Monday, August 31, 2015

Where Sri Raghavendra chose to reside!

Vadavaru, Thanjavur
The Prince of Thanjavur was in a pensive mood as he walked along the banks of the Vadavaru. His thoughts, as always, were with Guru Raghavendra Swamy, who had entered Brindavana a couple of years ago. He thought of the grace his grandfather Sri Raghunatha Boopal (Raghunatha Nayak 1600-1634) had enjoyed in organising the Pattabhishekam of Sri Raghavendra Swamy in his palace in the year 1621. He had also had the opportunity to serve the Guru during his stay at Thanjavur for 12 years on the banks of the Vadavaru river where he had entered Sanyasa.

That was not all. His father Sri Vijayaraghava Nayak (1634-1673) had also had the grace to invite Guru Raghavendra Swamy to Thanjavur to help him during the great famine of 1642 when the Swamy through his prayers and Yagna brought heavy rains which filled up the tanks and rivers and ended the famine that threatened to kill thousands of people.
The Pattabhishekam of Guru Raghavendra Swamy in the Thanjavur Palace
But all that had changed. Today, he was all alone. The power and the glory of the Nayakas was on the wane and he desperately needed to do something. He missed the presence of the great saint who had helped his father and grandfather. Deep in thought, he had reached the spot where Guru Rayaru had obtained Sanyasa. As usual, his eyes closed and he sat down there in meditation. Somehow, he felt comforted. "All I want, is for you to be with me for ever,"he prayed to the invisible presence of Sri Raghavendra Swamy.

His guards watched him quietly, and in pain. That night, when the prince was asleep, Guru Raghavendra Swamy appeared in his dream. "Do not worry. I will stay with you in Thanjavur. Build a Brindavana for me" he said. The prince was overwhelmed with joy.  Next morning, he gathered his officials together for a meeting, and said that they must build a Brindavana for Guru Raghavendra Swamy in Thanjavur.

The courtiers were happy. "Where is the chosen location, Your majesty?" asked one of them. The Prince just then realised that the location had not been revealed to him in his dream, nor had he asked for it. So that night, before going to sleep, he spent a long time in prayer and meditation, beseeching the Guru to reveal the place where the Brindavana needed to be built.
The pillars are a reminder of the old structure that has been modernised over time

The Guru did not test his devotee's patience much. He appeared in his dream again, asking him to go back to the banks of the Vadavaru river and wait for the location to be revealed. The prince was overjoyed. Next morning, he gathered his courtiers and ladies of the palace and went to the Vadavaru river. They started walking along its banks chanting "Om Sri Raghavendraya Namaha".

As they neared the spot where Guru Raghavendra Swamy attained Sanyasa, a five headed serpent appeared out of nowhere. On seeing it, the prince fell on the ground, calling out to his Guru Sri Raghavendra Swamy. Tears of joy ran down his face. The crowd went up in shouts of awe, and happiness.
The serpent moved slowly and gracefully down the river bank, to a spot under a tree. It raised up its hood, hit the ground with it thrice and disappeared.

It was not long before the Brindavana was built in this location. Usually a Koorma Peeta (Tortoise base) is placed below the Brindavana, but here, since Guru Raghavendra Swamy had himself appeared in the form of a five headed serpent, a Naga Peeta is found at the bottom of the Brindavana.  Moreover, there is no ceiling over it, as instructed by Guru Raghavendra Swamy. "Let it be open to the elements of nature, as I was, when I spent 12 years there" was the instruction received by the prince. Till date, the Brindavana has no roof.
The Brindavana with the Sarpa Peeta (Photo Courtesy: Sri Raghavendra Mutt)
This Brindavana has yet another unique feature. Usually all Brindavanas outside of Mantralayam, with the exception of Bhikshalaya, have Mritika (sand) brought from the Brindavana at Mantralayam placed inside them. Whereas here the Brindavana, has been built without Mritika as the Guru himself decided to reside there. However, the sand from the location where he meditated for twelve years, is sieved and placed on top of the Brindavana and given to the devotees as prasadam.

This Brindavana opens around 7 am in the morning and and closes by 12.30 pm on all week days except Thursdays. The priests do not worship Rayaru after they have had food. The Nayak kings had handed over the Brindavana for maintenance to the forefathers of of Sri Vijendran, the current trustee of the temple, and his family has been maintaining the Brindavana over several generations.

The Naaga Pedastal at the Vadavaru Brindavana
Whatever rituals had been observed while Guru Raghavendra was in meditation here, continue to be observed even now as he is believed to be in meditation in the Brindavana. Wet flowers or flowers tied together with thread are not accepted here. Similarly flowers that do not have any natural fragrance are also not accepted. There are a number of boards explaining the strict rules that have to be adhered to here so that the devotees are able to understand and follow the same.

A very very quiet and serene Brindavana where one can spend hours basking in the grace of Guru Raghavendra Swamy! A must visit if you are in Thanjavur next.

The Brindavana at Vadavaru, Thanjavur

How to get here: 

The Brindavana is about 2 kms from the Thanjavur Old Bus Stand.
Google Coordinates: 10.805000, 79.125278

Temple Timings: 7 am to 12.30 pm on all days except Thursdays when it is open also in the evenings.

Contact Details: D Vijendran 9245111085
                         R Kabijan    9994488297

Friday, August 21, 2015

Kailaaya Eswaram!

The Kailaaya Eswaramudaiya Mahadevar Temple at Kesavaram
Kesavaram is a small village in Vellore District. It is here that a dam has been built across the Cooum river splitting it into two, diverting one branch into the Poondi reservoir while the other continues to flow as the Kusasthalai or Koratalaiyar river. In many ways, the dam whose sluice gates probably have never been opened have ensured no water has flown in the river beyond this. This has resulted in palm trees growing in the dry river bed and with no option of a natural flush out, the city has diverted its solid waste into the river bed, thereby converting the once holy river into a nauseous cesspool.

Kesavaram is the current twisted abbreviation of Kailaaya Eswaram. In the past, the Kesavaram village was a small island surrounded by the waters of these two rivers. Since the Koratalaiyaar flows in a South - North direction, it was believed to aid Mokshaa and hence was known as Moksha Nadhi. The island which was formed in between the two rivers was called Mokshadweepam or the island of Moksha. It is here that Ezhulagamudaiyaal, wife of Kulothunga I, gave grants to construct a temple for Kailaaya Eswaramudaiya Mahadevar.

Inscriptions at the temple
The village of Uriyur which is currently about three kilometres from Kesavaram was provided by the King Kulothunga I as tax free land in order for the regular poojas and worship at the Kailaaya Eswaramudaiya Mahadevar temple. An inscription at the temple talks about this temple being the Dakshina Kalahasthi, equal to Kasi and Gaya Kshetras, and anyone bathing in the Moksha Nadhi and worshipping the Koodal Sangameswarar atop the Panchatchara Giri and then Kailai Eswaramudaiya Mahadevar will be relieved from future births and attain Moksha.

Well let us look at the status of the temple today.

The status of the Kailaaya Eswaramudaiya Mahadevar temple at Kesavaram
The Moksha Nadhi has dried up. The Panchatchara hill does exist, but only fragmental remains of the Koodal Sangameswarar temple that once existed can be seen. The Kailaaya Eswara Mudaiya Mahadevar temple that gave the Kesavaram village its name, today lies unkempt and dilapidated.

A closer look at the crumbling structure

Greedy individuals have usurped all the lands that belonged to the temple, that one has to walk through the private agricultural lands in order to reach the temple. It was saddening to hear that the private landowners are even reluctant to provide a pathway to reach the temple from the main road.

The beautiful stone vimana at the Kesavaram temple

The beautiful stone vimana that can be seen in other Cooum sites like Sivapuram, is being held together with metal reinforcements. The front mandapa is crumbling and a beheaded Nandi which shows signs of having once being beautifully bedecked welcomes us.

The remains of a beautiful Nandi at the temple
The Goshta Devathas are all stunning. A beautiful Ganesha, a heavily damaged Dakshinamurthy with an oversized Muyalagan at his feet, and a stylish Durga hold us enthralled. The Gajaprasta vimana has Narasimha over Lingothbhavar which is a unique feature here.

Beheaded idols of a Dwara Ganapathy, and Uma Sahitha murthy lay dumped in a corner. The villagers speak about efforts made by certain miscreants to steal the statues in the goshtam, which was however thwarted by the caution of the local people and volunteers. It seems such a shame that such treasures are being allowed to rot and ruin.

The damaged Uma Sahitha Murthi at Kesavaram
After witnessing all the damage and destruction outside, if you stepped into the Artha Mandapa, all peace engulfs you. In the dim natural light, the Lord of Moksha, sits quietly, awaiting the lone devotee who might brave walking through the narrow bunds of agricultural fields just to see the Lord in all his glory.

Kailaaya Eswaramudaiya Mahadevar at Kesavaram

Goosebumps spring up in your hands in his calming presence. What can you do but to pray to him to change the situation that the temple currently is in? There is encouraging news. There have been a group of volunteers who are taking efforts to repair the temple and reinstate it to its lost glory.

Dakshinamurthy at the temple
The villagers share numerous tales of people who have come to the temple after seeing the Lord in their dreams. They speak about recent episodes of people with loco-motor disabilities getting cured after praying here. Yes, the Lord is most benevolent and magnificent! Provided people reach out to him.

The Durga at Kesavaram

How to get here:

The Kesavaram temple is about 6 kms from Thakkolam.

Temple Timings:

The temple is open through the day. However, make sure you reach before it gets dark as it would be difficult to maneuver yourselves through the narrow bunds in the agricultural fields once it becomes dark.

Contact details: 81222 74612