Tuesday, April 27, 2010

SanJeevi Chowdeshwari

People who sacrifice their life for the well being of others are often considered as demigod in those days. This is a story of a girl who became a demigod by her selfless action. Her sacrifice is even remembered today by the members of her clan and other communities too. Usually, gods are worshipped in Idol and picture forms. Idols can be of carved, sculptured or it can be a simple stone form. However, the specialty of Sanjeevi Chowdeshwari Amman temple is the decapitated head of a girl! Sanjeevi Chowdeshwari temple is a small temple located at the heart of a quite neighborhood in siddhaya Kotai of Roadulapuram in Dindugal dist. of Tamil Nadu.

It is very similar to any other temple, however what makes it different from the rest is the worship of a Decapitated head of a young girl, which is not Mummified. Egyptians mummified their deads, however after some time these mummies are shrunk, and losses it originals form reducing to gory objects. The decapitated head of a girl is still fresh, and none of the parts have decayed even after many several years. Devotees who have seen it describe it to be as fresh as young woman's face. Devotees are allowed to touch and feel it. Those who have seen it and felt it say that it is no different from a live person. Those who have seen Amman regularly say the hair has grown to a considerable length, there is a visible smile on the face, and sometimes have twinkles in her eyes. This piece of head (Amman) is kept on display once in 2 years during Shivarathri, which normally falls some where in feb/march. This year they had displayed it for the devotees. So, the next display is in 2012.

The faithful clans  built this temple to show their respect and solidarity for Sanjeevi. Devangas is a tight nit community whose primary occupation is weaving. Their History dates back to Krishna Deva Raya of Vijayanagara smarajya era. Krishna Devaraya was a noble statesman; he encouraged arts, architecture, and literature. Hampi was the Capital of Vijayanagr. During his rule, everyone was extremely happy. The kingdom was formed to avoid the upraising Islamic Invasion. The empire's legacy includes many monuments spread over South India, the best known being the group at HampiWhen Bohemians invaded Hampi, which was a bloody battle made hampi weavers to migrate to different parts of India. One such group came to South India and settled at Roadalapuram in Dindukal Dist.
There is a heart-wrenching story behind this temple. After settlling down at the new place, a couple had a baby girl and they named her Sanjeevi. The clans considered her as divine, god’s child. She was a very beautiful child-she had earned everyone’s love and respect. Sanjeevi grew up to be a beautiful young woman-she had pleasant disposition and an aura of charm. Many men wanted to marry her. The neighboring Kannivadi Zameen learnt about her, he too desired to marry her. However, the parents declined the proposal as the Zameendhar was from a different community. This angered the zameendhar, and he owed to destroy anyone who opposes this match. Sanjeevi realized that it was her beauty that has endangered her clans. So, she decides to destroy the beauty. In order to save her clan, she torched herself. Till her neck, her body completely charred, however her head remained in act. The people recovered the head and hid it in a cave near sirumalai. For many hundred years this story was passed on to the new generations, just century ago, a cowered who was wondering around the cave discovered the decapitated head and handed it over to the clan members. Clan members took great care of it, built a temple and kept it for everyone’s site.

Once in two years, during Mahashivaratri Sanjeevi's head is displayed for public view. She is made to ware gold ornaments and is nicely decorated. People in that community believe it is only after the temple they have financially progressed. Their faith on Sanjeev Chowdeshwari Amman is unshakable. Every year invitations are sent out to Zameen family too to attend the festival. The zameen and Devangas come together to celebrate and to worship ''Sanjeevi Chowdeshwari Amma'' if you want to see this Amman the best time is Shivaratri. If you're looking for a different experience this might be the one.

101 Swamy Malai

India is a rich country when it comes to tradition and culture. Unlike modern days Gurus, Gurus in the past were devoid of worldly pleasure. They were rich in yogic powers, in Thantras and in Mantras. People who left worldly life in the pursuit of real happiness lived an atheistic life. They lived with the nature. One such type of people is called Siddhars. Shidhars are saints; they are staunch devotees of Lord Shiva. They practiced an unorthodox type of sadhana, or spiritual practice, to attain liberation. Siddhars are people who are believed to control and transcend the barriers of the time and space by meditation (yoga), after the use of substances called Rasayanas that transform the body to make it potentially deathless, and a particular breathing-practice, a type of pranayama. 

Today, we are going to learn one such siddhar temple. 101-swamigal kovil is in 101-swami malai village in Hoganecal taluk of Krishnagiri Dist. in Tamil Nadu. This temple is located in the heart of harsh terrain of krishnagiri dist, and has no proper connecting roads, one has to pass thru' the uneven mud roads, gravels, and puddles to reach this temple. The temple is a simple one. Some 700 years ago there lived a swamiji (or siddhar) in this village. He was kind and very generous type. Whoever, irrespective of the time of the day, when asked for food, swamiji would give without any hesitations. The swamiji would never say ''NO'' to anyone. So, people approached the swamiji whenever they needed food. One fine day, the villagers got suspicious and wanted to test Swamiji's powers. So, 100 villagers gathered at the swami's place and asked for food. The swamiji welcomed them all, asked them to take their seats. The 100 villagers sat down in line. Then swamiji went inside the cave, and brought a small can with little food inside in it. Villagers suspicion was growing stronger,  they simply did not believe Swamiji could meet their expectations, and they expected shortage in food. However, Swamiji served all 100 people to their satisfaction. After serving all, even he sat down to have his food with them. By now, villagers understood his greatness, and realized their mistake. They asked for his forgiveness. Swamiji forgave them  all. From that incident on, Swamiji abode came to be known as 101 malai where 101 represents the guests and the swamiji.
Today, the place where swami took jeeva samadhi, and the place where he meditated are the holiest places at the temple; a Shiva Lingam is erected to commemorate his greatness. What is Jeeva Samadhi? Jeeva meaning Life, and samadhi is a verb meaning buried so it is buried alive. In Kundalini Gnanam Jeeva samadhi is a person imbued with eternal life force. In this concept, by spiritual practices, life is not allowed to go out of the body. The seed cells in the body never get damaged. Such a person stops the functions of the body after completion of his or her mission by his or own will. Gnani will fix his or her mind with the Almighty and stop functioning. The body is then buried. That body will never decay whether it is thousand or ten thousand years, because the magnetic force in the body itself acts as a life force in the body.

As the swami lived in the cave, the cave became the temple. Temple is now a mutt, and swami Rajendra is the current pontiff of the Mutt. One of the popular beliefs is that one can light a lamp at the shrine only with tender coconut water. Yes, you heard me right.  Just with tender coconut water the lamp (at the shrine) is lit. The lamp is on for more than 30 minutes before it is turned off.  You can light a lamp with coconut water only if you're a good person.Well, every day 100s of people flock to this temple to light the lamp and get his blessings.

The authenticity of this miracle is still disputed by some; what ever may be the case it is still worth a try. So when you're in Bangalore or in Chennai, and if you have ample time, please do visit this temple to witness its greatness! 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Kadali Baneshwarar

Kadhali Baneshwarar- Kadhali Baneshwarar Temple is located in Thirukulambur Village of Pudhukottai District in Tamil Nadu. In Sanskrit Kadhali means Banana, and Ban is forest, and Eshwara is the other name for lord Shiva. The specialty of this temple is the Banana trees inside the Temple complex. Hence, this temple gets its name ''Kadhali Baneshwarar''. The temple is at least 2000 years old and was built by the Pandyas. Pandyan Dynasty is one of the four Dravidian Dynasties. Pandyas were believed to be founded around 5 to 6 centuries before the Christian era. The Pandyan Empire was home to temples including Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai, and Nellaiappar Temple built on the bank of the river Thamirabarani in Tirunelveli. Unlike Meenakshi Amman or Nellaippar Temple, this temple is quite small.

There is an interesting story as how this temple came in to existence. Today's Thirukulambur was once a thick dense forest. One of the Pandyas had come on a hunting trip to this forest. He was riding a ferocious horse, and his horse went berserk and knocked one of the Banana Trees with his hoof. The banana tree started to bleed, this shocked the King. The king got down from his horse to take a close look; he just could not believe what he was seeing 'blood oozed out from the tree'. As he was starring at it a sudden flash of light from the tree blinded the king. The king was now completely blind, and was unable to do anything, and lost his way out. An old man passing by recognized the king and said,  ''Lord Shiva resides in the Banana Tree'', he continues to narrate,  ''if you agree to built a temple here, your vision will be restored’’ the king readily agrees, and with in the matter of seconds his sight is restored. The king looks for the old man, however the old man is no way to be found. King understood that the old man was none other than Lord Shiva himself. As promised, the King built the temple. Hence Lord Shiva in this temple is known as Kadhali Baneshwarar.  bBanana tree is carved on the temple tower, narrating the story. This story was passed on to many generations. It is also believed that  Sita mata did Shiva pooja when she was in Ravanas captivity.

In recent times, people have noticed that a red color liquid oozing out from one of the banana trees inside the temple complex. After Pandya, it is only now that the red color liquid oozing out from a cut tree. People here believe it to be Lord Shiva's blood. Also, a lot of things did not make sense to the locals starting from the fruits like fruits from these trees resembles  Malapazham (a type of banana) when peeled it resembels Rastali (again, a type of banana) This discovery has baffled the neighborhood, who are farmers by profession and bananas are harvested frequently. Farmers say without enough water, a banana tree would die down, however the banana trees inside the temple complex are not maintained and these plants solely depend on the rain. Recently, the temple underwent renovation, and because of heavy construction work all the trees inside the complex died. After completion of the work and Kumbabhi Shekam, it rained and again the banana trees started sprouting on its own.

So far we have known that the villagers revere these trees as divine, however people are very cautious when it comes to using these trees. You can see a kind of fear in their eyes when it comes to harvesting these plants. Their strongest belief is that anyone who touches/plucks/fiddles/nips/pinch the tree for whatever reason, they will suffer from leucoderma, and finally death will come knocking ones door! Only exception is the temple priests. The fruits are first offered to god in the form of ''Panchammrutham'' (a special fruit salad) and people should have it as prasadam. They say that a former temple priest's relative did not believe such things, and plucked the fruit without offering it  to the god as panchamrutham and ate it. However, with in few days she suffered from leucoderma and she died. Muthamma a 70-year-old granny suffers from leucoderma on both her hands. It is believed she is used a leaf for personal use.

This temple will make an interesting visit. This place is accessible by car, bus and by train. From Chennai it takes 5 hrs 40min, from Madurai it takes 2 hrs. 20 min, and from Kovai or Coimbatore it takes 4hrs 40min.

Shivaya Gauri vadanabjavrunda
Suryaya Dakshadhvara Nashakaya
Shrinilakanthaya Vrushhadhvajaya
Tasmai Shikaraya Namah Shivaya ..

Salutations to Shiva, who is all-auspiciousness, who is the sun that causes the lotus face of Gauri (Parvati) to blossom, who is the destroyer of the yajna of Daksha, whose throat is blue (Nilakantha), whose flag bears the emblem of the bull, and who is represented by the syllable ``shi. ''

OM Namah Shivaya!!