Wednesday, May 28, 2008
My throat is burning and my eyes are watering..the less said about my nose, the better. In short, Im not feeling too good..but the good thing is that Im travelling again. Im going to Chennai tomorrow and then fly away to Singapore for a week with my parents. This is my fourth visit to Singapore and Im posting some scanned pictures of my previous trip. They are not great pictures and I hope to take some better ones this time.Im escorting my parents and will be their tour guide.Maybe if I do a good job of it, I can look at it as alternative career .This is my mother's maiden visit abroad and my father has been to Singapore and Malaysia in the 90s..so, its going to be a family outing..Im not planning to take my laptop this time or be online ..so its going to be a while until I see you all again ..bye , until then
Monday, May 26, 2008
So, my current trail comes to an end and I move on to my next destination and my next post.But before that, a last look at some of the images that still linger in my mind..Coffee and tea estates, flowers,forests, mountains, curvy roads, hairpin bends, boulders and an interesting snippet from the Mahabharat. A mountain peak of the Babu Budan Hills in Chikmagalur loomed large before us . "Its called Kunti "Kal" (stone) where Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas had rested during their exile.." came the explanation . "Could we go there ? "I asked and I got no answer..so I contended myself with this picture..
Sunday, May 25, 2008
If the river Tunga flows peacefully, can the river Bhadra be far behind ..A couple of hours from Sringeri is Chikmagalur and as one climbs the western ghats across the hairpin bends, dense forests and coffee plantations , you come across an ancient temple called the Kandya temple, where the Bhadra flows quietly behind..The two rivers join to form the Tunga Bhadra which flows down the ruins of Vijayanagar empire in Hampi.
I had been to this temple as a child when we had visited Sringeri and I remember seeing the rivers Tunga and Bhadra for the first time.This is my second visit to this temple.I was must admit that I have not done any research on this temple.The story of Markandeya who defies death and the Lord of death, Yama by praying to Lord Shiva is immortalised here , hence the name Kandya temple.
The story goes that Markandeya's parents had prayed to Lord Shiva for a son. Lord Shiva gave them an option - either an intelligent compassionate son who will die at 16 years or a stupid indifferent son who will live a long life . The parents opted for the former and when Markandeya became 16 years old, Yama with his noose landed to claim his life. Markandeya requested a few minutes to pray to Shiva, but death waits for none. As Yama flung the noose over Markandeya's neck, the boy clung on to the Linga praying to the Lord. As the noose tightened, it is said that Lord Shiva emerged out of the Linga and gave Markandeya his life back saying that he will live and forever be 16 years of age..
It is said to be a very ancient temple and not much literature is available here. The temple was under renovation when we went there..and yet, not a soul around. I do not know which dynasty built this temple, but note the image of the fish on the wall. It probably indicates the direction to find the the river which is the only witness to the history of this temple. Calm and placid, it flows as history and mythology weave a tale..
Thursday, May 22, 2008
The Vidyashankara Temple built in the 14th century (1338)is dedicated to Lord Shiva . The temple stands almost at the entrance to the River Tunga and is an architectural marvel. A fusion of Hoysala, Chalukya, Vijaynagar and Dravidian styles, this temple was built by the pontiff, Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha Acharya, as a tribute to his Guru, the 10th Acharya, Sri Vidyatirtha during the reign of the brothers ,Harihara and Bukka, the founders of the Vijaynagar empire. His brother and succeeding Acharya Sri Vidyaranya was the Guru of the Vijaynagar Empire, founded in 1336 which had its capital in Hampi.
The temple has twelve pillars adorned with sculptures and they represent the twelve zodiac signs and it is said that they are placed in such a way that the rays of the sun fall on each of them in the order of the calender or the twelve solar months.One cannot miss the stone rings that hang in the shrine which is seen in most monuments built during the Vijaynagar period. The sculptures on the ceilings, walls and even the floor are all depictions of the various puranas . Another temple is said to be buried beneath this temple and there is a story around it .
Sri Vidyatirtha was the reigning Acharya in the 13th century when two brothers from Ekasilanagaram or today's Warangal came to meet him. While the younger brother renamed as Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha stayed with him, the older, Sri Vidyaranya travelled to spread the doctrines .Sri Vidyatirtha wanted to meditate and he explained to Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha that his body would assume the shape of Chaturmurti Vidyeshwara after twelve years of yoga.
An underground chamber was excavated near the bank of the river Tunga and the pontiff went into meditation with the instruction that no one should open the door for twelve years .After three years, when Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha was away, the attendants out of curiosity opened the chamber only to see that the body was no longer there, but there was a linga in its place . Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha was upset over the incident , but he received a message from his Guru to build a temple there and call it the Vidyashankara temple .Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha succeeded Sri Vidyatirtha as the next Acharya and he was followed by his brother, Sri Vidyaranya.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
What is spiritual ? A beautiful serene moment, a togetherness with the divine, a blissful solitude , a positive vibration that cannot be felt anywhere else, a belief that goes deep within you that this is it, a complete abandon of all things material , including your ego, your anger, your hatred and even your identity ... Or is it something surreal, an inexplicable abstract feeling, when the body and mind is lost even though the senses are awakened..It is a word that means many things to many people and yet, cannot be fathomed.
If I were to ever recollect my spiritual experience -just one word comes to my mind. Sringeri. I have been there many times , first as a young child, when we learn to experience emotions but cannot explain, and later on now, when we still grapple with words to express our experience.
As a child, we used to go to Sringeri several times in a year.I remember the long curvy roads, the green and brown mountains, the heavy rains and the squalls, the the beautifully carved temples, the rhythmic chanting, the various rituals. I loved the Tunga river, the huge fish there, feeding them chaffed rice and then running across the river in a bridge to the other side to offer our prayers and obeisance to the Shankaracharaya .
I have never been the overtly religious or the ritualistic kind. And as we grow up, day to day life took over and our visits reduced . After a gap of almost three years , I finally made this trip .
The first thing that beckoned me was the River Tunga . A flight of steps leads you down to the river where the fish swim peacefully as the evening sun gracefully lit the waters.Some people were immersed in their evening rituals, while a few others were simply enjoying the sun set .
However I was quite shocked to see that this had become a tourist destination of sorts what with people screaming and even washing clothes.A few kids like me were feeding chaffed rice, but unfortunately their parents were not like mine who had told me not to pollute the river as its sacred. So pieces of paper, along with plastic were floating in the serene waters. I paused a moment recollecting my childhood and remember my mother telling me the story of Sringeri .
This is where Adi Shankaracharya set up his first Peetam or Mutt to teach and establish his Advaitha Doctrine . More than twelve centuries ago,he had come to Sringeri in search of a location . He saw an unusual sight on the banks of the Tunga that made him realize that this place was sacred . A cobra was seen spreading out its hood over a pregnant frog protecting it from the scorching sun.
He was struck by the sanctity of the area which could bring two enemies together and infuse love between them . The Acharya chose this very location to establish His first Mutt .The first Guru of the Peetam was Sureshwaracharya and this led to a tradition of having spiritual masters or Acharyas who represent Adi Sankaracharya and his doctrines. The present Acharya, Sri Bharati Tirtha Swamigal is the 36th in the line of Guru Parampara and is a renowned scholar
There are several temples in the mutt including the Sharadambal temple, which is that of the presiding deity . Adi Shankaracharya had invoked the Goddess of Knowledge , Sharada , consecrated an idol of her and even named the Peetam after her. It is said that the idol was initially made of sandalwood and "installed over the Chakra that Sri Adi Shankara carved on a rock." Later on many Acharyas embellished the temple and it became what it is today. Sculptures adorn the walls of the temple as each pillar invokes the spirit of the deity .
The Vidyashankar temple built in the 14th century is one of my personal favourites and I will dedicate a separate post for it . The other shrines include several deities like Kodandarama, Malayala Brahma, Thoranam Ganapathi,Stambha Ganapathi Janardhana Swamy,Balasubramanya, Chandramouleeswara Linga and each has its own story.
One of the most divine experiences is to watch the puja in the night where the Acharya worships the Chandramouleeswara Linga. It is a surreal like experience as one crosses the Tunga on a star lit night and walks across rich vegetation in silence , listening to the crickets ,enters the portals of the shrine as the invigorating chants fill the air and vibrates across the river..and then I realize that this is not just another pilgrimage . It is what one calls spiritual in the true sense of the word .It is something that needs to be imbibed and internalized.