Saturday, July 05, 2008

Continuing Companions

Many philosophers and saints have spent their lives in finding out the answer to the question who/what accompanies us throughout the life and after. Hinduism firmly believe on the philosophy of rebirth so that soul gets reborn again and again until it attains salvation. Some say that the physical body that a soul takes is just a shell and nothing goes with the soul. Many of us even would have heard the great verses by the great Tamil poet of recent times, Kaviarasu Kannadhasan, that goes like this.

"Veedu Varai Uravu
Veedhi Varai Manaivi
Kaadu Varai Pillai
Kadaisi Varai Yaaro?"

meaning - When a man dies, his relatives and friends come till his home. His life partner (wife) come till the street. His children come till his body is cremated. But nobody knows who/what will accompany that soul after that.

Veedu - Home
Varai - till, until
Uravu - relatives, friends
Veedhi - Street
Manaivi - Wife
Kaadu - Forest, Burial/Cremation ground
Pillai - Son/Children
Kadaisi - End
Yaaro - Interrogative pronoun indicating Who?

However the well known siddhar Pattinathar (circa. 11th Century) has an explanation to this question about who the companions are? His song goes on the same lines as above.

"Aththamum Vaazhvum Agathumattae Vizhi Ambozhuga
Meththiya Maadharum Veedhi Mattae Vimmi Vimmi Iru
Kaithalam Mael Vaithu Azhum Maindharum Sudukaadu Mattae
Patri Thodarum Iruvinai Punniyam Paavamumae"

meaning, Wealth and Relations coming till the home. Women - The wife - with their attractive eyes come till the street. The children who cry keeping their hands on the body come until the cremation grounds. The two things that accompany are the sins and the good deeds that a person does during his life.

Aththam - Wealth,Relations
Vaazhvu - Living
Agam - Home
Mattae - Till
Vizhi Ambu - Attractive Eyes (Vizhi) striking the view like an arrow (Ambu)
Meththi - Praise
Maadhar - Women
Veedhi - Street
Vimmi - Spasmodically gasping while crying
Iru Kai - Both hands
Mael Vaithu - Keeping on top
Azhum - Crying
Maindhar - Children
Sudukaadu - Cremation ground
Patri - Clasp
Thodarum - Continue
Iruvinai - Two karmas
Punniyam - Good deeds
Paavam - Sin

Pattinathar has so much to be said about him, that it will take up a few posts to fully cover and convey his sayings. To give a brief about Pattinathar - He was a highly influential and a very rich businessman, who attained realisation/enlightenment by his own son who was none other than Lord Shiva incarnate. The one verse by his son made Pattinathar attain realisation about the existence of a soul and its ultimate path. The verse is

"Kaadhatra Oosiyum Vaaradhu Kaan Kadai Vazhikkae"

This has two meanings that can be interpreted. The first, The needle with a broken eye, will never make its way to the market. The second, which was the culmination of Pattinathar's realisation, means that even the useless needle with a broken eye would not accompany in the human's last journey

Kaadhatra - Kaadhu refers to Ear, however in this context it refers to the eye of the needle
Oosi - Needle
Vaaradhu - Will not be coming
Kaan - See
Kadai - Shop, Market, Last, End
Vazhi - Path, Destination

The wealth earned, the people whom relationships are built, even their wife and offsprings would not accompany during their final journey. His intention is not get dejected in life that nothing is going to come with us in the final journey and why should one put in efforts to gather wealth. But to make a note that the good deeds and the sins are the ones that we have with us in all our lives. So we need to minimize the sins that we commit and increase the good deeds that we perform. So setting our expectations low, will avoid unnecessary desires which is the root cause of all troubles and tribulations that a person goes through and is the thing that pushes a man to committing a sin. And the belief is that if you commit less sins and more good deeds, you will be reborn as something better than what we are now. Be it for the reasons of rebirth or not, let us try to avoid committing sins in our lives.

More to come, until then...

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Elusive Illusions - Maayai

Maayai - Illusions in life - is an elusive term that reflects the unsteady state of human life. Philosophers and Saints who achieved realisation say that everything around us and we ourselves are the facets of illusion or illusion itself. But that definition does not seem to give a complete insight or understanding to a layman about what Maayai actually is. This is where our great epics - The Ramayanam and The Mahabharatham - come to deal with such situations. Though the mainline of these epics is well known to the world, there are many stories/legends that come along with the mainline of these epics. They ancillary legends are called the Upakadhai meaning stories that form as an ancillary part. They line and the situations mentioned in these Upakadhai are a bit different from the main epic, but the characters involved in the Upakadhais are the same as those in the main epic.

Well, lets get back to our Maayai concept. Though people have explained pages and pages of things about this, the Upakadhais explain it in a very simple manner that whole concept is understood to people of all categories. One such story comes from Mahabharatham. The story goes like this.

Once Naradhar had the same question that we have started here. What is Maayai? He asked various people and saints he knew, but nobody gave him an answer that was so satisfactory. So he wanted to know a concrete answer to that question. Finally he went to Lord Krishna and asked the question. Lord Krishna promised to give him an answer so concrete that Naradha would completely understand what Maayai was. Lord Krishna also told Naradha that He will take him somewhere the next day to show and explain what Maayai was. Naradha agreed.

The next morning, Lord Krishna and Naradha started very early that Naradha could not find time to take his bath. On the way, Naradha found a pond and said to Lord Krishna that he will be back in a few minutes after taking his bath immersing himself in the pond. Lord Krishna agreed to it and asked him to be back quickly as they would be late to where they are heading. Naradha consented and went ahead to the pond. This is when the Omnipotent Being, Lord Krishna, got prepared to unleash the Maayai. When Naradha immersed completely inside the water, Lord Krishna unleashed Maayai and thats where things started for Naradha.

Then later, both were walking for a long distance. Lord Krishna felt very thirsty and asked Naradha to go get some water in house that visible at short distance from where they were. Until then Lord Krishna said that he will take rest under a tree.

Naradha went to that house to get some water. When he went inside the house calling for people in there, a beautiful and charming young lady appeared from the house and asked what he wanted. He was taken aback by the beauty of that girl and he lost himself. He fell madly in love with that girl and wanted to marry her. Naradha completely forgot about Lord Krishna asking water. He was completely obsessed that only girl's beauty was in his eyes.

He wanted to marry her and spoke to his father saying that he was Naradha, son of Brahma, The Creator. The girl's father consented to Naradha marrying the girl. The wedding was over and the couple lived happily ever after for twelve years. They had 12 children and the family became big and so was its burden. The family was getting into poverty as Naradha could not manage such a big family. Every day was painfully bad because of the increasing poverty.

One day rains poured heavily that started to cause floods in that area. Naradha with all his family members was sitting together in the old dilapidated hut. He grasped as many children as the others cuddled together. Slowly the flood waters began to rise and washed away Naradha's home and children. He grasped to the hands of as many children as he could and took a few in his shoulders so that they could be in safety. When the floods washed them, Naradha caught hold off a branch of a tree and stayed in safety with a few children on his shoulder and in his grasp. Slowly the floods started to gain speed and washed away all the children. Naradha was exhausted, that he could not move or hold on anymore and the floods were continuously rising and he was immersed completely.

And then he mustered his energy to pull himself out of water and with a big gasping sound for a breath of air, he came out of the water. And then he realised, that he was in the pond that he immersed himself to take bath. He was shocked to see that he did not move out of the pond and yet he had the pleasurable and worst experiences in life. By then he heard Lord Krishna saying, "Naradha, why is it taking you 45 minutes to immerse yourself and take a bath?" Naradha was more shocked when Lord Krishna said this.

He came out of the pond and asked Lord Krishna about all this. He said that he had spent 12 years of life that was peaceful and miserable, but how come just 45 mins have passed. Lord Krishna smiled at Naradha and told - "That is Maayai (that 12 years of his life)". Naradha fell at his feet.

Well that is one fine story that explains a subtle concept in a simple manner. These stories are not only easy to understand, but they also contain a great message that does not need any special learning to understand it. Though these stories might sound like a fairy tale suitable for children, they explain concepts that have been explained in Physics (Concept of time dilation as in this story), Management etc. These stories have to be interpreted correctly that they will serve a greater purpose to every aspect of human life.

Let us find out and preserve these Upakadhais as we do with our epics so that they are not only interesting to hear, but also mention the various facts of our lives.

More to come, until then...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Awesome Avinashi!!!

After a long time, a post about Avinashi in the month of Chithirai seemed appropriate. Avinashi is one of the celebrated Shaivite temples and is considered as the first of the seven Thevaram Sthalams in the Kongu region. The temple is a about 40 kilometres from Coimbatore and a few kilometers from Tiruppur. The word Avinashi means indestructible and the sanctum sanctorum Lord Shiva stands as the indestructible force here. The temple is also known by its various names, Karunaiyaathaal Kovil (Merciful Mother's Temple referring to Goddess Parvathi the consort of Lord Shiva), Dakshina Varanasi (Varanasi of South), Thirupukkozhiyur. The temple is over 1500 years old and has been sung by Manickavaasagar, Sundaramoorthy Nayanar, Thirumoolar and Arunagirinathar in their respective works.

There are inscriptions that the temple received a lots of endowments from the Cholas and Pandyas. There is even a legend that Sundaramoorthy Nayanar on his way to Thiruvanchikulam to meet the Chera King, Cheramaan Peruman, Sundarar happened to visit Avinashi. While walking through the streets of Avinashi, he heard conflicting voices from two of the opposite houses one blooming with happiness and joy and the other with a gloomy and melancholic voices. Sundarar came to the know the reason for the discordance. He came to know that the incident took place some three years ago, when two boys of the same age went to bathe in a nearby tank and one of them devoured by a crocodile that emerged from the tank.

The surviving boy had his "Upanayanam" (A thread ceremony to mark the beginning of studenthood) held. And so there was joy in that house. While on the other house people were sad because had their boy been alive, they too would be celebrating his "Upanayanam" too.

Sundarar was able to understand the pain of the worrying family and he sung out a soulful song, praying to Lord Shiva to resurrect the dead child. Lord Avinashiappar heeded to Sundarar's prayers. The empty tank started to fill in with water from which emerged the crocodile and regurgitated the child as a fully grown boy of 8 years. And there filled happiness in the other home to as their boy was brought alive. There is a sculpture in the Kodimaram (flag mast) and inside the temple explaining this incident. There is even a temple for Sundaramoorthy Nayanar nearby and the tank, called the Thamaraikulam, from which he revived the boy. The temple is on the shores of the Thamaraikulam and this event is commemorated during the 'Mudalai Vaai Pillai' Utsavam on Panguni Uththiram.

The most special thing of all is the temple's car. It is one of the biggest cars in South India. Same as Thiruvarur, Avinashi boasts the biggest car and the auspicious festivals that are held as done in Thiruvarur. The Avinashi car is known for its fine wooden carvings. The old car was destroyed in the recent fire accident, and a new one was built. The car festival is conducted during the month of Chithirai called the Chithirai Thiruvizha.

Some of the pictures of this magnificent temple.

The majestic Avinashi temple Gopuram

Another view of the temple Gopuram

Close up view of the temple Gopuram

Side view of the temple Gopuram

The view of the Amman Temple Gopuram

A close view of the Avinashiappar Temple Gopuram

Gopurams and Vimanams from inside the temple

The temple Gopurams and the Vimanams

The main temple Gopuram from inside

The Chandikeshwari Temple and the Vimanam of the Amman temple

Old inscriptions on stone

View of the outer prakaram

View of the outer prakaram and the main Gopuram

Another view of the outer prakaram and the main Gopuram

The majestic Avinashi Temple Car in all its grandeur and splendour

View of the Temple Car from the side

Another view of the temple car

Avinashiappar Car and the Amman Car

View of the intricate carvings on the car

Another view of the intricate carvings on the car

Another view of the intricate carvings on the car

Lets try to visit this magnificent Temple for this Chithirai Festival and look the car in all its grandeur and splendours and get the blessings of Lord Avinashiappar.

More to come, until then...

Friday, February 08, 2008

Misinterpreted Quotes - Part 2

Quotes, the essential part of every Tamilian on this planet. There are very few or even no one who hasn't used a quotation/aphorism. We already saw a few of them that got transformed in different ways especially the meaning during the course of time. I found a few others that were quite interesting in their original interpretations and the new and transformed ones. Lets see what those quotes are

This quote would have been uttered by every mouth that knows to speak Tamil

"Nalladhukku Kaalam Illai"

The meaning nowadays is, Good deeds would not be recognised so it is not a time for them. Which also means, that if any good deed is done, it is not only interpreted wrong sense, but also the person performing such a deed will earn a bad name. Though many incidents like this happen in the lives of every one of us. The actual meaning is hidden behind those untoward happenings. It is different and even might sound opposite too

Usually conducting auspicious events, doing good deeds, acts that benefits every one or at least the needy is done by looking at the almanac charts to see if the time is ripe to do those activities - like wedding, temple festivals, providing free food to the poor etc. It is done so because it would be beneficial for many. But the actual meaning of the quote is that, if any act however big or small is to be done and if it will help someone in some way, you should not look whether it is a good time to do that or not. So the actual meaning is - For doing good things, there is no specific time. Those deeds are not bound by time for the person to derive maximum benefit.

"Pon Kidaithaalum Budhan Kidaikaadhu"

The transformed meaning, You may even get lots of Gold, but you wouldn't get a Wednesday. This might make most of us wonder, about what has Wednesday to do with Gold and why is it even important. There seems to be some missing clue that we might find how our ancestors made such unrelated statements. Maybe it could be a psychological reason that Wednesday falls in the middle of the week so it has to be a balanced day adding to the good things. Even nowadays, people prefer to do things on Wednesdays considering it as auspicious. But the actual fact is that in astrology Budhan (Mercury) is the deity of knowledge and wisdom. He is the one who bestows people with their education. And so even if one has a great deal of wealth, he might not be educated or even knowledged. The quote thus signifies, wealth can be acquired by different means, but education is very difficult to attain.

"Aathula Pottalum Alandhu Podanum"

Aathula - In the river
Pottalum - Throw, put in
Alandhu - Measure
Podanum - Throw, put in

The meaning nowadays is, Even if you throw your belongings into the river have an account of what you throw and how much to throw. It might be baffling, that throwings our belongings into to river is itself a foolish act, but having an account or measuring them is even foolish. Some even interpret the meaning as one needs to be frugal and should not waste unnecessarily.

The actual quote goes like this

"Agathula Pottalum Alandhu Podanum"

Agam - Home

meaning, Even if you give the money you earned to your very home, have an account of how much you give. Usually, people in business earn money, but they don't keep an account of how much they withdraw from the business, as their purpose of earning is just for their home. So they don't keep account of money withdrawn from business for their homely needs. But what this quote emphasises is that to have control of the expenses and money earned, you need to maintain proper accounts even in case of private use.

The next one is quite intimidating for children. It is used to frighten children to ward them off from water resources so that they don't get sick after playing in the water for long. The quote is

"Sani Neeraadum"

meaning Saturn, who is dreadful planet feared for the bad times he causes to a human, will play in the water. So anyone playing in the water for long will be cast by the Saturn's spell that they will have to suffer for 7.5 years. This was to frighten children from playing too much in the water. But actually the quote is

"Sani Neeradu"

meaning, One should take Oil bath during Saturdays. Because Saturday being a weekend, one is expected to take rest after taking an oil bath, so Saturdays are the right days for taking oil bath. And to maintain a good health, it is quite necessary to keep the good health and keep the body temperatures low in a tropical country like India.

The next one talks about the very own Tamil Language and Civilisation

"Kall Thondri Mann thondra Kaalathae
Munn Thondriya Mootha Kudi
Engal Tamil Kudi"

meaning, even before stone and sand was formed, the Tamil Language and Civilisation existed. But logically, it might be questionable how a language used by humans could have formed before stone and sand was formed in this planet.

The actual interpretation is quite different, it actually means that some form of Tamil Language existed even before the Stone Age, where humans started using tools and utensils made of stone. Historically, man started using stones as tools and later learnt to make utensils out of mud like pots etc. So, this statement is about a communication language, Tamil, that existed even before the stone age and even before man started making tools and utensils out of mud. Of course, Tamil is a very old language and it is possible that it existed in some form, but its existence has to be made somewhat logical and not even before anything formed in this planet.

The quotes become very valuable if their real and in-depth meanings are understood and propagated correctly to the next generations to come. This is the rich heritage we have in our hands to be safeguards for the days ahead.

More to come, until then...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tranquil Namakkal

After a long time, another photo blog post was due for its place. And it was Namakkal, also called Namagiri. People tend to remember, the Anjaneyar Temple (Lord Hanuman) when they hear the name Namakkal, but the legend and another temple is not quite popular among the people, though the temple is the very reason for Lord Hanuman's popularity. Let's see the pics of the temple and later we will get on the legend.

The view of the Lakshmi Narashima Temple and the fort at the top

The entrance to the temple (Kannadhasan standing)

The Vimanam of the Lakshmi temple (Namagiri Thaayaar)

The Vimanam of the Lakshmi temple and a small mandapam with me

Another view of the Vimanam of the Lakshmi Temple

The huge rock from the other site the temple

The front mandapam and the rock fort

The front mandapam

Another view of the mandapam in the front

Another view of the mandapam in the front

Another view of the fort

Another view of the mandapam in the front

Lord Anjaneyar worshipping Lord Narashima

Another view of Lord Anjaneyar worshipping Lord Narashiman

The legend that is associated with this temple is that after lifting the Sanjeevi Parvatham (The Herbal Mountain) and keeping it back in place. Lord Hanuman, bathed in the river Gandaki in Nepal and He got the sacred stone called Saaligramam, that is considered the equivalent of Lord Vishnu. The Saaligramam that Lord Hanuman was unique that it had Lord Narashima and Lord Ranganathar sculptures in the same stone. So Lord Hanuman thought of taking it back to the South, when He was getting back to Srilanka.

When He was enroute, it was dusk (Sandhya time - Sandhya means meeting point) so Lord Hanuman had to offer his prayers during dusk to his Guru - The Sun. But the Saaligramam could not be kept in the land as it is considered so sacred. So he was searching for a person. And then, He found Goddess Lakshmi doing penance in the sacred pond called the Kamalaalaya Theertham. So Lord Hanuman request Goddess Lakshmi to hold the Saaligramam for a while so that he can complete the Sandhya Vandhanam (Evening prayers). Goddess Lakshmi agreed and asked Lord Hanuman to be back soon.

Lord Hanuman offered his prayers and started meditating so gradually it got very late. And Lord Hanuman rushed to see Goddess Lakshmi, by then a huge mountain had grown. When He asked Goddess Lakshmi about what happened. Goddess Lakshmi told that as it got very late for Hanuman to get back, she could not bear the weight of the Saaligramam, so She kept in on the ground and it grew to be a mountain. The Saaligramam being a rare one having both Lord Narshima and Lord Ranganathar, Hanuman tried lifting the mountain, but it did not budge. Then Lord Hanuman heard the voice of Lord Narashima, saying that it was His wish to stay there and it is the because of the penance of Goddess Lakshmi at Kamalaalya Theertham that He wished to stay here. And this holy place be called the Namagiri, the Kamalaalaya Theertham be called the Namagiri Theertham and Goddess Lakshmi be called Namagiri Thaayaar. And after the Rama Avataram was over, Lord Hanuman came here and stood worshipping Lord Narashima and He is still blessing the devotees who come to Him

The speciality of this temple is that this is the temple where all the three prime Gods - the Thrimoorthy - (Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Bramha) are found in one shrine. The temple has no Vimanam, because to build one it has to cover the entire Namagiri mountain. As, Lord Narashima does not have a Vimanam, Lord Hanuman vowed to stand in the open space without Vimanam roofing. And He still does to this day, all attempts to build a roof failed, so he stands outside. The Lakshmi Narashima temple is under the maintenance of Archaelogical Society of India (ASI) whereas the Hanuman temple outside is under the control of the state government. And nearby the temple is the Namagiri Theertham (Kamalaalaya Theertham)

The temple is open during most of the day time. One more interesting fact is that the Lord Narashima's feet and Lord Hanuman's eyes are at the same height position as Lord Hanuman worshipping Lord Narashima's lotus feet.

The mandapams were erected by the Pallavas and there is a rock fort on the top that was built by Tippu Sultan. The temple is very serene and tranquil that it captivates the minds of the people who visit it and makes them to come for more of Lord Narashima's and Goddess Lakshmi's blessings.

On the other side of the Lakshmi Narashima temple is the Lord Ranganathar temple. It is said that the Lord Ranganathar statue is bigger than the one at the great Srirangam. And the temple is open only during early morning and early evening for around 4 hours a day. The experience is so exciting that you find your mind to be in peace and tranquility once you visit the temple.

A few more interesting information. Thanks to Mr. Raghavan who mentioned these points in the comments.

1) One can see all 3 different forms (Thirukolam / posture) of Lord Vishnu.

  • Irundha (Sitting) - Lord Lakshmi Narashimar
  • Kidantha (Sayana) - Lord Ranganatha
  • Nindra (Standing) - Lord Varadharaja (aka Malai Varadharajar)

2) Usually Lord is seen sleeping on Adiseshan. But here it is Karkodagan (i.e Snake body with lions head). So, it is special.

3) The perumal temple and Hanumar temples are built in such a way that Narashimar's feet are at the same level of Hanumar's eyes.

More to come, until then...