Sathuragiri – Part II
Visit to Sathuragiri Continued… part II
Water Scarcity is a big concern at Sathuragiri. Deforestation and eco-unfriendly behaviour are really taking its toll here. What once considered on par with Kailash is today moving towards a water-less hill on a non-season day. This was very disappointing to me as I was really looking forward to taking bath in water stream full of herbs of medicinal values. We took water from a water tank, which was almost empty but still managed to take bath with the limited water available.
Sundara Mahalingam temple – It was a 10 am when we entered the temple, the swayambu lingam that was slanting to the left was very divine. I chanted Sivapuranam (Thiruvasagam) there, which was very satisfying to me. By the time we reached Sattanathar Cave (the place where we stayed), coolie had already delivered our stuff.
Sandana Mahalingam temple – Since we stayed next to this temple had darshan as and when I wanted to. There is also sannidhanam for Sandana Mahadevi, Murugan and 18 sithars here. There was a fantastic/very grand abhiseham for Sandana Mahalingam that day evening by a group. The feeling is unexplainable. When the sannidhanams were closed around 7 am, Bala and myself sat down in front of Sandana Mahadevi sannidhanam for a small prayer. Bala started meditating and I chanted Rudram with my eyes closed. When I opened my eyes after the prayer, I was pleasantly surprised to see some 15 people sitting around us and praying along us. I felt very happy and moved out. A couple from Chennai came to me and enquired if I am studying Vedas and who is my guru. They complimented me saying that my Sanskrit pronunciation was very good and they were attracted by the mantras and could not move till I completed the prayer. I thanked god!
A few words about a yogini whom we saw at Sathuragiri- she once worked as a lecturer in Chennai, now currently moving around in Sathuragiri. You can find her speaking to the bull, feeding ducks, talking to herself all the time. She became very fond of bala in the 2 days we were there. While returning, she gave me and bala some money and some lamps. She infact asked bala to visit shankara achariyar at Kanchipuram. It is very rare to find such pure souls in today’s world. I also heard that she is under threat as she speaks truth upfront and criticises the temple people for their misdeeds.
The Food – Eventhough we carried all items required for self-cooking, the place we stayed was not available for cooking as the temple people were using them for preparing items for nevadhiyam. We gave all the provisions and the vegetables, which we carried to the annadhanam center and had our food there only. Having food there taught me two important things, which I refused to learn in the past
1. Never waste the food served on your plate…it would have appeased someone else’s hunger had you not taken it. Temple people are very particular about this aspect and kept insisting not to waste food
2. Taste is not carried beyond your throat and hence eat whatever is served to you without any apprehension
I have started practicing this in my daily life and I hope will be able to change a few atleast in my family.
There was no proper toilet facility available at sathuragiri and we have to walk atleast a kilometer to attend nature’s call, of course amidst nature! Since there was no electricity, we were surviving with torchlight and surprisingly we all were asleep around 9.30pm on day 1. The sleep was very peaceful.
Trip to Thavasi Cave – Bala was the only devotee to be present on both days during the early morning puja at Sandana Mahalingam temple around 3 am, it also gave Bala enough time to finish his routine Siva Puja. Eventhough we were woken up….i was not too keen to join without taking bath. We started around 9.30am after having ven pongal at the annadhanam center. Three more people who are from chennai joined us in our trip to Thavasi Cave. We stopped nearby a small stream of water to take bath. When we were about to leave, Raman Swamigal decided to stay back near the stream for doing Dhyanam.
We covered the following places
Korakkar Yedu – It is believed that when someone tried to steal the manuscripts of the Siddhar Korakkar, they turned into stones. It is quite a wonder to watch a huge rock on the top of a hill placed on three or four small stones. This is an excellent place for doing meditation and view from this hilltop is dumbfounding. Palaniswamy told us that sometime back a saint made a small girl to move this rock for a few seconds to create provision for lighting lamps.
Vellai Pillayar – We moved through dense forests to reach places and is very difficult to walk without a stick. It is very slippery at many places and even Palaniswamy who is almost living there lost track couple of times. Vellai Pillayar is a swamyambu statue which remains black in colour for 6 months and white in the remaining 6 months. Palaniswamy managed to light lamps at all the places visited.
NagaKanni – is located between two hills. It was quite dense and very calm. We rested at this place for sometime and it was very soothing.
Periya Mahalingam – is a huge spellbounding swayambu lingam. You can see rocks looking like Balipeetam and Thiruvodu nearby. Also the trunks/roots formation of the tree on top lingam looks like the Jadamudi (hair) of Lord Shiva.
Nadukattu Lingam – This was located in a very steep slope and we were even finding it difficult to stand and pray. But as usual Palaniswamy managed to light lamp and complete his ritual.
Nadukattu Lingam and Vinayagar
Yanai Kavalam – This is supposedly the place where elephants visit for drinking water. The stream was completely dry and could not sight any animals in around this place. This place was looking like a playground on top of the hill. Ideal picnic spot if water runs in the stream.
Thavasi Kugai – has three levels. Ground level you have the “Navagraha Stones” – 9 huge rocks arranged in somewhat circular form representing the Navagraham. In the top level you have a box like balcony where you can sit and watch the complete sathuragiri and it was very windy outthere. If you are not holding on to any rocks, the wind can actually push you out. It is believed that Siddhars sit and watch the hills during night. Base level is where you have the Thavasi Cave. It has two entry points but one side is completely blocked by rocks and we can go only by the other entrance. Arun and padmanabhan moved in first with a small lamp since none of us where carrying a torch and I followed. It was pitch dark inside. The path inside the cave for the first 20 feets is very narrow and you will have to move like a snake and next 10 feets would be slightly bigger where we can move on our kneel. When I reached this place suddenly I started feeling claustrophobic . I came out and cried. But Arun and Padmanaban managed to go further and were able to have darshan of very small lingam and left the small (ney deepam) lamp, which he was carrying there. When both of them came out I saw the divinely fear on their eyes, suddenly I decided that I am going to try again. I prayed to god not to disappoint me. Bala and Prasanna also joined me this time. Padamanaban was leading us from the front and I moved in last, testing my abilities to chant Rudram under tough circumstances. When we reached the middle of the cave I saw a small hole on top and sunlight was entering into the cave. When we moved in further, we were able to stand with our heads down. And yes…we too had darshan of the small lingam with fresh flower garland on it!
There is a message for me from this cave…..the route to reach the lotus feet in 3 stages
1. The first 20 feets where you will have to completely fall flat on the feets of god giving up all our ego and vanities in life. That is precisely the way you move like a snake.
2. Having traveled the first stage the next stage is relatively less difficult but still not very easy. This stage is more about consistency and sustaining the spirit to travel further.
3. The last stage is where you can stand up to have the darshan of God but still with your heads down without the feeling of ‘I’ in you
There is a belief that Siddhars do Tapas here every day and that’s why the name Thavasi Kugai.You cannot enter inside the cave without their permission. When we came back to the place where we were staying I was shocked to find that I was actually carrying a torch in my bag and I dint remember this when I entered the cave. May be that was the gods’ wish…
It took us almost a day to cover these places but less than half an hour for the descent. In total it was “ once in a lifetime experience”
We started our descent from Sathuragiri at around 9.30 am on 2nd Aug and reached the foothill around 12 pm. We had our lunch at Madurai and eventually reached Chennai around 8 pm. The trip was very satisfying to me personally and not even once I felt any fatigue and it was really rejuvenating. I could do trikala sandhya vandanam on all the days with help of the group.
I am sincerely looking forward to my next trip to Sathuragiri… it would be very nice if basic amenities like toilet facility,water etc are made available to the pilgrims to make Sathuragiri an even better place for more people to visit and get the blessings of Mahalingam.