Temple of a saint - Adi Shankaracharya

It was a run, from the world familiar, a fast run away from reality as we know it. A breathless run until Srinivasan chanced upon a wall, a strange wall with a narrow door. It was a strange landscape, walls without roofs, doors leading no where, steps leading to the skies and stone as ancient as the creation of man and no sign of the creators of these strange pieces of architecture, all on top of a hill. In all the daylight it still seemed to look so meaningless and yet they were after him. Srinivasan felt relief when he saw the wall as he ran. It looked familiar but there was nothing beyond it that made any sense. Just a flight of steps leading up to the sky and a strange bell that didn't seem to call anyone to his rescue when he rang it and yet he felt he wanted to run, and get away and escape for good and go... where, he didn't know.

Srinivasan got up, awake into his familiar world, yet the images of another world hung vividly in his mind as he didn't make any sense of the place he had
just seen in his dream and yet, it was so familiar. It was close to reality, some place he had been to and had felt something drawing him so close, saving him from something he had no idea about yet felt its overpowering presence in his life.

View location of this temple - Photographed in 1911

Months passed and Srinivasan decided to go on a vacation. He had been working hard enough and deserved a break. Srinivasan stood at the hill and breathed in the fresh air. It was a perfect get away. The city was so far away from such purity and strangely wasn't it all a familiar man made world? He looked at the landscape, it was beautiful, and he wondered why he had not come to Srinagar all these days. He walked around the summit of Gopadhari hill looking at the greenery around deep down in the valley below wondering what else the Gods had blessed this earth with and why the cities were so devoid of such creation. As he drifted in his world the guide walked up to him and directed him to the temple ahead. Srinivasan gathered himself, quite forgetting he had company in this trip, company he suddenly didn't seem to want.

He walked on, coming up to a formidable wall. A wall that didn't seem to have anything around, and nothing beyond. It stood deserted lost in a realm of its own, yet an endless flight of steps seemed to lead to the skies above with a hint of stone beyond, ancient stone that belonged to another era unknown, just withered by time and belief. Srinivasan stood and gazed beyond as the bells ringing reverberated through the air. The chilling air settled in his mind as he stared up to ascend the steps to heaven. Srinivasan felt strange, not knowing what to expect. He just felt blank as he decided to see what really lay beyond. Every step up reminded Srinivasan that he had been here. The lanscape, the emptiness, the strange architecture that contradicted every book and every proven theory of art...nothing seemed to have value except this moment as he took to the steps. He touched the bell and rang it, the brass resonating the sound echoing within itself rang through his mind and senses. There was strange peace within his mind. He walked up, crossing this strange wall that housed a narrow door but led to no roof beyond but just a mammoth temple, made of ancient rock, octagonal in shape rising into the sky.

A narrow door lay ahead
holding secrets within its darkness. The main door appeared strangely similar to that he had seen within the pyramids of the Maya. Yet this kind of architecture was unknown and untapped back here. Srinivasan walked up to the main door, and looked at the world now at his feet. He was told it was the temple of Adi Shankaracharya, an ancient Shiva temple, that came to be known by this great saint's name centuries ago when he visited it and worshipped the Lord here. Adi Shankaracharya was known to have been initiated into the Shakti cult during this period.

Srinivasan entered the narrow entrance and walked through its thick walls. What lay ahead of him was a
breath taking view of the Lord. A stone linga towered in front of him, topped with floral offerings. A small chamber held more than just air and stone. Srinivasan came down on his knees, overwhelmed with the presence of the Lord in front of him. It was not just another temple, it was the world of Shankaracharya relived, the world of Lord Shiva brought alive again within his mind, the world of Shankaracharya temple waking up another soul to itself, far away and above the familiar world, one that promised experiences beyond the realm of the self, soaking the soul in the air within these chilling ancient walls experiencing the meaning of perfect life.

An ancient cult, an ancient world, ancient stone and an ancient emblem of faith still alive after so many centuries to just wake up the inner realm within the mind of Srinivasan - Shankaracharya temple, a divine outpost to the world of the Lord, meant much more than just a dream.

Takhat-e-Sulaiman / Shankaracharya Temple. Srinagar 1911
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Inspirations for a life of true spiritualism

I was once asked about who was my inspiration to keep writing to my blog. I had no answer then except the name of Lord Shiva that echoed in my head. The thought remained in my mind for a while, about those who I would like to follow blindly as examples of perfection in my life.

Two names struck me at a shot, both of whom were a perfectionist when it came to self expression of their love to the Lord and towards their Guru. A Guru that even I admire and respect deeply within my heart but I am not really sure whether I made it to His list of favorite children. A simple man, who commanded respect as well as kept alive this fantastic faith that is slowly dying its natural death thanks to the “modern” questions we pose to try and understand something quite out of reach through reason and beyond probably even metaphysics. The then Mahaperivar of Kanchipuram was an epitome of divinity and peace, a human nature we have somewhere quite given up to even try and attain.

I have come to admiring two of his favorite children and yes, they have set me an example of at least hoping to make it to His list. To be a favorite child of Kanchi Mahaperivar Chandrashekhar Swamigal mean pure devotion, complete surrender, love and adoration for the Lord and maybe orthodoxy too. I have not made it too well in any of these areas, but the Mahaperivar is always there deep down to guide me when I lose my way. He has been the fire to perform for both His favorite children.

One of His children did it through her music. She is probably the only person who brought soul into Carnatic music and gave it the additional touch of devotion that overpowered technique, for when one listens to her song, there is so much life and humility that you can almost hear the Lord wake up to her notes. And what is music without soul? What is music without devotion? M. S. Subhalakshmi makes the heart melt to the Lord when she dives into her ocean of music and takes our souls with her.

Another of Mahaperivar’s favorite children is a unique man. A person I would call India’s unknown Michaelangelo. I had the opportunity to visit his house and come across his works of perfection. And perfection simply seems to be an understatement. What lay around me was not raw talent or patience of practice of expression. What lay in front of my eyes was just one original picture that made my heart skip a beat, and transform my world to feel miserable and small in front of such a great man. Artist Shilpi as he is known was an illustrator for the Ananda Vighatan(Tamil magazine), who gave up his illustrative career to be blessed by the Mahaperivar of Kanchipuram, Sri Chandrasekhar Swamigal, to begin painting deities within temples across the country. I do not have words to express the beauty he has captured in every deity of the North and South of India.

There is something more that is common to these two people, and that is purity in their minds and detachment to the world and complete surrender to the Lord when they performed. We need to realize that music is found everywhere but that with devotion which can melt your heart and make you emotionally breakdown in front of the Lord are few. The same with visual art, talent is plenty but that which religiously follows one goal and is perseverant to bring the Lord to your home are few to find. And of course that additional something, that makes the heart look within itself, searching furiously for the promised Lord hiding within ourselves. These people are inspirations, to the material world of people that we are missing something far more fundamental in our lives and that is a spiritual high that is rare to find but needs to be patiently worked upon.

Having said this, here is a league of people, who have walked the same earth we have, during our times and are definitely not mythological and have no tales to make us believe they were supernatural. They all lived next door, around us, and lived a life that was once celebrated on Indian soils. I can only hope Mahaperivar blesses me as I seek inspiration from His favorite children, that the very Incarnate of Lord Shiva teaches me as I move on. I am indeed blessed to have set eyes on this divine incarnation of Lord Shiva.

Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Sharanam Prabhadyey


Shiva Bhairava - The naked mendicant

The form of Bhairava is considered to be fierce and terrific, one that infuses more fear than love towards Lord Shiva. Bhairava is known to be a naked mendicant or at least follows the same iconographic appearance as Bhikshatana where he is depicted ash clad and naked.

As described in the Shivabhaktavilasam, Dabhra Bhakta, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva was being tested for his devotion to the Lord. In order to show Parvati the intensity of Dabhra Bhakta's devotion, Lord Shiva descended to the earth in the form of Bhairava to his residence. Dabhra Bhakta, unaware that the very Lord had descended, was blessed to have seen this form of the Lord and as he directed the stranger who had come begging for a meal. As he guided his guest back home, he describes his appearance as follows:

He appeared to be a staunch Maheshwar, with the very grace of Lord Shiva shining upon him, a stranger who had come to this little town, and had knocked at his door asking for a meal. As Dabhra Bhakta was not at home, the mendicant went to the nearby Ganapateshwara temple and waited. On hearing about his arrival, Dabhra Bhakta rushed to the temple to invite the mendicant home. As he neared the temple he saw an aged man sitting under a tree and meditating. His left elbow was supported by a Yogadanda his staff, and he had a Brahma Kapala (skull cap that serves as a begging bowl) near his right hand which was engaged in counting the beads of his rudraksha rosary as he chanted within his mind. His effulgence beat the very beams of sunlight that lit up the day. He looked aged and yet very rugged. He was ash clad and in deep meditation when the invitation for a meal was brought over to him.

He rose up from his seat in all his majesty and grandeur. He took out a handful of ash from the pouch in front of him and smeared it all over himself, forming a little cloud of holy ash that almost crowned his brow like a halo. He help the kapalam and skull bowl in one hand and played the damaru in the other hand creating a sound so loud and terrific that it echoed his arrival through the little town. He wore a waist band of skulls which rubbed against each other as he walked on gracefully. His thick silver tresses were neatly held up tightly in his elaborate jatamukuta which he tied with a garland of smaller skulls. He was smeared with red gorochana on his forehead and it seemed like the fiery third eye spread fear over his brow while his eyes showed great compassion to the world. And as he walked, his over sized anklets tinkled on manifesting the primeval nada - the cosmic vibration.

That was Bhairava then, depicted in scriptures and sung about and probably He walked this very earth in the previous yugas. A depiction so clear that it became the definition of "Shivahood" among the yogis of the coming centuries. The yogi attire has not changed much since then, though with a few alterations to the described visual appeal. But none have come even close to matching the Lord's form, His beauty, his very presence that reflects in the eyes of the aspirant, one who has immersed himself completely into the worship and love for the Lord, living in a real trance as he journeys into His adoration.

These are the possible appearances of Bhairava today, those that somewhere remotely match the Lord's original splendor but seem to have lost the essence of His presence in their eyes!


Pashupatinath Temple, Nepal

Pashupatinath Temple, Nepal
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When beauty transforms itself into grim reality

When all curtains of illusion fall

When the mind comes face to face with the truth of death

When the mind gives up all attachment

When joy is overcome by the futility of existence

When it feels that this is Now the end

You're at Pashupatinath temple, Nepal.

On a cold wintry morning Nepal presents an ancient quaint little town basking in the morning sunlight. It is a beautiful city with ancient temples, plenty of emblems and the echo of Lord Shiva and Buddha surround you as you explore its lanes. Narrow streets, wooden walls, strange and exquisite carvings along roof edges against the mountains behind, it cannot get more picturesque, its a treat to the eye.

But as one walks down the narrow lanes of life along the Bagmati river with the anticipation of Pashupatinath in the mind one also sees endless burning ghats, bodies perishing into flames, souls departing and all of life coming to an end. It is a smoky lane to cross, where the blinding mist is overpowered by the thick curtain of smoke rising from these funeral pyres.

And there it stands by day. A gold roofed temple at the top, with a flight of ancient steps leading up to it. A gorgeous courtyard meets us right after the treat of death looming all around us. Its like we rose up to paradise or heaven , reaching the abode of Lord Pashupatinath. Dotted with smaller shrines and pillared halls, this is a "delicate" wooden temple with exquisite sculptures blanketing its wooden exteriors.
A small wooden structure plated with gold, leads one into the tiny sanctum approached from four cardinal directions. And there He stands in the center in the form of a chaturamukha linga. The four faced Shiva, Lord of all the directions is seated at the center of this sacred shrine chamber. Each of his mukhas(faces) represent Isana, Tatpurusha, Vamadeva and Aghora attributed as guardians to the four directions.

This is the moment when all life halts, all desires for health and wealth fade away, all pain and agony in the mind disappears, and the life in us wakes up and the mind goes blank. The only reality of Lord Shiva lies ahead in front of us, the only question of what the value of this life is echoes in the mind. The limits fo existence wake the mind, we are born, we will die, we owe nothing, we belong no where, we have come and we have to go, the only constant is Lord Pashupatinath, our only reality and hope in our transition to the next world. The arti rises and the faces of the Lord glow within the dark misty interior. Its a moment of tranquil existence where, neither death or birth matter. Life will cease.

The landscape around Pashupatinath temple is dotted with smaller shrines of Lord Shiva along the river side. As one looks through all the shrines the thought that runs through the mind is the repetition of births we take and continuously toil through our many lives. At every stage we come face to face with the Lord as we go from one life to another, rather aimlessly.
As one walks down to the river, to take her blessings and purify oneself, a small linga beckons us to come its way. A personal worship, a small abhishekam, with the river water and blessings for a fruitful life are granted at this little shrine out in the open. At the end of this small ritual, a lamp is lit, a flame of enlightenment as it burns and sails down the Bagmati. A fire, the light for the rest of our lives.

With a heavy heart and a torn mind, the steps lead back to our familiar worlds that lie ahead of us. With the vision of the Lord, His all pervading self, deeply engraved in us, one can't stop but think about the value of life. As one journeys back to the grind, Pashupatinath Temple leaves an uneasy void, that we are missing the presence of a greater reality, one before which all else is just nothing.

Pashupatinath temple on the night of Shivratri.
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Mahasadashiva - Vishwaroopa darshanam

The Vishwarupa Darshanam of Lord Krishna has been elaborately described in the Gita, but few know or realize that of lesser known Shiva. This is a form of Lord Shiva that defines pure consciousness. A form of Shiva that is hard to come by. Few have sculpted His form in stone and bronze. Strangely the Vishwarupa Darshan of Shiva is very similar to what we see for Krishna/Vishnu in illustrative representations of the Gita today.

The Uttarakamikagama describes Sadashiva in white with flowing jatamukuta sinking the glowing crescent moon into His locks. He sits in Padmasana and is depicted either with 5 faces or with one face and 3 eyes - each symbolising Agni, Chandra and Surya or Iccha Shakti, Jnana Shakti and Kriya Shakti. He has 10 arms; his right carries Sakti, Sula (spear), Khatvanga (spear/tantric staff of a long arm bone with a skull at its head), prasada and the last arm is in Abhaya (Hand gesture blessing symbolising "Do not fear"). On his left he carries Bhujanga (snake), akshamala (garland of beads in counts of 27 to 108), Damaru (Sound of creation - OM), nilotpala (half opened lotus bud) and a fruit of the Matulunga (Ayurvedic fruit). He wears a yajnopavita (holy thread) and when he is depicted with one face and 3 eyes, he is also accompanied by goddess Manonmani.

The more terrific form of Sadashiva or Ughra form is 18 armed with flames rising out of His 5th head. He is alternatively found carrying the sûla (trident), pâ'sa (noose), khadga (sword), khetaka (weapon), musala (food grain), para'su (axe), ghanta (time/bell), kapâla (skull cap) among others. Mahasadashiva is described to have 25 heads (5*5) - they represent the Panchabrahmas and symbolize the 25 tattvas of philosophy.

Mahasadashiva depicts a state of mind, one which is further emphasized by the presence of goddess Manonmani alias Durga. Manonmani is a state (a mudra in yoga) where the eyes are neither closed not open, a state where breath is neither inhaled nor exhaled, and the mind is blank, it doesn't speculate or have doubting thoughts. Its after this stage that Unmani stage of super consciousness is reached. The state of the eyes when they are neither opened nor closed is called Nilotpala or resembling a half opened water lily(lotus). To reach this state of super consciousness, one needs to detach from worldly illusions and conquer their fear of death. Hence the Lord is shown in the Abhaya mudra. His various hands hold icons of this truth, emphasizing that this illusionistic world is just a facade, the real truth behind which is probably too difficult to imagine and hence is represented by the Rudra form of the terrific Sadashiva.

But the most beautiful emphasis is made to the three eyes of the Lord - Trayambaka(release from the cycle of birth and death). The third eye is typically associated with fierceness, but in reality the eye radiates a brilliant light, a kind of eye blinding brilliance which is not there in the calm of the other two eyes equated to a blooming lotus when the moonlight falls on it. Such is the beauty of Sadashiva, where coolness of the moonlit night is experienced at the same time as the brilliance of enlightenment when the fiery third eye opens one into consciousness. Such beauty can scarcely be scary except to the ignorant who fail to see the beauty if Mahasadashiva.

A quiet path to self realization brings the brilliance of Lord Shiva's Vishwarupa darshan to the mind's eye. One where the Lord presents his all encompassing form into one - Mahasadashiva roopa.

The other surviving example of Mahasadashiva is this rock cut sculpture from Elephanta caves.

Courtesy: Gopinatha Rao, T. A. <1872-1919>: Elements of Hindu iconography. -- Madras : Law Printing House, 1914 - 1916. -- 2 Bde in 4 : Ill. -- Bd. II, 2. -- S. 371 – 374 PL CXIII and PI. CX V illustrate the description of Sadâ'sivamurti


64 Yoginis dance with Bhairava

Please click on the photographs to enlarge them
64 Yoginis come into focus when references are made to the dark side of Tantricism. The cult of tantrics profusely flourished in the 8th century where it reached its peak. Today we have just 4 of these temples scattered across our indian landscape. Two of these are located in Orissa at Hirapur and Ranipur Jharial, one is in Madhya Pradesh in Bheraghat temple and one supposedly in Tamil Nadu.

64 Yoginis appear like they are in a wild trance with Lord Shiva. Here the rhythms are quite different, the music is stranger and the flavour is wild. Bhavabhuti once expressed in the Malathi Madhava, the very same beauty of these Kanyas in the rituals of tantricism associated with the Mother Goddess, though the tantric played a villainous role of attempting human sacrifice. This is not a celebration of the infamous ritual practice but a poetic peep into this world of Gods and Goddesses, a part of our better known Shiva and Kali.
The focus is on the cosmic truth, the only truth that lies in front of us that we run away from - Death. The form of the Lord here is Bhairava who brings us face to face with this truth. Truth is indigestible and this probably needs a different kind of understanding. Bhairava is charming and wild as a thought but coming face to face with Bhairava means playing with fire. Bhairava, popularly depicted as a naked mendicant, like Bhikshatana with a dog on his side and jatas in flames, a face with fangs and a fierce expression, one we would barely call charming. Bhairava teaches the art of Mrithyunjaya, or the conquest of death, which is our only redemption.

The chaunsat yogini temple of Hirapur is roofless and gives the impression of a womb. 64 goddesses circle its sacred enclosure within whose center stands a platform for ancient Tantric sacrifices or may once have hosted Lord Bhairava who is now missing. Here feminine beauty is not just depicted with care but is worshipped with as much ferver. The Goddess is depicted with her assets enhanced, her power and strength, her attributes completely sculpted to perfection emphasize the miracle of life and procreation. Ajaikapada Bhairava or the one legged Bhairava is depicted in one of the niches of this temple.

At the Chaunsat Yogini temple of Ranipur its a little different. These 64 yoginis are sensuous maidens who dance with the Lord in Odissi, a wilder and more terrifying form is depicted as compare to the familiar sweeter Krishna Leela. Here is passion of a different kind that celebrates procreation in a different form, far more raw and probably indigestible to our minds today.

Here too there is life, there is pleasure and warmth with the Lord and the Goddesses. It gives a feeling of awe, of something mysterious and sacred. Bhairava takes center stage at the Chaunsat Yogini temple in Ranipur. He stands within his mandapa, in a fierce fiery dance revealing the truth of procreation and death.

In the crackling flames that light up this deserted temple we witness 64 maidens almost naked dance the Odissi, like Kanyas, with complete grace around Bhairava. As the smoke rises and transforms this roofless temple into a magical theater, 64 dancing damsels create life with the Lord. With sentuality in the air, red bangles cling creating music so wild, so powerful and so potent, this is a different world of the living. This is a wild world of Shiva Leela, a little beyond our conditioned imagination! These powers came alive as human blood once flowed through in offering.

To the great Lord Mrithyunjaya, O Bhairava
Who holds the truth to us so clear
That we crumble before His burning eyes
As he lifts the curtain of illusion
The stark truth of death
O warrior fight and conquer it
The 64 mothers worship
Mrityunjaya Rudra Bhiarava Shiva.

Please click on the heading to download more information on ancient tantric cults in Orissa.


Adbhutanath Shiva and the miracle of living!

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Sammidheshwar temple, Chittor Fort, Mewar, Rajasthan:

Lost in the ancient sands of the Thar, dotted with the ruins of a great fort that once held the mirror of Rani Padmini, now offers the Sammidheshwar temple. Born into the rich temple fortress of the Mewar dynasty at the seat of Chittor, surrounded by the victory tower on one side and Mahasati (royal cremation ground) on the other, Shiva is presented in mind blowing splendor.

Rajasthan speaks poetry, and Mewar speaks valor, self respect and death with honor. Mewar, the name, makes one breathe in deep, to just listen to the galloping horse hoofs of Rana Kumbha who dashed down the fort to meet the Mughals at the bottom of the plateau. In the air, one can still listen to the bhajans of Mira Bai as she sang her heart out to Krishna. Mewar also echoes the shrikes of women who burnt themselves in Jauhar(mass sacrifice by self immolation). Within these very fort walls, in the exquisitely carved temple of Sammidheshwar lies this form of Adbhutanata Shiva.

One way of perceiving it is as follows:

We last heard of Shiva Trimurti at Elephanta where the Vakataka empire had sculpted Him out exquisitely early in the 5th cen AD. Later He has been profusely sculpted symbolically as Trimurti embedded within the Nataraja by the Cholas in the 8th cen AD, with the creator, preserver and the destroyer appearing as the Damaru (creation), and the fire bowl (destruction) on either side of the Lord. Trimurthi is the name given to any form of Lord Shiva that displays Vamadeva(feminine) and Aghora(fierce) simultaneously but these representations are also numbered. Alternatively he is represented with Brahma and Vishnu. He appears in the Sammidheshwar temple in the 6th cen A.D as Adbhutanata alias Trimurthi possibly.

Another way to perceive Him is to feel the interiors of the temple within which He lies.

The outside of the Sammidheshwar temple is laced in marble with exquisite shikharas rising up to the Kalash(pot). As the walls rise high, in marble finery carved with sculpture of Gods and Kanyas, the inside of the temple is a passage opening into a cool, hollow dimly lit room open to the roof rising high up. This is a well lit interior, the walls of which appear strong and solid unlike their delicate appearance on the outside.

Click on photo to enlarge

As one steps in, cutting out the light, and walks towards the sanctum, there is little knowledge of what is going to meet the eye. Just two pairs of bright eyes might quite be an astonishment. This form of Shiva brings alive to us a silent world of perfection. Shiva is the Lord of perfection, the master of Siddhis. Siddhis are of 8 kinds and one of them is associated with Laghima. Laghima is the perfection reached when a person controls his senses and has reached a spiritual plane where he can levitate.

Laghima means lightness, that is the perfection that makes the body levitate at will. Adbhutanata Shiva presents us with the Rasa of adbhuta, or wonder and astonishment that translates to this perfection. Rasa associates itself in the ancient texts with aesthetics of perfection, adbhuta(meaning wonder and astonishment) is a Rasa experienced when one attainst the siddhi of Laghima.

Wonder towards what? In this rather abstract theory, which I hope to construct, astonishment and wonder is connected with the miracle of life and the appreciation of it as much as its experience. This is where the simplicity of living is realized as a miracle, where the aspirant humbly accepts the miracle of "living" with every breath.

It is strange that the Chittor fort sang the praises of its dead on every rock and hosts a Shiva temple that praises the miracle of life!

Photo Courtesy:Shunya.net


108 Lingas along the Tungabhadra

Hampi, Vijayanagar:

Along the stony granite landscape of a once heavenly city now in ruins, lie remnants of a tradition silently living among us. What remains today is a stark granite rock outcrop heated by the daylight carrying the potent symbols of the Lord numbering upto 108 and in some cases 1008.

Back in 10th century AD, there flourished in Indian tradition a cult that worshiped Lord Shiva out in the open. In the great land of Vijayanagar, now known as Hampi there are examples of this scattered all along the Tungabhadra river.

Out in the open...is what it might appear to be, but the very symbolism of Lord Shiva was carved into rock to reside within a home, a temple, the roof of which faces north. Interestingly the entry into this house is from the east, with a path of flat stone leading right upto the main Linga in the center, a central garbha griha so to speak.

This home could probably have also symbolized the Panchakshara mantra of Lord Shiva, the 5 sacred syllables(Na Ma Shi Va Ya) of Lord Shiva representing each side of this diagrammatic temple. Like any other architectural marvel for the Lord, this diagrammatic temple also worshiped 108 Lingas within itself, with Abhishekam done from the east and path for the libation fluids given towards the north, also heading towards the conical roof of the temple.

In the early hours of Brahma Muhurta one can imagine, the cool breeze sweeping along the Tungabhadra. Silent waves almost sound like the gentle anklets of damsel taking a holy dip before she starts her prayers. Among the rocky boulders drenched in the moonlight, is the shimmering flames of a fire, and in the silent breeze one can hear the sweet notes...


Sacred names of the Lord fill the air, 108 names of the divine bress the air as a voice sings them out in deep worship.


Few spectators watch on as the water flows over 108 heads forming a channel and leading gently out of the temple, exiting at the roof. A symbolism that the soul merges with the supreme as one performs this ritual of Abhishekam. The flame slowly rises and casts shadows of the various Lingas elaborately carved into the rock, dancing in the flame light.

Its a different world, of music and love, of peace and tranquility, of life and happiness, of detachment from all the temptations life has to offer. The bells ring and the priest raises his hand and pours milk over the Lord, singing his verses again


The fire rises again, and the voices echo as the mantras deafen the ears and the surrounding whistling breeze carries the fragrance of flowers of offering. The birds begin to chirp and the darkness gives way to light, a new day and a new beginning as the voice carries on.



I am the Lord, one with Him, merged into His being. I worship you O Lord, who enlightens me into this new world with a new mind.

In the case of the 1008 Lingas, there were arrangements for a make shift roof, an idea of which remains in rock along the four corners of the diagrammatic temple.

Happy Diwali to everyone! :)

Photo courtesy: Pratheep.com


The essence of the Vilva leaf

To the Great Lord Trimurthi
I see your reflection in my hand

I see your three eyes shine bright
I see the knowledge of life unfold

I see the trident of Love
Pierce my heart and kill my ego

I seek this moment to be with you

Your picture in my mind I hold

As I witness you dance within

A great hall of gold

The beats that echo within my walls
The world I do not know any more
I come with a simple offering my Lord
To Your heavenly abode.

The golden leaf inscribed

Your seed syllables of life

Hang down within my chamber

Ignite within my soul

The Lord resides for ever

Within my heart of gold

Gold Vilva cover my soul

Oh Lord, take me home.

Bilva patra, or vilva leaves otherwise known as the Bel leaf is the most sacred offering to Lord Shiva. Its a herb with very
high medicinal value. The vilva leaf has found its presence across the various Puranas and has played an important role in various mythologies.

Quoted from a few web sources:

In the Agni Purana it is believed that on any auspicious day in Bhadra, it is considered very sacred to worship Lord Shiva
with a day long fast and have vilva leaves to eat at night.
In the Padma Purana and the Brahma Purana it is believed that Shiva once hid from asuras by covering Himself with vilva
In the Skanda Purana it is believed that this plant grew out of the perspiration from Parvati when it trickled to the ground
while she was in penance worshipping Lord Shiva. It is also believed that the various incarnations of Parvati reside on different parts of the vilva tree.
Another Purana relates that Lakshmi used to pray to Lord Shiva everyday by offering Him lotus buds. On one such day, during
her worship she fell short of two buds. Reflecting that Lord Vishnu had once compared the beauty of her breasts with a lotus, she humbly offered one of her breasts to the Lord during her worship. When she was about to offer the second by cutting it off, Lord Shiva moved by her devotion appeared before her and stopped her. He made her cut breast the fruit of the vilva tree.
In the Bhavishya Purana it is believed that during the Samudra Manthan, after the poison had oozed out and Lord Shiva
swallowed it save the world, Goddess Lakshmi rose out of the sea. She carried in a gold pot the sacred seeds of the vilva tree associated with Lord Shiva.
(Please note - the details above may not be authentic)

The vilva leaf in essence is the very Lord Himself in the form of Lord Trayambakeshwar, whose third eye reveals to us the
truth of life an existence. The vilva leaf is a reflection of the Lord's eyes, bringing alive the presence of Agni, Surya and Chandra each of whom are a representation of each leaf of the Vilva offering made to the Lord. Therefore the offering of vilva to the Lord is always a sets of 3.

The vilva leaf finds its divine presence in the Golden hall at Chidambaram where it hangs down to reveal the presence of the
Akasha Linga. It is a beautiful delicate gold curtain of vilva leaves strung together with the Lord's beeja inscribed in it. The offering of the vilva patra when offered to the Lord grants the removal of sin committed over three janmas or births.

Last but not the least, the Loknath Shiv temple at Puri, was installed by Lord Ram and has a Shiva Linga that is constantly
under water. During the Saranti Samobar Mela held during Shivrathri the upper part of the main Shiva Linga is known to emit steam which symbolizes the Holy river Ganges, thereby revealing the Linga. This Linga is worshiped with flowers, a mixture of herbs and sandal paste, all of which are offered during abhishekam and they remain in the water that surrounds this Linga. The result is spectacular as this watery mixture tends to have a different "fragrance" with the offerings poured in and is believed to have a very high medicinal value and contains the essence of the Lord. This is considered to be the prasad of the temple and is called Bilva Patra.

Loknath Temple, Puri


Ravan Dahan and Dussehra

Ranchi, 1984 Ravan Dahan

The day came to a close with the rising moon and I shut out the lights for a good night sleep. But sleep, there was none, not even a wink, for the Ramlila next door ran right into the night. Folk
music clouded the atmosphere and left little room for anyone to try sleeping. It was a couple of years later that I went with my father to witness one such Ramlila and watched Hanuman running around the stage, performing to an enthralled audience.

Those days were exciting, as we prepared the next day to go to see the Ravan Dahan which was planned to start at Sunset. The puja vacation had been good so far, with Durga Maa pandals dotting the Ranchi landscape, each pandal profusely decorated with new found creativity.

We reached early, and my father made it a point that my sister and I get the best view. Ranchi is a small little town, we just have one big Ravan back there standing in all his finery with
Kumbhakaran and Meghnath on either side. All three stood center ground as the crowds began to gather around them. Ravan had his heads dominating the skyline and as I watched him, perched on the roof of one of the apartments, my childish heart sat back watching him loaded effigy wondering why he was so evil - a big bad evil king, loaded with paper and fire crackers, ready to be burnt.

As the sun set, three huge trucks drove into the maidaan(ground) with the great Lord Ram and his vaanar(monkey) army zooming around the effigies of the three evil kings. A much much smaller army and smaller men, displayed their might against these static effigies representing evil. And then it happened, Ram shot the first burning arrow right into the stomach of Kumbhakaran while Lakshman took Meghnath. Two fiery arrows flew into the air from the truck below and lit the anxiety in every one's heart. Will it reach the effigy?

Sure it did, and Kumbhakaran and Meghnath ran into flames, spreading light and color into the air as they burnt down. Then Ram struck again from the truck, and it hit Ravan straight in the
heart and the crowds cheered! The most evil king had been hit on this day, and he fell into flames as the rising fire burnt into him sending sparks and crackers into the air. It was just beautiful, living the Ramayan a top a roof as the smoke rose into the air.

And here I sit, looking at the same Ravan, who is also one of the greatest devotees of Lord Shiva. He excelled in playing the veena, such was his devotion that he played the tunes from the veins of his hand. Such was his greatness, that the Ravana Anugrahamurthi describes him to have had the will power and strength enough to shake mount Kailasa, because he wanted to take Kailasa back to Lanka, but Lord Shiva pressed down the mountain with His toe. Its strange Ravan has been unsuccessful in uprooting Kailasa, and in bringing back one of the Jyothir Lingas. Much as Lord Shiva appreciated his worship, He never went to Lanka with Ravan. My question is, was Ravan really all that evil?

Courtesy: Glossary of Indian art.


Divine dialog with Lord Shiva

To Lord Nandikeshwara I pray
O Drummer to the Lord's dancing feet
One of Lord Shiva's divine sons
His mount, His vehicle
An inmate of His paradise
Constantly in the world of Dhyana
Silent syllables of power
The very seed of life, perfect life
You breathe out every moment
Within your space
At the doorstep of the Lord.

Nandikeshwara, more commonly known as Nandi, the bull, is barely known for being more than just a Vahana. Found at the entrance of every shrine to Lord Shiva, He is seated there always in Dhyana, in silence and in constant meditation. An example of complete devotion, of beauty in selflessness, of peace and the destruction of the ego, of the self, of "I".

Nandi, seated there with a benign look, is in constant dialog with the Lord, where the only exchange is the very beeja mantra of the Lord. He is always present with the Lord, in front of Him with His mind seeped in divine concentration.

The world around Nandi!

A bustling crowd of people probably rushing in and out, unaware of this divine dialog. If only they stopped their hurried lives and tried to listen, the music and rhythm would touch their souls. There are ways to stop and listen, to breathe the same air that Nandi breathes, to listen to the jingle in His feet, to listen to the resounding mridangam as the Lord Dances in Ananda Tanava.

In all the noise and crowds that visit, the arguements that flair up for a better view, the blaring loud speakers that deafen the ears there is still a way out. It is to move the mind away from the world outside and move to the world inside. The purpose of this shrine is to invite all to forget their lives and live a moment in space, where time or people dont matter.

As the fire of the arti rises within the chamber lighting up the walls and bringing alive the Lord, after divya darshan is received through agni, one needs to walk out with that vision in their mind. As the eye rolls over the other deities in their shrines, the mind remains within the shrine chamber. Taking the path around the chamber it is advised not cross between the Lord and Nandi, or break into this divine dialog, invisible to all and silent to the ears. Being a part of this divine dialog, is a higher form of worship.

Walk up to Nandi, come to His left, and join the dialog and then you can hear the music, the rhythm and feel the potency of dhyana. Raise your left hand and place it over Nandi's horns, your thumb on one and your ring finger on the other, with the middle finger and index finger folded in. Place your right hand on Nandi, near His tail and bend over. Its the best view and the most sacred. The divine form of the Lord stands straight ahead, with no one in the way. The divine form glows ahead and we begin to see the Lord through Nandi's eyes. Stay, dont move, feel His presence. Smell the air, see the flames and listen to the rhythm of the Lord in your heartbeat. Its oneness with Nandi, oneness with the Lord most favourite deciple. Merge into the time, merge into the moment and cease to exist as the self.

Then whisper your wish into Nandi's ears and pray to Him, that the Lord would hear you through the divine dialog mingled with your mind, with your words, with your presence.

Its a moment felt, a feeling of peace to be cherished. Its a divine dialog between the Lord, Nandi and you.


Religious Tolerance in India

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The traditional world: Chidambaram

An ancient temple, seeped in its old orthodox ways of living, is precise with its timings of ritual to Lord Nataraja. This is Chidambaram Nataraja temple, an ancient temple that seems to show far more openness to religious tolerance than our political counterparts.

And within this temple a rare unbelievable event happens almost every day, one that is part of living in this temple city but one that you wouldn't find anywhere else in the world. Two women burkha clad, hold their slippers in their hands and walk through this temple. It seems like they take this route as their regular short cut through the temple courtyard.

They walk on with no hesitation, with freedom in their minds and no fear that they will be stopped. We looked at them and smiled, as I captured the moment, a moment that the world needs to see today, a truth that echoes in our little towns that there is communal brotherhood.
It was a glitter of respect and mutual honour as a safron clad man walked by with the same peace as did women clad in black covering thier identity to the world at large.

The Corporate World: Iftar party at Chennai

It's the month of Ramzan and a group of muslims got together to surprize a largely hindu audience of an IT company targetted to meeting its goals. In the middle of all the hussle and crunching timelines, they decided to treat an audience of 150.

It was an event in the history of corporate living where everyone is trying to get the better of the other and only position and money largely does the talking. It was an event conducted at work, involving people from all other faiths instead of leaving for home early and keeping the festivities limited to their community.

Everyone participated as the group served the food, catering to vegetarians and non vegetarians at the same time. They gave out the delicious dishes that they had gotten together and sponsored for the entire division.
They helped in serving bringing in a feeling of brotherhood, making sure everyone irrespective of position got a good mouthful. They fed a crowd of 150 before they broke their own fast.

Here is a living truth that we as a society are all Indians irrespective of religious or language barriers.
These are small things in a big world both ancient or modern. The feeling of brotherhood is best brought out when people from different faiths come together and harmony rules the land. It is in the hearts of the common folk.

If you want to know what religious tolerance is, learn it from an Indian.

Click on the photo to enlarge.


The voice of a billion people

An atheist decided to blow up a bridge, a bridge that holds the belief of one billion voices. A bridge that stands as a legacy to the most ancient mythology in this world. If we don't voice our belief now when will we?

An insensitive man claimed that Valmiki said Lord Ram was a drunkard. Yes, Valmiki was living next door when he said it. One billion hearts took a beating that day; one billion people were angered. Isn't it time to shout back?

The Sethu Samudram belongs to a billion voices of India and not to the current ruling government. Governments will come and go, but the reverberating sound of a billion voices will continue to ring in the y"ears" of history.

A construction company claims that they are doing good by "rebuilding" an ancient temple at Omkareshwar along the Narmada, without adequate historical or architectural research. It is a temple that carries one of the most ancient Jyothir Lingas. If we don’t protect out legacy now when will we?

Our culture is at stake; an ancient world is almost forgotten giving way to new world culture at the cost of questioning centuries of belief and destroying what ever little we have for economic gain which we can live without. If we don’t realize that now when will we?

A masjid was broken down mercilessly. Babur's only surviving legacy to this country's ancient heritage was pulled down. If we don't save what is left of our history now when will we?

This is an age that sees no rule to dharma, no rule to goodness, no rule to goodwill and no rule of ahimsa. If we don't check our values now when will we?

Today the ancient bridge built by Lord Ram is questioned for its worth, because they don't see money in our heritage. Tomorrow they may want to break down a standing temple claiming real estate. If we don’t save our identity who will?

Do we need the west to sell Yoga back to us?
Do we need the west to teach us the value of turmeric?
Do we need the west to save our heritage by proclaiming them world heritage sites?

Who are we then? What are we then? What is our identity?

Isn't it crazy that an IT park is on the list of places to show when a white man shows up here to experience the legacy called India.

As Rabindranath Tagore said:

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit(or materialism);
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.


With the Lord of Chidambaram, I dance

An open truth
for the world to know
the Lord brings out
from the world of Dhyana
Sprinkling the syllables
potent letters of life
for us to learn
for us to evolve

Simple potent letters
yet so deep are their meaning
seemingly complex
profoundly divine
we sing them out loud,
in all the noise
no sweetness left to see
no divine charm to feel

The Lord is reduced
a speck in a myth
one you want and don't know
whether to believe
A grand temple was made
to secure this faith
to relive this essence
to relive this life

Within a golden hall of flames
a golden hall of life
lies that world unknown
so enchanting and close
the blackness surrounds
but when the bells ring
the black veil falls
reveals the Lord within

Space and silence - a Void
in the fire reveals
rain of letters covers Him
hanging down among golden leaf
syllables of life
untouched and potent
my life breath
my Lord Divine

The dancing flames
form a ring of light
within the deep silence
I hear the sound of His feet
In shimmering moon light
On his brow dances a crescent moon
grace that sways the world
rhythm that makes the heart beat.

Such love I feel
to witness thy divine Self
Such a rain of bliss
to see your dancing step
Fresh life in the air
New life at your feet
Oh wake my soul
Throw away this veil of black

The divine Mother rises
my heart pounds anew
A red hue of life
descends onto me
the path to the Lord
Oh Mother show me the way
Bathe me in your grace
In those letters of life

Fire that burns my heart
Music that makes me move
Rhythm that is my breath
The Lord my only goal
The world ceases to exist
His golden feet I touch
The Lord's feet my home
The Lord's feet my home

Based on the feeling of Divinity, when the Lord dances in the light of the Arti flames that cover His chamber within a ring of light. Flames of Gold bathe His form, a blessing for those who witness His presence.


Arti at Chidambaram Nataraja Temple

When you walk into the Chidambaram Nataraja temple as a non entity, the feeling of divinity doesn't cover you half as strongly, as much as when you are guided into the temple by someone who knows the life in every stone in the wall.

Chidambaram temple might be a different world to the average devotee who comes there, but when you are guided into the temple, by one of the most passionate human beings, who sings nothing but the praise of the Lord, this temple has a different tune to play.

I am really blessed to have finally had the opportinity to meet this very passionate soul, a very learned man to whome Lord Shiva Nataraja is sublime poetry, music to the ears and rhythm to the feet. In his words one can hear the music of the ancients, the potency of the divine and the superiority of Hindiusm as a science. Every sanskrit verse he sang out were like a new pearl of wisdom, one that you connect with or want to keep listening to.

He walked us though the temple, circling at every shrine with adoration, through each prakara that we could access explaining each sculptural panel, defining each mural and giving me the freedom to click away. It was close to a dream come true. We sailed through the temple, breathed its calm fresh air, free from present day turmoil and corruption.

We entered the zone of the main sanctum, where the temple stood so grand, even in all the hussling crowd, one could hear the ghunguru sounds of the Lord as he danced in the central chamber. I was guided to ascend the steps to view the Lord up close, decked in flower and jewellery with the twinkling moon on his brow. The Lord danced gracefully at His seat in the Universe, the land of ether, within a ring of fire that glowed and brought His dance to life. This is where the Ananda Tandava can be felt, as the flames rise with the 6.00p.m. puja arti.

The drums resound, the bells ring and the sound of OM can be heard in every hit of the gong, the Universe awakens and the churn starts, the air reverberates and the flames of Arti rise in adoration. Fire, an element of purity, that burns out our egos, and merges us to this divine form, as the Lord swirls in Anandam.

As Raja Deekshithar describes it, when one reaches the sublime state of poetry, of beauty and bliss, of devotion... when nothing in the world matters anymore, you can feel the Lord dance, you can hear His divine feet in rhythm, you can see the grace in the ring of flames that cover Him, and then, history doesn't matter, living doesn't matter, its just beauty from within. Waves of grace, a veil of sound and music brings the Lord alive, its an experience to witness this through Chidambaram Nataraja.

Video courtesy: Raja Deekshithar


Pradosham - The twilight hour

It was during the hour of twilight that the Devas and the Asuras began to churn the ocean of life to bring out the promised Amrit(elixir of living) which they had promised to share equally among themselves. With Mount Mandara pivoted on Vishnu's back in the Kurma Avatar (Turtle) the churn rhythmically continued till the deadly Halahala began to emerge out on the waves of the ocean. So strong was its potency, so strong its poison that all the life forms began to die not withstanding it element, almost bringing the world to its doom.

The Devas worshipped Lord Shiva to save them from this ordeal. Lord Shiva came down from Kailasa and swallowed the poison to save the world and hence is called Shiva Neelakantha(or the blue throated Shiva). This particular auspicious hour when the Lord saved all humanity is attributed to Pradosham, a special moment in the day, twice a month when Shiva is specifically worshipped by all devotees and all their wishes are believed to be granted.

This very same concept is brought alive architecturally at the Kailashnatha temple at Kanchipuram, in an unusual way. The path of circum-ambulation around the main sanctum is peculiar in this temple as it promises every aspirant an exit from the cycle of birth and death into eternal bliss. It presents them with the elixir of "life", where life is not meant to be taken in its literal sense. The dark passage hosts no light through the path of circum-ambulation, is entered by a flight of 7 steps, each signifying a birth lived. The entrance itself is small and needs to be crawled through. This leaves a void in the mind of the aspirant. It’s the churning of the ocean in the mind of the aspirant as he makes his way around the Great Shiva Linga housed within this temple.

In the literary aspect of the same mythology, the Mrityunjaya mantra is most profound as it praises the Lord in the form of Rudra and Shiva Neelakantha as the Lord who overpowers death (as we know it) and gains complete victory over it, ultimately feeling bliss. The mantra can be interpreted in the following way:

It is through the sincere worship of the forms of Rudra and Shiva Neelakantha, that there is a possibility to attain salvation from the cycle of birth and death, the churning of one’s ocean in this world of the living. The second part of the mantra explains that it is the elixir of living that we need to understand, and realize within ourselves that will elevate us to perfection, perfection that is in the same standing as the Devas possibly.

Mrityunjaya rudraya neelakanthaya sambhave |
Amriteshaya sarvaya mahadevayadhe namaha ||

In the devotional sense, it’s about invoking the presence of Lord Shiva into every living moment, every living breathe that fills the senses with His presence. To have Him in the mind constantly, a vision so strong with the mantra ringing in the mind, can reduce the mind's trauma towards the day's problems though the world around doesn't ever change. Isn't that state the first steps towards self realization, bliss and stress free existence, that even with the given world around us, the mind continues to remain calm and blissful within itself!

Peace! Silence! Lord Shiva Mrityunjaya! Neelakantha! A churn complete!


My thoughts on Khajuraho

Lost in a small village in Madhya Pradesh are a series of 20 temples profusely carved, gigantic and dominating the otherwise insignificant countryside.

And we seem to have moralistic problems with it!!

Our society is known for its hypocrisy. The world's largest demo'crazy' boasting of the maximum population on this earth ironically blames Khajuraho for its erotic sculptures! Where did our babies come from?

The strange thing is these sculptures that Khajuraho is apparently so famous for are found in most of other Indian temples as well, we just didn't bother to look. Even stranger is the fact that we need to hunt them down in the jungle of profusely carved stone to spot them out and tell everyone, I went to Khajuraho!

So, the average tourist goes to Khajuraho, not with beauty or spiritualism in his/her mind to appreciate the grandeur of 20 temples along the landscape but to hunt down minute erotic sculptures... how perverted are they?

Is Khajuraho really x-rated as people claim it to be? Are we even trying to find out why they are there in the first place and appreciate our ancient society for it?

The truth behind erotica as researched by Art Historian Devangana Desai is this. India was known to have very learned men who knew more than one science. They were Tantriks. They knew the science of astrology, architecture and ritual. They advised kings over the construction of these great temples all over the subcontinent, but primarily around northeast India where they flourished the most. They are also known to have practiced ritual rather indigestible to think of today.

Being initiated into Tantricism is/was not the simplest thing. One needed a guru for the initiation and there after ritual practice/sadhana is/was a must. This sadhana involved a change of lifestyle which meant it was not just about how to worship and faith but also about how to live - eat, conduct yourself, practice the art of love making etc, everything offered to the Gods in complete surrender. Ritual went deep down into understanding of mystical diagrams and worship of powers unknown to us like those of the Mother Goddess, Lord Shiva, the yoginis etc. Everything is very interconnected, the ritual practices might have ceased to exist but the science continues to live.

So when one approaches these extremely lavish Tantrik temples, one needs to be initiated to even understand them. The moralistically infamous temples hide deeper secrets of faith within diagrams of ritual, potent in power but rather simple to look at - delightful erotica to the uninitiated i.e. you and me. These erotic sculptures are very geometric, fit within a square with imaginary lines meeting at strategic points which house powers to protect these temples from evil forces unknown to you and me.

The result - erotica, because that is what we see and we don't have the patience to find out more. Take trouble, dig for information and understand the subtlety of Hinduism before giving judgment. Hinduism runs deeper than erotica, and the people then didn't pull up temples to quench our thirst for erotica.


To Mother Durga and Kali I pray

From the clouds of the heavens descends the all-encompassing strength of the universe, of all the Gods. A fury within the mind, vigor in the heart that crashes through space and descends into the battlefield of desire and illusion now almost clothed in a veil of death and gore of the self. One form of strength is the tiger* that growls, thundering through and is almost deafening to the ears. The other form of strength, is within those eyes* that see just one form to destroy that is the demon of desire. And yet a third form is that of my fortress*, the walls so thick that no evil can penetrate when I surrender to Her.

She is all power, She is potency, and She is energy in a feminine form, for all to see, feel, experience and worship. It is an enchanting moment when the silent energy of Lord Shiva now takes form, bringing down grace, beauty, power, goodness, warmth, faith, trust and surrender to this earth. It’s like the first raindrops on dry parched land that almost dies waiting, for the Lord’s grace to wake its soul and bring life to it.

The earth tremors to escape the gaping moment of doom, when the Mother descends to protect the world. The conqueror of desire, She rages ahead gracefully to protect our souls and destroys evil demons with one slash to tear up their very beings, to see Shumbha, Nishumbha, Mahishasura and Dhumralochana fall dead at Her merciful feet.

This glorious moment She presents when She yields Her trishul to dig it into the heart of Maya and destroy it forever, relieving us from this never ending cycle of misery called life.

To the Mother I play, to the Mother I offer myself, who saves me from the demons of my own mind that claw at me every moment through the waking hours of my day. Oh Mother, who protects the weak, who takes me as a child in her arms and destroys every form of misery that stops me from merging into You.

So small am I, so feeble is my being, so lost is my mind that I do not know what to feel even when You hold me in your arms. To me You show the world of green, of flowers and life, of peace and victory over the desires of my mind, and yet my miserable self fails to see Your ever shining grace on me. I pray to You O Mother, save me and grant me victory over this misery called me.

Ma Jayant Jayanti Jayanti


*Tiger - Her Vahana, * Eyes - The powerful eyes of the Goddess, *Fortress - The very name Durga stems from the word Durg which means the fortress that protects the Self from the demons of desire.


A hunter's way to salvation - Kannappa Nayanar

In todays world it is difficult to get the levels of intensity in devotion that our ancients had. Devotion is something that is freely available to anyone, it needs to churned and expressed in the right direction for better spiritual evolution. It independent of time, stature or materialism. Its a simple equation of emotion with the Lord.

One such example of a great devotee of Lord Shiva who didn't think much when it came to ritual or purity is Tinna a hunter. All he knew was to hunt, and get home the meat of his killing and protect his tribe. He was a great successor to his father who was the chief of the tribe.

One day after the hunt Tinna came to rest at an old Shiva temple. His Love for the Lord and the sanctity of the place made him decide he didn't want to go home but wanted to continue staying there and worshiping the Lord. He would take a bath and collect water in his mouth to bathe the Lord, he would chew at the meat and give the best pieces to the Lord and decorate the Linga with flowers that he tucked on his head and took back to the temple. After abhishekam he would stay at the door step and guard the shrine chamber.

In the morning a priest often came to the temple to perform the puja and found flowers and meat scattered all around the Linga every night. This upset him a lot and he would clean up the temple again and offer his worship. He would sorrowfully leave the temple and come back to see the same offerings the next day. He prayed deeply to the Lord to give him an answer. The Lord appeared in his dream and instructed him to watch overnight to see what happens at the temple.

Next night the priest arrived at the temple as instructed. When he saw the Shiva Linga he couldn't believe his eyes. The Lord had opened his eyes and was now looking at him. He fell on the ground in adoration. When he got up, one of the eyes were profusely bleeding. The priest got worried and decided to make a hasty exit.

Later Tinna came to the temple with the flowers tucked in his hair and water in his mouth and fresh meat in his hands as an offering. When he stepped into the temple, he was shocked with what he saw. He dashed to the Linga and tried to bathe it and clean the eye that was bleeding. It still refused to stop. Tinna finally decided to replace the eye with one of his eyes. He took out his arrow and dug into his own socket and offered his eye to the Lord. When he replaced the eye, the bleeding stopped for a while and then again started in the other eye. Tinna decided to give up his other eye. He placed his foot on the eye of the Shiva Linga to mark the spot and took out the arrow to dig out the second eye. When he was about to do it, Lord Shiva appeared out of the Linga and stopped him and blessed him telling him to come with him to Kailasa.

Tinna came to be known as Kannappa Nayanar in the years to come. His shrine now resides on a hill near the Swarnamukhi river at Kalahasti.

Also read: Kalahasti - the land where Vayu is felt

Photo courtesy: Shaivam.org


Jyotir Linga - Grishneshwar near Ellora

View geographical location of this temple

Grishneswar, 11kms from Daulatabad and Aurangabad, is the last of the 12 Jyotir Lingas in the Indian subcontinent. This is the last known residence of the Lord in the flaming form. This ancient spot has had its temple built and rebuilt several times.

The Sthala Purana goes as follows. On a mountain called Devagiri lived a Brahmin by the name of Brahmavetta Sudharm with his wife Sudeha. They were a childless couple for a very long time which made Sudharm very unhappy. Sudeha tried every remedy and failed. Finally she had her sister Ghushma married to her husband. On her sister's advice, Ghushma used to make 108 Shiva Lingas and worship them and perform Abhishekam near a lake.

In due course of time Ghushma was blessed with a son. She in turn became very proud and this got Sudeha very jealous of her. In due course of time Ghushma got her son married as well and continue to worship Lord Shiva. One night in this fit of jealousy Sudeha went and killed Ghushma's son. Her daughter-in-law went to inform her about this terrible mishap while she was worshiping the Lord. Ghushma stayed calm, as if nothing had gone wrong. She continued to worship the Lord near the lake when her son came back alive. Ghushma was neither happy nor sad. This pleased Lord Shiva and he gave her a boon. She requested the Lord to emancipate Sudeha. The Lord was very pleased and granted her another boon. She prayed that the Lord should descend there in Jyotir Linga form and reside there for ever with her name. Hence this shrine is known by the name of Ghushmeswar Shiva Jyotir Linga.

View geographical location of this temple tank

We have come a long way since those times. The depth of faith has not changed in all these years or neither has the pinnacle for higher evolved living. The Jyotir Lingas pulled out events from time to teach us, that every thing can change around us, but it is the ever constant truth of devotion and faith that continues to ring in these temples. The Lord continues to get bathed in the milk and waters of life, purifying the world with potent syllables of devotion that have since then come down these centuries.

Photo courtesy: Liveindia.com