The Search for Roots - Govindh K. Bharathan


     The Search For Roots: Govindh.K.Bharathan

 

                   Why do I search for roots?

 

          “A SEARCH FOR ROOTS” implies that one has lost one’s roots.  Every thinking Hindu in this country must search for his roots.  Observe the banyan tree, and one realizes that all roots are not necessarily underground.  When introspection and contemplation give way to externalization and over-ritualisation, the trunk starts to rot.  This is when a search for roots becomes necessary. 

 

          My religion was never swamped in religiosity.  It was a way of life, a code of self-experience, a perfect balance between devotion, knowledge and action.  We called these by fancy names and gave each of these paths the status of Yoga and hence was born Jnan-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga and Karma-Yoga.  Very slowly, these changed into concepts, lost the living flavour of experience and became the subject of learned discussions at seminars where hair-splitting distinctions were drawn between the three, and in the process, alienating them from each other permanently and irrevocably. 

 

          Who then was to blame, if the Jnani reviled the Bhakta as a blind mindless ignoramus and the Bhakta withdrew into his little dark prayer room and shunned karma and reveled in sophoric idleness and those who perforce had to perform Karma for their basic existence became bulls in the china shop of the world, creating confusion and chaos.

 

          Gradually, the perfect balance which sustained a living Dharma which we practiced as our religion, was destroyed.  The sneer of the Janani, the exclusivity of the Bhakta and the mindless frenetic activity of the Karmi manifested as spiritual snobbery, fanaticism and a sheer self-destructive mindless pursuit of the fruitless and the frivolous. 

 

          The rot had set in.  The inherent dynamism of our religion was lost.  We became easy prey to doubt, revulsion and ridicule.  We had no answers to those who questioned our beliefs, no armour against those who came to conquer and to convert.  A search for roots thus became imperative and perhaps, even a matter of survival. 

 

          The search for roots cannot be from books, ancient of modern for they are at best the expression of someone else’s experience.  It cannot be from listening to discourses because here again, the approach is through the mind and not the heart.  The search for roots is a search for submerged truths, dormant and unmanifested because the search was till now conducted like a blind man searching in a dark room for a black cat which may or may not be there. 

 

          Or perhaps this is not a search at all.  Roots are not meant to be searched for uncovered and exposed.  Their function is to sustain and their task to nourish from deep hidden sources.  The search thus becomes one for the sources that sustain the tree of life itself, going beyond the reality of the roots to the subtle experience of the life force that enables them to sustain the tree.  And this tree, as the Upanishads say, may even perhaps have its roots above and branches below. 

 

          I thus decided to start the search in Temples.  I went there not so much to worship but to experience who was being worshipped, by whom and with what.  Perhaps I hoped that these store houses of spiritual power would energies deep cognitive centers within myself from where would arise the experience of truth, love and beauty.  Perhaps I hoped that any imperfection in me concept of truth, love as I knew it, and beauty as I had perceived it would be purified by exposure to the vibrant currents of spiritual power which emerge from all Mahakshethras. 

 

          Or perhaps I even felt that it would be thrilling to experience my own self being worshipped in the Sanctum-Sanctorum in the form of the installed deity;

 

 

                             2.       The Sree Krishna Temple Udupi

 

          We landed at Mangalore after a somnolent train journey through some of the most beautiful locales on the Malabar-South Canara border.  Almost instantaneously, we were on a bumpy bus ride towards Udupi, the temple immortalized by the Kanakadasa’s love for his Lord and master Krishna. 

 

          Legend goes that Kanakadasa, a fisherman by caste loved and liver Krishna with every walking and sleeping breath of his life.  But the high-caste purohits of the Sree Krishna temple forbade him from entering the temple and having darshan of his Lord.  Once after being turned away from the temple gate, Kanakadasa sat down at the back of the temple and sang to Krishna of his plight.  When the purohits opened the temple doors next morning, they discovered that the installed deity Lord Krishna had turned around inside the sanctum-sanctorum and was facing the direction in which Kanakadasa sat at the back of the temple.  A hole was made in the outer wall, which is to this day open for all 24 hours so that any Kanakadasa can have darshan of the Lord.   

 

          In the sanctum-sanctorum, the Lord can be viewed only through the nine silver holes built in the wall.  The main entry to the sanctum-sanctorum remains closed and the purohits enter through this entrance only for performing the day time poojas. 

 

          The night poojas are unbelievably beautiful.  The walls of the sanctum-sanctorum are of polished black granite and the reflections of the thousands of little oil lamps which are lit at the time of deeparadhana create a mystic fire dance around the Lord.  The thidambu of the lord is placed in a golden palanquin and is carried around the town on the shoulders of the priests.  The Pooja is then performed with the Lord rocked in silver cradle in the mandap immediately outside the sanctu-sanctorum.  One strange aspect is that Anjaneya is worshipped as an upadevatha and the thidambu of Anjaneya is taken out in the same palanguin, standing at the feet of the reclining Lord Krishna. 

 

          The 8 Mathoms of Udupi alternate to perform the daily poojas of the deity. The temple is sparkling clean.  Throughout our stay we could hear the sound of the flute plated in adoration to Venugopala.  The 8 Mathoms tower over the beautiful  little temple nestled in their midst.  The abode of the Lord itself is simple, but not of those who profess to worship him. 

 

          We spent enchanted hours lost within ourselves inside the temple.  We sat on the marble floor as thousands filed by peering into the sanctum-sanctorum through the 9 silver holes in the black granite wall. On the first day, the alamkaram of the deity was as Sree Krishna.  On the second day it was as Gajalakshmi with two golden elephants on either side. 

 

          When the time came to depart, we had to tear ourselves away with great reluctance.  Even as our bus sped towards Kollur, and the temple at Mookambika which was our next destination, we could hear the strains of the flute, in adoration of the Lord who turned away from the pomp and splendor of the Mathathipathis so turned away from the pomp and splendor of the Mathathipathis so that he could be face to face with Kanakadasa, his true devotee.   

 

 

3.       The Mookambika Temple-Kollur

 

          It was late in the afternoon that we reached Kollur.  The bus ride was comfortable up to Kundapur.  But from there to Kollur it was a traumatic experience with the bus stopping every one hundred yards to take up and disgorge passengers on the lonely forest between the Kundapur and Kollur. 

 

          We reached the temple late and joined the huge crowds for Darshan of Devi Mookambika.  The temple is very small and unpretentious.  But the sheer power of Devi Mookambika has to be experienced to be believed.  The idol itself is 4 armed with the upper arms holding the ‘conch’ and the ‘chakra’ and the lower palms in the “Vara” and “Abhaya” mudras.  But the real power emerges from the ‘Jyothirlinga’ at the foot of the idol.  It is said that Adi-Sankara himself installed the idol of Devi Mookambika behind the ancient Jyothir-linga which is the form of a spheroid divided into two unequal halves by a golden line.  The left side which is the larger part represents the dynamic Shakthi aspect of creative energy, whereas the smaller right portion represents the static conscious causative factor.  The poojas are performed on this mystic Jyothir-linga which is often covered with a golden figurine.  The Divine Mother wears around her neck a very large emerald, on a gold chain.  The emerald is said to be one of the biggest of such stones in the world.

 

          Devi Mookambika is considered to be the cryistalisation of creative power which motivates poets, speakers and indeed, all those who use the spoken word.  The Divine Moher is also considered as bestowing her blessings on all forms of visual and creative art.  When the sun sets and the temple lights come on, the devotees gather for Sreevali in front of the temple.  Artists from all over the country congregate on a little stage in the yard of the temple and offer their creative talents in homage to the Divine Mother Devi Mookambika.  Ananda Nada Yogi joined us at Mookambika and entranced the gathering with his exquisite violen recital.  Madhu and I sat adjacent the sanctum-sanctorum in the nalambalam as wave after wave of divine energy engulfed us and spiraled us into the dizzy heights of meditation.  Madhu’s close relationship with some of the Adikas ensured that we were not disturbed, wherever we chose to sit inside the temple.  We were treated everywhere as honoured guests.  This, to me, was the supreme blessing of the Divine Mother. 

 

          The next morning we went to Soupaprnika, the holy river where every little stone, bears the imprint of the foot of the Divine Mother.  We found a secluded spot where we washed out the weariness of our long journey and a sleepless night.  A bath in the crystal clear sweet waters of river Souparnika which emerges from the cloud-capped heights of Kudasadri Mountain is itself an experience in Sadhana. 

 

          We sat in the nalambalam and watched hundreds of devotees filing past the sanctum-sanctorum for Darshan of Divine Mother.  She is beauty incarnate and us thus ‘Lalitha Tripurasundari’ to the followers of the ‘Sree Vidya’ cult.  She is ‘Saraswathi’ who stopped in her tracks even as Adi-sankara turned around to look whether she was following him when he stopped hearing the silver jingle of her anklets, acting against her orders and thus losing her on the journey to his native land, Kerala.  She is ‘Durga’ whose vahana is the lion and in which manifestation she represents the zenith of sheer physical prowess.  She is ‘Lakshmi’ since she bears the Vaishnavite symbols of conch and charka.  Perhaps in no other temple is the Divine Mother symbolized with so many facets, such great beauty, such power and compassion.

 

 

          Deeparadhana which we were allowed to witness from the top of the steps of sreekovil, was a sight for the gods.  The muted gold image of Devi seated on the lion appeared to vibrate when the thousand wicked lamps flickered while being waved in the sreekovil.  Drums, conches and bells recreated ‘Nada Brahmam’, the causative creative power of sound energy.  Ananda Nada Yogi got his rudraksha mala blessed by the Mother’s touch from the sanctum-sanctorum.  Later that evening Suresh Adikal consecrated my japamala with her Her divine touch.  

 

          On the day of our departure we had early morning darshan of the Mother.  She was dressed in deep blue and was more resplendent than the rising sun.  The morning express took us through the cool verdant forests at the foot of Kudasadri through the narrow winding road.  The early rays of the rising sun slowly evaporated the mists howering on the tree tops, and then suddenly we were again in the dusty noisy Kundapur bus station, and the dream was over. 

 

 

4.       The Kattil Temple – Mangalore

 

          Madhu and I returned to Mangalore at about 10 in the morning from Kollur.  The train for our journey home was late in the evening, and hence we had a whole day to ourselves at Mangalore. 

 

          Before leaving for the pilgrimage, a friend had told me about the famous KATTIL temple in Mangalore, Enquiries at our hotel revealed that the temple was about twenty five miles away on the main road to the Mangalore Airport.  It would thus not be difficult to attend the Mahapooja at 12.30 P.M, if we took a taxi to KATTIL from our hotel. 

 

          The taxi driver chattered non-stop in bad Malayalam and probably worse Kanarese all the way to the temple.  The road was narrow and winding and passed through lonely village apparently untouched by the glitz of Mangalore town.  We reached the temple around 11.45 A.M.  A huge crowd of devotees had already gathered to witness the noon Mahapooja and to partake in the free bhojan which would follow.  The Temple itself was housed in a huge tiled building in the middle of which was the Sreekovil.  The installed deity was of the Divine Mother in the form of Durga-Parameswari. 

 

          Legend has it that Nandini the Divine Cow, daughter of Kamadhenu rejected the request of the gods to visit the earth to assist the Rishis who were being harassed in the course of their spiritual practices by a demon.  Nandini was cursed to be born on earth as a river and in response to her prayers to be redeemed of the curse, the Divine Mother agreed to be born in the river as her daughter.  A mysterious linga appeared in the middle of the river which became the deity worshipped in the Temple.  The golden golaka in the sanctum-sanctorum was of the Divine Mother in Her Durga-Parameswari form. 

 

          I was told that ‘Katti; means waist and ‘ila’ meant earth and the word ‘Kattil’ evolved from this combination.  Perhaps the Temple embodied the ‘Swadisthan’ charka since the water element of the river and the earth element of the incarnation of the Devi symbolized the Mooladhaa and Swadisthan Chakras. 

 

          The sanctum-sanctorum was constructed in a way which made it extremely difficult to have darshan.  One had to strain oneself bending over the iron rods on either side of the sanctum-sanctorum to be able to see the deity inside the sreekovil we were fortunate to be in the first row and managed, albeit, with difficulty, to witness the glory of the miday Mahapooja. 

 

                   The deeparadhana itself took about 20  minutes.  Large silver lamps containing hundreds of little lights were waved before the deity and at the culmination of the deeparadhana, karpooradhana was done on long strips of wood kept across the entrance of the Srikovil, through which we could see the golden golaka and the centre of the temples power, the mystic swayambhu linga. 

 

          Devotees of the temple believe that darshan conferred great material prosperity and that the Kattil Devi protected them from all dangers.  Madhu after noting the sequence of the rituals, told me that the pooja conformed very closely to the Kerala system of worship.  We sat for a long time on the raised platform adjoining the sanctum sanctorum as the crowds slowly moved to the dining hall to partake in the noon bhojan. 

 

          It is only while leaving that I noticed that the Temple was built on a raised platform in the middle of a running stream which flowed on either side of the main structure, and that access to the Temple was over two bridges from the main road over the stream.  The sound of the rushing waters followed us for a while on our way back to Mangalore.  The taxi driver started chattering again, but switched off and let my mind dwell in the quietness of the lamp-lit splendor of the Devi in the Srikovil of the beautiful little Temple in the middle of the rushing waters of the river Nandini. 

 

5.       Palani

 

          PALANI ranks as one of the most important of the six Temples of Lord Subrahmania also known as Karthikeya or Muruga.  Son of Shiva, Muruga as legend goes, was born of immaculate conception. He is the Commander-in-Chief of the armies of the gods in their battle against asuric powers.  He is portrayed with his two consorts VALLI and DEVAYANI, one dark and the other fair, and his vahana is the peacock. He is armed with the single pointed spear. 

 

          Most Subrahmanya Temples are situated on scenic hill-tops.  The shirne at Palani stands on the crest of a hillock which rises starply from the plains, ringed with blue tinted mountains. 

 

          I sat back in the speeding taxi cab and remembered my mother taking me to the Palani Temple when I was a little boy.  Thereafter my visits had been sporadic.  But the hilltop temple was always in the back of my mind whenever it approached the meditative state. 

 

          There are six hundred steps from the foot of the hill to the Temple.  The taxi driver took me and my companion to the winch which took pilgrims to the top.  there was a big queue waiting for the two tiny carriages and for a moment I thought that we would miss darshan.  However, a shop keeper who sold pooja articles took charge and promised to take us to the sanctum-sanctorum, help us in performing all the abhishekas and to bring us back, all for a little price.  The snag was that we would have to walk up the hill without waiting for the winch. I agreed readily and within a few moments we were on their way up the 600 steps for darshan of Palaniandavan. 

 

          We were accompanied by two helpers from the shop, one carrying a huge pot of milk for the Abhisheka and the other, a basket containing coconuts, flowers, packets of vibuthi, fragrant sandalwood paste and a garland of roses.  After getting my second wind I felt myself light as a feather and felt that I was wafted up the steep steps effortlessly.  My companion however had to stop several times and we reached the temple in about 45 minutes. 

 

          The hill top was cool and wind-blown.  Heat waves were creating mirages on the sun burnt brown plains.  Little hillocks faded into smokey grey hills and merged into the blue of the skies.  One could see thunder clouds huddling against the mountain tops.  Muruga of the Palani hills faces west towards Kerala, and hence the Malayali Hindus treat him as their own. 

 

          The sun sparkled on the rich yellow of sheet gold of the Sreekovil gopuram.  Our guides opened little gates on the side of the temple with secret keys and we found ourselves at the very entrance of the sanctum-sanctorum.  The noon poojas were over and the various abhishekas were being done on the little golden utsava vigraha of the lord in front of the main installed diety. 

 

          I remembered seeing the idol without any decoration whatsoever.  The idol is made of ‘navapaashaanam’ nine of the dealiest poisons in the world solidified by the ancient alchemist’s magic touch.  The substance of the idol was like a hard wax, small portions of which could be scraped out with a finger nail.  The greed of the priests was such that for small amounts, they would scrape out portion of the idol with their finger nails.

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