After arriving back home on Kauai, we received a series of great photos taken and captioned by Vasaant Krishnan. They tell the story of our visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Orchid Gardens, and we thought all would enjoy them. Aum Namasivaya!
Our three homeless wayfarers finally stumble on the Iraivan worksite on Tumkur Road outside of Bengaluru, the place where, for 28 some years, the carving for Iraivan Temple has been (and continues to be) taking place.
We are taken in by the noble Rajashakar family, supped and soon provisioned with extravagant viands which we were compelled to consume sans utensils, all of which proved to be a welcome soporific.
Jiva and Thurai took us from their home to the adjacent worksite where the yogis discovered that the entire team of some 18 silpis is working on the cladding stones for the kadavul Nandi, korimaram and balipeedem. It's a project that has been in the planning stages for some years and is now manifesting, a major upgrade to the entrance of Kadavul Temple's stone work and a fulfillment of a long-time wish of Gurudeva (more of which in future TAKA missives).
A mot delightful few conversations with the family, with discussions of items to take back to Kauai and their own imminent arrival on the island (Thurai and his wife Swapna leave on the 20th for almot six weeks on the island, her first time outside of India).
We are so grateful to Kanmani and Neesha and her Amma for the kindnesses showered on her road-weary guests. Sadasivanthaswami saw a few items that he deemed destined for Siva's Sacred Garden and Kanmani was commissioned to grow some plants for the aadheenam. Sheela Venkatakrishnan surprised all by driving all the way from Chennai just to say aloha to us. Yes, we felt loved here in Bengaluru!
The slideshow tells the story of a short visit to a tall Hanuman near the worksite, a 36-foot-tall, 100-ton, monolithic sculpture commissioned in recent times by the Gujarati community here.
We received this beautiful letter from the Virashaiva guru from Mysore who we recently visited: October 8, 2011 We are delighted to write about our visit to your Monastery few weeks ago. It was one of best moments of our brief stay in the US. The idyllic location of the Monastery combined with the true exponents of Saivite philosophy, thousands of miles away from its origin, is not merely surprising but exhilarating that such a monastery exists in reality in its pristine originality. We were indeed overwhelmed at your hospitality. The Monastery is functioning exceedingly well under your guidance. The unusual spiritual comradeship is not to be seen elsewhere as it is found in Kauai's Hindu Monastery. The dedication with which the Hinduism is practiced is worth emulating. We once again express our deep sense of appreciation for maintaining the monastery exceptionally well. Our regards to all the Swamijis and others of the Monastery. With best wishes, Yours in the service of God, Jagadguru Sri Shivarathri Deshikendra Mahaswamiji Jagadguru Sri Veerasimasana Mahasamsthana Math Suttur Srikshetra
How to describe our 18-hour stay at Suttur Math in Karnataka? This Lingayat lineage is over a thousand years old and the spiritual preceptor here, Jagadguru Sri Shivarathri Deshikendra Mahaswamiji, heads up an institution that astounds. We got a few glimpses of their achievements, as you will see.
Arriving after a 7.5 hour drive from Palani Hills, we were sung to by 8 swamis and then ushered to guest rooms in this beautiful Mysore garden. After freshening up, we were off on a whirlwind tour guided by Almitta Swami whom we know well since our earlier visit in 2014 during their annual festival. The full article can be found on our Hinduism Today site here:
The monastery is over a thousand years old and holds many connections with us, not the least of which is that Sri Ganapati Sthapati, the Iraivan master builder, worked here to renovate two Chola-era temples, small ones, in 1996. And the team at Artha Enterprises carved many giant pillars for their peedam building.
Almitta Swami took us to the samadhi shrine of the founder and his several recent successors. We learned that at age 85 or so, the founder directed his disciples to inter him in a crypt while still alive, and that was no doubt part of the power that has driven this order, with its 2,000 sannyasins, to accomplish such extraordinary things.
We met in the chamber where the Guru presides, offering a small gift to Mahaswamiji and sitting with this unpretentious soul who seemed to present and affectionate, so centered despite the fact that he runs hundreds of institutions, educational, medical and such. Mahaswami inquired after our travels and after Bodhinatha then asked us to drive to their main school to address the school children who hold an assembly morning and evening.
We arrived to their singing and clapping (see the short movie below). They sang in three languages with a spirit of eagerness not seen these days in the Western school system. So forceful was their chanting, we could not help to see the future of India, a future of intelligence married to discipline underpinned by joy and comradeship. Here, we knew, where the leaders of humanity's future, learning so they might lead, learning so they might solve the problems facing the world.
We greeted them in Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami's name, and urged them to study hard, to love one another and see Siva in everyone they meet. We spoke of Gurudeva's teaching that Siva is a God of love, infinite love and that throughout life ahead they could find refuge at His Feet. We urged them to be proud of this enlightening and noble tradition they are blessed to follow. Half in the group are formal Lingayats, followers of God Siva. They sang for us and we said good bye to the roaring cheers of some 1,500 kids. They were clearly moved to see Saivites from the West. Clearly inspired to hear from a Westerner (via translation to Kannada) that they are the inheritors of a great spiritual heritage.
Early the next day we were taken to the Chamundhi Temple nearby, the Goddess who destroys adharma and who elsewhere is called Kali or Durga. A giant Nandi greeted us there.
We met the gardener, a man named Swami who is of course called Garden Swami. We had admired a plant, a special philodendron, climbing on a tree in the garden. Generously, a cutting ended up in our van to be taken to the worksite in Bengaluru where we can propagate it until such time as proper import permits can be obtained to bring it to Kauai. It's a gem as one of the slideshow photos proves.
We are nearing Bengaluru, having spent the past two hours assembling photos to share with all CyberCadets of this special day.
Our trusty chariot is sitting in front of the hotel waiting to take us to Palani Hills, that amazing citadel that is Tamil Nadu's riches temple and one that is dear to Gurudeva and the monks. We have arrived late and decide for the first time to take the little cable car to the top. Twenty fit into each train, so 40 at a time ride slowly up the hill. We do pradakshina and then are taken to Murugan's shrine. Just in time, the hour-long abhishekam has just concluded and as the curtain is drawn aside He is dressed ornately, His face pure white, His darshan more than potent. No photos allowed, so we can't share that part here.
We visit Bhogar Rishi's shrine, alive with his mystic power. Remember, he is the one who made the murthi here using nine metallic poisons and is said to still be meditating in the mountain below. You may not know that some years back the temple trustees hired our own Selvanathan Sthapati to resculpt eroded sections of the murthi, for which he did extensive research as you can imagine.
We stayed for the 7-8pm procession of the chariot around the entire temple. Hundreds follow and push the golden chariot which stops at nine stations for arati.
We seem to have stood out, and throughout the procession families, groups of teens and sadhus came up to us shyly inquiring: "Photo? Photo with us?" Mostly we relented, til it began to slow down the entire event and we had to just keep walking in front of the chariot.
There is such a genuine and universal respect for the path of the sannyasin here and even those who don't have the courage to ask for a photo, place palms together, smile or nod approvingly as if to say, "More power to you."
Our hotel, the new Ganpat Grand is so close we opt to walk the busy street back. If ever you are in Palani, this is a great little hermitage.
Off tomorrow to Karnataka State and Suttur Math. Aum Namasivaya!
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