Realizing Divinity!

One of the things I enjoy most about living in India is the possibility of visiting a temple whenever I feel like. If I am happy, I go to a temple, if I am restless, I go to a temple, if I am sad……you get the point. While Hindu religion does not mandate or prescribe compulsory temple visits, Hindus usually make it a point to visit a temple on auspicious days. These temples are usually your neighborhood temple, the one you can walk to or a quick drive. And then there are temples that are associated with some significant Hindu mythology or historical significance. Temples with historical significance were usually built by rulers to show off their power. For instance, Brihadeeswarar Temple in Tanjore was built by RajaRaja Cholan and was a tribute to the Chola reign in Tamilnadu. There are several such temples in Tamilnadu and in India.

While I have been awed by the architecture, the fine nuances of temple architecture and the attention to every minute detail, I don’t particularly feel very pious in these temples. Maybe its because these temples act more as tourist destinations than regular places of worship. Of course, there are regular prayers like any other temple, its just that you see more tourists than regular devotees.

And then there are temples where you have an hair-raising experience, where you can actually feel the divine power, a positive energy of sorts. These are temples that have some kind of mythological legend associated with it, where the main deity (or deities) have demonstrated the triumph of “GOOD over EVIL.” While I have visited so many temples over the last 34 years, I was blessed enough to experience his omnipresence at the Sree Narasimhar Temple in Namakkal, a town in Tamilnadu.

Legends say since Lord Vishnu slayed the demon king Hiranyakashpu, father of Prahalad in his Uggra (angry and ferocious) Narasimha Avatar (Nara – human, Simha – lion), Goddess Lakshmi, his consort (and the Goddess of Wealth) is unable to accompany him (According to Hindu Mythology, Lord Vishnu is always accompanied by Goddess Lakshmi as she is Maya, his power). Hence she requests to view him in his Narashimha avatar and is asked to chant the Thirumandiram – a collection of verses in praise of Lord Shiva, in the banks of the Kamalalayam river, near Thiruvarur)I had the opportunity to visit the temple of Namagiri Thaayar & Narashima Swami and the temple of Namakkal Anjaneyar, in Namakkal.

In a parallel story, while returning Mount Sanjeevani Lord Vishnu requests Anjaneya (Lord Hanuman) to remain in devotees. In Namakkal, Anjaneya is in Digambara form (where the sky is his roof) and faces the shrine of Lord Narasimha. If you draw a line, you can find that the eye of Anjaneya rests at the Paada Kamalam (Lotus Feet) of Lord Narasimha. Such is his devotion!after Lakshmana has been cured in Ramayana, Lord Hanuman finds a Saaligrama stone (“God without a form”) and brings it with him. He meets Goddess Lakshmi at the Kamalalayam banks and hands over the Saaligramam to her as it is time for him to do his Sandhyavandanam (morning prayers). Unable to bear the weight of the Saaligraman, Lakshmi places it on the ground, only to find it grow into a mountain- Giri. When Hanuman tries to pick up the mountain with his tail, Lord Vishnu, appears in his Narasimha avatar to Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Hanuman. This place came to be known as Namakkal (naama – name of the lord, kal – stone).

Goddess Lakshmi is known by the name of Namagiri Thaayar-Naama – as she chanted thename of Lord Vishnu, Giri – mountain, Thaayar – Supreme Mother. This is one of the very few temples where devotees worship Thaayar (Goddess Lakshmi) before Perumal (Lord Vishnu). Ramanujar, the great mathematician is said to have attributed his mathematical brilliance to Namagiri Thaayar. When worshipping the Goddess, one cannot but feel the kindness and the love bestowed to us by her.
“We pray to the goddess of wealth & success, to remove darkness from our life by way of enlightening the knowledge”

In the sanctum, Lord Vishnu is the middle in a sitting position as Lord Narasimha, withLord Shiva on his right and Lord Brahmaa on his left. You will also find Surya and Chandra trying to calm down Lord Narsimha as he is really angry after killing Hiranyakashipu. This is the only temple in India where the Thirumoorthis – Lord Brahma, Lord Vishu and Lord Shiva are present together and this is the reason why there is no separate shrine for Lord Shiva in Namakkal.
When the priest does the Deeparadhanai (offering prayer with lamps), he highlights the Sthala Puraanam (the legends associated with this temple) – why Lord Vishnu is in this form, he also shows the blood stains in Lord Narasimha’s right palm that he got from slaying Hiranyakashipu and also points out the other gods who are trying to calm him down. Until this moment, I had only heard of such hair-raising experiences, but when the priest chanted the slokas (Sanskrit verses in praise of the lord), I could feel my hair raising, my eyes becoming teary eyed as I realized his divine presence and but for HIM, where would we all be?
To quote Mahakavi Bharathiyar – அற்ப மாயைகளோ உன்னுள் ஆழ்ந்த பொருள் இல்லையோ!!!

From Srimad-bhagavatam, 7:8 Summary – “Prahlada Maharaja, while praying to Lord Nrsimha, said, “O my Lord, I am very much afraid of the materialistic way of life, and I am not the least afraid of Your present ghastly ferocious feature as Nrsimhadeva. This materialistic way of life is something like a grinding stone, and we are being crushed by it. We have fallen into this horrible whirlpool of the tossing waves of life, and thus, my Lord, I pray at Your lotus feet to call me back to Your eternal abode as one of Your servitors. This is the summit liberation of this materialistic way of life. I have very bitter experience of the materialistic way of life. In whichever species of life I have taken birth, compelled by the force of my own activities, I have very painfully experienced two things, namely separation from my beloved and meeting with what is not wanted. And to counteract them, the remedies which I undertook were more dangerous than the disease itself. So I drift from one point to another birth after birth, and I pray to You therefore to give me a shelter at Your lotus feet.”

 One more thing that amazed me was the convergence of two instances of Lord Vishnu’s Avatar -Narasimha Avatar and the end of Ramayana, where Hanuman meets up with Goddess Lakshmi at Kamalalayam banks( for those unfamiliar with the 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu –Dashaavathaaram  – Narasimha avatar is the 4th avatar and Lord Vishu is Rama in his 7th avatar)……yet another proof that,

 He is omnipresent, no matter what form he takes!

Every once in a while, I think all of us go through a process where we experience and realize the true power of divinity, the power that emanates from within……….this self realization will help us live in the present leading to a life that is balanced and filled with an abundance of love!!

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