Friday, May 28, 2010
KUTRALAM and more....
Oh wow…. the name itself will make the ones who have been there to plan a trip once atleast. This name “KUTRALAM” is quite famous in South India and located in Tamil Nadu.
This tourist destination is the house of many waterfalls in Tamil Nadu in the western ghats and at the border of Kerala. All these waterfalls starts pouring once the monsoon sets itself in Kerala.
Kutralam, ‘Pazhaya Kutralam’ means ‘OLD KUTRALAM’, Five Falls, Sitraruvi and Puliyaruvi are the list of famous waterfalls in this place and quite close to each other in kilo metres.
Near the Kutralam waterfalls you can see the famous Kutrala Nadhar Temple. As an interesting information…..Lord Siva is said to be in a blissful dance – ANANDHA THAANDAVAM, the performance of which is producing the cosmic energy to all living species on the Earth. This is the reason that every particle of earth is said to be set in vibration within. Dancing Lord Siva is called as NATRAJA. In all, there are 5 Sabhai’s – STAGES for his performance as per the Hindu Mythology.
THIRUKUTRALANADHAR TEMPLE - THE CHITHRA SABHAI OF LORD NATARAJA
I am listing it below to give some finer details…
CITY - Order of the Sabhai - Name of the Sabhai
KUTRALAM - 5 - Chithra Sabhai (Art)
MADURAI - 3 - Velli Sabhai (Silver)
THIRUVALANGADU - 1 - Rathina Sabhai (one of the gem stone)
CHIDAMBARAM - 2 - Por Sabhai (gold)
THIRUNELVELI - 4 - Thamira Sabhai (Bronze)
Above the Kutralam falls, in the hills are a number of falls which has to be approached through many risky routes and access to which was closed now since some government project work is going on here. Above kutralam, walking for about 1 hour, one can reach Shenbagadhevi waterfalls – this is actually the waterfall that runs further to form Kutralam downhills, joining with few more streams.
Above Shenbagadhevi, if you walk into the forests, then we can reach the riskiest waterfall – Thenaruvi – which means “honey falls”. Honey falls is a majestic waterfall falling from top of the hills into the well bounded mountain walls – exactly looking like majestic walls formed by the mountains and forming a very big lake. This is named ‘Honey’ Falls because you can see honey combs built all around these mountains and honey will be tripping into the Lake formed by the waterfalls. One can only enjoy the view of the waterfall and cannot even think of taking a dip in the lake formed before the waterfall as it is not approachable for anybody. Still you can go across the river taking the risk of walking through huge rocks lying on the heavy current stream. Going further above the Thenaruvi is very risky as you still have to go into the deeps of the forest through risky routes completely. Many of the people who had set themselves on this trip to find the source for the Thenaruvi gets killed absorbed somewhere in the water stream or falling down from the hill tops/ huge rocks, etc.
What’s more and near to this destination – KUTRALAM?
A lot and lot…traveling into Kerala which will take about 1 and ½ hours of travel, we can reach another majestic waterfall called as PALARUVI – means ‘MILK FALLS’. As the name depicts, this waterfall will absolutely look like milk flowing from the top of the hill and is too lengthy comparing with any other waterfall I have seen. This waterfall is maintained by the Kerala Government.
PAALARUVI....THE MILK FALLS....
Straight opposite to the direction of the Paalaruvi and into Tamil Nadu side for about an hour, we can reach AGASTHIYAR FALLS. This is the waterfall formed in River ‘TAMARABARANI’. In Tamil ‘TAMARA’ means Lotus, BARANI is a song form of Tamil Literature which are poems written in praise. This waterfall is named after the famous sage AGASTHIYR, one of the top most 18 Siddhas as he was observing penance and living in these hills. Adjacent to the Agasthiyar waterfalls one can enjoy the excellent view of the broad Tamarabarani river flowing through the town. Before we move towards the Agasthiyar Falls comes the Famous Lord Siva Temple – PAPANASAM – meaning ‘destroyer of all sins’.
We can go above in the hills to reach a place called as KARAIYARU. This is where we have the PAPANASAM DAM. This is an excellent place in the forest and you will see forest department signages everywhere alerting us about the type of animals in the forest. In the lake formed by the Dam, boating is operated by the Government of Tamil Nadu – which is actually with no safety mechanisms. These boats will take people to another part of the Lake – as you approach near this destination, you will be seeing a majestic waterfall in the hills little above the Lakeshore. Boats will stop here and the tourists can walk for about 1.5 km to reach this waterfall. There are proper paths available to reach this waterfall. This waterfall is called as PAANA THEERTHAM. Paana Theertham is such a majestic waterfall with damn cool water flowing which I can compare to ten times cold as of the Kutralam water. One more important thing to be noticed is just a small leaf of this waterfall is what is available to be enjoyed by the tourists – which is itself quite broad enough to accommodate more number of tourists. This and the rest of the waterfall makes a pond before it which has swirls on it and it is completely restricted for anybody to step into this lake. This pond is so deep and has swirl and water fills this to flow further down. Many accidental deaths have happened in this pond. Just a step or two in the pond for photographs and slippery rocks makes one fall down and drowns in the deeps of ponds and swirl.
DAM AND LAKE....BOATS AND TOURIST IN CUE...
PAANA THEERTHAM BEFORE REACHING THE LAKESHORE....
PAANA THEERTHAM...A LITTLE CLOSER...
After the bath in PAANA THEERTHAM, we can come down to catch our boat and way back to the other part of the Lakeshore. Many of the boat riders had reported saying that Crocodiles are seen in the lakeshore in the early mornings.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
TIRUVANNAMALAI TEMPLE FROM THE HOLY HILLS
Tiruvannamalai is the place very famous for one of the sacred Lord Siva temple in South India. This is one of the PANJA BOOTHA KSHETHRAM. ‘Panjabootha’ refers to 5 elements of nature and this temple is the AGNI KSHETHRA – dedicated to the element - FIRE!
Tiruvannamalai is such a big temple with navagopurams – 9 entrances and is the place where many of the miracles had happened in history. This is where Lord Muruga had saved the life of his great devotee ARUNAGIRINADHAR and had made him sing poems on him. Challenging, tongue twisting verses enriched THIRUPUGAZH is his famous poem on LORD MURUGA.
GIRIVALAM: Tiruvannamalai is also well known for the GIRI VALAM – ‘coming around the holy hill’ during the Full moon day of every month. It is believed that coming around the hill on the full moon day is very curative and will fill anyone with complete spiritual vibes. On the way around the hills, one can also visit the nine lingam temples which is actually the ritual for anyone set on the GIRIVALAM.
In Girivalam, it is explained that the entire Tiruvannamalai hill is itself showing like the lying down pose of Lord Shiva. Also from one point, you can see the rock formation in the hills like NANDI DEVAR statue. You may know that in any Shiva temple, Nandi devar statue will be right in front of the Shivalinga – Lord Shiva.
HOLY HILLS EXPLAINED AS 'LORD SIVA'S LYING DOWN POSE'...HEAD, CHEST, LEFT ARM OVER THE ABDOMEN, LEFT LEG IN A BENT POSTURE.....
...HEAD AND CHEST
..NANDI DEVAR LIKE FORMATION IN THE HOLY HILLS...DEVAR'S HEAD FACING THE DIRECTION OF THE TEMPLE....IN RED BOX IN THE IMAGE....
ASHRAMS IN TIRUVANNAMALAI: Tiruvannamalai is also well known for many of the enlightened masters who had settled down here and have had their ashrams built down the hills. One such famous ashram is Sri Ramanashramam of the Enlightened mystic Sri Sri Ramana.
In Ramanashramam we can see Sri Ramana’s Samadhi – place where Sri Ramanar’s body is buried. Actually even using the word ‘buried’ is wrong for an Enlightened mystic like Ramana as it is not the usual death or burial process followed for any other simple human beings.
NOTE ON SRI RAMANA: To give an interesting life history of Ramana….Ramana, when young was so much curious in knowing what is death as he realized death as a certainty on any human and on one day he had this death experience which was explained in his biography by when he slipped deep into the experience of Samadhi – which can be explained as a state of mind where there is no mind and one slipping in attuned/ dissolved into his own centre in his own being. After this, he longed to see Tiruvannamalai and came to Tiruvannamalai and settled down here and continued with his meditations.
There is also one portion inside the temple called as ‘BADHALA VINAYAGAR’ temple – this means a ‘Vinayaga temple in underground’. Here it is said that he was deeply into the Samadhi experience for so many days and had no conscious of his body even. So many day long experiences of Samadhi and no movement of his body in a renunciated kind of portion brought his body many insect bites, etc and when he is found in this temple by someone, it was said that his wounds had lots of insects happily feasting on his body and reproducing and reproducing. He wanted to help Sri Ramana and so he gave him medications for all his physical wounds/ insect bites. More details on his history can be observed from his books through his ashram.
Sri Ramana has also meditated in a hut like place in the hills which is called as ‘KANDASHRAMAM’ – which means ‘Lord Murugan’s ashramam’ – This is where he is said to have given ‘MOKSHA’ the spiritual freedom to his mother. Walking down from KANDASHRAMAM, we will come to VIRUPAKSHA CAVE, where also Sri Ramana had meditated for a long time. Both these places are open to general public now and are used as meditation halls. When you approach these places through Ramanashram it will take about 45 mins to 1 hour to reach. Both these places are maintained by Ramanashramam.
HERE COMES 'MORE AND MORE'.....
After visiting Virupaksha Cave, if you still climb down the hills on the same route, we can come to SRI KUGAI NAMASIVAYAR SAMADHI – which is again a cave and this is where SRI KUGAI NAMASIVAYAR who is an enlightened master and who had lived long many years before had undergone his Samadhi. This is also open to general public. His history written on the walls of his temple says that he was from Karnataka and he traveled down to Tiruvannamalai and as he came into Tiruvannamalai, he visited the temple and enquired Lord Annamalaiyar – main deity of the temple about his wellness = “ARE YOU FINE?” This story depicts that Kugai Namasivayar was such a great mystical being who was able to approach Lord Siva as a friend.
His history also says that he is gifted with a sacred theertham by UMAYAL – GODDESS PARVATHI which is a ‘THEERTHAM’ - a pond of water. This is gifted to him for him to perform his regular prayers. This Theertham is called as ‘MULAIPAAL THEERTHAM’. This is quite adjacent to Kugai Namasivayar’s cave.
A little away to the leftside of the Mulaipaal Theertham, we can visit the PALAMARA KUGAI – which is again a cave. Inside the cave there is a small entrance leading to another part of the cave – one can crawl in darkness and enter it and sit down for meditation or to listen to the cosmic vibration sound …..OMMMMMMMM… without any effort. If we still walk to the left of it, we can visit another ashram that’s again called ‘KANDASHRAM’. From here, you can have a nice view of the Tiruvannamalai temple.
Still walking down, you will see one more temple by name – ANNAPOORANI ALAYAM, which means TEMPLE OF GODDESS OF FOOD. This is again a cave and one can enter and sit in meditation here too. I will say this cave will fill anyone with bliss and happiness.
Coming out of this temple and if you walk down, you will see one more protected room like place and outside this place – it says ‘THE PLACE WHERE IDAIKADAR SIDDAR HAD MEDITATED’ – IDAIKADAR is one of the great siddar as per Tamil History and one among the first 18 TOP MOST LEGENDARY SIDDARS.
If you still climb down, you will walk through the residential places built on the foothills of Tiruvannamalai and will reach one of the maada veedhis. If you climb back the same route, you can reach Virupaksha cave in about 20 minutes.
A small note to strike/ think about: Friend of mine has been on Girivalam once and saw one of his friend who is a foreign national and known to my friend and who was not in touch with my friend for some years. In anxiety of seeing this foreign friend after a long time, that too in Tiruvannamalai, where he is also on Girivalam, asked him “Your place?” in the sense whether now he is staying in Tiruvannamalai. Answer that he got from him is .......NO, NO….ALL SIVA’S PLACE!
...ONE OF THE MAADA VEEDHI AND THE CRAWLING DOWN RAIN CLOUDS FROM THE HOLY HILLS