Chennai. Just before he left, Balu Swami called him back and gave him a “present”. This was the photo of Karuvur Siddhar that Ramamurthi coveted, longed to own but was told it was out of print by the temple priest!!
This might have been a mere coincidence. However, Ramamurthi felt that Balu Swami definitely had psychic powers.

I stepped inside Ramamurthi’s puja room dominated by Devi and just Shakthi in all forms. I could feel very strong vibrations from the simple altar. I sat down for a few moments, looked at the photo of Karuvur Siddhar. Then my attention was riveted to a small photo stuck on the far right hand corner of the wall.

Why!! This was a small photo of Sri Bala!!

I was overjoyed. I felt Bala was somehow approving all my actions!

It was only after I revealed to Mr. Ramamurthi that I was a Bala devotee, did he mention that he too worshipped her, but had never visited Nemili!! However, during the past few days a friend who had been to Nemili had spoken about Sri Bala Peetam and given him the photograph. And I was bringing up the subject again!

He didn’t think this was a mere coincidence. It seemed that Goddess Bala herself was asking him to come to her abode!

He asked me “ Do you think you can take me to Nemili with you on your next visit?”

I replied “ I’m planning on going there tomorrow . You are most welcome to accompany me. And so it came to pass that Mr Ramamurthi and his friend Shankar Trivedi, another spiritual, social worker, received the blessings of Sri Bala in her house at Nemili!

A few days later, on an auspicious Shankatahara Chaturthi day, I revisited Neyveli in the company of Sri Ramamurthi and Shankar. A few more people had arrived to pay their respects to Lord Agneeshwara that day and I was thrilled to witness and participate in performing Milk Abhishekam to the Lord while Mr Ramamurthy sat near the tree chanting Lord Shiva’s powerful hymn, Rudram.
Later that day, the idols of Durga and Lalithambikka were immersed into a trough of water ( for 40 days), as required by temple regulations, before they can be installed inside their respective shrines. Also Mr Ramamurthi performed a simple puja to the entrance threshold of Lord Shiva’s shrine that is just being constructed.

We sat in the shade of the tree and ate a simple lunch while Mr Ramamurthy regaled us with more astonishing stories relating to other temples he had helped renovate.
I sat on a nearby mound for a while as the rest were clearing up the utensils and pooja articles. I squinted up at the tree hoping to catch a glimpse of a deity. A Siddhar’s face? A serpent? The interesting shapes created by the gnarled branches did at times appear to resemble hooded snakes, and I thought I could see the figure of a woman lying amidst the branches with her tresses streaming behind in the breeze, arms outstretched. Could it be “Vana Durga”? (Forest-deity).

Here is a video so that you can see the tree for yourself:

I blinked as the sun was getting too strong and rubbed my eyes. I must have drifted off into another world where I was imagining things!! Yet, there was an unmistakable aura of a female deity
( Shakthi) in that amazing tree.

On the way home, Mr Ramamurthi showed me an enlarged photo taken of the tree some time ago and directed my attention to a spot where I could make out the faces of a man and woman. The man appeared to be wearing a turban. Was this a Siddhar? Could this be Karuvur Siddhar?

As I dropped off Mr Ramamurthi at his residence that evening, I asked him if we could make a trip to Karur to try and see Balu Swami.
He replied that he too had been thinking along the same lines. It appeared he had come across a few roadblocks with respect to this temple’s renovation. Two questions puzzled him. If there was a Kali or Vana Durga present in the tree, appropriate worship should be done to appease these deities. Also, he had been informed by astrologers that a Siddhar’s Samadhi lay beneath the SHIVA Lingam. Could this be Karuvur Siddhar? Another saint, Sri Sadashiva Brahmendrar has also been associated with this shrine. Could this be one of the many places where the latter attained Samadhi?

It was apparent that many pieces of the puzzle were missing and Mr. Ramamurthi was searching for answers to many questions. Also, he was concerned that the temple construction should not stop abruptly. He wished to obtain Balu Swami’s blessings for fulfilling this project.

Bearing all this in mind, we decided to try and re visit Karur . Ramamurthy told me he’d get back to me as soon as he could ascertain if Balu Swamy was indeed available for us to meet him.

Those who are interested in getting involved with the refurbishment of Sree Agneeshwarar Temple can contact:

Mr Shankar Trivedi:
cell no: 9445004908.


Zeus Academy said...

Hi, Ms. Uma,

I would like to speak to you to know more about the living siddhar. If you really don't mind please try to help me. Thank you. Vedanth Krishnan

swami sukhabodhananda said...

Thanks for sharing this information..
corporate guru