Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dear Goverments, please keep off Hindu Temples

Tonight, went to Samaya TV to discuss on the news that the famous Dharmasthala Manjunatha temple was being considered to be taken over by the govt.

One senior Jyotishi told things about the Kshetra. Not much arguments.
The core arguments were between me and Talakadu Chikka Rangegowda. It was well anchored by Aravind. This is my second presence as a panelist in Aravind's show.

As usual, the pro government take over arguments were on "mismanagement", "Why should Jains run Hindu temple", "there have been complaints against the Dharmadhikari" etc..

My points were:

1) I am a Bhakta of Dharmasthala temple. I go there voluntarily. I give money on my own. I trust the good work is done by the Trust headed by a Jain. I have absolutely no issue that they are Jains. They are running awesome anna dana. Kitchen Annapurna featured in June 2015 Mega Kitchen National Geographic Channel. Their educational and other institutions are doing wonderful job. For 800 Years, Jain Bunt Heggade Pergade family has administered it splendidly. 21 Dharmadhikaris have come to this seat till date. Government's job is to provide basic facilities and govern. I drove 15 KM to the studio and 10KM were in "Kattale Bhagya" power cut. When the govt can't take care of basic things, why they heck are they wanting to take over well run temples?

2) pSeculars always want Hindu temple money by giving some or the other excuse. Let's stop this now. Why should govt control 35,000 Hindu temples in Karnataka? Why should other states like TN control similar count of Hindu temples? Are all these having mismanagement? There are 164 A category and 283 B category temples with KA govt. Were all these managed by "other religions", before take over? Govt just wants money. And some excuse. I gave examples of how very simple excuses were used by governments to take over cash cows.

3) Talking of mismanagement, there was a murder of a Church father (KJ Thomas) in Bengaluru. There were large scale Wakf land grab amounting to 2 lakh crore as reported by Anwar Manippady. Should the govt take over churches and mosques/dargahs citing mismanagement, murder or other issues?

4) When I heard that only Hindus should manage Hindu temples, I showed that Mohammed Ali, First Division Assistant appointed by the govt in Bengaluru Rural district to manage Mujrai or Endowments department. I don't want a Muslim to manage Hindu temples. Hindus have managed for 1000s of years, and will easily manage ourselves. This argument seriously hurt Mr. Gowda as he saw the hypocrisy of opposing Jains, but having been forced to support Muslims!

5) If there is a big issue with Dharmasthala, people can file an FIR file. If no action taken approach the Magistrate directly. Or file PIL file if land is an issue. Why is the police there? Use them. Instead, trying Govt executive order to grab temple is not something we will allow.

6) I gave examples of Sahasralingeshwara temple of Uppinangady fighting with Karnataka Govt's Mujrai department's 1997 act. The 2007 judgment clearly said that the Endowments act itself is unconstitutional. Google for "Karnataka High Court Sri Sahasra Lingeshwara Temple vs State Of Karnataka on 8 September, 2006".

The judgment concluded: 
"We have already ruled that the Act is hit by Articles 14 and 26 of the Constitution of India. We have further ruled that it is not possible to severe them. Hence, we deem it proper to strike down the entire act and consequently strike down the notification as un constitutional.
Use this wherever you see temple issue with govt. Governments can't and should not take over temples.

7) I also gave the example of Chidambaram Natarajar temple in Tamil Nadu. The judgment of 2014 January 10th, gave Podu Dikshitars a big victory in a century old case. If Endowments department of a state govt takes over a temple there should be a reason. Merely issuing show cause and circular is not right. Once you take over you will have 2 years or so to rectify it; notification should mention what reason - only take over mismanagement of temple affairs. This was Dr. Swamy's famous case. The 1951 take over of TN govt was deemed unlawful. Dikshitars had printed temple constitution in 1849 itself. Was opened to all castes of Hindus. This point stumped the others and there is not much they could say on this.

Overall; My repeated stress was that Hindus have freedom of religion like everyone else. If there are issues, let other parts of constitution address them (like theft, mismanagement etc.). So called secular government taking over temples violates Articles 14, 25, 26 and 27 of Indian constitution. As a Hindu, I don't want any temple to be managed by the government. Government's job is to take care of power, water, security and other basic necessities. Hindus know how to manage temples and they have been doing it for 1000s of years. Leave our temples alone.


I think it went on well. If a video is uploaded by Samaya News, I will share here.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Saraswati River and Origin of Name Bhaarat

I am now reading the Land of Seven Rivers book by Sanjeev Sanyal. Some interesting facts about Saraswati river and origin of name "Bharat" follow. I will be brief, as I don't want to type the whole chapter 2 of the book here. You have enough material here to get inspired and read the full book yourself :)

Saraswati was the mightiest river of Indian known history. Even Sutlej and Yamuna were tributaries of Saraswati. 

Archaeology talks of Mohenjodaro (Mound of the dead), Harappa, Dholavira and others of Indus valley civilization. Rig Veda was part of the same civilization. It was not some horse mounted "Aryans" came from central Asia and destroyed this, by attacking the "Dasa" or "Dasyu" people. In fact, the greatest Aryan king of Rig Veda is a person named Sudasa. His name and his father's name has 'dasa' in them! Arya was never a racial thing. It meant, polished or sophesticated.

Harappan or Indus Valley civilization stretched from 3500 BCE till 1400 BCE. "Aryan invasion" from north west is a myth. Drying Saraswati ended Harappans and not any invasion.

5) Today's Ghaggar river in Haryana is ancient Saraswati's remnant. It's a very small remnant of the mighty Saraswati river that once supported Rig Vedic age & Harappan cities.

Ghaggar river
More on Ghaggar -> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghaggar-Hakra_River

Harappans have unique connection to today's India-> Namaste, Sindhur, construction in 5:4 ratio, weights mentioned in Arthashastra, Chess etc. They are all continuous cultural things from Indus valley civilization to 21st century India.

Rig Veda praises the might Saraswati river at least 45 times. Ganga only twice & Sindhu (Indus) rarely. It's very obvious that Veda was composed near Saraswati, and not anywhere outside India carried by "invaders".

Rig Veda's Nadistuti Sukta clearly explains geography of ancient India. Starts from Ganga and goes till Kabul river in the west.

Read -> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadistuti_sukta

It comes in Rig Veda 10.75.

Verse 5 mentions rivers from east to west:
  1.     Ganga
  2.     Yamuna
  3.     Sarasvati
  4.     Sutudri
  5.     Parusni
  6.     Asikni
  7.     Marudvrdha
  8.     Vitasta
  9.     Arjikiya
  10.     Susoma

Verse 6 mentions north western rivers:

  1.     Trstama
  2.     Susartu
  3.     Rasā
  4.     Shvetya
  5.     Sindhu
  6.     Kubha
  7.     Gomati
  8.     Krumu
  9.     Mehatnu

Anyone who studies Rig Veda's Nadistuti Sukta, would immediately reject "Aryan invasion" theory. It's that clear!

Rig Veda was definitely composed before 2600 BC when Saraswati was flowing mightily. Also, no mention of iron, so it was bronze age.

There is a major battle called the Battle of ten Kings in Rig Veda: Sudasa of Bharata tribe under Rishi Vashishtra, fought 10 kings under Rishi Vishwamitra's guidance.

Read -> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Ten_Kings

Trtsu-Bharata tribe fought  these tribes:
  1. Alinas
  2. Anu
  3. Bhrigus
  4. Bhalanas
  5. Dasa
  6. Druhyus
  7. Matsya
  8. Parsu
  9. Purus
  10. Panis
Battle of ten kings of Rig Veda was the start of Indian civilization. Bharata tribe (from Haryana) won. India became "Bharata Varsha"! In a way, we are all Haryanvis in some way :)

Sudasa under the brilliant leadership of Rishi Vashishtha, won and became the first Chakravarti of Bharat (India). Chakra (wheel) varti means his (chariot) wheels can go anywhere. A true monarch!

Most of the losing tribes in the Rig Vedic war, went westwards. Dhruhya (Afghanistan), Puru (Porus), Pakhta (Pashtun of NWFP, Pakistan), Parsu (Iran). Later Mittani (Mesopotamia) , Yezidi (Syria, Iraq) etc. all were further movements. R1a1 gene link with Indian Hindus is clearly visible even today.

4600 years ago, a great earthquake & after effects, made Yamuna move east to Ganga and Sutlej west to Sindhu (Indus). Saraswati dried up gradually, killing the first major urban civilization of India. Harappans or the Vedic people started migrating east towards Ganga and west towards Sindhu in large numbers.

The end of Rig Vedic era is very close to the end of Harappan civilization. Essentially, Vedic was a part of bigger Indus valley area.

It's most likely that victorious Bharata tribe invited Rishis from all tribes to meditate and compile Vedas on the banks of Saraswati. It happened over generations and finally we have the Rig Veda. All of today's Indian subcontinent is culturally linked to Bharata tribe of Rig Veda. It became Bharata Varsha or the land of Bharatas, later becoming "Bhaarat" - 1st major civilization of India! Frankly, I learnt about the exact detail of Bharat only today!

Again, my special thanks to Sanjeev Sanyal for amazing research in the Land of Seven Rivers book. Now back to reading further chapters:)

Some further links shared by Twitter friends:

a) When I said, The end of Rig Vedic era is very close to the end of Harappan civilization. Essentially, Vedic was a part of bigger Indus valley area, a friend shared that this is factually correct. Nicholas Kazanas provides hard proof -> http://www.omilosmeleton.gr/pdf/en/indology/RPSSC.pdf

b) Another friend says - Even Shrikant Kalgeri gives good evidence in this regard. Just Youtube for links.

c) Then a friend says, the battle of ten kings in Vedas is nicely described by Ashok Banker in his novel Dasarajna.

d) Another friend commented on the Bharata tribe part. He says, presume you would have listened to the "Bharata Darsana" by Sri.Vidyananda Shenoy. He reiterates the same fact. 
Here is the link to Bharata Darshana amazing series of talks in Kannada -> https://soundcloud.com/vasishta-shastry/bharatha-dharshana-vidyananda

e) Another friend shared - Here is an article from IISC journal Current Science : Saraswati – the ancient river lost in the desert - http://www.iisc.ernet.in/currsci/oct25/articles20.htm

f) Then another friend says - Bharata tribe were experts in Alloys. They were using Tin, Zinc, etc., Approximately 1500 years before silk route the Maritime Tin route existed. Our ancestors sourced tin from present Israel!

It just kept coming.. My twitter friends are just amazing. I stopped taking links after this :)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Sadbhavana Sunday

At an event on Saturday night, my friend Gokul gave a pamphlet. Hey, tomorrow, there is a pilgrimage tour, do you want to go? I was like to which place?

In Bengaluru!

I gave a strange look. In Bengaluru? That too a day long pilgrimage? Then saw the details and got excited. Why not? So was on the pilgrimage bus at St. Mark's road at 7.30 AM. It was a good decision because I was going to enjoy the day thoroughly.. In what I call in Modi's lingo as "Sadbhavana" Yatra :)

This is organized by a Catholic Christian group in Saint Mark's Road. Most of the occupants of the bus were Christians, but there were some Hindus like me. There was one Muslim and one Buddhist. More than the composition, it was the interest of the people in other modes of worship, that was important.

All the areas we went are tracked in this map. 

1) Shri Dharmanatha Shwetambar Jain Temple, Jayanagar. 

Jainism for me is one of the Guru Paramparas of Dharmic India. But politically it is a different religion. There are two kinds of Jainism. Shwetambara and Digambara. We went to a Shwetambara temple where the prime deity is Shri Dharmanatha. He is the fifteenth Tirthankara among the 24 highly revered Jain Gurus. It was nice to see women putting pastes (Shri Gandha?) to various parts of murtis, the swastikas drawn with rice, the pious women monks who were busy in prayer and much more. This is a prayer place for many Rajasthanis in Karnataka.

Devi Padmavati's temple is in the back. Nakoda Bhairav and many other murtis exist in this temple complex. Beautiful white marble temple with soothing bhajans :)

2) Mahabodhi Buddhist Temple, Gandhinagar.

This Buddhist temple was getting decorated by the time we went in the morning, for their special Sunday prarthana. It's a beautiful temple with a Bodhi tree (Peepal). I saw some idols of Buddha gifted by Thailand as Thai language were written at the bottom. This center has mostly North East Indian people settled in Karnataka. This center follows the Theravada sect of Buddhism. Theravada as far as I know is a synonym for Mahayana type of Buddhism, which is different from Hinayana or "smaller vehicle" Buddhism. Buddhism again for me is a different Guru parampara in Dharmic traditions, but technically it is a religion now.

It was so nice to hear nearly 2500 year old Pali language prayer being sung in a melodious way. You have to follow men and women sections in the temple and a great place for meditation. 2500 year old glorious Indian culture comes right in front of your eyes hearing the powerful Pali hymns!

We also got nice breakfast served by the Buddhist monks. Our favourite Uppittu was made nice by the North Eastern friends :)

3) Yaqeen Shah Wali Dargah, Palace Road. 

Dargah is a type of Islamic place where a Muslim Guru or Peer's tomb exists. Not every sect of Islam accepts Dargahs, and some term these as UnIslamic.

This Dargah in my view is maintained by Sufi sect of Islam. If not, Shias. We were treated well here. There are restrictions. Women can't enter the main Dargah part, but can come near. Head cloth is suggested for men and women.

I went inside and stood next to the religious man here who sings praise or prayer. It was a soothing song and he later translated. He explained that on behalf of everyone who was there, irrespective of faith, he prayed for their welfare. I was particularly interested in the hand figures, and what they represent. The symbolism of these Hand signs and other rituals performed here had lot of Hindu influence.

There is a small mosque also in the complex where they read Namaz. Had a lot of discussions with the Dargah staff on who was this peer, how many centuries ago this tomb came up, difference between Sufi and Sunni Islam and much more. They were open in answering all. Served nice tea too later.

4) Catholic Chapel, Thomas Town.

The next visit was to NBCLC - National Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Centre. This is a very different type of Christian complex. It is not a typical Church, but a full inculturation center. For some inculturation is a good thing after Vatican 2 in Christianity where the European cultural way is making way for native - here Hindu, cultural way for Christians. For those who oppose this, it is a process of stealing from Hinduism. We can have that debate some other time, but let me just narrate the experience there.

Everything is "Hindu"ised here. From names of buildings to dress to window pane drawing to gopura (top of Chapel).. I mean everything! Building names are Sacchidananda, Brahma vidya, Shanti sadan etc. You won't find a saree wearing Mother Mary sitting in padmasana, with and Indian dressed baby Jesus like this anywhere else in the world.

Here, the resident sister explaining the central point of the Chapel. The whole building and the central God and Jesus concept is built on Hindu Kundalini Chakra concept. It is just narrated in a different way, which you might not find in the Bible.

A Catholic lady from Mumbai who was with us, explained that at the start, Christians find it difficult to pray in a place like this with Indianized (Hindu-ized) symbols. But later they feel much more home than a European style Church. I was explained how multi cultural symbols are so essential for Christianity in today's world. I talked to a few Fathers/priests too who told the same thing. There are courses conducted here in inculturation for Christians from around India.

5) Guru Singh Sabha Gurudwara, Halasuru.

The next stop was by mid day to Sikh Gurudwara. Here, cloth over head is mandatory. They provide it right in the front, and even tie to your head if you wish. I found the discipline of Sikh devotees simply amazing. Men, women and children come inside in strict lines and bow before the Granth Sahib (holy book). There's a Granthi who reads from the Guru Granth Sabhib book. There were narrations in Punjabi language on heroes of Sikhism, how weapons are needed for self defence, how to sing Kirtans and praise the Gurus and more. I think the term for singing before meal was Ardas. I also saw people having a small knife as a part of the 5 basic tenets of Sikhism, called Kirpan. Women too had turbans in some cases.

This is one place where we spent maximum time. I heard many songs or Bhajans. They were sung melodiously and they were so close to how we sing bhajans at Hindu temples. Again, I found this just another Dharmic place, but we are told it is a different religion. I felt completely at home even though I understand only basic Punjabi.

The most impressive part of Gurudwara was after the soothing prayer session. There is a community kitchen called Langar, where anyone can go and prepare food. There is free food served for anyone who comes, no questions asked. Just keep a cloth over your head and take food obediently the way everyone else takes. I was amazed at how 100s of people, men and women - went about contributing to food preparation. The amazing discipline in preparation, serving (every serving is praised on Wahe Guru), and cleaning up. It's like you can be anything in this Gurudwara. You can sing, preach from the holy book, clean, cook, keep shoes, volunteer at gate... anything! A truly open system.

I had never seen in my life, well to do middle class people coming and cleaning up plates after lunch, with bare hands. Never.. These are well to do middle class people. I literally saw people using thumbs to wipe out the plate after we ate, to remove every single grain or vegetable piece onto other containers. They probably don't waste a single grain. Just amazing! And next step was another bunch of volunteers cleaning up with water and making the plates ready for the next round.

After enjoying a great prasad (offered food) at Gurudwara, I was thoroughly satisfied with what I saw. The discipline and Bhakti at a Gurudwara is something you just have to see for yourself!

6) Masjid al Nur, Halasuru.

The final stop for me was the Sunni Muslim mosque. It's a big and grand mosque built not many years ago. We went at a time when Muslim prayer, or Namaz was not being read. So we had a chance to go on a guided tour, well conducted by a friend of mine, Syed. Head cloths over head are mandatory during prayer, but was kept optional for visitors on guided tour. Also, for women, there is a separate prayer hall opposite to the main mosque.

Unlike other places of worship we visited, this Mosque had lots of questions from the team. People asked questions right from namaz direction, to where women assemble, to what's inside Kaaba etc. Syed answered everything very patiently and showed us things. Right from Wazu, where you use water to clean before prayer, to how prayers work, how many times, why pray, what are the key tenets of Islam and much more.

The team came out much more educated about Islam after this trip. Of course, we were served nice soft drinks and biscuits outside the mosque.

In summary...
The pilgrimage was later going to Hindu place of worship after this, but I had to drop out due to another engagement. I am not unfamiliar with Hindu temples and ashramas anyway :)

All pictures in here if you have more time.

Some more videos if you want to watch:

So here is the final collage.. A memorable day wherein I learned a lot about fellow Bharatiyas! After all, we are all very close to each other as humans, and once we understand the differences clearly, we can find ways to co-exist with minimal friction. The primary goal of every mode of worship is to make you a better human. That's what is Sad (good) Bhavana (feeling or intention) :)

Try it once.. You can do it yourself, of go with an organized pilgrimage. Contact Ashirvad, 30, Saint Mark's Road in Bengaluru for the next trip.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Kannada History of Maharashtra

Dr. M Chidananda Murthy is a researcher, historian and scholar par excellence. Even at age 84, he has great grip of his research and presents his papers with amazing clarity. He has published a long list of papers and books throughout his life, and lots of debates happen on his findings. His strong support to Hindutva in particular makes his opponents very uncomfortable. His research on Tipu Sultan in particular, exposed the other side of Tipu which self-proclaimed seculars had a very hard time digesting.

I have met this extremely gentle human many times. I am thoroughly impressed with his ability to research into Indian history in a precise manner.

Today, I came across his column. "Earlier Karnataka was three times the size of today's Karnataka". If you can't read the font properly in the image below, use this link to read the Vijayavani epaper.

The focus of this article, with lots of historical proofs is to inform that during ancient and medieval periods, Kannada speaking areas were from Kaveri delta in today's central Tamil Nadu till Godavari in Nashik area of Maharashtra. As with everything in history, there would be for's and against's to such claims. But I thought it would be useful to give a quick translation so that those interested further in research, can pursue the topic.

Some snippets from his article, which extensively focuses on today's Maharashtra, and its Kannada past in many areas. Here are some districts of Maharashtra for which the Kannada influence has been researched and presented by Dr. Murthy in this article.
Districts of Maharashtra covered in this article. Pic: NIC
Sri Vijaya's Kavirajamarga from 850 CE, has given 8th and 9th century CE description that Karnataka, or the land of Kannada speaking people, extended from Kaveri to Godavari.

Sham. Bha. Joshi, Raja Purohit, and Alur Venkata Rao have done extensive research supporting the geographic claims of Sri Vijaya.

Chidananda Murthy has written "Bhashika Brihat Karnataka - From Nilagiri to Nashik". 

Deshabhakta Veer Savarkar is from Nashik district. His father's place is Bhagur. His mother's place is Kothur. Notice "Ur" or "Uru" in both places, that are distinct Kannada names. Savarkar's family dog was named "Kariya" (Darkie or Blackie in Kannada). Savarkar's father used to call Vinayak as "Balam Bhatta" during younger days. That name is very popular in Karnataka.

Maharashtra's Mahanubhava pantha (sect) was started during 13th century by Shri Chakradhar swami. Chakradhara's guru was Gundama Bhatta. Gundama is a medieval Kannada name.

Nashik district has a distinct tribe called "Hatkar Kaanadi" people. Maybe they are named that way because they lived in Huts and spoke Kannada (Kaanadi). Per Chidananda Murthy, they are the native people of Nashik from ancient times. Even today that tribe speaks sentences like:
  • Ninge magadir yaanayudu? (How many children do you have?)
  • Nange ain magadir, eddu magardir aaidu (I have 5 sons and 2 daughters). 
  • Nange maneg hogadu usiraat (it is time for me to go home).
Here, magadir, magaLdir, usiraat (avasara) are all old Kannada words. Similarly Hatkar Kaanadi people use kundal (hair), ba (mother) and many other words showing that North Maharashtra's Nashik area had Kannada population 1000 years ago.

Next, Murthy tells about Mumbai. A famous place today in Mumbai, Malabar hills is per him named after "male" people. In Kannada Male (maley) means hill. British would have used this for the hilly people (ghaati) who lived there. In 1818 (or 1819), when a new British person Mount Stuart Elphinstone was appointed as the Governor of Mumbai, Malabar hills people submitted a letter in Kannada welcoming him. British used the word "Canarese" or "Kanarese" to describe Kannada speakers. That's why they named Uttara Kannada and Dakshina Kannada districts as North Canara and South Canara districts.

Some evidences suggest that Mumbai's original inhabitants, the KoLi people, spoke Kannada centuries ago. BA Salettur has opined that long ago, today's Mumbai area was inhabited by Kannada speaking people.

Talking further about Mumbai, the marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza, daughter of King John IV of Portugal, placed Bombay in possession of the British Empire in the 1660s, as part of dowry of Catherine to Charles. Dr. Murthy says that in 1670, when the British brought in new law in English, they translated it into Portuguese and Canarese (Kananda) to help the inhabitants or Bombay. Goa during those times also had many Kannada speakers. In 1737, a British writer has described Kannada as a language of "lower class" people of Mumbai.

Dr. Murthy presents two maps - One from 1909 (English and Kannada) and one from 1940 (Marathi text book), that indicate the contemporary Karnataka of those times. The 1940 text book map published by British government, named "Arvachin Karnataka" (Modern Karnataka) has Belagavi/Belagav in it. The 1909 clearly is much larger than what Karnataka is today. It includes today's Goa, Belagavi, Kolhapur and even Solapur in Karnataka.
Post 1956 Karnataka - Map: Wiki
Of course, the districts were merged into administration of various neighbouring kings or provinces during British era. You can compare that side by side with Karnataka since 1956 States Reorganization done by Jawaharlal Nehru's government to get an idea of districts within today's Karnataka and the ones which are with other states today.

Dr. Murthy continues district-wise in Maharashtra. He says that betel leaf growers of Nashik are "Tigula" people, the same ones found in Karnataka speaking Kannada or Tamil. South Maharashtra's districts like Solapur, Kolhapur, Nanded, Sangli etc. have most of their ancient shila shasana (inscriptions) in Kannada.

Shri Siddheshwar Temple, Solapur. Pic - Wiki
Solapur's village deity (grama devata) is Shri Siddheshwar. His name was Siddha Rama, and he was a vachana writer 800 years ago. His father was Muddu Gowda. They are from Moradi village of Solarpur. Moradi or Mordi in Kannada means small hill. Vachanas are Kannada literature of Lingayat or Veerashaiva community. So the Kannada origin of Solapur goes back centuries or even millenium. 

In Nanded, common people call laying foundation for a new house as "Kesaru Kalliku". (In Kannada, Kesaru = wet mud, Kallikku = put stone).

Solapur district has a very famous temple for Vithoba or Vitthala in Pandharpur. Marathi scholar RB Shere clearly attributes Kannada origin to Vithoba. Sant Dnyaneshwar in one of his Marathi abhangaha screams - "O Vithala.. You are Kaanadi (Kannadiga).. Hence you are not hearing my pleas". You can read more on Sant Dnyaneshwar, Marathi and Kannada in my earlier blog here. In the famous Pandharpur temple, the last song sung for Lord Vithoba after all puja is in Kannada - to put him to sleep.

Khandoba or Mailara. Pic - Wiki
Jejuri near Pune has the famous Khandoba temple. Khandoba is a Marathi name for Mailara, a very famous name for Shiva in Kannada. If you travel in North Karnataka, especially Hoovina Hadagali area, millions of people worship Shiva in the form of Mailara or Mailara Linga, with almost exactly same description as Khandoba. In Khandoba's major festivities, people near Pune even today shout "El Koti Ughe" or "Khande rayaca Elkot". Here "Elu" and "Kote" are Kannada words meaning Seven forts.

Coming to literature, at the feet of Bahubali's statue in Shravana Belagola in south Karnataka, there's an inscription "Shri Chavundaraje karaveeyale". This from 983 CE, is believed to be the earliest Marathi inscription ever found. But Kannada was existing for centuries before that. Per Dr. Murthy, Marathi existed in the northern regions of Godavari by then. So this inscription was for those people, along with Kannada and Tamil inscriptions for other people visiting this place. Till 12th or 13th century, most of today's Maharashtra below Godavari river were Kannada speaking areas. Badami Chalukyas, Kalyana Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas and many more were ruling over these areas. It was only since the Yadavas of Devagiri about 800 years ago, that Marathi spread widely into today's southern Maharashtra area, replacing Kannada (and some Telugu).

Source: Wiki
The famous Elephanta caves near Mumbai, were built and temples carved by Kannada kings - Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas. Before that, Pulikeshi II had fought Harshavardhana at Narmada banks itself, going far north of Godavari river. And the only battle Harsha lost in his life was this one!

World famous Kailasa natha temple, Ellora. Pic: Wiki
Chalukya emperor Pulikeshi's inscriptions are found in the world famous Ajanta caves today in north Maharashtra. It was during Chalukya and Rashtrakuta empires Ajanta and Ellora became great centers of arts and temples. The world famous Kailasa natha temple in Ellora was built by Kannada king Krishna I before 774 CE using a unique top to bottom rock chiseling technique. It is estimated that about 400,000 tons of rocks were scooped out over hundreds of years to construct this monolithic structure!! The contribution to Ajanta, Ellora, Elephanta, Solapur, Pandharpur, Kolhapur and many other areas of Maharashtra by Kannada kings and people is immense.

Then Dr. Murthy goes into the vocabulary of Marathi language. There are lot of Kannada origin words there. Olage or Oule (inside), Kolu (stick), Tupa (ghee), Mudila (before, first), Oli (letter), Konth (weapon), Balanti (mom or newborn), Aḍakitta (nutcracker), Akka (sister), Anna (brother), Veergal (stone inscription for a martyr), Mechu (small sword like device), Hon (gold)... If you go into depth, you will find that Marathi has a Kannada or Dravidian foundation from ancient and medieval times, but the upper structure is that of Aryan language. Even today's Devanagari script being used as a standard to write Marathi, is an adaptation of recent centuries. For almost a millennium Modi alphabets were used to write Marathi (and occasionally Kannada in Maharashtra).

Per Dr. S Srikanta Shastry, Shatavahana empire that ruled over Maharashtra 1700 years ago, had lot of Kannada (and Telugu) impact.

Then Dr. Murthy finally mentions about Ananthpur and Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh, and Dharmapuri, Salem and Nilgiri areas of Tamil Nadu, to cover the ancient Kannada links.

The purpose of me translating this is not for any political reason. I have good friends from every language. I just found it historically interesting to see the linguistic overlaps. In some cases, I have added a few words of my own, giving additional Wiki or other links to establish better connection. Just like any case involving neighbours in India, you can also find the other side of overlap, if a research is presented properly.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Amazing Tamil Nadu Temples

If you have a desire to see the glory of Hindu Dharma, via medieval or ancient temples, Tamil Nadu is the place to go. There's no second thought about it. Luckily, most massive temples have been retained in the original shape and splendor, when unfortunately many other states in India couldn't during foreign invasions.  I made five trips in the past five years and an opportunity came for a sixth trip - a trip with lots of temples to see in TN and PY. I immediately grabbed the invitation of friend Bharath and got into the vehicle.

Let me narrate some interesting things about each place we visited last weekend.

First of all, our interest is in covering all the five Pancha Bhoota Sthala Linga or Pancha Tatva Linga. There is one major and historic temple dedicated for each of the five basic elements of nature as shown in an image from Wiki here.  Three months ago, we had seen the Agni Linga temple in Thiruvannamalai. This time we aimed at three, but ended up doing two.

So we got started, in an anticlockwise road trip, heading straight to Tiruchirapalli or Trichy, the place of our first Shiva Linga temple - Jambukeshwarar.

Once we finished eating chapati at the local restaurant, we started asking common people in Trichy. Where is Jambukeshwara temple? Five queries and no one answered properly. Then I found that we were asking in the wrong way. Made some calls and found that we should be asking for Thiruvanaikaval Kovil (Kovil in Tamil = Temple). Got the answers immediately. I must say that common people in Tamil Nadu have always been very helpful and friendly. We just have to figure out some basic Tamil speaking skills.. that's it. Kovil = Temple, Perumal = Vishnu, Siva = Shiva, Periya = Big etc...

To our surprise, we booked a hotel within half a KM from the great Srirangam Vishnu temple, which is not far from the Jambukeshwara temple. We set out to see Shiva temples. But our first visit next morning had to start with Vishnu Bhagawan! That's called divine planning.

So we were there to see sleeping Lord Vishnu (Ranga natha) in our proper uniforms :)

You will be amazed at the vast nature of this Srirangam temple complex. This is one of the Tri-Ranga (3 Rangas) along the Kaveri river. The first one being Sriranga Patnam near Mysuru, the second one at Shivana Samudra near Gaganachukki falls and the third one being this Srirangam near Trichy. There were nine massive gopuras/traditional doors from the street. There is a 1000 mantapa (pillar) auditorium. There's the (jiva) samadhi of the famous Vaishnava Guru Ramanujacharya. There must be at least 50 smaller temples within the complex itself.

It will take a full day just to pay proper visit to each deity within this massive and ancient temple complex. Our friend Nagesh chanted Purusha Sukta in one of the Rama temple and we were elated along with the local Purohit. Great darshan, great food (paid, not free) and a wonderful place to visit.

Next stop, the mighty Jambukeshwara temple for water tatva of Shiva. And to our total surprise, we entered right when the abhisheka was happening in the main temple. It was fabulous to sit outside the small garbha gudi (sanctum sanctoram) of the temple, besides small holes in the wall, and watch the pouring of liquids over this very ancient Linga, and then decorating it with various pastes and cloths.

This temple has interesting history involving an elephant and a spider worshiping the Linga.

They do very nice Gow-puja (Cow Worship) in this temple after the main abhisheka.

And of course, the thing which caught my eye was this.. We can discuss that some time later.

So our first major Shiva temple was done. Vishnu had called us even without our planning at Srirangam. Time to head east to the glorious UNESCO heritage city of Tanjavur. No surprises here. The massive ~13 feet tall Shiva Linga (Brihadeswarar) in one of the greatest buildings ever built by ancient and medieval world - the BIG temple. You have to visit this place to understand the immense technology Indians had 1000 years ago. In this Kaveri river delta area devoid of any big granite mountainous, Chola empire got a massive 81,600+ KG stone, and hoisted it above 200 feet. The total height of the gopura or vimana on the temple is 216 ft (66 m) high. Just imagine the technology to do this 1005 years to be precise? No where in the world you can find such a massive feat, which is living even today surviving tsunamis, earthquakes and of course, human invaders!

And of course, Bharat makes it look small.. really small :)
I felt like... I am witnessing 1000 years of Bharatiya history in just a few minutes.. Awesome and proud experience. Felt so good about our ancient shilpis, rajas and everyone who left us such great legacy.

If you have time, please browse through lots of pictures in here to know how happy we were during this entire trip, particularly the Tanjavur Periya Kovil (Big Temple) visit.

Next stop.. Kumbakonam. A city of temples where there are 188 temples within the municipal limits of a small town of 1,40,000 people. And if you include smaller temples, they say over 1500 temples are there in and around this city of temples!! Of course we wanted to visit a lot, but had time for only one.  The big Adi Kumbeswarar temple. We had a wonderful time here watching many unique things. The pujari showed us the place within the temple where the great Raghavendra Swamy had sat and meditated. They also showed the Devi (Durga) with nandi in front of her, not lion/tiger. They showed us a slight tilt of the main Linga and told that it's because of this kona (angle) of the kumbha (one above linga), it is named Kumbha Konam. You also have 9 temples around Kumbakonam, for each Nava graha (nine planets in Hinduism). We surely needed a week, just for this temple town!

We had to then drive into Puducherry enclave within TN, near Karaikal beach in the night. Our next stop was Tirunallar Saniswaran Temple at Tirunallar in Puducherry Union Territory. The specialty here is that 1000s of people come to take a dip in the pond, and leave their wet cloths on the banks of the pond, to get away from Lord Shani's wrath.
Image: Wiki

We followed what 1000s do. A proper bath in that pond, giving arghya to Surya deva early morning from within water, leaving our cloths, and then heading to the ancient temple in the town.

Just like the 100s of other big temples in Tamil Nadu, we had walk past many arches (gopuras) and finally get a beautiful darshan of Shani Deva. And to get a bonus, we were allowed to do a full Rudra abhisheka at a Shiva temple behind the Shani temple. Our Nagesh, the knowledgeable purohit, made us do abhisheka on the spatika Linga that he had carried from Bengaluru. It was a divine experience chanting the Vedic Rudra and Chamakam at this ancient temple. We loved every moment of it. Best part, I could do this on Ekadashi day, which is now my fasting day :)

Now overwhelmed with temples after temples, we took some beach breaks. It was emotional visiting the Karaikal Tsunami memorial, remembering the 1000s who perished during the 2004 mega Indian ocean Tsunami. 

Now time to head north. Next stop Chidambaram mega dancing Shiva temple. But since it opens only in the evening, we had time for some fun trip through the mangrove filled backwaters of Pichavaram. Our "vocal" skills and funny hand movements came handy when going inside the shallow mangrove backwaters :)
Even our boatman started off -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sKRynDomgE

Playing in the backwaters, climbing up some mangroves and paddling the boat was really fun. I am told that this is the world's second largest mangrove wetland!

And our boatman told us that this is the same mangrove area where the famous Kamal Hasan song from the movie Dasavataram was shot.

Next stop, the great Chidambaram temple. This great Hindu temple of South India that has held its prominence for over 2000 years is a must visit place for any temple enthusiast. The Shiva in here is associated with the Akasha (or sky/ether) tatva (essence) among the pancha bhootas (five basic elements sustaining life). This holy temple has been built and repaired by Pallava, Chola, Pandya, Vijayanagara and Chera kingdoms over the past 2000 years.

And, I insist that you learn more about the significance of Chidambaram temple's design.  Focus on why the roof has been laid by 21,600 golden tiles with the word Shiva nama inscribed on them representing 21600 breaths!!

Around the 9th minute of this famous video of Carl Sagan - Cosmos of India, you can see the description of Nataraja (Dancing Shiva), for whom this Chidambaram temple is dedicated to.

All I can say is... Srirangam, Jambukeshwara, Tanjavur, Kumbha Konam, Tirunallar Shani and now Chidambaram Nataraja. Overwhelming architecture, significance and puja tradition for millenium.
Incredible trip!! How can I forget the awesome tender coconut water in Kadalur, to break the Ekadashi fast? :)

Lastly, how can we end up such a fabulous trip without some fun in water? That too when we are close to the Goa of the east coast, Puducherry? We stayed at a nice resort right on the beach, danced in the beach at midnight, saw sun rise at the beach, offered arghya to Lord Surya after a swim, and then had super fun in the resort pool.

Lastly, visited the pious Aurobindo Ashram at Puducherry.. A small and silent zone in the French legacy town.

While returning via Tiruvannamalai, another great Shiva temple (Agni link) which we had seen 3 months back, we had some nice fun on the road trip too.. like watching this crazy scooter driver -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxubUk-Xrl4

Overall.. great fun. If you want historic temples, amazing Dharmic puja traditions in Sanskrit and Tamil, and fun beaches, head to these places I have listed. You will have a great time.. guaranteed!

Now that 3 of the 5 Shiva Tatva temples covered this year, hoping to do the other two - Kanchi (in TN) and Kalahasti (in AP) soon. Om Namah Shivaya!