Madurai Meenakshi

Gurudeva loved this temple and in his Sutras invited shishyas to pilgrimage here at least once in their lifetime. Today we fulfilled his decree and stepped into another world. The halls are ornately colored and the floors and rich with kolam designs.

I took the yogis to the central set of pillars that are a sculptor's crowning glory, with Arjuna holding a bow carved from a truly massive stone. How is this possible, the mind wonders?

Here Parasiva and Parashakti reign side by side, two equal temples just yards apart, not something one sees often, if ever. It is said 10,000 visitors come through on an ordinary day and the halls were full on this day.

There was some engineering to get a ticket to have Meenakshi's darshan. Security was confounded by our alabaster skin and our clearly Hindu everything else, so off we were taken to the superintendent who has to approve inn writing all light skin entries. He did, without hesitation and we were ushered past long lines to the sanctum there to witness the All Pervasive Divine. Suddenly an animated pujari rushed toward us, arms outstretched, almost screaming thrice, "Sivaya Subramuiyaswami!" He later shared the time he met Gurudeva in Mumbai in 1995. In fact we have a photo of a gathering of 65 Sivacharyas with Gurudeva on that day. A long meditation is a favorite spot near Mother-Father Siva ended our morning at the temple. Sharing below a few details from Wikipedia for those who want to explore its history a bit.

Meenakshi Temple, also referred to as Meenakshi Amman or Minakshi-Sundareshwara Temple, is a historic Hindu temple located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is dedicated to Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, and her consort, Sundareswar, a form of Shiva. The temple is at the center of the ancient temple city of Madurai mentioned in the Tamil Sangam literature, with the goddess temple mentioned in 6th century CE texts.

Though the temple has historic roots, most of the present campus structure was rebuilt after the 14th century CE, further repaired, renovated and expanded in the 17th century by Thirumalai Nayak. In early 14th century, the armies of Delhi Sultanate led by Muslim Commander Malik Kafur plundered the temple, looted it of its valuables and destroyed the Madurai temple town along with many other temple towns of South India. The contemporary temple is the result of rebuilding efforts started by the Vijayanagara Empire rulers who rebuilt the core and reopened the temple. In the 16th century, the temple complex was further expanded and fortified by the Nayak ruler Vishwanatha Nayakar and later others. The restored complex now houses 14 gopurams (gateway towers), ranging from 4550m in height, with the southern gopura tallest at 51.9 metres (170 ft). The complex has numerous sculpted pillared halls such as Ayirakkal (1,000 pillar hall), Kilikoondu-mandapam, Golu-mandapam and Pudu-mandapam. Its shrines are dedicated to Hindu deities and Shaivism scholars, with the vimanas above the garbhagrihas (sanctums) of Meenakshi and Sundaresvara gilded with gold.

The Center of All

Yogi Mayuranatha: "Nataraja was so powerful. The purity and dedication of the priests inspiring. The stones ancient, emanating over a thousand years of devotion. A truly divine experience."

"Always worship this great God. Never fear Him. He is the Self of your self. He is closer than your own breath. His nature is love, and if you worship Him with devotion you will know love and be loving toward others." With these words from Gurudeva ringing in our ears on March 7th evening we three reached Chidambaram, called the Center of the Universe. Sadasivanatha told the two yogis how one day he was traveling with Gurudeva by train out of Chidambaram after some days of being at the feet of Nataraja. Across from them sat two European men sitting on both sides of a black box with the look of science on it. They told Gurudeva they were several years into a survey of the earth's gravitational field, mapping where it is strong and weak. They shared that it was at the Chidambaram temple that they had just recorded their highest reading ever. Seems Siva's home here is a heavy place indeed!

The next day was all about Siva Nataraja. Here the murthi does not show the more common form with flailing hair, which is for His Great Dance of Creation, Preservation and Dissolution. Here the hair is normal since the dance is quieter, one of joy and bliss.

Sheela Venkatakrishnan drove all the way from Chennai to guide us, and introduced us to Prakash Dikshitar who took us around the entire temple (to shrines that if located anywhere else would be major temples themselves, carved 1,200 years back) and brought us to the morning crystal lingam and ruby Nataraja abhishekam at 10am.

The 3-inch perfectly clear crystal is worshipped six times each day and the ruby (a 6-inch-tall Dancing Siva) once a day. The Dikshitars hold that this morning puja is absolutely necessary for the existence of the cosmos. It is, they say, akin to the message from the brain that tells the human heart to beat. Similarly, the puja creates a powerful force that keeps the life of the universe going.

The monks meditated in the Chariot Madapam afterwards, the place where Gurudeva often gave dikshas during Innersearch here.

During a banana-leaf lunch at the Dikshitar's home (it is 11 feet wide and 120 feet long and three generations live here, 20 of them in all), we learned something new about the Dikshatar's disciplines. Not only must a priest be married for him to perform the rites in the temple, but throughout their life each month during her retreat he is not allowed inside the temple. Next we visited the home of Ananta Nataraja Dikshitar, who guided us during so many visits here in the 70s, 80s and 90s. We meet his son Guru Murthi whom we knew well in the olden days, and his grandson Raju Dikshitar.

To our amazement Raju took a photo from the living room wall See it in the above slideshow), of Gurudeva and Sadasivanathaswami holding him and his younger sister in our laps. Seems they regard that moment as a special one in their lives and though it was about 1995 speak of it as if it were yesterday.

Raju arranged for us to attend the last puja of the day in the temple. Amazingly, he took us into the place where the abishakam is held, and we stood in that ancient chamber for an hour, just 8 feet from the crystal is it was worshipped, alone with the priests who ran past us with the efficiency of having done this thousands of times. It was a potent moment.

After the last arati, the priests cleared the chamber and we were alone with Siva in the night. Raju said, "This is a good time to talk to Siva. He can hear you better without all the noise." So we spoke with Him wishing a flood of blessedness upon all of Gurudeva's devotees. Then Raju said, "I pray now for the success of Gurudeva's mission. It is so important, what you are doing. We are so proud to know all of you. I pray for Iraivan to be completed as Gurudeva saw."

That ended our day and we left filled and thrilled with Siva's light and love.

Jayanatha: "We had a wonderful visit to the center of the Universe today. Our lineage has a kinship with Chidambaram's Dikshitars that became more obvious the longer we spent there. In the evening as the temple became quiet, we were invited into the inner prakaram to witness the Spattika Lingam abhishekam up close. Quite a blessing. For such a small crystal Lingam, it holds great power. The hall is topped with gold tiles equaling the number of breaths we take in a day, patterned to the number of Nadis in the human body. Nataraja is at the heart. This being the Akasha temple, there is also a chamber to the left of Nataraja where arati is done to empty space. Our kind of temple. We feel blessed to have had such an experience."

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