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Kanakadurga

Once upon a time river Krishna’s flow was obstructed by hills. So some parts in the area looked famine stricken and people could not grow anything in those fallow lands. People in the area prayed to Lord Shiva for good water.
Shiva, pleased with their prayers decided to remove the obstruction on the river Krishna. He made a big opening in the mountain. The Krishna was routed through this opening and made its water available to the people on the other side. Since the water gushed out of a tunnel the place came to be known as Bezwada. (‘Bejum’ meaning tunnel/hole)
During the Dwapara Yuga, the Pandavas and Kauravas began their battle. Krishna sent Arjuna to get the Pasupatastra and the place where Arjuna meditated for victory became known as Vijayawada. Sitting atop the Indrakeela mountain Arjuna did his penance. Shiva is said to have tested Arjuna by arriving there as a wild boar and fought with Arjuna after which he presented him with the weapon Pasupathastra.
This place is where Durga arrived as Kanakadura to kill Mahishasura according to the Puranas.
Mahishasura is said to have roamed these forests harassing the people upon which the people prayed to the Goddess to save them from the demon.
During this time there was a hermit by name Indrakeela. When the Goddess arrived in the mountains, he prayed that she reside on his head and save the people from the demon. The Goddess agreed and killed the demon. She later resided in the hills and is known as Kanakadurga. The unique feature of this Goddess is that her idol with eight hands has the look of a beautiful maiden during the day time and an old woman during the evenings. According to legend the goddess is said to have rained gold once and hence her name Kanakadurga. (“Kanaka meaning gold”)

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Arpuda Devi

Situated amidst lush greenery a hillock in Mt.Abu houses Adhbutha Devi (Arpuda devi), in a cave. One has to crawl on all fours to get inside the cave to see and seek her blessings.
It is believed that this temple is 5,500 years old.
Once upon a time there was a king by name Bashkali. He was a great devotee of Shiva and he had obtained the boon of immortality after years of penance from the lord.
He soon entered heaven and drove away the devas. The devas arrived at the shrine of Adhbutha devi and prayed to her. The goddess pleased with their devotion appeared before them and asked them what they wanted.
Indra told her that they wanted her to kill Bashkali and give their kingdom back to them. The goddess said that since Bashkali had the boon of immortality it would be difficult to kill him. But she assured them that she would drive Bashkali out of heaven.
She sent an emissary to Bashkali to vacate heaven.
Bashkali, however was proud that he was immortal and so he sent his troops to fight with the goddess.
The goddess on seeing Bashkali and his troops laughed loudly and several soldiers erupted from her mouth and vanquished Bashkali’s troops. Initially Bashkali was flustered when all his men died, but then the thought of being immortal gave him strength to fight with the goddess. The devas however told the goddess that unless she vanquished Bashkali they could not go back to their kingdom.
The goddess then took her full form and removed a huge rock nearby and pressed Bashkali’s head with it. Pressing him into the earth the goddess resided on the rock by which Bashkali was unable to get out from under the rock. Knowing that Bashkali would never be able to come out, the devas thanked the Goddess and left for heaven.

To reach the temple of Adhbutha devi one has to climb 350 steps, some are steep. Yours truly climbed the 350 steps and felt that it was truly an “adhbut” feat. I do consider that my crawling on all fours to get inside the cave was a miracle. The spouse however stood outside wondering if I would be able to get inside the cave and his eyes popped out when I did.
Hail Adhbutha devi. 🙂

Samarth Ramdas

Legend says that Samarth Ramdas was born on Hanumat Jayanthi as an incarnation of Hanuman. Ramdas was a simple man with almost no needs and lived in caves meditating on Lord Rama. His disciples too were very simple and led a very pious life like their Guru. Except for one disciple. His name was Ranganath Goswami. There was a crowd around him at all times.

On each of his side there would be a person fanning him. Another would stand behind him holding an umbrella. He also used to travel a lot in a palanquin. Some people made snide remarks on Goswami for living ostentatiously . The disciples of Ramdas felt that Goswami was spoiling the reputation of their Guru with his actions. They even complained  to Ramdas about Goswami in the hope that their Guru would reprimand Goswami. But nothing like that happened.

One day when Ramdas went to bathe in the Godavari with his disciples tagging along, Goswami arrived there in his palanquin. He got out of his palanquin and paid obeisance to his Guru. Ramdas then told him to leave his people and the palanquin far away and sit quietly on the banks of the Godavari till he returned from his bath.

The other disciples were elated that Goswami was ticked off and were waiting to watch what their Guru would do next.

Meanwhile Chatrapathi Shivaji arrived there. He was surprised to see a disciple of Ramdas who he revered was sitting all by himself on the hot sands of the river bank. He went near Goswami and spoke to him. But Goswami never replied. Shivaji thought that Goswami was observing strict silence and asked his people to provide a makeshift shelter  for the disciple. He asked a few others to fan him and a few others to stay back with him.

When Ramdas returned after his bath, he looked at Goswami and asked his disciples what had happened. Goswami told Ramdas what had happened. After listening carefully Ramdas told his disciples “Do you understand now? Goswami is also a very determined person like you. “He is only reaping the benefits of his good karma. He is only being rewarded for his good deeds in his previous birth,” said Ramdas.

(The end of this story may seem a little lukewarm to readers, but I didn’t want to burden myself 😉 or my readers with a more philosophical and convoluted ending as given in the original.)

Manikandan’s Wedding

I wish all my readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Everyone knows that Swami Ayyappan is a bachelor. But the puranas also say that during one of his avatars he married. Proof of this celestial wedding can be seen at a place called Ariankavu in Kerala.
The lord in this shrine sits with his consort on an elephant. According to legend his wives are Poorna and Pushkala. Pushkala is said to belong to the Sourashtrian community.
The Sourashtrian community is well known for silk weaving and were supplying silk to the Maharaja of Travancore.
Once upon a time a silk merchant was on his way from Madurai to Travancore to show his silks to the King. His daughter Pushkala too accompanied him. They reached Ariankavu at nightfall and decided to stay at the temple that night.
The next morning when the merchant was ready to leave, his daughter said that she wished to stay on at the temple till he returned from Travancore, because she wanted to worship the Lord for some more time.
Though the merchant was surprised at this request, he spoke to the priest and left his daughter under his care.
He left for Travancore and on the way he had to pass through a jungle. All of a sudden he was attacked by an elephant who was running amok. He prayed to Lord Ayyappan to save him and miraculously there arrived a very young hunter who sent the elephant away with a flick of his fingers.
The merchant was overjoyed and presented the hunter with one of his finest silks. The hunter wore it immediately and asked the merchant how he looked.
The merchant said that the hunter looked like a bridegroom. He then asked the hunter “Tell me what else do you want?”
“I would love to marry your daughter,” said the hunter.
The merchant was surprised to know that the hunter knew that he had a daughter. But he agreed to give his daughter in marriage to the boy.
The boy said that he would meet the merchant at the Ariankavu temple the next day.
After doing business with the king, the merchant reached the temple at Ariankavu. But his daughter was not to be found. The merchant searched everywhere but could not find her. Meanwhile, the lord appeared in the dream of the priest and said that he had taken away Pushkala pleased with her devotion.
The king also arrived at the shrine at the moment and the priest opened the door to the shrine. The merchant was surprised to find the deity wearing the silk he had presented the hunter the previous day.
It is said that for the past 200 years, during the month of Margazhi, the temple celebrates the wedding of Manikandan.

Periyayi Amman

Just when I was thinking that there was only one goddess who was lying supine, out came a story about another goddess who too was lying supine.
Periyayi amman is that Goddess in the small hamlet of Kuyilapalayam, in Vizhupuram district.
Once upon a time in the midst of this hamlet there was a
temple. Once on a Thursday the priest of the temple locked the doors to the shrine and left for his hut. As he entered his hut, he saw a dancing cobra in the living room. He screamed for help and the whole village assembled at his doorstep in no time.
They tried different ways to entice the snake outside but to no avail. Suddenly, a woman in the crowd let out a shriek as some spirit had entered her being.
The possessed woman said “I am Angala amman. I was the presiding deity in the west of this village and was guarding the village from evil spirits and made the village prosperous. But the villagers did not care for me, nor for their own fellow beings. I have left that village. I will let you know in seven days where I want to reside.” The possessed woman fell down in a faint. The snake was now nowhere to be seen.
The villagers waited eagerly for seven days. On the seventh day, the villagers congregated at the priest’s hut and invited the goddess using cymbals and dholaks.
Suddenly the priest began talking and walking like one possesses. The goddess spoke through him. “Follow me, she said. I will show you the place where I want to reside.”
The villagers followed the priest who went to the eastern side of the village. Circumambulating a peepul tree thrice the priest came to a stop and sat beneath the tree.
The villagers built an open top temple for the goddess here. Just outside this hut of a temple lies the Goddess also known as Periyayi amman. The statue of this goddess is 25 feet in length and 13 ft in breadth. At her feet are the idols of Ganesha and Muruga.
Another story doing its rounds here about the idols:
Once there was demon by name Vallala kandan who ruled Melmalayanur near Tiruvannamalai. He was meditating on Lord Shiva. Pleased with his devotion, Shiva appeared before him and asked what he wanted.
Vallalakandan said “I want a son who will be just like you.”
Shiva said that he will take birth as his son from the womb of the demon’s wife Vallalakandi.”
The demon was overjoyed. But Lord Vishnu on hearing this boon was scared. He rushed to talk to Goddess Shakthi, Shiva’s consort. If the demoness gave birth to Shiva, the bloodshed would cause lot of damage to the people and the earth. So both of them discussed what to do. In the end when the demoness went into labor, Lord Vishnu made every human being disappear using his powers. Since there was no one in the village to assist Vallalakandi during her labor Vallalakandan was worried. At the moment Goddess Shakti appeared as a midwife and the demon was happy to see her. He took her to his wife and there the midwife requested him to get her a dustpan, sickle and a pot. The suspicious demon asked her why she needed the above things. The midwife said “the sickle is to cut the umbilical cord, the dustpan would be used to collect the waste adn the pot to clean the place with water.”
Satisfied with her reply the demon went to wait outside the delivery room. Shakthi then took her own form with sixteen hands and killed the demoness and her child. She came out and killed Vallalakandan too. But she still thirsted for blood and wandered around in her ferocious form. Worried at the outcome, the devas decided to pacify Shakti. They built a chariot and made Shakti sit on it. However, this didn’t help, so they magically made the chariot disappear and the Goddess is said to have fallen supine. Just like the Devas had anticipated, the fall made her calm. That is the reason behind the supine idol of the Goddess in this temple.

This temple of Periyayi amman lies 8 kms from Pondicherry on the East Coast road. The temple is situated on the left of this road driving about a km, en route to Auroville, in village of Kuyilapalayam. The Goddess is considered the presiding deity of this village.

Durvasa’s Mango tree

In a village called Gugur, earlier known as Nallagurur, there is a lovely temple for Shiva, who is known by the name Ambaravaneswarar. Situated amidst lush green fields, the deity in this temple is so known because in early days this place was surrounded by mango trees. ‘Aambaram’ meaning Mango tree in Tamil. The tree inside the temple is also a mango tree. (sthala vruksham)
According to legend the Pandavas are said to have visited this place during their exile. One day when the Pandavas were residing in Gugur, Draupadi is said to have asked Bheema to pluck a mango from a tree. Surprisingly there was only one mango in the tree and Bheema shook the tree with all his might. But the mango didn’t fall down. Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva arrived and they too couldn’t help. Lastly, Yudhishtra arrived and all the brothers together succeeded in making the mango fall to the ground. They went and gave the mango to Draupadi.
When she was about to eat the fruit, a wandering hermit and said “What have you done Draupadi? This mango tree bears one fruit once in 12 years and that too will fall only when asked by the great hermit Durvasa. It does not look good in your hands. Just put it back on the tree.”
The Pandavas were aghast at their action. “We should have realized that it was something special when it didn’t fall when Bheema shook the tree,” they thought.
“Durvasa is a very angry man. We should put the mango back on the tree, before he arrives,” said Yudhistra.
“But who will help us in this?” wondered the others aloud.
Yudhistra stood under the tree and thought of Krishna. He arrived immediately and asked them what the problem was. When they recounted what had happened, Krishna said, “So you want the mango to go up the tree?.
“Yes,” they chorused.
“All of you must say one truth from your lives, the fruit will then rise from the ground and reach its place on the tree.”
Soon each one of the Pandavas and Draupadi told a truth.
Yudhishtra said “If Duryodhana and his brothers live with good thoughts all of us will flourish and live well.
Bheema said ” I will kill Duryodhana and all the kings who are his allies. I will kill Shakuni and then kill Dushasana, whose blood I will drink. I will make Draupadi tie her hair after this.
The mango began going up the tree as each one of the Pandavas told their truths.
They were all thankful to Krishna for helping them at this moment and were glad that they escaped the curse of Durvasa.

Gugur is situated by the Kumbakonam- Nannilam Highway. The temple is 5 km east of Nachiyar Kovil which is 10 kms from Kumbakonam.

Harsiddhi Mata

While Lord Krishna has killed several asuras during his incarnations in the different yugas, Shankasura was one, he could not vanquish for a long time. Shankasura lived in an island close to Dwaraka and was troubling the people of Avni and killing them mercilessly. 

Krishna prayed to Shakti, his family deity and implored her to give him the strength to vanquish Shankasura. Pleased with his devotion, Shakti appeared before him and said “when you arrive in the sea shore with your army o fmen, I will appear there in the form of a cuckoo bird. You and your men will be able to walk across the sea to the island of Shankasura and vanquish him.”

Thankful with the Devi’s boon, Krishna went with the Yadava army to the sea shore where Shakti arrived in the form of a cuckoo bird and watched. Krishna went across to the island and emerged victorious. When he returned to the sea shore, he decided to build a temple for Shakti. Looking around, he spotted a small hill where he built a temple. He consecrated an idol of Shakti and named her “Harsiddhi mata”  meaning “one who grants everyone’s wishes”.

In later days it is said that the King of Ujjain, Vikrama was passing this shrine one day. He prayed to the goddess that she should reside in Ujjain and be his guiding force. Shakti granted him a boon saying that she would come to Ujjain in the evenings and so the king built a temple for her.

One evening when Shakti was leaving to go to Ujjain, the roof of the temple shattered when her feet touched upon it. She continued to reside in the temple without the roof during the day. 

In the town of Harshadpur there lived a devotee by name Jagadu shah. Once when his ships sank during a storm, he fell at the feet of the Goddess and asked her to help him. One day the goddess told Jagadu shah in his dream that he should bring her idol down from the roofless temple and build a temple for her at the foothills the existing temple. Not only that, she wanted him to sacrifice 70 cows when he consecrated the temple.

Jagadu Shah did the bidding of the Goddess. But he could not sacrifice the 70 cows. He could only sacrifice 66 cows and went looking about for four more cows. When he couldnt find the cows, he sacriced, his wife, son and daughter-in-law and killed himself. Pleased with his devotion, the Goddess appeared before him and granted a boon that he would have a shrine next to her in her temple.

Even today, devotees visiting the temple pray at the altar of Jagadu Shah. There is a swing in the temple in Harshadpur, which sways in the morning, heralding the return of the Goddess from Ujjain.

Harshadpur is 45kms from Porbandar and 60 kms from Dwaraka in Gujarat.