Monday, April 26, 2010

Kanchipuram and Sripuram : A Short Trip

Since long I was thinking of visiting Mahalakshmi Golden Temple at Sripuram. It is near Vellore. Initially I thought of driving, but it being quite hot now a days, I decided against it. Then option of KSTDC was there. Kenny and Saroj suggested of hiring an Indica and hence the plan was finalized. On Saturday,24th April, we started in morning. Saroj was first to board the cab, then me and finally we picked Kenny at around 7:00 AM.

Initially plan was to visit Shri Padmavati Devi Temple and Krishnagiri, then Jalakanteshwara Temple at Vellore and finally to Mahalakshmi Temple at Vellore. Kenny suggested me to visit a few temples at Kanchipuram as well. Kanchipuram is just about 70 KMs from Vellore. The list was going bigger and we had planned for only one day trip. So first we removed Shri Padmavati Devi Temple at Krishnagiri from our itinery list and then Jalakanteshwara temple at Vellore. New plan was to visit the three most famous temples at Kanchipuram and then Sripuram MahaLakshmi Temple.

The cab driver Manjunath was quite experienced one. He had already visited these places so that advantage was with us.

In our new itinery, the plan was to first visit Kanchipuram to have Darshan at Sri Ekambareswar Temple, Kamakshi Amman Temple and Varadaraja Perumal Temple then to visit Sripuram.

Kanchipuram is about 275 KMs from Bangalore. The route is Bangalore - Hosur - Krishnagiri - Vellore - Kanchipuram.

The road is excellent. We first took NH-7.

At Hosur, we took breakfast at Saravana Bhavan Hotel and then proceeded further.Then at Krishnagiri, we changed the route to NH-46 (Chennai Highway). At Krishnagiri after crossing first overbridge, take the left handside road below the second bridge and then the left turn towards Vellore and Chennai. After half a Kilometer further there is another diversion, the right hand side road leads to Thiruvannamalai and Pondicherry. I had taken that route a few months ago, while visiting Thiruvannamalai.

NH-46 is also an excellent Highway. The Car was at good speed. Evereything was going well excepet that Lord Anshumaan was increasing his intensity and though AC was on, it was slowly becoming ineffective.

One thing a little troublesome was the presence of so many toll-gates. As far as I remember till Kanchipuram, we crossed 6 toll-gates.

We reached Kanchipuram at around 11:45 AM.

Kanchipuram is one of the seven sacred cities of India. it is a historic city which served as the capital of some of the mightiest empires of the South. Between the 6th and 8th century it was the headquarters of the Pallava empire and several of the best temples here were built during this period. It later became the capital of the Chola and Vijayanagara empires.

Located on the Palar River, It is known for its temples and silk sarees, the famous "Kanjivaram".

There are several big temples like Varadharaja Perumal Temple for Lord Vishnu and Ekambaranatha Temple which is one of the five forms of abodes of Lord Siva, (it is the earth abode here), Kamakshi Amman Temple and many more.

Kanchipuram is also called as "City of 1000 Temples".

Kanchipuram is one of the oldest cities in India, and is believed to be visited by Xuanzang (Hsuan Tsang). It was during the reign of Pallava dynasty, from the 4th to the 9th centuries that Kanchipuram attained its limelight.

As regards learning, Kanchi stood second in glory only to Banaras. The history of Kanchi can be traced back to several centuries before the advent of the Christian era. The place finds its name in Patanjali's Mahabhashya written in the second century BCE Manimekalai, the famous Tamil classic, and Perumpanatru Padai, a great Tamil poetical work, vividly describe the city as it was at the beginning of the Christian era. Pattupattu, one of the sangam literatures records that the king Thondaiman Ilandirayan ruled this town around 2500 years ago.

Bodhidharma (A.D. 520), who went to China to spread Buddhism, is said to be from Kanchipuram. He stayed at the Shaolin Monastery and preached Buddhist ideologies.

Kanchipuram is also the seat of the Kanchi matha, that became influential and famous under the leadership of Shri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati. This matha says that Adi Shankara settled in Kanchipuram after establishing four Amnaya mathas in the four corners of India and that this gave rise to the Kanchi matha.

Kanchi was a major Jain center as well. Pallava Simhavarmana had granted a village to Jain monk Vajranandi for the institution at Vardhamaneshwara Dharma Tirtha.

Hiuen Tsang was in Kanchi in the middle of the 7th century reported that he saw numerous Nirgranthas (Jain monks) at this place.

After reaching Kanchipuram, we directly went to Sri Ekambareswar Temple. Cameras are allowed at a fees of Rs. 20.

Ekambareswararwar Temple
This vast temple is one of the most ancient in India having been in existence since at least 600 AD. Second century AD Tamil poetry speaks of Kama kottam, and the Kumara kottam (currently the Kamakashi Amman temple and the Subramanya temple).Initially temple was built by Pallavas .The existing structure then, was pulled down and rebuilt by the later Pallava Kings. The Cholas, who came later, also made a few contributions to the temple.

This current temple with construction dating to the 16th century, is one of the largest of the Shiva temples and sprawl over 20 acres and more. It has a magnificent 1,000 pillared hall and a towering gopuram, at almost 6,000 feet (185 metres) one of the tallest in South India.

No separate shrine for Parvati exists here (as in other Shiva temples in Kanchipuram).

There is a small shrine for Lord Vishnu named Thiru Nilaaththingal Thundathan. Here, the Lord Vishnu is prayed as Vamana Murthy.

Legend has it that once Parvati was doing tapas under the temple's ancient Mango Tree. In order to test her devotion Lord Shiva sent fire on her. Goddess Parvati prayed to her brother, Lord Vishnu, for help. In order to save her, he took the Moon from Lord Shiva's head and showed the rays which then cooled down the tree as well as Parvati. After that, Lord Shiva again sent the river Ganga to disrupt Parvati's tapas. Parvati devi prayed to Ganga and convinced her that both of them were sisters and so should not harm her. And so Ganga did not disturb her penance after that. Then Parvati made a Shiva Linga out of sand and got united with Lord Shiva.

According to another legend, it is believed that Parvati worshipped Shiva in the form of a Prithivi Lingam (or a Lingam improvised out of sand), under a mango tree. Legend has it that the neighboring Vegavati river overflowed and threatened to engulf the Shiva Lingam and that Parvati or Kamakshi embraced the Lingam. Shiva touched by the gesture materialized in person and married her. In this context he is referred to as Tazhuva kuzhainthaar ("He who melted in Her embrace") in Tamil.

We had hired a guide over there, he told us stories about the temple and took us to the Mango Tree, under whom Mother had meditated for Shiva. The current Tree is said to be the offspring of the parent one.

Then we headed towards the main Shrine. We were lucky to be there at right time, the temple was about to be closed and Aarti was getting performed. With closed eyes, the flowers of praise came from heart...

"O, destroyer of Cupid! O, the three-eyed one! Salutations to you, who is the forest-lover, the nearest and the farthest; the minutest and the biggest, the oldest and the youngest; salutations to you who is everything and beyond everything"
(Shiva Mahimana Stotram, sh. 29)


After getting delighted by darshan we came out and visited Vishnu Shrine.

Temple was getting closed for noon, we came out and sat in Varandah outside. Keny was still inside the temple lost in Shiva...

"O, Great God, so great is your majesty that it cannot be reached by speech and mind. Even the Vedas also, having become surprised, confirm your greatness by only saying `Neti', `Neti' (not this, not this) while describing you. Who can praise this type of greatness of yours? With how many qualities is it composed? Whose subject of description can it be ? And yet even then whose mind and speech are not attached to your this Saguna form?"
(Shiva Mahimana Stotram, sh. 2)


After Kenny came out it was a little late to visit other temples. The temple gets closed at 12:30 PM and reopens at 4:00 PM. Varadaraja Perumal Temple gets open at 03:30 PM.

Now we went to Saravana Bhwan Hotel for Lunch.

This was a little costly even more than hotels at Bangalore.

Lord Anshumaan was showering heat with full summer intensity. We, the animals of AC, were slowly getting out of tune with that weather.

We all were sweating and I also started getting headache.

After taking Lunch, we headed towards Kamakshi Amman Temple. As there was a couple of hours left before temple opens, we went to a nearby Saree shop and bought a few of them.

Kenny found out that Varadaraja Perumal Temple opens at 03:30 PM itself so we started towards there.

Varadaraja Perumal Temple

"Oh Varada ! Those Bhakthas who constantly chant Thy names and worship Thy divine form have all their righteous wishes fulfilled by Thee and are indeed the most blessed souls."
(Narayaneeyam, Dashaka 3, Sh. 2)


The temple is said to be originally built by the Pallavas in 1053 and it was expanded during the reigns of the great Chola kings Kulottunga Chola I and Vikrama Chola. In the 14th century another wall and a gopura was built by the later Chola kings. It is an ancient temple and one of the 108 divyadesams the holy abodes of Vishnu. It is located in part of Kanchipuram called the Vishnu Kanchi that is a home for a lot of famous Vishnu temples, including this temple. One of the greatest Hindu scholars, Ramanuja is believed to have resided in this temple. The temple is a huge one on a 23-acre (93,000 m2) complex and is famous for its holiness. Another significant thing about the temple are beautiful carved lizards and platted with gold, over the sanctum.

There was a little rush and slowly moving in the queue, we reached the sanctum, where the Lord was there to bless us...

"Chanting Thy names and singing Thy praises is a sweet pleasure from the start. As devotion becomes more intense it eliminates all suffering and ultimately it leads the mind to the path of supreme knowledge and bliss. What more can a Bhaktha crave for?"
(Narayaneeyam, Dashaka 3, Sh. 3)


Getting blessed by Lord, we headed towards another sanctum where on roof, Golden Lizard has been carved and then we visited the shrine of Mother Lakshmi.

Kenny was as usual a little late in coming out of temple.....

The temple is badly in need of proper maintenance, I felt.

We returned back to Kamakshi Amman Temple, it was about 04:45 PM.

Kamakshi Amman Temple

"O Mother with a happy lotus like blooming face! O the absolver of pains! Shower happiness on me. O Kameshvari, Who is complete, Who is beyond everything!
Salutations to You."(Shri Kameshwari Stuti, Sh. 8)


This is a famous emple dedicated to goddess Kamakshi, one of the forms of the goddess Tripura Sundari. It is popularly associated with Adi Sankaracharya. Along with Madurai Meenakshi, Thiruvanaikaval Akilandeswari, Vishalakshi Varanasi, Kamakshi is an important part of worship of Parvati.

The temple was built by Pallavas when their capital was Kanchipuram around 6AD.

With the blessings of the almighty and merciful mother, again we were lucky here. When we reached inside temple, perhaps the alankaar ceremony was in progress and we were blessed to see that. The smiling face of mother just tells us, "dont worry my dear, I am always with you"

"O Kameshvari, the One Who is supreme, Who is Brahma (aatman), Who is eternal, Whose glory is sung by demi-gods, demons and the world! Salutations to You."
(Shri Kameshwari Stuti, Sh. 1)


The main deity is seated in a majestic Padmasana posture, an yogic posture signifying peace and prosperity, instead of the traditional standing pose in most other temples of Parvati. The goddess holds a sugarcane bow and lotus and parrot in the lower two of her arms (Many of the Hindu god forms generally have four arms) and has the two divine instruments Pasa and Angusa in her upper two arms.

There are various legends attributed to it. One of them according to Kamkshivilasa is that the Goddess had to absorb all the other shakthi forms to give boon to Manmatha. Another legend attributes it to the Raja Rajeswari pose of the deity that signifies an absolute control over the land under its control, leaving no other forms of Shakthi.Legend has it that Kamakshi offered worship to a Shivalingam made out of sand, under a mango tree and gained Shiva's hand in
marriage.

Blessed by mother, we visited the Adi Kamakshi Peetham.

The Original Kamakshi Devi Temple is what is presently known as Adi Peeteswari or the Adi Peeta Parameswari. This temple is just adjacent to the Kumarakottam, and is near to the presently famous Kamakshi Devi temple.

Adi Shankaracharya, the famous 8th Century Scholar and Saint, established the Sri Chakra at this Original Kamakshi Devi temple in the trough like structure in that shrine, This Sri Chakra soon became the All India famous Kamakoti Peetha. The Acharya's Lalitha Trishati Bhashya comments Kamakoti Peetam as Sri Chakra.

Here not much rush was there and we sat down a few moments for meditation.

The present Kamakshi temple too, has a Sri Chakra which was established during the 16th Century by NrusimhAdvari, of the famous dathamAnji family. There is a stone inscription inside the new temple, near this Sri Chakra, which states this fact.

It was about 06:15 PM as we started for Sripuram, which is about 70 KMs from Kanchipuram.

Left headlamp of our taxi was giving some trouble and hence needs repair as we had to travel in dark now. We reached Vellore at around 07:45 and first looked for a Indica repair shop. It did not took much time and by 08:00, things were again fine.

There we came to know that the Sripuram Temple will be closed for entrance at 8:00 PM. We had only 30 minutes now, we started praying the almighty mother.

There was huge rush as we passed though the Vellore City, though the distance is only about 10 KMs from City, as we reached Sripuram, it was already about 08:05 PM!!

With a little apprehansion we rushed towards entrance, the ticket counter was just about to close as I ran towards it and with mother's grace, was able to secure the tickets.

The temple timings are 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

Sripuram Mahalakshmi Golden Temple

"I bow to You, Who is the Mother of all the worlds, Who is associated with lotus, Who is splendor, Who has blooming lotus as eyes, and Who is seated at the chest of Vishnu. I sing praise of Goddess, Who lives in a forest of lotus, Who holds lotus, Who has lotus-like eyes and face, and Who is dear to lotus-navelled Vishnu."
(Shri Lakshmi Strotam, Sh. 1 & 2)


The temple is loacted at the foot of a small range of green hills in a place known as "Malaikodi" about 10 KMs from Vellore.

The temple is located on 20 acres of land and has been constructed by Vellore-based Sri Narayani Peedam, headed by spiritual leader Sri Sakthi Amma also known as Narayani Amma. The temple, covering 55,000 sq ft, has intricate carvings and sculptures in gold. The lighting is arranged in such a way that the temple glitters and looks magnificent during night. The temple construction was completed in on August 24th, 2007.

The Sripuram is the biggest structure made out of gold. Even the Satari, a crown with feet of the lord engraved on it, is made of solid gold.

The outer pathway of the temple is made out in the shape of a Star. All people have to go through the Star shaped pathway to reach the sanctum.

Slowly we covered the distance, on the way, we saw a "pandaal" with mother Mahishasura mardini there. We stopped for a few moments and prayed the merciful mother.

"Adorations to Goddess, who is the auspiciousness of all that is auspicious, who is the consort of Lord Shiva, who is the bestower of every desire of one’s heart. Adorations to You! O Devi, I have taken refuge in you."
("Shri Amba Stuti")


Moving through the star shaped path we reached the main shrine. The entire path is beautifully laid out and everything is wonderful.

Then we were at main shrine, glittering in the light, one of the most magnificent things that eyes had seen!!

Just wonderful, magnificent, beyond comparison...what else I can say...

Is it a construction of human??? No way....

We were enthralled to be there, as it was a little late and hence rush was a little bit reduced so we got some more time to be in sanctum sanitoriam in the presence of the divine blisful mother.

"O Goddess! The men, who have been glanced by Your eyes, don't find health, wealth, weakness of enemies, and comfort as a rarity. You are the mother and Vishnu is the father of the worlds. And this whole world is manifestations of You and Vishnu."
(Shri Lakshmi Strotam, Sh. 9 & 10)


Praising mother for some time, we came out of this magnificent place.

We started back at around 9:30 PM from Sripuram to Bangalore. In between one place at around 10:30 we stopped for dinner, reaching Bangalore at around 02:00 AM.For us it was fine, but for someone with family and kids etc., I will suggest a full weekend for this trip.

The trip was wonderful, except that we were a little tired but bliss and grace from the Almighty Lord and Merciful Mother was there everywhere.

PS:
There are a few more temples worth visiting at Kanchipuram. These are, Kailasnath Temple, Varaha swamy Temple, Ashtabhuja Temple as well as Kaaanchi Kaam koti Peetham Mutt etc.

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