Saturday, 24 March 2018

Sri Veda Narayana Swamy Temple - Nagalapuram


A LESSER KNOWN BUT A MUST SEE TEMPLE





Sri Vedanarayana Swamy temple is, one of the many lesser known Vishnu temples, situated in Nagalapuram in Andhra Pradesh and is about 75 kms from Tirupati and 90 kms from Chennai near Uthukottai. As the name suggests, this is a temple dedicated to Lord Vedanarayana who blesses His devotees in Matsya avatara here. Matsya avatara is the first of the Vishnu avataras.
As per legend, Somakasura, a dreaded asura, stole the Vedas and hid them deep under the waters of the mighty ocean. At the request of Lord Brahma, Lord Mahavishnu took the first incarnation as Matsya avatara in the form of a fish and rescued the Vedas from the asura before handing them over to Brahma. As He brought back the Vedas to us, the presiding deity here is named as Swamy Vedanarayana who is seen with His consorts Sridevi and Bhoodevi.
This temple was built by Sri Krishnadevaraya, the emperor of Vijayanagara. The place is called Nagalapuram after his mother Nagulamba. We cannot miss seeing the majesty and grandeur of the construction as one crosses the gopurams and go around the prakaras, the wide pathway around the temple. Maintained by TTD now, the beautiful gardens along the prakaras of the temple are a visual treat.


Intricately sculpted dasavatharam on the pillars

SURYA POOJA.

The unique feature of this temple is the Surya Pooja done on the Dwadasi, Thrayodasi and Chaturdashi days of Sukla paksha of Phalguna(March) month every year by Lord surya himself to Sri Veda Narayana Swamy. On these three days, the rays of the setting sun enter the temple through very small openings in the two gopurams and sneak through the openings in the threshold of the sanctum to touch the idol of Vedanarayana swamy between 6pm to 6.15 pm. On Dwadasi the sun’s rays fall on the feet of the lord, on Thrayodasi they fall on the nabhi (navel) of the lord and on Chaturthi fall on the forehead of the lord. This happens without fail on these three days every year. Is this marvel, an astronomical wonder or an architectural genius, the debate goes on!!













THE TEMPLE

The first glimpse of the temple gopuram gives us the darshan of the Dasavathara on the temple gopuram. As we cross the first gopuram which is huge, we can see the tidy and elegant gardens maintained by the devasthanam. On entering the next gopuram, the wide and clean prakarams of the temple present themselves. On looking straight we see the main temple of the presiding deity Sri Vedanarayana Swamy with his consorts Sridevi and Bhoodevi. At the right side we see the temple dedicated to the goddess . On our left we can see the shrines dedicated to Lord Rama. Lord Narasimhar and Lord Anjaneyar. There is a big yaga shaala in front of the Ramar sannidhi where the yagas are performed. On the opposite side of long corridor, we see the shrine dedicated to Lord Veera Anjaneyar










As we enter the main gopuram, I noticed something very different in the dwara palakas at the shrine. There are three sets of dwara palakas for the three doors before we enter the sanctum sanctorum. The first is Vishwaksenar and Thapasa, next is Jaya and Vijaya and at the third door are Manikandan and Sandhya. I have not seen such three pairs of dwara palakas earlier at any Vishnu temple I have visited. As we now cross all the dwara palakas, we see the Lord himself in all His sparkling glory. He is standing tall with Sudarshana chakra in prayogam (in use) along with his consorts on both sides. The golden matsya kavacham is a sight to behold and feast upon. Like I always tell, once you look at His eyes, he pulls you so close to Himself that you totally lose yourself in His spell as it were and forget what you are actually seeing. Having come out of the daze of seeing Him in matysa avatara, I am still trying to recollect several aspects of this nice temple. The idol of Sudharsana azhwar kept in the sanctum sanctorum is very beautiful. The utsava murthy is kept along with the azhwars. Here we were allowed to capture His beauty in our cameras. The priest explained how the sun rays enter through the tiny vents in the gopurams and sneak to the threshold to come and touch eventually. the Lord Almighty. You can see for yourself from the main entrance the small openings in the gopurams and the deity 600 feet away. Some of His inscrutable ways are beyond the ken of us, I guess.







Having relished upon His beauty, grandeur and grace, we proceeded to the thayaar sannidhi. Here we came across small shrines of Vishnu Durga, Brahma, Vishwaksenar, Lakshmi Varaha Perumal, Venugopala swamy, Lakshminarayana Perumal, Lakshmi Buvaraha Perumal, Veena Dakshina Murthy and Ganapati.
Since the same priest attends both the santcums, we waited for a while for him to come and open the door. Vedavalli thayar is in a sitting posture here. As you go near and look at her, you cannot but feel the benign presence of a mother waiting for you and assuring you that we need not worry anymore and that we are under Her protective care. I spent a few minutes with her alone chanting Sri Suktam. As the sun was setting fast, we set out quickly to the temple at Suruttupalli to be in time to get the darshan of the lord Pallikondeswarar and goddess.
TEMPLE TIMINGS
7.00 A.M-12. P.M
4 P.M – 8 P.M
HOW TO REACH THE TEMPLE
Nearest airport-Tirupati
Nearest Railway station- Nagari
By road we can reach from Chennai in a private vehicle or bus. It is well connected from all places in Andhra Pradesh

Friday, 28 October 2016

Badrinath- God's abode in Devlok



I had visited Badrinath temple this month and I wish to confine myself only about Badrinath temple in this post leaving the travel details to my travel blog.
Badrinath, the abode of Sri Badri Narayan is situated at a height of 3133 mts above sea level in the state of Uttarakhand. This temple is nestled between the two mountains Nar and Narayan of the Garhwal range and on the banks of river Alaknanda.
It is believed that Sri Vishnu came down to this earth to meditate and His Consort Sri Lakshmi, took the form of a Badri tree to give him shade and protection from sun and rain. As a result, the lord came to be known as Badrinarayan.
It is held that the Buddhists threw away the idol of Badri Narayan in the Narada kund on the banks of Alaknanda and believed that a divine voice had instructed Adi Shankaracharya to retrieve the idol of the deity and reinstall it in the temple. He carried out the divine wish willingly thus giving the devotees a chance to have the divine darshan.
Here the guru sishya parampara can be seen in a beautiful context. The lord took the forms of both Narayanan –the preceptor and Nara – the perceiver, to propagate the powerful asthakshara mantra.
One can see this overpowering presence of Nar and Narayan as the two mountains on either side of Alaknanda.
This temple is open only from April to November as the winter sets in thereafter with the place fully covered in snow making it impossible for anyone to live here. The day of opening and closing of the temple is decided by the trust. When they close the temple for winter, the Namboodri, the chief priest, does the puja after lighting a lamp with some ghee for it to burn and glow for a while. The uddhav murti is taken down in procession to Joshimath and kept there for the next six months. 
When the opening is announced, the uddhav murti is first taken to the Mata mandir to pray to His mother and from there  the Namboodri and the whole entourage reach the temple that is opened in public view. The most surprising event or a miracle you can say is the phenomenon of the lamp lit six months before still glowing. This defies a rational explanation as the temple was fully closed with no scope of air entering the sanctum. Can anyone explain this marvel except by attributing to the Divine presence? It is believed that sage Narada performs puja for these six months when we cannot enter the terrain and the temple is closed. Hence this is also called as Narada Kshetram
A trip to Badrinath has always been on my mind ever since we embarked on a visit to 106 Divya Desams and I thought what better way to celebrate KK’s 50th birthday than having the darshan of Sri Badri Narayan on that special day and invoking His blessings. Once this thought struck me, I started to plan for the holy trip and with His blessings, things started falling in place. KK could avail the leave and we found a good travel agent, who booked rooms according to my choice. We planned the weeklong trip to ensure we were at Badrinath on KK’s birthday.
The trip was very enjoyable and exciting as we travelled from Dehradun to Badrinath by road visiting many other places along the route. The constant company all the way was the imposing Garhwal range of mountains and the beautiful rivers flowing beneath. Some of the stretches of the roads are really risky but the adept drivers of the vehicles that ply on these ghat sections are equal to the task and of course you have HIS blessings. So our mantra was just to relax and live in the moment, enjoying the scenic beauty and waiting for His darshan!
We reached Badrinath by 12. noon and checked into Sarovar Portico (Sarovar group of hotels). One of the best hotels here, and the service was good too. After lunch, we proceeded to Mana village, which is the last village of Indian Territory, details of which will be on my travel blog soon. We explored the village, saw the pristine beauty of nature and came back to see the temple we were waiting for all these days, the Badrinarayan temple.
You will need to walk 5-7 minutes from the parking lot to reach the temple premises. All along the path, you will see shops selling trinkets, prasad and numerous pictures of the temple and the deity. As we pass these shops, you will see Alaknanda flowing in all her majesty, with its water greenish blue in colour and what a sight to watch her. As you cross her over the bridge, you see on your right side towards the end of the bridge smoke coming down from below, and then we realize that it was coming from the hot Sulphur springs of Tapt kund. Devotees have a dip in the hot spring, before heading for the darshan of Sri Badri Narayan. Then a flight of steps, and you will reach the temple doorway. On the left you can find the temple office kiosk, where you can buy the tickets for the sevas that are offered on that day. It is advisable to be prepared with enough cash as they do not accept credit/debit cards.

That is the steam coming out of the hot springs

The seva tickets range from Rs 250/-to Rs 9000/-. For the evening we bought vishnusaharanamawali tickets. After procuring the tickets we went inside. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE COMPLETE SEVA TIMINGS AND RATE
The temple is way different from what you see in South India. The main entrance of the temple is unique and very colourful and is known as SINGHDWAR. The temple is 50 feet tall and has a cupola on top covered in a golden coloured roof. 
We can see a sankhu (conch), chakram (wheel) and an Aum on the façade of the temple. Tiruman (namam) is conspicuous by its absence. The panels near the door are engraved with dasavatharam. It is said that everyone is allowed in the temple. There is no bar on the basis of religion, caste and creed, reiterating the fact that He is Universal, the supreme and is one for all.

As we waited in the queue, the day was receding and the chilly night was ready to freeze us. Armed with enough winter clothing, we braved the cold weather and the only thing that kept our spirit high was the anticipation of the much awaited darshan.
They let us inside the hall in front of the sanctum sanctorum. Luckily we sat right in front of the deity. I do not remember what happened in the next few minutes. I just kept gazing at Him as if on a mental dialogue between him and me. Nothing else occurred or mattered. I was oblivious of the surroundings till nudged by KK that the puja had started. It was then I started observing everything inside the sanctorum.
In the center is the saligrama idol of the presiding deity decked up in all grandeur and finery. He is seated in Padmasana posture with sankha and chakra in two hands. He is a swayambhu and is dark in colour. On his right side we see a golden face of Sri Kubera and a Garuda in silver praying with folded hands. On his left we see an idol of Uddhav and a small idol of sage Narada. On his extreme left we can see the idols of Nar and Narayan.
The chanting of sahasranamavali started and the priests seated outside started to chant sahasranamam while the Namboodri performed the puja inside. Only the Namboodri, who hails from the same clan as Sri Adi Shankaracharya, is allowed inside the sanctorum. For those unable to see the puja properly inside, they have made arrangements to telecast it live on a big television erected on the either side of the entrance to the sanctum. While you watch the puja on the television sets, your eyes cannot escape the beautiful dwara palakas seen on either side of the entrance of the sanctorum and they look very much like the ones you see in the South Indian temples. 
The walls of the sabha mantap where the devotees assemble are covered with intricately carved designs and is very beautiful
After the puja and the arathi, we were given prasad as we came out of the side entrance to take the darshan of Sri Lakshmi, Durga, Adi Sankara, Ramanuja and Vedanta Desika.
We left for our hotel to have an early dinner and sound sleep to be ready for the Mahabhishekam next morning at 4.30 AM
At the appointed hour we were at the temple and were greeted by the melodious voice of M.S Subbalakshmi chanting Vishnu Sahasranamam. It is a bliss to listen to her chant in her enchanting voice at that hour and place. We then stood in the praharam braving the chill weather till 5.30 am, when we were let inside.
Having found a place to sit and watch the abhishekam, we waited for the sanctorum to open. Now with the learned Brahmins chanting sahasranama, the namboodri also known as Rawal, started to remove all the alankarams/ornaments of the lord. He then bathed him and other idols in the pure water of Alaknanda, then was applied Ihhar or scent followed by sandalwood paste. The priest applied the sandalwood paste to each part of the idol, highlighting the arms, legs, and finally you can see the whole form. Then The lord is decked with a beautiful silk dress and many garlands. Thereafter He is decked up in finery and the mangala aarti takes place and when you see him in full glory, you do not wish to take your eyes away from him. All the devotees are given the scent that is applied to the lord and the sandalwood paste. One can collect the bhog or Prasad later from the temple. It is said that the prasad or bhog is prepared by Mahalakshmi herself and is taken from Her sanctorum to the lord. It is a sight not to be missed. Like I always say, He is so beautiful and I am blessed to have His darshan on this special day with my husband.  I hope you too are blessed to see Him soon too.
The Mahabharata revered this holy place as the one that can give salvation to devotees by merely arriving close to it, while in other holy places they must perform religious ceremonies to obtain His grace.
Periyazhwar and Tirumangai azhwar have sung in praise of Him.
It will be appropriate to read the poems of திருமங்கை ஆழ்வார் here before I end this post
முதல் பத்து - மூன்றாம் திருமொழி (திருவதரி)
திருமங்கை ஆழ்வார் அருளிச்செய்தது
முற்ற மூத்துக், கோல் துணையா முன்னடி நோக்கி வளைந்து
இற்றகால் போல் தள்ளி மெள்ள இருந்து அங்கு இளையாமுன்
பெற்ற தாய் போல் வந்த பேய்ச்சி பெரு முலை ஊடு, உயிரை
வற்ற வாங்கி உண்ட வாயான் வதரி வணங்குதுமே (968)

முதுகு பற்றிக் கைத்தலத்தால் முன் ஒரு கோல் ஊன்றி
விதிர் விதிர்த்துக், கண் சுழன்று மேல் கிளைகொண்டு இருமி
இது என் அப்பர் மூத்த ஆறு! என்று இளையவர் ஏசாமுன்,
மது உண் வண்டு பண்கள் பாடும் வதரி வணங்குதுமே! (969)

முதல் பத்து - நாங்காம் திருமொழி (திருவதரியாச்சிரமம்)

ஏனம் முன் ஆகி, இரு நிலம் இடந்து அன்று
இணை - அடி இமையவர் வணங்க,
தானவன் ஆகம் தரணியில் புரளத்
தடஞ் சிலை குனித்த என் தலைவன்
தேன் அமர் சோலைக் கற்பகம் பயந்த
தெய்வ நல் நறு மலர் கொணர்ந்து
வானவர் வணங்கும் கங்கையின் கரை மேல்
வதரி ஆச்சிரமத்து உள்ளானே (978)

TEMPLE TIMINGS
The temple is open from 4.30 AM with the Mahabhishekam starting at 5.30 AM.
Afternoon 1.00PM- 4PM the temple is closed for any darshan
It opens again from 4.00PM-9.PM when shayana aarthi takes place after the Geet govind is recited
The official website of BADRINATH is  www.badarikedar.org

TO REACH BADARINATH
Nearest airport: Dehradun
Nearest Railway station: Rishikesh
On road: from Joshirmath
MORE DETAILS ABOUT THIS CAN BE SEEN HERE

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Ambegaalu Krishna beckons you


I am blessed to write about Lord Aprameya and Ambegaalu Krishna /Navaneetha Krishna on this auspicious day of Gokulashtami / Srikrishna Jayanthi.
Dodda Mallur or Mallur is a village near Channapatna in Karnataka It is situated on the banks of the river Kanva. The village is famous for its temples of SRIAprameya Swamy and Ambegalu Krishna (crawling Krishna). It is approximately 60 km from Bengaluru and three km from Channapatna. Aprameya temple houses the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Aprameya, Goddess Aravindavalli Thayar and Navaneetha Krishna.
 The word Aprameya finds a mention in Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam -the thousand names of Lord Vishnu
Aprameyo hrushikeshah padmanabhomaraprabhuhu |
vishvakarmaa manusthvashtaa sthavishtah sthavirodhruvaha

Aprameya means the one who is immeasurable, indescribable or who cannot be understood fully. He is beyond the ken of human perception. It is said that even Brahma who is seated on the lotus from His navel cannot describe him fully. In the words of a siddha கண்டவர் விண்டிலார்விண்டவர் கண்டிலார்/ Those who have seen cannot describe and those who describe have not seen Him. Such is the indescribable beauty of God and the one named Aprameya here.
The temple was built in 11th century by a Chola king and has its annual Brahmotsavam in April/May. One unique feature in the construction of the temple is that for this part of the year the sunrays at sunrise fall directly on the sanctum sanctorum of Sri Aprameya Swamy.
The utsavar is a replica of the moolavar Aprameya and is accompanied by his consorts Sreedevi and Bhoodevi. They are taken out on procession on important festival days.
Childless women come here and pray with much devotion to Krishna to bless them with children.  Numerous stories abound of such miracles happening reinforcing such a faith.
 It is believed that Lord Sri Rama stayed here and worshipped Lord Aprameya. Hence he is also called as Ramaprameya. He is seen in a standing position with Sankhu and chakram in two hands, gadha in another and Abhaya hastha blessing the devotees with the fourth hand.
As you come out after having his darshan and go around clockwise you come to the sanctum of goddess Aravindavalli Thayar. While She is seen sitting majestically, what strikes you instantly is her powerful eyes that are at once riveting. I have seen similar eyes in the idol of Sri Ramanuja.
As we proceed further we come across the sanctum of the famous Ambegaalu Krishna. We have been wanting to see for a long time, whenever we listened to Purandara dasa’s song Jagadhodharana Adisila yashodha, this Ambegaalu Krishna otherwise called as thavazhara Krishna in crawling position. This is the only temple where Krishna is seen in this posture. It is said that Dasa was so mesmerised seeing Krishna in this form he went into raptures and composed this song spontaneously then and there. If that was the emotional experience of Sri Purandaradasa, you can well imagine our ecstatic reaction on seeing this beautiful Krishna.

One look at this Krishna and your eyes remain transfixed on his eyes and the only words that I could think of to describe them is “COMPELLINGLY ATTRACTIVE AND CUTE”. Anyone who sees him will have the motherly instincts kindled in them unknowingly.
Krishna here is seen in a crawling position, as his name ambegaalu Krishna would signify, and with butter on one hand raised above the ground, he is rightly called as Navaneetha Krishna. He is carved out of black stone with all the jewels sculpted precisely and beautifully. You cannot miss to see the beautiful carved anklets. Most of the days he is covered fully with jasmine flowers. One particular ornament which you must see is the tiger claw pendant dangling in a chain from his neck. There is a belief that people who come to see him may cast an evil eye(drishti). To keep him away from any harm this pendant is put around his neck! This shows that everyone despite his divinity treats him like his/her own son and not just an idol of god.
We had some time to explore the temple and see the different vahanas on which the deities are taken on procession and as usual I was attracted towards Sri Garuda. 
Then we saw the mantapa called as Purandara mantapa from where he sang the famous Jagadhodharana.
Purandara Mantapa
As you come out, you can see small shops nearby selling Channapatna wooden dolls and artefacts. Bargain well and you can get them dirt cheap.
 I must tell that the spiritual influence this darshan of Krishna here was something so personal and intimate that I had not experienced for long time and his captivating vision lingered in me long after I left the place. With bliss written on our faces and a heart full of gratitude towards the almighty we proceeded with our journey to Mysore.
Rest in the next.
Hope all my readers would also have a chance to see this Krishna and have his blessings!!!


Thursday, 14 April 2016

Vaduvur Sri Kodhandaramaswamy Temple


Ever since I heard about The Vaduvur Ramar temple and its presiding deity the bewitching Kodandaramar, I have been yearning for His darshan. It is said that “When you long passionately to visit a kshetram, it will pull you towards it soon” This is exactly what happened to me when during a planned trip to Kumbakonam, my long felt desire to have the darshan of Sri Rama at Vaduvur materialised without a hitch.
Vaduvur is the Abhimana sthalam of Sri Vishnu. This place is also known as Vagularanya Kshtetram and Bhaskara Kshetram. It is also known by the name of Dakshina Ayodhya.
Vaduvur is located at 24 Kms from Tanjavur and 14 kms from Mannargudi. We travelled by road to Mannargudi and Vaduvur and the roads were quite good. On reaching the renowned temple, we noticed that it was luckily not crowded giving us the assurance of an unhurried and good darshan with none to hustle us. I wanted to see the Kodandaramar peacefully, enjoy each aspect of the temple and I must say that I am blessed to have had such a divine darshan. Kodandaramar temple follows the principle of Vedanta Desika and is a vadagalai temple.The walls of the Praharam are adorned with paintings depicting Ramayana. The imposing Dwajastahmbam and the vimanam catch your undivided attention as you enter the temple

As we entered the temple, we saw the majestic moolavar of Sri Kodandaramar with his Consort Sita, along with Lakshmana and Anjaneyar. Rama is seen wearing a garland of saligramam with a  Mahalakshmi Pendant. As my eye shifted to the ever praised Utsavar Sri Kodandaramar, I was struck by his unparalleled beauty and enigmatic charm. It seemed to me that whatever I had heard about his beauty and exquisite looks from many was a mere  understatement. The actual experience far surpassed the human explanations.  I could not lift my eyes that were transfixed on Him. One has to experience the joy and thrill of seeing His majesty and grandeur that is indescribable in mere words-Every part of his figure is beautiful that one can gaze endlessly in supreme satisfaction. See him for yourself and get mesmerised by his bewitching smile! When a devotee sees him ardently He invariably brings a smile on his face.

Kambar who wrote Kamba Ramayanam breaks into raptures explaining Rama’s beauty in these lines meaning that whatever part the devotees saw shoulders, feet, or hands they lost themselves in its beauty unable to wrench their eyes from it to savour the beauty of the other or the whole figure.
தோள் கண்டார். தோளே கண்டார்.
  தொடு கழல் கமலம் அன்ன
தாள் கண்டார். தாளே கண்டார்;
  தடக் கை கண்டாரும். அஃதே;
வாள் கொண்ட கண்ணார் யாரே.
  வடிவினை முடியக்கண்டார்?-
ஊழ் கொண்ட சமயத்து அன்னான்
  உருவு கண்டாரை ஒத்தார்.


I did not pray for anything in particular. It was a high moment I wanted to just live, seeing him, observing him, smiling at him .It was a moment of total bliss!! Well, I am at a loss for words to express adequately the divine feel and attraction of his magnificent personality. I was overwhelmed by his beauty, grace and benevolence. Let me allow you to enjoy the moment looking at him too when you get the occasion

TEMPLE HISTORY:
Initially Sri Rajagopala swamy with Rukmini and Satyabama were the presiding deities of this temple.The story goes that, when Rama was returning to Ayodhya after 14 years after having defeated Ravana, he stayed at the Hermitage of some Rishis. They pleaded with him that Sri Rama should stay with them for ever. As Rama had promised Bharata that he would return, he asked Vishwakarma to make his enchanting form and left it just outside the Ashram. Next day when the Rishis, saw this beautiful idol, they were hypnotised by this beautiful divine form and allowed Rama to proceed on the condition that he would  leave this statue behind..Rama smiled and left for Ayodhya leaving  behind the idol.
As years rolled by, Rama appeared in the dream of King Saraboji II who ruled Tanjavur then. He asked the king to unearth the statues that were buried under the Bodhi sattva tree at Thalai Gnayiru. Next morning the king  unearthed the idols and proceeded towards Tanjavur. He decided to break his journey for some rest at Vaduvur. The villagers on hearing about the idols requested the king to leave them behind at the temple. The king initially refused to do so, but relented when the villagers threatened to commit suicide by jumping from the gopuram. These are the divine idols that we are lucky to see them in this temple today.

The sannidhis in the temple are:
Kodhandaramar with sita, Lakshmana and Anjaneya
Hayagreevar
Andal
Rajagopala with Bhama and Rukmini
Vedanta Desikar
Manavala Maamunigal


The sthalam Vruksham here is Vagula Maram
Pushkarni is known by the name of Rama Theertham
Vimana is  called as Pushpaka Vimanam

TEMPLE TIMINGS
Morning 8.00 AM- 12.30 PM
Evening 4.30 PM- 8.30PM


To know more about the temple click the link given to go to the temple web page:VADUVUR SRI KOTHANDARAMASWAMY TEMPLE
Hope you enjoyed reading about this temple and seeing the  beautiful pictures and am sure you will visit the temple soon
Picture Courtsey:: SRI Parthan Ponnadi, Vaduvur Kothandaramaramaswamy Temple