“Just when you think you have understood life, life changes”
“The worst things and best things in your life- they are unfortunately interlinked”
What was the point of believing abstract things, I thought. People who got past me using dirty short cuts, people who used my favours, loud mouthed, gossiping double standard people around me did not believe things that I believed:
Karma, Fate, “God is watching”, Love happens, Everything happens for a reason ,Domino effect ,Hurt nobody (unless they hurt you).
Why would I believe all these when those people got the better of me?. Pointless, it seemed. The world seemed deaf to pain and frustration. To me and people like me.
There are perks of having a horoscope chart of problems. You get to travel to enough and more temples and get intoxicated in the historic serene feel of lesser known and old temples. So, however hot and tiring the drive on the highway roads down south would be, I was happy.
After a year of visiting the various Navagraha temples (Dedicated to the 9 planets that influenced your chart and life) in 2013 touching up to the historic ancient port of Poompuhar, I was at the foothills of Marudhamalai in the June of 2015 at a little residential area nearby, visiting a famed astrologer Mom took me to. The winds were roaring rummaging the windows of his newly and neatly built home. We waited in his little but neat office as he finished lunch.
Seeming in his thirties he wore a rather wise look. Trophies and certificates of his accomplishments in Master of Arts, Astrology, sat beside his little shelf full of pictures and little statuettes of deities. He sat down at his computer that automatically generated a person’s horoscope (You needed to feed Date of Birth and time first).
He predicted what all went on in our lives rather accurately. I didn’t believe astrology back then but had no choice. I didn’t like much of what he said. He often scanned my face to check how I reacted. “Kalathra Dhosham” he said. If it was Love marriage, it would end on the rocks. Marriage however must be completed within the end of “Guru palan” period. I had eight months. Mere Eight months to countdown. He said “ Go to Paapanasam, I’d be there for a yagam, join me, early morning with family, you can pay within a week.”
We left. He came dropped us till the gate for some reason (could be habitual), but it seemed rather “Serious” for me.
Mom however decided we take a detour to Kooduthurai, Bhavani, near Erode. “Sangameshwarar Temple” and we would attend a pooja there. My prayers were of different intentions but I cooperated. The temple was painted and well maintained, and had a rather queer legend. It had the usual serenity and a “you are being watched “ feeling of a Shiva Temple. People had lots of things to say about who Shiva was. I, however felt he was more than what hymns , sculptures and paintings depict. He was more like the Lingam.
The “Shivalingam” something elusive and beyond human form, yet powerful, yet all knowing and all hearing.
Sangameshwarar temple was built on the banks where there was a “Sangamam” or mixing (confluence) of three rivers, Kaveri ( I rather worshipped her because she was so much associated with the Chola land), Bhavani ( Coincidentally originating from Silent Valley National Park in Kerala a three hour drive from where I lived, Ooty) and the mystic Saraswati river. It was a scorching afternoon when we finished pooja for “Kalathra Dhosha Nivarthi” or “relief” and I changed into dry clothes after a holy dip in the banks of the “confluence of three rivers”. I often slipped on the algae laden stone stairs of the banks and wished so much they kept this place more neat. I watched water birds hunt the untouched banks of the temple. I was squeezing my head to analyze the reliefs to see if they were Chola built. They seemed so. They looked so 3D. Must be them I thought. Browsing didn’t help as there was no mention as to who built it. (Whatever looked grand and good, I assumed it was the Cholas). I prayed for people I cared about in the Vishnu sannidhi.
I looked at Lord Shiva, the lingam in the main praharam of the temple. I told him in all his glowing glory of oil lamps, I’d marry whomever he decides I must. Nothing else escaped my mind. For some reason, though I could have easily asked what I wanted. It didn’t seem like justice to just “want” things, without knowing the consequences it would have on people. Lord Shiva faced the river banks. Little did I know, there would be a CONNECTION between me and the temple, and me and Bhavani. I thought it was a co-incidence, but doesn’t seem much like it. (ABOUT THIS I’D BLOG SOMEOTHER TIME).
I tried offering a banana to the mid-sized elephant who was having his nails painted( varnish? I think). The mahout forbade me anyway. I glanced at the jumbo once again and left .
I looked tired but on the inside rather nostalgic. Escaping heat of the warm footstones made me feel at home, all temples did. I didn’t know if I was lucky or unlucky. I often thought about Raja Raja Chola. About what went on in his mind all his life. I admired him. Wished they had photographs back then. Wished he wrote a book or had a journal. Little is known about him as a person. We only know his Emperor side.
Few months later, we hit the National Highway 67 again this time to Paapanasam, passing tollgates. I saw how the look changed from plain scenery to little green hillocks dotting the landscape like how Balakumaran describes the Pandya country in Udayaar. It got greener and greener when we hit Tirunelveli. It was a different kind of green when compared to the delta regions of Thanjavur. The look of the towns seemed a little forward and modern touched whilst I noticed Kumbakonam and inner Thanjavur had remnant buildings of the past. I crossed Einstein college of engineering without knowing I did and reached Thamirabharani lodge, a neat place with a small brook running around it (wonder why). The moon was up while we arranged for my grandfather a room to stay on the ground floor. Mom and I picked a corner room on the upper floor. The lodge was filled with guests who would visit Paapanasam temple the next day.
A mono colour painted Gopuram or temple tower, huge trees with protruding roots that often dropped fruit to the ground and shadowed the tower from far, chirping birds and monkeys, vendors who waited to sell their merchandise from toys to hairpins to sacred thread , rushing of the Thamirabharani river water below, devotees from all walks of life, old and young, rich, poor and very poor, the temple had the aspect of “ancient oneness and all welcoming feel”. Perfect place for a Shiva devotee. Located close to the temple was the Agastiyar falls. We attended the morning Pooja for the Main deity. The temple had the “closed feeling” of the deeper mind associated in its architecture with low roof. Stone, of course. The place smelt Vibhoothi and was getting more and more crowded. They followed a unique Saivite ritual of blowing horns and drum when the pooja was conducted. You knew whose lair you were in. The sound of it would give you goose bumps and run a spine chilling feeling. I looked at the lingam again. He was clad in Vibhoothi. I said the same thing. I thought of my brother.
The holy dip followed. Thamirabharani’s water was different. Thamiram meant “copper”. It was said the water had higher rates of copper. Little and older, all kinds of people offered their hearty prayers and took dips. Mothers helped crying babies get a dip in the special river. I understood I was weak with flowing water. I had strange scenes come and go by my eyes as I took my breath -held dip. I thought of my brother again. I looked at the Temple tower from below the stairs. Here I wished they kept the front of the temple cleaner. (They had neat paid changing rooms). Here used and disposed clothes were neatly collected in a large metal holder/stand in one of the mandapams on the banks. It was green. Green everywhere. We finished pooja in a hall were they actually cooked food for the temple. I went a little dizzy (may be sleepy) as the mantras were chanted and prayers offered. We left the rice balls to be offered at the river by the priest. We had tea and Idlis in the eatery outside. Mom disagreed to my plan of visiting Nellaiyappar temple. We hit the NH road again back home satisfied, yet oblivious of the future.
What was I going to do? Bask in the glory of rebelliousness or shun it for greater good?. Passion or sacrifice?. A life I wanted but couldn’t get or acceptance of what cannot be changed?. I had to let go of my beliefs, desires, it was difficult. The only one to bear the heat anyway would be me. It was the best thing to be done. I had to get things straight. How, I did not know. Every home, however little, however poor was your empire. You are the Prince or Princess of your house . You needed to do justice to your role. These thoughts rooted themselves too strongly after my visit to these two amazing Shiva temples. All life is a dance. Humans were just a performance in the passage of time, sometimes lucky or clever enough to leave something behind. But what did the stars have up their sleeve for me. I was going to find out.
——————————————————To be continued