Monday, June 30, 2008

Kashi- Then And Now......What Does the Future Hold?




What’s Varanasi without the Ganga? The river is the lifeline of the city. The city revolves around the river with everyone coming there to have a dip. With its source in the Himalayas, the Ganges never dries up. Of course, with the kind of pollution that we are creating, and the kind of garbage that is put into the river, only the lord knows if this will last! Read More......

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Saints of Varanasi

Sant Tulsidas and Kabir both have a close connection with Varanasi. While Tulsidas came to Kashi after visiting all the holy places, and breathed his last in this holy city, Kabir started his life and work here, and went on to other places later in his lifetime. Associated with both of them are a number of sacred spots in this city.








The Sankat Mochan Mandir, where Hanuman blessed Tulsidas is one of the most important and crowded temples in the city; The TulsiManas Mandir has the entire Ram Charit Manas engraved on its walls; and the ghat where Tulsidas merged with his beloved Ram is known after him as the Tulsi Ghat.








There are a number of places associated with Kabir's life here, the more important being the Kabir Mutt and the Laher Talav. Read More........

Other Ancient Temples in Kashi

Kashi is a place of pilgrimage and people come here to visit temples. It is therefore no wonder that wherever you turn, you come across a temple. Some are ancient, some recent, and the others fall somewhere in between. Some are architecturally beautiful; some have an interesting history, while the others attract you simply for their sanctity. It is practically impossible to make a complete list of the temples in Kashi, and I will not even try to make that attempt. I will, therefore stick to describing the temples I have visited, and the temples I have heard of, but could not visit.


The Varahi Temple


Varahi (Photo Courtesy:Internet)



Varahi is considered to be one of the Saptha Matas or seven forms of the Divine Mother. She is the Shakti (Power) of Vishnu when He took the form of a Boar (Varaha) to kill the demon Hiranyaksha and save the Earth.

The Varahi temple is on the Tripura Bhairavi Ghat, and is within walking distance from the Vishwanath Temple. I had never heard of this temple, and visiting this temple threw up a couple of surprises. Read More.......

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Varanasi Temple Circuit

The Vishwanath and Annapurna temples are the most popular and famous temples in Kashi, and the main reasons for a visit. However, our ancient texts mention a few more temples which are important and must be visited to complete the circuit of temples. Read the Full Article.....

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Annapurna Temple



Food is one of the basic necessities of life, and it is no wonder that we say ‘Annam Brahma’, food is God. It is the mother who provides food for the child, and it is again no wonder that we pray to the goddess Parvati as Annapurna, the one who gives us food. It is believed that Parvati gave Alms to Shiva, and she is depicted with a bowl in one hand and ladle in the other, serving food to Shiva, standing in front of her, with his begging bowl in His hand. The most popular temple of Annapurna is at Kashi followed by the one at Horanadu, in Karnataka. There are two other temples of Annapurna, one in Kerala, and one in Gujarat. I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting these last two temples. When I do, I shall surely write about them. Meanwhile, read about my visit to the Annapoorna Temple at Kashi here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple




Kashi is known as the land of Shiva. Everything in Kashi not only revolves around the main temple of Vishwanath, as Shiva is known here, but He is also believed to be in control of everything that happens in this holy city. Normally, in Hindu mythology, the nine planets, or Navagrahas, who govern our actions, are independent, and perform their duty without interference from the Gods (a case of not even God interfering with nature and her rules). However, Kashi is a special city, an exception to this rule, where Shiva even governs the Navagrahas. It is believed that Lord Shaneeshwara (Saturn) once came to catch Shiva for the period of 7 ½ years (what is commonly called Saade-saati), and found himself unable to enter the temple. He is believed to have stayed outside the temple, and hence the temple of Shaneeshwara outside the Vishwanath temple is much frequented by pilgrims who light oil lamps here, hoping to escape the clutch of Shani. More....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Annapoorneshwari Temples of Horanadu and Hosanadu (Kodyadka) and Kalaseshwara temple at Kalasa.

The Annapoorneshwari temple at Horanadu is a famous one, and is on the itinerary of most people who visit Mangalore or Sringeri. Horanadu is about 2 hours away from Sringeri, and is an extremely beautiful temple. The idol of Annapoorneshwari is life size, and covered with gold from head to toe. This is quite an ancient temple, and is regarded as the kula devathai, or the household deity of many people residing in Chickmanglur district.

The entrance to the Horanadu Temple

Just half an hour away from Horanadu is the temple of Kalasa. This is a temple on a hill, on the foothills of which flows the Bhadra River. This place seems to be a picnic spot, as it was filled with people even in may when there wasn’t that much water in the river. One has to climb a few steps to get to the temple. At the entrance of the temple are the statues of two elephants, regarded to be Ganesha and a she-elephant, his wife. It is believed that there was an Asura here, to kill whom, Ganesha descended on earth. The magical Asura took the form of a tree, and Ganesha assumed the form of an elephant to uproot him. Seeing the struggle, a she elephant in the forest came to help, and along with Ganesha succeeded in uprooting the tree and putting an end to the Asura. Since he had touched the she-elephant during the fight, Ganesha married her, and decreed that she should take her place by his side at this place. Both the elephant statues look identical, except that the male one is depicted as trampling the Asura beneath his foot. The idol of kalaseshwara, a lingam, is believed to be Shiva who manifested himself in a kalasam, a vessel in which water is kept, to the great rishi, Agasthya.

Entrance to the Kalaseshwara Temple (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Both these temples are quite well known, and are visited by a great number of people. However, the internet is a great place to find new places and temples, and one such is the Annapoorneshwari temple at Hosanadu. I read about this place on the net, and added it to my extensive list of temples to visit. Right from Gokarna, I kept enquiring about it, but no one seemed to know. Finally, at Udupi, the taxi chap told us that he knew the place. Unfortunately, Udupi was too crowded, and we got a room only for two days, and had to leave for Sringeri. Thankfully, the car driver at Sringeri also knew the place, and we visited it on our way back from Mangalore.

The Durga parameshwari temple at Kateel is about an hour away from Mangalore. This temple is a beautiful one that I shall never tire of visiting. The temple is on a small island on a river, and the idea of the goddess killing a demon here adds a touch of adventure to this place. For the best experience, one must visit it in the rains, when the river is in full flow.
Hosanadu is just half an hour away from here. From there, Sringeri is 2 hours away. The temple is on the route from Kateel to Sringeri.

The Hosanadu temple is a newly built one, built by a local family, who, after one of their regular visits to Horanadu got the inspiration to build an identical temple in their village. The idol of the goddess looks identical to the one at Horanadu, except that here, the bowl and spoon that she is carrying in her two arms ( to serve food), are more clearly visible than at Horanadu. The temple complex is huge, and they have ambitious plans for it. Already, a huge statue of hanuman carrying the Sanjeevani Mountain has been installed, a go-shala (cowshed) with a number of cows exists, and there is also a mini-zoo with a few birds and deer. They have also built a huge hall for discourses, and are building one for serving food. This temple, though new, is also worth a visit.

If you are traveling from Mangalore to Udupi, via Kateel, do visit the temple of Durga Parameshwari at Bappanadu. We were unable to visit the temple due to lack of time, but I have read about this temple also on the net.

My blog is aimed not just at describing my experiences, but also to provide information to the many others like me who search for information on the net before starting on a trip, and many religious minded people who want to visit temples for various reasons. Hence, if any of you have any more information on any of the places I have mentioned (or have missed out), please do add your comments, or send me a mail.

A pilgrimage to Kashi

Kashi Yatra- A pilgrimage to the holy city of Kashi, or Varanasi, as it is known today, is the dream of every devout Hindu.

There are many interpretations of the term ‘Kashi Yatra’. To some, it simply means a visit to the holy city to bathe in the holy Ganges, have darshan of Lord Vishwanath, and perform the sacred rites to one’s ancestors to satisfy them.

To most South Indians, the Kashi Yatra starts with a trip to Rameswaram, where one collects the sand at either Rameswaram, or more particularly, Dhanushkodi. This sand is then carried all the way to Kashi, or, if possible, the Triveni Sangam at Allahabad, and immersed at the confluence of the 3 holiest rivers- Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. From here, water is collected, and after performing all the rites and pujas at Kashi, carried back to Rameswaram, and used to perform Abhishekam to the Lord there.

For north Indians, the trip, for obvious geographical reasons, is the opposite. They start the Yatra at Kashi, and bring the holy water to Rameswaram, from where they take the sand back for immersion in the Ganga.

We are South Indians, hailing from Ramanathapuram, and have been fortunate enough to have visited the holy temple at Rameswaram a number of times. On one of our trips, my in-laws brought back the holy sand on which lord Rama would have stepped ages ago. They had kept the sand carefully for a number of years, hoping to make the trip to Kashi at least once in their lifetime, and satisfy our forefathers. Fortune has finally smiled on us, and we have just returned from a trip to Kashi.

Though we took the train to Varanasi, the first place we visited was Allahabad, where we made a Shiva lingam with the sand from Rameswaram, performed the appropriate pujas, and finally immersed it in the Triveni Sangam. We have returned with the holy water from the confluence, and are waiting for the next trip to our home town and Rameswaram, so that we can complete our Kashi Yatra successfully.

Kashi is such an ancient city, with a culture and history unparalleled by any other, that one article is not enough to describe it. There is so much to see and so many places and temples to visit, both in and around Kashi, that I am starting a new blog to do justice to it.
To visit my new blog, click here. It will takesome time for me to give all the details, (and believe me, there are many..........), so please do look for regular updates, both in this blog, as well as the new one.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Envis Centre on Conservation of Ecological Heritage and Sacred Sites of India

I happened to be looking for the origin of some rivers and chanced upon this site. Do look it up. it contains valuable informtion about sacred places, rivers, etc. and is an interesting read......
http://www.ecoheritage.cpreec.org/

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Six Ganesha Temples along the Karnataka Coast

Coastal Karnataka abounds in legends, and hence there are numerous temples connected to them. The story of Gokarna and Ganesha stopping Ravana from taking the lingam to Lanka seems to the most popular one of them all, and apart from the Panchalingam temples, there are six temples devoted to Ganesha. In all these temples, the idol of Ganesha is in the standing posture, and resembles the idol at Gokarna. These temples are the ones at Gokarna, Idagunji, Annegudde, Hattiangady, Sharavu at Mangalore, and Madhur near Kasargod. The credit for my visiting all these temples goes solely to one Mr. Raghuram, who has written an article about it in The Hindu. I came across this article when I was searching for places around Mangalore on the net, and found it extremely interesting. Please do check it out at http://www.hinduonnet.com/mp/2005/09/17/stories/2005091703680100.htm

It is considered auspicious to visit all these temples in one day, and Mr. Raghuram suggests starting at Madhur, and finishing at Gokarna. We however took the opposite route, and visited the temples over a period of 4 days.

I have already described our Gokarna trip, and the Abhishekam to Mahaganapathy. The next temple we visited was Idagunji. Idagunji is midway between Gunavanteshwar and Murudeshwar, and is a half hour drive from either temple. The temple is quite big, and the idol of Ganesha is almost the same as at Gokarna. We reached the temple just in time for the Abhishekam. Here, it is only the priests who so the Abhishekam, but it was a good experience nevertheless. The specialty of this temple is Lavancha or Vettiver, which is available in plenty. Look out for Ganesha masks, caps, and other things made out of it.

Annegudde was the next temple we visited. (Actually, Hattiangady comes first on this route, but we had a stupid driver who misled us. Try and look out for a driver who knows all the routes, but more importantly, all the temples on the route. Most drivers know only the major tourist attractions like beaches, and the major temples, not the smaller ones). This is also a big temple, and quite impressive. Here, while we circumambulated the temple, we saw paintings on the walls depicting a story, but here, language turned out to be a major barrier, with us not understanding a word the priest said. Being afternoon, the place was empty, and we were unable to find anyone to answer our questions. So, for a detailed description of the legends, etc, of the temple, all of you will have to wait……….

We visited Hattiangady the day after, while returning from Kundapura. Hattiangady is about half an hour from Kundapura, towards Murudeshwar. Here, the idol is considered to be Bala Ganesha, or Ganesha as a small boy. Only half the idol is seen, and the other half is believed to be buried in the ground. In one hand, he holds a bowl of his favorite item, Modaks. Here also, like all the other temples in this circuit, he is standing. This is a good temple, where everyone kept inviting us to eat, and were affronted when we told them that we had already had lunch at a hotel. The priest told us that in this part of Karnataka, there was a temple every 10 Kms serving lunch and dinner to all visitors, and it was sacrilege to eat anywhere else, especially at a hotel! The temple trust seems to be doing quite a lot of good services. They have, for example, built a school, and are in the process of adding a college to it, and also plan to build a hospital in the near future.

Sharavu Mahaganapathy is in the heart of Mangalore city, and is quite a huge and popular temple in the area. Here, there is not just a Ganesha temple, but also a temple to his parents, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Do visit this temple when you are in Mangalore.

The last temple in this list is Madhur Mahaganapathy, which is about 5Kms from Kasargod, which is in Kerala. This temple is about one and a half hour drive from Mangalore, along the scenic coastal route. If you are visiting Dharmasthala and Subrahmanya, this temple can be reached in about 2 ½ hours from Subrahmanya, along the hill route, which is also extremely beautiful. From Mangalore, you can visit first Dharmasthala, then Subrahmanya, and then return to Mangalore via Madhur.

The Madhur temple is huge, and beautiful, and it is with great regret that I write that I was unable to see this temple, as it was closed when we went. The temple closes at 12:30PM, and opens only at 5:30PM. We were unable to wait for so long, and hence were unable to complete this temple circuit. If any of you has visited this temple, please do write to me, or make a comment on this, so that others may be able to read about it.

This completes another temple circuit in coastal Karnataka. Look out for descriptions of more temples coming up……………

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