We just met the head of an Udupi Mutt. He is here to play fusion keyboard tonight. #
- Watch our new 2-minute January 2012 news video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-8hH958DwU&list=UUr6mOJAX2uZUUQhSUq2TR_Q&feature=plcp #
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It's becoming evening on the plains of Karnataka state and Swami Almitta comes to the guesthouse to escort us to the night's Big Event, a firewalk. Off we drive through a throng of people (think of people shoulder to shoulder walking down an 8-lane freeway) heading for the firepit half a mile away.
Swami takes our hand and deftly carves a portal in the wall of bodies, and we find ourselves at the pit's exit. Ten men are tending the coals which have been burning since ten in the morning. They are flattening them, and fanning them to a fierce heat. We are 20 feet away and the heat bakes our cheeks. They clean off the long iron shovels used to manipulate the coal, and steam instantly tells us how hot this fire is. We wonder about doing it ourselves, and we are told it is OK, anone can walk. We would, but we are in our robes and might trip. Next time for sure.
Sri Sivaratree Desikendra Mahaswamigal arrives, and comes to the it, drawing us near him so we can have the best view of the run.
Kala Bhairava is dancing in his warrior garb, frenzied, shouting, spinning as drums beat a tribal rhythm that is hypnotic, just what a firewalker needs. He will be the first across the coals.
A second man comes, with a pink cloth on his head holding a kumbha. He is already in a trance, barely of this world, guided by a team that holds him up and keeps his direction. He will walk second.
Swami presides over a little puja, and we all throw flowers into the pit. Drums roll, crowds cry for action, dancers to the ready. Here they come. Fast, lmost with pain bending their face, two who remain serene. One, then another, nearly tripping, racing for safety, right at us and by us. In less than a single minute it is done, and done well. They have come to do penance or to fulfill a vow spoken to God and they have fulfilled it. We drive off with swami, three horsemen riding ahead to part the mass of people. Back to our guesthouse with some rare time to tell our tales at Suttur Mutt.
Our adventure at Suttur Mutt continues. The swamis come to get us at 4am, off to the temple where we are first taken to the samadhi shrines of the previous gurus, which are lined up on the left and right of the temple sanctum in two rows, open and worshipped daily by devotees. We ask about a book sitting on the shrine of the Satguru who lived about 150 years ago. They open it for us, and inside we see the most intricate Aum Namasivayas written, page after page. We are told he sat and wrote these every day of his reign, filling over 200 books and writing the Panchakshara mantram, in Kannada, 70,000,000 times! Amazing.
Then off to the Abhishekam. We are asked to chant Siva's 108 names, for they are charmed we can, and we sit with their priest and chant, then offer a bilva leaf for another 108 mantras.
Breaking for breakfast in our rooms, we returned two hours later to find the shrine transformed. Ganesha is sitting on a pile of 108 coconuts on the floor, and Nandi has been covered with butter and decorated with grapes, dates, cherries and such. Such alankara are seldom seen.
We continue to be amazed by how the Suttur founder resembles Gurudeva in their murthis, and sometimes are caught unaware, stunned by a sense of, "Gurudeva, there you are!"
Off we go for a lightening three-hour visit to three temples. The Chola Sri Kanteswara Temple is on the banks of the Kapila River, and there are massive crowds gathered on this Sunday. The temple itself is amazing, with unique pyramidal pillars at the entrance and stunning towers, obviously renovated in recent times to pristine condition.
We end up on the top of Chamundi Hill, to join throngs seeking the blessings of this fierce form of Shakti. The silver work on the doors is like nothing we have ever seen, so intricate and perfect in its artistry. And these doors are 20 feet tall! Our Sutter hosts seems to have a magic power and all gates open to us.
On the way down the hill we visit the famed Mysore Nandi, that gargantuan black bull that must be 15 feet tall, and takes the breath away. How ever did they get it here? Who could move such a stone in those days even one meter? Nearby, we bend low to enter a cave where Siva resides, and fall at His feet. All that, and the day is only half done!
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