Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pampa Sarovar, Anegundi

Beautiful View of Pampa Sarovar covered with lotus 
With every trip to Anegundi, comes the desire to visit Anjanadri Hill, the birthplace of Sri Anjaneya Swamy. This time, when we decided to go to Manthralayam from the 15th to 17th of March 2011, we had made a firm commitment that we were going to climb Anjanadri come what may, little realising that nothing happens till the divine will destines so. The first day was spent in Mantralayam, enjoying our time with in the divine company of Sri Raghavendra Swamy, witnessing the Rathotsavas and the Mahamangalaharathi. On day 2, we had decided to visit Navabrindavan and other places around Anegundi, particularly Anjanadri. We instructed our driver to reach the room by 3.45 am so that we could leave by 4. Those of us, who are regular visitors, were really excited that we were going to visit Anjanadri finally, and our excitement was rubbing off the first time visitors in the group as well.

It was 3.45 and there was no sight of our car. Several phone calls later, we found that the driver had overslept and would be able to reach only by 4.30. By the time, he actually reached it was well past 5 a.m, and we knew that Anjanadri did not seem a certainty as it did before. We reached Anegundi by about 9 am and had breakfast at the Vaibava Guest House, our regular destination. Mrs and Mr. Mallappa take pleasure in serving delicious home made food personally to the visitors and we did enjoy a sumptuous meal. After breakfast I gingerly brought up the topic of Anjanadri with Mrs. Malappa. She just echoed my thoughts - it would be extremely difficult for the senior members of the group to climb the 700 odd steep steps, as it was geting really hot. She immediately said - Next time, you come and stay overnight, so that you are able to climb up at the crack of dawn.

Well, we were definitely disappointed. For several years now, Anjanadri has been an elusive dream. But then,Key Sara Sara....whatever will be, will be. So we set off to Navabrindavan. After a delightful swim in the Tungabadra, we went to the shrines and prayed peacefully. The temple was gearing up for the Sudeendra Theertha and Vyasaraja Aradhane, and had put up makeshift pandals to help devotees circumambulate in the hot sun. We took the boat back to Anegundi. Where to next? Since there were first time visitors with us, we thought we could go to Chintamani nearby. I became the unofficial guide as I had visited Chintamani several times before. It was delight to go back to the cave where Rama met Sugreeva and Hanuman for the first time ,and to see the place from where he shot and killed Vali.
 How did Rama go and meet Sugreeva and ask for help?The question prompted us to go to Pampa Sarovar.
Pampa Sarovar is one among the five holy Sarovars installed by Brahma where Shiva and Parvati are worshipped. The others being Manasarovar ( In Tibet), Bindu Sarovar and Narayan Sarovar in Gujarat and Pushkar Sarovar in Rajasthan. The Pond is surrounded by rocky mountains and completed covered with lotus bloom. The picture you see at the top the page was taken in early 2010. This time, I was disappointed to find the pond devoid of the lotus blooms. It seemed dirty and a little uncared for which was very sad to find. In fact, several monuments in Anegundi are protected by the ASI, but Pampa Sarovar despite its spiritual and historic importance does not seem to be part of it.
A view of the Pampa Sarovar as it is now
That was just the beginning of my disappointments. The entire complex, which houses the holy Sarovar, the cave where Sabari, the old woman who was an ardent devotee of Rama, waited and prayed for several years to meet her Lord, the temple of Lord Shiva and Goddess Vijayalakshmi are all managed by individuals. A Baba is said to have stayed and prayed at the Shiva temple and his disciples are now maintaining the temple. The Sabari cave is being cleaned and maintained by tribal families staying outside the cave.
The Tribal women wearing beautiful costumes
 and jewellery take care of Sabari's Cave
The cave is small, clean and extremely serene. One can immediately visualise the old lady, staying there for several years, waiting for her Lord, believing her Guru Matunga Maharishi's words, that definitely one day Lord Rama would come there and she would be blessed enough to meet him. Finally, Rama comes there, in search of Sita who had been abducted by Ravana. He is tired and hungry and decides to stop by the Holy Pampa Sarovar. Sabari, has been waiting for very many years, for this exact moment. She is so delighted that her Lord is finally there. She plucks the best fruits from the nearby trees and offers them to the brothers, but not before tasting them herself, to be sure that they taste as sweet and as delicious as she would prefer, for her Lord. Rama accepts the bitten fruits, understanding the devotion and true love of his devotee. Sabari hears about Sita and advices Rama to take help from Sugreeva, the brother of Vali, King of Kishkinda. Rama takes her good advice and goes to Chintamani to meet Sugreeva.
Footsteps of Lord Rama can be seen at the place where Sabari seated him and washed his tired legs with water from the Sarovar and decorated them with flowers. There is also a Homa Kund inside the cave where Sabari had peformed puja for several years.
The cave is cool despite the scorching heat outside. There is a tunnel on one side of the cave. The young boys who were following us, giving us titbits of information, told us that the tunnel led to Hampi. One of them jumped in and prompted me to follow.
The tunnel inside the cave
Much that I would have loved to follow the trail, my size and my friends waiting for me made me decide against it. The boys mentioned that Sabari used to bathe in the Pampa Sarovar every day and gather choice flowers to worship Lord Rama. Once the Rishis saw her doing so and drove her away saying that she had no right to bathe in such a holy Pond. The next morning, the Rishis came down to have their bath, and found that the Sarovar was extremely dirty and unfit for bathing. Perplexed, they did not know what to do. At that time,they heard a voice from the sky, tell them that the Sarovar was only as pure as the people who bathed in it. The sages  realised their mistake, and sought forgiveness from Sabari. They requested her to bathe in the pond and continue her holy rituals.Once Sabari stepped into the water, the Sarovar turned clean and pure again. I wished she could just step back again into the water which definitely needed some cleaning and purification!
Right next to the Sabari cave, is the temple of Vijayalakshmi as well as the Shiva and Pampa Devi (Parvati) temple. The Vijayalakshmi has been installed by a Baba (sorry could not get the name due to language problem) who had stayed there for a long while. The things that were used by him are still maintained well.
Things used by Babaji
The temple has a goddess (Vijayalakshmi) with several Salagramas placed before her. The sanctum Sanctorum is flanked by statues of Ganesha and Hanuman respectively.
Idol of Ganesha to the left of the Goddess
Idol of Hanuman to the right
Goddess Vijayalakshmi
Right next door to the Vijayalakshmi temple is the Shiva temple. There is a small passage linking both the temples. The Shiva temple is really ancient and I would need help from the experts who visit the blog in identifying the time period to which the temple belongs. The most horrifying factor here is that in the name of renovation the whole temple has been turned into a modern bathroom - as Mr.Chandra, of REACH foundation likes to put it. Marble tiles have hidden valuable inscriptions, and whitewashed pillars have disfigured icons. 
I almost had tears in my eyes looking at the magnificient Shiva in the temple, who has been a silent spectator to this thoughtless deed.
Dwarapalakis amidst the marble tiles
Goddess Pampa Devi...not to miss the marble around!
One of the Dwarapalakas - Can you see the tiles plastered
around him?
Look at this!
Whitewashed Pillars hiding a lot of detail
I felt angered and helpless looking at all this.....that too at a place which is well known for its history and mythology. What does one do as we watch such ageless, timeless beauties being eroded under the name of modernization?
The others had already gone out, ready to board the vehicle. I slowly walked out of the doorway and looked out into the open....the beautiful pond, with the rocky terrain behind it, the trees that swayed in the wind, the noise of the children playing below and the serenity of the temple....was a divine concoction in itself. Wish someone would do something....I thought like every other commoner and joined my friends who were waiting below. I remembered reading some time ago that the Royal descendants of Krishnadevaraya still resided at Anegundi, and the temples there were still under their maintenance and control. I hope the current Krishnadevaraya is not happy with this so-called modernization!
Nandi locked in marble
As we drove away from the temple, I looked up at Anjanadri. It seemed Anjaneyaswamy was telling me that I had to wait for my time. I asked Sambasiva,our driver if we were going back to the guest house for lunch. The time was close to 1 pm and it was really hot. Sambasiva told us we could visit Durga Betta, a temple nearby, if we were interested. Now that was a temple I had not seen during any of my previous visits.
Well....all about that in another post :)

Updated on 5.4.11

When I shared information about this post on a Yahoo group I belong to , there was some interesting feedback and ensuing conversation which I am happy to share with the readers of this blog for their  reference and understanding.
"Hi Priya,
Nice post, would like to bring a local tradition to your notice, might be helpful in your study. Many places in India are associated to Ramayana or Mahabharata by local people. As you wrote in your article that Rama met Shabari here, there is a local story in Chattisgarh state where a place with name Shabarinarayan is associated to Rama and Shabari. It is believed that Shabari was the daughter if King Shabar who was the king of that place.
It would be a good study to understand the geography of the place as described in Ramayana and try to see which of these two places resemble more closely to that geography. Just a suggestion from my side."

My reply:

At the outset, I want to thank you for raising an interesting point. I am with you on the fact that regarding several locations in India there are local beliefs about certain incidents having happened there, and there could be multiple locations for the same event.

But as far as the incident of Rama meeting Shabari is concerned, there seems to be pretty strong literary and historic evidence that the location was Pampa Sarovar, where Shabari waited for several years as per guidance from her Guru Matanga Muni.

Shabari was born in the Bhil Tribal community of Chattisgarh, which is probably why there is a place there that should ideally be her Janmsthaan there.

You will see clearly in that article that Shabari met Rama and Lakshmana at the ashram at Rishyamukha which is the current Anegundi region and the ancient Kishkinda. Remember, Vali could not set foot on Rishyamukha due to a curse!

This is not all. I have drawn reference from "Chakravarthy Thirumagan" written by Chakravarthy Rajagopalachari, popularly known as Rajaji. Rajaji has written Ramayana in simple prose form, referring to both Valmiki and Kamba Ramayana and drawing their essence and also making comparisons. This was written in Kalki in the earlier 1950s and later on published as a book in 1956. It is a well accepted widely reviewed book which finds its place in many a household. 

In Chakravarthy Tirumagan, Page 359, Rajaji narrates the abduction of Sita by Ravana as follows: 
பல மலைகளையும் ஆறுகளையும் தாண்டி செல்லும் போது வழியில் ஒரு மலை மீது யாரோ நிற்பதை கண்டாள் சீதை. அப்போது மேலுதிரியத்தை எடுத்து தன ஆபரணங்களை அதில் முடித்து கீழே போட்டாள்.......அழுது கொண்டிருந்த அவளை கீழே மலை மேல் இருந்த வானரங்களும் பார்த்தன.பம்பையை தாண்டி பிறகு கடலையும் ராவணன் கடந்து லங்காபுரி பிரவேசித்தான். 
This roughly translates into - after crossing several hills and rivers, on the way Sita saw someone standing on a hill. She took her upper garment, tied her ornaments into a bunch and dropped them. The monkeys on top of the hill saw her crying. Ravana crossed Pampa and then the sea and went into Lanka. This gives clear evidence that the jewels were dropped here and there is a place called Chintamani here where Rama met Sugreeva for the first time and handed over Sita's ornaments to him. I have written about it in an earlier post (http://aalayamkanden.blogspot.com/2010/12/chintamani-temple-anegundi.html).(Also refer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anegundi ) Chintamani is also the place where Rama shot and killed Vali and his bones are still said to be found at a place called Nimmapuram nearby.

There is specific reference to the meeting between Sabari and Rama at Pampa Sarovar in Page 386 of Chakravarthy Tirumagan:
பிறகு ராமனும் லக்ஷ்மணனும் பம்பையை நோக்கி சென்றனர். அந்த அழகிய பிரவேசத்தில் மதங்க ரிஷியின் சிஷ்யையான சபரி என்கிற விருத்த சன்யாசியம்மையை கண்டு அவளுடைய உபசாரத்தை பெற்றனர். .......சபரியை கண்டு பம்பசரஸில் ஸ்நானம் செய்த பிறகு ராமலக்ஷ்மணர்கள் தைரியம்  அடைந்தார்கள். .......Contd on Pg 388.......ராமன் ரிஷ்யமுக வனம் வந்து இங்குமங்கும் வில் பிடித்து திரிவதை பார்த்து சுக்ரீவனுக்கும் அவன் கூடத்துக்கும் பெரும் பயம் பிடித்து கொண்டது. 
This again translates into " Then Rama and Lakshmana went towards Pampa. In this beautiful location, they met an old Sanyasi disciple of Matanga Rishi, named Sabari and accepted her hospitality. ........After the meeting with Sabari, they bathed in Pampa Sarovar and felt reassured. ...............Contd on Pg 388.......Sugreeva and his men were worried that Rama was in Rishyamukha vana and roaming around with  his bow. For further reference, please check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kishkindha as well.

I hope this clarifies. I will be happy to hear if there is any historic or literary evidence about this having happened in Chattisgarh. 

With your permission, I wish to include our corversation in my blog to justify the contents of the same. 

Thanks so much - I thoroughly enjoyed your recommendation,"

I can say with authority based on Valmiki Ramayana that Priya's story is correct. Ram and Lakshmana were descending from Janasthanam (Deccan plateau) and were advised to meet Sugreeva in Kishkinda . It was also told to them that they should go to Pampa lake and meet Sabari who was doing penance there and was about to leave her mortal coils to go to the Heavens. She was just awaiiting the Darshan of Lord Rama. She was a Bhil woman(hunter type). With all these detail given by Valmiki there is no way to make a mistake. They were clearly very much down south already. Thank you.


If Im not wrong, kishkinta is present Humpi...........

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Kurungaleeswarar Temple, Koyambedu

Koyambedu is a house hold name for Chennaities due to the Central Bus Terminus and the Wholesale Market. Right in the middle of Koyambedu are the twin temples - Kurugaleeswarar Temple and Vaikundavasa Perumal Temple bearing testimony to the life and times of Lava and Kusha, sons of Rama.
It was around 4 pm on Sunday that I received a call from my friend asking if I could join her to visit these two temples and I jumped at the chance. It was a little after 5 pm when we reached there. The temple was extremely crowded as it was Raagu Kaalam on Sunday(4.30 to 6 pm) and the temple is famous for the Sarabeswara pooja and homam during this time.

This temple is about 1500 years old. The story behind the temple goes like this:
After Rama sent a pregnant Sita to the forest on hearing the accusations made by a washerman about him having accepted a woman who had stayed in an enemy's palace for several months, Sage Valmiki gave her shelter and brought her to his ashram at this very place. It was here that she gave birth to twin boys, Lava and Kucha. The young boys were trained by Sage Valmiki in archery and academics.

In the meantime, Rama was planning to hold an Aswamedha Yagna and as part of the protocol, sent the sacrificial horse around the country. When the horse entered the ashram of Sage Valmiki, the two boys arrested it by building a fence of arrows around it. This is why the place is called Ko (horse)+ Ambu (Arrow) + Pedu ( Fence). When Rama heard that two little boys had held the sacrificial horse captive and had also defeated the soldiers and Lakshmana who had come along with it, he came looking . The children, not knowing that it was their father, started shooting arrows at him. When Rama took out his Rama Baana to shoot the children, Sage Valmiki intervened, and introduced Rama to his children, which is how they came together.

To overcome the sin of fighting against their father (பித்ரு சாபம் ), the Sage asked the children to pray to Lord Shiva. The little boys made a shiva linga true to their size, and worshipped him. The Shiva so worshipped by the children is small in size, more like an overturned earthern lamp and is called Kurungaleeswarar or Kuchalavapureeswarar as he was worshipped by Lava and Kucha.The Shiva shrine faces north which is a unique aspect of this temple."வடக்கு பார்த்த சிவனும் இல்லை, மடக்கு போன்ற லிங்கமும் இல்லை" describes this unique aspect very aptly. 
A picture depicting Lava and Kusha praying to Kurungaleeswara
The temple is an architectural delight. The Sanctum Sanctorum and the circumambulatory path around it are a treasure trove. Around the main shrine there are idols of Lord Nataraja, a huge Shiva icon, 63 nayanmars, Lingothbhava, Chandikeshwara, Vishnudurga, Dhakshinamoorthy and Ganesha. Apart from this, there is also a seperate shrine for Ganesha.  This temple is said to have had the first pradosha pooja ever performed here and is hence called Adipradhoshapuri.
People sitting and writing Om namachivaya in the temple
Another notable feature was people sitting and writing Om Namasivaya everywhere in the temple. I was extremely delighted at the sights I saw and at the same time was feeling extremely frustrated as something went wrong with my camera. As you can see in the pictures, either the top portion or the right end of the pictures was coming out blurred and I could not figure out the reason why. The light was fading and I was getting extremely anxious to capture as much as possible on camera to treasure and share. I hope I am able to visit again some time and get better pictures for I still do not know what went wrong with my camera.
Painting of Sarabeshwara holding
Narasimha in the temple
Sarabeshwara pooja was going on in full swing in a seperate mandapam and there were several people witnessing it.There was also an elderly lady who was reciting songs from Thevaram and Tiruvasagam - a real delight to hear.

In this temple, the shrine of the Goddess, which is usually found to the left of the Lord, is found on the right side here. The Goddess is called Dharmasamvardhini or Aram Valartha Nayaki. The Goddess has her left foot forward as if coming down to answer the prayers of her devotees which is noteworthy.
Way to the Shrine of Dharmasamvardhini
Just outside the Ambal Shrine, we find the Navagrahas so unique, unlike in any other temple. Surya with his two wives is on a chariot drawn by seven horses and charioteered by Aruna, and below the chariot on a circular base the other grahas are placed. I do not recall having seen this type of structure for Navagrahas anywhere else. It was looking unique and extremely beautiful.

A poor picture of Surya on his chariot

To the left of the Kurungaleeswara shrine, is the shrine of Muruga with Valli and Deivanai.Saint Arunagirinathar has sung in praise of this Muruga calling him "Kosainagar Vaazh Muruga". There are beautiful paintings in each of the shrines in the temple needing maintenance. They add an additional aesthetic value to the ancientness of this temple.

Painting of Valli Deivanai Murugan at the temple

We came out of the Murugan shrine, by which time the Ragu Kaala pooja was getting over. I stopped by the beautiful Nandi - again absolutely unique. The Nandi has a rope (மூக்கணாங்கயிறு ) through its nostrils with a leg bent very prominently as if in a raising position.
The Beautiful Nandi at the temple
We joined the crowd that was queuing up for collecting tamarind rice being distributed as prasadam. After enjoying the delicious prasadam, we moved out of the temple towards the Vaikundavasa Perumal Temple. The Stala Vriksham ( temple tree) here is the பலா மரம்  ( Jackfruit Tree). Jackfruit was also being sold outside the shrine so the whole frontyard had the aroma of jackfruit wafting through the air which gave a very unique feeling.

There is a multi-pillared mandapam located between the two temples. The figure of Lord Sarabeswara is found in one of the pillars and a homam was being conducted there where several people had gathered. We were lucky to be there just at the time of Poorna-ahuti (the time when offerings are made to Agni and the Lord of the Homam to signify completion of the homam and to seek answering of prayers).

A picture of the Homam from across the road
We then moved into the Vaikundavasa Perumal temple. By this time, it had become completely dark and it was difficult for me to take pictures with my already non-cooperative camera. The Perumal temple was relatively quiet. There is a hanuman shrine to the right when you enter and a beautiful dwajastamba and Garuda shrine in the center.
As you join the queue to reach the main Sanctum Sanctorum, there is a shrine of Rama wearing "Maravuri "(costume made from tree bark used during his time in the forest ) and Sita like an ordinary woman with her hair tied up in a "Kodali Kondai"(normal hairstyle for housewives when they are doing domestic chores). Lakshmana who is usually found along with Rama and Sita is not to be seen here.

The Lord Vaikundavasa Perumal is seen as he gave darshan to Sage Valmiki along with Lava and Kucha.
He is seen in a standing posture here, which is unusual along with Sreedevi and Boodevi. Usually Vaikundavasa Perumal is found in a sitting posture.There is yet another unique feature here. Usually Perumal has his right hand as Abhaya Hasta and left hand as Varada Hasta. Here the Utsavar has a raised left hand as if he is inviting the devotees to come to him. Just outside the main shrine, on the right side, there are idols of Sage Valmiki, with Lava and Kucha on either side on the same stone, and a pregnant Sita as she was in Sage Valmiki's ashram.

Once we step out of the main shrine, to the right as we proceed to the Kanakavalli thaayar temple, we find two Bael Trees (வில்வ மரம்) with a Neem Tree (வேப்ப மரம் )in between that have grown together. This is said to symbolise the marriage of Meenakshi Sundareswara where Lord Shiva and Vishnu are found on either side of Meenakshi as Vishnu gives away her hand in marriage to Shiva. Several people come and pray here for getting a good marriage alliance.

Apart from the Thaayar shrine there is also a beautiful andal shrine in the temple.I hope I visit again soon to see Vaikundavasa Perumal and hopefully then my camera cooperates so that I get some good pictures to treasure.My sincere thanks to the bhattar at the Kanakavalli thaayar shrine who shared all the unique information about the temple despite the crowd there, and also for kindly inviting me to participate in the Dhavanothsavam starting on 4th of March 2011.

How to reach the temple:
Koyambedu is well connected from all parts of the city by bus. If you are coming from Tambaram side, you have to cross the CMBT Bus Terminus and take a left just opposite to the Nathella Sulochanamma Kalyana Mandapam. If you coming from the other side, the temple is on the first right turn opposite to the Kalyana Mandapam once you cross the flyover.