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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

The Legend of Sri Venkateswara Part 5 - The Marriage.. and after...

Please read the earlier parts of the story before proceeding further:

Part 1 - The Lord descends on Earth

Part 2 - The Lord finds a mother... and also a wife...

Part 3 - The story of Padmavati

Part 4 - A marriage is fixed.. and the finance too...

The financial aspect having been settled, preparations for the wedding commenced in full swing. These days, just a simple marriage in an Indian family has an attendance running into hundreds, and in a big marriage, into thousands. Imagine, then, the attendance at the lord’s marriage – all the 33 crore gods of Indian mythology, not to mention the sages and Demi Gods… the list must have been endless….. And it was the lord’s mount, Garuda, who was deputed to dispatch the invitations personally to each and every one of them!!!!!! The lord was dressed in gorgeous garments by the gods themselves, and they all proceeded towards Narayanapuram, where they were welcomed by the king and queen, who were thrilled by the sight! All their qualms about the suitability of the groom vanished as they saw the splendour of the groom and his party! Now you know where the instinct to show-off on the groom’s side in Indian families comes from!

The marriage took place at Narayanapuram, where the king had made all the arrangements for this huge entourage of the groom. Later, a temple was built at this place to commemorate the marriage. Today, this place is called ‘Narayanavanam’, and is located about 40 Kms from Tirupati. Though I have yet to visit this temple, I have heard that it is a beautiful temple, and there are different portions of the temple associated with the different rituals performed during the marriage. A must-visit in the area, certainly!

Marriage in Indian tradition has many rituals and practices, based mainly on faith or belief, and one such belief is that it is inauspicious to climb a hill or mountain for 6 months after getting married. Hence, the lord and his consort couldn’t move to their home on the seven hills immediately after the wedding. They chose to spend the 6 months in sage Agasthya’s ashram on the foothills, instead. Today, the Agasteeswarar temple is located at the site, on the banks of the Swarnamukhi River. It is an idyllic spot today, so it must have been heavenly in those days of yore….. Surely a honeymoon worth envying, wouldn’t you say???

Meanwhile, Padmavati’s father, Akasa rajan breathed his last, and the kingdom was divided between the prince and the king’s brother, after a dispute between the uncle and nephew, which was settled by lord Srinivasa. As a thanksgiving, the uncle, Thondaiman, built the temple on the seven hills for the lord. Lord Brahma himself presided over the ceremonies for sanctifying the temple, a tradition which is still carried on as the Brahmotsavam.

While the lord was thus laying down the foundations of what was to become the most visited and popular temple in India, thronged by people of all castes and creeds, Mahalakshmi was still estranged from her lord, meditating at Kolhapur. When the time came for her to be reunited with her spouse, sage Narada approached her, and informed her of all the happenings at Tirumala. She was livid when she heard that the lord had taken another wife, and, in her anger, rushed to confront the lord. He, however, calmly appeased her, and reminded her of their previous incarnations, and also the reality of Padmavati. Mahalakshmi calmed down and accepted Padmavati as her sister.

Now the lord tackled another issue – that of repayment of the loan he had incurred. He knew that without Mahalakshmi, he could never repay the huge amount, and requested her to stay by his side and bless the people who came to him for help. With Lakshmi’s blessings, people would gain wealth, but with wealth would come all the problems associated with it. This would bring people to the lord in search for salvation, and with their offerings, he would be able to repay the loan! And remember, this would only repay the interest due to Kubera! The principal would still be due till the end of Kali Yuga!

Coming up: Part 6: The temple today

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