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  • Legends of Arunachala – 1

    There are many legends and interesting tales which are recited about Arunachala and here is one that speaks about the supreme blessing that one receives by coming here.

    In puranic times, Markendaya an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, who was granted eternal life due to his devotion, asked Nandi, the bull-mount of Shiva, “O Nandikeswara, please tell me which is the place where true knowledge can be acquired without rituals, book learning or elaborate religious practices, where even an ignorant person can attain enlightenment by merely smearing sacred ash on the forehead, where all residents overcome obstacles and attain the Supreme Knowledge without any conscious effort, where even the worst of men, the lowest of animals and inanimate objects attain perfection ?” In response Nandi starts to describe in detail all the places on earth sacred to Shiva… But Markendaya is not satisfied and cunningly asks Nandi again, “O Nandi, all this i already know. Of course each of these sacred places has its speciality but which is the sacred spot that thas the totality of the benefits of all the sacred places? Please tell me the name of the one place by remembering which even once, knowingly or unknowingly, all beings, moving as well as immobile can obtain liberation?” According to Arunchala purana, Nandi, at this point, thinking of Arunachala, became esctatic and went into samadhi. With tears streaming down his eyes and voice hoarse with emotion, Nandi says, “yes there is such a place, it is ARUNACHALA, the embodiment of Lord Shiva”.

    Since then, during every yuga, Arunachala has drawn numerous saints to its lap and without doubt, in this kaliyuga, Arunachala Himself deigned to take a human form as Sri Ramana Maharshi and showered the world with his grace and silent teaching. Blessed are we indeed to live at his Holy Feet!

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  • Girivalam shrines – Pachaiyamman Kovil

    At the end of the inner giri pradakshina path as one approaches the town, one comes upon the ancient temple of the Goddess Pachaiyamman. This is where Bhagavan Ramana resided during the plague epidemic and this is where the tiger used to come and visit Him, announcing its arrival with two loud roars that would send the disciples fleeing in terror while Bhagavan remained undaunted and granted dharshan to the royal animal.

    Goddess Pachaiyamman is a manifestation of Shakthi, and it is here that she is believed to have done tapas during puranic times to be united with Shiva in one form. It is believed that Shiva appeared here and integrated Her in the left half of His body and thus Lord Ardhanareeswara was created.

    This temple is situated in an idyllic spot on the hill surrounded by beautiful old banyan trees where birds sing all day long and langur monkeys prance about. There are three perennial theerthams with lovely cool green waters and the water in the main one is used for the god’s abhishekams. The entrance path to the temple is flagged by enormous Muniswara statues (tamil guardian deities) and it is very impressive to see them gazing down upon you with their huge eyes as you walk inside.

    Inside the sanctum sanctorum, the Goddess sits in a benign attitude and you cannot but feel her compassion and grace flowing into your heart as you take dharshan. Pachai Amman means the Green Mother and she is named thus to signify her fertility and also because, according to legend, the Dharba grass which is usually yellow, turned completely green as she walked over it in her tapas.

    An inner giri pradakshina can be quite difficult as the hilly path is stony and hard. However, devotees feel well rewarded to come upon this temple after the arduous walk and take repose in the Green Mother’s arms.

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  • Aani Thirumanjanam

    Nataraja, the Lord of Dancers is the cosmic form of Lord Shiva  (In Sanskrit, Nata means dance and raja means Lord). The ring of fire and light, which circumscribes the entire figure, identifies the field of the Lord’s cosmic dance encompassing the whole universe. The lotus pedestal on which the Lord rests, locates the universe in the heart or consciousness of each person.The Nataraja figure is also eloquent of the paradox of Eternity and Time. It explains that the tranquil ocean and the rushing stream are not finally different. Shiva is Kala, meaning time, but he is also Maha Kala, meaning “Great Time” or eternity. Shiva is thus two opposite figures: the archetypal ascetic and the archetypal dancer. On the one hand he is complete tranquillity-inward calm absorbed in Self, absorbed in the void of the Absolute, where all distinctions merge and dissolve, and all tensions are at rest. But on the other hand he is total activity- life’s energy, frantic, aimless and playful.

    One of the festivals to Lord Nataraja is the Thirumanjanam festival celebrated during the tamil month of Aani (sanskrit=Jayeshta). In the main temple of Lord Arunachaleswara, the deities of Lord Nataraja and his consort Goddess Shivakami are brought out in procession with great fanfare and taken to the 1000 pillared hall where they are installed in a special shrine.

    Interestingly the 3 tamil saivaite saints whose shrine faces the Nataraja shrine are also revered at the same time. Before the Nataraja and Shivakami deities leave on procession, deeparadhana is performed for both the shrines facing each other and the crowd of devotees crane their necks this side and that side to take dharhsan of both the arathi rites which the priests perform simultaneously one to the other. This is known as the Arakattu Utsavam and only happens at this time.

    After Lord Nataraja and Goddess Shivakami are installed in the new shrine inside the 1000 pillared hall, the next day, early morning at dawn, a wonderful abhishekam, the actual “thirumanjanam” rite (literally meaning sacred bath) is performed and the deities are worshipped with alamkaram, karpuraratti and deeparadhana.

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  • Vaikasi Amavasai

    The new moon in the month of Vaikasi is Vaikasi Amavasai. This happens to be an important occasion in the big temple of Arunachaleswara and one of the grandest abhishekams of the year is celebrated to the Utsava Murthy, Lord Shiva-Somaskanda (whose shrine is in the left corridor of the inner mandapam of the main sanctum). The ceremonies start early in the morning with Rudra japa and Mahanyasam during which the kalasams and all the abhishekam elements are consecrated.

    After this, the Maha Abhishekam is begun. It is indeed an impressive array. There are about 5000 litres of milk in cans. Hundreds of pots of sandalwood paste, ghee, curd, honey, turmeric and rose water are kept in front of the deities. Flower garlands and flowers dear to Lord Shiva are heaped in the side aisles for the alamkaram to the Gods. Fruits of the trinity, mangoes, bananas, jackfruits and also pomegrenates, dates and coconuts are brought in baskets. The Brahmin Archaka priests work with tireless energy carrying the hundreds of pots to the pedestal where they are received with devotion by the Gurukkal brahmin priests who then bathe the gods elaborately with the different elements. The devotees who are assembled to watch the Abhishekams are overcome by spiritual fervour every time the milk or curd or honey or ghee is poured on the deities, and as it gently flows down, the air is charged with sacred enthusiasm and devotional energy. The temple musicians play unstintingly throughout the celebration which takes place for upto over 8 hours.

    The Arunachaleswara temple of Tiruvannamalai stands as a towering pillar in the beautiful and elaborate manner with which they perform all the ceremonies due to the Gods and thus celebrate and preserve ancient sacred traditions. Be it rain or sun, the Gods here are always honoured properly at all the appropriate occasions.

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  • Mahapuja in Sri Ramanashram

    The anniversary of the mahasamadhi day of  Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi’s mother is celebrated as Mahapuja inside the Mathrabhuteswara shrine in Ramanashram where her mortal remains were interred.

    Bhagavan said, “mother said she would not leave me and go anywhere else. If she went anywhere she was afraid that she might die there. She was particular that she should die in my hands. She used to say, “even if you throw away my dead body in these thorny bushes i would not mind but i must end this life in your arms”.

    In 1922 mother’s health broke down. On the festival of Bahula Navami, which fell that year on May 19th, it was obvious her end was near. After his usual morning walk Bhagavan entered mother’s room and waited on her the whole day, even taking his afternoon meal in the room. About sunset the evening meal was prepared and Bhagavan asked the others to eat, but he himself did not. In the evening the devotees sat beside mother in 3 separate groups singing the marital garland of letters. For a further 2 hours she lay there, her chest heaving and her breath coming in loud gasps; all this while Bhagavan sat beside her, and during the last hour he laid his right hand on her heart and his left on her head. There was no question of prolonging life but only of quieting the mind so that death could be Mahasamadhi, absorption in the Self. Later Bhagavan explained, “innate tendencies (vasanas) and the subtle memory of past experiences leading to future possibilities became very active. Scene after scene rolled before her in the subtle consciousness, the outer senses having already gone. The soul was passing through a series of experiences, thus avoiding the need for rebirth and so effecting union with Supreme Spirit. The prana was absorbed in the

    heart and the soul was at last disrobed of the subtle sheaths before it reached the final destination, the Supreme Peace of Liberation from which there is no return to ignorance”.
    This year the Ramansahram celebrated Mahapuja on Sunday, 6th June. On Saturday evening, devotees enjoyed a Bharathnatyam recital by Vaishnavi Poorna, depicting various spiritual incidents in the life of the mother connected to her Son.

    On Sunday morning, the grand Ekadasa Rudram puja-abhishekam was performed in the mother’s shrine with great splendour. The same evening, students of the Ramana Maharshi centre for learning in Bangalore presented a group dance event titled “Adhuvey Sthalam” portraying the life of Alagammal, the mother of Ramana.

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  • Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam in Tiruvannamalai

    This is a very important form of worship of Lord Shiva, the source of cosmic energy for the entire creation.  Lord Shiva is worshipped traditionally in the form of Lingam and Abhisheka is the ritual dearest to His heart. Rudram is the highest vedic chanting in praise of Lord Shiva and is considered to be extremely powerful.

    In Tiruvannamalai, the Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam has just been performed in a grand way in the big temple of Arunachaleswara from the 23rd to the 28th of May with the purpose of mitigating the doshas (bad effects) of the Agni Nakshatram (fire star constellation during which the summer heat reaches its peak).

    The Yagnam took place inside the vast kalyana mandapam of the temple. Eleven homa kundas were erected for the purpose of the yagnam. The Rudra Homas were conducted by very renowned Brahmin priests well versed in Vedic rituals. A very beautiful Lingam covered with gold was installed specially for the purpose of performing Rudrabhishekam everyday. The Rudrabhishekams were done on an elaborate scale by the Shivacharyas. Along with the Rudra Parayanas and Rudra Homas, other related rituals were also performed. Hundreds of learned Brahmin priests took part in the ceremonies and the air was vibrant with the resounding chanting of the four Vedas and the tremendous sacred energy produced by the chanting of the Rudrams and the tending of the 11 sacred fires. 1008 Kalasams were consecrated within the Yagnam and they were taken in the end for abhishekam to the Arunachaleswara lingam inside the sanctum sanctorum.

    Sage Satapatha in his treatise “Maharnava Karma Vipaka” listed four types of Abhisheka procedures compatible with Vedic and scriptural lore. They are Rudram, Ekadasa Rudram, Maha Rudram and Athi Rudram – each being more potent than the preceding one. Of these, the most potent form of Athi Rudram. It involves 14641 Rudrams (Rudram is a combination of Namakam and Chamakam given in Rudradhyayam in the 5th Prapathakam of the 4th Kanda of Krishna Yajur Veda Samhita). Namaka recited once along with recital of Chamaka once constitutes one Rudram. Recital of 11 Namakas along with one Anuvaka of Chamaka at the end of each Namaka, thus completing one Chamaka constitutes Ekadasa Rudram. Recital of 11 Ekadasa Rudrams is Laghu Rudram or Rudraikadasini. Recital of 11 Laghu Rudrams is one Maha Rudram. Recital of 11 Maha Rudrams is one Athi Rudram. Therefore, in Athi Rudram 14641 Rudrams include 14641 Namakams and 1331 Chamakams.

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  • Girivalam shrines – Surya Lingam

    Surya Lingam is located on the outer girivalam path about half a kilometre after Kannappa temple. This shrine has the good fortune of retaining its ancient stone mandapam structure. It is a very popular shrine although it is not part of the Ashtalingams and even on an ordinary non-festival day, there are always devotees and pilgrims worshipping the Surya lingam.
    Surya symbolizes the Sun God. Surya is considered as the only visible form of God that can be seen every day. Lord Surya is regarded as an aspect of Shiva and Vishnu by Shaivites and Vaishnavas respectively. Surya is also known as Surya Narayana. Surya, the Sun God is verily acknowledged as one of the eight forms of Lord Shiva (Astamurti) and he is the lord of excellence and wisdom. The celestial body, Surya (the sun) is visible in the sky. Surya forms the major god of the Navgrahas (nine planets). He is the God of light and He is usually remembered for the brilliance and light in one’s life. The Gayatri Mantra of the Hindu Religion is also associated with the Sun God, Surya.

    The Brahmin priest who performs the pujas ceremonies in the Surya lingam shrine is a fountain of wisdom and holiness. Having taken diksha from the Paramacharya of Kanchi, he has devoted his life to the service of God. In his humble abode behind the shrine he has a very elaborate puja room with a consecrated Shri Chakra mehru and many other Hindu gods. After the puja ceremony in the Surya lingam, devotees often sit at his feet in Satsangam and listen to his spiritual discourses.

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  • Live cameras disconnected due to cyclone

    Due to the recent tropical cyclone we have disconnected the live video to Arunachala to avoid storm damage. It will be reconnected as soon as the weather permits. Lightening is especially dangerous as at can destroy our equipment. Both the adsl and power lines are a danger from severe power surges.

    A-L team

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  • Ashtalingams – Varuna lingam – West

    Varuna Lingam, is dedicated to Varuna, the God of the Western direction. The shrine of Varuna Lingam is situated on the outer girivalam path about 1 kilometre before the village of Adi Annamalai.

    Varuna, according to Hindu mythology, is the Guardian of Cosmic Justice and the Lord of the Sky. In the days of yore, He may have been one of the most revered and powerful deities of Vedic India. Varuna is a dual god known as Mitra-Varuna, the former ruling the day and the latter the night, but slowly the names became synonymous. Scholars agree that Varuna was a sky god like Ouranos; in fact the two names are derived from the same linguistic root.  Legend has it that it was Varuna who found the sun, hidden in the cosmic waters and set it in the sky. He is praised as the king of kings, the one responsible for making rain. It is believed that repentance and service to Varuna washes away your accumulated sins (sanchita karma). In later myths, Varuna is described as the Lord of the Waters. This is a focus on his powers of inducing dropsy, as well as the Vedic description of him as the god who satisfies the thirst of his followers. Varuna’s power over the water as well as the geographical conjunction of ocean waters with the sky at the horizon made sure that his water aspect would remain, even when his people cast him down from the sky. His names like Jalapati, ‘Ruler of Waters’ and Yadapti, ‘Lord of Aquatic Animals’ reflect this changed reality. He rides a makara, a fabulous animal with the head and front legs of an antelope and the body and tail of a fish. Best of all, he is supposed to live in a house with a thousand doors, as he is always accessible to man.

    Today the Varuna lingam shrine attracts very few people and ranges among the less popular ashtalingams. An unfortunate attempt at renovation has resulted in the destruction of the old stone paving and ancient facade and led to the complete concretization of the floor with the cement façade, all of which give the temple an unattractive modern appearance although the lingam dates back to the 12th century…

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  • Bhagavan’s Aradhana

    The 60th anniversary of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Maha Nirvana was honoured in Ramanashram on Tuesday 11th May. Every year this day is celebrated as the Aradhana festival with great devotion and respect.

    Sri Ramana attained Maha Nirvana on April 14th 1950 and devotees may wonder why Aradhana is being celebrated in May. This is because, religious and spiritual anniversaries are usually observed according to the astrological constellation and so the day of commemoration may vary from year to year in lieu of the appearance of the constellation.  The Tamil calendar has a cycle of 60 years with a name for each year. The present year is called “Vikruthi” and 60 years ago, it was in this same year of Vikruthi in which Sri Ramana left his mortal frame and attained Samadhi.

    This year, in the Ashram,  the usual Aradhana programme was observed. The morning began with special chanting of Ramana sthuthi panchagam and Aksharamana malai after which the Brahmin priests commenced the Rudra japam in preparation for the grand Ekadasa Mahanyasa Rudra abhishekam in the shrine of Ramana’s samadhi which was the main event of the day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served to one and all and devotees partook happily at all the meals.

    In the evening there was a vocal music concert rendered by Smt.Ambika, a singer from Bangalore, hailing from a family of Ramana devotees. She sang songs in praise of Ramana in Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit, many of them being compositions of present day devotees.

    May the Divine Grace of Ramana be showered over the whole world on this Aradhana !!!

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