Ennapadam Bhagavati

Bhagavathi at Ennapadam Temple at Kerala

Monday, February 28, 2011



Today (Sunday 27-2-2011) is the last day of the Mardol Mahalasa Temple Utsav in Goa. This is a very important annual Hindu festival in Goa. Mardol is 25 km off Madagaon in the Ponda Taluq of Goa. Mardol Mahalasa Temple is one of the most important Shakti Kshetras in middle Western India.

Shri Mahalasa Devasthan (Mardol)

Temple Deepastambh

Carvings around the base of the Deepasthamba at Mahalasa Narayani Temple

'Garbh Kud' Decorated with Jasmine Flowers.

The ‘Jasmine Festival’ is locally known as the ‘Jaayaanchi Pooja’. The main highlight of the Jasmine Festival is that the temple of Devi Mahalasa is fully decorated with the fragrant Jasmine flowers available in plenty in the neighbourhood. The Divine fragrance and aroma of devotion wafted by them continues to linger in and around the precincts of the Temple long after the festival is over. 

Hans Rath Wahan

This Temple was built in the 16th century by one famous devotee of Mahashakti Devi known as Shri Malappa. The Chaturbujha Idol of Mahashakti (Vishnu Roopini) Narayani Devi is made of a special kind of stone which measures 1 metre in height. The Idol looks remarkably grand and beautiful with its exquisite sculpture.

All the original Hindu Temples in Goa were systematically destroyed by the predatory, savage colonial Portuguese Catholic Christian marauders during the period from 1600 to 1800. The Portuguese Inquisition in Goa was as terrible in its State sponsored inhuman Christian religious cruelty towards the peace-loving original inhabitants of Goa, as the Spanish Inquisition in South America was against the primordial native population in that continent. St Francis Xavier, a crooked Roman Catholic barbarian and criminal, who inaugurated the dark era of Inquisition of Hindus in Goa in 1641. It continued unabated till the end of the 18th Century. The persecuted Hindu of Goa ran for their lives taking their revered idols with them for safe custody to far away places along the West Coast of India including the Hindu Kingdoms of Cochin and Travancore.

Mahalasa Devi Idol at Mardol

Mahalasa Devi Idol at Mardol stands on the back of the formidable demon Visakha lying prostrate on the ground. Daily worship is offered three times a day. Mahalasa Devi reveals herself in 3 distinct and different aspects---nay forms ----each day. In the morning session, Mother reveals herself as a young girl. During noon time she appears as a virgin. Later in the evening she reveals herself as a fully grown woman. Another important feature that greets the visitors is her holding in her hand, the image of Malappa, the original builder the temple in the 16th century. This temple attracts hundreds of visitors throughout the year from Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat and Rajasthan. But more importantly thousands throng this temple during the Mahalasa Devi Utsav (Jatra) every year. This year as we have noted above, this Utsav began on 22-2-2011 and ends today 27-2-2011 (Sunday).

The STALA PURANA of this more than 500 year old Temple is most fascinating. Nearly 600 years ago, on a very hot day, a rustic shepherd boy after having tended his cattle in the blazing sun of summer, halted near a hillock at Mardol (old Mhaddol) to find drinking water for himself and his thirsty cattle. Even as he was feeling helpless with no sign of drinking water any where in the neighbourhood, then suddenly as if in a flash he saw standing near him a lady of radiant beauty and Divine splendour. This beautiful lady spoke to him in a voice soaked with Divine melody: "I want to stay here, in this place! Go and get your landlord here." The cowherd boy told the lady rather meekly: "But now I have to give drinking water to my cattle”.

The resplendent Goddess lightly struck the earth with her Nupur and Lo and Behold! The cowherd boy was thrilled beyond words to see crystal-clear water springing up like a fountain from the depths of the black laterite rock.

Now the Goddess told the cowherd boy: “Have this drinking water for your cattle. You can go down the hill and fetch your landlord here!”
The little cowherd ran down like lightning. The landlord was not at home. The son-in-law of the house, Mahal Sharma, listened to the story narrated by the boy and went up the hill. He saw the Goddess and around her a dazzling golden aura of a thousand suns. He prostated in complete submission before the Goddess. Then in the same deep, melodious resounding voice he heard her Divine Proclamation: “I want to stay here. You dig at this spot and you will find my idol. Construct a temple in this place for me”. Declaring thus unto eternity, the heavenly Goddess disappeared from the scene. Thus goes the story of the arrival of Shri Mahalasa Narayani in Goa. The story is still being told for ages in this part of Goa and the perennial spring at the hill of Vernem village (old Mhaddol) in Salcette Taluka of Goa even today. The small pool around that spring is known as "Nupur Tali" or tank of Nupur from times immemmorial. The Stala Purana of this Temple has its reference in the SKANDA PURANA, the largest of all the Puranas.

We have it on the authority of SKANDA PURANA that Bhagawan Parusharama told the devotees that the Goddess at Mahalasa Devi Temple at Mardol is to be worshipped during the nine parts of the day viz.,
Pratahkal as Adhishakti,
Purvanha as Mahamaya,
Madhyanha as Mulaprakruti,
Aparanha as Ishwari,
Sayamkal as Gandhadhwara,
Pradosh as Duradarsha,
Ratri as Nithyapushta,
Madhya Ratri as Karishini, and,
Apar Ratri as Shri Devi respectively.
Goddess Mahalasa Devi is to be worshipped by reciting 24 names -- Durga, Bhadrakali, Vijaya, Vaishnavi, Kumuda, Dandika, Krishna, Madhavi, Kanyaka, Maya, Narayani, Shanta, Sharada, Ambika, Katyayani, Baldurga, Maha Yogini, Adhishwari, Yog Nidra, Mahalaxmi, Kalratri, Mohini, Sarva Deu Namaskarya and Bharati. This Goddess shall fulfill all your wishes.”
After instructing the people, thus, to worship this Goddess with all their heart, mind and soul, Bhagawan Parashurama once again retired to HIS favourite retreat at Gomantak Hills. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011



Magh Snan at Triveni, Allahabad


Magh month 2011 starts on 20 January 2011 and ends on 18 February 2011 according to the Hindu Calendar. Taking a holy dip in the Triveni Sangam at PRAYAG (Allahabad) during the period from Magh Amavasya Day (New Moon Day-3rd February 2011) to Magh Poornima Day (Full Moon Day-18th February 2011) is considered as very sacred and auspicious by all the Hindus of India. Each man has his Dharma. One must accomplish one’s destiny—or, better, surmount it. Life is of consequence only in the mind, by the liberating power of the mind. Asceticism prepares the way for spiritual enfranchisement; knowledge procures it. But what is this knowledge? Knowledge for India is action. Sensation and imagination are something dynamic; understanding and will are not distinct. The norms have always been successful creation, right conduct. When all is said and done, the essential contribution of the Indian genius to mankind is a psychical and spiritual element, the value of which must be neither underestimated nor exaggerated—the sense of creative activity. INDIA THROUGH THE AGES HAS NOT BEEN INTERESTED IN FACTS. Through the ages it has pursued transcendental ends.

What is the transcendental religious and spiritual significance of having a holy bath in the Triveni Sangam at Prayag? Triveni Sangam is believed to be the same place where drops of Nectar fell from the pitcher, from the hands of the Gods. So it is believed that a bath in the Sangam will wash away all one's sins and will clear the way to heaven. Devout Hindus from all over India come to this sacred pilgrimage point to offer prayers every day and take a dip in the holy waters. The sacred Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years on the banks of the Sangam. According to hoary myth and tradition, the Prakrista Yajna was performed here by LORD BRAHMA. That is why Allahbad was known as Prayag in ancient times. Prayag is also called Tirtha-Raja or Prayag Raj, King of all holy places. It is said that Lord Rama visited Prayag when he was in exile.

Prayag is one among the four spots where Garuda, the winged steed of the Hindu God Vishnu, is believed to have rested during a titanic battle with demons over a pitcher containing the divine nectar of immortality. Garuda's epic battle lasted 12 divine days, or 12 years of mortal time, leading to the celebration of the Maha Kumbh Mela every 12 years. Legend says that the gods and the demons fought a celestial war, spilling heavenly nectar at the confluence of three-rivers in Prayag.

Mauni Amavasya or Mauna Amavasya is the auspicious day to observe Mauna Vrata or the vow of silence on Magh Amavasya or New Moon day in Magh month. In 2011, Mauni Amavasya date is 2 February 2011. Mauna is a word derived from Muni, which refers to a great saint endowed with transcendental knowledge and wisdom forming the bedrock of his luminous and resplendent self-realization. Mauna vrat is the symbolic identity for the spiritual practice. According to Jagadguru Shankaracharya, Mauna is one of the three essential aspects of a sanyasi or sadhu. The other two aspects are – Balya and Panditya. Balya is the childlike nature whereas Panditya is wisdom.

Magh Purnima, or Magh Poornima, is the full moon day in month of Magh (January – February) in traditional Hindu calendar. In 2011, the date of Magh Purnima falls on February 18. Magh Poornima is considered highly auspicious in Hinduism and thousands of Hindu devotees take a holy dip at Sangam in Prayag. The annual Magh Mela takes place at Sangam in Prayag during that time. It is believed that Vishwamitra II performed the ritual bath during the Kumbh Mela on a Magh Purnima Day in 2382 BCE.

Magh Purnima Bath at the confluence of MAHI, SOM AND JHAKHAM RIVERS in Banswara District in Rajasthan.

Magh Purnima is an important day at the Baneshwar Fair held at the confluence of MAHI, SOM AND JHAKHAM RIVERS in Banswara District in Rajasthan. Tribals and other communities from Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat gather here to pay homage to the dead ancestors and relatives.

Eternal India—India of the ages—is a great land of real and solid underlying cultural unity amidst apparent diversity. Corresponding to Triveni at Prayag (Allahabad) in Northern India, we have a holy Triveni at Thirumukoodal in Kancheepuram District in Tamilnadu. At this spot we have the confluence of 3 SACRED RIVERS PALAR, CHEYYAR AND VEGAVATHI and taking a bath at this Triveni during the period from 3rd February 2011(New Moon Day) to 18th February 2011 (Full Moon Day) is considered as sacred and auspicious as taking a dip in the Triveni at Prayag.

Confluence of 3 Rivers at Thirumukkoodal

At the confluence of three rivers near Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu lies the village of Thirumukkoodal. An ancient Chola temple adorns this village, at the sangam of the rivers PALAR, SEYYAR, AND VEGAVATHI. As all the three rivers are clearly visible at the confluence at THIRUMUKKOODAL, this sangam can be considered almost as sacred as the Triveni Sangam at Prayag where at the confluence of three rivers only the Ganga and the Yamuna are visible and the third Saraswati River is believed to have gone underground and hence is not visible.

As in Prayag, so also at  Thirumukkoodal, in Kanchipuram District, we find the vital and living tradition of thousands of pilgrims having a bath at the confluence of 3 Rivers PALAR, SEYYAR, AND VEGAVATHI on the day of Magh Amavasya. This year the pilgrims had their bath on Magh Amavasya Day (New Moon Day) at this sacred spot on 3rd February 2011. Likewise, the pilgrims will be having their bath on Magh Poornima Day (Full Moon Day) on the 18th February 2011.

Trimurti Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple in Kanchipuram District

The Temple at Thirumukkoodal (Thirumukkudal) is known as the Trimurti Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple, or Sri Venkatesa Perumal Temple. The presiding deity here is the Trimurti, embodied in a single form as Appan (Brahma), Shiva, and Venkatesa Perumal (Narayana). While Trimurti Appan Venkatesa Perumal is understood to be the original deity here, temple epigraphs reveal that the deity was called Vishnu Bhatara in Pallava times, Tirumukkudal-Azhwar and Mahavishnu in the Chola period, and Venkateswara Swami at a later date.

The tiny village of Thirumukkoodal in Kanchipuram district, lies about 75 km from Chennai and dates back to the Pallava era. It gets its name from its picturesque location --- the confluence of the Palar and two of its tributaries, the Vegavathi and the Cheyyar. We understand from an inscription engraved in this shrine that the Trimurti Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple, or Sri Venkatesa Perumal Temple existed at Thirumukkoodal village overlooking the confluence of 3 rivers as early as the 9th Century AD.

The Trimurti Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple, or Sri Venkatesa Perumal Temple at Thirumukkoodal is maintained by the RCHAEOLOGICAL Survey of India (ASI). Since this temple is very close to the river bank, there is every possibility of flood waters entering the temple during the North-East Monsoon every year. And yet this temple has withstood the ravages of nature for several centuries mainluy because of the fact that the original architects of this temple made a special provision for a suitable drainage system for the flood water to drain away quickly. This temple is about 1200-1500 years old.

This Pallava style temple is quite large, and is constructed in an unusual style. Devotees enter through a side entrance near the perimeter of the temple compound. A mandapa with large pillars leads the way to the sanctum sanctorum, which faces north. The pillars have exquisite bas-relief sculptures. Various inscriptions speak of endowments and gifts made to the temple during the Chola reign.

Thirumukkudal mandapam

Thirumukoodal Sannidhi

In the sanctum, Sri Appan Venkatesa Perumal is found in a standing position with His consorts Boomadevi (Bhudevi) and Sridevi meditating at His feet, and the sage Markandeya (Karumanickar) beside Him on one side, with Sudarshan Chakra on the other.

Sri Appan Venkatesa Perumal

The Lord at Thirumukkoodal is considered to be a manifestation of the HINDU TRINITY Lord Siva, Brahma and Narayana. His crown looks like the matted locks of Siva and He has a third eye on HIS forehead. He wears the Shanku and Chakra like Lord Narayana on His left and right hand and a lotus in one of His hands. He also stands on the lotus which is the symbol of Brahma.
To the right of the presiding deities is a small shrine for the Goddess Alamelumanga, which faces east. 'Alamelumanga' is Tamil for Padmavati, a representation of Laksmi Devi. Other murtis located nearby include Garuda, Hanuman, and others. There are also stone murtis of many of the Azhwars.

A spacious courtyard houses several mantapams, the pillars ornately carved with bas-relief sculptures done in Vijayanagara style, depicting various incarnations of the Lord, Mahalakshmi, Rama, Garuda, Hanuman and Ramanuja.

This temple which once reverberated with the sound of Vedic chanting and the recitation of Sanskrit texts now stands a mute testimony to the glorious times of the Pallavas and the Cholas, whose kings, besides being great conquerors and administrators strove for the propagation of learning and literature.

The main sanctum sanctorum of this temple, which faces North, houses the imposing image of Lord Venkateswara, also known as Appan Venkatesa Perumal in a standing posture with sage Markandeya and Goddess Boomadevi seen meditating at his feet. The way to the sanctum sanctorum is through a large-pillared mantapa.

Large-Pillared Mantap

According to the epigraphs in this shrine, Thirumukkoodal was situated in the ancient territorial sub-division called Madhurantaka-Chaturvedimangalam which was a part of Kalatur-kottam, a district of Jayamkonda-chola-mandalam. Luckily, this shrine as well as the inscriptions here have been preserved well. The temple is a protected monument under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Another striking feature of this ancient Sri Venkatesa Perumal Temple lies in its rare wealth of copious and informative inscriptions dating back to the days of the Pallavas and the Cholas.  The walls of the main sanctum as well as those of the second prakara are studded with numerous epigraphs in the ancient Tamil script, the oldest of which is datable to the reign of the Pallava ruler, Nripatungavarman of the 9th century A.D.

There are also many Chola inscriptions of the reign of Rajaraja-I, Rajendra-I, Vira-Rajendra and Kulottunga-I which speak of endowments and gifts made to this shrine, thus showing that this temple enjoyed an immense popularity during the Chola reign. Interestingly, these epigraphs reveal that this deity was called Vishnu Bhatara in the Pallava times, as Tirumukkudal-Azhwar and Mahavishnu in the Chola period and as Venkateswara Swami at a later date.

Temple Epigraphs

Among these records, the most important and interesting one is engraved on the east wall of the first prakara and belongs to the period of Vira-Rajendra Chola (1062-1070 A.D.). This long epigraph records the existence of a VEDIC COLLEGE located in the JANANATHA-MANTAPA inside this temple in the 11th century A.D. where eight subjects including the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda and Grammar were taught. The number of students enrolled in this educational centre, the number of teachers for each subject and the daily remuneration paid have been detailed in this inscription. This well-preserved record also mentions that these students lived in a hostel attached to this college where cooks and servants were employed to take care of the needs of the inmates.

Temple Epigraphs at Sri Venkatesa Perumal Temple

In addition, this inscription speaks about a Hospital (athura-salai) attached to this temple where students and temple staff were treated. This Hospital, called VIRA-CHOLAN, had 15 beds and a large staff comprising a physician named Kodandaraman Ashvathaman-Bhattan, a surgeon who performed surgical operations, many nurses who attended on the patients, servants who fetched medicinal herbs and also a barber. The payment given to the hospital staff and the names of about 20 Ayurvedic medicines stored in this hospital are given in detail in this informative epigraph. This ancient Chola Hospital followed the Tamil model of Siddha System of Medicine.


Other inscriptions mention Rajendra-I, Vira-Rajendra and Kulottunga-I, referring to endowments and gifts made to Thirumukkoodal temple, which clearly enjoyed great popularity during the Chola reign.

Thanks to these ancient epigraphs, Thirumukkoodal Temple is considered as a monument of national importance. I have already referred to some of the longest Chola inscriptions on record in this ancient temple. More than a thousand years old, these inscriptions contain some of the earliest known definitions on record for “DOCTOR” and “NURSE”.

I am furnishing below the Texts of one of the Chola Inscriptions relating to the functioning of a Hospital at this spot.

Text no. 1

ஆதுரசாலை வீரசோழனில் வியாதிப்பட்டு கிடப்பார் பதினைவர்க்கு பேரால் அரிசி நாழியாக அரிசி குறுணி எழுநாழிக்கு நெல் தூணி ஐந்நாழி உரியும் வியாதிப்பட்டு கிடப்பார்க்கு பலபடி நிபந்தக்காரர்க்கும் கிடைகளுக்கும் பாத்திரர்க்கும் சிவஸ்யஞ்சொல்லியாணியாக தனக்கும் தன் வர்க்கத்தாருக்கும் பெற்றுடைய ஆலப்பாக்கத்து சவணன் கோதண்டராமன் அசுவத்தம்பட்டனுக்கு நாளொன்றுக்கு நெல் முக்குறுணியும் காசெட்டும் சல்லியக்கிரியை பண்ணுவானுக்கு நாளொன்றுக்கு நெல் குறுணியும் ஆதுலர்க்கு மருந்துகளுக்கு வேண்டும் மருந்து பறித்து விறகிட்டு பரியாரம் பண்ணுவரிருவருக்கு நாளொன்றுக்கு நெல் குறுணியாக நெல்பதக்கும் காசொன்றாக காசிரண்டும் ஆதுலர்க்கு வேண்டும் பரியாரம் பண்ணி மருந்திடும் பெண்டுகளிருவருக்கு பேரால் நாநாழியாக நாளொன்றுக்கு நெல் குறுணியும் பேரால் காசரையாக காசொன்றும் ஆதுலர்க்கும் கிடைகளுக்கும் பாத்திரருக்கும் வேண்டும் பணிசெய்யும் நாவிசன் ஒருவனுக்கு நாளொன்றுக்கு நாநாழி ஆதுரசாலை வீரசோழனில் ஆண்டொன்றிலருமருந்து ஸ்ரீப்ராஹ்ம்ய மகருக்கு இப்படியொன்றும் இப்படி ஹரிதகி படி இரண்டும் கோமூத்திர ஹரிதகி படியிரண்டும் தசமூலஹரிதகி படியொன்றும் பிப்லாதக ஹரிதகி படியொன்றும் கண்டீரம் படியொன்றும் பலாகோரண்டதைலம் தூணியும் பஞ்சார்கதைலம் தூணியும் ஸ்ரீலஸ்ரத்தா கோரண்டதைலம் தூணியும் கண்யாதிதைலம் தூணியும் ….. பதக்கும் சாக்ருதம் பதக்கும் வில்வாதி க்ருதம் பதக்கும் மண்டூரவாகம் இரண்டாயிரமும் மஹாசுமனத்ரி இரண்டாயிரமும் தந்த்ராதி இரண்டாயிரமும் பஞ்சகல்பம் தூணிபதக்கும் கல்யாணலவணம் தூணி பதக்கும் இவையடுகைக்கு வேண்டும் மருந்துகளுக்கும் நெய்யும் வும் உள்ளிட்ட …. ஆண்டுதோரும் புராண.. சர்வ பசுவிநெய் பதக்கும் கொள்ள காசுநாற்பதும் ஆதுலசாலையில் இரா எரியும் விளக்கு ஒன்றுக்கு எண்ணெயாழாக்காக நாள் முன்னூற்றறுபதுக்கு எண்ணெய் நாற்பத்தைந்து நாழிக்கு காசிரண்டேகாலும்.. ஜனநாதன்ல தன்யனுக்கு பங்குனி உத்திரம் தொடங்கி புரட்டாசி திருவோணத்தளவும் பரம்பாலூரதண்ணீர் கொடுவந்து வைத்துச் சாய்ப்பான் ஒருவனுக்கு நாளொன்றுக்கு நெல் குறுணியாக நாள் நூற்றெண்பதுக்கு நெல் பதினெண்கலமும் ஏலத்துக்கும் இலாமிச்சத்துக்கும் நெல் இருண்ணியாஹம் பண்ணின பிராமணர்க்கு தக்ஷிணாகம் வெற்றிலை வெருங்காய்க்கும் நெல் கலனே தூணி இருநாழி முழக்கே முச்செவிடும் வயலைக்காவூர் காணியுடைய மாதவன் தாயன் வர்க்கத்தார்க்கு புரட்டாதி திருவோணத்து நாள் உடுக்கும் பரிசட்டம் இரண்டுக்கு காசொன்றே எழுமாவும் மூவாயிரத்து இருநூற்று நாற்பத்து முக்கலனே இருதூணி பதக்கு அறுநாழி உழக்கே முச்செவிடுக்கும் காசு இருனூற்றொருபத்து ஆறறையே இரண்டு மாவுக்கும் இக்காசு பத்ராவிடில் காசொன்றுக்கு தண்டவாணி ஒன்றோடொக்கும் பொன்காசு நிறைகால் இடுவதாகவும் இப்படியாண்டு ஆறாவது நிபந்தம் செய்தபடி இந்நிபந்தம் தழுவக்குழைந்தானான அபிமானபேரு பிரம்ம மாராயன்

I have given a detailed description of the spiritual significance of Thirumukkoodal and the glory and the grandeur of Trimurti Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple. Very near the sacred spot, on the other side of the Palar River perched on a hillock lies another famous Temple of Pazhaya Seevaram Laksmi-Narasimha Swamy Temple.

Laksmi-Nrsimha Temple on hillside

Front Entrance of Laksmi-Nrsimha Temple, Pazhaya Sheevaram

Lord Nrsimhadev is a very large Santha-murti (sweet and charming), and is very beautiful indeed. In His home temple, Sri Laksmi-Nrsimha sits facing Kanchipuram. His temple is at the place where Goddess Mahalaksmi is said to have pacified the Lord.

On the day following Sankranthi (Mattu Pongal day in the Tamil month of Thai), Lord Varadarajaswami leaves his abode in Kanchipuram and crosses the Palar River and goes to meet Lord Lakshmi Narasimha at Pazhaya Seevaram. Then Lord Varadarajaswami and Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy go together to Thirumukkoodal to visit Sri Appan Venkatesa Perumal. The 3 deities together proceed from one temple mandapa to the next, and devotees throng to the Sri Appan Venkatesa Perumal Temple to get their darshan. This religious observance is known as Pazhaiya Seevaram Paarivettai, which celebrates the Lord's destruction of demonic forces. A similar festival is held in many Vishnu temples in the area.


Let me quote the words of Sri Aurobindo: “what can one possibly say of a country that believes in not just a God, but a God that lives in the heart of men, a god that works through the hazy networks of life after life, waiting, hoping and eternally confident that one day we will arrive --- what words can possibly fit to describe such fervour, such conviction, such immensity of plan and purpose? What can be said of those who relentlessly shy away from Darwinian Theories of Evolution to spew forth their own? What can be said of those who believe this land to have been struck by God’s own arrow, giving birth to God’s own country, not just a mere push and shove of glaciers? … Ancient Bharata --- where does she begin? When did she end? Or has she even ended? There are those who say, NO. They say She has no beginning, no end, like the Brahman that She loves and swears by, which begins from Nothing and ends into Nothing. Timeless. … But what if all our imagination is empty and meaningless? What if She is truly just another piece of land, nothing more? What if that strange Echo that one hears inside the womb of silence is only our madness and not Her Eternal Spirit, throbbing, pulsating, living? What if Her Chroniclers, the ones that chisel stones and paint dreams are only eking out a living, not in tune with the life-force that runs underneath the stone, unable to put a finger on the pulse that beats in the heart of brick-walls? If this is true, then all the more do we hang to our imagination, empty or not? And if madness is all it is, then who is to say whether madness is not but a step closer to the Divine? In that case, it is a step we shall gladly take!”

Wednesday, February 9, 2011



Ratha Sapthami in this Vikruti year falls tomorrow (10-2-2011). Ratha Sapthami is the day dedicated to the worship of Sun God and observed throughout India in different names derived from several local traditions — religious, ritualistic and symbolic.

The rituals vary from region to region. Ratha in Sanskrit means chariot. Sapthami in Sanskrit means the seventh thithi. Ratha Sapthami is the seventh thithi after the Amavasya (new moon) thithi in the month of Thai (mid January - mid February) in Tamilnadu and Magh in Northern India. Hoary tradition has it that Surya the Sun God arrives in a regal and majestic manner in a Ceremonial Chariot drawn by seven horses, representing the seven colours of the rainbow and is worshipped on this holy day with fervour and devotion. Ratha Sapthami is the main festival for Lord Suryanarayana.

Surya is an ancient Hindu Solar God. There are many hymns found in the Rig Veda which mention or honor or extol or glorify Surya.  All Vedic texts begin with a salutation to the Sun. There is a story of a great sage called Yagnyavalkya who is said to have learnt the Vedas from the Sun for it embodies them. Surya or the Sun God is worshipped as an inexhaustible source of energy. It is the source of primordial power in whose presence all living beings spring to life.

Surya or the Sun is one of the primary deities of Hinduism since the Vedic period. The most supreme of Hindu prayers, the Gayatri is a prayer to the brilliance of Sun. The Vedic scriptures of the Hindu religion refer to the Sun as the storehouse of inexhaustible power and radiance. The Sun God is referred to as Surya or Aditya. The Vedas are full of hymns describing the celestial body as the source and sustainer of all life on earth.

There are innumerable references to sun worship in the Puranas. The Ramayana speaks of Sage Agastya initiating Rama into sun worship through the ADITYA HRIDAYA stotram. The astronomer and astrologer Varahamihira makes references to the intricacies of ceremonies connected with the installation of the icon of the Sun.

According to some scholars, there are deeper and profounder interpretations of what Ratha Sapthami stands for. Saptha means seven. It is indicative of the saptha swaras that underlie all of music. In other words, it is indicative of sound in general. We also know that Sabda means sound too. Thus there is a correlation between sound and Ratha Sapthami. What is the basis of this correlation? The realised Siddhas say that the word Ratha is symbolic of the mind. The mind is the chariot. Many are the thoughts that arise in the human mind. These thoughts are like many different horses which pull the mind in many different directions. But for the mind to make systematic progress towards the Divine, the right set of horses should pull it in the right direction. This, indeed, is the time-honoured Siddha insight on the deeper meaning of Ratha Sapthami. Succinctly stated, reining in the mind and putting it on the path to God, is the essential philosophy behind the celebration of Ratha Sapthami.

The Sun is also represented by a golden wheel or as a circle with radiating rays or even the open flower of a lotus. The most abstract and common representation is in the form of a Swastika. Like the concept of zero in mathematics, the Swastika has also gone from ancient and timeless India to all the other parts of the world.  The centerpiece of ancient worship procedure on Ratha Sapthami day is the ritual bath. The leaves of the erukku shrub (Calotropis gigantea) form an important part of the Ratha Sapthami ritual bath. Sage Agasthiar says that these leaves have an innate spiritual force that is similar to the one derived from the sihka knot on the head of scholars and thus they can be used to achieve spiritual effects similar to those obtained from the sikha. The erukku leaves are arranged one on top of the other in seven layers.  On Ratha Sapthami day, devotees wake up before sunrise, place a block of wood in the bathroom and seat themselves facing East. Placing the seven layer erukku leaf arrangement on their heads, they have their ritual bath with their minds fixed on Surya the Sun God. After the ritual bath, they perform Soorya Namaskar and recite Agasthiar’s Aditya Hrudayam hymn.


The countless mythological stories and legends associated with Ratha Sapthami from ancient times are indeed fascinating. Surya is portrayed as riding a seven horse chariot driven by Aruna. Aruna (a charioteer devoid of legs) is said to be the son of Kasyapa Muni and Vinata.  Aruna is the brother of Garuda. Surya is portrayed with two lotuses held in both his hand, and is occasionally shown with the hood of the mythical serpent Adi Sesha spread over his head. At the base of his image are shown his gatekeepers Pingala (Agni) and Danda (Skanda).

The Vedas refer to Sun worship. Vishnu is also described as being seated in the midst of the disc of the Sun; so much so that over time Vishnu worship merged with sun worship leading to Surya being referred to as Suryanarayana. No wonder Ratha Sapthami is celebrated on a grand scale at Tirupati every year.

Surya is also worshipped as an embodiment of the Trinity consisting of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Surya is considered to be Brahma until midday, Shiva in the afternoon and Vishnu in the evening. Usha is the foremost of Surya’s consorts and is referred to in the Rig Veda. Yama and Yami were the children born to Surya and Usha. Unable to bear the heat of the sun, Usha returned to her father’s home. As she left her husband, she created a look alike Chhaya and left her in her place. Usha is the queen of the night, and is described as dressed in gold clothing adorned with numerous stars. The second of Surya’s consorts is Padmini or the lotus. (The lotus blooms when the sun rises in the east). Chhaya bore more of Surya’s children, and meted out step motherly treatment to Yama and Yami. She cursed Yama to become an outcaste, and Yama thus became the God of death; Yami transformed into the river Yamuna.
Surya, suspecting foul play interrogated Chhaya and discovered the whereabouts of Usha. Then reducing his blazing intensity, He led a life of bliss with her again. Born to them were the divine physician twins, the Ashwini twins. Another legend has it that Samba the son of Sri Krishna was cured of leprosy by his worship of the Sun God. Millions and millions of Hindus in India still believe that the offer of dedicated Sun worship at several of the Sun Temples all over India, is a cure for leprosy and other skin ailments, blindness and infertility.

Here is yet another story.  Aditi, the primeval power, the endless and boundless heaven who is at times identified with mother earth, Prithvi, and at other times as the wife of Sage Kashyapa, was the beginning. She begot eight children. She retained seven. The eighth child was deceptive. It was in the form of an egg.  Aditi called it Martanda or a dead egg, and discarded him. He went into the sky and positioned himself in all glory to be called the Sun. Another variant of this story goes as follows.  Aditi asked the first seven sons to create the universe, but they were unable to do so for they knew only of birth, and did not know of death. But for a life cycle to be established, a pattern of interminable life and death was considered necessary for creating an orderly Cosmos and Universe. So Aditi called for Martanda who created day and night, as symbolic of life and death.

Another tradition gives this interesting story. Mayura, who lived in the court of Harshavardhana (1st millennium CE) composed the Surya Satakam in praise of Surya and is believed to have been cured of blindness.

Several temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, usually have a small shrine for Surya the Sun God. Besides there are several important temples enshrining the Sun God as the principal deity.  There are seven temples of national importance dedicated primarily to Surya  Dakshinaarka temple in Gaya, Suryanaar Koil in Tanjore District of Tamilnadu and Arasavilli in Andhra and Grand Konark in Orissa, Modhera in Gujarat, Surya Pahar in Assam and Unao in Madhya Pradesh. In this context, it should be stated that remains of an ancient Sun Temple, dating back to the 1st Century AD, are found in Martanda near Srinagar in Kashmir.

The Sun temple at Ranakpur in Rajastan is a magnificient structure in white sandstone. It is located in the vicinity of the grand Jain temple complex in Pali district of Rajasthan.  Ranakpur is located at a distance of 98 km from Udaipur in Rajasthan.

Sun Temple at Ranakpur in Rajasthan

Ranakpur Sun Temple with its intricate carvings

Dakshinaarka Temple in Gaya

Suryanaar Koyil is located in the hamlet of Tirumangalakkudi between Kumbhakonam and Mayiladuturai in Tamilnadu State.

Front view of Arasavalli Sun Temple
Arasavalli Sun Temple is located at Srikakulam near Vishakapatnam in Andhra Pradesh

Grand Konark in Orissa

 Front pavilion, Modhera Sun Temple, Gujrat

Finally what is very exciting is to note is that in Multan in Pakistan, we have the ruins of a Sun temple dating back to 7th Century AD which has attracted thousands of visitors during the last 1300 years.

Sir William Jones (1747-1794), founder of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, composed a beautiful hymn to Surya, calling Him ‘The Lord of the Lotus’.

‘Lord of the Lotus, Father, Friend, and King,

Surya, thy Power I sing,
Thy substance Indra, with His heav’nly bands,
Nor sings, nor understands,
Not even the Vedas three to man explain
The mystic orb triform,
though Brahma tuned the strain’

The mystic orb triform alludes to the omnipotent and incomprehensible power represented by the triple divinity of the Hindus. The flower of the lotus is said to expand its leaves on the rising of the sun, and to close them when it sets.  Hence the Sun becomes The Lord of the Lotus.