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2023 - The Year That Was

Places impact you for a variety of reasons. And the same place impacts different people in different ways. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual experiences, where every single person’s experience is unique. And personally, every spiritual experience is unique, the same person can have different deeply spiritual experiences at different places, at different times. This thought has emerged because of my own experiences over the years, but especially so this year, with different and unique experiences at various places I have visited recently. I began this year with a visit to Baroda (Vadodara) with friends. It was meant to be a relaxed trip, a touristy trip, with our sons. We enjoyed ourselves to the hilt, but the highlight of that trip was a visit to the Lakulisha temple at Pavagadh. It was the iconography of the temple that I connected with, and I spent a few hours simply lost in the details of the figures carved around the temple. There was an indefinable connect with

Diwali Tour Part 18 – Thiruvidaimarudhur and related Parivara Sthalams

Every Shiva temples has certain deities. While the central deities are Shiva and Parvati, all Shiva temples have other deities in the Pragaram like Ganesha, Muruga, Dakshinamoorthy, the Navagrahas, and Chandikeswarar. Each of these deities takes his/her place according to the direction/position he/she is assigned. Situated around Kumbakonam is a group of temples whose deities (not necessarily the central one) together form a temple much, much bigger than any temple in existence. The temples are as far apart as Swamimalai and Chidambaram. These temples are collectively called the Parivara Sthalams.
The central temple in this group is Thiruvidaimarudhur.

Thiruvidaimarudhur - Shiva

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

Thiruvidaimarudhur is situated 8 Kms from Kumbakonam on the Mayiladudurai road, 1 km from Thirubhuvanam. This is a huge temple, with 3 pragarams. It is considered auspicious to circumambulate all the 3 pragarams.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

The main deity in the temple is Mahalingeswarar, and his consort is Anbilpiriyar. There is a shrine to Ardhanareeswarar and also one to Mookambigai, which is extremely rare. There are also lingams dedicated to each of the 27 Nakshatras in the inner pragaram of the temple. There is also a fresco of Ravana lifting Kailas, under which is depicted the main deity under the Marudha tree, which is the sthala vriksham – Marudhavaneswarar. This temple also has a Spatika lingam called Uru Vidangar, and the abhishekam to this lingam is performed from 9 - 9:30AM.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

It is the norm in this temple that one can enter by any gate, but one must never leave by the main entrance. The reason for this lies in the legend of Varaguna Pandiyan. The king unknowingly ran over a Brahmin, and was afflicted by the Brahma-Hatti Dosham. He came to this temple, and the spirit of the dead Brahmin could not enter along with him. it therefore waited outside the main entrance for him to come back. The king was advised by the lord to leave by the west gate, and thus he escaped the spirit. It is believed that the spirit resides there till date, waiting for someone to exit by the entrance gate, thus afflicting him.

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

From Diwali 08 - Thanjvur Trip

The other Parivara Sthalams are:

Thiruvalanchuzhi – Ganesha

To read about the temple at Thiruvalanchuzhi, click here.

Swamimalai – Muruga

To read about the temple at Swamimalai, click here.

Thirukkadaiyur –Ambigai

To read more about Thirukkadaiyur and Abirami, click here

Alangudi – Dakshinamoorthy

To read more about Alangudi, click here.

Suryanar Kovil – Navagrahas

To read more about Suryanar Kovil, click here.

Thirunallar – Shaneeswarar

To read more about Thirunallar, click here.

Sengalur – Chandikeswarar

Sengalur is considered to be the birthplace of Chandikeswarar. According to the legend, as a young boy, he spent all his time making lingams out of sand and meditating One day, his father got angry and kicked the lingam. The child got angry, and at once cut off his father’s leg, for daring to kick his lord. Shiva appeared from the lingam and blessed the boy, giving him a permanent place in his temple. He also gave his father his leg back. It is believed that Chandikeswarar forever lives in a state of deep meditation, not realizing who comes to the temple. He is the one who keeps records of our visits to the temple, and hence, it is believed that we should clap our hands or snap our fingers outside his shrine so that he realizes our presence.

Sengalur is situated on the Kumbakonam Mayiladudurai road, about an hours drive from Kumbakonam. The temple is quite small, and work was in progress when we visited. The main deity here is Shiva as Thirushakteeswarar.

Sirkazhi – Bhairavar

To read more about the temple at Sirkazhi, click here.

I must add, however, that there is a separate shrine to the Ashta Bhairavars at Sirkazhi, just near the main entrance of the temple.

Chidambaram – Natarajar

Chidambaram is the only temple we did not visit on this trip, though we have been there earlier. Of course, this beautiful temple of Nataraja needs no introduction. Let me wait till I visit the temple again to write a blog about this temple.

Thiruvarur – Somaskandar

To read more about Thiruvarur, click here.

Thiruvavadudurai – Nandi

To read more about Thiruvavadudurai, click here
As I write this, I can’t help imagining what a temple of this size would look like. To begin with, circumambulating such a temple itself would take days! I wonder whose brain it was that came up with such an idea!


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Gokarna Part II – The Five Lingams

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Rama Temple, Gokarna

To my right , the waves rush to the shore, eager to merge with the sand. To my left, the same waves crash against the rocks, their spray diverting my reverie as I ponder over the beauty of nature, and wonder what first brought people here. Was it this beauty that encouraged them to build a temple here, or was it the fresh, sweet spring water flowing from the hill here that made this place special? No matter what the reason, I am glad my auto driver brought me here. We are at the Rama temple in Gokarna, just a few minutes away from the Mahabaleshwara Temple, yet offering so different a perspective.

Pandharpur Yatra 2023

The first time I visited Pandharpur was back in 2007 . The names Vitthal and Pandharpur, were just names to me. I had heard of them, but that was about it. Seeing the lord standing on the brick, hands on his hips, was memorable, but more memorable was the sight that greeted us as we walked out of the main sanctum of the temple. In the mandap just outside were a group of devotees singing abhangs , and dancing. This was the first time I had heard abhangs , and even almost 15 years later, I can remember the welling of feeling within me, listening to the songs, and how fascinated I was by the sight of the devotees dancing, lost in their love of the Lord. Over the years, as I have read more about Vitthal, and participated in Ashadi Ekadashi programmes at Puttaparthi, that first experience has stayed clear in my mind and heart. Every time I tell my Balvikas students of the saints who sang of Vitthala, it is that experience that I re-live. I visited Pandharpur again, in 2010, but that experie