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Archive for April, 2008

The Worldly wise

Once there was a king, who thought that senior citizens were unfit to be in his kingdom. So he asked them to go out of his kingdom and find other places to live. The aged citizens were worried and helpless and most of them left the kingdom.

Once it so happened that the kingdom was threatened by floods. The king announced that he would give a big reward to the one who could present a solution to the problem. A lad from the nearby city came to meet the king and said he had a solution. The king liked the solution and he put it to practice. The people of the kingdom were saved due to the timely solution provided by the boy and the king rewarded him.

A few months later, a contagious disease began spreading in the kingdom. Again the lad came to the gates of the palace and asked to meet the king. The king heard the boy’s idea and it worked again.

Next day the king called the lad to his palace and asked him how at such a young age, he could think of solutions to big problems. The boy said “Oh king, you banished all the senior citizens who were more brilliant than me. I didn’t want to send my dad away, so I hid him in the attic of my house. The ideas I gave were my father’s and not mine.

Though the old people may be unable to do hard work, they have a lot of experience and worldly knowledge, from which we can learn.”

The king repented his act and invited all the aged people back into his kingdom.

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“Kukke” Subrahmanya

During the puranic age, Lord Subrahmanya or Muruga as he is popularly known is said to have killed an asura named Tarakasur, Surapadma and Padmasura. After vanquishing them, he cleaned his weapons in the river nearby. The river came to be known as Kumaradhara from then.

Happy that he had vanquished the asuras, the people of the place crowned him their leader and requested him to remain with them. It was at this time, king Devendra asked Subrahmanya to marry his daughter Devasena. Happy that he had agreed the King built a city on the banks of the river and named it Swami Karthika. The wedding also took place in a grand manner.

Meanwhile, the king of snakes Vasuki had a major fight with Garuda,the eagle, who was a guardian of the birds. To save himself from Garuda, Vasuki prayed to Lord Shiva. Shiva advised him to become one with lord Subrahmanya and help the people who come to worship the Lord. Vasuki agreed and from then, the place came to be known as Subrahmanya.

On the foothills of the Kumara Parvat there was a small village. There was a major fire once in the hills of Kumara Parvat and some snakes were about to be destroyed in it. The tribals living in the area saved the snakes, put them in a basket and left it in the temple of Subrahmanya. The snakes were saved, but the basket in which they were left turned into a shiva linga. ‘Kukke’ means basket in Kannada, the language of Karnataka. The deity became known as ‘kukke lingathevar’ and the village got its name ‘kukke.’ Another specialty of this temple is tribals are given an upper hand in the puja and other festivities in the temple.

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Mandaikadu is a small sleepy seaside town in the South Cape Camorin. The deity in the temple here is Bhagavathy, who is believed to cure all the ailments which women suffer. She is also believed to rule the nine planets or the Navagrahas in one’s astrological chart.

According to legend, over a 1000 years ago, a hermit installed a Sri Chakra (since many of us may not know what it is or what it signifies, I would hereafter refer to it as an idol.) As is the wont of most hermits of yesteryears, he wanted to move to other places, so he decided to move the idol. After having decided on a place, he began meditating at the place where he had been doing puja.

Suddenly, he had a vision of goddess Bhagavathy. She told him that she wished to reside in the place where he had been doing puja. She also said “I bid you to sit beside me inside the earth and guard this place which is inside dense forests.” Immediately, the hermit buried the idol and he himself attained Samadhi next to where he buried the idol.

The place where he buried the idol began growing steadily like a small sand hill.

Some time later, a few boys who were playing with a palm fruit dropped it inadvertently on the hill. Immediately blood began to ooze from the hill. (I will refer to this place as a temple from now on) Scared by this turn of events the children ran to bring the elders to the spot.

The elders believed that this was Bhagavathy who was guarding the area and began lighting a lamp daily at the temple. Soon one day there was an incident. A few people were entering the village at midnight. Knocking at the doors of the villagers, they asked them to provide them some food as they were very hungry. The villagers however, were not very hospitable and directed them to the temple nearby to find their own food.

Dusk was fast approaching and the village was on the fringes of a dense jungle on the coast. So the people were scared. Still they went to the temple and said “Mother please give us some food.” Miraculously they heard a voice that said “go take a bath and return, you will get food.” They dutifully did what they were told and Bhagavathy is said to have fed them herself. After a sumptuous meal they slept in the temple premises. The next morning when they woke up they had a vision of the goddess smiling benevolently at them.

Immediately, they left several valuables they had brought with them in a sack and left.

Meanwhile the King of Travancore had a vision of Bhagavathy in his dream. She told him to build a temple for her with the money left by the travelers. Next day the king visited the place which had appeared in his dreams and fulfilled the wishes of the goddess.

However as he began construction of the temple, the sand hill continued growing in size. They had demolish the temple twice because of its gaining height. So the king implored the goddess not to grow in height. But the goddess said that it would not be possible. However, she said that she would grow only the size of a grain each year. It is believed that to this day the sand hill is growing in height each year.

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There is another version of the earlier story. I again read this in a magazine, which had given this version and took the liberty of translating it. I do not know if the previous story and this one are connected. Anyway appreciating the imagination of our yester year authors, i thought this twist to the story too was interesting. So read on.

This story is set in a small town called Thiruvanaikaval many eons ago. There was an elephant that lived in the forests near the river Kaveri. While wandering in the forests, it stumbled upon a Shiva linga at the base of a tree. Considering it a good omen and that it was a directive from the Lord himself, the elephant began praying to Him. He would bring water from the Kaveri and pour it over the linga. Then it would do puja and leave. This became a daily ritual for the elephant.

One day a spider came to reside in the tree.

Chancing upon the shiva linga, the spider too thought it was the Lord himself who had sent him to reside in that spot where his linga was situated. Finding bird droppings and dried leaves on the linga, it went on to spin a web above it, to act as a shade from these elements.

The next day when the elephant came to do puja, it saw the web and destroyed it and continued with its ritual. When the spider saw that his web had been destroyed, it lay in wait to find out who the culprit was. It found the elephant destroying his web the next day and entered its trunk and bit the elephant. The elephant fell down dead. Now the spider didn’t know the way to get out of the elephant’s trunk and the spider too died.

The Lord appeared before them and absolving them of their sins, sent the elephant to Indra’s court in heaven ,to be the chief of elephants in his stable. He gave the spider a human form and made him the king of the Pandya kingdom. The king later built a now famous temple in Tiruvanaikaval.

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Sri Kalahasti

This is a small temple town about an hour’s drive from Tirupati the famous pilgrim town of Andhra Pradesh, India.

Kalahasti is a temple where the deity is Shiva. It is said that a spider, snake and elephant were absolved off their sins due to their ardent devotion and service to Shiva.

According to legend Vishwakarma the divine sculptor had a son named Oornanabha. Like his father, he too excelled in sculpture and boasted time and again about his extraordinary talents in sculpting and said that he could compete with the omnipotent Brahma.

Angered, Brahma curses Oornanabha to turn into a spider and sends him to the forests, saying that he would be absolved from sins if he prayed to the Shiva linga in the forest. The spider lived in the tree below which the linga was situated and dutifully spins a web over it to prevent bird droppings and dried leaves from falling on it.

One day the glow from the lamp which was lit to propitiate the linga rose and threatened to burn the web which the spider had spun. In order to save its web from being destroyed, the spider fell on the flame. It was duly caught by Lord Shiva himself who then absolved the spider of its sins and sent him back to where he had come from.

At one time Shiva was looking for his snake which he wore around his neck. But the snake had gone to look for his mate. Angered by this Shiva cursed the snake and sent it to the earth for penance to regain his place on his lord’s neck.

Meanwhile, when Shiva was alone with his consort Parvati, his minion entered the lord’s domain without permission. Angered by this Parvati turns him into an elephant and sends him to the same forest, the snake and the spider were sent earlier to do penance.

The snake would spread all the items needed to propitiate Shiva in a disorganized way. The elephant which would arrive there a little later would clean the place and pour water over the Shiva linga. This went on for quite sometime and both the snake and the elephant without seeing each other nursed a hate for the other. One day, the snake hid in the bushes and waited to find out who was competing with his devotion to the lord. Without knowing his fate, the elephant began cleaning the mess near the Shiva linga, when he was attacked by the snake. The snake entered the trunk of the elephant and poked into his head. Unable to bear the discomfort, the elephant banged his head on a nearby rock. As the elephant banged his head several times, the snake also met its fate

and died. Pleased with their devotion to him Shiva appears and absolves them of their sins.

Since the three attained the lord’s feet at the same place, the temple came to be known as Seekalahasti, ‘see’ means spider, ‘kala’ means snake and ‘hasti’ means elephant. However, most people refer to the temple as Sri Kalahasti.

Another interesting tidbit about this temple is that this beautiful temple in Andhra Pradesh is so popular with people who have problems in their astrological charts. They visit the temple in the belief that pujas for rahu and ketu in their charts could change their lives.

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