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Archive for March, 2009

Surdas

Once in the court of Akbar when all his ministers were present, the emperor called them to attention. “I would like to appoint a King’s representative to places like Mathura, Gokul and Brindavan. I would like to appoint Surdas for this post. What is your opinion on this?” he asked. All the ministers unanimously said that Surdas was the right person for the job.
Surdas was also happy that the King had chosen him and said that he would do his job in earnest. Soon he left for Mathura where he spent his time singing praises of Lord Krishna and the people and the places flourished under his guidance. However, he began donating money generously to the needy and his coffers began to dwindle.
Soon it was time for Janmashtami, the time to celebrate Krishna’s birthday. But there was no money for this and his cashier came and reminded him about that. He was in a dilemma as to how he would be able to celebrate the function on that day. He however told his cashier that Krishna will take care of this. At that time two men arrived with tax money to be paid to Emperor Akbar and told Surdas to send it across to the King. After they left, Surdas told the cashier to use the tax money and that they would explain the situation to the King at a later date.
The news reached Akbar that Surdas had used the tax money to celebrate Janmashtami and the King was livid. He sent his men to get the money from Surdas. Two of the king’s representatives were sent to Surdas. Seeing them Surdas told them to wait and went to his backyard. Here he took a big box and filled it with pebbles. Then he wrote a note to Akbar saying that he was willing to be punished after the festivities of Janmashtami were over and that he was sending some stones in the box just to delay his arrest and send the men who had come to take him away.
Meanwhile, after filling the box and writing the note, he told the waiting men that he had converted the money into gem stones as they would be safer that way and that they should take the box to the king and give him the note. The men went and relayed the information to Akbar. After reading the note Akbar was angry that Surdas had the cheek to send stones in the box and asked the men to open it. When the box was opened everyone around was surprised that the box was filled with gem stones of several kinds.
Impressed with Surdas’ devotion to Lord Krishna, Akbar returned the box with the gemstones to Surdas to serve his Lord and let him serve as his representative in the three cities.

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Vakrakali

I love discovering hamlets. They have a distinct character. The local villagers are friendly and innocent, smile easily helpful… etc. On a recent visit to Pondicherry, I was coaxed into visiting one such hamlet by a relative, who waxed eloquent about some fossil which haven’t been given enough importance by the government. I was initially reluctant to visit this village as I already had plans to visit Auroville. Somehow, the day being Shivaratri, I guess the Lord lured me into meeting Him ūüôā

So we were on our way to the sleepy little Tiruvakkarai, tucked away in the back of beyond near the Tindivanam highway. Driving on dusty roads we arrived at the temple of Chandramouleeswara. The temple is in the process of being renovated and so we walked barefoot on the hot sandy makeshift way through columns of fences to reach the first shrine of the temple: Vakrakali. 

Vakrakaliamman

¬†Vakrakali stands in monolithic splendor after killing the demon Vakrasura. Surprisingly ¬†the ¬†idol doesn’t ¬†depict a ferocious Kali. Now, for the ¬† legend behind this temple.¬†¬†Once there was ¬†a demon called Vakrasura, who was great saivite. He meditated upon Shiva with a linga ¬†embedded inside his throat. Pleased with his penance Shiva appeared before him and asked ¬†him what he wanted. Like most demons, he wanted to be immortal and Shiva granted him ¬†immortality.

 Like every other immortal demon Vakrasura harassed humanity and the devas. The devas ran  to Shiva asking him to save them. Shiva on the other hand went to Vishnu and asked him to  vanquish the demon. Vishnu used his Chakra to kill the demon and vanquished him.

¬†Meanwhile, Durmukhi, the sister of Vakrasura began harassing people after her brother’s ¬†death. Shiva sent his wife Parvati to tackle Durmukhi. Parvati agreed to vanquish Durmukhi. ¬†But Durmukhi was pregnant at that time. According to Sastras, a pregnant woman cannot be killed. So Parvati tore open the stomach of the demoness and took the baby and hung it in her ear. She then killed the demoness. Since she killed Vakrasura’s sister taking the form of Kali, she remained there as Vakrakaliamman, according to legend.

There is a story behind the Dwarapalikas (like security guards) to Kali in this temple. Once there were four ladies who were from the families of cowherds in the region. They sold milk and curd for their living. But they cheated people by diluting the milk and curds. The king heard about these women and ordered that their heads be shaved and beheaded. On the day they were to be killed, the women were being paraded to the altar, when the four women realizing their folly prayed to Vakrakali. The Goddess appeared before them and pardoned them. She also made them her Dwarapalikas.

The temple has a shrine for Vishnu (Varadaraja Perumal) after having killed Vakrasura. There is also a shiva linga, that Vakrasura prayed with (known as Kantalingam, since he prayed with that in his throat). It is believed that during summer this Linga is cold to the touch. During monsoon, there are beads of water on the linga. There is also a huge Nandi in this temple and a shrine for Parvati in the form of Vadivambikai.

Another shrine of importance in this temple is that of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma all together in one idol adhering to the philosophy of God is one. This idol is known as Dhanumalayan. (Dhanu -Shiva, Mal-Vishnu and Ayan- Brahma) The three faces are facing three directions, East, North and South.

From the temple we headed to the fossil garden a kilometer away. The road to this garden is uncared for and very dusty, bumpy and narrow. The garden is fenced with a small iron gate and has a huge banyan tree in the front. Underneath the banyan tree sits Ayyanar in broken splendor with broken terracotta horses surrounding him.

Ayyanar¬†A little distance away amidst wooded paths we went on to see the fossil of a huge tree belonging to the Tamarind family. ¬†Most of the tree trunks scattered around have turned into rock…specifically silica. There are vandals who also come to chip ¬†away pieces of the tree trunk despite the old security guards, seated there throughout the day. ūüôā The old guard told us that he ¬†has to chase these boys away but then, he can’t be all over the place at the same time. We could only sympathize with ¬†him.¬†

 

 

The fossil¬†There are ¬†several huge tree trunks scattered in this wooded area. The place is quiet and very ¬†few people (tourists) visit this place. Like my relative said, in any other country this would ¬†have been turned into a tourist place. However, I am glad that this hasn’t been turned into a ¬†tourist place. Some places are best left untouched. And last but not the least I was glad to have ¬†visited the little hamlet of Thiruvakkarai.

 Thiruvakkarai, from Pondicherry would be about 50 km on the Tindivanam Highway, in Vizhupuram district.

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