My profound apologies for abrubtly stopping the travelouge after 5th part.. My computer got crashed and it took so many days for me to get back the word file... Two more parts to go...
DHARSHAN OF TEMPLES OF LORD SASTHA
(AYYANIN ALAYA DHARISANAM)
Sri Maha Saastru Priyadasan V. Aravind Subrahmanyam
Translated by Shri. Thiruvarur Chandrashekaran
(The Lord of Papanasam who destroys all sins)
It was decided by all, including my parents, that on our return we visit the temple at Papanaasam. Accordingly we went to the temple of Papavinasagar at Papanaasam. At the time of our visit some devotee had made special arrangements for Abishegam to the Lord with all dravyams So we had an enjoyable beautiful dharshan . Then we did circumambulation of the prahaaram
This place is also connected with Sage Augusthiar. When the marriage of Siva and Parvathi took place at the Himalayas all the devadas and sages assembled there to witness the marriage. This resulted in an imbalance of the world, the North Pole going up and South Pole going down. In order to restore balance Lord Siva deputed Sage Augusthiar to go down to Southern states. He also gave him a boon “Wherever you choose, at that place itself you can witness the scene of our marriage”. The marriage scene of Kailash witnessed by Sage Augusthiar is depicted beautifully in the praharam for us to witness now!!!
We could not to take off our eyes from viewing such a beautiful scene.. Kundotharan (Extraordinarily stout aid of Lord Siva) is holding the decorative symbolic umbrella above the head of the Lord. Both Siva and Parvathy are rishabha aarooder (mounted on the sacred bull). Sage Augusthia along with his wife Lobhaamudra is standing with folded hands in front of them. A real life like scene, as if it is taking place right in front of our eyes!
The Ambaal here is called Loga-Maathaa (Ulaga-Ammai)-Mother of the Universe. Ambaal is always beautiful wherever one may see her. Will ever a mother be not beautiful? That too the one here seems to be a Vallal (Big donor) in bestowing and showering “ the art of speech” in bountiful.
A poet by the name Namaschivayar lived here. Daily he used to visit the temple and return back home singing the praise of the Ambaal. Captured by the beauty of his songs the Ambaal used to follow him daily to hear his songs but without his knowledge. One day the poet, unaware of the fact that Amball is following him from behind, turned his head and spat out the excess red coloured saliva from his mouth after chewing the Paan (betel leave chewed with a little lime). The next day when the priest opened the doors of the sannidhi of Ambaal he was surprised to see red coloured stains on the gold laced silk dress of Ambaal! The Ambaal appeared in the dreams of the King and apprised him of the happenings.
To let the entire world to become aware of the greatness of the poet, the King adopted a novel procedure.
He tied a golden bouquet in the sacred hands of the Mother Lordess of the Universe using a gold wire.
He arranged for the “assembly of poets” and requested poet Namaschivaayar to sing in praise of the Ambal in order to get the gold bouquet from her hands. Namaschivaayar sang songs one after the other which togetger is now known as Kaliththurai Andhaathi on Lordess Ulagammai. (Andhaathi means the end words of the first song becomes the beginning of the second song and so on to make a total of 100 such songs) As the poet was singing the 96th song, the golden wire got snapped and the golden bouquet got transferred to the hands of the poet.
This happened in those days.
Let us come to modern days. A year back, a friend of mine, by name Saravanan, a college student, was keenly devoted to the Logamatha of this Papanasam. He had no exposure to tamil grammar. Nor did he have proper training and guidance in composing songs. Simply by the grace and mercy of the Ambaal he had sung and composed a set of songs in praise of Ambaal, a Kavyam ,(epic) titled ulaga annai pillai tamil entirely in the traditional style which had been widely acknowledged by even the well known tamil poets.(In Pillai Tamil songs the poet describes the childish pranks of the Ambal as imagined and visualized by him)
I moved on with a silent prayer “Oh! Mother! Please grace us a little through the corners of your lotus eyes. Please grant a life of happiness to us, your children”.
Just as I was moving on, my eyes fell upon a beautiful idol of Lord Sriman Naarayanan, made of Panchaloham (fivemetals). That day elaborate arrangements were on for Garuda Seva of Lord MahaVishnu along with his consorts Sridevi and Bhoodevi. A festival for Lord Vishnu in a Siva temple! At a place where coexistence of Siva-Vishnu is very high,my instinct told me that “Our Leader” must also be somewhere nearby.
By now Arun told me that there is a sannidhi of Lord Saastha. Next second I was present at that spot. The idol was in a pitiable state that it could not be deciphered easily as that of Saastha. At least anointment with oil could have been done to the idol as is customary.
It was a typical ancient idol, with one leg folded and the other hanging down, with a bouquet in one hand. The Aadhaara peedam (stone base) was also there as a base for the idol. It is apparent that earlier it must have been installed somewhere inside the temple but subsequently shifted to this place. The irony was that unaware of the existence of this idol of Lord Saastha, in another corner a portrait of Saastha was kept fully decorated and oil lamps too lit in front!
Vibhu now informed me that while we were coming this way he saw a structure that appeared to be a temple of Lord Saastha. I got tensed. I approached the rest of our group members and told them to take their own time and after leisurely completing the traditional worship in the temple, to board the van and continue the journey and that we both would join them somewhere on the way.
Though we partly walked and partly ran a distance of about half a kilometer, we could not locate the temple. Perhaps we had failed to notice it on the way. So we returned to the main road and waited for the van and got into it.
Before returning to our place of stay, we stopped at Ambasamudram and ensured to stock pile mosquito coils and mosquito repellants .
There was yet one more beautiful idol of Lord Saastha at the turning point from the main road of Ambasamudram. I had seen it earlier too. There the Lord was seated in the open air exposed to sun and rain as it had no ceiling at all.
I just said, “While taking a turn we can stop for a while. There is a Lord known as Vetta Veli Saastha (Saastha in open space, exposed to sun and rain). I will just have a quick dharshan and come”
Guru mama blurted out “ I think his name is something else. But it seems you have already decided to call him Vetta Veli Saasthaa”!
As his contribution Arun added “Either Vetta Veli Saastha or Nadutheruvil Nindra Saastha (Saastha who is stranded in the middle of the road)!”
I requested the vehicle to be stopped there. But every body said we could just slow down and have a dharshan from the van itself. So we did likewise. I was not at all satisfied. I just resigned and remained silent.
(I worship Lord Varahar with Lakshmi)
By the time we returned to Kallidaikkurichchi and got ready after finishing our evening ablutions it was already 7.00 PM.
Since that day happened to be a Saturday in the month of Purattasi, there was Garuda Sevai in the temple of Lord Lakshmi Varaahaperumal.
Before we could reach the Saastha temple of Karanthayarpalayam they had closed the temple at 7.00 PM itself.
No wonder! How can any one expect the Pattar(priest) to remain all alone in the Saastha temple, when the entire village has landed at the Perumal temple to witness the Garuda Sevai? Will not the Pattar too have a desire to witness the Garuda Seva?
“Come tomorrow early morning” said the Pattar who was just standing at the entrance of the temple after closing it. We just nodded our head in silence and returned.
During this intervening period the spectacles removed and kept away “safely” by Natarajan got damaged when he slipped on the floor. The lens got separated from its frame. Natarajan had a tough time. (But the way he always caught hold of someone’s shoulder to walk around, as if he was born blind, made him a laughing stock of every one.)
Since there was a slight drizzle we decided to have the dharshan of Perumal first and so went to the temple of Lakshmi-Varaahar. Varahar is the Lord of Yagjam. He is even called as Yagja Varaahar. All the Devadas, on witnessing the grand manner in which the Brahmins of Kallidaikkurichchi were worshipping Lord Saastha, were quite pleased and each of them decided to migrate into one of its eighteen streets and started blessing the residents therein. This information I got, during the course of my research, from a rare book called Kerala Kalpam. Lord Lakshmi Varahar is also one such deity who migrated to this place!
Lord Kuberan installed this idol. How can any one forget the kriti (carnatic song in sanskrit) “Sri Lakshmi Varaaham Baje Aham” sung by Muthuswamy Dikshidhar, one of the trinities of carnatic music?
It is one of the very fine temples. The Urchava Perumal (idol meant for the procession) was ready outside for the “purappadu” (commencement of procession). We proceeded to have the dharshan of the Moolvar.( idol inside the sanctum sanctorum).
Lordess Mahalakshmi is sitting on the laps of the Lord Varaahar. In all such temples, let it be Aadi Narayanan or Lakshmi Narasimhan, the Lakshmi sitting on the lap of the Lord would be facing us (looking at us). Here it is not like that. While the Lord is facing us the Lordess Lakshmi is looking at the face of the Lord. We call her Thaayaar (Mother). So it is said that She is recommending our “cases” to the Lord!
Outside both Garudan and Hanumaan had dressed themselves very well and were creating a” big noise” Only small children and kids,the boys brigade, were rendering help in disciplining the crowd as well as lending a hand to the people and the priest for the conduct of puja. This is what is called real devotion, dedication and involvement. How responsible these children behaved, volunteering themselves and taking a keen interest, even without any invitation!!! In our towns even if we invite them they think a thousand times and have their own reservations and hesitations for such volunteering jobs.
Another thing to be noticed is the Garudan here; it is very rare to find such a gigantic majestic Garudan made of panchalogam (five metals). If we look from one side the pakshi rajan (king of birds) would look to be grim with anger, apparent severity, whereas from the other would appear to be tender and smiling! In apparent severity there is tenderness. Since Garuda Sevai would start only around 10.30, we circumambulated (went around right to left) the praharam.
This is the place where the Saastha Preethi used to take place in the ancient times. Karanthayaarpalayam Saastha Preethi is the forerunner of all the Saastha Preethis in the world. First Lord Saastha would be brought from the Saastha temple to this place to be seated in the Perumal temple where Saastha Preethi used to be held. Due to ever so many reasons it is nowadays being held in the Saastha temple itself.
As we walked ahead of the Mandapam there was a big crowd near the Swarga Vasal (Gateway to Heaven). Nothing particular or important but a funny incident was happening. Some eccentric person, a litterbug, has plucked few green leaves of a plant from the nearby temple garden and had strewn it in front of the Swarga Vasal while on his way out. Is it not an enough excuse for our people to follow suit? So each and every person, male or female, young or old, whoever was passing through that spot started plucking leaves from the plants in the temple garden and threw them in front of Swarga Vasal. Within no time all the plants in the garden had a clean shave and the Swarga Vasal was covered with a heap of leaves. Net result was that for the next day morning worship not a single flower was to be found.
Yet one more inappropriate thing was that some one had inadvertently tied a bell in the sannidhi of Lord Saastha. What an ordeal the bell underwent! Each and every one went on ringing the bell as if with a vengeance. The “poor” bell did not have any rest even for a minute!!!
In this Varaha Perumal temple there is a Saastha sannidhi too. As I had mentioned earlier, in the ancient times, Saastha Preethi used to be held here only. They used to do Avahan of Lord Saastha on a stone pedestal, known as Adi Yantram (Bottom Yantram) and worship used to take place.
Just straight above that only the moola garudan is situated. The stone idol of Garudan, is very special here. Only here Garuda Bagawaan is seen in the walls of the inner praharam of the temple. Abishegam and all other worships are done to this idol only. After Abhishegam they put on him a shirt and decorate him further.
Since there was enough time left for Garuda Sevai to begin, we all left after the darshan of Saastha and Garudan. In between one group invaded an appalam (pappad) shop located in the sannidhi street itself. Another batch of the youth army started tasting ice cream and Tirunelveli Halwa, which they bought from one of the festival stalls set up therein. We who live in the cities have lost for ever the fun and enjoyment derived out of such simple and small things.
All of us returned home and finished the night tiffin (dinner). Because of the tough ordeal every one had right from the morning, all started to take “rest”
Without the glasses Natarajan had to continue to pass through a tough time. There was no optician at Kallidaikkurichchi to rectify the defect.
“Only alternative is to go to Ambasamudram.”
“I will then go to Ambasamudram and try my luck. We can go in an Autorickshaw” said Natarajan.
As soon as the word “Ambasamudram” fell into my ears I got tensed and said, “ I would accompany you”
I also “winked” at others who were there. The next second Vibhu, who understood my signal said, “I too will come with you both” and got ready to leave.
At Ambasamudram the optical shop had downed its shutters early. So on our return trip we went to see “our friend”
What I am referring to here is our Vetta Veli Saastha. In the evening we could not see clearly from the slow moving van. Now we had a clear dharshan and also took photographs. A well built body. They have erected grills as an enclosure. It is also written there, Harihara Putra Saasthaa. It is a beautiful figure. It is quite likely that this was brought from some temple and erected here.
After “finishing our job” for which we embarked upon this short trip, we returned back home. While we were half asleep and half awake, around 10.30 PM, we heard the sound of bursting of crackers at the temple. That is an indication that Perumal is ready for Garuda Sevai.
Seated on top of the majestic Garuda Vahan the Perumal came out and it looked as if he was flying in the sky. Quite a heap of flower garlands, “Parivattams” (Head Dresses) and several other decorations presented a beautiful sight. It cannot be adequately expressed in words but has to be experienced by witnessing with ones own eyes. At the temple entrance Mahadeeparaadhanai was shown to the Perumal and then Lord was mounted on a Chapparam (light multi wheeled wooden structure similar to a ratham).
Recitation of Vedas by veda pundits preceeded the Chappram in which the Lord was seated on Garuda Vahanam and it was drawn around the temple. Behind the Chapram Nama Sangeerthan group followed singing bhajan songs. Vaadhyar (Veda Pundit) Raman and young kids, boys brigade, too accompanied “dancing” to the tunes! A little girl, aged around 7 years. was also in the group and kept the “Thalam” (beats) like a well-experienced “Bhagawathar” of Bhajan. In addition she also did “Kummi”(a type of folk dance) beautifully well without missing a step. One cannot forget this wonderful scene. Both Natarajan and Vibhavan joined, nay got merged with, the bhajan group. The members of the local bhajan group went on encouraging the two of them from time to time by saying “Coimbatore Anna! One more song please!”
Behind this procession at a distance there was yet one more Chapparam following. When I went near and had a look it was that of Ambaal from Mariamman Temple in the Dasara Rath. There was separate Mela Thaalam (Nadaswaram, Bhajan, Dance etc) accompanying this procession. Kallidaikkurichchi also used to be humorously referred as “Kalyanakkurichchi”. This place always wears a festive look with one or the other “Urchavams” and celebrations for the various deities.
After having Dharshan of Ambaal we retired to bed back at home. After that the Perumal is once again mounted on a Rath (bigger chariot) and taken around the rest of the streets. The “Coimbatore Bhagawathar Group” (Natarajan and Vibhu) accompanied the procession through out.
They remained till the last and only after the Perumal reentered the temple, they returned back home. (“Please do come again for the next week programme” was the standing invitation for them. We can imagine their popularity there!)
Since that day we had taken enough precautionary measures there was no loss of lives (life of mosquitoes only!) They escaped and we too had a peaceful undisturbed sleep.
In the morning all had got up and were ready to go and have a dip in the river. Since today we all left, after it was bright sunlight, we could enjoy the Nature’s beauty around that place. Our “photographers” went on clicking their cameras.
This riverside belongs to the Katranthayarpalayam Brahmana Samooham. There is an old debilitated Sanskrit College almost in ruins. (During my last visit I had gone inside and had already examined it too thoroughly)
Likewise there are a lot of Samadhis of “Yathis”(Sanyasis) at that place. Once when the Sringeri Sankaracharya Swamigal had camped here, he did a detour to reach the river bank, refusing to walk across this place saying “When there are so many Samaadhis of Sanyasis how can I tread on them”
But what is the state of affairs today? Lured by the precious Navarathnas, which are usually buried underneath each Sivalingam fixed in each of the Samadhi of Sanyasis, unscrupulous people have dug out the Lingams and looted all the precious stones.
This is the “Curse” of Bharatham (India).
All who went to the riverside had enough dips to their hearts content. Where is any waterfront, like river or tank at Coimbatore? (Man made swimming pools excluded). So no one wanted to step out of the river! Somehow we hurried them saying that we have to return back home.