2 September 2017

Varuna Lingam—Lord of Rain and Water

In observance of the heavy rains this area is now experiencing, posted below is information about Varuna Lingam—one of the Arunachala Asta Lingams.

This lingam is situated on the outer girivalam pathway about one kilometre before the village of Adi Annamalai and has the west as its direction. Varuna’s vehicle is Makara (that lives both on land and water) and is an animal with the head and front legs of an antelope and the body and tail of a fish. 
This Lingam has Lord Shani as its dominant Navagraha. Legend has it that the eye of Varuna is Surya and when Surya appears in the constellation of Makara, the special event is observed as Makara Sankarathi. This day falls each year in mid-January and is celebrated as Pongal Festival in Tamil country. 

Varuna is the King of appreciation and enjoyment. He governs the whole world. He is the God of rain and God of all the waters in the three worlds. He surveys the deeds of man according to his karma and keeps them under his control. Placating Varuna is believed to wash away accumulated sins. 

Devotees believe that a visit to this Lingam (Varuna Theertham is also located at this place) protects one from illness, particularly water-related diseases.

Lord Varuna Makara

Story of Varuna Lingam—"On the Girivalam Path" 

The below narrative is an excerpt from “Arunachala Siva—On the Girivalam Path” by Dr. Bharat Bhushan. 

“Arunachala Siva—On the Girivalam Path” follows the stories at each of the Asta Lingams of different devotees performing Arunachala Girivalam. 

The below narrative is that of a devotee’s experience at the Aruna Lingam. "Arunachala-Siva—On the Girivalam Path" will be shortly uploaded as a PDF file on my Arunachala Samudra Website

Arunachala Shiva!!! 
My loved ones journey back, to you… 

Lord Varuna


“Arunachala!” She spoke unknowingly, “Are you there for all my loved ones?” 

Kalpana was excited at this new and very amazing journey of discovery that she had begun, all by herself. This was the first occasion that she was on a journey, so far away from her family and her work and friends, all by herself. Alone! Wow! Somehow she had managed to get away from everyone on this very different journey to Tiruvannamalai. Her cousin had put her up to an appreciation and understanding of Arunachala, Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharshi and about the Girivalam Path. A walk of fifteen kilometers? She could do that, she had told herself. And now, she was here, at Tiruvannamalai, and on the Girivalam Path. 

She had been offered two choices, of starting on the Girivalam Path, from the Annamalai temple, or from Sri Ramanashram. She had chosen the latter, as she was staying at a private lodge near the ashram. The day before had been entirely taken up by the activities at the ashram. Her mind had just exploded at the feelings that had come over her, and she was unable to place any manner of definition or any form of understanding of what was happening to her. The meditation halls had been the most amazing part of the time that she had spent at the ashram. This was the first occasion in her life that she had sat among so many people who were serious about silence and meditation. 

Today, Kalpana had been at Sri Ramanashram in the early dawn, and had begun walking by 7 a.m. and stopped for prayers at the Yama Lingam temple and the Niruthi Lingam temple. She had started alone, but since it was a Sunday, and because there were many other random devotees at the temples or along the Girivalam Path, Kalpana did not feel alone by herself on the pradakshana. A family of four from Chennai was walking with her from the Yama Lingam temple, and later, they had been joined by a group of six women from Andhra Pradesh while at the Niruthi Lingam temple. Somehow, Kalpana was adopted by the family and the group of women. 

They had arrived at the Varuna Lingam temple by 8.30 a.m., walking at a comfortable pace, without tiring themselves. There were other groups of pilgrims at the temple, sitting at different locations in the outer sanctum. It seemed like a good moment and place to sit for a while and gaze at the sacred peak. It had been cloudy in the early hours, but now, at the Varuna Lingam temple, Kalpana could look at Arunachala and understand the peace that came about her. Every glance provided a different perspective of the sacred peak. As she gazed, and sensed the happiness, she was content that she was on the Girivalam path today. Strangers all, but companions on the path. It was beginning to get more and more exhilarating within her, and she was happy and content. 

She went up to the inner sanctum of the Varuna Lingam temple and worshipped along with the others. It was a splendid experience, gazing at the Shiva Lingam within. She had felt the same happiness at the Yama Lingam and Niruthi Lingam temples. Kalpana had never felt like this before, and she wondered about it. Why was she so very happy? How did this feeling come upon herself? She had accompanied her parents to temples in New Delhi with her sisters, and later, with her children. On visits to Chennai, meeting her parents’ cousins, brothers and sisters, during weddings or extended visits, she had gone with them to temples and had waited patiently or impatiently for the visits to get over. But, this was different. This was a trip that she had wanted to be on, and she wanted to sponge all the experiences within her. She had been to the big temple and had gazed upon Annamalai yesterday, and later at the two sanctums at the Sri Ramanashram. The panorama of the temple and the ashram, the devotees, the visible peace and happiness on everyone had amazed her. Was it always like this? Why had she not noticed it earlier? Arunachala Shiva!!! 

The family of four from Chennai and the six ladies from Andhra Pradesh were seated at a corner. They were sharing some bananas and lemon rice among themselves. One of the ladies offered some rice and a banana to Kalpana who accepted it thankfully. She had been feeling hungry and had been wondering if she would have to sit up at any of the ‘tiffin kadai’ along the Girivalam path. Was it allowed? Perhaps it was ok to eat while on the Girivalam path. She would survive the entire path and complete the pradakshana, now, with some food within her, she smiled to herself. 

As she sat content, Kalpana became aware of someone sitting close to her, staring at her and watching her intently. Disturbed, she turned away from her newly found friends to look for the intruder. An oldish bald man sitting nearby was watching her silently. Instinctively, she thought, who was this ugly looking bald guy? Why was this short and fat man staring at her? Kalpana looked at him curiously, while eating her lemon rice. The man seemed to have got encouraged, for he stood up and walked up to her. She could barely stop herself from breaking up in laughter, for he looked absolutely out of sorts, and was out of breath in the very effort of standing up and sitting down. 

The dysfunctional looking man spoke to Kalpana, “You seem to be very happy with yourself, smiling and thinking. My apologies for disturbing you like this. Your happiness is very obvious. You seem to have been seeing Arunachala, again and again!” She was surprised. Why was this strange man talking to her, as though he knew her from a long time? He did not seem to be embarrassed at all. Back at home in New Delhi, in her school or college or in her south Delhi neighbourhood, boys would not have had the guts to talk to her or any girl without proper introductions. Especially not oldish, fat, balding or ugly uncles! They would never have had the courage to talk to younger women. 

One of the ladies from Andhra Pradesh replied to the strange bald man, “Seeing Arunachala again and again? How do you say that, Prabhuji?” Kalpana was startled. Why was this lady replying to him and encouraging him? Why was she treating him with respect? Why was she giving him an honorific, as‘Prabhuji’? Who was he? Was he some sort of a Swami or a Sage? She looked at him more closely. For all his unpleasant appearance, he seemed very different. He had several Tulasi-malas around his neck, diamond ear-rings that were designed like crocodiles, turmeric and crimson coloured thick cords of twine around his wrists. Must be a holy man, of some sort, thought Kalpana. 

“She is very different from you all, she has a very distinctive appearance of peace and happiness,” He said, “This lady is unlike you. She is extremely happy at this moment. She keeps looking at Arunachala, all the while that she has been sitting here at the Varuna Lingam temple. Each time that she looks at Arunachala, the sacred Arunachala, it seems like a love story, a story that seems to become better every time she gazes up again at our beloved Arunachala.” Kalpana was surprised. Was this strange-looking man talking about her? How did he realize that the happiness in her face was entirely different from the others with her? Nobody had spoken to her in this manner before, and she knew in her heart of hearts that she had certainly not been totally happy for some years now. 

Kalpana felt guilty. How could she have been so happy about herself? So many of her loved ones, those closest to her, had gone ahead to the great temple in the heavens. She had stayed happy and courageous, for the sake of her sisters and children. She had carried her emotions and sorrow within herself and allowed herself a life that was as normal as it could be. This was the most unusual thing that she had ever done in her life. Even her children had been surprised at her decision to go all by herself from Delhi to Tiruvannamalai, and to walk on the Girivalam path. With all the weight inside her, and all those memories, how could this stranger have seen so much happiness within her? 

The ladies from Andhra Pradesh had gathered around the strange looking man and were chatting among themselves. He pointed to the sacred peak and said, “It is said that one must walk on the pradakshana with humility. One must exercise devotion as one proceeds. One must be silent so as to listen to oneself. This lady, who travels with you on the Girivalam path, is a very different person from most other devotees. The six of you, the family here, the other devotees, the priest and the local villagers, you are all familiar with Arunachala, with the great Annamalai temple and Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharshi. So many people come here, after they get to know about the reason to be here. They think that they understand. We think that we understand. We are not wrong. It is our manner of devotion.” 

Kalpana was fascinated. Some part of her had never questioned the reason for traveling from New Delhi to Tiruvannamalai. Her sister had helped her fly out to Chennai. A cousin brother had helped her get a taxi to Tiruvannamalai. There had been no hassles at all. A decision made suddenly had become a journey within 24 hours. It was amazing. There had been many journeys that she had made with her parents, her sisters and her family. They had all been perfect journeys, sometimes into the Himalayas. But, they had all been planned for weeks, and some had taken months of anticipation. What had made her decide? An accidental and unexpected mention by a cousin about the temple and the Girivalam pradakshana, and here she was. 

The strange looking man was speaking. “But, look at her. Everything that she sees,” He said, “She smiles at. She saw you eating lemon rice, and I saw her smiling. You shared it with her, and she did not hesitate. She accepted it happily. She looked up at Arunachala, as though it was a miracle! That someone she did know yesterday, was sharing food with her, and she accepted it. Each time she ate something, she looked up at the sacred Arunachala, and smiled and was happier and happier. Watching her, I saw Arunachala in her. It was amazing.” 

Kalpana was curious about the strange looking man. The family from Chennai had begun to walk out of the Varuna Lingam temple. They would be walking slowly. She could catch up with them. The women from Andhra Pradesh were also getting ready to move on. Kalpana did not want to go without talking to the strange looking man. But she did not want to give up on her new friends. She would have to walk alone, she worried. Why not walk alone, she thought. She had come all the way to be alone by herself. She gestured to the six women and said, “You go ahead. I will sit here, talk to Prabhuji for some time, and will be back on the pradakshana after some time. God willing, we may meet again on the Girivalam path or at the Sri Ramanashram or at the temple.” 

She sat close to the strange looking man and greeting him with a respectful Namaste and said, “Prabhuji, I do not know you at all! Honestly, the first time that you spoke, I was in panic and frightened. I was also angry. May I know who are you? How is it that you are able to remark on my happiness? Is it so wrong to be happy? Is it wrong to watch Arunachala with so much contentment and happiness? You do not know anything about me. Barely, 2-3 days ago, I would never have believed it if anyone would have said that I could be so much at peace just by looking at a mountain. How can this mountain be different from any other? I have seen so many mountains in the Himalayas.” 

The strange looking man smiled and Kalpana could see that he had very obviously protruding teeth, and disturbingly, had strange yellowish red eyes. He answered, “My dear girl, what do you see, when you watch me? I can see it in your eyes. You see a fat, bald, ugly and short man, and just now you noticed my teeth and my eyes. Do you try to measure all these details when I mention that I noticed your happiness? Did you try to examine me and come to any judgement about whether I was happy or not? When the priest conducted the prayers for you, did you notice if he was happy? When the lady gave her share of lemon rice to you, did you wonder if she was happy?” 

“Most of the time we go on with our lives, measuring people with what we see from their appearance, clothes, manner of speech and perhaps, their affluence or poverty.” He continued, “Rarely do we notice if they are happy. Do you know the secret to this? It is deep within us. Each time that you see Arunachala as you walk, as you sit, as you rest and as you pray or chant, you pull HIM out, you take HIM within you, deep within you. The moment HE is within you, it is then that you realize that HE is within the other person too. Every step that you take on this Girivalam path, you see him within the others that you meet. You realize that the cows that graze on the slopes of Arunachala are the most fortunate. The birds that fly into the forests of Arunachala, and perch on the trees there are very blessed. The wind that blows out through the clouds and the water that flows down, brings HIS blessings to everyone.” 

Kalpana listened to him in fascination. Nobody had spoken to her with such clarity before. Just by looking at Arunachala, just by that, could Shiva be residing within her? Was HE the cause of her happiness? Similarly, was HE within every devotee that came here? What would happen if Shiva was within her? How would that matter? Would her life change, suddenly? Could she tell anybody back home, at Delhi, at her workplace? Would they not laugh at her? Her questions and doubts must have been very obvious, for the strange looking man smiled with affection. 

“My daughter!” He said, “There are those who do not believe in God, and there are those who may doubt his blessings. They are the truly fortunate. They are more blessed than you or me. They are already blessed and therefore they do not search for HIM in all his many forms or manifestations. There is nothing complicated in all this. Do not worry about it. I can sense a very dark cloud of sorry, worry and trepidation that you keep going back to. And then, you get back to joy and happiness. Both are true. Our memories are our most unforgiving friends in our lives. But, without our memories, how would we remember the most precious moments in our lives?” 

Kalpana nodded, and said, “True, Prabhuji, sometimes I want to sleep for long hours, and not wake up, so that I can be within my memories. I talk to the loved ones who have gone ahead, and sometimes I cannot sleep. I do not want to get lost in my memories. I know that they are not real. I have never sat in meditation and I have never been in search of silence. But, yesterday, when I sat with so many others in a small room to meditate, I was amazed. I could sit silently. At first, I heard all the sounds of the ashram, and heard the sounds of the people moving about in the meditation room. After a while, I was silent. There were no memories. I sat silently, wondering.” 

“I went back today, early morning, and sat for some more time. Again, I found silence. Once or twice, I heard the peafowl outside the room, but they did not seem to be disturbing. Then I realized, that the sounds of the peafowl were not sounds. They are meant to be as they are. The noise that people make, the sound of traffic, the sound of people talking, all these, are not sounds. They are meant to be as they are. It is the noise that I make within myself, that is the most frightening of all! I am able to understand that, as I walk on the Girivalam path. And each time that I look upon Arunachala, I do not search for Shiva. And when I realize that I do not need to search for Shiva, I do not need to make an effort to sit and drown myself with my memories, I see both! I see silence! Can you see silence? Is that possible, Prabhuji?” 

 The strange looking man laughed and his crocodile-design diamond ear-rings sparkled in the sunlight that hit him. He exclaimed, “Arunachala! Arunachala! Your ways are mysterious and yet are so very childlike. O Shiva! O Maheshwara! So many years on this path have I worshipped you, O Rameshwara! So many years have I sought you! And you have blessed this daughter of yours in so many magical ways? She did not even know you, and she did not even seek you! Yet, you have pulled her to your embrace and allowed her to gaze upon you within herself!” 

He placed his hands together in reverence, and spoke to Kalpana, “My daughter, you are truly blessed. For you have a question that none can answer. Can one see silence? I do not know. O daughter of Shiva! Keep walking, go slowly, and go alone, without any disturbance. Keep looking at the sacred Arunachala. Ask HIM yourself. If HE agrees, I will meet you somewhere, sometime. Pray, bless me with the answer. Go. Be happy as you are. May all your loved ones journey back to HIM, and rest in HIM.” 

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