Saturday, November 30, 2019

Bhooloka Vaikuntam

There are Temples. Temples of special significance. Temples for performing specific rituals. Temples depicting the Lord's instances. And many many more reasons for a Temple to exist.

And then, there is the temple at Srirangam. 

It is believed that the entire "Vimana" of the Srirangam Temple is the root of all other temples and therefore worshipping at this temple will only strengthen our own prayers to all other temples.

It is widely known that King Vibhishana, brother of King Ravana installed and prayed to the Lord at this temple after Lord Rama gifted this idol to him when the King was returning back to Lanka after the ceremonial consecration of Lord Rama as the King of Ayodhya at the end of the Ramayana War. But there is something interesting how this idol came in to being, in the first place.

Let me explain briefly.

Sriman Narayana created Lord Brahma and the Universe and asked Lord Brahma to create the world which the latter kept doing for many years. Once, he was doubtful of his own ability to keep creating and hence wanted to strengthen his abilities, thereby requesting the Lord to bless him. The Lord appeared in Kurma Roopa (Tortoise form) but Lord Brahma wanted to see His real form to which Sriman Narayana replied that it wasn't so easy to see Him in that form. he ordered Brahma to perform prayers for a thousand years and finally He appeared in the form where He is seen lying on the Adisesha in the celestial ocean (which is none other than the water which flows from his conch - Panchajanya). Brahma thanked Him and prayed to the idol along with the Vimana (the exterior portions included) for many thousands of years.

Later, He passed on the duties to perform prayers to Lord Surya who passed it on to King Manu who passed it on to Ikshvaku of the Surya Dynasty. However, Ikshvaku wasn't sure if he had the ability to pray the way the Devathas prayed at the Satya Loka because he lived in the Bhoo-loka. Therefore, he requested that the Vimana be moved to the Earth and he performed prayers all his life before passing it on to King Dasharatha who prayed for 60,000 years. Then, it was passed on to Lord Rama who offered the idol to King Vibhishana at his behest as a parting gift for all the services the King offered to the Lord during the War at Lanka.

When Vibhishana was returning from Ayodhya with the Vimana, he decided to conduct his evening prayers and thus placed it at the current location on the banks of Cauvery River. However, he wasn't able to remove the Vimana - that is when the Lord informed him that he had given a boon to River Cauvery that He shall decorate her one day by being adjacent to Her. He assured the King that He would be facing the southern direction with His views always on Lanka. It is believed that King Vibhishana visits Srirangam everyday to perform his prayers.

A visit to Srirangam usually ends up with a fast Darshan to the main sanctum sanctorum. However, there are a number of other shrines inside the temple. Lord Dhanvanthri, a form of Maha Vishnu with medicinal herbs on His hands is located on the Northern side of the main shrine. Then there is the unfinished pillar where Lord Narasimha appeared in public when Kambar was invocating the Ramayana to prove that He was none other than Lord Vishnu in the form of Rama & Narasimha.

There is a separate shrine for Lord Rama, Goddess Sita and Lakshmana on the eastern side of the precincts. Closeby, there is a shrine which houses Sriman Narayana in His eternal home at Sri Vaikunta where he is seen seated along with Sri Devi, Bhoo Devi and Neela Devi. There is another shrine of Lord Vasudeva, a rare form of His creation seen at Temples.

Goddess Ranganayaki's shrine has two idols of the Goddess. This is because, during the raid by Mughal king Malik Kafur, the devotees shifted the idol of Lord Ranganatha to a secret location and buried the idol of the Goddess underground. While the idol of Lord Ranganatha was brought back from Tirupati (The Ranga Mandapa at Tirumala was where He was housed & offered prayers during this time), the devotees didn't know where the Goddess' idol was. So they sculpted a new one. However, after a while the original idol was found and was placed in front of the previously installed one.

They say there are temples within a city. But Srirangam is a city inside the Temple. The five layers (prakaras) are none other than the five forms of the Lord - Para Rupa, Vyuha Rupa, Vibhava Rupa, Archa Rupa and Antaryami. 

It is not enough to visit this temple once in a lifetime, rather it is the most benevolent boon to reside in Srirangam all our life so we are not reborn again and attain Mukthi to serve the Lord at His feet.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Lord Sri Lakshmi Hayagriva Temple

Lord Hayagriva is an avatara or Sriman Narayana. He is considered the epitome of wisdom and is said to bless His ardent devotees with everything they seek with regards to enhancing their knowledge. He The Four Vedas – Rig, Yajur, Sama & Atharvana were handed over to Lord Brahma for His safe custody. Everything that happens in the Universe is said to be as per the Vedas an Lord Brahma ensures the same. Once upon a time, two asuras stole the Vedas from Lord Brahma and vanished. Sriman Narayana took the form of Lord Hayagriva – a human form with the head of a Horse to rescue the Vedas and returned it back to Lord Brahma for the well-being of His creations. 

There are many temples dedicated to Lord Hayagriva across the world but the first one to come up on Earth is the one at Thiruvahindrapuram. Lord Hayagriva is seated on a small hillock which is known as Aushadagiri which is none other than a small portion of the “Sanjeevini” hill which Lord Hanuman was carrying to rescue Lakshmana at the orders of Lord Sri Rama. Aushada means medicine, Giri means hill. It is believed that the hillock is medicinal in nature. Devotees throng the shrine, especially with their wards for enhancement of their knowledge and studies at school / college / higher education. Devotees throng to this temple and offer Elachi garland to seek the Blessings of the Lord. 

The temple alongside here is that of “Sri Devanayakan” referred so as the Nayakan of the Trimurthi Devas – Sriman Narayana, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma. Lord Devanayakan is seen with “Jata-Mudi”, the hair of an ascetic symbolically referring to Lord Shiva, has a Lotus in his left hand as well as holds Shankha & Chakra, thereby displaying His form as well. Once upon a time, Lord Shiva was performing penance close by here and had a war with the Asuras. Lord Shiva fought with Lord Brahma as his Sarathy, Mt. Meru as his Bow, Vasuki as Bow string rope, the Earth as His Chariot, Moon and Sun Gods as two wheels, the four oceans as Quiver, the Vedas as Horses and Lord Vishnu’s Vajrayudha as Bow and won the war. However, the war was so intense that Lord Shiva was swept away in to the Ocean and Lord Vishnu had to rescue Him and bring back to the shore. This episode is enacted during the annual Theerthavari festival at this temple. 

Once the war was over, Lord Vishnu was thirsty; so Garuda went to Vaikunta to fetch water and on the way, spilled the pot of a sage which flows here as river “Gadila” while Adisesha sprung his tail on Earth to create a spring to appease the Lord’s thirst. Thus, both the Vahanas are present in one shrine here which is among the uniqueness of this temple. Although a snake and eagle are considered enemies to one another, here they serve the Almighty together, such is the grace of the Almighty. 

Another legend has it that Goddess Lakshmi was found on a lotus pond by Sage brighu who named Her Bhargavi. From childhood, she always prayed to and wanted to be beside Sriman Narayana and hence the Lord appeared in front of the sage and requested him to allow Him to marry Her which the Sage obliged. However, since the Sage would sorely miss his daughter, the Lord agreed to have the sage along with him and hence we see Sage Brighu inside the Garbagudi along with Lord Devanayakan and Goddess Hemambhujavalli (the one who was found on a golden leaf lotus). Since the Goddess would like to gaze at the waves, She is also known as TharangaMukhaNayaki – one who’s face glares the waves of the ocean. 

This is also the shrine where Shri Vedanta Desikar stayed for 40 years and performed rituals to Lord Devanayakan. It is here that Shri Desikar wrote his epic “Raghuveera Gadyam” and has a separate shrine inside the main temple along with a Dwaja Sthamba.

There are also separate shrines of Sri Rama with Goddess Sita, Lakshmana & Hanuman; a separate shrine of Lord Sri Lakshmi Narasimha – a unique feature is that the Goddess is seated on His right lap unlike the norm; a separate shrine of Lord Sri Ranganatha. Thus, in one temple the Lord is seen in standing, sitting and sleeping form, a rarity as well.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Nithya Kalyana Perumal

Nithya Kalyana Perumal Temple
Among the various incarnations of Maha Vishnu, four Avataras are among the most popular – Rama, Krishna, Narasimha & Varaha – in no particular order though. Interestingly, each of these avataras have occurred during various yugas. Let me dwell on the Varaha Avatara.

Jaya-Vijaya, the guards of Vaikunta, the celestial abode of Sriman Narayana were cursed by sages due to the disrespect they showed on the guests. Even the Lord could not much in this regard. However, He offered a work-around to his deputies. He said, you could either be born a 100 times as my devotee or 3 times as my enemy in the form of an Asura. The duo, who didn’t want to stay away from the Lord too long preferred the latter boon (or curse!).

The duo were born as Shishupala – Dantavakra in Dwapara Yuga,  Ravana – Kumbhakarna in Treta Yuga and hiranyaksha – Hiranyakashipu in Krita Yuga.

Hiranyaksha did penance for thousands of years and became mighty powerful. He took control of all the worlds including the Vedas and took them to the akala pathala, the bottom most part of the universe. Mother Earth, Bhooma Devi was under His siege and prayed the Almighty to rescue Her. Sriman Narayana took the form of a wild boar, went deep inside the pathaala, killed Hiranyaksha Asura and rescued Mother Earth and brought it back on His nose, hence we see Bhooma Devi (The Earth) always placed on the nose of the boar. 

There’s an interesting story why the Lord took the form of a Boar and not any other form. Goddess Mahalakshmi as Bhooma Devi always remains under the ground. But during this siege, she was taken to the 7th world underground which is considered to be filthy and dirty. If the Lord appeared as He would in the Vaikunta with a Vajra Kreeta, Jewellery and his form when the Goddess is in the pits, it may not have looked nice. Hence, He took a form of a creature which usually dwells in the much and is considered to be among those living forms which live in the dirtiest parts of the earth. Hence, He appeared as a Boar. 

The Lord is said to have appeared first at Srimushnam in this form which is considered a svayambu kshetra. However, He also appeared at Thiruvidanthai, 50 kms South of Chennai where He is celebrated as “Nithya Kalyana Perumal”. 

Sage Kuni and his daughter performed penance to attain Mukthi. The Sage attained but not the daughter. Sage Narada advised the girl to marry so she can attain Mukthi. She married Sage Kalava and had 360 daughters. The couple pleaded the Lord to marry the girls and bless everyone with Mukthi but He didn’t oblige. One day, a young man visited their hermitage and the Sage requested him to marry all the daughters one by one every day. On the last day, the man transformed in to the Varaha form and He was none other than Sriman Narayana. 

He merged all the 360 wives into one – Akilavalli and seated Her on His Left Leg. Hence the name Thiruvida-vandhai which later became Thiruvidanthai. 

Believers flock to this shrine for getting His blessings to be married and to lead a prosperous life. Sarathy will be able to arrange special pujas for your loved ones should they wish to undertake this offering. Call us on 9176300058 for details. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Pitru Kariyas by Lord Rama

Sriman Narayana has innumerable forms, names and incarnations. But the ones that are closest to the humankind in this Kali Yuga are only a handful. And among them, the most respected and revered is the form the Lord took in Treta Yuga as Sri Ramachandramurthy, S/o King Dasaratha.

Even as the Honourable Supreme Court of India is discussing the existence of Ram Lalla, a final debate is scheduled after the Court’s Dasera holidays after which a verdict on Ram Janmabhoomi is in the anvil (quite ironical since it was during Dasera that Lord Rama is said to have returned to Ayodhya and His pattabhisheka or ascending the throne is celebrated as Deepavali by believers of Sanatha Dharma all over the world), we showcase two temples of utmost spiritual significance and associated with the Ramayana, revered as an important Purana. 

While Lord Rama walked all the way to the southern tip of India to go to Lanka to rescue Goddess Sita from the captivity of King Ravana, he faced a number of hurdles. Among others, he was asked to pray to the Nine Planets who govern the life of every individual. Even though the Creator created Lord Brahma to create mortals like us across the yugas and has absolute control of our lives, He was perhaps the most benevolent CEO cum Founder of His times to delegate work to the Team. So, the Navagrahas who monitor our past lives and accordingly teach us lessons so we don’t repeat the mistakes (although many of us don’t learn and keep repeating for the love of being reborn!) govern each and every step of our lives and must be appeased from time to time for our prosperity.

Lord Rama, reached the seashore, invoked the Navagrahas and installed nine structures using Navapashanam, a unique mix of nine medicinal minerals such as Veeram, Pooram, Rasam, Jathilingam, Kandagam, Gauri Pasanam, Vellai Pasanam, Mridharsing and Silasat. It is said that one would need at least 30 years in today’s time to learn the art of making Navapashanam from an Expert (who doesn’t exist by the way), which is said to have miraculous medical impact for people suffering from various ailments. The water soaked on the Navapashanam structures and consumed is said to relieve people of pain and diseases. The Navagraha structures at Devipatnam can be seen only in the early mornings and thereafter, they get immersed by the sea water! 

When Lord Rama was installing the Navagrahas, sea waves came up heavily. So, Rama prayed to Lord Sri Adhi Jagannatha at Thirupullani close by and therefore He came here and stopped the rising waves. He’s seen seated facing the Eastern direction with Abhaya Hastha and has the name “Kadal Adiatha Perumal” – one who stopped the sea.  This part of the Sea doesn’t have waves, therefore and one must see this to believe. 

Closeby is Sri Thilakeswarar Temple where Lord Rama prayed to Lord Shiva for the sake of His forefathers and performed puja with Thila, Til or Ellu to appease Lord Maheshwara, hence His name. The shrine is famous for pitru dosha nivarthi since Lord Rama is said to have performed a number of pujas associated with His Ikshvaku clan of the Surya Dynasty. This is the lord associated with Kumba Rashi as well as the Pradhan'a deity of Lord Shanaischara and all types of rituals to invoke the pitru-shapa & nivarthi are performed here.

Thila Homa is performed near both these temples by learned Priests as well as near Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple at Rameswaram town which is about 50kms from Devipatnam.

Thousands throng to The Navagraha Shrine at Devipatnam everyday but only a few - very few souls who are blessed by the Lord get to enter the Vishnu & Shiva Shrines close by and seek their blessings. 

Sarathy, your friendly Travel Companion will be able to arrange trips to these Temples soon. Bookings open soon. Stay tuned. Share this Page and spread the word.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Namakkal Narasimha and Hanuman Temple

Lord Hanuman, as we all know plays a pivotal role in the epic Ramayana in which Sriman Narayana manifests in the human form of His various incarnations, among which the most popular are what we know as the Dasavatharas. It was a chance encounter that Hanuman sees Lord Sri Rama along with His brother Lakshmana as they are walking in the forests in search of Goddess Sita. It is mentioned in the Ramayana, that Hanuman had an instant connect with the Lord looking at his shoulders and that he was able to imagine this form of human with four hands who is none other than Lord Maha Vishnu in a different form. 

When Thretha Yuga during which the Ramayana occurred ends, everyone is ready to leave the Earth along with Sri Rama to Vaikunta, the celestial abode of Sriman Narayana. Lord Rama had assured that each and every living being would be taken back by Him at the time to His permanent place of residence. However, Lord Hanuman had a request to Sri Rama – since the Lord resides all the time in His heart along with Goddess Mahalakshmi, He requested the Lord to allow him to stay back on Earth so He can chant Sri Rama nama during all the Yugas. Accordingly, Lord Hanuman is seen in the flag of Arjuna’s chariot in the Mahabharatha during the Thretha Yuga.  

It is said that till date during the Kali Yuga, whenever a discourse of Sri Ramayana Charitha is held, a separate seat is made and offered to Lord Hanuman near the idol or the photo of Lord Sri Rama, since Lord Hanuman would be seated to listen to the epic Ramayana. Such is the divinity of Hanuman to His master, Sri Rama & Goddess Sita. 

Once when Hanuman was flying, He stopped by to perform his daily rituals. He was carrying a Saligrama which was indicative of Lord Sri Narasimha. He found a woman doing penance and told her to keep the Saligrama with her and not to keep it on the ground. The woman, who was none other than Goddess Mahalakshmi wanted to see the Lord in the form of Sri Ugra Narasimha, the form in which He incarnated in the Krita Yuga to destroy Hiranyakashipu, father of Prahlada. Since the Goddess didn’t accompany Him at the time of His avatara as Narasimha, she was keen to see the same roopa of the Lord. Thus, the Lord manifested through the Saligrama in the form of Ugra Narasimha and the entire mountain is said to be the Saligrama itself. 

The imagery of Lord Narasimha inside a cave is at the foothills of the mountain here with a red smear on his right hand indicative of the blood which oozed from Hiranya’s body which was pierced with the nails of a lion – Vajra Naka, as we know them. Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma are seen inside the main shrine, that they visited the Lord to pray and seek His blessings. Sanakan and Sanathanan, the two sons of Lord Brahma are also seen here who are said to inform the day today happenings in the Earth to the Lord. Lord Surya & Lord Chandra are seen offering Chamara, the fan to the Lord. 

Goddess Mahalakshmi, known as Namagiri Lakshmi is seen facing the Lord in Her penance who is facing West which is not a normal occurrence since Her shrine is usually to the right side of the Lord in most other temples. The shrine is considered “Trimurthi Sthalam” where Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma are seen together, one of its kind again.

Hanuman has a separate shrine a little away, facing Lord Narasimha axially and praying Him all the time with folded hands. The height of Lord Hanuman’s idol is 18 feet in standing position and doesn’t have a roof on the top, with his entire body exposed to sun and rain, which is said to have been made of single rock. Since Lord Hanuman is said to be the best friend of Lord Shaneeswara, it is said that those who pray Lord Hanuman automatically beget the blessings of Lord Shani. 

Namakkal is about 60 kms from Salem. There are very few stay options in the small town with limited public transportation. Both the temples are open from 6am – 12.30pm and from 4.30pm – 8.30pm. Special poojas are performed all through the year during various special events.

Sarathy, your friendly Travel Companion will be able to arrange trips to these Temples soon. Bookings open soon. Stay tuned. Share this Page and spread the word.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Sri Pallikondeeswarar Temple

Amrutha. Kurma Avatar of Lord Vishnu. Neelakhanta. Pradosham.

All of the above seem four different aspects of the Puranas. But there’s a temple which brings all of the above together. How interesting are the Lord’s acts. 

Sage Durvasa once gave a garland which he had received as prasada from Goddess Mahalakshmi, to Lord Indra, the King of Devas who in turn gave it to His vahana, the celestial Elephant known as Airavatha. The Elephant disliked the scent of the garland, threw it on the floor and trampled it by mistake which enraged the Sage who cursed the Devas led by Indra. Due to this episode, the Asuras led by King Mahabali took over the world. The Devas went to Lord Vishnu to rescue them, to which the Lord asked them to enter into a compromise with the asuras by way of sharing the divine nectar, Amrutha. Mount Manthana was used to churn the Ocean of Milk while the celestial serpent Vasuki was used as the rope, the tail with the Devas and the Head with the asuras. 

During the churn, the entire earth was about to be destroyed, which is when Lord Vishnu assumed the Kurma Avathara and held Mother Earth on His back. At the time, poison emanated from the churning and Lord Shiva agreed to consume it and save the world. When the poison reached his throat, Goddess Parvati stopped it by holding his neck and thus His name come to be known as Neelakantha. He felt dizzy at the time and lied down on the lap of Goddess Parvati to take some rest. The Devas were worried upon the Lord lying down and gathered around to see Him. When they came to see the Lord, The celestial Bull Nandi asked them to wait. The time the Lord emerged to give them Darshan is known as the Pradosha kala.

This is the Temple where the devotees can see the divine posture of Lord Shiva in a reclining form. Perhaps, the only such temple in the world. The temple also has a separate shrine for Sri.  Maragathambikai, a form of Parvati accompanied by Lord Valmikeswara, where the Sage Valmiki is said to have seen His divine form upon performing penance. Pradosha at this time is performed every month with great devotion and fervour. 

There’s another marvel in this Temple. 

Lord Dakshinamurthy who’s always seated on to the right side of the Lord Shiva Shrine is seen here with His consort, Sri. Taara on his lap. This is a marvellous posture of the Lord to see by His devotees since such a shrine doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. 

The temple shrine is located at Suruttupalli, 53kms off Chennai and 3 kms outside Uthukottai town. This is also an alternate route to reach Tirupati from Thiruvallur, through Puttur (without passing through Tiruttani). 

Sarathy, your friendly Travel Partner will be able to arrange trips for visiting this temple. Bookings open soon. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Garbha Rakshambikai Temple

Being a Friday, I pray my obeisance to the Goddesses – Durga, Lakshmi & Saraswathi who reside with their respective consorts all the time and bless us all the time. 

Today, I would like to share with you about Goddess Garbha Rakshambikai.

Legend has it that an ardent devotee of Goddess Parvati by the name Vedikai who was childless, prayed at this Mullai (a variant of jasmine flower) forest and the Goddess blessed her to conceive. However, at the time of delivery, Vedikai was almost about to lose her foetus, which is when the Goddess herself descended in human form and helped Her devotee to deliver the baby safely. Ever since, She resides here as “Sri Garbha Rakshambikai” and blesses Her devotees who even think of Her, not necessarily at her shrine particularly. 

“Sri Mullai Vana Nathar” is the name of Lord Shiva shrine here which is a svayambu idol made of a type of clay. Till date, there is no abhishekam that is performed on the Lord and only the paste of Punugu (Civet) is applied on the Lord’s Linga form on the 13th day after Pournami (new moon day), what is known as Valarpirai Pradosham day. The Punugu thus removed from the Lord’s idol is then distributed as prasadam to His devotees which is said to have a remarkable healing power for skin diseases among others.

Many people from all over the world visit Her to seek blessings for Child Birth. Again, one doesn’t have to visit Her in person, rather praying to Her will satisfy the Goddess and She shall bless the couple with fertility. There are thousands of Her devotees all over the world who narrate miraculous stories about Her benevolence and blessings towards child birth. 

Upon request and a payment made at the temple, the Priest performs pooja and offers Blessed Castor Oil to Her devotees which is said to help the woman for a safe delivery. The oil must be applied on the lower abdomen in the third trimester. The Woman can pray wherever she is and the Goddess shall bless her. The Oil can be requested either in person or through anyone else and there is no compulsion for the woman to visit Her in person during the Pregnancy. 

After child birth, the couple may visit the temple along with the new born baby and offer the bundle of joy on a cradle which is present at the temple premises and circumvent Her shrine. There are three cradles, wooden, silver and golden and one can anyone of them as per their wish and there's a small fee charged by the temple for this. It is ideal that this offering is completed before the baby turns One year old. 

The link above is the most popular Music Album eulogising Her sung by noted singer and Padmashri awardee Smt. Sudha Raghunathan. Hearing the songs and slokas during pregnancy is said to have healing effects on the foetus in the womb and the child can recognise the songs once they’re born as well. Nothing short of a miracle, indeed. 

Even after conception and child birth, continued prayers to “Sri Garbha Rakshambikai” is said to ensure well-being of the families and their children all their lives as well as being blessed in abundance. 

Here's a link to hear Her songs online as well.

The Temple is located at the holy place of "Thirukarugavoor", 15kms off Kumbakonam and is reachable comfortably by road through Public Transport as well as private vehicles.

Your Sarathy would be able to arrange a trip to visit Her and seek Her blessings. 

Bookings begin soon. 

Tirupullani Temple

While the Lord has innumerable forms and names, the most widely popular are the Dasavathara – the Ten forms. It is impossible to condense the incarnations the Lord has taken but these Ten forms largely narrate the human evolution. From the form of a living creature in the oceans and seas, the Lord’s forms take shape one after the other. The seventh form of the Lord in this series is that of a human. It is widely believed that the entire script around he abduction of Goddess Sita and the subsequent killing the Demon King Ravana is actually a byproduct, for the Lord took this incarnation only to tell mankind how a person should lead his/her Life. The incarnation is more about upholding values, be it as a faithful son for a Father or a dutiful son of a Mother, loving and caring Brother and a doting husband/father who lives by the word of Dharma. A role where the Lord shows the world what friendship is, how people of all castes or creeds are one and the same and how animals, be it a monkey or a squirrel are to be loved and cared for.

Lord Rama’s righteousness, values and His entire story can not be summarised even in a week long Upanyasa (Discourse) on Ramayana, and obviously not in this article. Every time we hear the Ramayana’s narration from someone, we learn something new about the Epic. Here’s one such interesting information that you may already know, or perhaps not. 

King Dasaratha – he was named such because he could control Ten Rathas at a time, such was his valour and a famous ruler of Ikshvaku’s Kshatriya clan of the Surya dynasty. All said and done, he wasn’t blessed with a Child which was one of his biggest qualms. He descended all the way to Tirupullani which houses the “Adhi Jagannatha Swamy” shrine. The Lord is seen here in a seated position with Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi alongside. The King prayed the Lord to bless him with a son who had every ideal which was ever bestowed upon any human being. The Lord said there’s nothing as such created until now and therefore He shall Himself be born to the King and shall bless the world. After performing the Ashwamedha Yagna, the King and his three wives were blessed with not one but Four children. 

Many years later, when Lord Sri Rama was about to cross the mighty ocean to secure Goddess Sita from Lanka, he is said to have prayed to the deity here to seek his blessings for a successful victory across the border and shore. This is perhaps the only such shrine in the world at any Hindu temple where one can see Lord Sri Rama in a reclined posture, (usually connoted with Lord Sri Ranganatha who is seen reclined on the celestial Snake, Adisesha). The Lord is seen lying on the holy darba grass along with Lakshmana, Hanuman, The Sea God and Sea Goddess, Sugriva and the 36,000 devathas. 

A few kilo metres from here is the exact place where the Lord is said to have embarked his journey to Lanka. The locals say that until a few years back, they have seen the so-called floating stones which was used by the Lord to cross the Sea, although the general public cannot access this area any more. 

If you haven’t visited Tirupullani yet, do mark it in your Places-To-Visit in 2019. Among the 106 Divya Desam shrines on Earth (The Celestial Ocean and the Vaikunta being the other two) – places sung by Sri Vaishnavite Azhwars in praise of the Lord Sriman Narayana, the temple is about 20 kms from Ramanathapuram and a two-three hour drive by road from Madurai which also houses a large Airport. Your Sarathy will be able to arrange a trip for you. Soon.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Lord Shanaischaran

Today is Saturday. A day dedicated to Lord Shanaischaran (Saneeswarar is more colloquial).

Shanaischaran means someone who walks slow. The Lord, among the Nine Planets is the son of Lord Surya and is apparently handicapped in his leg and hence moves very slowly once He enters one's Janma Rashi, 7 1/2 years to be precise.

But that’s not always the case, for He is a very benevolent, great Teacher and guides His devotees in the path of righteousness during this period. Yes, he pushes one to the brim but when the said devotee surrenders to Him completely, one can only come out with worldly wisdom and knowledge.

The Lord has many shrines for Him, especially and mostly inside Shiva temples as part of the Navagraha shrine or even as an individual one. The Lord is almost always facing West and his back towards His father, Lord Surya who is always facing East. Lord Shani likes dark blue and black colours and Till is the preferred offering to the Deity. 

But the two most popular ones are separate shrines at Sri Abatsagayeswarar Temple, Thirunallaru in Puducherry and a Swayambu Shrine at Kuchanoor in Tamil Nadu (near Theni hillside). One can reach Thirunnalaru by road from Chennai via Pondy or by road from Mayiladuthurai aka Mayawaram. Kuchanur is reachable only by road while driving from Theni towards Cumbum.

Did you know there are two more interesting shrines for Him?

One is at Nachiyar Koil near Kumbakonam where He is present with His two wives Mantha Devi and Jeshta Devi and two children, Mandhi and Kuligan. This is also a Shiva temple where Sri Ramanatha Swamy is the main deity. Legend has it that King Dasharatha once fought against Lord Shani, not with a sword but with his intellect and Lord Shani was mighty impressed with him in this regard and sanctioned him a boon, to which the King requested the Lord to remain on Earth and bless all those who came there to seek his divine vision. Many years later, Lord Sri Ramachandramurthy visited the place where His father during this incarnation has installed the Lord Shani idol and He also installed a Shiva Linga, which surprising measures exactly the same as the one in Rameswaram. Such is the greatness of this holy shrine which is less than 1,000 metres from the famous Nachiar Koil Temple which houses Sri Maha Vishnu & Maha Lakshmi.

The other temple is at Thirukollikadu, inside Sri Agnieeswarar Temple where the Lord is famously known as Pongu Saneeswarar, which is located 55 kms from Kumbakonam. Pongu Sani is the second time one inherits the 7 ½ Shani period in their lives. It is said that the Lord relieves His devotees of their dush karma if they visit this shrine during their 7 ½ Shani period.

Sarathy, your friendly Travel Companion will be able to arrange trips to these Temples soon. Stay tuned.

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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Ahobila Kshetra

Among the various incarnations of Sriman Narayana, there are a few which are endeared by mortals – Lord Rama, Lord Krishna and Lord Narasimha, in no particular order of preference. 

Perhaps, this is because of a simple reason that these three Avatars have the most number of shrines on the Earth. While Rama & Krishna are closer to devotees because of their human-like form and qualities such as having a normal family, affectionate towards their friends, duty-bound to elders & parents, mischief like other kids, having a Guru and following their orders and so on, Lord Narasimha is always considered as among those incarnations who can bless devotees the most due to his benevolence. Although Lord Narasimha took this role to protect his ardent devotee in a fierce form, HE is also considered the most loving and peaceful deity, with his various forms such as  Sri Lakshmi Narasimha, Sri Yoga Narasimha & Sri Prahlada Varada Narasimha, etc. and is believed that HE would give any and every boon or wish when HIS devotees seek with earnest devotion. 

It’s been my lifetime desire to visit Ahobilam where the Narasimha Avatara is supposed to have occurred. Incidentally, while all Avatars took many decades to begin and end, this one Avatara of Lord Sri Maha Vishnu is supposedly the shortest, which is to have completed in less than 45 minutes according to various transcripts and experts, since the mighty Lion King came out of the Pillar around sunset time and it was all over within minutes ahead of moon rise. 

This Independence Weekend, we travelled by road from Chennai to Ahobilam in my SUV and were blessed by the Almighty to get HIS darshan and blessings. There are Nine shrines at Ahobilam where Lord Narasimha appeared and these are Swayambu idols here. 

Let me explain one by one, with my limited knowledge of reading & hearing from various sources. Do pardon me if there are any errors in my understanding of the Bhramanda Purana which explains the formation of the holy avatar of Lord Narasimha. 

1) Jwala Narasimha

This is the place where Lord Narasimha tore apart King Hiranyakashipu – at the doorstep of the latter’s palace as per his boon received from the creator Lord Brahma, that he cannot be killed inside or outside a tenement. The only solace that Brahma had at the time was the boon included anything and everything created by Him cannot destroy Hiranya, much to His relief, since He knew that Sriman Naarayana was anyway around to take care, who is none other than the Creator’s Creator. Perhaps, Brahma was the first one to use the coinage “*Conditions Apply” while executing this offer to his beloved Hiranya! 

The Lord is seen here in a seated position with Hiranya on his lap tearing him with the nails of a Lion – Vajra Naka. Also seen with him are other deities of Lord Narasimha appearing out of the Pillar, Lord Narasimha displaying his valor with Hiranyakashipu, Lord Narasimha with Sage Sukracharya and another of Lord Sri Maha Vishnu. 

Thus, completes the sloka – 

“Ugram, Veeram, Maha Vishnum, Jwalantham Sarvatho mukam…”

Right atop this shrine is the Pillar which was split across when the Lord appeared as prayed by Prahlada, that HE manifests anywhere and everywhere – known as Ugra Sthambha. Apparently, the entire area of Ahobilam was the Palace of Hiranya which was completely destructed during the rage with which Lord Hari appeared in this most fierce form.

Outside this shrine, one can also see the “Rakta Kunta” – the place where Lord washed his hands after killing Hiranyakashipu. The water stream which reaches here from atop the upper hills is red in color but becomes colorless once it reaches the small pit.  The hill is also known as Garudadri – the Lord appears in this Avatara as is to his vahana Garuda as per the latter’s wish since Garuda wasn’t present during the previous three Avataras.

This is the first Shrine among the Nine Shrines in Ahobilam and is the toughest to reach by foot. The climb to Ugra Sthambha from this shrine is nothing short of a terrific trek which I didn’t attempt although a few people do try and make it once in a while. 

From the Upper Ahobilam point beyond which vehicles cannot drive any further, the walk to this Temple would take about one hour. It’s a very, very steep climb, intermittent with rocks and cement steps. There was neither heavy rains nor water alongside rive Bhavanashini which flows all along from the Ugra Sthambha, so the climb was relatively easier. 

Kids below 10 years and adults above 50 years and those with other health ailments could find it difficult, although the climb can be achieved with passion - “vairagya” and of course only and only with HIS blessings. 

2) Ahobila Narasimha

After killing Hiranyakashipu, Lord Narasimha arrives at this spot to calm down and is seen with Prahlada standing opposite to Him. When Prahlada asks Lord Narasimha where was his father, HE tells Prahlada that Hiranyakashipu is on his lap and can be seen here in the same form. It is said that Lord Shiva performed prayers here to calm down Lord Narasimha after the massive destruction of Hiranyakashipu. The temple also has a separate shrine to Goddess Chenchu Lakshmi, which is located right next to the Lord. Chenchu Lakshmi is the official consort of Lord Narasimha in this Avatara.

The shrine is actually a cave inside which the presiding deities are present and the temple structure as it is seen now has been carved outside the cave by successive Kings and devotees. The temple is quite a large precinct and is undergoing a lot of renovation work with scaffoldings all over and the place where this temple is located is known as “Upper Ahobilam” where vehicles are parked for devotees to climb up to other shrines. 

This temple is a few steps away from the parking area and is quite accessible to people of all ages. There are a few shops here which sell snacks, beverages etc. and this is also the place where the Trek to Jwala Narasimha Shrine begins. After this place, one cannot buy anything to eat or drink. There is a Bhojanashala here which offers free food to devotees all day. 

3) Malola Temple

Ma refers to Goddess Lakshmi and Lola means the beloved. Malola Narasimha is Her Beau in a peaceful form as Lord Narasimha. After tearing apart Hiranyakashipu, the Lord is seen seated here along with Mahalakshmi on his lap and the reason for His peaceful form is none other than the Goddess. Also, since the official consort of Lord Narasimha is Chenchu Lakshmi, Goddess Mahalakshmi is not too happy and hence Lord Narasimha can be seen pacifying Her.

This temple could be reached in two ways – while climbing up from Ahobila Narasimha shrine or while climbing down from Jwala Narasimha shrine, although the trek on both ways is extremely arduous and one must be extra careful while climbing up or down. 

4) Kroda Narasimha

In this shrine, Lord Narasimha is seen alongside an idol of Sri Varahaswamy. The two Avatars of Lord Varaha and Lord Narasimha happened for the same purpose; and Sriman Narayana took these two incarnations to destroy the brothers Hiranyaksha & Hiranyakashipu. Interestingly, the brothers are none other than the Lord’s securitymen – Jaya Vijaya. Due to a curse by Sanatkumaras, the duo were to be away from the Lord for 100 births. However, the duo pleaded to the Lord that they could never stay away from Him for so long. So, the Lord offered a choice – be away from me for 100 births as my devotees or my enemy for 3 births. Despite being born as Asuras, the duo chose the latter and were born as Hiranya Brothers, Ravana & Kumbakarna and Shishupala & Dantavaktra.

Hence, the Lord appeared in both forms of Varaha & Narasimha to bless the duo and the devotees who would throng the place in future. This is the only such shrine where both Avataras can been seen together and is a boon for devotees like us to see HiM this way. 

This shrine is on the way from Ahobila Narasimha Shrine to Jwala Narasimha Shrine and is on the banks of the river Bhavanashini, which flows all the way from the Ugra Sthambha.

5) Karanja Narasimha

This is perhaps the only shrine of Lord Narasimha in a unique form. Let me explain how. 

Lord Hanuman arrived at Ahobilam to pray and perform penance in this forest through which Lord Rama, Goddess Sita and Lakshmana had once travelled during their “vanavas”. While Hanuman was chanting “Ram, Ram”, Lord Narasimha appeared in front of him. Lord Hanuman rejected this form asking Him not to disturb his penance, to which Lord Narasimha appeared with a Bow and also opened his “Third Eye” to prove HE is none other than Sriman Narayana much to the happiness of Hanuman. There is also a separate shrine for Lord Hanuman here. 

This temple is on the way from Ahobila Narasimha Temple towards Lower Ahobilam and can be quite easily reached by road through personal or local transportation. 

6) Bhargava Narasimha

This is the shrine where Lord Parasurama also known as Sage Bhargava is said to have prayed to Lord Narasimha where we wanted to have darshan of Sriman Narayana in the same form as HIS avatar.

It is here that the sage created a tank which is known as Akshaya Tirtha, where the water never recedes and till date, can be seen with water coming from underground. Sage Bhargava would fetch water from this tank daily to offer prayers to Lord Narasimha here.

This shrine is not accessible by foot. One has to hire a jeep from Lower Ahobilam to reach this place which is a treacherous drive as well.

7) Yogananda Narasimha

Ever since his father was destroyed by Lord Narasimha, the Lord took the role as a father to Prahlada and taught him several Life skills including Yoga and thus, this shrine is named Yogananda Narasimha where the Lord is also in a happy form.

This shrine is about 3 kms from Lower Ahobilam and can be easily accessed by any three / four wheel vehicle (self-driven or local transportation). 

8) Chatravata Narasimha

Another unique posture of Lord Narasimha which cannot be seen elsewhere in the world.

Once upon a time, famous Gandharva duo Hahaa-Huhoo came here and performed music much to the delight of the Lord. Hence, here Lord Narasimha is seen seated with one hand on his lap as though he is tapping it, enjoying the music of the Gandharvas.

This shrine is about 3 kms from Lower Ahobilam and can be easily accessed by any three/four wheel vehicle (self-driven or local transportation).

9) Pavana Narasimha

Chenchu Lakshmi is the Lord’s consort, who grew up in the forest. Located on the banks of the river Pavana, the name of the shrine therefore is Pavana Narasimha. Legend has it that Sage Bharadwaja absolved his sins at this shrine. Therefore, it is believed that one would absolve themselves of all sins committed knowing or unknowingly by visiting this shrine. 

Since Chenchu Lakshmi is a tribal woman, some people offer animal sacrifice here till date.

The ride to this shrine is perhaps the most arduous of all, since it can be taken up only through inside the dense forest areas in a jeep which is available from Lower Ahobilam. The drive time is approximately 50-55 mins. Brace yourself if one of the 20+ year old Mahindra Armada Jeeps breaks down mid-way only to be rescued by another jeep from Lower Ahobilam. Alternatively, there is a walking pathway from the Ahobila Narasimha shrine although many people say it would take more than an hour to reach here and the trek is extremely difficult too.

Apart from the Nava Narasimha Shrines, there are two more important places to visit.

Ahobila Lakshmi Narasimha

The family deity of Kali Yuga’s pratyaksha Lord Sri Srinivasa (Tirumala fame) is none other than Lord Narasimha. Legend has it that after HIS celestial wedding that happened amid much fanfare at Tirupati (at Srinivasamangapuram to be precise), the divine couple visited Ahobilam and the Lord installed the idol of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha and offered his obeyance. The temple has been further built by King Krishnadevaraya and his successors and has a resplendent temple architecture seen in the other parts of India, of the erstwhile era of the Rayas. 

There is a separate shrine for Goddess Mahalakshmi here as well. This is the temple right in the town of Ahobilam.

Prahlada Patashala

King Hiranyakashipu was a staunch Shiva bhaktha although he believed that he was the most powerful creature on earth after receiving a boon from Lord Brahma. Therefore he expected his son Prahlada to chant his name all the time to which Prahlada refused and argued there is only one creator of this world which is none other than Sri Hari, Sriman Narayana, Maha Vishnu. Irked by this, Hiranyakashipu tortured Prahlada and in one instance, was pushed atop a hill to fall down, where he was rescued by a Lion which was residing in a cave.

At this place, one can see the cavern from where Prahlada was pushed and rescued by Lord Narasimha in the form of the Lion. In the same hill, there are transcripts, apparently written by Prahlada himself that there is only one God and that is Sri Hari.

The shrine can be reached after an arduous 20 minute trek from Malola Narasimha Shrine and one has to pass through the rocks, sometimes which would have River Bhavanashini flowing and then climb up a narrow step to reach the cave inside which the Lord can be seen along with Prahlada, Lord Sudarshana and Lord Maha Vishnu. 

The Nine Planets have also visited Ahobilam and prayed to each of the Nine Narasimha Shrines and have been blessed by the Lord Himself.

On the Poorva Aradhana Day of Sri Raghavendra Swamy, we were blessed to visit this punya Kshetra where Sriman Narayana appeared to save and bless His ardent devotee Prahalada who reincarnated in this Kali Yuga as Sri Raghavendra Swamy. I am blessed to write and file this article on the Main Aradhana day and seek the Blessings of the Almighty to protect us from evil forces and bless us with abundance.

Om Namo Narayanaya. Om Namo Bhagavathe Vasudevaya. Hari. Hari Hari.

Trip Itinerary

There are multiple group tours which are organised from Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, etc. to Ahobilam. The trip cost depends on the operators. There is nothing here as Government supported Public Transport albeit there are buses which pass through Ahobilam once in a while. Within the town, there are 3 / 4 wheeler private vehicles which ferry people around. 

If you are driving down yourself, the onward journey would take about 8-9 hours depending on where and when you start your trip at Bangalore or Chennai. On day One, assuming you arrive by 2pm, after completing a quick lunch, one could complete the visits to Pavana Nararimha and Bhargava Narasimha shrines, which would together take about 3 hours by local jeeps to complete. 

On Day two, the trek to Jwala Narasimha shrine may begin by 7am after a quick bite and would be back in town by 2pm during which one would complete visits to 5 shrines including Jwala Narasimha, Ahobila Narasimha, Kroda Narasimha, Malola Narasimha and Karanje Narasimha. This trip can be undertaken in your own vehicle or through local vehicles.

Post Lunch, one can complete the visit to the shrines of Chatravata Narasimha and Yogananda Narasimha by 5pm and then visit Ahobila Lakshmi Narasimha to complete the trip.

Please note that all Hill shrines open at 7am and close by 5pm with a brief Lunch break in between which the Priest decides basis the crowds thronging the shrines. The two temples in Lower Ahobilam open at 7am and close at 6pm. The Ahobila Lakshmi Narasimha temple is however open every day until 8pm.

Ahobila Mutt has a few rooms which are available for a nominal rent. One can call the office of Ahobila Mutt and enquire room availability. They also offer hygienic & tasty Satvik breakfast, lunch and dinner if informed in advance and subject to availability of the Cook cum Priest. Alternatively, there are private guest houses which charge Rs. 1,500 onwards  per night for a double-bed room with attached toilet & a/c, but the room rates are seasonal and may fluctuate.  

Apart from bottled branded water, juices, snacks & fresh tea / coffee, there is not much hygienic food available in public areas, save for Ahobila Mutt or private guest houses. 

Best season to visit Ahobilam is from July onwards although Aug-Sep is usually rainy season and it could get too cold during winters and the early summers, mid-summer could be extremely hot and would make the treks and climbs impossible due to the heat.

There are local guides who are available to escort the pilgrims and charge upwards of Rs. 1,000 per day to take the devotees through the terrain and also explain about the temples.

The nearest Fuel station is located 9 kms away from Ahobilam and the nearest bigger town is Allagadda which is about 20 kms from the holy shrine.  

I hope the above description of Nava Narasimha shrines at Ahobilam would be useful to you and those who seek detailed information about the place. Do pardon me if there are any mistakes in my research and writing and help me correct wherever possible. Please send me your feedback and queries, if any to