Tiruvannamalai / Arunaachalam

Asti Dakshidirbhaage Dravideshu Tapodhana, Arunaakhyaam Maha Kshetram tyarunedu shikha manaih/ Yojanaatraya visteerna mupaasyam Shiva yogibhih, Tad Bhume hridayam viddhi Shivasya hridayangamam/ Tatra Devah swayam Shambhuh parvataakaara taam gatah, Arunaachala sangjnaavaanasti Lokahitaavahah/ Sumerorapi Kailaasaadpayasou mandaraadapi, Maaa niyo Maharshaanaam yah swayam Parameshwarah/ (Skanda Puraana Mahenda Khanda-Arunaa Mahatmyam) ( Tapodhana! In the Southern direction of Bharaa Desha, Dravida Region, there is an outstanding Maha Kshetra of Bhagavan Chandra Shekhara called Arunaachala with a strech of three yojanas, which must to be worshipped by Shiva bhaktas as this be considered as of their own heart. Bhagavan Shankara himself had materialised in the form of a Mountain range as Arunachala. As this range of Mountains had been created by Shankara himself, it should be considered as superior to Sumeru, Kailasa and Mandarachala!) Indeed , this Mountain range representing the Five Faces of Parama Shiva viz. Tatpurusha, Aghora, Sadyojaata, Vaama Deva and Ishaana! The essence of Arunachala Matatmya as detailed in Skanda Purana is as follows: Both Brahma and Vishnu witnessed one ‘Agni Sthumbh’ (Pillar of Fire) which was dazzling to eyes and emanating extraordinary heat, without beginning or end. Brahma’s Four faces recited Vedas and He performed ‘Manasik Puja’ (Worship by mind) and so did Lord Vishnu. Bhagavan Siva appeared and was pleased by their eulogies; they requested that His huge Form of Fire of unbearable radiance and heat be please reduced as a Siva Linga so that worship became possible to all including themselves, Devas and human beings.The gigantic form of the Fire Pillar then got converted as a ‘Sthavara Linga’ at Arunachal. Most interestingly, even at the time of ‘Pralaya’ (Great Dissolution), the entire Universe was submerged in water and there was no trace of Earth visible, the Land of Arunachala was never even touched! This Place is in the South of Bharat and Arunachal (Tiruvannamalai) is in the form of Mountain Range comprising the ‘Pancha Mukhas’ or the Five Faces of Lord Rudra viz. ‘Tatpurusha’, ‘Aghora’, ‘Sadyojata’,’Vamadeva’, ‘Eshana’ which are visible till date. Nandikeswara told Markandeya that this Sacred Region is like the heart of Devi Prithvi. This Arunachal is expected to be Parameswar Himself and a fourteen kilometre distance surrounding the Mountain is as good as a complete ‘Pradakshina’ (Circumambulation) of Lord Siva. A large number of persons perform the Pradakshina on every full moon night barefooted and Pournami of Chaitra Month is a very special day as over hundreds of thousands throng the Temple and the Mountain displaying sincere devotion from all over the World. A ten day long celebration culminating on the day of Karthika Deepam or lights day is a massive crowd puller; on that evening a huge lamp is lit in an open vessel with three tons of ghee from the mountain top. Among the ‘Pancha Bhutas’ (Five Elements), viz. Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Sky,  the Fire is the symbol of Arunachaleswar as a corollary of the Agni Stumbh referred to as above.(The ‘Tiruvannaikavil’/ ‘Jalakantheswara’ Linga represents Water, Kancheepuram / Ekambareswara Linga the Earth, Kalahasti represents Vayu and Chidambaram represents Akash or Sky).Nandikeswar told Markandeya that at the commencement of ‘Ayanas’ (Fortnights) or Vishuvyog times, worship to Arunachal Linga would be very propitious. Early morning puja is performed with ‘Tulasi’ leaves, the mid-day puja with ‘Amalataasa’ and Bel flowers in the evening. By chanting the ‘Aghora Mantra’viz. Aghorebhyothaghorebhyo Namasthey Asthu Rudra rupebhyaha/Tat Purushaaya Vidmahe Maha Devaaya dhimahi, tanno Rudrah Prachodayat/ a devotee performs ‘Abishekam’ (bath) with thousand ‘Kalasas’ (vessels) full of water. On ‘Sivaratri’, special puja is done with Bilvapatras by chanting ‘Shata Rudreeyam’, observe ‘Jaagaran’ (night long worship) and Puja with lotus, Ganera and such flowers as well as please the Lord with hymns, instrumental / vocal music and ‘Tandava’ (dance). The same kind of Puja is performed on birthdays, House warming, travel and such other Special occasions.Nandikeswara informed Markandeya further about Devi Parvathi’s Tapasya to wed Lord Siva, their happy union and the birth of Ganesh and Skanda. Meanwhile, a demon duo named Shumbh and Nikumbh obtained the boon of invincibility from Brahma Deva and distressed Devas, Sages and virtuous human beings. Vishnu accompanied by Devas approached Maha Deva and He assured quick action against the demons. Parvati who was of dark complexion, desired to please Siva, discarded her dark skin and assumed the form of Kali Kaushiki. As she was doing penance at Vindhya Mountain, the demon brothers desired to marry her and she killed both of them. Subsequently, she was attracted by the scenic beauty of Arunachala and performed Tapasya at the Ashram of Sage Gautama. She kept Devi Durga to stand guard and also appointed Subhaga and Dhundhukumari to watch in all directions while she was in penance. At the same time, Demon Mahishasur created havoc in Devaloka and dethroned Indra and Devas. He heard about her beauty and sent an emissary to propose a match with her and Devi Parvati’s representative had literally thrown him out. Mahishasur declared war. Powerful Danavas like Karaal, Dhurthar, Vichasunu, Vikaraal, Durmukh, Chanda, Prachanda, Mahamouli, Vikatekshan and Jwalasya were among the mighty demons that were lined up in offence.As there was considerable sound and confusion, Parvati Devi’s Tapasya was disturbed and instructed Durga Devi to terminate the demons. Being in a lonely cave on Arunachal Mountain Durga Devi seated on a Lion and jumped onto Earth like Kalika and made frightening sounds. She created from her body crores of ‘Matruka -ganas’ who made such mayhem and slaughter of the Demons. Chamundi Devi slashed the heads of Chamunda and assosiates and finally Mahishasura entered the fray. Durga Herself jumped down from the Lion and by her several hands killed Prachanda with Her Plough head; Bindipipal with chamara; Mahamoulika with her knife, Mahahunu with her kirpaan; Ugravakta with her Kuthar, Vikatakshak with Shakti, Jwalamukh with her mudgar and so on. As Mahishasura made his last bid on Durga Devi, the former looked to have controlled her for a while as he was changing his forms as a lion, tiger, Varaha, Elephant or Mahisha and his Original form. Finally however, Devi Durga overpowered and destroyed the Devil ‘Mahishasur’ who was felled with a huge sound of a thud and there were innumerable cries of joy and relief world wide.Devi Durga held the Demon’s head in one hand, sword in another and greeted Devi Parvati who praised the Vindhyanivasini Durga. Gauri asked Durga to wash off her hands with blood and Durga broke a mountain boulder with her powerful hands to create water reciting the Mantra, ‘Namah Shonadrinathaya’ and the waterbody so formed had become popular as ‘Papanashini’Tirtha eversince. Thereafter an extraordinary ‘Jyoti’ came to be viewed from the top of the Arunachala Mountain on every Kartika Pournami Sandhya (evening) without any oil, cotton, and firewood and thus the tradition had been carried on (on a man-made basis, of course) to signify this Holy Happening and the Maha Deep continued to be viewed by devotees doing ‘Giri Pradakshinas’. While doing the circumambulation, devotees are advised to recite: “My Namaskars (Greetings) to Siva who stays at Merugiri and Kailasa; to Siva who is the son-in-law of Himachal; to the merciful Arunachalanatha who is worshipped by Siva the mid-day like Sun, besides various Devatas like Varuna and Vayu; to Siva on whose head are positioned Ganga and Chandra as ornaments; to Siva whose ‘Maya’makes us feel that your Swarup is confused as that of Narayana; to Siva who performs the magnificent Siva ‘Thandava’(Dance) and creates ripples of happiness all over the Universe; to you Shambho, Siva, Eshana, who is worshipped by Devas, Gandharvas, Siddhas and Vidyadharas; to Siva the ‘Janmadata’ of Ganesha and Kartikeya; to Siva who is the husband of Devi Parvati; We are beholden to You to bless us and relieve us of all our physical, mental and ‘Daivika’ problems beyond our control.” Siva blessed Parvati to be present at Arunachal by the name of Apeethastani since she left Kartikeya to perform Tapasya without feeding milk to him! Nandikeswar narrated to Marandeya the background of Vrajangada the King of Pandyadesha and how he became a staunch devotee of Arunachaleswara. The King was pious, charitable and Siva worshipper. Once he went by his horse for hunting deep inside the Arunachala forest and ran after a ‘Kasturi Mriga’ (Deer like animal), without being aware that the King had made a ‘Pradakshina’ of Arunachal. As Kasturi Mrig ran fast and was untraceable, the King stopped for quenching his thirst at a nearby pond; on return, he found the horse missing. He saw however a strange happening as two Celestial Beings came down from the Sky and recounted that they were two Vidyadharas, named Kanthishali and Kaladhara who were cursed by Sage Durvasa as they plucked flowers from the Sage’s garden and became the Kasturi Mrig and the King’s horse; the Sage was merciful to relieve them of the curse subsequently that a King would ride one of the accused as a horse and chase another as Kasturi and when a full Pradakshina was performed by the King, the horse and Kasturi animal, then the accused would get back their original positions as Vidyadharas.On hearing the entire background, the King became such a strong devotee of Arunachaleswara that he did considerable works in the Temple Complex  and was wholly devoted to the promotional tasks of the Arunachalapathi. Once when Sage Agasthya and his wife Lopamudra visited the Arunachala Tirtha, they complimented the devotion of the King. Considering the dedication to the Tirtha, Bhagavan Siva gave darshan to the King and informed him that he was in his earlier birth Lord Indra but since he did an indiscretion on Kailasa top out of egoism he was cursed but since he was sincerely dedicated as Siva Bhakta, He was pleased to secure Indra’s original position. Thus Nandikeswar commended the unparalelled ‘Mahatmya’ of Arunachala Tirtha. The ‘Gopuram’ of Arunachaleshwara Temple at Tirunannamalai is stated to be of the largest expanse of any Temple in Dakshina Bharat; the ten levels of this high rise Temple has four gopuras at the four entrances of this huge complex, besides other gopuras too. The Sanctum is placed within the fourth enclosure and right at the first enclosure iself, there is a Sarovara in which yatris take their ‘snaanas’or bathing where there is a Subrahmanya Mandir too. It is in the third enclosure crossing the fifth gate that Arunachala Maha Linga representing Agni among the Pancha Bhutas or the Five Elements of the Universe of mentioned as above. In the Parikrama of the Sanctum are the Idols of Devi Parvati, Ganesha, Nava Grahas, Dakshina Murti, Shiva Bhaktas, Nata Raja and so on. Ramana Ashram: is the renowned and quite impressive premises of Maharshi Ramana, an ascetic from childhood -who in fact lived in forests and later in the ArunachalTemple complex itself as a ‘Bala Sanyasi’- where his body too got cremated as a Memorial; the Maharshi has huge following of devotees drawing extensive reach from all over Bharat and overseas as they have good facilities of comfortable living and food and large halls for prayers at the Gardens of the Ashram, as maintained by liberal donations. Ramana Maharshi was an ardent devotee of Arunachaleshwara and of Advaita Siddhantas closely followed by Shaivism and an admirer of Adi Shankara and his country wide following. Aroubinda Ashram at Pondichery: Like Ramana Maharshi of Tiruvannamalai / Arunachala Kshetra is the Arabindo Ashram of Pondichery, a Centre administerd erst-while French colony near Tamil Nadu on the shores of Bay of Bengal where the co-influene of ‘Mother’ of French Origin and Arabindo of West Bengal is predominent, fundamentally of course is of Hindu Monism; Intense Meditation of the Supreme on the express principles of Dharma and Nyaya or Virtue and Justice constitutes the basis of the Followings of Arabindo-Mother Combine.

Kanchipura Mahatmya: Brahmanda Purana, in the Chapter of Lalitopakhayana is quoted as follows:        Rahasyam sampravakshyami Lopamudraa pate shrunu, Netra dwayam Maheshasya Kaashi Kanchipuri dwayam/ Vikhyatam Vaishnavam kshetram Shva sannidhya kaarakam, Kanchi kshetre Puraa Dhataa Sarva loka Pitaamahah/Shri Devi darshanaarthaaya tapastepe sudushkaram,Praaduraasa Puro Lakshmih Padmahasta purassaraa/ Padmaasane cha tishthantee Vishnunaa saha, Sarva shrigaara -veshaadhya sarvaabharana bhushitaa/ ( Bhagavan Hayagriva told Agastya Maharshi, the husband of Devi Lopamudra as follows: ‘ May I reveal a secret to you: Shankara always considers that his two eyes are two unique Kshetras viz. Kashi and Kanchipura since they represent a Shiva Kshetra and Vaishnava Kshetrta respectively. Once Lord Brahma performed a very difficult Tapasya to Maha Devi and as a result Devi Lakshmi appeared before him as seated on a Lotus along with Bhagavan Vishnu and decorated with golden jewellery with abounding grace!’) The Purana further proceeds that Hayagriva then confirms to Agastya that Lalitha Devi whom Lakshmi-Gauri-and Saraswati worshipped had the re-appeared as Devi Kamakshi! Hayagriva then proceeds to describe Kamakshi as follows further: ‘ Devi Kamakshi is Adi Devata: Adyanta-anutaraa saasyaat Chitparaatva- adi karanam Ananta—(Adi Devata Kamakshi is smaller than Atom, Chit Swarupini, Adi Kaarana or the Primary Cause and also the Ananta or the Endless). Kamakshi has a Second Form which has two hands, one with a Book and another with Yoga Mudra or the Symbol of Yoga. Her third Form was pure like snow, a jasmine flower, Chandra and a white pearl; her fourth Swarupa was that of a thousand Rising Suryas with a Chandra Rekha on her head; She is ParaTripura withnfour hands carrying a paasha, ankusha, Ikshu or Sugarcane and Kodanda: all in the Swarupa of Kamakshi as meditated by Saraswati-Lakshmi and Gauri; She is Maha Devi’s two eyes: one as Shiva Kanchi and another as Vishnu Kanchi. Bhagavan Hayagriva further infomed Agastya Muni: ‘All the Shaktis are Kamakshi’s creaion. She improvised three eggs and created Tri Murtis entrusting them the duties of Srishti- Sthiti-Samhara to Brahma- Vishnu -Shiva respectiively and created Satya Loka-Vaikuntha-Kailasha as also their respective Devis of Saraswati-Lakshmi-Parvati. Vishnu felt that he was the Supreme ad as Brahma sat atop the Lotus stem sprouted from Vishnu’s navel and resting on Ksheera Samudra, Brahma claimed superiority and the ensuing fight up as a third entity emerged as a huge Shiva Linga without beginning or end. As Maheswara made his appearance, Brahma still claimed his seniority and out of anger Shiva emerged as Bhairava and snipped Brahma’s fifth head but as Brahma Kapala was not leaving Shiva, he had to undergo the Brahma hatya sin and during his Tirtha Yatras landed at Kanchipura. As he was on a ‘Bhikshatana’or begging door-to-door with Brahma Kapala as his begging bowl, he encountered Devi Kamakshi who offered Jyotirmaya Bhiksha and Shiva finally got rid of Brahma Kapala that rolled down on earth. The ever grateful Shiva prostrated for her unique benevolence.  Kanchi Kshetra is one of the foremost Moksha dayani Sapta puris : Ayodhya Mathura Maaya Kaashi Kaanchiihyavantika, Puri Dwaavati chaiva saptaitaah Moksha daayani/ viz. Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya/ Haridwar, Kashi, Kanchi and Avantika / Ujjain, Puri and Dwaravati. Kanchi is Hari- Haraatmika comprising Shiva Kanchi and Vishnu Kanchi. Shiva Kanchi is stated to be one of the Shakti Peethas as Kamakshi Temple where Devi Sati’s ‘Asthi Panjara’ or skeleton fell down here. Also Ekambareshwara Linga is among the ‘Pancha Tatwas’viz. of Bhumi besides . As a part of Markandeya Purana’s Vidya Khanda as quoted in the Essence of Kamakshi Vilasa released by website of Kamakoti.org/news, Maharshi Markandeya explains that there are Three Outstanding Peethas or Seats of Beeja Mantras in Bharata Desha viz. Kamaraja Peetha called Vaakbhava Kutaa or of Vaakbhava Beeja- Aim, which was worshipped by Bhagavan Hahagriva at Kanchi; the second one named Jaalandhara Peetha being the Madhya Kuta or of Manmadha Beeja-kleem, which was worshipped by Bhrigu Maharshi called as at Jwalamukhi Kshetra at Assam[ or Mannur near Ongole in Andhra Pradesh?) and the third named Odyaana Peetha as Shakti Kuta of Shakti Beeja-Souh, as worshipped by Veda Vyasa in Kamarupa stated in Assam. Kanchi Kshetra is indeed the hallowed place where Bhagavan Vishnu stayed and Bhagavan Shiva too resided. However Maha Shakti’s prominence is predominant; Maha Shaktipraabhavaadhy6m Shakti praadhanya vaibhavaat, Vinasha rahitam kshetram tasmaat satyavrataahvayam/ (As Shakti’s influence is paramount, the Kshetra is indestructible and as such is of Eternal Truth and is thus replete with Satya Vrata). Referring to Tripura Dhaarini Kamakshi, a legend explained in Kamakshi Vilasa that Brahma performed Tapasya and Yagna to Devi Kamakshi to secure a boon of reviving the dead beings to life and to prevent death to those who lived and the hole of privacy viz.the ‘Bilwa’surrounded by the Chatur Vedika as trifurcated with the Gayatri Mantra signifying Aa+Vu+M called Gayatri Mandapa as also Kakaara-Akaara-Makaara or Kamakshi. In order to avoid disturbance and to safeguard the Chakra or the Place of intense concentration, he materialised two Daityas viz. Madhu and Kaitabha from Narayana’s ears.After some time, Devi Kamakshi got annoyed with the behaviour of the Daityas and assuming the Form of Narayana nipped their heads. On learning of this development, Brahma got enraged and suspected Vishnu to have killed Madhu-Kaitabhas. Vishnu denied the allegation of his involmement and pointed his fingers at Rudra.Brahma approached Rudra with great anger and the latter looked to release Pashupatastra at Brahma but Rudra meanwhile disappeared and Hari stood there instead. Brahma got utterly confused and left the Place in awe and bewilderment. Then there was an ‘Ayakta Jyoti Swarupa’ of Shiva assuming ‘Chuta Beejaakriti’or of the Form of a Mango Seed with the Symbol of ‘Ekaamra’, while Vishnu too manifested himself as Varada from the Agni of the Yagna being executed by Brahma as the personification of Fulfillment! Thus Brahma realised as also the posterity that Shiva and Keshava were both of the same Para Shakti Swarupa as asserted by Markandeya; hence that Para Shakti materalised Kanchipura as the Abode of Ekaamra, Varada Raja and Kamakshi as Tripura Dharini!  As to the paramount significance of Sri Chakra Puja, Markandeya Maharshi observed that the Worshippers should first pray to one’s Guru and initiate the Puja targetting the ‘Trikona Poorvaagra’or the top of the encircled Triangle and recite Sri Vidya or Pancha Dashi Mantra at least thousand times. Those who might not be fortunate to visit and possibly approacha the Kamaraja Peetha at Kanchi, and even if Anna Daanas etc. are not executed, one might seek pardon from Kamakshi but performing the worship without reciting Sri Vidya is counter productive and derive negative effects! Successful execution of ri Vidya Chakra Puja offered solution to Brahma’s sudden blindness once as he crossed the Kamakoshta where Gayatri Mandapa beneath which Shiva built a Kundalini Griha without perforning Shri Chakra Puja; Devi Saraswati explained about this lapse and Brahma made amends by visiting the Kama Koshtha and performed Shri Chakra Pua; he then had a glimpse of Hema Kamakshi and restored his eye sight. In the past, Shri Vidya Chakra puja was executed by Devi Lakshmi, Hayagriva, Manu, Dasharatha, Tunda, Kaantaara Vikrama Chola, and so on. At the time of Samudra Mathana, Vishnu who was of a naturally fair complexion turned blue and Lakshmi joked with Vishnu that she would not be fit to be her husband as she was of golden complexion; Vishnu gave a repartee to her that she was old and cursed her to turn of ‘Anjana Neela’ complexion. Then Lakshmi did ‘Shri Vidyopaasana’ and regained her natural colour.  HayagrivaMuni was engaged in continuous meditation of Shri Vidya of Devi Kamakshi when once a Rakshasa named Padma sat on the Muni and forced him to travel to Pataala Loka as a horse; Devi Kamakshi appeared in Pataala to save the Muni by killing the Asura. Hahagreeva assumed Vishnu Swarupa and tricked Rakshasa Guru Shukraachaarya and took away the ‘Akshaya Kumbha of Mrita Sanjeevani’ kept with the Acharya for the revival of dead Asuras and performed Abhisheka of the Sanjeevini to Devi Kamakshi. Vaivaswa Manu assumed Manvatwa as bestowed by his father Surya Deva but he had no knowledge what so ever about the fine distinctions of Paapa-Punyas and as advised by Vasishtha Muni and visited Kama Koshtha; Durvasa Maharshni provided the ‘Upadesha’or instruction of Shri Vidya Mantra and the Manu did Dhyana and Tapas to Devi Kamakshi for hundred years. Then Kamakshi arrived near Manu in the Form of a Brahmana Woman and performed Abhishka to Manu with the Sacred Waters of Pancha Tirtha as a mark of declaring him as a Chakravarti and imparted the Knowledge of Ideal Administration; till date the ‘Dharma Smriti’continues as the Guide of Dharma. King Dasharatha was advised by Vasishtha Muni to visit Kama Koshtha to perform Shri Chakra Puja and there was a Celestial Voice assuring the birth of Epoch making sons of Shri Rama and others. In the days of yore, King Aakasha joined some followers of Boudha Guru and as directed by the latter stole considerable money of the Kingdom and mis-spent for wrong purposes and due to this sin became childless. He repented and abandoned the Boudha Guru and approached Gorakshanadha Muni who directed him to worship Kamakshi and taught Shri Vidya. He was then blessed with a boy like Vighneshwara as his son. As the King and  Queen continued Devi worship daily, one day after the conclusion of the Puja-Homa-Dampati Puja-‘Brahmana Samaaradhana’, there was a miracle of Suvarna Varsha / Rain of Gold! Although the Brahmanas and Munis at the Bhojanam were unable to explain, the twelve year old son of Akaasha explained the reason: in the meals that were normally served at the daily ‘Samaaraadhana’, there was a golden pebble in the greengram which was also cooked and served from the Bhojan consumed by an elderly ‘Sumangali’ woman who was Kamakshi herself and hence the Rain of Gold! The King’s son  ate a portion of the left over remnant of what the Suvasini ate, then he became a ‘Sarva Tantra Visharada’ or an expert of ‘Tantra Gyana’; he was considered as Ganeshwara by those present and was named Tunda and was named the King of Kanchi Kshetra. In the Agneya direction of Kamakshi Temple there was an Idol of King Tunda that called for a Pradakshina lest the Devi Darshana Phala wouldreachtoKingTunda’saccount!  King Vikrama Chola was dethroned by his younger brother Shalya Chola aided by his schemy friend Parjanya. Vikrama Chola and his wife roamed about aimlessly and luckily reached Kama Koshta and organised a flower garden and supplied excellent garlands to Devi Kamakshi daily. Pleased by their service and devotion, Devi blessed them a female child. As the daughter grew of marriageable age, Kamakshi appeared in a dream to the Pandya King Uddhaajit and asked him to defeat a battle with Shalya Chola and marry the daughter of the latter’s elder brother who presently was supplying flower garlands to her. The Pandya King followed Devi’s instructions and with passage of time King Vikrama Chola retired in favour of his son and devoted his time in the service of Kamakshi. Among various deeds of virtue, he developed gardens by extending them into forests thus securing the epithet of Kaantara Chola. While he was working in the forests, he had a serpent bite and he as well as the serpent attained Moksha by the grace of Devi. In the large expanse of Kamakshi Temple, just before the Main Idol is the Kamakoti Yantra in which are invoked with Nyasa the Ashta Laksmis viz. Adya Lakshmi, Vidya Lakshmi, Santana Lakshmi, Soubhagya Lakshmi, Dhana Laksmi, Dhanya Lakshmi, Veerya Lakshmi, and Vijaya Lakshmi. Adi Shankaracharya is stated to have revived the Temple. Besides Shasta, Ganapati, Vishnu, Lakshmi and Arupa Devi the precincts of Kamakshi are highlighted.

Ekamreshara Temple: Near Sarva Tirtha Sarovara is the Ekamreshwara Maha Linga being the representation of Bhumi among Pancha Bhuta Lingas within two large enclosures within which the first enclosure itself is the main gopura of ten levels and right before it are the mandirs of Lords Ganesha and Surahmanya.In the second enlosure is the Shiva Ganga Sarovara where Jyeshta Utsavas are celebrated with the Utsava Vigrahas are engaged in jala vihara and to the south of the sarovra is Smashana Linga. It is in this enclosure itself is the dwaara of the Sanctum where the Linga Murti is of ShyamaVarna and behind it is the yugala murti of Gourishankara. Over the Ekamrehwara Linga abhishekas are not performed with water but with oils of chameli Sugandha. Every Monday there is a ‘Purapadu’ of Utsava Vigrahas. In the Pradakshina of the first enclosure of the Main Temple are Shiva Bhakta Ganas, Ganesha, 108 Shiva Lingas, Nandeshwara Linga and Chandeshwara Linga; in the second enlosure are Kaliuka Devi, Koti Linga, and Kailasa Mandira besides Utsava Murtis of Shiva Parvati, 64 yoginis, Swarna Kamakshi and Lord Sumbrahmanya with Devi’s Valli and Devasena. Near about theTemple is situated ancient Ekaamra / Mango Tree commended as the Rasaatala Vriksha that was sprouted from Shiva Rupa Beeja or the Seed of Shiva and vivified by the branches of Vedas. At this Rudra Sthala of what is known as Pandava Tirtha the Ekaamra Vana was maintained by Devi Parvati herself, the daily upkeep safeguarded by Markandeya Maharshi where Sixty Four crores of Shiva Shaktis whom Bhagavan himself was fond of existed; in course of time these Shaktis claimed equality to Devi Parvati herself! Shiva smiled and instantly their clothes slided down and to hide their nudity, Parvati closed Shiva’s eyes and even while the Shaktis were trying to dress again, the time of a Muhurta elapsed and Surya Chandraagnis perished, Universe vanished and Charachara Jagat or the Moving and Immobile Beings became extinct and the ensuing darkness led to Maha Pralaya, although Markandeya Maharshi was getting breathless yet surviving! Maha Deva apparently decided to materialise a Mango seed which germinated instanly asc Maha Deva assumed the form of a ‘Choota Vriksha’ or a mango tree; seated on a peacock Shanmukha Skanda atop the tree enjoing ripe mango fruits. When Markandeya was precariously hanging down the tree amid deep watersin darkness, he asked the Six headed boy as who was he, he replied that whenever there was a pralaya likewise situation, he manifets himself by the grace of Maha Tripura Sundari at Kanchipura since named ‘Pralaya Jit’or the Conqueror of Pralayas! To signify the unique magnificence of this celestial Tree, Maharshi Markandeya in Kamakshi Vilasa of Markandeya Purana narrated the simple legend of a Vipra named Krouncha who stole a Golden Shiva Linga and made his life by cheating Shiva Bhaktas by performig Abhishekas and eking his life. He begot as many as a sixteen sons but they were all without male qualities. The worried parents made a Tirtha Yatra along with the sons and on way rested under the shade of the Rasatala Vriksha for a while and expeienced instant miracle of the sons to gain masculinity and after concluding the Yatra retuned the stolen Linga to the original Place! Such was the grandeur of the fabled Mango Tree! Markandeya recalled that after the Pralaya, Devi Parvati installed a Shiva Linga and by assuming the form of a ‘Tapas Bala Kamakshi’. Maha Muni Katyayana took affectionate care of the Bala Kamakshi till she attained eight years and after his Moksha, Bala Kamakshi acquired the Maharshi’s Yoga Danda / stick, japamaala or counting beads deepas, chamaras or hand fans used for worship, Pustakas or Books of Scriptures, Vyaghraasana or Tiger sking to sit on, Ganga Tirtha and sand and umbrella for meditation to proceed to Koasi and having acquired the epithet of Annapuana Devi travelled and settled at Kanchipura under the Mango Tree. Sage Narada on a Tirtha Yatra reached Bala Tapas Kamakshi and taught her ‘Pancha Baana Mantra’ and as she practised with great penance the severity created Kaamagni targetted to Shiva which could not be endured by him who instructed Ganga and as Ganga arrived at fury, sound and speed, even Gauri started shouting ‘Kampa, Kampa’ since the arrival of river groups of Ganga disturbed the Bala Tapaswini; her commpanions Maha Kali and Durga Devi stood against the Pralaya Pravaha or the Flow of the nature of Great Extermination of Pralaya; Maha Kaali displayed a ‘Kapaala’with ‘Vishwa Bhakshana Sangjna’ or the Signal of Universal Extinction which Gauri appreciated with an encomium of Maha Pralaya Bandhini. But the offended Shiva with anger throw a piece of his ‘jatajuta’or the coarsed hair. As the situation was reaching climactic, Gauri prayed to Narayana who responded by assuming a gigantic Swarupa on the Sky wearing Chanda as his nacklace named Chandra Kantakya; Gauri shivered with fright as Shiva appeared instead of Narayana; the huge figure of Shiva asked her not to be astonished but he was pleased with the intense Tapasya of Bala Tapaswini even as Gauri got into ecstacy embraced Maha Deva and That after all she was her ultimate point of refuge. Meanwhile Narayana as Chandrakantaaya again appeared in a much smaller form and assured her that she would continue to reside ever before along with Maha Deva, after all the drama of the crores of Shaktis leading to the circle of events from their nudity to her closing Parvati’s childish prank of her closing Maha Deva’s eyes, the Pralaya, Bala Kamakshi and her tapasya! The momentous Muhurta of Krita Yuga-Bhava naamaka vatsara-Chaitra Shukla Pouranami- Uttara Phalguni Nakshatra Triteeya padaarambha coinciding with the glorious birth of Kumara Swami was chosen for Shiva-Bala Kamakshi Kalyana at Ekambareshwara Temple!

Varada Raja Temple: Encirled by three broad enclosures with its east facing eleven storyed gopura with the west facing main enrtance, the sactum of Varada Raja Swami Temple. Its passage from the gopura gate to the sanctum is from the Shata stambha mandapa where the procession of the Utsava Vigrahas commences. Near to the Mandapa is the Koti Tirtha Sarovara also called ‘Anantasara’ leading to a bridge and a Madapa and the Temples of Bhagavan Varaha, Sudarshana and Yoga Nara Simha on one side and on the other side is the Ramanujacharya Vigraha and the Vaishnava Peetha Compex, being renowned Eight Maha Peethas like Shri Rangam, Tirukoshthi, Melkote, Udipi and so on. Ahead the Guruda Stumbha in the second enclosure is the Lakshmi Mandira of Sri Perum Devi and Vishnu Vahanas like Hanuman, Elephant, Horse, Garuda, Mayura, Tiger, Lion, Sharabha etc. In is in the third enclosure is the Varada Raja Temple within a high rise platfiorm called Hastagiri like ‘Iravata’ as also Yoga Nrisimha, Vishwaksena. Varada Raja Swami is in the posture of a Sesha Shaayi even as lying on a float of water as presumed. The Sanctum of Varada Raja is called Vimana approachable by a staircase of 24 steps and inside the dwara he is Shyama Varna Chaturbhuja with shalagramas as his garland along with his Utsava Murti also. Having had their darshan, yatris take down the staircase and down the sanctum in a parikrama sight the Idols of Andal, Dhanvantari, Ganesha and others. Detailing the Varada Raja Mahatmya, Maharshi Markandeya recalls in Kamakshi Vilasa that Lord Brahma after the conclusion of his Ashwamedha Yagna at the Hari Kshetra on the Hasti Shaila Shikhira extolled Varada Raja Swami as ‘Jagan Mohanaakara’ or the Universal Mesmoriser with his ‘Chaturbahu’ Shankha-Chakra- Gadaa-Padma Mudra with his appearance as ‘Jagadarakshra’. Markandeya then narrated a legend about the origin of Varada Raja as quoted: Lakshmi and Saraswati asked Brahma to give his honest opinion as to the superiority between them and almost immediately Brahma favoured Lakshmi Devi. Sarasvati was highly disappointed and even annoyed with Brahma and took away the ‘danda’ or an Insignia that Vishnu once gave to her which was the power of  Brahma enabling the latter to undertake Srishti or Creation of ‘Charaachara Jagat’or of the Moveable and Immovable Beings. Thus the action of Brahma to create was disabled. Brahma did not wish to entreat Sarasvati to return the Srishti Danda but left for Himalayas to perform penance to Vishnu to request for an Emblem with Vishnu Amsha to Create instead of a Sarasvati-oriented Crest. Vishnu was pleased with Brahma’s Tapas and directed Brahma to perform hundred Ashwamedha Yagnas. Brahma then decided that instead of performing hundred such Yagnas it would be sufficient to execute one Yagna at the Hari Kshetra and asked Vishwakarma the Architect cum Builder of Devas to construct a huge Yagna Shaala right opposite the Idol of Narasimha; he discarded Saraswati as his partner at the Yagna but preferred Buddhi Devi as his ‘Yagna Patni’ to share the duties of a wife as prescribed. Brahma invited Devas, Devarshis like Narada, besides Gandharva-Yaksha- Kinnara-Apsara; Siddha- Saadhya-Muniganaas and decided to perform  a Year- long Yagna; he worshipped Ganeshwara first to facilitate the Yagna without obstacles and then worshipped Yoga Narasimha Swami and initiated the Yagna with formal Mantras by appointing Kumara Swami as Adhavarvu, Maheswara as Udagaata, Varuna as Prastota, Yama Dharma Raja as Hota and Indra who performed hundred such Yagnas in the past as the Yagna Brahma. Since Brahma did not invite Saraswati to participate, she was furious and created  powerful flames with her Maya Shakti with a view to destroy the Yagna but the Saviour of the Hari Kshetra viz. Vishnu arrested the Maya Shakti’s both the hands and disabled her. Saraswati took it as a challenge and released Kapalika Shakti but Vishnu in the Form of Nara Simha destroyed the Shakti. Enraged by her discomfiture , Devi Saraswati released ‘Daithyaastra’ but Daityaari Narayana made the Astra futile. Vagdevi then  created ‘Karaala Vadana Kalika’  and instructed the Maha Shakti to demolish the Yagna but Vishnu assumed an Eight-Hand Swarupa and having suppressed the Shakti sat firm on her shoulders. Finally with all her powers being overcome, Saraswati was humiliated and swooned out of anger and frustration and took the Form of  ‘Pralaya Swarupi’ called Vegavati River with disastrous speed from Brahmaloka down to Earth heading towards the Hari Shaila. Vishnu sensed the impending danger and decided to resort to her ‘maanabhanga’ or assault her physically;  having become nude he stood before the lightning flash of gushing waters  and  like a Huge Log lied across against the flow. Saraswati having visioned Narayana’s nudity was thus put to shame and without being  able to face him entered a ‘Bhu bila’ or  a big fissure of Earth and escaped. Then the Yagna commenced without any hindrance; the Yagna Pashu or the Sacrificial Horse was let loose and returned invincible and at the successful completion of the year long Yagna, the ‘Purnaahuti’or the Ultimate Offering to Agni as the climactic Homa of Cow’s ghee was accomplished and Brahma visioned a Massive Flood of Illumination on the Eastern Sky and  offered wide and palmful of concentrated homage to that Spendour . That was the most awaited Moment of Sweta Varaha Kalpa’s Vaivasva Manvantara-  Krita Yuga-  Nrisimha Bhagavatmika Samvatsara- Vaishakha -Shukla Paksha- Chaturdashi’s Hasta Nakshatra Suryodaya when Devadhi Deva the Supreme Lord of the Universe manifested himself from the Yagna Homaagni’ as Varada Raja Swami  and handed over the Insignia of Srishti to Brahma Deva. The latter went into raptures and placed the Insignia on his chest with tears of joy and got  non-plussed momentarily. After recovering from the pleasant shock, Brahma Deva installed  Bhagavan on the Hasti Shaila on a ‘Suvarna Simhasana’or a Golden Throne in the presence of Devas and other Celestial Beings and Maharshis; in order to cool down the charged and excited atmosphere as also to supposedly quench the thirst of Narayana who was just manifested from Agni, Brahma performed ‘Abhisheka Snaana’ to Varadaraja with potful thousands of Kamadhenu’s ghee with chantings of Sacred Veda Mantras and offered ‘Shodashopacharaas’ or the traditional Sixteen Services such as Aasana- Vastra-Yagnopaveeta-Gandha-Dhupa- Deepa-Pushpa- Phala-Naivedya- Tambula-Mantra Pushpa-Sangeeta-Veda Pathana- Tambula-Chhatra-Chaamaraas. The formal Pujas was followed by bhojanas (Hearty Meals) served to Special Invitees  with Bakshya- Bhojya-Lehya- Chokshya-Paneenias to all concerned in the Maha Yagna. Also Anna Santarpana or Free Meals were organised to the entire citizens of Kanchipura.  Vishwakarma made a ‘Pratibimba Swarupa’or   Replica of ‘Aalaya’; and ‘Nagara’ Pradakshinas or Temple wise and Nagari wise Pradakshinaas or circumambulations were done on Elephant-back; in fact daily worships, Bhojanas and  ‘Gajotsavas’were also organised eversince. Pleased by all these arrangments, Varada Swami addressed ‘Brahmaadidevaas’ and Munis : Yathaaham Virajaa teerey mama Vaikuntha pattaney, Jagadvyaapana sheelaavaad Vishnurityabhidhaayutah/ Prasiddho nivasaamyatra tathaa Kaanchi- purottamey, Harikshetram samaashritya Sarvaabheeshta pradaanatah/ Varadaabhidhayaa khyaato nivasaami nirantaram, Sarvey bhavanto madbhaktaassada maddarshaney rataah/ Sarvadaattraiva tishthantu Vaikunthaadati paavaney, Varshey Varshey Meshamaasi mama Janmadiney Shubhey/ Ghritadhaaraa sahasraabhishechanam mama pujanam, Utsavamcha prakurut Viprabhojana purvakam/  (My Bhaktaas! Just as I had settled in Vaikuntha on the banks of River Viraja and got spread  all over the Universe as Vishnu, I will now reside in the Hari Kshetra of Kancheepura; hence those desirous of visioning me could do so with my name as Varada or he who would be the Bestower. In fact I will stay here for good  thus making Hari Kshetra as significant as Vaikuntha if not even better! You may therefore even reside at this Kshetra. Every year on my birthday during Mesha month you should all therefore perform ‘Goghritha dhaaraa sahasra -abhishekaa’or thousand Abhishakaas of Cow Ghee      ( bathing) of my Murti and celebrate this day as a Festival and of ‘Brahmana  Bhojana.) Then Brahma Deva addressed all the Invitees of the Yagna to follow the instruction of Varadaraja Swami and assured that those who would participate in the Festival on the lines as instructed would secure ‘Maha Phala’.  Maharshi Markandeya narrated  to King Suratha one telling instance about a devotee who actually experienced this kind of Maha Phala : In the past, one Vaadaadhyaayi Vipra named Bhanuvarna of Gokula on the banks of River Yamuna visited Kanchipura and happened to perform ‘Ghritaabhisheka’ most coincidentally on the ‘Janma dina’ of Varadaraja Swami at the Hari Kshetra and on return to Gokula after some time passed away;  Bhanu varna was being flown to Swarloka by Devaganaas to honour him with the status of Indra but ‘Haridootaas’intercepted his Soul and took it away to the Everlasting Vishnupada; such indeed was the graceful gesture of Varadaraja Swami! Whoever recites the above account of Varadaraja Swami would certainly secure Varadaraja Darshnana, as assured by Maharshi Markandeya.

  Vamana Temple/ Ulaganatha Perumal koil : Quite near to the Kamakshi Temple in Shiva Kanchi Kshetra itself is a fairly large area in Kanjeevaram is perhaps the largest representation in a Temple of Maha Vishnu’s Avatar of Vamana Bhagavan, hitting literally the Temple ceiling with one his Sacred Feet lifted up. Ulga Natha displays his foot up to the ceiling and is accompanied with Devi Lakshmi as Amudavalli.   This Vaishnava Temple in Kanchi’s Shiva Kshetra celebrates all the Vaishnava festivals.


Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham

Kamakoti.org presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at raovdn@yahoo.co.in