Moon, Mountain and Mysticism - 1
by B R Haran on 21 May 2010 8 Comments

Dharma, Seva and the Vedic Civilisation

The Vedic civilization evolved on the banks of Sindhu and Saraswati with Dharma as the basis of evolution. Though it got the name “Hinduism” in later times, it is still denoted as Sanatana Dharma. The Itihasas and Puranas have vividly described the crushing of Adharma by different Avatars of almighty Bhagwan, whenever it raises its head and attempts to rule over this world. In the Kaliyuga, though Bhagwan doesn’t descend as an Avatar, he establishes the reign of Dharma through His Blessed Avatara Purushas such as Adi Sankara, Ramanuja, Ramana Maharishi and Ragavendra, et al. Such mahatmas bless and guide people through their immortal dharmopadesas.


In the Kaliyuga, as Adharma raises its head quite often, we would be able to protect our land and safeguard ourselves only when we adhere to the dharmopadesas of our Dharmacharyas and act accordingly. It becomes imperative for us to follow the path of Dharma to establish the truth of the age-old maxim, “Adharma will engulf Dharma; ultimately Dharma will prevail”. “If we protect Dharma, Dharma will protect us” is the code of this land.  


A huge threat is looming large over this bhumi known for punya and Dharma, surrounded by Adharmic alien forces. It is essential for us to stick to Dharma to destroy the alien forces and safeguard our motherland. Though many Dharmic concepts have been described in our Vedic religion, for us, the two most important are “Maheswara Seva” and “Mahajana Seva”. 


Maheswara Seva caters to (i) protection of temples and continuation of worship rituals flawlessly (ii) construction of temples in places where there are none and daily rituals of worship (iii) renovation of dilapidated temples and resumption of worship and (iv) organising temple related festivals involving the local populace across castes and communities. Mahajana Seva caters to donating food, clothing, houses, education and medicines for the poor, downtrodden and incapacitated people, apart from social and community services.


The Vedic faith has identified specific auspicious days for specific worship for specific Devas and Devis. It is only during these special days, festivals and Utsavams, that the entire place (village or town) comes together to worship and celebrate. So, if at all the people are to remain united and if at all the alien forces causing division among the people are to be defeated, frequent celebrations of festivals and utsavams is essential.


During these common celebrations, the ‘haves’ must take care of the ‘have-nots’. The well off and capable must help the poor, downtrodden and incapacitated by establishing a system whereby the poor can be helped permanently. This will act as an impediment to the evil designs of alien forces and stop religious conversions as well. 


The sacred town of Thiruvannamalai stands testimony to the fact that Mahatmas reside permanently in places where Maheswara Seva and Mahajana Seva are carried out perennially without hindrance. The thought that my recent experience in Thiruvannamalai during Chitra Pournami would be meaningless and become useless if it is not shared with others, has resulted in this column.       


Maheswara as the Mountain


Thiruvannamalai, the Theyu Sthal or Agni Sthal, is one of the Pancha Bhuta Sthals where Shiva shows his Jyoti Swarup as “Lingothpava” to Brahma and Vishnu, who made futile attempts to find his head and feet respectively. As the bhumi could not withstand the power of His Jyoti Swarup going beyond the universe (prapancha), Maheswara compressed himself and became a mountain, Annamalai. This puranic incident is observed as Kartigai Festival, and people the Jyoti Swarup by lighting the huge Deepa on the peak of Annamalai in the month of Kartigai on Pournami day. 


Thiruvannamalai has another significance in the Puranas; Bhagwan Shiva gave his left part to Shakti (Devi Parvati) and appeared as “Ardhnariswara”. During the Kartigai Festival, at the exact time of lighting the Deepam on the mountain peak, the Utsava Murthi blesses devotees as “Ardhnariswara” inside the temple premises. Apart from being a Pancha Bhuta Sthal, the five peaks of Annamalai denote the Pancha Bhuta concept, as Shiva himself is a personification of a mountain comprising the Pancha Bhutas (water, fire, air, space and earth).


A Siddhar Bhumi known for Sevas


Thiruvannamalai is considered a “Siddhar Bhumi”, that is, a land of Siddhars. Siddhars are considered representatives of God with complete mastery over the powers of nature. They are believed to have conquered death and live anywhere and everywhere without being seen, recognized or identified by ordinary humans, and other living beings. Certain places in general and mountain ranges in particular are considered permanent seats of Siddhars; Thiruvannamalai is one such sacred place.

Gauthamar, Arunagiri Yogi, Namachivayar, Namachivayam (author of ‘Annamalai Venba’), Viroobatcha Devar, Arunagiri Nathar (author of ‘Thiruppugazh’), Kondappa Desikar, Jadini Shanmuga Yogini Ammal, Ammani Ammal, Seshadri Swamigal, Ramana Maharishi, Yogi Ramsuratkumar are some of the great Mahaans of later times, who lived and attained Siddhi in Thiruvannamalai, apart from the countless Siddhars who are believed to be permanently seated in Annamalai. (1)


Ramana Maharshi Ashram, Seshadri Swamigal Ashram, Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram, the Mathams established by the disciples of Namachivayar, are some of the organisations which have been rendering great service to the people. In the recent times, in order to arrest the illegal and immoral evangelical and conversion activities by the Church and Christian Missionaries and also to take care of the needs of the Hindu masses, many Hindu organizations have opened branches in Thiruvannamalai. Kanchi Matham opened a branch recently.


Short History of Thiruvannamalai Temple


Stone temples came into being only during the Pallava Dynasty. Thiruvannamalai Temple is one of the earliest stone temples built by the Pallava Kings. Later, the Cholas, Vijayanagar Kings, Thanjavur Nayaks and others built many sanctorums, mandapams and towers. The kings of the Tulu dynasty also made some edifices. 


The Chola period inscriptions found in this temple start from the time of Vijayalaya Chola’s (849 C.E - 8th century inscriptions) and go for about 400 years of Chola Samrajya up to 13th century CE, giving us a lot of historical information.


Then, from 13th century CE to 16th century CE, kings like Kadavarkon Kopperu Singan, Posala King Veera Vallaalan, Vijayanagara Kings (Krishnadevaraya & others), Thanjavur Nayaks (Sevappa Nayak & others) marked their inscriptions with vivid details of their times. The inscriptions found in this temple are in Tamil, Sanskrit and Kannada.  


Sage Meikkandaar, who blessed us with the divine treatise “Sivagnana Botham” donated a lot to this temple on 22-5-1232 CE. Even Kings from far off places (Ganges and nearby kingdoms) donated wealth for this temple.


Annamalai in Literature


Annamalai has found place in all kinds of literatures such as Puranas, Anthathis, Venbas, Prabandhams, Pathikams, Vannam, Sathakam, Kovai, Maalai, Viruththam, Keertanas, Sthothras, Kummi and plays.


As far as Sangam literatures is concerned, Thiruvannamalai is mentioned in Akanaanuru and Natrinai. Thirugnana Sambandar (Thevaram), Thirunavukkarasar (Thevaram), Sekkizhar (Periyapuranam) and Ramalinga Swamigal (Thiruvarutpa) sung hymns on Thiruvannamalai. More than 60 Sthal Purans are available in Tamil, and in Sanskrit we have Arunachala Stotras and Arunachala Ashtakam. Thiruvannamalai is mentioned even in Keno Upanishad.


Sanctity of Pournami


Although many festivals are celebrated in Thiruvannamalai every month, Karthikai Deepam and Chithirai Thiruvizha are quite famous and both culminate on Pournami (full moon) Pournami is a very important day for Hindus, and apart from Karthikai Deepam and Chithra Pournami, we have festivals like Thai Pusam, Vaikasi Visakam, Avani Avittam, Masi Magam (Ganga Snan in Prayag) and Panguni Uthram (Holi in northern and western India) being grandly celebrated on Pournami.


Satyanarayana Puja is commonly performed on Pournami Day by people across the country. Pournami Vrat has been observed by Hindus since ancient times. People observe fast right from morning and end their fast only after sighting the moon and performing puja in the evening.


[1] Thiruvannamalai, V. Narayanaswami, Manivasagar Pathippakam, Chennai, 1996.


(To be continued…)

The author is a senior journalist; he lives in Chennai

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