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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Heavenly Deities

They may be merely statues for some, fine pieces of art for the others or gods for some others; But no one can deny the fact that during the time they hold our attention, we forget not only ourselves but also the whole world! Such is the influence of the deity on us.

One of the most mesmerizing moments in my life was the time when I got to see the goddess Kanyakumari. She is probably the only goddess who is still a maiden. According to the Hindu mythology, Kanyakumari is an incarnation of Goddess Parvathi. She is born on the earth to kill a demon. But she has to kill him only as a maiden. This goddess falls in love with Lord Shiva and then they decide to get married. An auspicious day is decided and wedding planned at midnight of that day. According to their horoscopes, it is found out that only on that particular day/time they both can get married. If the time is past then they can never ever get married.

But the whole purpose of her birth will be ruined if she gets married. She has to slay the demon as a virgin/maiden. So, Lord Narada, who is famous for poking his nose in other people’s affairs, transforms himself into a rooster and crows. Lord Shiva thinks that it is dawn and it is past the auspicious wedding time, returns back to his native place. All the presents and other necessary items for the wedding rituals are simply thrown on the sand at the seashore. They say this is the reason for having multi-colored sand in the beaches of Kanyakumari (Cape-comorin) and so the goddess Kanyakumari remained a maiden. Read more of the story at
http://www.templenet.com/Tamilnadu/kumari.html

I had waited for a long time in the queue that led to the sacred room where the goddess Kanyakumari’s idol was placed. When my turn came I stood mesmerized by the sight that was before my eyes. The room was dark yet brightly lit with lamps. The goddess was in the standing posture, draped in a half-sari. I could see some lamp glittering just below her nose and also at one side of her nose. It took me some long moments to realize that the lamps at her nose were actually reflections of the lamps on her diamond nose ring. I can never forget the sight. Even now I just have to shut my eyes and in my mind’s eye, I can see the dazzling lamps shining on her diamond nose ring.

It is said that during the olden days, the diamond nose ring was used like the light on the light-house to aid the ships sailing towards the coast. I guess even a small piece of coal can do wonders!

* * *

Have you ever seen a God with moustache?
Well, I have seen one at the Paarthasaarathi Temple in Chennai.

“Paarthan” is another name of “Arjun” of Mahabharatha and “Saarathi” means Charioteer. During the war of Mahabharatha, Krishna took the role of charioteer for Arjun. That’s how the name Parthasaarathi was bestowed on him. The idol of this God is made of a dark stone and it has surely a pointed moustache carved in the stone. It seems very strange to me how we generally always imagine the God as cleanly shaven with no beard or moustache.

That is not the only thing that was different from other idols. At the heart of Lord Paarthasaarathi, there was a carving of Goddess Lakshmi. This depicted that Goddess Lakshmi resides in the heart of the Lord. And the idol of the goddess was decorated with jasmine flowers.

* * *

Generally when I read, I have the habit of lying down to one side and holding my book in one hand and supporting my head with the other hand. When my grandma sees me like that she asks: “Enna Ananthasayanamaa?”

It is said that Lord Vishnu lies in that posture on a bed of snake (Aadhisesham) that has severals heads. These heads raise their hoods to shade the Lord’s head. The Lord has goddess Lakshmi at his feet pressing his legs. He is said to float on the milk of ocean like this.

The Lord Vishnu is in this posture (Ananthasayanam posture) at the Padmanabhaswami temple in Chennai. From the naabhi (navel) of the Lord, there is a stem at the tip of which is a lotus. And inside the lotus is Lord Brahma.

I stood in awe for a long time gazing at the idol, until my cousin shook me up to get me back to reality. There is a kind of tranquility that spreads into our veins when one visits a temple.

* * *

Sometimes... Even our two eyes are not to enough to take in the beauty and workmanship of an idol.

At the Ashtalakshmi Temple in Basant Nagar beach, the Yoga Narasimhar and Sudharshanar shrines are right behind each other. The reason for this is: Both of the deities have been sculpted on a single stone. On one side of it, we see the Sudharshan and the other side of it is Yoga Narasimhar. Along with good skills, one requires loads of patience to carve such a magnificent piece of art! Even if one side of it goes wrong then the whole rock has to be abandoned and then the work must start again on a new rock.

It is at the same temple, we have shrines of all eight Lakshmis (Dhana Lakshmi, Dhanya Lakshmi, Vijaya Lakshmi, Gaja Lakshmi, Adhi Lakshmi, Santaana Lakshmi, Dhairya Lakshmi, Vidhya Lakshmi) at a single place.

The architecture of the temple is marvelous. The temple is a four storey structure and the shrines are built one top of the other. The stairs lead us from one shrine to another and from one level to another. Unfortunately the paintwork of the temple has deteriorated and it may gradually go into ruins if we do not take care of this heritage.

What makes this temple even more beautiful?
It’s its location! The temple stands right next to the Bay of Bengal and one can have a breath-taking view of the beach from the top of the temple. That is what the goddess Dhana Lakshmi does. Her shrine is in the top storey and she sits facing to the east, probably enjoying herself and bestowing her blessings to us!

* * *

Very near to Ashtalakshmi temple, there is a Murugan temple called Arupadai Veedu (Six Abodes of Lord Muruga). Incidentally, Lord Murugan has six heads.

This temple has six different shrines of Lord Murugan similar to those in other parts of Tamil Nadu. It is said that if one has prayed for visiting any of the shrines down south of India and they do not have the capability to travel so much, they can visit Arupadai Veedu. It is equivalent to visiting the actual shrines. To know more please click on this link:
http://www.ganesh.us/gods/lord_muruga.html

What caught my attention at this temple was the Elephant incarnation of Lord Ganesha. As we know Lord Ganesha has an elephant head. But I never know that he took the incarnation of an elephant. According to mythology, Lord Murugan, disguised as an old man, was asking Goddess Valli to marry him. When she did not agree, he pleaded his brother Lord Ganesha for help. He took the incarnation of a wild elephant and accosted Goddess Valli. Then the goddess begged the old man (Lord Murugan) to help her. He said, “I will agree to save you only if you will marry me.” In her helplessness, she agreed and when the Lord came in his true form, she was overjoyed. To read more on this story please open this link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valli

I realize there are so many legends in our Hindu Mythology that I don’t know. Time to bury my head into our epics and feel the Godliness around me! :)

* * *
There a little more to write, before I end this post…

This post will be incomplete without Rammappa Temple. The architecture of the temple is awesome. From the aerial view, it looks like a lotus flower. Each inch of the temple is full of intricately designed sculptures. The Shrine of Shiva inside the temple is pitch dark. Even though the shrine is in darkness, at any time of the day, the Shiva Linga will always be visible. This is due to the position of the pillars in front of the shrine. The angle and the direction of the pillars ensure that the light from outside gets reflected and falls onto the Shiva Linga.
I do not think I will be doing any justice to the Ramappa Temple, if I do not write a separate post for it. We will have the post shortly in our blog! :)

2 comments:

Vikram said...

Hey Arathi,

This post is good. I am sure I would not have seen the temples in those light. How about having pics of them on the blog to support your description? Just a thought.

Also, lord with moustache?! Remember once I was so surprised looking at a picture of Lord Shiva in your house that had a moustache? And your Paati explained how Raja Ravi Varma (or most artists from Cochin) painted them with moustache. Interesting indeed how we do not imagine gods with a moustache!

I am waiting for the next post you promise.

-Vikram

Arathi Prakash said...

I am happy like you like the post. May be I should start places pictures in a my blog!

I do remember the Shiva with moustache... Gave a more powerful look to the picture...