Wednesday, December 17, 2008
A trip to remember-1
On the 4th of December, 2008, I finally set foot on the holy land of tiruvArUr, the birth place of some of the greatest souls to have walked this planet. I had to start off this post on my amazing pilgrimage with the high point. Now that I have mentioned this and got my urge satiated, I will try to list the temples I visited in chronological order and write a few lines about any special incidents or feelings I experienced in this extraordinary trip. For those of you who are just interested in the pictures and not in my ramblings, please click here
On December 2nd, 2008, I left my house in Bangalore on what I would call as my "dream-come-true" trip to South India. I bid farewell to an anxious amma (anxious for sending me alone) and boarded the Mysore-Mayiladuthurai express from BNG junction at 7 pm. Except for the excitement of going on a train after 4 years, the evening was quite uneventful. The next day morning, I woke up at 4 am and immediately opened the window to feast my eyes upon the glorious country side. The rich paddy fields and the "margazhi oodha kaatru" waltzed into my heart. Around 6 am, I disembarked the train at kumbakonam junction. After checking into "Hotel Kasi International", I started off the day with a cup of hot kumbakonam coffee..the taste still lingers in my tongue :). I took a snappy bath and made a few calls to find the cheapest cab service inorder to start my visits to the temples. After narrowing down, my cab driver friend for the next couple of days, Guru picked me up in that ever faithful Ambassador car :).
I started off with the Raghu navagraha sthalam at tirunAgESwaram. The first thing that struck me about this temple was the beauty of the temple tank. I washed my feet and entered the temple to see nAganAtha swAmi and the separate Raghu Bhagavan sannidhi. I sang "nAgAbharaNam nagajabharaNam". Next I went to Uppiliappan temple (stone's throw away from the Raghu temple) and sang "ShankachakragadApANim". From there, I went to Pratyangira dEvi temple, made famous by the former chief minister J.Jayalalitha. The dEvi here was perhaps the most ugra (angry) I have seen. Next stop was Thirumeichur lalitAmbika temple. With mEganAtha swAmi, the dEvi here moved me to tears. Also, the lalitAmbikai here wears an anklet ("kolusu") in one of her legs. This anklet has a wonderful story behind it as narrated by Shreekrishna's mother when I met her nearly 2 months back. I will get the full details from her and post it in my next blog.
The next temple in line was Koothanoor Saraswathi amman temple. Guru took major pains to drive us to this temple as one of the bridges were broken. It was well worth the effort. This special temple dedicated to Saraswathi amman was a mesmerising sight. I sang shrI saraswathi namOstutE in Arabhi. From there, it was a long drive straight to tirunallAru, the navagraha kSEtram for SanISwara Bhaghavan. On route, I saw some of the damages the recent torrential rains have caused. dharbAraNyESwarar in all his majestic beauty welcomed me :). I proceeded to the SanISwara sannidhi and witnessed a beautiful ArAdhanai for the deity. I felt extremely blessed to witness this and sang "diwAkara tanujam". With no heart to leave this temple, I reluctantly moved on to tirukadaiyUr. For some reason, the abhirAmi thAyAr-amritakadESwarar temple here was distinctly imprinted in my mind from my previous trip. The huge, beautiful gopuram at the corner of the dead end road brought tears to my eyes. Altogether, it was an overwhelming experience here. I sang shankaramabhirAmi manOharam with tears of joy ;(.
From here, we drove further east to kEthu navagraha sthalam at keezhperumpallam. Though the temple lacked great embellishments or a big gopuram, there were still some very strong vibations that I experienced here. Since it was nearing lunch time, I had to rush so that I could cover a few more temples before they closed the sannidhis. Next temple in line was the Budhan navagraha sthalam at tiruvEnkAdu. With a newly touched up gopuram and a huge prAkAram, the shwEtAranyESwarar swAmi temple with the sannidhi for Budhan bhagavAn was an extremely pleasant sight to say the least. The temple has two huge tanks and long corridors. I sang budhamAshrayAmi on a wednesday at the budhan sthalam..what more could I ask for. From there, we rushed to vaithISwaran kovil, the navagraha sthalam for angArakam. This kSetram is of special significance for any dIkshithar bhakta since he was named after Muthukumaraswami at this temple. The main sannidhis of VaidyanAtha swAmi and tailAmba dEvi were beautiful. I proceeded to the muthukumAraswAmi sannidhi and sang bAlasubrahmanyam in surutti. I managed to make it to the sannidhi as they were closing down for the morning with the deepArAdhanai. I then proceeded to the angArakam sannidhi and sang angArakam AshrayAmyaham and rejoiced watching all the reddish decorations for the God.
Guru and I decided to stop at mayilAduthurai for lunch and take a small nap until the temples reopened in the evening at 4. After a nice lunch, we went and parked the car in front of the abhyAmbA-mAyUranAthar temple and took a small nap :). I was the first person to enter the temple at 4. Needless to say, it was a beautiful and a pretty huge temple with long prAkArams. The mAyUranAthar sannidhi was brilliantly decorated and I sang mAyUranAtham in dhanyASi. I continued to the abhyAmbA sannidhi and spent some time there. The dEvi here was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. She was dressed in green and I could feel extremely divine vibrations here that my knees started shaking. I sang abhayAmbA jagadamba in kalyANi, abhayAmbikAyAH in kEdAragowLa and shrI abhayAmbA in shrI rAgam. With utmost reluctance, I left this temple and proceeded to vadAnyESwarar temple, which is hardly a few kilometres from the mAyUranAthar temple. The local people at mayilAduthurai call this temple as Vallalar kovil. vadAnyESwarar has a small sannidhi but I once experienced some very high vibrations that instantly brought tears to my eyes. I had a nasty headache because of roaming since morning but the energy here was so great that my headache went away in a break of sweat. I sang vadAnyESwaram, the best dEvagAndhAri ever. I then visited the jnAnAbikA sannidhi and continued to the next sthalam.
We started our way back to kumbakonam and had quite a few temples on the way. The next stop was tirumanamchEri. The kokilAmbAl temple here is very famous and the grandeur was marvellous. We moved on to a small yet famous vanadurga temple at kadirAmangalam. True to the name, the durga dEvi here sits pretty much in the middle of a forest. But, the effort was well worth it. The deity was decorated beautifully with a garland made out of lemons. I loved the location of this temple and ofcourse the deity's brilliance. Next stop was kanjanUr. The sukra bhagavAn temple was deeply engraved in my mind from the previous visit (probably 10 years ago). Unfortunately I dont know shrI sukra bhagavantam and hence did not sing anything here :(. It was slowly getting dark as I left this temple and continued to Suriyanar kovil, the navagraha sthalam for Sun God. I wanted to be at the temple exactly at dawn or dusk, but I was a little late and reached the temple only around 7 pm. Unlike other navagraha sthalams where an amsha of Lord Shiva is the main deity, the main sannidhi at Suriyanar kovil is Lord Surya himself. Since He is believed to be an amalgam of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, Surya occupies the central and a supreme position among the planetary members. He sits in an elevated platform and as you go on a pradakshanam around the temple, you will come across separate sannidhis for all the other navagrahams. I hummed SuryamUrtE as I walked around the temple.
As I left Suriyanar kovil, night had fallen. The last stop for the day was tribuvanam (tiru-pU-vanam). The majestic SarabESwarar temple here is very famous. This was perhaps the most well-maintained temple that I have seen till date. The towering gopuram and the huge corridors stand testimony to some of the best architectures ever. I was really tired by this time and my legs were aching. I found it a challenge to complete the pradakshinam :). It was 15 minute ride back to my hotel at kumbakonam. I had a nice dinner, made a complete tally of the money I had spent for the day and rejoiced in the fact that I had covered 17 temples in one day :) :). After informing amma of my rich haul :), I went to sleep very early (around 10 pm) because I was tired and since the next day, I was to go to Srirangam and to tiruvArUr :D :D.
Since this post was a little longer than I thought it would be, I will stop here and continue with the rest of my experience in the next post. Hope I did not bore you guys with my own stories and experiences. I will try to wrap up my next post a little shorter than this :). More later.