Friday, April 5, 2013

My Hill temple Yatra to Sathuragiri 2011

Dear readers,
I thought of giving a detail diary of my recent Sathuragiri yatra but I found this blog contain all the relavent information needed for any yatris to visit this power packed siddhar land "SATHURAGIRI". With the flow of the article I am including photos of my 2 visits to this land of  Siddhars, Devas and Mahadevas.

 L to R   Myself, Aru, Param, Desigan, Sarkuna, Kumaresan, Tamila, Anba and Praba.
Missing in action Satish
Photo taken in front of Navagraha stones.

About Sathura Giri
Sathuragiri or Chathuragiri Hills/Malai (Tamil for Hill) is situated 13-15 kms from Vathirairuppu (Watrap) near Srivilliputhur in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu, India. Sathuragiri is the Abode of God and is also the abode of thousands of Siddhas including Agastiyar, Gorakkar, Satta Muni, Roma Devar and Sundranandar. It is believed that the Siddhas still worship Lord Shiva from Sathuragiri. So the hills are also known as Sivan Malai.

Sathuragiri Meaning
The divine place Sathuragiri is surrounded by four hills, hence its name Sathuragiri or Chathuragiri. It is said that the name Sathuragiri is derived from the Sanskrit word Chathur meaning FOUR (4) (there are 4 Vedas and each one is represented by a hill) and the second part of the name, Giri meaning Hill. So it can be literally taken as a place where all four Vedas meet and merge into one. This is mentioned in Siva Puranam. The name also carries another meaning where the hills surrounding the place are in the shape of a Chathuram (Tamil for square) so the name Sathuragiri. It is also called Mahalingagiri, Menugiri/Merugiri, Kailasagiri, Indiragiri, Sarvalogagiri, Suriyagiri, Brahmagiri, Siddhagiri, Yamagiri/Yemagiri, Sivagiri, Sakthigiri, Udayagiri, Sanjivigiri/Sathuragiri.

Where is Sathuragiri?
Sathuragiri is situated in Virudhunagar district in Tamil Nadu, India. Sathuragiri falls under the Western Ghat ranges. To reach Sathuragiri, pilgrims will have to reach Thaanipaarai via Vathrairuppu. Thaanipaarai is situated at the foothill of the mountains that leads to Sathuragiri hills. Vathrairuppu is Thaanipaarai's closest town and the distance between the two is between 8-10 kms. The nearest Railway Station is located at Srivilliputhur. Madurai and Tenkasi are the other railway stations located close to Sathuragiri. Pilgrims travelling by air will have to reach Madurai, Tamilnadu and continue their travel by road.

How to Reach Sathuragiri?
Pilgrims coming from north of Madurai can either reach Srivilliputhur or Krishnan Kovil Bus Stop before Srivilliputhur (via Madurai -> Thirumangalam -> Srivilliputhur). Pilgrims travelling from south of Madurai can reach Srivilliputhur (via Nagercoil -> Tirunelveli -> Rajapalayam -> Srivilliputhur). From Srivilliputhur travel to Vathrairuppu. Lots of buses are available at Srivillliputhur to Vathrairuppu. From Vathrairuppu proceed to Thaanipaarai. Couple of passenger mini buses are available in the morning and evening. Auto Rickshaws are available 24/7. They charge between Rs. 60-80. From Thaanipaarai pilgrims will have to walk their way up to Sathuragiri hills. Normally first timers take 6 to 8 hours to reach the top and experienced climbers can reach the top within 4 to 5 hours. Elderly and physically disabled can hire dolis (human carriers) to carry them to Sathuragiri. The charge will be somewhere between 1500 - 2500 Rs per pilgrim.

Pilgrims can also come to Sathuragiri Hills from Theni and other towns situated around the Hills. If you are not experienced in any of these routes or not led by an experienced guide, you are requested to avoid these routes. Because it is quite easy to get lost as not many people use these routes. So pilgrims are advised to stick to the Thaanipaarai route as it is quite easy (compared to others) and even on lean days, the path is used often by the Adivasis to carry goods. So it would be easy to find humans using the path quite often say every 10-20 minutes.

SathuraGiri - Origin
In ancient times Sathuragiri was known as UdayaGiriNathar. In Udayagirinathar a vast tract of land belonged to a wealthy landlord and an ancient Shiva temple was situated in that land. The temple was taken care by an elderly priest. There also was a stream (similar to the present Agaya Ganga Theertham at Sathuragiri) running next to the temple.

One day Lord Shiva, disguised as a Sivanadiyar (Devotee of Siva) came to the temple and struck conversation with the priest. After some time, both the priest and Lord Siva started to discuss on the origins of the temple. The priest replied that the temple is eons old and the land on which the temple is, belongs to a wealthy landlord and he (the priest) takes care of the temple. Hearing this the Sivanadiyar (Lord Siva) laughs and claims that the land belongs to him. The priest, knowing that the land belongs to the landlord, starts questioning the motives of the Sivanadiyar (Lord Siva). To prove that he is the owner of the land, the Sivanadiyar (Lord Siva) grants the priest to take how much ever land he wants for the temple. Again not believing the Sivanadiyar, the priest asks the Sivandiyar (Lord Siva) if the land really belongs to you then you must be in a position to clearly specify on how much land should I take. To this the Sivanadiyar replies that the priest can take how much ever he wants. The priest after thinking for a moment tells the Sivanadiyar that a conch shall be blown & all the land covered by the conch sound would automatically become part of the temple. The Lord agrees to the priests' condition and offers to blow the conch. The priest not believing the Lord (thinking that the Sivanadiyar might blow weakly), offers to blow the conch himself. Then he blows the conch and the sound travels to a mountain on the north and a small hill on the south. After blowing the priest looks at the Sivandiyar and at that moment the Sivanadiyar vanishes and the Lord appears. Then the Lord blesses the priest and says from now, all the area covered by the conch sound would belong to the temple. This is the origin of the Sathuragiri.

In ancient times, it is said Thaanipaarai played host to the ashram of famous sage, Athiri Maharishi and his wife, Anusaya Devi.

Temples in SathuraGiri
There are many temples/sanctums in Sathuragiri and on the way to Sathuragiri. Below is the list of temples found in and around Sathuragiri.
At the foothills (Vathirairuppu)

1. Vinayagar/Ganesha

2. RajaKali Amma

3. Paechi Amma

4. Karuppasamy

Of these, Paechi Amma and Karuppasamy were installed by Siddhars for guarding the southern side of the Hill.

RajaKali Amma
Paechi Amma                                                              Karuppasamy
On the way to Sathuragiri (after foothills till Sundara Mahalingam):

1. Two sanctums of Sivalingams inside two separate caves at Kora Kunda (Gorakkar Cave)

2. Two Lingams in a single sanctum called "Irattai Lingam" or Sankaran Narayan Lingams (Legend given below)

3. Vana Durgai Amma
4. Pilavadi Karuppasamy

Pilavadi Karuppasamy and Kali, are the guardian angels/gods of the Sathuragiri Hills. Vana Durgai Amma is the guardian of Sundaramahalingam temple. They safe guard the area from evil forces. The pradistai of these three guardian angels/gods were done by the Siddhas of Sathuragiri hill.

Sathuragiri plays host to three temples. They are Sundara Mahalingam temple, Santhana Mahalingam temple and Anandavalli Amma temple.

Sundara Mahalingam Temple:

1. Sundara Murthy Swamigal Sanctum at the entrance of the temple (Legend given below).

2. Lord Sundara Mahalingam Temple (100 metres from Sundara Murthy Swamigal Sanctum) (Legend given below).

Santhana Mahalingam Temple:

1. At Santhana Mahalingam Temple, separate sanctums for 18 Siddhars, Lord Ganesha, Lord Muruga, Navagrahas, Santhana Mahadevi (Sakthi), and Santhana Mahalingam (Sivam) are available. Satta Muni Cave can also be found nearby. (Legend given below).

Anandavalli Amma temple:

1. Anandavalli Amma's temple mandapam can be found behind Sundara Mahalingam temple. Anandavalli Amma is formless. Only during Navarathiri she takes a form (Legend given below).

Puja Timings:
At Sundara Mahalingam temple the daily pooja starts by 6 'o' clock in the morning. At Santhana MahalingamTemple the daily pooja starts by 3 'o' clock in the morning. The two jama poojas are performed before sunrise. At both the temples Ardha Jama Poojas are finished before 18.00 hrs and closed. On full moon and new moon days, the puja schedule changes according to the visit of pilgrims.

From Sundara Mahalingam to the top of the hill (inside the forest)

1. Vana Durga

2. Oonjal Karuppan Swamy

3. Korakkar Scripture Rock

4. Vellai Ganapathi (White colored Lord Ganesha)

5. Nadu Kattu Ganapathi

6. Naga Kanni Kavu

7. Lord Ganesa at Thavasi Cave

8. Periya Mahalingam

Irattai Maha Lingam

(Svayambu Lingam - A Lingam formed on its own (from below the ground))

In ancient times there lived a husband and wife. They lived a happy and peaceful married life. They were made for each other except for one major difference. The husband was an ardent devotee of Siva and and the wife worshipped Hari (Vishnu/Krishna) devoutly. This difference in their choice of Ishta Deivam (Personal God) led to many a quarrels on whose god is more powerful. They approached many learned men but their answers convinced either the husband or wife but not both of them.

Realizing no one could come up with a convincing answer, one day they decided to do penance to find answer to this eternal question (in Hindu tradition) themselves. They came to Sathuragiri after deciding it would be the apt place for performing penance. The husband started meditating on Siva and the wife on Hari. After many years of penance, Lord Siva appeared before the husband and asked what he wants. The husband took Lords blessings. He also called his wife and showed her Lord Siva. He boasted saying that Lord Siva is the mightiest as he answered his prayers faster than Lord Hari. The wife agitatedly looked at Lord Siva and said I wanted to meet only Lord Hari and not you. Immediately Lord Siva appeared as Lord Hari and told the couple that both Siva and Hari are not two but one and asked the couple to forget their differences. The couple realizing their folly begged for forgiveness. The Lord then appeared as SankaraNarayanan (Siva and Hari) and blessed both husband and wife. Later the Lord took the the form of Svayambu Irattai (Twin - Siva and Hari) Lingam. It is said that Irattai Lingam was worshipped by the siddha, Roma Devar.

Sundara Moorthy Swami Lingam 
(Anidai Lingam - A Lingam worshipped by Siddhas)

Sundara Moorthy Swami is a disciple of Sundara Mahalingam. The legend goes that once upon a time, Lord Siva was looking for a priest to perform regular puja (ceremony) at his temple. But he could not find one. So he went searching for a priest in nearby towns and villages. The Lord used to shout “Solvar Undu, Kaetpar Illai” (there is a person to say but none to listen) in every town/village he visited. In one village, a 3 year old child replies “Kaetpar Undu, Solvar Illai” (there is a person to listen but none to say). Siva hearing this knew the child is the right person to perform puja so the Lord brings the child to the hills. This child takes the name of Sundara Moorthy Swamy and grows up to be an ardent devotee of Lord Siva. It is said Sundara Moorthy Swamy is much more powerful than Sundara Mahalingam. Devotees normally pray to Sundara Moorthy & would request him to let Sundara Mahalingam know about their prayers. Lord Sundara Mahalingam would also doubly ensure that prayers routed through Sundara Moorthy Swamigal gets immediately answered. Since this lingam was worshipped by various Siddhas including Agathiyar & Sundaranandar, it belongs to Anidai type.

Sundara Mahalingam (Svayambu Lingam)

According to Hindu scriptures, Kailas is the abode of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathi (Sakthi) and Sivaganas, the crew/attendants of Lord Shiva. Yazhvalla Devar, a Sivaganam, was deeply devoted to Lord Shiva. One day he lays a lustful eye on one of the Deva Loga Apsaras. Noticing this, Lord Shiva curses both of them to be born as a human being. Realizing their mistake, they surrender at Lord Shivas feet begging for forgiveness. The Lord tells them not to worry and promises them to take them back during their lifetime. And Yazhvalla Devar took to human life in the form of Pachaimal and was born into one of the cowherd families, near Sathuragiri. His father was Thillaikon and Thilagamathi, was his mother. Being born in a cowherd family, Pachaimal made his living by selling the milk that he used to milk from the cows. After reaching the marriage age, he got married to Sadaimangai, his aunt's daughter. Husband and wife moved closed to the hills as it was be easier for the cows to find grass. As usual Pachaimal milked the cows. Sadaimangai took the milk to her in-laws house and sold them the milk.

One day Sadaimangai saw an elderly sage while she was on her way to her in-laws house to sell the milk. She took his blessings. The old sage being tired and thirsty asked Sadaimangai if it is possible for her to give him some milk. Sadaimangai not wanting to loose an opportunity to serve a sage, readily offered the milk. The sage after drinking asked whether it is possible for her to feed him daily as he had planned to stay there for some period. Sadaimangai, after pondering for a moment, agrees to it. So from the next day, she started feeding the sage and then would go to her in-laws house to sell the remaining milk.

As days went by the in-laws were confused as to the reduced milk quantity. One day they question their son, PachaiMal on the reduced supply. PachaiMal replies that it is not possible as the cows have started to yield more milk and promised them that he would look into the problem. Suspecting his wife, without her knowledge, he follows her the next day and sees his wife offering milk to the old sage. Then on her way to the in-laws house, he encounters her and in a fit of rage he slaps and abuses his wife. The abused wife runs to the sage and tells him the whole abuse episode. The sage said, "You are a good woman. You should not be punished for feeding me." and blesses her to be a Sadathari, one of the NavaSakthis. Then he moves away from that place.

The husband, finding that his wife has attained divinity repents his action. Dejected with life, he goes to Sathuragiri top and establishes a cow shed and serves milk to the the saints and sages. One of the sages to whom he provided milk was Siddha Sundaranandar. As days went by, one day a new sage came to Sathuragiri. He was welcomed by all the sages and Siddhas including Sundaranandar and Sattai Muni. Pachaimal too took his blessings. Next day Pachaimal went to the shed to milk the cows and was shocked to see the new sage drinking milk directly from one of the cows, whose milk was used to perform abhishekam. With a fit of anger he threw a stick at the new sage. This causes an injury in the forehead of the new sage. Seeing this Sundranandar and Sattai Muni wanted to curse Pachaimal. At that time the new sage asks siddhas not to curse Pachaimal and appears as Siva. Realizing his folly Pachaimal begs forgiveness. Lord blesses Pachaimal and tell him about his life purpose and takes him back to Kailas. Even now the Sundara Mahalingam in Sathuragiri bears the hurt mark.

Santhana Mahalingam 
(Deva Lingam - A Lingam worshipped by Gods or Celestial beings)

Once in Kailas, Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathi (Sakthi) were blessing visitors who had come there to pay their respect. Visitors included Holymen, Saints, Rishis, Devas, Siddhas etc. Everyone offered their respect by going round (Pradakshinam) the Lord and the Goddess. And Bringi Maharishi was one amongst the holymen who had come to Kailas to pay his respect. He prayed to Lord Siva and paid his respect by going round (pradakshinam) Lord Siva only. He thus ignored Goddess Parvati. This act confused Goddess and she questioned Lord Siva as to why was she slighted by Bringi Maharishi when everyone else treated her equally with the Lord. Lord Siva explained that those who have renounced the material world and think only about "Moksha" would always pray to him and at the end would join him and those who wish to enjoy material things would worship her and enjoy everything in life. Bringi Maharishi prayed to me as he wanted only Moksha and everyone else wanted to enjoy the material world so they worshipped both of us. On hearing this, Goddess Parvati became furious and turned to Bringi Maharishi and said how come being a Rishi you could forget that we both are not two but one and added that "if no Sakthi there is no Sivam and if no Sivam there is no Sakthi". Goddess cursed the Maharishi that he would lose all his flesh (flesh is one form of Sakthi (energy)) as she felt he had insulted her knowingly. Maharishi willingly obliged and shed all his flesh. After losing all the flesh (energy) he was not able to stand up and he was struggling to move. Seeing the plight of his devotee Lord Siva gives him a special staff. With the help of the staff, Maharishi starts to walk again.

This act of the Lord further infuriated the Goddess. She feels that she was insulted twice, once by the sage and then by the Lord by providing staff to the sage. After thinking for some time, she realized that such incident would not have occurred had she had been one half of the Lord Siva. She feels that the Ardhanareeswarar form (Male-Half and Female-Half) would ensure that everyone treats both God and Goddess equally. To appease the Lord, so that she achieves her goal, she comes to Sathuragiri hills to do penance (it is said in the month of Purattasi (Sep-Oct)). She choses a place under a huge Santhana (Sandal) Tree to do her penance. During that period Sathuragiri was going through a severe drought for almost 12 years. But due to the presence of Goddess Parvati the whole place gets back its greenery. Though the place was full of Munis, Sages, Siddhars and other holy men, they let the drought as it is as they did not want to come in the way of the nature. This sudden transformation made the Munis, Siddhars and others to wonder on who could have done this.

On seeing the Goddess, the Munis received her by paying their respects and enquired the reason for penance. Goddess told the whole story and also explained the Vradh/Viradham (Kedhareswara Viradham) that she would undergo. On hearing the story, the holymen arranged everything and Goddess Parvathi made a Prathishtanam of Linga with Sandalwood Paste (Hence it is called Santhana (Sandal's Tamil equivalent) Mahalingam. Goddess also created Agaya Gangai theertham (stream, still flowing) & used to bath in the theertham before doing Puja to the Lingam. Goddess did severe penance on Lord Siva. Lord Siva satisfied with Goddesses penance appears on his "Rishaba Vahana" and accepts Goddesses demands and offers his left portion of his body. On their return Lord Siva proclaimed that since the Siva Lingam was worshipped by Parvathi Devi, it should be worshipped only by Maharishis only and those who wish for "Kamya Loka" should not do pooja to the lingam. And if they do so, they may stand to hate "Ishta Kamya Loka" and will become "Moksha Desired" person and ultimately join him. Lord Siva blessed everybody and went away. After that, Satta Natha Muni worshipped the "Santhana Lingam" and "Chanangi Muni" followed suit.

Anandavalli Amma
Anandavalli Amma was born near Sathuragiri, some 300–400 years ago, into a family of Saliya Maharishi Gothram. She was spiritually inclined right from her young age. Right from her childhood days, she used to a hear a lot about Sathuragiri hills. This made a major impact in her and being a spiritually inclined person, she left for the hills to do penance. But being a woman, she was asked to leave the hills, by the rishis and siddhars as they deemed the hills would be unsafe for a woman. She begged and cried but the sages were unrelenting. So she went back to the foot hills and did severe penance. This made her accumulate lots of siddhis. One day the Lord fully satisfied with her penance appeared before her and directed her to the hills and to bless devotees from there. Anandavalli Amma's temple mandapam can be found behind Sundara Mahalingam temple. Anandavalli Amma is formless. Only during Navarathiri she takes a form. There are two festivals in honour of Amma. The first one falls in the Tamil month of Purattasi and the second one duringNavarathri.

Legends about SathuraGiri
Footmark (hoof-marks) of the divine/celestial/Indira Loga cow "Kamadhenu".

Once upon a time, a devotee was on his way to Sathuragiri. In those days only a few people used to go to the hills, as it was thick forest with lots of wild animals. Since being new to the hills he soon got lost in the thickly populated mountains. Seeing this the Lord asks Kamadhenu, the divine cow to help his devotee and bring him back to the correct path. Kamadhenu immediately appeared before the devotee and lead him to the correct path. After bringing the devotee to the correct path, Kamadhenu, being a divine cow, had to travel back to its heavenly abode. In the process, of starting to fly, Kamadhenu gave pressure to her legs and the pressure was so immense that her hoofs left an indelible mark, that can be seen even today.

Gorakunda (Goraknathar Cave)
Goraknathar is one of the foremost important Indian Siddha. He is part of the 18 siddha tradition of South India. He is also one amongst the Nava Nath Siddha tradition of North India. He is also closely associated with Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhism. He attained Siddha by mastering sound. The main siddha of Sathuragiri is Goraknathar. Goraknathar created thousands of new siddha medicines like Kayakalpa etc to attain immortality. Every 10th in the Tamil Calendar he appears in light form to his devotees at this place. On every no moon day Sri Kalimuthu Ashram offers a lingam made of Thinai Maavu and the same is worshipped.

Ashrams in SathuraGiri
Kalimuthu Swamigal Ashram (Kanji/Congee (Porridge) Madam (inn))

Kanji Madam was founded, by Badrakali Amma, 36 years ago in 1972. Badrakali Amma would prepare kanji daily at home & take it all the way to the top to distribute it to devotees/swamis. This was widely apprecited by the swamis of the hills. After her the service was taken over by her son, Kalimuthu Swamigal. He built a pucca place to house the madam. The whole place was built by three people only. The three people were Swami Kalimuthu and two other Sivanadiyars.

Kalimuthu Swamigal used to travel to near by places and used to beg for money & food items. The food items donated went to feeding the devotees at the Kanji Madam. The money collected was used to build a temple for Anandavalli Amma. The donated money also goes torwards performing puja at Sundara Mahalingam temple and Karupannasamy temple. Thinai Maavu is given as prasadam to the devotees who come to Kanji madam.

Kalimuthu Swamigal along with 107 swamis would go on padayatra, for three months in a year, to towns nearby Madurai to collect money and food items. He used this opportunity to help people who were going through a bad time. He used to perform pujas & parigara yagams for such affected people. He was the anointed leader of all the swamis of the Hill & was rightly called "Raja Rishi". He was also closely associated with Thalai Aatti Siddar Swamigal of Perambular and Kalidas Swamigal of Palani. These three sages were considered Siddargal of the same period. He attained samadhi in the year 2004-6. His samadhi can be found at his ashram in S.Ramachandrapuram which is 15 Kms from Srivilliputhur.

Important Instructions:

1. Avoid heavy luggages. LESS LUGGAGE makes TRAVEL a PLEASURE and COMFORTABLE

2. Luggage can be a medium haversack bag or backpack (preferable)

3. Please ensure that you carry these utilities

  • 3.1 Toilet kit containing soap, tooth brush, tooth paste and others.
  • 3.2. Comfortable clothing for three days
  • 3.3. A small torch light with new cells. Always carry a torch light, when venturing into the jungle.
  • 3.4. Cellphone + charger (Mostly does not work in the hills. But certain spots are known to recieve signals. No
  • electricity too.)
  • 3.5. A pen knife & small pair of scissors
  • 3.6. An air pillow

  • 3.7. 2 Bedsheets (1 spread + 1 to cover)
  • 3.8. Sweater/shawl - Sometimes the hilltop can be quite cold at night. Warm clothing is a must for winter.
  • 3.9. Camera (loaded)
  • 3.10. Medicine kit: including balms
  • 3.11. Water-bottle
  • 3.12. Mug
  • 3.13. Cleaning cloth
  • 3.14. Locks, keys and chains
  • 3.15. Pen and paper pad:
  • 3.16. Waist-pouch or Cash-bag
  • 3.17. Snacks for the hills: chips, biscuits, chocolates etc., Nothing will be available on the hills, which is a forest area.
  • 3.18. Match box and candles

4. Since it is a forest area no enclosures for toilet/ bath are available. One should take shelter under nature (bushes/trees)

5. Water points for bathing, drinking are provided by a philanthropist.

6. There is no provision for electricity at the top of the hills. Please bring small torches, matches and candles.

7. Luggage carriers are available. They accept luggages weighing upto 35 Kgs and normally charge somewhere between 100-150 Rs per person. Beyond 35 Kg it is Rs.150+ per person.

8. Sathuragiri is a very holy place. Still lot of Spiritual aspirants and Siddha do penance there. So pilgrims are requested not to disturb the environment (do not talk loudly, do not litter, do not pluck flowers, leaves, plants etc or do not break branches etc). Decency and decorum should be maintained on all occasions and at all levels. It is a Pilgrimage and Not a Tour. Let us have devotion in our heart and sweetness in our speech and temperament.

9. The mountain environment is very fragile. So please do not litter plastic covers, bottles and other waste materials. Always carry a plastic bag with you and dump all the waste generated (waste papers, plastic bottles etc) into it. You can later dump the plastic bag either at Sathuragiri or at Thaanipaarai (i.e. in a waste bin).

10. Once at Sathuragiri, pilgrims are requested not to venture on their own into the jungle. Fine guides with indepth knowledge about the mountains are available and it is advisable to take their services and strictly follow their instructions.

11. If any animals happen to cross your path, do not panic. Stay still and wait for the animals to leave to proceed further.

12. Sathuragiri hill does not have any electricity, hotels, lodges etc. There is an ashram called Sri Kalimuthu Swamigal Madam or Kanji Madam, which provides free food and also provides place for pilgrims to stay.

13. During full moon and new moon days, lakhs of devotees visit the hills. The new moon during the month of July-August (Aadi Amavasai) attracts about 10 to 15 lakhs devotees.

Ascending/Descending the Hills 
(Instructions for Handling Dolis)

1. To reach Sathuragiri, one has to cross seven hills (some pathways are steep) and walk for 9 to 10 kilometers. Never overestimate your level of fitness. Those who are aware of their limitations, can arrange for DOLIs.

2. The DOLI charges each way could be between 2000 to 3000 Rs. per person, i.e.for both ways Rs.4000/- to Rs.6000/-.

3. Those who want to use the DOLI facility are requested to bring with them.

3.1 a big THICK, bed-spread - 61/2' x 4' and

3.2 two numbers of 6 feet rope each- preferably coir one or twine one or thick nylon one to be tied in a bamboo stick as

a hanging bed. Bamboo will be provided by the Doli carriers.

3.3 The things (bed spread, rope, etc.), should be collected back by the individual from the DOLI men on arrival at the

landing points each way.

3.4 Each DOLI is carried by a set of two persons. Another set of two persons might exchange in the middle.

Original web site is at -----

Monday, February 1, 2010

Batu Cave Murugan Temple Malaysia

Lord Ganesha at the entrance of Pillaiyar temple Batu Caves 

Vakratunda Mahakaaya
Suryakoti Samaprabha
Nirvighnam Kuru Mey Deva
Sarva Kaaryeshu Sarvada

The Lord with the curved trunk and a mighty body, who has the magnificance of a Million suns, 
pray to you Oh Lord, to remove the obstacles from all the actions I intend to perform.

 Batu Caves Magnificent Hindu Cave Temple
• Batu Caves Founder: K Thamboosamy Pillai
• Built: 1891
• Primary Deity: Lord Subramaniar or Karttikeya;
• Number of steps: 272 to the cathedral cave;
• Height: 400 feet or 125 meters;
• Opening Hours: daily from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm
• Location: about 13 KM north of KL, District of Gombak
• Temple managed by Batu Malai Sri Subramaniar Temple.

Key Tips for visiting the Batu Caves

• As steps leading up the Batu Caves are not covered, it would be good idea to visit it in the later part of the afternoon when it's not so hot.
• Do keep a plastic bag with you to protect your important documents from the humidity, the rain and your sweat.
• Do carry an umbrella with you wherever you go as it can rain anytime in Malaysia. A foldable umbrella that you can keep in your bag will cost about RM10/USD3.

Golden Statue of Lord Murugan

• Completed: January 2006
• Cost: RM2.5 million/USD720,000
• Height: 43 meters or 135 feet;
• Materials used: 300 liters of gold paint, 1550 cubic meters of concrete.
• Tallest statue of Lord Murugan in the world.
• Malaysian Book of Records: Tallest Hindu deity in Malaysia.

Brief History of Batu Caves
 Cathedral Cave Entrance

Originally used by the Orang Asli or aborigines of the Bersisi tribe for shelter when out hunting.
• 1860s Used by the Chinese community to collect guano from bat droppings for their vegetable farms around Kuala Lumpur.
• 1878 Discovered by William Hornaday, an American Naturalist, who documented the caves and made popular as a result.
• 1891 Temple founder, Thamboosamy Pillai, laid foundation stone and installed a "murti" or consecrated statue of the Sri Subramania Swamy Temple. Apparently the mouth of the entrance to the main cave resembles the shape of a "vel" or spear. Thamboosamy also founded the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Jalan Bandar near Kuala Lumpur Chinatown.
• 1892 First Thaipusam festival celebrated here. This major Hindu festival has been held here annually since then.
• 1920 Wooden steps were built to access the main cave or the cathedral cave where the Sri Subramania Swamy Temple is located.

Statue of Hanuman at Batu Caves
Statue of Hanuman at the entrance of Ramayana Cave

Located toward the left of the temple compound as one enters. You'll be able to see the 15 meters or 50 foot tall statue of Hanuman or the monkey god. Within you'll be able to see statues related to the tale of Ramayana.
• Open to public since 2001.
• Entrance Fee: RM1 per person.

Dark Caves and Malaysian Nature Society

• Managed by Malaysian Nature Society to preserve the pristine condition of these caves network;
• Located half-way up the cathedral caves, at step number 204;
• 2 KM of unspoiled cave habitat;
• You'll witness formations such as cave curtains, flow stones, cave pearls and scallops formed from stalagmites and stalactites.

Thaipusam in Malaysia

The Legend associated with Thaipusam

Idumban and Kavadi
Rich legend lies behind the origins of Thaipusam. Popular narration goes that the great Saint, Agasthya, instructed his student, Idumban to uproot two hills called Sivagiri and Shakthigiri belonging to Lord Murugan and bring it back to him. As commanded, Idumban flew to Mount Kailai Range where the hills rested and picked them up ready to fly back. But alas, Lord Murugan had other plans. He wanted to test Idumban’s mettle and devotion to his master. He reduced his size, to that of a small child and promptly stood atop one of the hills. Suddenly Idumban found that he couldn’t carry the hills anymore. To his bewilderment, a child was standing haughtily on the hill. Idumban humbly requested the boy to get down. When the child refused, Idumban flew into a rage and tried to attack him, only to find himself falling like an injured bird. Lord Murugan then reverted to his original self and appeared before Idumban. "I am pleased with your courage and determination," he said. "Your devotion to your guru is admirable. I now bestow on you the honor of being my guardian" Lord Murugan then proclaimed that henceforth, those who carried kavadis to see him, would receive his blessings. Today, thousands of Hindus carry kavadis as offerings to the Lord during Thaipusam. The kavadis symbolize the hills of burden that Idumban shouldered. 

Murugan, Vel and Tharakasuran
The other version was a demon named Tharakasuran who was troubling the Rishis and Saints. Lord Muruga was called by his parents Lord Shiva and Parvati and given the job of destroying the asuran. Lord Muruga set off with the blessings of his parents, to destroy the demon. He carried twelve weapons, eleven of which were given by his father Lord Shiva and the 'Vel' given by his mother Parvati. Lord Muruga destroyed Tharakasuran on the Pusam Nakshatra day in the Tamil month of Thai and hence Thai Pusam is celebrated in all Murugan temples. 

Shiva Parvati cosmic dance
In another legend, that on a Thursday in Thai that also happened to be the day of Pusam star and pournami, Shiva and Parvati were engaged in an ecstatic cosmic dance, as Brahma, Vishnu, Indra and the Devas watched. This indicates that this is a day ideal for worship of Shiva.

Nataraja's Ananda Tandava
The Thai pusam festival has a tremendously important place in the tradition of Nataraja's Ananda Tandava in Chidambaram. For it was on the Pusam day in the Tamil month of Tai (mid-January to mid-February) that, in response to the wishes of the Deva's and rishi's, Sivakamasundari herself, Brahma, Bhring, Nandi, Narada, Vyaghrapada and Patanjali, Natarajar manifested his Cosmic Dance (Ananda Tandava) at Thillai and granted their further prayer that He continue this mystic dance for ever at Chidambaram.

According to another legend, as Shiva was imparting a mantra to Parvati, Subrahmanya eavesdropped on them. For that error, Parvati laid a curse on him, in line with the rule that even a son, if erring, must be punished. To be redeemed from her curse, Subrahmanya offered hard penance at Thirupparankundram. Pleased with his penance, Shiva and Parvati manifested before him and lifted the curse. The day on which Parvati's curse on Subrahmanya was lifted was a Thai Pusam. It is thus a special day for worship of Lord Subrahmanya. 

Kaveri's penance
Yet another legend has it that Kaveri, grieving that she had not secured the eminence acquired by Ganga through her position atop Shiva's locks, sat under a peepul tree on the banks of Sara Pushkarini and offered penance to Narayana. Pleased by her penance, Narayana appeared as a baby in her lap. That day when he manifested thus was, again, a Thai Pusam. 

 No matter what the legend, the rites that are followed are fairly similar. On Thaipusam day, devotees make offerings to Lord Muruga for eradicating the ills that afflict us. Perhaps the most potent propitiatory rite that a devotee of Shanmukha undertakes to perform is what is known as the Kavadi. The benefits that the devotee gains from offering a Kavadi to the Lord are a million-fold greater than the little pain that he inflicts upon himself. 

The Kavadi

Generally, people take a vow to offer the Lord a Kavadi for the sake of tiding over a great calamity. Though this might, on the face of it, appear a little mercenary, a moment's reflection will reveal that it contains in it the seed of supreme love of God. The worldly object is achieved, no doubt, and the devotee takes the Kavadi; but after the ceremony he gets so God-intoxicated that his inner spiritual being gets awakened. This is also a method that ultimately leads to the supreme state of devotion. 

The Kavadi has various shapes and sizes, from the simple shape of a hawker's storehouse (a wooden stick with two baskets at each end, slung across the shoulder) to the costly palanquin structure, profusely flower-bedecked and decoratively interwoven with peacock feathers. In all cases the Kavadi has a good many brass bells adorning it and announcing it as the Kavadi-bearer draws it along. As the Kavadi-bearer very often observes silence, the bells are the only eloquent signs of a Kavadi procession. 

The two baskets hanging at each end of the Kavadi contain rice, milk or other articles that the devotee has vowed to offer the Lord. The more devout among them, and especially those who do it as a Sadhana, collect these articles by begging. They travel on foot from village to village, and beg from door to door. The villagers offer their articles directly into the basket of the Kavadi. The Kavadi-bearer continues begging until the baskets are full or the avowed quantity is reached, and then offers the Kavadi to the Lord. 

Some keen devotees undertake to walk barefoot from home to one of the shrines of Lord Subramanya, bearing the Kavadi all the way and collecting materials for the offering. They have to walk a hundred miles sometimes! The people who place the articles in the baskets also receive the Lord's blessings. 

The Kavadi-bearer is required to observe various rules between the time he takes up the Kavadi, and the day of the offering. He has to perform elaborate ceremonies at the time of assuming the Kavadi, and at the time of offering it to the Lord. He also puts on the dress of a Pandaram, a Saivite mendicant. It consists of a saffron-coloured cloth, a conical scarlet cap, and a cane, silver-capped at both ends. Lord Siva, the Supreme Pandaram Himself, loves to wear this dress. The Pandaram lives on alms only. The bare chest of the Kavadi-bearer is covered with several rudraksha malas. 

The Kavadi-bearer observes strict celibacy. Only pure, Sattwic food is taken; he abstains from all sorts of intoxicating drinks and drugs. He thinks of God all the time. Many of the Kavadi-bearers, especially those who do it as a spiritual Sadhana, impose various forms of self-torture. Some pass a sharp little spear through their tongue, which is made to protrude out of the mouth. Others may pass a spear through the cheek. This sort of piercing is done in other parts of the body also. The bearer does not shave; he grows a beard. He eats only once a day. The spear pierced through his tongue or cheek reminds him of the Lord constantly. It also prevents him from speaking. It gives him great power of endurance. 

The Kavadi-bearer enjoys a high state of religious fervor. He dances in ecstasy. His very appearance is awe-inspiring; there is divine radiance on his face. Devotees often experience the state of feeling united with the Lord. Sometimes the Lord enters them and possesses them for some time. 

The Grand Procession
Over 150,000 Hindu devotees participated in a chariot procession on the eve of  Thaipusam festival. The procession, which started at midnight from Sri Maha Mariamman Temple arrived at the compound of Sri Subramaniyar Swami Temple in Batu Caves the next day. (12 hours journey)

My nephew and myself seen carrying the Paal Kudam (milk pot), 
walked about 13 kms to Batu Cave to offer the milk for abishegam. 
(30th January 2010 2.00am)

 The main part of the celebration involves the procession of devotees from the mother's temple, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, in the Kuala Lumpur ChinaTown area to Batu Caves. It is a journey of 13 KM done on foot, barefoot.
The day before the procession begins; the murti is cleansed and elaborately adorned. The murti normally resides in the mother's temple. On the day of Thaipusam, the murti sits regally on a bullock drawn chariot and heads toward the Batu Caves. The majestic silver chariot towers 21 feet or almost 7 meters above ground. The journey usually takes about 8 hours.

Climbing the 272 Steps of Batu Caves
Before ascending the 272 steps to the main temple, they will cleanse themselves at the nearby Batu River. They then proceed to the final part of their journey. The central partition of the stairway is reserved for these penitents. The other devotees and well wishes will take the peripheral partition of the stairway.

In the temple, priests will sprinkle consecrated ashes onto the devotees and remove the hooks and skewers from their bodies. Miraculously, no blood is spilled and no scar remains to be seen on their skewered cheeks and bodies after the event is over.

The Colors of Thaipusam At Batu Caves 2010

This is not a scared river as we find so many in Bharata bumi. 
But it customary for the devotees to take dip to purify them self before the invocation ceremony.
Some devotees use the modern facilities to take the ritual bathing near
the river for the Thaipusam festival Batu Caves, Malaysia.


Devotee performing a simple puja before taking the Paal Kudam/kavadi
Thaipusam, Batu Caves, Selangor, Malaysia.

Paal Kudam (Milk Pot), waiting to offered to Lord Muruga



Above photos show my family members are fulfilling their vow carrying Paal Kudam (milk pot) which will be offered as abishegam for Lord Muruga

Kavadi is a very intimate act in the relationship between the devotee and Lord Murugan. It must be approached with devotion and in all humility. It is not a means of showing off ones abilities, nor should people compete with each other in creating heavier or taller kavadis with more body piercings. There is absolutely no merit in taking kavadi for these reasons. 
Is this our religion? 

Lime and young coconuts carried by these devotees are suppose to be offering for Lord Muruga. But what happens to all these items?  Once they reach the destination, they are removed and dump as rubbish every where.

Is is our religion? 

KUM KUM is suppose to be a holy and sacred item for prayers - What happens here, it is smeared into their mouth and showing a fearful look.... Is this our religion.
Are these devotees  feeling a deep sense of guilt for wrong doings they have done.
That they  feel the need to take on hardships such as piercing their body to assuage the feeling of guilt.

Are we going to portray our religion with this type of activities
An extreme kavadi, this is called the paravai kavadi or the bird kavadi, 
Nallur Kandswami Temple, Jaffna, Sri Lanka.
Thaipusam is for Lord Muruga but in Malaysia invoking of guardian gods is gaining popularity.

Is this Thaipusam?
Are we to contempt or condone such activities?

Thaipusam in photography




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Comments, views and suggestion from readers

In my opinion Thaipusam in Malaysia has become a tourist attraction, it is very commercialized and had become a carniva,  The majority of the devotees carrying Kavadies seem to have no idea what Thaipusam is, what is the purpose of carrying a Kavadie, how to behave  and how to go about fulfilling their vows correctly ( doing with love)

All devotees attending Thaipusam prayers at the temple should observe a vegetarian diet,suitably dressed, chants mantras or single devotional songs when at the temple and when following the Chariot or devotees carrying kavadies. They should remember this is not a competition, Therefore, Kavadies should be simple and have a  standard size, no piercing should be practiced. milk pot's should also be small.   God bestows  God's Love and Grace on us equally therefore keep it simple. Pray quietly and be disciplined. People should concentrate more on developing their inner self then placing more importance on how big & beautiful their kavadi should be etc.

This is only my opinion, I do not wish to hurt or belittle anyone. My apologies.
Thank you.

Kailai Tamila  


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