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.

Climbing Arunachala

Yesterday morning, Yogi Mayuranatha and Yogi Jayanatha set out at 4:30am to climb Siva's sacred mountain of Arunachala. This 2,671 foot hill rises up from the otherwise flat land just around it.

At our hotel we met Sivan, a young man who says he climbs Arunachala almost every day. He regularly guides visitors up its slopes, and was happy to take us. We started well before sunrise, arriving at the base of the hill at about 5:15am. Starting early ensures that you get up and down the mountain before the midday heat sets in.

For the first 30 or 40 minutes, we hiked up the dry, rocky slopes with flashlights in hand, after that the pre-dawn light was enough that we could see without them. We then hiked the remaining 20 or so minutes to the top. Sivan was quite helpful. He showed us quick and safe routes over the rocks while giving us occasional advice such as "Be veeeery careful right here, many, many snakes in this spot."

Overall the hike was quite demanding, as it is such a steep ascent. Thankfully our Yogi's are young and healthy. According to Sivan, our team made really good time, reaching the top of the hill in about an hour. While the goal was the top, a beautiful point in the journey was just as we began. The landscape was dark, the moon was high, and the temple was gleaming from below. The city was void of its daily sounds of horns and bustle. All of its religious people had just awoken and had began their practice. Temple bells and Vedic chants echoed up the mountain side, accompanied by the less prominent, but beautiful singing from several muslim minarets. There was an all-encompassing feeling of purity and a focus on the Divine.

At the top of Arunachala it smells like ghee. The whole area is covered in it from the massive lamp lit on Karthigai Deepam each year. As we arrived, we were joined just two minutes later by the deep-red sun, rising up from the east. Perfect timing.

After staying a while to meditate to the sunrise, and perform a short puja the the stone footprints of Siva, we headed down the mountain. We soon stoped at Ramana Maharishi's Ashram, which is along the way. It proved to be quite a powerful place, with daily worship, devotion and introspection still taking place constantly. It is the only real structure on the mountainside. We didn't take any photos, so you'll have to go there for yourself if interested. Overall, it was a wonderful and sacred experience.

Aum Namah Sivaya

India Pilgrimage – Part 1

With a wonderful Innersearch program complete, Paramacharya Sadasivanathaswami, Yogi Mayuranatha and Yogi Jayanatha made their way safely to India. Our traveling sadhus will be visiting many important spiritual destinations including Arunachala, Chidambaram, Meenakshi, Palani Hills and more.

Kadavul Musician

During the open hours of public worship, Kadavul Temple received an offering from Abhinav Ayalur who used a saxaphone to produce an Indian-style raga. Abhinav played Nadalo Ludai, Vaatapi Ganapati, Mahavyalakin and Siva Shambo.

Our Shaman Visitor

Paramacharya Sivanathaswami stands next to Alejandro Ceveriano Carrillo, our Shaman priest who visited yesterday. Alejandro is a medicine man of the Wixaritari people, Sierra Madre, Mexico. He visited our island of Kauai to leave offerings to the fire, wind, Mother Earth, and restore balance to the elements. Alehandro's insight into the monastery were divine, saying "This is the origins and home of God Siva." The Huichol or Wixaritari are Native Americans living in the Sierra Madre Occidental range in the Mexican states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Zacatecas and Durango. They are best known to the larger world as the Huichol, however they refer to themselves as the Wixaritari or "the people," in their native Huichol language.

Archives are now available through 2001. Light colored days have no posts. 1998-2001 coming later.

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