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.

25 comments:

ஜீவா (Jeeva Venkataraman) said...

Amazing scroll of musical shines and Shrines!
Keep coming, can't wait to keep reading!

Musical Scientist said...

Thanks a lot Jeeva sir :). Will surely keep them coming.

Shreekrishna said...

Thanks for sharing your puNyam with us. They say that the puNyam of any pilgrimage is not complete, till shared with so many people that, you have no left for yourself, which is when you get back all of it and more.

Someday in the next decade, may be we both can embark on another long haul of the southern Indian temple tour. To me, for now, it's just the good old Balaji temple 20 miles south of my house (been there today).

Musical Scientist said...

Dear SK,
I am sure we will embark on a long tour of all these temples and more when you come back home. We will gain more puNyam together very soon.

-Sai.

Aishwarya said...

Dream come true, MLKDHKNS :)

Can't wait for your next post.

ಹಂಸಾನಂದಿ Hamsanandi said...

Looking forward to Part- II!

Hari said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing... Looking forward for more :)

YaaarO said...

shAstaanga namaskAramsfor this "special" blog shri saipeee!!! 17 temples in ONE day! OMG! thanks a lot for this amazing wrap-up!

Aparna said...

Wow!! This must have, indeed, been an unforgettable trip! I have visited most of the temples you have mentioned, though I don't remember a few since I visited those a long time back. Looking forward to the next post!

thiagu said...

Happy to read your wonderful account of what must have been a great experience.
Are you in Chennai for the Music season?
Thiagu

PRASAD said...

It is great to read your moving account of your dream trip. You are very lucky!

Anonymous said...

>---<-0 @ you..now i will also get some portion of your puNyam no??

Choo >:D<

prasanna venkatesh.b said...

Thanks a lot, I am from Thanjavur and I miss my home a lot, thanks a lot for this virtual musical tour

Musical Scientist said...

@thiagu sir..Yes, I was in Chennai for the music season. Came back to Bangalore only yest.

@Choo akka..ya ya..I will be more than glad to share the puNyam I have gained with you :) :).

@PV.b..I completely understand how much you miss home when you are abroad :(. Especially memories of a town like kumbakonam or tanjavur could make you misty in a jiffy ;(

Sowmya said...

That was a real heartfelt account of your trip. And to compliment them with the kritis you sung made them more enjoyanble. I have been reading your blog for quite sometime now. Its very inspiring.

Musical Scientist said...

Dear Sowmya,

Thanks a lot :). Glad to hear that you have been reading my posts for sometime now. Please share your thoughts more often.

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nAradA said...

Hi MS:
It was a nice travelogue to read. I grew up around Mayuram on the banks of KAviri and all the places you went to are etched in my memory too. In 2000 I visited India and took a similar (to what you did) pilgrimage by auto (leaving from Madras--chennai now). I covered pretty much the same route as you did. Did not visit some of the "lesser known" temples that you visited. Certainly did not sing the kritis that you did. Two reasons. 1. I only know the starting words of those kritis. 2. This is more important. I did not want to get pelted with stones from the people there.

Thanks for the opportunity to mentally travel with you on the same route. Nostalgia, you are sweet!

The only regret I have is that the product (the temples) in all these places is great but the process (the roads) to reach them is miserable.

I have heard only people who live in Thamizhnadu complain about "kuLir" in Margazhi. Even at the beginning of December (not yet Margazhi) you too felt the "Udak kARRu"!

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Although we have differences in culture, but do not want is that this view is the same and I like that!

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Venkatesh said...

Sai Prasad, I am envious. What a wonderful trip you must have had. Wish I could have been there. It is on my list of things to do before I die; to visit each & every temple that Shri. Mutthuswami Dikshitar visited and composed his krithis, and sing in front of the deity. You have accumulated punyam for 100 thalamurais (generations).

Musical Scientist said...

Dear Venkatesh sir..thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts :). It was an amazing trip and I am sure I will make many more trips of such kind. You must definitely execute your plan sometime soon. Please let me know when you plan to do it so that maybe we can venture on the pilgrimage together :).

sripriya said...

Sai,

Twas wonderful going thro ur trip to the temples down south. Though I hv learnt music and know some of the songs that u hv mentioned, am overwhelmed to read that u sang them all at the kshetrams in front of the deities admiring the beauty and glory. We r blessed to hv learnt such wonderful compositions of Dikshitar and ur doubly blessed. May u be blessed with more such trips in the coming years. MAY U SING MORE AND MORE AND SHARE UR THOUGHTS WITH US. All the very best to u in all ur endeavours.

Musical Scientist said...

Dear Sripriya,
It was indeed an overwhelming experience. As you rightly said, we are all extremely fortunate to have been exposed to this divine art. I am sure this trip was just the beginning of many more to come :). Infact, I have already started planning for trip #2..will let you all know when that happens. Shri Gurubhyo namah :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Sai,

I am from Malaysia and just visited those places you have mentioned in your post. Its nice to have visited temples of significance which I did not much know about (you have mentioned). All the best