Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A peep into God's Kingdom

             It may be appropriate to start the pilgrimage in the Central part of Kerala from Kalady,the birth place of Adhi Sankaracharya , the greatest Philosopher saint of India. The birthplace was rediscovered by Sri Sachidhanandha Shivabhimana Narasimha Bharathi, the 33rd Acharya of Sringeri Mutt. He established two Temples on the banks of river Poorna, where Sri Sankara's house stood. The Temples were dedicated to Goddess Saradha and Jagadguru Sri Adhi Sankara. The then King of Travancore, Sri Moolam Thirunaal Maharaja gifted lands to Sringeri Mutt for building the Temples.

            Sringeri Mutt's Temple complex has a Vedha Patasala and the samadhi of Aryamba, mother of Sri Sankara Bhagavath Padha. The shrines of Saradhamba and the Acharya face south. A book stall, an agraharam and a guest house are located just outside the Temple complex. Sankara Jayanthi is being celebrated every year  on the eve of Vaikasha Shukla Panchami, the day on which Sri Sankara was born.

            An old Temple, truly in the traditional style of Kerala is dedicated to Sri Krishna,also called as Kaladiappan is located close to Sankara's Janmaboomi. It is said that this deity was worshipped by Sankara when he was a small boy. Namboodris do pujas here and a grand recitation of Kanakadhara Sthotram (by Adhi Sankara)for ten days is carried out by 32 Namboodris here on the eve of Akshaya Thrithiya day to invoke blessings of Godess Mahalakshmi.

            Kaladi can be reached from Angamali, a small town on Chennai- Allepey rail route.It can also be accessed from Thrisur,Palghat, Cochin and Trivandrum. The international airport at Cochin is only 5 km away from Kaladi. "Keerthi Sthambam" in memory of Adhi Sankara near Kalady bus station is built by Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt . In the pooja section, one can see Padhukas and a gallery of sculptures depicting the Life of Adhi Sankara. Visitors are allowed to go upto the top of the Sthambam to look at them and also enjoy the nature around when peeped through the window.

             Manikka mangalam is on the outskirts of Kaladi where we find a Shiva Temple and a Durga Temple. As any other Temple in Kerala, these shrines are kept extremely neat and the divinity experienced has no match. Nambudris conduct daily Pujas on time strictly as per the tradition. Their sincerity is commendable.

            Thiruvellaman thulli Shiva Temple in Mattoor is a vast and ancient one and the standard of sanctity maintained is too good. This Temple is believed to have been worshipped by Aryamba, mother of Adhi Sankara. The Lord gave dharshan to her as white deer , hence the name "Vella Maan".

            Sankara Narayana Temple at Nayathrudu is also a very big one where the roof above the Sanctum is conical and huge. Wooden carvings around the sanctum delight the visitors. The entire route from Kaladi is a treat to watch and it will not be an exaggeration if we say that the Nature has not spared even an inch unless man becomes a hindrance. Even the houses en route are big and built in the traditional style without forgetting to plant different species all around the houses.

          Thirumoorikulam (referred as Thirumoorikalam by Azhwar) Vishnu Temple is yet another ancient Temple on the way where the deity is called as Lakshmana Perumal. The Lord carries Prayoga Chakra on His right hand.

          Thiruvanjikulam (Sung in Thevaram as Thiruvanjaikalam by Sundara Murthi Nayanar) is located close to Kottapuram, a small town. This is the place where Sundarar met Cheraman Perumal Nayanar and became his close friend. Thiruvanjaikala Mahadeva sent an white elephant to carry Sundarar to Kailash and Cheraman followed him on his horse's back. It happened on an Adi Swathi day and aptly remembered and celebrated even now by several devotees of this place and from outside the state. The Temple presents a very old look. Several small shrines are there on the prakaram. There are shrines for Sundarar and Cheraman and Thevaram Padigams are inscribed near the sannadhi. Thiruvanjikula Mahadeva shrine faces west and fine carvings are seen around the sanctum. Kodungalur Bhagavathi Temple is thronged by visitors and it can be reached easily from Thiruvanjikulam.

          In Perumbavur/Kotaapuram region, a place where three Vishnu Temples are located next to each other is a must for the pilgrims. In the first Temple, Srinivasa Perumal and Kulasekara Azhwar sannadhis are there similar to those seen in Tamilnadu. The second Temple is a small one and the third, dedicated to Madhava Perumal is known for its rich architecture.

            Thiruparayar Rama Temple is around 15 km from Kodungalur and it is known for unique offering of crackers. Many temples in this region follow suit and one can hear the noise of crackers frequently.

           Sri Vadakkunathan Temple at Thrissur is the next destination. It is located at a central place. The place in and around theTemple complex is kept tidy and free from encroachment. Credit should also go to the visitors who cooperate with the administration in maintaining the atmosphere clean and divine. The west facing shrine of Vadakkunatha swami was worshipped by Sivaguru and Aryamba , the parents of Adhi Sankara when they prayed Him to bless a child for them. The Lord indeed blessed the couple with an exceptional child who later established Sanathana dharma on strong footing by upholding the Upanishad tradition and Advaitha Philosophy. There is a separate sannadhi for Adhi Sankara on the prakaram.

           Guruvayur,some 30 km from Thrisur can be reached either by road or train. The Temple of Guruvayurappan  is flooded by devotees from several places. The Temple administration has done its best to facilitate quick dharshan for various sections of people. Kudos to them as all these arrangements are done without compromising the traditional practices.

           The visit to Guruvayur is said to be complete only upon visiting the shrine of Mahadeva at Mammiyur, 3km away. It is an ancient one,although not a big complex. If we go further away, we can reach a place called Punnathurkota which houses 64 elephants (as on date) belonging to Guruvayur Devaswom. The elephant camp is open between 9 A.M and 5 P.M. for the visitors. It is really fantastic to see so many elephants at the same place and that too at a close proximity. Mahouts are there to take care of them and a veterinary doctor is also available to attend the sick animal. It really gives pleasure to wind up the tour at this place as one can carry fond memories of God and His Creation. It is, no doubt, God's own country.