Saturday, July 30, 2011

Journey of a Pilgrim - By Nethianathan Krishna Kutty

This post is about my experiences while I traveled to some beautiful temples in South India.

Balaji Temple, Tirupathy - Andra Pradesh

Reached Tirupathy last night from Chennai. Took some rest and got up early for my first temple visit. At 7.15 am, from Alipiri, I started my journey to receive Lord Balaji's Darshan.

 It took about few hours to reach first stop. The journey was through a forest but the stairs were well built and well covered. There were many things on the way up, mainly deity statues. Every 500 metres, there are many shops and  food stalls and open space to rest. At these stall you can get tea/soda and bread. At some points, people arranged bricks (pic below) maybe to depict Lord Vengkat, not very sure about this.

At this point, there is a place where everyone is given a biometric token.This is to keep track on the number of people going up.
On the way up, there are also people carrying gas cylinders, and raw materials for cooking. They maybe the suppliers for the stalls.

 Here, there are a lot more shops and bigger ones too. They sell food items like thosai and idli. From that point there were no more steps but more like road with steps many metres apart.

Mid journey, there is a big Anjenaya statue. After praying, had some tea and bread and continued. All throughout the journey there were toilet facilities. At this point, we were able to see the main temple which looked like its situated in another mountain across the mountain that we were on. The journey is still a long way to go.

At the last Dome before reaching the main temple, there were many people climbing the stairs on their knees. I rested here for a while and continued the journey till the 3550th step. From here, we can walk to the temple. Took the token, and saw people selling items to be put in the 'undiyal'. The things were miniature items to resemble your wish, for example a house, a cradle and also body parts (for health reason).
To be in the fast lane, it costs about 300 Rs and that too took about 2 hours before I could see Lord Balaji. As you get nearer, the rush became worse and security was tight. I got about 1 minute to get Lord Balaji's Darshan and it was well worth it. He stands tall at 1.5 metres and grand; covered in gold. The vibration was strong and I was satisfied with the Dharshan.
Getting to the 'undiyal' was another task. Somehow managed to reach there and delivered my items into the 'undiyal'. Just before coming out, there is a room where all the money received by the temple is counted. It is said that in a day, the temple receives about 22.5 Million Rs and 10 kg of gold.
As you exit the temple, you'll be given prasadam (ponggal). Laddu is distributed in another complex about 200 meters from the main temple. The laddu's are distributed to the complex from the 'kitchen' through a conveyor system. You show your receipt and collect your laddu.

Alamelu Temple & Kalahasthi Temple, Andra Pradesh

Early morning, the next day, we went to the Alamelu Temple, who is said to be Lord Vengkat's wife. Here also, laddu's were given.
Then we left to some 40 kms away from Tirupathi to Kalahasti Temple. This is a Fire Lingam Temple where he stands straight and tall.

Tiruthani Murugan Temple, Thiruthani, Tamil Nadu

I had a 'special' blessings in this temple. First, after praying, the first pandit gave me a garland, then the same thing happened at the second place and at the third place the pandit did a special prayers for me and handed the prasad to me. Glad to get this special blessing from Lord Murugan.

Egambaram Temple & Kanchi Kamakshi Temple, Kanchipuram , Tamil Nadu

Egambaram temple is a Sivan Temple. Under the Sivalingam, is the 'Mann Sivan'; Sivan which was created by  earth by Goddess Parvathi, 3500 years back.

After visiting Kanchi Kamakshi, the driver took us to shop for Kanchipuram sarees. Manage to shop some good sarees here.

Later that day, we decided to drive to Rameswaram which is about 560 km from Kanchipuram. We left Kanchipuram at 10pm.

Ramanathapuram Temple, Rameshwaran , Tamil Nadu

The 560km journey took us about 10 hours. We reached at 8am next morning.

Rameswaram is an island by itself - more of a fishing village. Most of the area is barren but the area near the temple is crowded.

At the temple, I was told to bring extra clothes to change. Then I was brought to an open area, to change my clothes. I just wore a 'dhoti' that I bought at the temple. First, I took a dip at the beach , then I did some prayers at the beach side.

 After that, I went into the temple to pray.  Then a guide took me around to 21 wells and I bath in all the wells as well as tasting the water.

Water from each well tasted differently.There was also a 22nd well, where we dont get to bath in the water. The water is just splashed at everyone. After that, I changed back to dry clothes, had the darshan and left the temple.

Madurai Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu

It is said that this temple is huge that you can get lost inside. Yes, it is huge but I do not agree with getting lost part. There are 5 Main Domes, one for each North, East, West and 2 at the South and 9 smaller Dome. The two in the south are for Siva and Parvathy.
We had ample time to pray here and it was satisfying. Goddess Meenakshi is beautiful, adorned with shiny earrings and nose ring.
Around 8pm, we decided to leave to Velor. Very tiring journey,  as I took over the wheels after I noticed the driver dozing off. Driving in India was an experience indeed! I slowly learnt when and where to use the horn. We reached to a small town and decided to put up there as everyone was tired.

Velor Golden Temple, Velor, Tamil Nadu
Pic - Google Image

In the morning, when we reached Velor town, we noticed that the town was quite posh. There were boutiques - Adidas, Nike and other branded shops.After breakfast,  Thiagu took over the wheels as driver was still sleepy. &#%@???

Pic - Google Image

We went to the Velor Golden Temple. A very well organised temple. No pushing, no crowd, peaceful. The main deity is Goddess Laksmi Narayani.
You get to pray as your heart wishes as your not scurried away by 'temple wardens'. The temple is clean, all around the temple you see quotes by famous sages. The wonderful landscape adds beauty to this temple.
Every afternoon, Anathanam is served at this temple, again hassle free. First course of rice and dhal , second course of rice and rasam and third course of rice and buttermilk. Food here is delicious but as Malaysians you are full after the first course. So if you want to really experience this ananthanam, dont stuff yourself before coming here.

Arunachaleswara Temple, Tiruvanamalai, Tamil Nadu

This is a Sivan Temple. As we were leaving the temple, a lot of devotees were coming in carrying 'kavadi'. Streams and streams of people like "Thaipusam".
 That was the end of my journey. Glad to complete my South Indian Pilgrimage as planned.

There was another half a day to spend the next day, before leaving to KL. Managed to move around Chennai, experience watching movie at Sathyam Theater, take a look at 'hot' Marina Beach.

If Aarsyan can post in this blog, so can I.
- Nethianathan Krishna Kutty -

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