29 June 2007

Wedding at Pachaiamman

Today I went to Pachaiamman Temple situated on the south east slope of Arunachala to meet with one of the Temple Trustees. I didn't realise when making the programme that the day would be a very auspicious one and that many of the Mandapams and Temples would be the venue of marriages. Here is the Raja Gopuram at the entrance of the Temple with Arunachala in the background.

Inside the Temple compound the statue of Pachaiamman (the green Goddess in the centre) sits looking out over her domain. Pachaiamman means 'Green Mother' and there are several stories connected with this Goddess which explains the history of her name. In one story, the sage Gautama Rishi in readying his Arunachala ashram to receive the Goddess, prepared a 'parnasala' (a holy seat). For this purpose durbai grass was used (a variety of pale yellow green grass used for yagnas). When the Goddess arrived and came to the 'parnasala', the durbai changed colour from the pale yellow green to an intense green. Another story of how the Goddess received the name Pachaiamman, is that during her journey from Kanchi to Arunachala, while staying at Vazhapanthal, Amman sat under a covering of lush green banana leaves; hence her name.

And in this her Arunachala domain, she sits watching over her guardian warriors. A legend of Pachaiamman (an aspect of Parvati) has it that after completing her penance at Kanchi, the Goddess started off for Arunachala. She travelled with 7 rishis and 7 virgins (Sapta Kanniyars) as part of a protective entourage. Halfway from Kanchi to Arunachala, the entourage stopped and made camp at the village Vazhapanthal. At that place the local king tried to molest the Goddess and the 7 rishis became as munishwaras (guardians) and killed the king. In the Pachaiamman Compound there are 14 statues of Pachaiamman’s warrior guardians set out in two lines, with two representations of each warrior.

When I arrived at the Temple a marriage was in progress. The ceremony was performed inside the Goddess shrine and afterwards the wedding entourage came outside into the compound to perform the rest of the wedding ritual. In the below photograph, the groom is putting on wedding 'toe rings' onto the toes of his new wife.

And here are the young couple.

The below shows the wonderfully extravagant hairdo of the bride; a lot of work went into that!

The following shows in more detail the intricacies of the bride's hairdo.

As in Western weddings, the bride and groom receive presents on the same day of the wedding ceremony. In India the favourite presents are usually to do with the kitchen. Sounds familiar!

Next the sister of the bride with whom I was having a nice chat. I had never attended a wedding at Pachaiamman Temple, and it seems a wonderful venue for such a function.

Below are the statues of Lord Munishwara's vahanas (vehicles) in the form of an elephant, a dog and five horses. I rather like the incongrous inclusion of the cotton candy seller!

Now that the function is over, time for tiffin. And snacks of sambhar rice with kurmar, bhajis and sweet kesari bath was served to all wedding guests on banana leaves in the Temple compound.

Once the wedding was over, the Compound emptied out quickly and suddenly everything was back to normal, the Hill and Pachaiamman silently watching over us all.

27 June 2007

Hail to thee! Part 5

Verses 1-9 inc
Verses 10-20 inc
Verses 21-31 inc
Verses 32-50 inc

51. Revealed have Thou the nature of Maya
As naught but the surf of Thy Leela
When all action is but Thy movement
Where is room for my achievement?

52. Oh! Glorious indeed is this infinite freedom
Neither sunset nor sunrise in this kingdom
Gone the incessant drumbeat of the worldly race
Vanish'd as the morning mist before Thy Face

53. When even Death is at Thy Feet abiding
Why need I worry about the morning?
Fearless do I stride amidst men with bowed crown
Favoring none with fawning smile or scowling frown

54. All lifetimes are now dreams for me
Stretching ever onwards to infinity
Truly there is neither bondage nor liberation
The thought of either is fevered delusion

55. No world, no galaxy, nor heaven nor hell
Nothing save "I" exists with none other to tell
And in this glorious silence of unitary existence
Occurs eternal cycles of creation and destruction

56. Springing forth eternally as dream thoughts within Me
Where satisfaction and frustration are but dreams to see
Can I sport in aught else, having tasted the Bliss of My Self?
Who bathes in foam when spring waters pour off the shelf?

57. Gone the doubts of petty existence
Who is there for their persistence?
Neither are these thoughts denied
Who remains for them to be belied?

58. Let them stand or fall on their own accord
Attention to them I can no more afford
I did'nt call them forth so sustain 'em I can't
Let the power that birth'd 'em meet their want

59. Indeed in this state divine powers do accrue
But none remains to wield 'em, that is true
Gone forever is the fantasy of omnipotence
As also the dark nightmare of impotence

60. Gone the prayer as well as the supplicant
Consumed by a matted hair mendicant
No blazing light here nor darkness of ignorance
Nothing save Consciousness's Blissful Existence

61. Still dream creation needs action to fulfill
So this dream body is moved by Thy Will
While I remain as "I" and this as this
Silent I AM, none to claim as his.

62. Paltry indeed is the common tongue of duality
That speaks of MY state in terms of plurality
Indeed no word can exist when all is One
Nothing but Silence indeed is MY tongue

63. Undifferentiated and pristine I remain supreme
But to say even this is verily to blaspheme
Who is there to describe MY condition
Where redemption exists not nor any perdition

64. Unbound by good and evil do I freely roam
Neither fortune nor calamity shakes my bones
No auspicious date or time for me exist
Indeed in Me does all creation persist

65. All duties, roles and action are as play to me
Unfettered by their results I now walk free
Intoxicated by Bliss, in Thee do I drunkenly roam
To passersby, the lights are on but nobody's home

67. If duality has to be assumed for creation perchance
Then let it be said that this is Thy Cosmic dance
Where creation, expansion and dissolution
Cycle endlessly in harmonious perpetuation

68. Galaxies arise spontaneously from the Self
Shooting like spray from a rocky shelf
Untouched by all action is this Consciousness
As the ocean beneath the cyclone's viciousness

69. No slothful slumber of blankness is My state
Though outwardly I may assume that fate
Vibrant in incessant action I do remain
Eternally moving in Stillness all the same

70. Simple indeed is the path to Thee
No effort needed to simply Be
Indeed that is where I always am
To believe otherwise is delusion's span

Taj Mahal

Not that this has anything to do with Tiruvannamalai District, but it is so wonderfully weird I just had to post it.

The photograph was recently taken of a hot air balloon replica of Taj Mahal flying near the actual monument at Agra.

Life's Heart

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.

He threshes you to make you naked.

He sifts you to free you from your husks.

He grinds you to whiteness.

He kneads you until you are pliant.

And then he assigns you to his sacred fire that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.

All these things shall love to unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.

[The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran]

Samudram Land

Occasionally I will post news of land for sale, in the hope that the land will be acquired by a single owner (or independent group) who intends using the land for his/their own purpose, and thereby prevent it from being cut up and sold as individual housing plots which will eventually become densely packed urban areas. LAND AT ARUNACHALA IS SACRED AND DEVOTEES NEED TO HELP PROTECT AND REVERE IT.

The below land is approximately 7 acres and is currently owned by a private individual who wishes to sell. In the course of a year this is the fourth person who has owned the land. It started off in the hands of a Jeweller, who owned and maintained it for some years, from there it went to a local Guru who surprisingly let it go into other hands and from there to the current owner.

As one would expect in the last year the land has increased in cost fourfold and doubtedlessly with the vertical increase in land prices, this same land will be double its current cost within one year.

Over the last years I have often visited this particular land on my way through the Samudram area. It is a VERY special, sacred place.


The first photograph is inside the land compound facing the gate. My dogs are having a good root around.

In the second photograph we are facing north towards Arunachala and are in a central part of the land.

The third photograph is a view of the land facing west. The concrete posts in all the pictures are the perimeter boundary of the 7 acre enclosure.

The below is from the land facing north.

The trees have been planted around a nice open agricultural tank and the small house on the left is the pumphouse for the tank.

Below, the well maintained tank with a high water table; so no question of having to make borewells 400'+ deep like other areas in Tiruvannamalai. Water shortage can be a serious problem in some areas around Tiruvannamalai.

The next picture is facing east and towards the Samudram Lake, of which this land is adjacent and has direct access.

Below the view to the south.

In the last photograph; west the front and north the right.

This land is adjacent and with direct access, to the 600 acre Samudram Lake. The lake is a natural water reservoir for this area so it cannot be converted or used for housing development. It is also hoped that Samudram Lake may soon be turned into a protected area for migratory birds. So this land is ideal for an ashram, retreat centre, spa, or animal sanctuary.

To find out more about Samudram, the current position and the hopes for the future, check here, here and here.

If you wish to find out more about this land please get in touch with:

Rudraksha Beads

According to scriptures, the Rudraksha bead was created from tears shed by Lord Shiva when the world was facing destruction. Legend says that tears from his eyes dropped onto the ground in different places on earth and produced Rudraksha trees. The bead's scientific names is Elaeocarpus Ganitrus and it comes in an irregular oval shape with clefts on its surface called "faces". Most of the Rudraksha’s powers are believed to be associated with the number of "faces" it has which can vary from one through 21, although four, five and six faceted beads are the most common.

The bead, which is widely used by seekers, is said to have electromagnetic power, which affects both the physical and mystical aspects of the wearer. The bead which is believed by some to regulate and formulate an individual’s consciousness and sub-consciousness, is like a transmitter that can tap into energy fields in a way that helps the wearer to compensate for energy depletion.

Vasthu Sastra Master, T. Selva states:

"Modern day researchers have proven that the bead has powerful electromagnetic, paramagnetic and inductive properties that vary according to the different faces. It creates specific electric impulses that are sent to the brain stimulating certain centres that then transfer information to the neurophysiology. This is the main way in which the bead has an impact on the human body.

These electromagnetic impulses can affect the heartbeat, blood pressure, stress levels and hypertension on a physical level. On the mental level, the bead's impulses can relieve anxiety, depression, mood disorders and neurotic conditions, while on the spiritual level, it promotes meditation."

When choosing a Rudraksha, the lighter the bead the better. The lines on the face of the bead should be clean and without any breaks. The Rudraksha should be worn around the neck on a gold or silver chain or on a cotton thread. It should hang low on the chest. The best time to first start wearing it is either on a new or full moon day.

For more information on Rudraksha check.

Murugan Shrine

Yesterday while walking near Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, I looked up at the small hillock spur of Arunachala that I regularly climbed when living in that area. Although it takes under 10 minutes to get to the top, it has one of the best views of Arunachala and the surrounding countryside. Very few people know about the Murugan Temple on top of the hillock and sitting up there is; quiet, private and inspirational.

I'm at the top of the spur and in front of me is the vel (spear) that is associated with Lord Murugan. In the distance is the water of Samudram Lake and lots of nice, open countryside.

The below photograph is of Lord Murugan, whose shrine is at the top of the hillock. Lord Murugan is Ganesha's (the Elephant God) brother and is particularly revered in Tamil Nadu.

Next to the shrine is a natural rock formation that many locals call 'Anjaneya' (Hanuman, the Monkey God) because it resembles the side profile of a monkey.

The hill spur is attached to the southwest foot of Arunachala. In the next photograph you can see part of the inner girivalam pathway.

This is the view of Arunachala from the Hillock.

Over the last couple of years there has been a rapid introduction of mobile phones into the area. Sadly with mobile phones goes telephone towers. Just pointing my camera towards the Ramana Nagar area, I can see 5 phone towers.

The next picture is of the developing residential area of Rajiv Gandhi Nagar. In the background on the left side is the big white auditorium of Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram.

The below is of the quarry which is slowly eating away at the Hillock I am standing on. To read more about this you can check here and here.

With my back to Arunachala and looking forward in all directions, I can see lots of unspoilt countryside. In the front is the rapidly receding waters of the 600 acre Samudram Lake, which fills and empties depending on the yearly rains.

To the west and away from the township of Tiruvannamalai and its ever-developing urbanization, lots of open spaces.

25 June 2007

July, 2007 Newsletter

The July Arunachala Grace News will be sent out to subscribers within the next few days. If you wish to receive a free copy of this monthly newsletter direct to your email inbox, you can subscribe on this Blog at the facility on the left hand column under the Email logo banner.

This month includes information around Tiruvannamalai, a story about the Kali Yuga, the Origin of Ardhanarisvara, inspirational poems and sayings, local birds and herbs from Arunachala and narratives and updates.

Tennis Courts

This is really good news for me a long standing tennis aficiando, who nowadays lazily likes to watch more than play, but maybe the new courts will give me the wakeup call to start playing again. Anyhow, first day of Wimbledon, is a good day indeed to get word that the Tamil Nadu Sports Development Authority is setting up two Australian style synthetic tennis courts at Tiruvannamalai at a cost of Rs 19 lakhs (i.e.U.S.$47,000). Although Tiruvannamalai already has a clay court in a governmental office complex, these new courts would be the first of their kind in Tiruvannamalai District.

The courts are being constructed in a newly inaugurated District sports building, located within the Master Plan complex. The tennis court enclosure will comprise two courts, mesh fencing and towering walls on either side, for players to practise. With the construction of walls nearing completion, the flooring work was already underway.

Construction work of the courts is expected to finish in about two months. Business establishments will be allowed to pay and make use of the courts and the multi-gym in the sports complex for their employees.

22 June 2007

Harmony Function

Yesterday evening I visited the Danish Mission School, Tiruvannamalai (run by the Arcot Lutheran Church) to watch a cultural programme put on by Quo Vadis. The programme was scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. When I arrived final preparations were being made and a stage had been set up in front of a building in the School's main courtyard.

The event known as 'Quo Vadis Harmony' is intended to be the engagement of music and arts to promote cultural dialogue. It is proposed that 'Quo Vadis Harmony' will have similar cultural programmes in the future.

It was the first time I had ever visited the Danish Mission School, located near the Periyar Statue in the heart of Tiruvannamalai. I have heard that it is the largest school in Tiruvannamalai with over 4,000 students. Fortunately school was over for the day and the school grounds were deserted except for a contingent in charge of preparations.

I look forward to re-visiting the school another time and view some of its grand old buildings.

Final preparations were quickly completed and the crowds arrived to watch a 2 hour programme comprising; a violin recital, drama, performing arts and a dance programme, put on by the 42 members of the 'Quo Vadis Forum'.

As I sat watching the much appreciated programme in the dusk at the Danish Mission School, I observed Arunachala in the distance and thought how delightful it was to be listening to a 12 instrument violin recital playing Beethoven and Bach at the foot of the sacred Hill.

The below backdrop to the stage was painted by Rev. Joshua Peter (the co-ordinator of Quo Vadis and a Lutheran pastor in this area) with the words:


The programme included a Bharat Nityam dance by three young lady members of the 'Quo Vadis Forum'.

The main highlight of the evening was a recital by 12 violins playing music by Western composers including Beethoven and Bach. The recital, an 'arangettram' (debut public musical recital) included some violinists that had been playing for only a very short time. The violinists had been trained by Rt. Rev. Dr. Gideon Devanesan.

As well as music there were many cultural and performing arts sketches and short dramas including both men and women enacting lessons of morality and righteous living.

The large audience was well entertained and inspired by the programme and even the young kids enjoyed the evening. In the below is a sweet little princess all made up by her Mum.

The evening was a great success and well enjoyed by the large audience.

At the end of the evening the Bishop of Arcot, Rt. Rev. Dr. Gideon Devanesan made a short speech to us visitors.

I am already looking forward to the next 'Quo Vadis Harmony' programme.

Shanti Internet

This is S.Kumar the proprietor of Shanti Internet, the best Internet facility in Tiruvannamalai. As well as his own native Tamil language, he also speaks excellent English and German, so his organisation is very popular with visiting Westerners.

Inside the Internet facility; Shanti has 6 broadband hi-speed computers, 4 wireless laptop plug-ins, laser printers and scanners and international call facilities. Shanti Internet is run very efficiently and everything is keep in excellent condition.

It is also a very friendly, peaceful spot to spend time in and be assisted by a courteous and well informed staff. Shanti Internet also makes travel arrangements and are undoubtedly the best in Tiruvannamalai to entrust with train and flight bookings, car and van pickups and international currency exchange.

As well as all the above-mentioned facilities, Shanti also has an up-to-date video library for DVD rentals, the profits of which goes to their Children's Project.

The below photograph is of the outside of Shanti Internet Cafe.

In this quiet little street, a side gate to Ramana Ashram, located across the road from Shanti Internet Cafe, giving you an idea of just how conveniently Shanti Internet Cafe is situated.

The little boy in the next photograph is probably on his way to tutition at Shanti's Children Project which is adjacent to the Internet facility. The Project has been established to:

"find individual children, orphans, semi orphans, handicapped and those who are unable to attend school for various reasons, and support them with school fees, uniforms, stationary and medical assistance where needed. The projects' goal is to be able to support them throughout their entire schooling years. We put a special emphasis on young girls as they are generally less likely to receive education as it is the mans job in india to financially support the family. Therefore boys are given priority on limited education money."

Below is the tutition centre started up by the Project, in which school children, usually of poor families, can get remedial tutition to help them improve their school standards.

Class is in progress!

I think I've spoiled their concentration; whoops!