We have arrived at Suttur Mutt after a perilous drive on the roads of South India. Mysore is a charming city with a village feel to it -- less than a million people live here, and in Indian numbers that is close to nothing. There are newly-paved highways around, the asphalt like carpet, where you can drive fast for a minute or two until stopping for the next herd of goats trotting down the road.
Sri Deshika Shivaratri Swami is the closest thing the city has to a de facto maharaja, creating huge hospitals, schools and institutions to help the people. The jathra, or festival, is the event of the year in this area, something the two lakh people attending look forward to. But because Mysore is not a big polluted metropolis, this feels and looks like a pure village festival, only in a grand scale. It's lovely.
Jiva and his sons are here, too. Hinduism today writer Choodie Sivaram is supposed to arrive soon.
The first stop in Mysore was paradise: a school and monastery at the feet of Chamundi hills. An oasis of tranquility untainted by the traffic din, it had quite a high vibration. Only monks, both brahmacharis and swamis, can stay there (no pictures were taken). We left soon to reach the outskirts of the city, where the festival was about to begin in the early evening.
The main temple was cheerfully decorated with lights (see photo). Sri Desikendra Shivaratri Swamiji welcomed us with genuine pleasure and a sense of kinship. The monks of Kauai were given honor seats the watch the puja that officially opened the event. A dozen priests and maybe 60 priests-in-training chanted in perfect unison to create a power no amplifier can match.
As we prepare to leave the Siva temple, our Suttur Mutt guide invites us to sit for a moment, saying, "Swami teaches us to sit after a temple visit before we leave, even if it is just for a moment." As he leaves, he walks backwards, for he was taught, he tells us, not to show your back to God, a king or the guru as you depart his presence."
They looked at the us with curiosity, and our host later explained to a crowd of very attentive priests who we were, drawing oohs and aahs when he mentioned Kauai Aadheenam's nitya vrata (eternal vow) of performing continuous worship in Kadavul temple, 24 hours a day by the monks on eight three-hour shifts. (which we have been doing for over 35 years)
The final adventure of this very long day happened when we asked to see the kitchens that feed, gratis, the 250,000 pilgrims. We thought it would be a building; how naive of us. The "kitchen" is a two-acre complex. A long row of unbelievable 800-gallon vats are heated over burning wood, day and night, to cook three meals for each pilgrim. Paramacharya Sadasivanathaswami had fun lifting a shovel full of cooked rice.
Much, much more to happen on the next few days. Aum.
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