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History of Guruvayur

17 Nov

This blog is based on “Chapter 5. My Darshan of Guruvayurappan” – by Sri M in his recent book The Journey Continues. All the information is directly quoted from there.

Guruvuyaur  is a small coastal town in Kerala famous for the Guruvayurappan temple where the prankish heart stealer Lord Krishna is worshipped as a boy . In terms of popularity it ranks with Tirupathi. Thousands visit the temple every day mainly from Tamil Nadu & Kerala.

Legends have it that the deity is 5000 years old – although there are no historical records. The story goes that the idol , carved out of a sacred material called Pathalanjana Sila was once worshipped by the great God Maha Vishnu and handed over to Brahma. After many generations it was worshipped by Sri Krishna’s parents Vasudeva and Devaki and later installed in Dwaraka and worshipped by Krishna himself.

Before giving up his body Krishna handed over this Idol to his foremost disciple Uddhava and instructed him to hand it over to Brihaspati, Guru of the Devas so that it may be installed in a suitable place and worshipped during Kaliyuga.

Dwarka was submerged in a deluge but Brihaspati with his prime disciple Vayu the lord of the wind managed to retrieve the idol. While looking for a suitable place to instal the idol they met Parasuram who was also searching for the idol.

Parasuram led the Guru & Vayu to a lush green spot behind a beautiful lake.The Yogi God Shiva and his consort Parvati who were spending time there in contemplation permitted Guru & Vayu to install and consecrate the idol there. From then on the place came to be known as Guruvayur. Shiva & Parvati are said to have moved to the other bank and settled down at Mammiyur. The pilgrimage to Guruvayur is to this day considered incomplete without the worship at the Shiva temple at Mammiyur.

That is as far as legends go. Historically the earliest mention of Guruvayur or rather Kuruvayur comes from a Tamil work Kokkasandesam. Kuruvai means sea in Tamil hence the name Kuruvayur. The earliest temple records date back to 17th century. The temple is mentioned in the songs of the Alwars. By the end of the 16th century Guruvayur was a popular pilgrimage centre in Kerala.

In 1760 the Dutch looted Guruvayur and raided the treasures, the gold plate that covered the flagstaff and set fire to the temple. In 1766 Hyder Ali captured Calicut and then Guruvayur. On the request of Srinivas Rao the then Governor of Malabar, Hyder Ali granted a free gift – Devadaya and handed the temple back to the Hindus.

In 1788 Tipu Sultan marched to Malabar. Fearing destruction the priests hid the deity. Tipu Sultan destroyed the smaller shrines and set fire to the temple but it was saved by a sudden and heavy downpour.

Later on people like Chempakassery Namboodiri, Deshavarma Namboodri and the Ullanad Pannikars offered everything from service to property to revive the temple. Worship at the temple started again in 1900. In 1928 the Zamorin of Calicut was reinstated as the administrator of Guruvayur. In 1970 a massive fire broke out and the public irrespective of caste , creed or religion rushed to join the fire fighting. There was massive destruction but the sanctum sanctorum was protected. The temple was renovated and once again opened for worship on April 14th, 1973.

The name of two great and saintly persons who made Guruvayur famous have to be mentioned Melapathur Narayana Bhattathiri ( 1559 – 1632) was one and Poonthanam ( 1547 – 1640) was the other.

Melapathur Narayana Bhattathiri  apart from being a scholar and mathematician was the author of Narayaneeyam.

The Narayaneeyam is a devotion Sanskrit work in the form of a poem comprising 1036 verses and gives a summary of the great Bhagvatha Purana. The story goes that his Guru Achuta Pisharodi had painful arthritis. . Unable to bear his guru’s suffering Bhattathiri by his yogic power took the disease and relieved his Guru. He soon discovered that the pain was excruciating and resolved to make a pilgrimage to Guruvayur confident that Guruvayurappan would relieve him of the disease.

While entering the temple he is said to have met Thunjat Ezhuthacchan the author of Adhyatma Ramayana.

Ezhuthacchan shocked him ( an orthodox brahmin) by saying ” Mean Thottu Kottuka” ( start with the fish). On reflection , Bhattathiri realised that Ezhuthacchan was not asking him to eat fish but to start writing the Bhagavad, beginning with the story of Maha Vishnu’s incarnation as a fish, the Matsya Avatara.

He then started composing One Dasaka ( Ten stanzas) a day sitting before Sri Guruvayurappan and in a hundred days had completed the Narayaneeyam. It is said that on the last day he was blessed with a full vision of Guruvayurappan and got cured of his painful disease. Even today Narayaneeyam which is in Sanskrit is held in great esteem in Kerala and chanted with great devotion.

Poonathanam, Melapathur’s contemporary was not a great scholar but a true devotee of Sri Guruvayurappan. He is remembered for his masterpiece Jnanappana which means ” the song of wisdom” . Poonathanam was married at the age of twenty but had no children for a long time. he is said to have prayed with tears in his eyes for a child and was finally blessed with a. son. Poonathanam called for a grand celebration where everyone he knew was invited. Unfortunately and ironically an hour before the ceremony the child died suddenly. Grief stricken Poonthanam renounced all worldliness and turned to Sri Guruvayurappan. His attitude underwent a sea change and he believed that the child god Krishna Guruvayurappan was his own child. He wrote ” whilst little Krishna is dancing in our hearts , do we need little ones of our own

The Jnanapanna begins and ends with

Krishna Krishna , Mukunda Janardhana,

Krishna Govinda , Narayana Hare, 

Achutananda Govinda Madhava 

Satchitananda Narayana Hare.

“Here !  Krishna Guruvayurappan, has come to take me to Vaikuntam, sing his Parises.” said Poonthanam pointing upwards and letting go of his last breath and passed away to be forever with his beloved Krishna.

 

Tiruchi Temples in 3 Days

3 Nov

S Indian and specifically Tamil Nadu is a treasure house of Temples. Having covered Chennai, Kanchipuram , Mahabalipuram, Chidambaram, Kumbakonam and Tanjore – Tiruchi and Rameshwaram were the two prominent ancient cities in our pending list. And we finally covered Tiruchi extensively in 3 days.

A few things that made this trip very satisfying 

  • Amazing ancient temples thousands of years old – architectural & spiritual masterpieces – very well maintained
  • Good Hotel centrally Located – and great food
  • Excellent people all thru – from the drivers , porters , staff at restaurants , people at the Temple, companions in the Train – we met good human being all through our trip
  • Excellent weather ( It was pouring in Chennai as the NE Monsoon had just started – but Tiruchi 330 Km was pleasant and cloudy)
  • But the biggest WOW moment to me was discovering the Samadhi of the great Saint Patanjali who wrote the Yoga Sutras – Nobody knows about this – in an ancient temple in a small village in the suburbs of Tiruchi – more of that later.

So if you plan a trip to Tiruchi this Blog will be useful 

How to reach – where to stay

16232 Mayiladuthurai Express is the only Train from Bangalore to Tiruchi. It covers the ~ 350 KM distance in over 8 hrs reaching Tiruchi Junction at 4 AM. (return timing is more convenient – Dep Tiruchi at 8.30 PM and reaches Bangalore Cant at 5.06 AM) – It has one 2nd AC coach so book in advance.  Tiruchi has 3 Stations – Tiruchi Fort, Tiruchi Junction ( TPJ) and Srirangam – this train stops at the first two stations. We got off at TPJ and reached our hotel KVM Hotels ( WWW.kvmhotels.com) by 5 AM – a 20 min drive. Its a new hotel with good rooms , excellent food and centrally located at Amma Mandapam, Srirangam. A well maintained double occupancy room is Rs 2300/-  inclusive of a sumptuous breakfast. It has 24 hrs check in – check out.  Its a pure veg hotel.

Plan for Day – 1 

After a tasty breakfast we started our day at 9 AM and headed to the Branhmapureeswarar Temple at Tirupattur a 20 min drive. This is an ancient temple ( please note all temples here are 100o years or older) dedicated to Lord Shiva – its unique as it has a sanctum of Lord Brahma in a meditative pose – people come here to change their fate for the good. This is also the temple where you will find the Samadhi of the great Sage Patanjali.

 

If you sit quietly for a few minutes next to this Samadhi you can sense the energy of the place. I am glad that this Samadhi continues to be a secret – that protects the sanctity and energy in this zone. But it is indeed a shame that in todays era of communication – hardly anyone knows of the Samadhi of Patanjali in India.

But there was more to come in this remote corner – a km from this temple is another ancient temple The Kashi Vishwanathan temple – This temple houses the Jivasamadhi of Sri.Vyagrapada,the saint with feet of a tiger. The priest informed me that the idols here are as old as 3500 years and praying here is the equivalent of going to Kashi. (This blog gives more details on this energised temple – http://drlsravi.blogspot.in/2012/05/sri-kasi-viswanatha-temple-at.html)

On the way back we stopped at the Samayapuram Mariamma temple – By now it was 12 noon and we headed back to Tiruchi City to visit my mothers school ( she passed out in 1955 and was visiting Tiruchi after more than 60 years – This is the same school from where defence Minister Niramala Sitaraman passed out many years later) followed by lunch at Sangeeta’s and then we headed back for an afternoon nap.

We set out at 4 PM after tea and headed to another iconic temple – the Jambukesawarar and Akhilandeswari temple at Thiruvanaikaval – a short 1 km from our hotel.

This temple is significant – Its an ancient Shiva temple dedicated to the Water Element. I had Visited Kala Hasti in 1996 (Air) and over the last 20 years had visited Chidambaram (Space) , Thiruvanamalai (Fire) and Kancheepuram ( Earth) – and I was excited to complete the Pancha Bhoota circuit.

The temple is massive and the Shiva Linga has water oozing out from below. The Sanctum Sanctorum is small – do take the Rs 10 ticket that allows you enter the final enclosure. The temple architecture has evolved over 1000’s of year and it is a majestic temple.

A 10 min walk from the Shiva Shrine is the Devi Shrine of Akhilandeshwari – a very powerful goddess . This shrine closes at 5 PM and reopens at 6 PM – and we reached at 5.05 PM – so we had an hr to sit in the quiet space there and meditate ( fortunately the temple was empty with just a few people). After a very satisfying day we headed back to the hotel for dinner and rest.

Plan for Day – 2 

The morning of day 2 was reserved for the grand and impressive Ranganathaswami temple at Srirangam. A masterpiece. It is the largest functioning temple in the world with a perimeter of 4 kms, occupying an area of 156 acres. Its a temple town and there are many Agraharas ( houses and communities) within the temple town.

 

Its spotlessly clean – thanks to the late CM Jayalalitha ( who was the MLA from Srirangam) and the Chairman of TVS Venu Srinivasan who have painstakingly restored and cleaned this temple – some say they cleared 65,000 tonnes of sand , debris etc from inside the temple over a few years. Recently UNESCO awarded the temple for its restoration work.

There are over 70 shrines inside – and it can get as busy as Tirupathi on some days but were were lucky to have it almost empty. The Rs 250 special ticket took us to the main Sanctum devoid of lines and we had an excellent Darshan. There was no pushing and haggling for money , the priest asked us to stay calmly for a great darshan.

I was fortunate – this was the 3rd viewing in 1 month  of  Lord Vishnu Vishnu resting on Shesha in the sleeping position – other recent ones were at Madhya Ranga in Shivanasamudra and at the famous Padmanabhaswami temple in Trivandrum.

Nobody knows how ancient this idol is – some say even Lord Rama came and prayed here – but the temple complex was developed by multiple kingdoms starting with Cholas. A lot of restoration has happened in the last 10 years making it a sight worth visiting.

A ten minute walk leads you to the Devi Shrine – and most people will head back after this. But do make a point to visit the Ramanujar Sannidhi . You will have to ask for this. Its a shrine dedicated to sage Ramanujar and his body is mummified with saffron and Camphor in a meditative pose. A very impressive Sage – he is big and saintly.

On an empty day it took us about 2 hrs to have a nice relaxed visit of this temple post which we headed to the Samadhi of Sadhguru Sri Brahma. Sadhguru of Isha fame talks about his life as Sri Brahma in his previous life. This is a small samadhi next to the highway and you would come here only if you are an Isha Follower.

A 15  minute stop here and we headed to the city to visit a few more locations my parents had frequented 60 years back and then for lunch at Ajanta’s. ( the lunch at Sangeeta was far better)

Driving the bylaws of this ancient city we reached our next stop – the Rockfort Temple , the most iconic temple at Tiruchi. Its a 20 min climb – and fortunately the weather was pleasant at 2 in the afternoon to walk barefoot up this rocky outcrop. Enroute there are a few more temples – but they were closed in the afternoon.

 

This completed our morning circuit and we were back in the room by 2.15 PM.

At 4 PM we headed to an ancient Murugan temple at Vayalur located in a scenic village and were back by 6 PM at our hotel.

Plan for Day – 3

We headed out at 8.30 AM to the Malai Koil or Erumbeeshwarar Temple – again an ancient Shiva temple on a small hillock  with a lot of mythological significance. The Shiva Linga here is made of mud and hence not washed with milk and water.

On the way we stopped back at the Jambukesawarar and Akhilandeswari temple at Thiruvanaikaval where the 12 Noon Puja is famous.  Lunch was at an Iyengar mess run by a Brahmin family – a simple homely affair.

We had the evening free to ourselves – but the other famous sites to visit were far away ( if you have an extra day try and visit these places )

  • Viralimalai – 40 Km , famous for a Murugan temple and a Peacock sanctuary
  • Sri Kokarneshwar temple
  • Sittanavasal

Sittanavasal is a rock-cut  monastery or temple. Created by Jains,  it is called the Arivar Koil, and is a rock cut cave temple of the Arihants . It contains remnants of notable frescoes from the 7th century. The murals have been painted with vegetable and mineral dyes in black, green, yellow, orange, blue, and white. Paintings have been created by applying colours over a thin wet surface of lime plaster. Many evolved saints are said to have meditated here. Sounds beautiful – but its a full day trip. 

I went back to the Samadhi of Patanjali and Vyaghrapadar and was back by 6PM – well in time to pack up , settle our bills have an early dinner ( Note in temple towns Dinner is Tiffin) and head to the Station for our 8.30 PM Train. As we headed back it started drizzling – but the rain gods had been merciful to us.

We had an excellent driver – so reach out to him if you are travelling to Tiruchi , Ramesh – 98434 35991. It make s a lot of difference to have a local with you to navigate the town.

A big thanks to all the people who helped us plan the trip – we would have missed. a lot of things if not for their valuable inputs. We left on Mon night and were back home on Fri morning – 4 nights , 2 in the train and 3 days at Tiruchi – the total trip cost was Rs 25,000 for 3 people inclusive of 2nd AC , 2 Rooms , Car , Food  etc – that is very reasonable considering that in the recent past we spent 30K a night at the Taj Coorg.

Small towns are nice , people are simple , down to earth and trustworthy. Its just the weather – Tiruchi boils in the summer , Nov to Feb is the only time you can expect pleasant weather. the Cauvery that has flown for millions of years is on the verge of drying – the impact of the last 50 years has been severe my mother was able to see the change in her lifetime. Lets just hope that the rivers revive and Sadhguru’s Rally for Rivers is a grand success.

So that completes Tiruchi – we enjoyed it thoroughly, which gets me planning for my next trip to the historical town of Rameswaram.

 

 

 

 

 

Lepakshi & Shivaganga : Day Trips in Bangalore : 7.30AM – 3.30 PM (Trips 6 & 7)

26 Sep

This blog documents the 7.30 AM to 3.30 PM  day trips by a group of enthusiastic Bangalore explorers from Mantri Classic Koramangla.  We leave after the school bus departs and are back home when the kids return. Thats what we have been doing for the last 1 year – discovering amazing places in and around Bangalore. Energised ancient temples, architectural marvels , 1000’s of years old, lovely ashrams, treks, nature resorts all packed with simple and tasty food makes for a great day trip. Its a Fusion trip and thats the name of the group we gave to this team. The trips are very cost effective and average Rs 500 – 750 / head inclusive of breakfast, lunch and travel. We travel on a Wednesday most of the time – mid week when the places are empty , and because we lave by 7.30 /7.45 and are back by 3.30 we beat the crazy Bangalore traffic.

We started this about a year back – its been fun , in the last 12 trips we have discovered amazing places. This blog shares the itineraries of trips 6 & 7  

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Trip – 6 : Visit to Lepakshi 

Located 120 Km from Bangalore – on the Bangalore Hyderabad road , beyond Devanhalli is the Lepakshi temple. The road is excellent – we left at 6AM and after a relaxed breakfast at Sri Krishna Grand ( You will find many restaurants after you cross the Airport Toll on your left side) we reached by 8 AM.

Lepakshi is a medium sized temple complex –  you can park the car right in front of the temple and enter in a few steps. As per Mythology this was the place where Jatayu fought against Ravana as he was carrying Sita. The main temple is dedicated to Virbhadra and was built during the Vijaynagara reign.Virbhadra is a fearsome form of Shiva. He was created by the wrath of Shiva and destroyed the Yagna  of Daksha, after Daksha’s daughter and Shiva’s consort Sati self-immolated in the sacrificial fire. The temple also has an Altar for Durga and Lord Rama. A small room led by a narrow alley is said to be the place where Sage Agastya meditated.

Its a semi finished temple – the main Sanctum Sanctorum area is complete but the courtyard and Kalyana Mandapa is unfinished. The main temple has intricate carvings the inspiration for many textile designs and the famous Lepakshi hanging pillar.

A 30 min drive from here is a place called Vidurashwatha. This is a small village known for the Ashwatha tree which is believed to have been planted by Vidura.  The tree fell down in 2001. But part of the trunk is still preserved.  It is interesting to see hundreds of Nagadevata idols installed around the tree. Don’t forget to visit a small memorial built for 35 freedom fighters who lost their lives when police opened fire on them. This incident is knows as Jallianwala Bagh of South India.

The roads were excellent and we were back in Bangalore by 11.30 – Lunch at the Orchard Hotel on Palace Orchards , a short stopover at the Chitra Kala parishad and were back home by 2.30.

(Lepakshi temple is in Andhra – can be very hot in summer , best time to travel is Nov – Feb)

Trip – 7 : Shivaganga Trek 

Shivaganga known as Dakshina Kannada is a Shiva Linga shaped 2700 feet peak located about 75 km from Bangalore near Tumkur at Dobaspete. The place is famous for its ancient temples and as a Trekking destination.

We departed Koramangla at 6 AM and reached Shivaganga at 8 AM after a nice breakfast at Shree Rathnam a nice and efficient Veg restaurant – It has a big inviting poster and you can’t miss it. (The restaurant is located after a 10 – 15 min drive post the 2nd toll). As you drive out from the restaurant look around for a flyover and take the access road and then a left – don’t go up the flyover.

There are three sets of temples – the 1st is a 10 min walk up – the path forks , the right side goes to the Gavi Gangadeshwar , Devi Temple and Patalganga , while the left side is the way up the hill. Legend has it that there are underground tunnels that connects this temple to the Gavi Gangadeshwar temple at Basavangudi.

At the halfway mark – about 1 hr of trekking you reach an ancient Virbhadra temple and a underground water tank called Okkal Theertha. These are all cave temples and the priest claims that the idols are thousands of years old.  The views are beautiful and it was breezy all thru the trek. ( there are two ways up – the shorter route bypasses the temples in the middle )

As you near the top of the hill you will see a massive Nandi and at the summit there are two small temples. The oral also has the suicide drop point – from where queen Shanthala a Hoysala queen committed suicide.

The trek is a medium grade trek – takes about 90 minutes one way . Total distance is ~ 2 Km one way. The trail has rock steps for almost half the distance, the last 15 – 20 minute stretch is very steep. There are monkeys all around – so do carry a stick to scare them and don’t carry and food items in your bags. There are shops on the way for water and juice.

We started  our climb at 8AM – reached the top by 9.30 , spent 30 min at the summit , had a few glasses of refreshing lemon water and were back at the base by 12 noon. On the way back we had lunch at the Orchard Hotel near Place Orchards and were back home by 3 PM.

The temples open only by 9 AM – so on the way up you may miss it. Weekends tend to be crowded – I have been there on a Wed and a Saturday. Its empty on weekdays. Summers can be warm – Nov to Feb is the best time.

 

 

 

 

 

City Temples & More : Day Trips in Bangalore : 7.30 AM to 3.30 PM (Trips 4 & 5)

17 Sep

This blog documents the 7.30 AM to 3.30 PM  day trips by a group of enthusiastic Bangalore explorers from Mantri Classic Koramangla.  We leave after the school bus departs and are back home when the kids return. Thats what we have been doing for the last 1 year – discovering amazing places in and around Bangalore. Energised ancient temples, architectural marvels , 1000’s of years old, lovely ashrams, treks, nature resorts all packed with simple and tasty food makes for a great day trip. Its a Fusion trip and thats the name of the group we gave to this team. The trips are very cost effective and average Rs 500 – 750 / head inclusive of breakfast, lunch and travel. We travel on a Wednesday most of the time – mid week when the places are empty , and because we lave by 7.30 /7.45 and are back by 3.30 we beat the crazy Bangalore traffic.

We started this about a year back – its been fun , in the last 12 trips we have discovered amazing places. This blog shares the itineraries of trips 4 & 5 

Trip 1,2,& 3  :  https://vak1969.com/2017/09/13/day-trips-in-bangalore-7-30-to-3-30-trips-1-3/

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Trip 4  : A city trip in and around MG Road (Suryanarayana Temple – Someshwara Temple – National Gallery of Modern art – Planetarium) 

We started at 7.45 and our first stop was the Sun Temple at Domlur. This is probably Bangalore’s and India’s cleanest temple. It feels like a 5 start hotel with green polished marble maintained spotlessly clean. Its a short 10 min drive from Koramangla ( if the Inner ring road is not jammed) – the temple is built and managed by a Reddy family. the Main deity is the Sun God – Surya , but there are idols of Saturn – Shani , Vaishno Devi , Lord Rama, Ganesha and the Navagrahas. You can access the temple from the airport road or the Inner Ring Road (Take a left at Murugan Idli on the IRR and it takes you right to the temple). On a Wednesday at 8 AM we had the temple to ourselves.

A quick stop for piping hot Idlis and Kesari at the Udupi joint on Indranagar 100 feet road and we headed to the narrow bylines of Ulsoor to visit the ancient Someshwara temple – built by the Cholas over a 1000 years back. The temple was forgotten by Bangalore until the UK premier came to Bangalore and made a visit. Its in decent shape and the sanctum sanctorum is highly energised. Lucky for us as were inside the current went – and it was beautiful to be in the heart of the temple with only the  Diyas giving you light that was ethereal.

We completed breakfast and the Someshwara temple by 10.30 and headed to the National Gallery of Modern Art near Cunningham Road – a short distance but in the Bangalore peak traffic it took us over 30 minutes. The NGMA is a wonderful place for art lovers. Its large , green and serene and you are lucky if there is a exhibition on display. they also have a small cafeteria which serves some lovely snacks and fresh juices. Depending on your interest in Art you could spend time here –  1 hr is sufficient for an amateur.

From here we rushed to the Planetarium – we have all visited a Planetarium as children or with our kids but it was a nice experience to bring the child in you alive to visit as adults  in a hall that was packed with school kids. They have shows in English and Kannada – book tickets in advance to avoid disappointment. Our show was  delayed by 30 min which cost us our stop over at Russel Market – we finally left at 1.15 for lunch at Sunheri –  Woodlands on Raja Ram Mohan Roy road app ITC Gardenia. The still serve you a royal meal at a very reasonable rate. Post lunch we left at 2.30 and were back home at Koramangla by 3.15.

Trip 5  : A city trip (Chokkanathar Perumal Temple – ISCKON Temple Banaswadi – Sapta Rishi Ashram Hennur) 

A wonderful trip that started with a sumptuous breakfast at Krishna Cafe. A small restaurant in Koramangla near Anand sweets that serves delicious authentic South Indian dishes ( Tamil style). From here we headed to our first stop. The Chokkanathaswamy temple, at Domlur  is one of the oldest temples in the city, dating to the Chola period of the 10th century AD. Inscriptions (in ancient Tamil script) on the stone walls of the temple indicate that the main deity is “Chokkaperumal” – Lord Vishnu with his consorts Sreedevi & Bhoodevi. They also indicate that the idols are made of saligrama stone, which is obtained from Nepal. The ancient temple was extensively renovated in the 1970’s – but the main Sanctum Sanctorum is preserved in its original form. Its a small but highly energised temple and when you sit inside close to the beautiful decorated idol with the chants of Vishnu Sahasranama it is a divine experience. You can cover this in 15 – 20 minutes.

Our second stop was an ISKCON temple. When you mention ISKCON Bangalore you automatically think of the temple on top of a hill in North Bangalore near Yeshwantpur. The one we visited at Banaswadi ( HBR Layout) was wonderful – Called “ISKCON Narasimha-Giridhari Mandir ” it is the house of Sri Sri Lakshmi Narasimha & Sri Sri Gandharvika Giridhari. A beautiful temple spread across two levels it has a lovely Goshala.  Budget 45 minutes here.

Our third stop was a unique place – most people in Bangalore would not have heard of Sage Amara a divine light worker who had the blessings and the Guidance of the Sapta Rishis. In 1935, Maharshi Amara meditated for 24 days and nights on a nearby hillock when he saw a huge light falling from the sky near Taponagara. Then, it was revealed to him that a special Spiritual Centre would be established by the Light Masters here.

Manasa Foundaton is established in a newly budding township called Taponagara, by the side of a tiny village called Chikkagubbi which lies one kilometre off Hennur-Bagalur Road, which leads to new Bengaluru International Airport. Taponagara is about 20 KMs away from Bangalore city, India. Taponagara has the Head Quarters of the Path called Manasa. One Kilometre away, in another village called Gollahalli, the Study Centre is established. This area is known as Antar-Manasa.

Taponagara has two important structures: Kundalini Tower where special Kundalini energy brought down from the Higher Plane of Adi Shakti is placed under the ground and the Cosmic Tower which has two pyramids, one inverted pyramid sitting on the other containing the energies and entry points into the Higher Planes.

You can easily spend a day here if you are into meditation , there are many places which are designed for deep meditation. We spent over an hr and then headed back. No good restaurants at Hennur or on the Outer Ring Road and we made the mistake of stopping at Phoenix Markectcity for lunch – the traffic was madness , we should have avoided this and come back for lunch to Indranagar or MG Road.  But as per plan we still made it back home at Mantri Classic Koramangla by 3.15 PM

 

 

 

Pyramid Valley, Bhoga Nandeeshwara, Gave Gangadeshwar ++ : Day Trips in Bangalore : 7.30 AM to 3.30 PM (Trips 1 – 3)

13 Sep

Bangalore has amazing weekend getaways – with Coorg , Bandipur, Chickamagalur close by – its a paradise for travellers. That is well known.

I discovered after nearly 25 years in Bangalore that the city also has a plethora of amazing sights that can be covered in less than a day. We call it the 7.30 to 3.30 trip. Leave after the school bus departs and be back at home when the kids return. Thats what we have been doing for the last 1 year – discovering amazing places in and around Bangalore.

Energised ancient temples, architectural marvels , 1000’s of years old, lovely ashrams, treks, nature resorts all packed with simple and tasty food makes for a great day trip. Its a Fusion trip and thats the name of the group we gave to this team – which is me (1 man) and about a dozen women with a lot of positive energy.  The trips are very cost effective and average Rs 500 – 750 / head inclusive of breakfast, lunch and travel. We travel on a Wednesday most of the time – mid week when the places are empty , and because we lave by 7.30 /7.45 and are back by 3.30 we beat the crazy Bangalore traffic.

In the last one year after I retired – I realised that one of the most frustrating and thankless jobs is that of an highly educated housewife. Housework ( especially kitchenware)  is 24by7. Its monotonous and it never stops. Even if you are 40+ there is a child in you – and who doesn’t like to travel and see new places. A time comes when pubbing and partying becomes boring. So exploring the city is a good pastime. Its like a monthly holiday.

We started this about a year back – its been fun , in the last 12 trips we have discovered amazing places. This blog shares the itineraries of these trips so that you can replicate the same with your friends.

Trip – 1 : Pyramid Valley , Kanakpura Road

Pyramid Valley is a serene and peaceful place full of greenery. Its like an Ashram – you can meditate, be by yourself , even stay there and attend some programs. I have been wanting to attend their full moon meditation session. The place is the Karma Bhoomi of its Founder Brahmarshi Patriji.

Departure from Koramangla 7.45 AM , Arrival 9.30 AM ( We could have reached faster by the NICE Road – avoid the BTM / JP Nagar , Kanakpura Road – it was jammed – maybe better now with the Metro)

Google maps will take you to this place – its a small detour from the Kanakpura main road on your left – there are signs and it comes after you cross The Art of Living ashram.

Watch a Video explaining the concept of the Pyramid Valley and the meditation techniques taught there and then enter the massive 160 ft X 160 ft Pyramid – supposedly the largest in the world for meditation. They claim that the intensity of meditation inside a Pyramid is 3 times higher. And yes the Meditation is indeed intense at the topmost raft right below the cone of the Pyramid. Visit the store and then drop by at the Cafeteria for a wholesome snack. they also serve free lunch at around 1 in the afternoon.

We had some Upma & Coffee and then on the way back stopped by at JP Nagar – at a nice homely place for Pasta and were back home by 3 PM.

http://pyramidvalley.org/about-us/

 

 

Trip – 2 : Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple , School of Ancient Wisdom (Near the Airport) 

On the foothills of the Nandi Hills – an outstandingly beautiful temple with intricate sculptures that is over 1000 years old and was developed by multiple dynasties over centuries – The Cholas, Pallavas, Hoysala’s, Ganga and the Vijaynagar empire  – and you can see their unique architecture styles in the three sanctum sanctorum’s of the temple that houses Lord Shiva in his 3 forms – as a child (Arunachala)  , youth (Uma Mahesh)  and Adult (Bhoga Nandeeshwara) The Chola Pillars, Pallava Stupas ( similar to the Shore temple) and the intricate carvings of the Hoysalas adds to the grandeur and peace of the temple. This temple is one of Bangalore’s best kept secrets – if in the US this would have been a UNESCO world heritage site.

The shrine of Arunachaleshwara representing Shiva in his childhood it was built by the Gangas, Uma Maheshwar was built by the Hoysalas and Bhoga Nadeeshwara was built by the Cholas.

A very well maintained temple, spotlessly clean, with a beautiful tank that is supposed to be the source of a small river – you can easily spend 90 – 120 minutes enjoying the beauty of the place.

We left Koramangla at 7.45 AM and reached our breakfast joint – Indian Paratha company at 8.45 AM. This place is located on the Bangalore Hyderabad highway just after you pass the Airport. Being a Wednesday it was empty  – the Parathas here are outstanding and the service was excellent. (Weekends the place gets really busy)

From here the drive time to Bhoga Nandeeshwara is less than 30 minutes – we were at the Temple by 9.45 AM. Departure from Bhoga Nandeeshwara at 11.30 AM and reached our next stop – The School of Ancient Wisdom on IVC road by 12 Noon.

The School of Ancient Wisdom is a doorway to transformation and enlightened living. Its a mystical place that was founded by the saintly  Manize Sait (Late)  under the guidance of the masters. Its a centre where the belief is on the concept of energy – and Ram one of the founders of the place was an excellent guide. We had a lovely veg lunch here and left by 2 and were back home by 3.30. (You have to inform them before hand if you plan to have lunch here)

Trip – 3 : Brahmins Cafe – Ramkrishna Ashram – Gave Gangadeshwar Cave Temple – Jain temple  

This trip was in the heart of Bangalore in and around Basavangudi.

7.45 AM we left Koramangla and we reached our first stop – the Legendary Brahmins Cafe . You have limited option of dishes – Idli, Vada, Upma, Kesari, Coffee. They serve only Chutney – but its the tastiest Chutney you can eat. A standing joint the food is tasty and the service is very efficient.

Less than a km from Brahmins Cafe is the Ramkrishna Mission Ashram in Basavangudi. A well maintained green enclave which has a large meditation hall , a rock commemorating the spot where Sarada Devi meditated, and a rock bench on which Vivekananda was supposed to have spent time when he visited Bangalore.

This is where we found a unique flower – which has a hood and a small Shiva Linga in it. The Couroupita guianensis, known by a variety of common names including cannonball tree  is sacred to Hindus, who believe its hooded flowers look like the nāga, and it is grown at Shiva temples.

The centre also has a large book store that has an excellent collection. ( Budget 30 – 45 min at the Ramkrishna Ashram) – added advantages clean bathrooms and very convenient parking.

Next stop was the Gavi Gangadeshwar Temple – a rock cut cave temple of Shiva where the Linga is a Swayambu and every year on Jan 14th the light rays mysteriously fall on the Shiva Linga from a narrow gap in the windows . A narrow tunnel behind the Shiva Linga is home to many ancient sculptures of Gods and Rishis and the priest claims that there is a hidden tunnel between the temple and Varanasi. He also added that the temple was from the Treta Yuga and more than 5000 years old. The temple has astrophysical relevance and is highly energising.  We visited the temple on Jan 11th on Thiruvathirai (Arudhra Darisanam) – surprisingly the temple was empty and getting ready for Jan 14th. It would have been impossible to visit a famous Shiva temple in Tamil Nadu on this day.

(For more details http://www.livemint.com/Sundayapp/X3uvXrojiRaPr31fhf6IQI/The-mysteries-of-Bengalurus-famed-Gavi-Gangadhareshwara-tem.html)

Right next to the temple is the Samadhi of Narayan Maharaj an enlightened soul. A short walk from here on a hilltop is a Hanuman Temple. During his exploration of the area of the town he was planning to build, Kempegowda-I came across the hillock housing the swayambu Anjaneya Swami in the Karenji area. He built the Gharbhagraham for the Anjaneya Swami and also arranged for the performance of the Pranaprathista of the deity. He made arrangements for the performance of the daily pujas in the temple. It is believed that Janamejayan, the grand son of Abimanyu, had done penance at the hillock in which Anjaneyaswamy’s idol is located. (Budget 30 – 45 minutes) and then we headed to our next stop – the Jain temple at Basavangudi. Budget 30 minutes here.

And we wrapped up the busy morning with lunch at Kamath Bugle Rock – a place that serves excellent North Karnataka food. We covered a lot of ground between 7.30AM and noon and could do justice to the excellent meal. Departure at 2 and we were back home by 3.

 

 

Recharge & Connect in 48 hrs @ Isha Yoga Coimbatore

14 Jun

Some say that we are at the end of bad times (Kali Yuga) and the new cycle is on the verge of starting. I don’t know if this is true – but if you visit the Isha Yoga centre in the suburbs of Coimbatore for a few days you will start experiencing a unique feeling – it feels like you are in a world of peace and harmony , it feel like you are in Sat Yuga. 

After my Inner Engineering program in 2011 I had visited the Ashram in 2012 – that time there was a lot of ongoing construction . I visited a second time last week ( June 2017) with a few friends and did not want to come back. If I have to describe the Ashram in 3 words  it would be Energy , Peace & Nature. Sadhguru is not a normal guru and the Isha Ashram is very different from the other Ashrams I have visited.

Let me try and explain and set the contours for you to plan a visit. And please do visit – if I have a choice of going to Goa for two nights or to the Isha Yoga Ashram – I would without a second thought choose the Isha Yoga Ashram. There is a lot to see and do and  a sense of deep satisfaction at the end. And you leave knowing that you will be back very soon.

Reaching Isha Yoga 

Located in the suburbs of Coimbatore its about 380 Km from Bangalore , we left Koramangla at 5.30 AM and reached the Ashram by 1 PM after two breaks for breakfast and lunch. The road is excellent and the FastTag  helped us avoid the Q’s at the Toll gates. Choke points are in Salem and Avinashi Road Coimbatore – rest of the journey you can zip at 100 + km / hr . We stopped for breakfast at Krishnagiri and lunch at Annapoorna Gowrishanker (Avinashi Road – immediately after Le Meridian). After you cross Coimbatore city you drive for almost 40 Kms thru excellent Village roads and reach the foothills of the verdant Velangiri Hills. ( Trust Google Maps it gets you to your destination correctly)

Stay at Isha Yoga

They have excellent rooms at the Ashram – you need to book in advance. Room rates are Rs 1300/- per day that includes pure veg Lunch and Dinner at the Ashram. Excellent, nourishing, healthy food. Its a sit down meal. Lunch is served at 10 AM and Dinner at 7 PM. Book  well in advance – on any day there are well over 300 people attending the different programs at the Centre. The place is buzzing with energy. Everything is managed by volunteers and it is done with efficiency that will put the largest of corporates to shame.

In between if you want some snacks or Tea (I would say avoid if possible) you can visit the lovely Pepper Vine eatery that opens at 830 AM and serves a wide variety of snacks , juices , fruits – all at very reasonable prices. For those who want a early morning cup of coffee you need to walk to the main gate – the restaurant there opens by 6.30 AM.

How to plan your day 

You have the choice of starting your day at 4.30 AM with the soothing chants of Nirvana Shatakam and Guru Paduka Stotram. After a shower we headed to the large open platform near the SuryaKund that faces the Lily Pond , Dhyana Linga and Linga Bhairavi Temple. This is the perfect place to do your morning Yoga and Kriyas.

At 6 AM we headed to the Dhyana Linga ( it opens at 6 AM) – we were lucky to be there during the Full Moon and were amongst the first to do the Milk Abhishekam.  The best time to visit the Dhyana Linga is at 6 AM in the morning or late evening. Rest of the day it gets very crowded – avoid weekends when the crowds are bustling.

The Dhyana Linga is a highly energised space for meditation. The sole purpose of Sadhguru’s life was to create and consecrate the Dhyana Linga something he has been trying for the last few lifetimes. (For the full story on Sadhguru and his journey of building the Dhyana Linga read Sadhguru: More than a Life by Arundhati Subramaniam)

 

We were lucky not just to be the first to do the Abhishekam but also to do the ” Linga Snanam“. This activity happens at 8 PM the day before the full moon when you can volunteer to wash and clean the Dhyana Linga. Its a rare and unique opportunity and we were blessed to be able to do it.

We have all grown up knowing that the Shiva Linga as being very auspicious and only the select few are allowed to come near it. And hear was a group of volunteers and visitors who were doing what normally only select ordained brahmin priests can do.

After an hr of meditation at the Dhyana Linga we headed to the Linga Bhairavi temple. A powerful sanctum  dedicated to the Goddess. The design and aesthetics of everything in the Isha Ashram is unique and classy and you cannot but stop admiring every walkway , every wall , every stone – the eye for detail is amazing. The walk from the Linga Bhairavi is thru a beautiful green garden and you cross the Sadhana Centre, The Aum Meditation hall and the Chandra Kund before exiting the complex near the entrance of the Dhyana Linga.

 

By now it was 8.30 AM and we stopped by at the cafeteria for a cup of tea and then slowly walked by the verdant green landscape to our room for some rest before heading to the Bhiksha Hall for lunch at 10 AM. The lunch hall closes sharp at 10 AM so be there by 9.55 AM. You can always join the second group at 10.40 AM if you miss the 10 AM slot. The food served here is tasty, nourishing and filling. And after the meal you need a little rest post which we headed for the Aum Meditation.

This is conducted in a small hall near the Chandra Kund as you are walking away from the Linga Bhairavi. A 30 minute session you are initiated to the correct way of chanting AUM. Sadhguru explains in a video the reason why it needs to be chanted in a certain manner and the

benefits of the same. You are advised to do this practise for 40 days twice a day – 15 minutes each. The practise can be done anytime even on a full stomach.

Our next stop was the “Theertha Kund”. Ancient and powerful temples invariably held a sacred water body, where visitors could take a dip before entering the main energy space. This was not only for physical cleansing and freshening, but also to activate and sensitize the energy body of the visitors, to prepare them to fully receive the energies of the space. There are two theerthakunds at the Isha Yoga Center – the Chandrakund for women and Suryakund for men.

Embedded 30 feet below the ground, and approached by a descent of thirty-two massive steps, the Chandrakund is framed by gigantic granite stones and vaulted by a colorful mural depicting the Mahakumbha Mela. Measuring 55 x 15 ft., this exquisite artwork follows the traditional Kerala style of painting dating back to the 15th century, using only natural colors and vegetable dyes.

The Suryakund is larger and measures 130 by 40 feet, and is embedded 22 feet in the earth. It is surrounded on three sides by a wall of 200 massive, 50-ton granite blocks. One major feature of the Suryakund that nobody can miss is the Sun sculpture which hangs from the ceiling. Constructed in just two days, the Surya sculpture is 20 feet across and has been constructed out of brass and copper. The water is energized by the submerged Rasalinga, weighing over 660kgs. A dip in this vibrant water significantly increases spiritual receptivity and also rejuvenates the body.

The Kund is indeed magical – the cold water refreshes end energises you. Its ideal to take a dip at the Kund and then visit the Dhyana Linga but the Kund opens at 7.30 AM and the Dhyana Linga at 6 AM. (Do take a towel with you to the Kund, this is for drying yourself, they give you a towel / robe for women  to wear while entering the holy water space), you can leave your valuables in a locker.

Post our dip in the Kund we again went back to the Dhyana Linga for an hrs meditation and the on the way out stopped by the Cafeteria and Isha Shoppe. The Shoppe has a wonderful collection of items – dresses , artefacts etc – budget at least an hr to browse thru all the items at the store.

A glass of lemonade and then we headed to the grand Adiyogi statue that is a 10 min walk . Its massive and the area is so windy – the whole experience is breathtakingly beautiful. We were lucky that there was hardly any crowd and we had the place to ourselves. Its best to come here in the evenings or in the morning when its not very sunny.

As we headed back to the room we were able to witness another rare spectacle  – the Linga Bhairavi Procession that happens on every full moon night. A high energy spectacle of Drums , Dance , Fire with the procession of the Linga Bhairavi and the Aarti in the open space near the Nandi. Try and visit the Ashram doing the New Moon or Full Moon time – then you can get to see these rare ceremonies.

The day ended with an outdoor dinner near the Nalanda Cottage. Another unique experience eating a tasty piping hot meals in the darkness below the cloudy sky with the dark hills looming in the background keeping a watch.

Between the two days we also attended the evening Satsang at 5.30 PM in the Sadhana Hall. (If Sadhguru is in the Ashram he conducts it in person – with his travel schedule thats rare) and managed a short visit to the Isha Rejuvenation centre for a Massage. While here do get a pack of the Snana Powder – its a great body wash.

An important thing you will observe all through the Ashram is the connect with Snakes. They are everywhere – right from the entrance , the Lily pond, even the knobs in the room are designed like snakes.

You can even buy a copper / silver snake shaped ring. Sadhguru has a strong connect with snakes – and we all know of the connect that Shiva has with Snakes. Wonder what this means.

Isha Yoga centre is about Hatha Yoga in its pure form and meditation techniques to connect with your inner self. This is a  place of Yoga and Karma – people at the Ashram are dedicated and work hard. This is not a place where you will find lectures on Vedanta and Gita.

The two days we spent flew by and it was wonderful to have the company of two wonderful people – company does make a difference, when you visit an Ashram like this find people who are not garrulous and can absorb the energy of the place. The trip was perfect from start to end – and we owe it all to the blessing and grace of Sadhguru.

Running an Ashram like this day after day, catering to large crowds and managing everything so efficiently is remarkable and hats off to the administrators and the band of volunteers who make this happen and create this amazing experience for us.

 

Most of the Photos are from the Public Domain space and not shot by me. Photography is prohibited in most places inside the Ashram.

For more details visit the Isha Blog

http://isha.sadhguru.org/blog/lifestyle/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-isha-yoga-center-and-more/

 

 

Journey of Souls – Book Review

8 Apr

Most people are scared of death – some are inquisitive of life after death. I belong to the latter group. From our childhood we have heard so much about heaven and hell – its as if there were two big mansions up there in the sky – one which was full of gardens and fairies and everlasting happiness and the other where they tortured  you and dropped you in cauldrons of boiling oil.

Spirituality, Materialism, Energy, Infinity, Supreme Power, Life , Death, Purpose …. how do you connect the dots with all these interesting but deep subjects ? Read the book “Journey of Souls” by Michael Newton.

 

This amazing book reveals the hidden mysteries of life in the spirit world after death on earth. Dr. Michael Newton, a hypnotherapist in private practice, has developed his own hypnosis technique to reach his subjects’ hidden memories.

The book is a real life log of his sessions with  twenty-nine people who were placed in a state of superconsciousness. While in deep hypnosis, these subjects movingly describe what has happened to them between their former reincarnations on earth. They reveal graphic details about how it feels to die, who meets us right after death, what the spirit world is really like, where we go and what we do as souls, and why we choose to come back in certain bodies.

 

What the book can educate you on 

  • How it feels to die
  • What you see and feel right after death
  • The truth about “spiritual guides”
  • What happens to “disturbed” souls
  • Why you are assigned to certain soul groups in the spirit world and what you do there
  • How you choose another body to return to Earth
  • The different levels of souls: beginning, intermediate, and advanced
  • When and where you first learn to recognize soulmates on Earth
  • The purpose of life

So Why read the book

It will remove the fear of death. The book explains that after Death you will go to a beautiful place where you are loved , nurtured , taken care of , healed and then you decide when and where to come back in a physical form. There is no hell , there is no boiling Cauldrons.

You will realise that the time you spend on Earth is a learning curve , you are sent here to work on your weakness and help your soul advance in its journey to immortality. A learning that there is a purpose for this life. You were born in a family and with a set of friends as per your choice to change yourself. Soulmates come at pre defined times to help you in the journey. They try to help you – but its up to you to decide whether you want to change or not. Some people adapt and change and progress – while others resist change and the journey for them is longer.

 

As you evolve the colour of your soul changes. The highly advanced sages and masters who guide other souls are Blue & Purple in colour while the beginners are white. (I have heard Sri M talk about how when life ceases he can see a white wisp of smoke emerge from the body and move on) – less than 1% of souls are in the Advanced + category

You will start understanding the concept of energy and infinity and time better. A Soul can choose to be in any Planet, Galaxy or Universe, or Astral plane – there are numerous points in space where life forms or energy forms exist. Souls can recollect their previous lives thousands of years back  – the concept of earth years is just a flash of a second in this infinite universe.

After reading Journey of Souls, you will gain a better understanding of the immortality of the human soul. You will meet day-to-day challenges with a greater sense of purpose. You will begin to understand the reasons behind events in your own life.

Journey of Souls is a life-changing book. I found the initial section very interesting , it was a tad boring in the middle but the last few chapters that talk about Life Selection and Choosing a New Body is fascinating.