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Archive for October, 2008

It is well known that Lord Krishna herded his cows on the banks of Yamuna in the days of yore. Once when he was with his friends in the meadows herding cows, Krishna felt thirsty. He went to the river for a drink of water and his friends followed him.

Brahma the Creator, was watching this and wanted to play a prank on Krishna. With his powers he took away all the cows to a place called Therazhundur. He later came back to the banks of the Yamuna and sat with a forlorn face.

After drinking water Krishna and his friends returned to see their cows missing. Krishna’s friends were alarmed and began looking for the missing cows. Meanwhile, Krishna in his mind’s eye found out what had happened to the missing cows and magically made them appear. His friends were happy. Brahma seeing the new set of cows understood that Krishna had found out about his prank and immediately went and told Krishna about what he had done and where the cows were. He also requested Krishna to remain in Therazhundur and bless the people there.

Krishna agreed and arrived in Therazhundur and is known by the name Aamaruviappan here. “Aa” meaning cow, “Maruvi” meaning embracing. Since Krishna is believed to have embraced all the missing cows in this place he began known by this name according to legend.

Once  in this kingdom ruled the king Uparishravasu. He was very arrogant. He had received a boon that wherever he goes, his shadow will fall upon people and they will die. He also had the powers to fly when sitting on his chariot.

So once after Krishna arrived in Therazhundur, he was outside with his cows. At that moment King Uparishravasu’s chariot passed by and his shadow fell on the cows. All the cows fell dead. Krishna found out the reason behind the deaths of the cows and wanted to teach the king a  lesson. He followed the chariot and at one point pressed the shadow of the chariot’s wheel with his right foot . The chariot fell down to the earth and along with it the king.

The king not knowing the reason behind his fall, saw Krishna, who was dressed like a cowherd. Krishna told the king that there was only one way to get rid of his sin of killing the cows. The King reluctantly agreed to do Krishna’s bidding for fear of his sins. Krishna smiled and said that he wanted thousand pots of butter after which the king will be free of his sins.

The king was delighted at being let off lightly. He sent his minions everywhere to collect thousand pots of butter. His minions too did his bidding and all the pots were collected. Alas! when the king counted the pots there was butter only in nine hundred and ninety nine pots. One pot was empty and the king tried to fill it up to no avail. So the king decided to cheat. He hid the empty pot in the midst of all the pots filled with butter. Then he called Krishna telling him that he had thousand pots of butter ready.

Krishna looked at all the pots and in a jiffy they were all empty. He then told the king, “where is the butter, they are all empty pots.” The king realized his folly and fell at Krishna’s feet asking for forgiveness and that he should remain in his kingdom. Krishna agreed and it is also said that the king built a temple for Aamaruviappan.

Therazhundur is 12 kms west of Mayiladuthurai and 26 kms east of Kumbakonam. Therazhundur has another significance. It was the place where Kambar was born. (Kambar wrote the Kamba Ramayana)

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I wish all my readers a very happy and safe Diwali.

Once during the Kritha yuga, there was a sage who was blessed with a son. As soon as the son was born his wife died. He raised his son on his own without remarrying. The sage taught all that he knew of the vedas adn educated him well. The son had deep regard for his father and took good care of him in his old age.

Time passed and the sage one day attained the lotus feet of the lord. The son was devastated at his loss and was also angry with Yama the God of death and wanted to destroy him. To this end he began to meditate on the lord seeking help in destroying Yama. Surya, the sun god was scared that his son Yama would come to harm because of this boy’s penance. He appeared before the boy and told him that every human being had to die one day and this was inevitably everyone’s fate.

The boy was not convinced with Surya’s explanation and began to say a curse on both Surya and Yama. At that moment some heavenly nymphs arrived on the scene and told him not to get angry. But his anger didn’t dissipate. Finally they told him that they would bring his father in front of him once. At this the boy calmed down and was pacified. The nymphs then brought back the sage from his ancestral world in front of his son. The boy was thrilled and prostrated before his father. His father then explained to him about how it was not possible for a dead person to come back to the earth once again.

The boy in turn told his father “when you were alive I have not offered you food nor have bothered to ask if you were hungry. Will you have something to eat now?”

The sage took permission from the nymphs and partook the fruits offered by his son. The nymphs then told him that Diwali day his father would appear in his ancestral form to his door and partake of his offerings and bless him. The boy was pacified and thanked the nymphs for their help. On the day of Diwali when you propitiate your ancestors they will shower you with their blessings.

It is widely believed that during diwali puja the spirits of ancestors visit their homes to bless their kin.

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Once upon a time there was a hermit by the name Ananda. He was a devout Saivite. Being a person of yogic abilities, he would go to any shrine of Shiva of his choice flying through the sky. Daily he used to go to Rameswaram by air to take a bath in the sea and then go to Chidambaram from there again by air. From Chidambaram, he used to go to Mahendramalai for meditation. This had become his daily routine. By night he would return to his village of Anandathandavapuram. This was going on for quite some time.  

One cold morning Lord Shiva decided to test his devotee. It was Thiruvathirai, an auspicious day for Shiva puja and all the Shiva temples wore a festive look. Ananda was about to leave for his daily routine when the skies poured out. Rain started lashing and it didn’t stop and the hermit couldn’t use his yogic abilities too on this day. The rain didn’t stop even at night and Ananda couldn’t have a glimpse of his Lord the whole day. He was very angry too with nature for having spoilt his day. Immediately, he decided to end his life as he couldn’t have darshan of the Lord that day. As he was about to kill himself, Shiva and his consort appeared before him and also danced for him, the ananda thandavam (Happy Dance). Since Shiva danced in this village, it got is present name of Anandathandavapuram, a.k.a Anathandapuram.

This village is 5km west of Mayiladuthurai on the Northern banks of the Cauvery.

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These are beautiful blooms from my wild garden back home. 

I am back after ten-day nostalgic and fulfilling trip to my hometown. Nostalgic because my folks have decided to sell our house and move to another place. Fulfilling because I visited a temple in a nearby town and came back with a story for my blog. This temple known as Masaniamman Temple in the outskirts of Pollachi has a unique feature. The Goddess Shakti in this temple is not standing upright like other goddesses in temples. She lies supine, hands stretched upwards, eyes staring towards the heavens. The locals staunchly believe in the powers of this goddess and one day is not enough to listen to all of them.

A friend of mine who is a frequent visitor to this temple told me several stories related to this temple and I have since been overawed by the temple and its lush green surroundings. Nestled among endless rows of coconut palms and areca nut trees, the temple, locals say is frequented by women pilgrims who have gynaecological problems.  Another unique feature of this temple is that the deity helps beget lost property and relieving one from voodoo related problems. One of the problems which my friend related to me was about a bag of money which her relative had locked in his room. The next morning when they went into the room, they could not find the bag. So they asked a soothsayer, who in turn told them it was done by a relative and for immediate results they should visit this temple and grind red chillies in the sanctum of the goddess. They rushed to the temple to do the bidding of the soothsayer. In the next day or two the relative who had taken the money couldn’t move his right leg and soon his right hand too was paralayzed and it was then that he confessed to taking the bag of money.

I could never believe this story, but I witnessed the huge mortar where people were lining up to grind their chillies.

Here is the picture of the Goddess. Photographs were not allowed, so picture is taken from a photograph I got at the temple.

Now read on about the deity in this temple.

Once the sage Vishwamitra, went to a hilly terrain known as Kadaganachi malai and meditated upon lord Shiva. There was a demoness named Tataka in the forests of Kadaganachi malai and Vishwamitra was sure that she would try to disturb his penance. Tataka had the evil powers possessed by Ravana and she used it for all her evil deeds. So Vishwamitra decided to take the help of Rama and Lakshmana to fight the demoness.

Rama and Lakshmana agreed to protect the sage and came to live in the forests till his penance was over. Both of them wanted the blessings of Goddess Shakti to defeat the demoness. Shakti too tells them how to fight the demoness. The brothers then make an idol of the Goddess Shakti in clay and propitiated her. Shakti tells them that after defeating Tataka, they should also destroy the clay idol they made of Shakti. However, Rama forgets to destroy the idol. Later, when he remembered, He said that the statue would be his representative and guard the village. It is believed that this Goddess is Masaniamman and that she also has the power to punish evil doers.

According to another legend, there was a couple (names unknown) in the beautiful village of Anaimalai. Once when the wife was pregnant, she refused to go to her mother’s house as was the practice in those days and didn’t want to leave her husband. One day when she felt that she would deliver the child, the couple decided to go to the next village where a popular midwife lived, so that they could have her assistance with the delivery. The path to the next village was through a dense jungle and it was getting dark. The lady told her husband to go and find the midwife as she couldn’t walk anymore. Reluctantly, he left and reached the midwife’s door.

On seeing him the midwife was shocked and told him she had had a bad dream about a pregnant lady that morning and immediately left with him to the spot where he had left his wife. There they had the shock of their lives. The lady had delivered a baby and both mother and baby had been murdered in a gruesome manner. The husband in his grief asked the midwife in what way was her dream related to this murder of his wife.

The midwife then related her dream of the morning. When the husband left his wife, a big dark form stalks her. Seeing the form the lady screams in fright and tells it to go away. But the figure stalks her and she began running. While running she slips over some cow dung and falls down. The figure then stooped to hold her hand. At that moment she screams at him to leave her alone and he is struck by lightning by some force. The figure becomes blind and runs away.

Hearing this story from the midwife, the husband breaks down in tears. The midwife then reassured him that the mother and child were an incarnation of Shakti and that the incident was also God’s way to free the sins of Kamadenu, the divine cow.

The people of the village who had gathered to listen to this story were surprised. How can a cow dung be freed from sin. How can that be possible?

The midwife began her tale of the cow dung. When the devas and asuras were churning the ocean for nectar, Kamadenu, Kalpakavriksha and Iravat the white elephant, were among the things obtained. The devas took the above three. Jealous of the devas, the asuras decided to kidnap Kamadenu. Kamadenu prayed to Shiva and Parvati for protection. Parvati and Shiva gave Kamadenu protection and housed it in a garden.

Meanwhile, the Devas were searching for Kamadenu and went to Shiva and Parvati and asked them to help find the cow. Parvati told Kamadenu that the Devas had come looking for her. In a moment of fear, Kamadenu dropped some dung in front of Parvati and hung its head in shame. Smiling at the shamefaced cow, Parvati said that the incident was a precursor to her incarnation on earth and that the cow need not be worried. She also said that cow will be worshipped by all and that her dung would be considered a symbol of purity by mankind. Kamadenu was relieved of her fear and left happily. She also told the devas to look after Kamadenu and that was this garden, finished the midwife. That the lady had slipped on the cow dung was an indication that Shakti had incarnated in the form of the lady, she added. Since Shakti herself came into contact with the dung, Kamadnu was freed from sin. (This is the only explanation I could figure.:) 

(Not a very convincing explanation, but the book on the temple has put it this way. So one can draw their own conclusions)

That is the story of the village goddess Masaniamman.

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It is well known that during the war between Ram and Ravan, the monkeys helped in building a stone bridge over the sea upto Lanka. Well! what is not well known is the work of two monkeys Nalan and Neelan. They were the ones who threw the stones in the water and made it float.

According to Legend, when the monkeys were doing there job, Lakshmana who came there asked Rama why only the two monkeys Nalan and Neelan were entrusted to throw the stones and not the others. Rama told Lakshmana to hear the story behind this from Hanuman. So Lakshmana goes to Hanuman who reveals the says that whatever is thrown into the water by these two monkeys will float. Surprised, Lakshmana asks how these two got such a boon and from whom. Hanuman says it was not a boon but a curse and retells the following story.

Once there was a hermit by name Sudekshana. He regularly did puja using ‘Salagramam’ (shiny pebbles from the river bed, which is used to pray to Shiva) and he kept them in a box. One day after a bath in the river, he came looking for these but the box was empty. He searched everywhere but could not find them. Meanwhile, he looked inside his water pot and found that it was empty, so he went to fetch water. There lying in a small puddle of water were the stones. He thanked the almighty for showing him the stones and resumed his ritual.

After a few days when he was getting ready for his morning rituals, he heard a noise of pots and pans rolling inside his house. He rushed inside to find Nalan and Neelan playing with his stones and the box lying open in front of them. As soon as they saw him they ran out with the stones and threw them in the water. The hermit searched for the stones in the water and got them out.

The monkeys continued this way and the hermit thought that he should do something about it. But he couldn’t punish these monkeys who didn’t know what they were doing. So when the next time they were running with the stones, he called out a curse to them saying “Whatever you throw into the water will not drown but float.”

Nalan and Neelan were the ones who were cursed by Sudekshana, so we are taking there help, concluded Hanuman. So according to the advice of Hanuman the rest of the monkeys brought rocks to the two monkeys waiting at the waterfront. Nalan and Neelan then threw the stones into the water by which the bridge was built.

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