A call to the Lizard
Varadaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram:
Animals have played an integral role in Indian mythology, with snakes and eagles topping the list. In Indian mythology we have a special consideration for "vahanas" or vehicles of deities. Others come with signals when animals make a visit during a ceremony. For example, it is believed that when a temple is being consecrated and "prana prathista" is being done to both the idol within as well as the main gateway/ roof of the temple, the presence of three parrots fly by during the homam/havan. Subsequently it is considered a success in ritual when an eagle (garuda) flies above the main gateway when water is being poured over it and the flag is being hoisted.
Among the lesser known animals that are known to be great devotees of Lord Shiva, the spider and the elephant seem to top the list. In the south there are specific temples dedicated to them as worshippers of the Lord, namely Shiva temples at Kalahasti and Thiruvannaikavval.
One creature seems to have a lot of impact not just by being a devotional creature but also as a mechanism of communication between our world and God's kingdom - devaloka. They say that when you are completely devotional, the Lord Himself comes in some form and resides within the chamber where you worship Him. The lizard is considered to be a very important creature in such modes of communications. When a lizard steps into the puja room and stays there it's considered auspicious. They say that either your Guru or the Lord Himself rides on the lizard when they come "visiting". The nature of the lizard in such cases is quite different. They tend to be fearless, hang around the deep dark corners of the room and come closer to the devotee as and when they wish, sometimes it's too close for comfort. A family is considered blessed and the home is believed to have positive vibrations when lizards come to live within the walls of its puja room.
Lizards seem to have held a very strong place in function! Killing or harming lizards is considered one of the greatest "doshams"(negative effects) committed ever. Even more intriguing is the fear that is triggered with the accumulation of "doshams" when a lizard falls over a person. They say that if a lizard fell over our head, something very inauspicious is going to happen, like probable death in the family, while if it falls on the foot it means travel. It looks like our ancestors didn't take to traveling very well, not half has lightly as we take it today. There might have been dangers they would have to face in the journey so avoiding travel was probably recommended. In order to rid one off these negative effects our ancestors thought a lot for the masses.
Interestingly found only in the Varadaraja Perumal temple at Kanchipuram is the silver and gold lizards on the ceiling of a small chamber in this temple. With mystical diagrams of the sun and moon near it, this large lizard is supposed to wipe out all the accumulated "doshams" if we get to touch it. There is an endless list of "doshams" given in our panchangam. The sun, moon and the lizard (palli) are related to astrology and give remedies with relation to our horoscopes for a more peaceful living.
Touching these lizards on the ceiling nullifies the negative effects that we might have accumulated in the course of our living, knowingly or unknowingly. Maybe they are consecrated up there with mantra concentrate done ages ago when the temple was built, so that the oncoming generations would benefit from it with a simple touch.
All in all it has not just caught the strong belief of the ancients but also the caught the faith of million Indians today who flock there. Can we question the lizard? Maybe, but can we doubt Indian faith… no, it can only be admired!