18 October 2014

Parvathamalai Hill and Temple

[I hope to be soon posting additional information of this Hill and also uploading photographs of Parvathamalai taken from Arunachala] 

Parvathamalai is located near Thenmadimangalam Village, 20 kms from Polur. It is part of Javadhi Hills and accessible through Kadaladi village 25 kms north of Tiruvannamalai or through Thenmadimangalam. Parvatham means mountain and Parvatha Malai as it is called, connotes “Hill of Hills” or “Queen of Hills”. Parvathamalai presents eight different shapes from eight directions around the hill. 

At the summit of the Hill is the Mouna Guruswamy Ashram and more importantly a very powerful Temple at which resides the Siva aspect in the form of Lord Mallikarjuna (i.e. White Jasmine) and the Sakthi aspect in the form of Parvatha Rani or Parvathammal. Parvathammal is also called Lordess Brahmarambika (and Maragathambika). Inside the sanctum sanctorum there are also idols dedicated to Sri Ganesha and Lord Murugan. 

Parvathamalai, Temple and Ashram on top

A Temple at this site is believed to have existed for the last 2000 years although it is not known exactly when the current Temple was constructed at the top of Parvathamalai. However a record (Malai Padu Kadaam) shows that King Maa Mannan who was ruling that area, during the year 300 A.D used to visit a Temple (at this site) frequently and worship Lord Shiva and the Goddess. It is said that 2000 years ago great yogis (Siddhas) constructed a Temple at the top of the hill for doing meditation. 

Reaching the top of Parvathamalai is an arduous task. It is a vertical mountain over 4,000 feet in height that has iron rod steps, track steps, ladder steps, and sky steps (agayapadi) not found at other such sacred mountains. The Kadapaarai Padhai section of the climb up the Hill is considered to be the toughest part of the trek. This part which is punctuated by iron rods drilled into the rocks and chains to assist during the sharp ascent is also only wide enough to accommodate one-way traffic. Thus one has to raise one’s voice voice from the bottom of this section and wait for acknowledgment from the other end before starting to climb the Kadapaarai Padhai section. 

One of the legends associated with Parvathamalai states that when Lord Hanuman carried Sanjeevini hill to revive Laxman a piece of Sanjeevenimalai fell at this spot. For this reason this particular area is famous for various herbs and shrubs which can cure the deadliest diseases. It is not just herbs that can cure disease but it is thought that the breeze alone from the Hill wafting through the plants and shrubbery is enough to help cure illnesses. 

Kadapaarai Padhai section of climb

There is a legend at Parvathamalai associated with the two saints Guru Namasivayam and Guhai Namasivayam—who were to later reside on caves on Arunachala Hill. However when Guru Namasivayam and Guhai Namasivayam stayed on Parvathamalai, they accidentally cooked and ate an unknown herbal leaf (known as ‘Karunochi – Siddha Medicine’) and regained their youth forever. 

Another legend associated with this sacred site recounts that when Lord Siva returned from the Himalayas to South India, He stepped on Parvathamalai on His way to Arunachala. 

The history of Parvathamalai is interconnected with that of the famed Sri Mallikarjunar Temple at Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh. The encompassing legend goes so: 

“Sage Siladha performed severe penance on Lord Shiva seeking a boon to have children. Two sons were born to him, Nandhi and Parvathan. Sanakadhi Rishi called on the sage and said that Nandhi would live on earth only for a short while. As a result of this prophecy Siladha fell into grief. Nandhi assured his father by saying that he would win over death by his penance on Lord Shiva.

Temple at Parvathamalai

Pleased with Nandhi’s penance, Lord Shiva appeared and made the young child His vahana (vehicle) and passed the order that devotees should come to Him only after being allowed by Nandhi. Nandhi’s place of penance at the foot of the hills at Sri Mallikarjunar Temple at Srisailam is also known as “Nandiyal”. His brother Parvathan also performed penance on Lord Siva and became the hill – Parvatha Hill – i.e. Parvathamalai”. 

This sacred place as it is under 30 kms from Arunachala is also infused with Arunachala’s radiating spiritual power. Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchipuram saw the hill in the shape of a Siva Lingam. Increasingly as the fame of Parvathamalai spreads, many devotees and pilgrims visit and climb the hill to worship at the Temple on the summit in order that they may attain bliss and enlightenment. One of the unique features of the Temple on Parvathamalai is that all may enter the inner shrine (sanctum sanctorum) in order to perform their own puja to Lord Shiva, His Goddess, Sri Ganesha and Lord Murugan. The busiest times at Parvathamalai are the days of full moon, no moon and new moon. 

Lord Mallikarjuna

It is reputed that there are Siddhars who have made this Hill their home and who keep their presence a secret only choosing to reveal themselves to few devotees of the Divine. It is believed that these Siddhars visit the Temple on the top of Parvathamalai at midnight to worship the presiding deities there. Though no one can or have seen them in physical bodies, Villagers around ‘Parvathamalai’ down below say that they can clearly hear the sound of ringing bells, blowing conch and beating drums exactly at midnight when pujas are performed by siddhars. Devas and spiritual beings from other lokas are also believed to worship on the Hill every night. 

"Siddhars have spoken volumes about Pancha Nathana Nataraja. They say that this deity is such a rarity in the Universe that even the Devas would give anything just for the chance of worshipping him. They say that on the Nataraja Abisheka days which occur in certain Tamil months (Chitra, Aani, Aavani, Purattaasi, Margazhi and Maasi), the Devas perform their worship to this deity in subtle form. This kind of worship is similar to the sookshma worship done by the Devas at the peak of the Arunachala Hill and on the Parvathamalai Hill." 

Sri Brahmaraambika

It is reported by visitors that at night many paranormal activities occur on Parvathamalai. That it is possible to experience both Jyoti Darsanam at night and also to imbibe an almost other-worldly intoxicating scent of flowers. The Goddess idol at the Temple has a dazzling smile and Divine light can often be seen on her face and cheeks. When the devotee walks away from Goddess Brahmarambika in the sanctum sanctorum, the size of the deity instead of diminishing, appears to increase in size and it seems as if the Goddess steps forward and approaches the devotee. 

View from Parvathamalai of Javadhi Hills

This place is filled with stories of miracles witnessed in one form or another. Devotees often report seeing images of both the snake and trishulam when lighting camphor in front of Lord Shiva. Some devotees have seen a nine foot King Cobra visiting the Sanctum Sanctorum for the worship and others have sight of three eagles circling the top of Parvathamalai. 

View of Arunachala from summit of Parvathamalai

For information and photographs about ascending Parvathamalai go to this link here 

8 October 2014

October 2014 Poornima, Arunachala

If you want an easy wait-free darshan at Arunachaleswarar Temple best to avoid visiting Arunachala during Poornima as the number of pilgrims visiting Tiruvannamalai is noticeably increasing in size month after month. The line, in the photographs, extends out of the Sannidhi to crowd barriers in the outlying courtyard.

Waiting in line for darshan of Lord Annamalaiyar, Big Temple

Pilgrims performing girivalam around the 14 km perimeter of Arunachala arrive during the 24 hour poornima period. In this photograph taken near the Sri Seshadri Ashram and the opposite Kali Temple, the crowds are only just beginning to build up. 

Pilgrims taking darshan at Lord Dakshinamurti Shrine on Chengham Road

October Pradosham Arunachaleswarar Temple

Below are photographs of Pradosham at Arunachaleswarar Temple on Monday October 6, 2014. 

6 October 2014

2014 Karthigai Deepam Panthakal

The below photographs are of the Panthakal Function which was performed this morning (Monday October 6th, 2014) at Arunachaleswarar Temple to mark the official beginning of the rituals and ceremonies preceding the Karthigai Festival (Mahadeepam is Friday, December 5th, 2014). 

As well as blessing the front of the Temple, outside the Raja Gopuram, the priests also blessed the newly renovated Maharadham chariot and other vehicles which will be used during processions in the upcoming 2014 Karthigai Deepam Festival. 

4 October 2014

2014 Panthakal Invitation, Arunachaleswarar Temple

Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar Temple, Tiruvannamalai. 

At Tiruvanamalai in the form of Agni and among the panchabhuta sthalams with the blessings of Arulmigu Annamalaiyar and Unnamulai 

from Sunday 23rd November 2014 to Tuesday 9th December 2014 

Thirukarthigai Deepam Festival is going to celebrated. 

Right Click to enlarge

In connection with this on Monday 6th October, 2014 in the morning between 5.30 a.m. and 6.45 a.m. during the kaniyar lagnam, Panthakal Muhurtham is going to be conducted. 

At that time at the Arulmigu Samanthar Vinayakar Sannadhi, a special abhiskekam and aradhana will be performed as marking the start of the Festival. 

All are invited. 

30 September 2014

Sing to the Mountain

This video entitled, "Sing to the Mountain" makes me recall a famous saying of an Aboriginal elder at Uluru about the green ant ceremony. I am trying to find an audio of at least part of the actual green ant ceremony (which is referred to in this post). 

An observer of the green ant ceremony at Uluru writes: 

"The metallic humming of dijeridoos and the click-clack clapping of clap-sticks infuse the air with the trance of the aboriginal dream-time. Everyone here is busy learning their place. The whites are learning the ways of the aborigine. The aboriginals are learning the law of the mountain. The mountain is absorbing the interstellar beam of galactic information now arriving direct from the galaxy’s core at twenty-seven degrees Sagittarius." 

"This is the working of the ceremony to save the green ants, the aboriginal people and the dreamtime that holds the world together. The white people are too young to know this and too old to understand. Yet, you must listen to these words now and hear with your hearts, the singing of the mountain. 

The mountain sings. It sings like it has never sung before; it is singing now for you, for us, for every living creature on this beautiful Earth. The mountain sings its first and last song. The music comes from far, far away yet; it is inside you, inside the mountain, inside the trees, inside the rising sun, inside the stars, inside the little pebbles in the river, inside the kangaroo, inside the green ants, inside your mother, inside your father; the song is singing by itself inside every living thing. Now, the mountain sings to keep the world alive. When you hear the song inside your hearts, sing back to the mountain. Sing back to the mountain ... sing back to the mountain." 

[Invocation of a Chief Uluru Aboriginal Elder] 

2014 Navratri at Ramana Ashram

Every year Ramana Ashram celebrates the Navratri Festival with its beautiful types of alangarams of the Goddess. The photographs on this posting are of Sesha Sayanam on the sixth day of the Navratri Festival as celebrated at Ramana Ashram. A video of the puja was posted at this link here.

Devotees watching the puja inside the Shrine at Ramana Ashram

Each evening between 6.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. (IST) a live webcast of the Navaratri Celebrations as observed at Ramana Ashram are being posted at this link here. Such live video coverage of the Festival will continue until Vijayadasami on October 3rd, 2014.

Young boys studying at the Ashram Veda Patasala

To view earlier photographs of the Festival as celebrated at Ramana Ashram, you can visit their official website at this link here.

Sesha Sayanam, 6th Day of Navratri Festival

29 September 2014

Reunion Beat X Band, IIT Madras

Most of those who regularly visit Tiruvannamalai and Ramana Nagar will probably have met J Jayaraman, the Librarian of the Ramana Ashram Library who is in addition to other things, also a writer, editor, musician and authority on many spiritual topics. 

Ramana Ashram Library

J Jayaraman who plays a number of musical instruments has participated in several musical evenings here at Tiruvannamalai at such venues as Ramana Ashram and Arunai Anantha Hotel. 

On September 21, 2014, the Reunion Beat X Band (of which he is a member) starred as the main attraction at the “Mardi Gras 2014” function at the Open Air Theatre, IIT Madras. To find out more about the history of the Reunion Beat X Band, go to this link here

J Jayaraman

Below is a You Tube video of one of the songs played in the evening, entitled A Taste of Honey (a Herb Alpert version). 

J Jayaraman is on the drums at the back right of the video. 

Alangarams Shakti Temples 2014 Navratri

Each year Navratri commences on the first day (pratipada) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Ashvin. The Navratri festival or 'nine day festival' becomes a 'ten days festival' with the addition of the last day, Vijaya-dasami (day of victory) as its culmination. The 2014 Navratri started on Wednesday, September 24th and will complete on Friday, October 3rd, 2014. To view the schedule of this 2014 Festival at Arunachaleswarar Temple please go to this link here

The origin of Navratri came about when Adi Shankaracharya gave upadesa at two primary locations during the installation of a Sri Chakra at Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh) and at Koolurmugambika (Karnataka). At the time of the installations he directed women folk to worship the Goddess and seek her blessings for wealth, prosperity and long life for their husbands and overall happiness in the family. 

This Festival is celebrated in a wide variety of ways, depending on region, local history and family influences. Some see it as a way to commune with one’s own feminine divinity. A widespread practice honours the Goddess in every woman by inviting young girls to the family's home, feeding them and offering new clothes. During the Festival, women also perform tapas and selfless acts. 

Families in Tamil Nadu traditionally prepare in their homes a kolu, an exhibition of small dolls, figurines and small artifacts on a stepped, decorated shelf. At least one murti of Shakti must be present, as well as wooden figurines of a boy and a girl together to invoke auspicious marriages. To view the 2014 Navaratri Kolu Display at Yogi Ramsuratkumar please visit an earlier posting at this link here

In South India the Goddess is worshipped in three forms. During the first three nights, Durga is revered, then Lakshmi on the fourth, fifth and sixth nights, and finally Saraswati until the ninth night. Durga ("invincible" in Sanskrit) is the epitome of strength, courage and ferocity. Her devotees approach Her, sometimes with difficult penances, for those qualities and for the protection she Bestows. 

A more gentle worship is observed for Lakshmi also called Annapurna "Giver of food," Lakshmi is the Goddess of abundance, wealth and comfort. She is the ever-giving mother, worshipped for well being and prosperity. A traditional way of invoking Her is chanting the Sri Suktam. In Her honour, food is prepared and offered to neighbours and all who visit, thus strengthening community ties. On the full moon night following Navratri, it is believed Lakshmi Herself visits each home and replenishes family wealth. 

The last three days of Navratri, exalt Saraswati, the form of Shakti personifying wisdom, arts and beauty. Her name literally means "flowing one", a reference to thoughts, words, music and the Saraswati River. Mystically Saraswati is believed to be the keeper of the powerful Gayatri Mantra, which is chanted during the festival to invoke Her supreme blessings. Devotees meditate for days on this mantra alone, as it is considered the door to divine wisdom. 

Tiruvannamalai has many beautiful Temples dedicated to the Divine Mother and the photographs of this posting are of alangarams of the Shakti Goddess from the 2nd and 3rd days of Navratri of: Unnamulai at Arunachaleswarar Temple, Durga Amman Temple, Thavasu Adi Kamakshi Temple and Kamakshi Amman Temple. 

Goddess at Arunachaleswarar Temple

Goddess on Kamadhenu at Durga Amman Temple

Thavasu Adi Kamakshi Temple

Goddess at Kamakshi Amman Temple

27 September 2014

2014 Navaratri Kolu Display at Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram

I made a very nice posting during the 2013 Navaratri Function of the significance of Kolu (Tamil=Golu: means “Divine Presence”) displays during the Navaratri Festival, see this link here. In this respect at that time, I visited the house of a Priest family of the Arunachaleswarar Temple to view their Kolu display and it was those photographs that I posted in the above link. 

This year I am posting photographs of the very elaborate, beautiful Kolu display at the ashram of Yogi Ramsuratkumar. If you are hereabouts, do visit the Kolu display, its really quite lovely. So much time and attention has been spent in creating beautiful displays of legends and leelas of Gods and Goddesses. 

Kolu figurines can be simple or very complicated and based upon Gods and Saints, depictions of the Epics and Puranas (i.e. Mahabharata, Ramayana, Krishna Leelas etc.), Demigods and National leaders, marriage occasions, musical instruments, shops, current affairs and scenes from everyday life; such as shops, bus stop, cars, street scenes etc. 

Historically Kolu had a significant connection with the agricultural economy of Ancient India. In order to encourage de-silting of irrigation canals the Kolu celebration was aimed at providing demand for clay that was needed for the celebratory dolls. It is believed that the tradition of Kolu has been in existence from the reign of the Vijayanagara kings. 

There are several sections at the Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram within the Kolu displays depicting the abodes, live and legends of various Gods and Goddesses. 

One section is of Lord Shiva and has beautiful models with figurines of our own Arunachala, the Amaranath snow lingam and dancing Lord Shiva at Kailash. 

Arunachala Hill with beautiful details

Amaranath Snow Lingam

Mount Kailash and Dancing Shiva

Another section is of the Ramayana with models depicting various parts of the legend. 

Section on the Ramayana

Section shows some of the tales and stories of Rama and Sita

There is a very special section dedicated to the 6 abodes of Lord Murugan. 

Those six abodes are: 

Thirupparamkunram: Located on the outskirts of Madurai on a hillock where Kartikeya married Indra's daughter Deivanai. 

Tiruchendur: Located on the sea-shore near Tuticorin. The Temple commemorates the place where Murugan worshiped Lord Siva and won a decisive victory over demon Soorapadman. 

Palani: Located south east of Coimbatore, the Temple is build on a hill top where Murugan resided after his feud with his family over a divine fruit. 

Swamimalai: Located at 5 km from Kumbakonam, the Temple is built on an artificial hill and . commemorates the incident where Lord Murugan explained the essence of "Om" to his father Lord Siva. 

Thiruthani: Located near Chennai, Murugan reclaimed his inner peace after waging a war with Asuras and married Valli here. 

Pazhamudircholai: Located on the outskirts of Madurai on a hillock with a holy stream nearby called "Nupura Gangai". 

Section dedicated to Lord Murugan

The person assigned to the Lord Krishna section has done an amazing work in depicting various leelas from the legends surrounding Lord Krishna. 

Section full of Krishna leelas and legends

With two nice butter BalaKrishnas

Another section is of the Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram. 

Beautiful wooden model of the Ashram Hall

Yogi Samisthan

Road back of Yogi Samisthan
First night of Kolu Display
[Photographs by Hari Prasad]

All these photographs were taken on the first night of the 2014 Navaratri Kolu Display at Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram. Each year this ashram surpasses itself with its beautiful displays. Truly a work of love dedicated to their guru. 


Traditionally in the evening of the conclusion of Navaratri i.e. Vijayadasami (the day of Victory) the dolls from the ‘Kolu’ are symbolically put to sleep by laying them horizontally and Kalash (a small pot made up of silver or brass containing rice, sticks of turmeric, toor dal and a rupee coin—with coconut and mango leaves at the mouth of the pot) is moved towards the direction of the North to mark the end of that year’s Kolu Festival.