SREEMOORTHY DIVYA DARSHINAM AT NEPAL


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SRI ALARMELMANGA NAYIKA SAMETHA SRI SRINIVASA PARABRAHMANE NAMAH

                          SRI SRIDEVI NAYIKA SAMETHA SRI SRIMOORTHI PARABRAHMANE NAMAH

                                                        SRIMATHEY RAMANUJAYA NAMAH

                                    SRI MUDALIAANDAN SWAMY DIVYA THIRUVADIGALE SARANAM

 

With the blessings of Almighty, Adiyen desired to visit Saaligrama divya desam with  my wife and 2 children during Sep-Oct’2006 who accompanied me in paying obeisance’s for all the divyadesams since 4 years .   This was our 106 divya desa yaatrai and it took 3 years for Adiyen to undertake this. My sincere  prayers to Thiruvengadamudaiyan during my regular  visits to Tirumala sowed the seed of desire deeply in my heart to visit this divya desam and I am graced by his mercy for making this yathirai memorable and a milestone in my divyadesam piligrimage.  The pilgrimage to Shalagram was definitely  ecstatic. Before I continue with my travel diary, I offer my sincere obeisance’s to SriRangasri group members , ISCKON Maharajs and several  great devotees of LORD who played a pivotal role in making this trip possible with whatever information they could give me.

 

After taking my parents and elders’ blessings, we left for Gorakhpur by Secunderabad-Gorakhpur Express on 29th September’06 at 0800 hours. The train was running late ( it seems it runs late always )  reached Gorakhpur at 2000 hours on 30th September’06.  We checked into one of the many hotels, Hotel Standard (room rent 350/-) though the plan was to retire in Railway retiring room. Gorakhpur, a busy city, wore a festive look on the eve of Durga ashtami.  Durga Ashtami and Vijayadasami are the major festivals in Uttar Pradesh apart from Deepavali. We  strolled into the streets to have a glance of the celebrations in the busy city.  As we did not really plan any package trip we took a chance to enquire about the facilities e n route Gorakpur. I happened to peep into one of the tourist offices near  to the hotel opposite to Railway station. There are many travel agents near the station who arrange for pilgrimage, mountaineering and sight seeing trips to Nepal. Out of inquisitiveness, we contacted Sai Baba Travels and finalized the  tour package for Rs.45,000/- including  the cab (Bolero hire charges) for 9 days, border permit and other road permits, room accommodation at Pokhara for 3 days, at Jomsom for 1 day, at Chitwan for a day, at Katmandu for a day , at Janakpur for a day  and flight tickets from Pokhara to Jomsom for 4 persons  to and fro with a vegetarian driver who respects our values .The agent  obliged and handed over letters to be given at the various hotels we were to check in. He had taken Rs.25,000 as advance and assured us  that we don’t have to pay anywhere.  Seems they had tie up in several places in Nepal. WE left Gorakhpur  the next day early morning  i.e: on 1st October,2006 by BOLERO around 9 A.M.  After 90 kms , 2 hours drive, we reached Sunouli, the last village on the Indian border.  It took about an hour to finish all the formalities in the border by the agent who accompanied us upto Sunouli .  For Indians, the immigration is very simple. The  temperature recorded was 45 degrees.  It was 12 noon by the time we crossed the Nepali border. As children were very keen to visit Lumbini and other picnic spots Adiyen had to compromise the yathirai out of academic interest. We  reached Lumbini at 1 P.M.  Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha, is one hour drive from India-Nepal border and is situated 250 kms south-west of Katmandu. This is recognized as one of World’s Heritage Centre and covers a vast area of over 970 sq. kms .   We visited the holy tank in which Mayadevi, Lord Buddha’s mother had a holy dip and the Asoka pillar, several  monastries built by Chinese,Japanese, Koreans, Nepalese , Germans  and our own Vipaasana centres.

 

                     From Lumbini we drove to Pokra ,Almost 95 % of the land area is covered by mountains and as one has to travel thru ghat roads, night journey is not advisable.  Also, it is not advisable to give lift to any stranger .  Intoxicants are freely available and as the country is economically poor, wayside robbery is very common. The ride to Pokhara is a dangerous one. The Machapuchare Peak of the Annapurna range,is  seen from Pokhara. The Machapuchare {“Fishtail”} peak is 6696 meters high and has never been climbed. The government forbids mountaineers from trekking it because Nepalis consider it holy. Though one of the most magnificent of Himalayan mountains, Machapuchare is a baby compared to Mt. Everest (Sagarmata),.

 

 Pokhara valley(3000 feet above sea level)  is one of the most picturesque spots in Nepal situated amidst lovely lakes – Phewa, Begnas and Rupa which have their source in Annapurna ranges of the Himalayas.  Pokra , a small but busy town is the travel base for all trekkers and is situated 200 kms from Katmandu. It has a floating population of foreign tourists in thousands.  There are innumerable hotels/lodges and shops selling mountaineering equipments and also few Vegetarian restaurants like Marwadi Hotel, Punjabi Dhabas where only vegetarian food is served. Almost all the hotels are situated around Phewa lake and offers fantastic view of the lake with mountains as back-drops.  Though there are browsing centres, the charges are costly- 100/- per hour and the speed is very slow.  STD call charges are also high.We checked in Hotel Blue Heaven  at Pokhara  for the night.

 

                           It was   shocking  to note  that no arrangement for flight booking was  done upto Jomson as the agent had not even informed them regarding this.  We were totally upset about this as we intended to be at Saaligramam on Ekadasi day.  The attempts by the  hotel owner by contacting travel agents for flight tickets continued . Our anxiety increased as no one was able to provide us with a confirmed ticket.  On 2nd October, being Dussera, all the tourist offices remain closed and we were left with no other choice other than sight seeing . Being a holiday, we could not even get a guide but a shop-keeper accepted our request and accompanied us.  

 

First, we visited Gupteshwar temple, which is in  a natural cave descending around 100 steps, shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva .  A sage by name, Gupteshwar did penance at this place and had darshan of Lord Shiva, the presiding diety of Nepal.  The rocks have taken the shape of a huge snake and it looks as if the snake is protecting the deity.  This natural formation is admirable.  The entry fee for Indians is Rs.20/- and for Nepalese , it is FREE.  Few saaligrama shilas were also placed near the lingam.  It may be noted that saaligramams are sold everywhere in Nepal.  From there, we proceeded to DEVI’S FALLS on the other side of the road.  The water from the falls joins the Phewa river.  This was discovered few decades ago  during a sudden gushing of water into the town. Bhairavi temple situated on the other side of Phewa lake has to be reached  by boat.  The charges for the boat ride is 20/- NR. It is a common practice in Nepal to apply Kumkum mixed with rice on the forehead during Dussera.  The tradition of kumkum with which Goddess Durga was worshipped for 8 days would be applied on brothers’ and sisters’ forehead for their longevityis practiced with pomp and show.  Every sister ensures to visit her brother and apply tikka.  After viewing sunset from the temple, we retired for the day. “WORLD PEACE” centre ‘s  Buddha Stupa situated on a hillock could not be visited  as we had to rush back to the travel agent for confirming our tickets  for  Saaligrama yaatrai  To our dismay, the tickets were not confirmed.  None of the agent could help us and we finally decided to approach Gorkha Airlines office itself with the request and sadly   the office  situated opposite to Pokhara airport was closed. Dussera is celebrated grandly all over the country and it is very common for offices to remain closed for atleast a week in Nepal similar to West Bengal.  Only Gorka Airlines provides service from Pokara to Jomsom. Added to this, due to bad weather conditions, all the flights to Jomsom were cancelled for more than a week.  Hence, there was no room for reservation.  All the efforts to contact travel agents proved futile.  Finally we personally drove to  Gorkha Airlines office  next day which is 7 kms from Pokra and after hours of pleading, we could finally get our tickets to Jomsom for 7th but return journey for 9th could not be confirmed as that would be decided at Jomsom and added that our journey  of Lord Muktinarayanan.  I take this opportunity to thank the airlines official for all their cooperation.  Alas, our 2 days tension finally came to an end.  The ticket costs Rs.15,000/- INR to and fro for 4 Persons.

 

As 3 more days were  left for our trip to Saaligramam, we decided to visit the remaining places as per our package.  We checkd out in the afternoon and proceeded towards Katmandu bypass road  Chitwan.  Chitwan jungle is 195 kms from Pokara and it took about 5 hours for us to reach the place.  Chitwan jungle is famous for its rare species of animals including one horn rhinos, kingfishers, elephants etc.  Chitwan is located on Nepal-Bihar highway. The package tour to Chitwan offered by all the travel agents include to and fro to Chitwan, night stay in one of the resorts, elephant ride, Nepali lunch, viewing cultural programmes in the jungle, and a visit to Tharu museum.  The cost for the same is Rs.3,500/- for 4 PAX which is not  really much worth . However, having paid, we went to view Tharu Cultural Programme organized by the local tribes, The next day we left early in the morn in a  open top gypsy accompanied by 2 guides and a driver deep into the forest, though we could not spot any rare animal except deers and monkeys , we happened  to see  crocodile breeding centres, and also saw a man-eating tiger which was in a cage.  Not preparing  for further exploitation, we left for Katmandu, which was another 5 hours drive. reached Katmandu at 7P.M.

                          Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is also called as Kantipur. Kathmandu is full of temples. It lies in a valley surrounded by high hills. Magnificent snow peaks are visible in the north. This city is situated to the north of Patan and the west of Bhaktapur. The altitude of Kathmandu is 4500 ft from sea level .Though we  had intended to stay in ISKCON guest house at Katmandu but as there was no accommodation, we were forced to check in Hotel Taj (as recommended by the travel agent) and retired for the night. On 5th, we went for local sight seeing in Katmandu.  And covered various temples including the famous Pashupathinath temple. The temple of God Shiva is situated at the bank of the sacred Bagmati river. It is 5 Kilometers for east from the Kathmandu city. This pagoda style temple built with golden roofs and silver doors is where thousands of devotees come to pay homage to God Pashupati Nath. Shivaratri is the holy day of religious festival of Hindu people. Pashupati Nath ia the patron deity of Nepal. It was noon and midday abhishekam was going on.  Lord Shiva’s face with matted locks and Ganges escaping from the locks is beautifully carved on all five sides of the lingam.  Also, the garbagriham has doors on all four sides which enables the devotees to have darshan from all the four sides. Our next point was Buddhanilkantha temple is 9 km from Kathmandu city. The temple consists of a pond in which lies a great stone figure of Lord Vishnu reclining on the coils of a cosmic serpent. The huge statue of sleeping Vishnu lying on Ananta Sesa, in the cosmic ocean is very attractive . The Deity is over 1,000 years old. Lord Vishnu is about 5m (17 ft) long and is lying in a 13m (43 ft) long tank, as if floating, with His legs crossed. His four hands hold the four symbols of Vishnu: the chakra (disc), club, and conch-shell and lotus flower. Budhanilkantha literally means “old blue-throat.” Ananta has 11-hooded heads. It is believed that the deity was carved in the 7th or 8th century during the Licchavi period.  It is carved from the single block of black stone of a type not found in the valley. The main festival of the year is when Lord Vishnu, who sleeps on the cosmic ocean during Chaturmasya period wakes up on the Haribondhini Ekadashi day in late October or early November. Many thousands of people come on this day. Three other images of Lord Vishnu were carved at the same time. One is here at Budhanilkantha and is considered the most important and original, one is at Balaju Gardens, and one is at the old Royal Palace in Kathmandu, but can not be viewed by tourist. The king of Nepal is not allowed to see the deity at Budhanilkantha, but he can see the other two deities. It is believed if the king sees this deity of Vishnu he will die immediately. This is the  deity of Budhanilkantha was lost for a while and was later rediscovered by a farmer. It is believed that the farmers struck the buried deity with his plough and that blood came out from the ground. The morning puja between 9 and 10 am is interesting. Budhanilkantha is about 8km northeast of Kathmandu and 15km from Thamel, at the base of Shivapuri hill. Buses to Budhanilkantha depart every half-hour from Rani Pokhari or the City bus stand (1 hr, bus #5, Rs 7) in Kathmandu. From where the bus stops the temple is around 100m away. Tempos depart from Jamal on the north side of Rani Pokhari to here. Iskcon took over the maintainence of the temple and grounds from about 1986-87. there is now even a guest house  Hindus can walk down the steps and touch His feet, but foreigners cannot.The ISKCON Temple is located about a ten-minute walk from the Budhanilkantha Temple, in a beautiful rural setting.

Buses to Budhanilkantha (8 km) depart from Rani Pokhri in Kathmandu, every half-hour.
  The next point was Boudhanath temple constructed by Tibetans, and Swayambhunath temple .  This temple is also dedicated to Buddha and is one of the oldest Buddhist monastries. .  We returned back in the evening and after a bit of last minute purchase like bags etc. for our Muktinath trip, retired for the night.The next day , 6th Oct, we checked out around
8 A.M to vist few more tourist places in Katmandu .  Hanuman Dhoka is the Durbar Square of the ancient city of Kathmandu. King Pratap Malla, the lover of art and architecture, established the image of Hanuman (Monkey God) in the main gate of his palace. The Durbar (palace) Square, itself is named as Hanuman Dhoka (meaning  Hanuman gate). Within the Durbar Square, there is a three tiered pagoda style temple built by King Mahendra Malla in 1549 A.D. This temple of goddess, Talejubhawani, is on a big platform which is considered as one of the most magnificent temples in Nepal. In Hanuman Dhoka, there are plenty of things to be seen, as the dreaded figure of Kal Bhairab, (God of Destruction), coronation platform, statue of King Pratap Malla, Big Bell and drum. Within the Durbar Square, there is a three tiered pagoda style temple built by King Mahendra Malla in 1549 A.D. This temple of goddess, Talejubhawani, is on a big platform which is considered as one of the most magnificent temples in Nepal. In Hanuman Dhoka, there are plenty of things to be seen, as the dreaded figure of Kal Bhairab, (God of Destruction), coronation platform, statue of King Pratap Malla, Big Bell and drum. Within a short walking distance from Durbar Square, the temple of Akash Bhairab lies at Indra Chowk, the main market avenue of the Kathmandu city. The image of Akash Bhairab is displayed outside the temple for a week during the festival of  Indra Jatra.

We then left to BOUDH NATH TEMPLE ,This  classical stupa located at Boudha in the north east of the Kathmandu city. This is considered to be one of the biggest stupas in the World. The stupa having four eyes in four directions is symbolized as watch for welfare and behaviour of human beings. It is said that the stupa was built by King Man Dev as per the advice given by goddess Main ogini. The Lamas of Nepal who are real devotees of Lord Buddha always dwell at the surrounding of the stupa.  Further moved to Soyambhu Nath Temple   situated at the hill side of Kathmandu city. It is at a distance of two miles from city. This stupa is made of a solid hemisphere of brick and earth. From this stupa one can see a beautiful view of Kathmandu city. Bhaktapur, also known as Patan which has old monuments.  Earlier, this was the capital of the Nepali kings.  This place with all its monuments is worth seeing including “PACHPAN(55) WINDOW PALACE.  This place also houses a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna which is opened for public only once in a year on janmashtami.  All the monuments are in red colour. 

We Resumed our journey to Pokhara in the evening after leisure purchases .  The route  to Pokhara from Katmandu is tough and the driver has to be careful as the locals in the dark are very tough to convince. En route , there is a famous temple known as “MANOKAAMNA MANDIR” – a temple dedicated to an amsam of Parvati. This temple is situated on top of a hill and has to be approached by ropeway. Similar temple is found in Rishikesh too.  As it was getting dark we didn’t alight  here and continued our journey to Pokara.  On reaching Pokhara, we approached Gorkha Airlines office regarding our return journey confirmation but got a negative reply. However, the manager Mr Rane  spoke to his counterpart in Jomsom and issued us REQUEST ticket.  We were delighted to see few south Indians in a nearby hotel . With sigh of relief , we checked into this hotel run by a Punjabi HOTEL DEGCHEE.  The hotel incharge who seemed to have contact with Jomsom hotels, made arrangement for our hotel stay in Jomsom  and trekking permits, horse ride for children.   We learnt from him that there are different modes of transport to reach Muktinath from Jomsom.

  • By walk
  • By pony ride
  • By motor cycle (charge 2200 NR with 2 hours stay in Muktinath)
  • By tractor (depends upon the no. of passengers)

 

 The package for Rs.5,500/- INR which included hotel stay at Jomsom and Muktinath, 2 ponies, overnight stay allowance to pony rider and trekking permits  was considered good enough as we did not have any alternative though  we later learnt  it was exhorbitant.  The climate in Pokhara valley is unpredictable.  To add to our tension, there was a heavy downpour in the evening and we had our apprehensions regarding next day’s flight to Jomsom.  However, the hotel owner assured us that this was very common and it would return to normalcy by morning.  By this time, we lost all our confidence and  sincerely chanted Sri Vishnu sahsranamam. We shed our pride , surrendered  and prayed Perumal with devotion and sincerity  for our safe  journey and a darshan.  We knew that it was “NOW or NEVER” for us.  We had to go to Muktinath at any cost on 7th and reach Gorakpur by 10th night because there is only one train to Secunderabad from Gorakpur and we had to leave for Tirupati on 15th.  All the tickets were confirmed and we were in total confusion.  We realized that whatever information which we gathered and were confident about was NOTHING and only HIS GRACE could make us visit MUKTINATH. Our sole intention was to go to Muktinath and all other sight seeing were only to kill the time usefully.

 

  I look at the calendar .07/10/2006,  POurnami , the auspicious month of Purattasi.  After finishing our morning prayers, we left for airport which is a 10 minute drive from the hotel.  Our flight was scheduled to depart at 8.30 A.M. (fifth flight). As mentioned earlier, Gorkha Airlines and Royal Nepal Air lines  operates service for POKHARA-JOMSOM-POKHARA sector presently . For the record, Royal Nepal Airlines,  have only 1 or 2 flights operating ( Depending on their moods) is known to be the most unreliable airline in Nepal. There are many other airlines flying to Pokhara and Jomsom, such as Nikon Air, Buddha Air and Cosmic Air, and they  are presently not operating for losses incurred. These others are private airlines, while the government runs Royal Nepal Airlines. The private airlines are more reliable in Nepal.  Out of their 2 flights, only one was operational and this has to make atleast 5 trips every day to clear the traffic.  As mentioned earlier, the services resumed only 2 days earlier after a gap of 10 days.   To our dismay, we learnt that though it was nearly 9 A.M., the first trip itself did not take off due to fog.  Boarding pass were not issued to us because our names were in the 5th trip.  The officials were doubtful because after 11 AM , flights cannot reach Jomsom due to heavy winds and if the wind doesn’t subside the flight will be cancelled . Our hearts beat fast chanting Dwayam. There’s a light breeze, which is chilly. The sky is blue and the tops of the mountains  are slowly becoming clear. We started reciting Vishnu Sahasranaamam in the airport  and prayed ardently to  Periya Thiruvadi and Siriya Thiruvadi for His intervention in reaching Lords abode . The children were excited when  The sky became clear and the flights resumed. Chanting Vishnu Sahasranaamam was mandatory for all of us  .  Our turn to board the flight came at 11 A.M. Thanking the Lord, with tears rolling , we boarded the 20 seater propeller flight with window seats for everyone at 11 A.M . We’re on the plane. It’s moving. 18 passengers plus the flight attendant squeezed into these little seats. No overhead baggage compartment. The flight attendant passed out some sweets and cotton for people to plug their ears. The captain is still checking out the RPMs. We are about to take off and we chant loudly GOVINDA …….We’re in the air now. It’s a smooth flight. On the right of the aircraft I can see the white Himalayas, which stand like a great wall between Nepal and China. On the left are high mountains, but no snow. Below us are a valley and a river. The weather is good. It is clear. I can even feel some heat on my feet. The plane flies between the Himalayas, not over them! The flight takes only 20 minutes but seems a lot longer. We are in this  little Dornier aircraft, skims craggy ridge tops and is often buffeted by mountain winds. Chanting Lords name continuously I slowly dare to see the propellers from the window panes ..When an airplane flies to Jomsom they are very close to the mountains on either side of the valley. Strong winds come off the mountains at times, making it difficult or impossible to fly. A few years ago a flight crashed into the side of one of the mountains and it took them several days to find it. There were no survivors. The recent news of a helicopter crashing added to further fear though my wife and kids were relaxed and surrendered to Lords wish. Just 20 mins from Pokhara flying up the highest-deepest valley in the world, sometimes battling winds of 120 Mph (200 km+) as the clouds lift causing a kind of vacuum effect propelling winds.  The flight is moving amidst big mountains, taking sharp turns and is sure to instill fear in everyone but the Lord’s names on our lips drove out the fear in us.  We  are now flying  between Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, two immense glacier covered peaks towering well above the airplane as we flew up the Gandaki river valley. We were longing for our lifetime mission to be completed and were enthusiastic and prepared to face the worst situation, if any. We landed in Jomsom airport at 1120 hours . We look around the small airport  surrounded by mountains . Quickly coming out we see plenty of foreigners accompanying us . Jomsom is so modern that there’s even an Internet Cafe here.  This is apple country. Apples like cold weather, The apples are kind of shriveled up a little, but not too bad. We took 3 kgs of apples Thanking Lord very much we briskly moved  and  located the hotel .  As assured the incharge , had made all arrangements for our trip to Muktinath.  Annapurna trekking permit is a must and we had taken our pass port photographs with NR as fees for the same . 2 ponies with a guide were provided.  Baggages were tied to children’s ponies and myself accompanied by my wife started the holy trek to Muktinath at 12 noon While my wife and children were chanting I quickly  procured the Conversation Permit to go trekking in the area surrounding Annapurna Mountain  and understood the ponies were booked no doubt but are awaiting at the banks of gandaki river which is 20 mins trek . After clearing the town of Jomsom which is modern , we headed out over the stony riverbed. . I was enthusiastic in revealing the legendary stories about this punya stala to my kids who are distinguished  as they also joined in the 106 Divya desam yathirai effortlessly.

Gandakyamcha uttare teere
Girirajasya dakshine
Dasayojana vistheernaam
Mahakshetra Vasundharaa

Salagramo Mahadevo
devi Dwaravati bhaved
Ubhayossangamo yatra
Muktisttattra na samsaya.”

“To the north of the river, Gandaki (also called Narayani), and south of the Himalayas, there is the holy region of Salagrama, which is ten yojanas extent, where Dwaravati merges into Salagrama. Undoubtedly such a place is capable of vouchsafing Moksha.”

Actually, about 140 miles from Khatmandu is situated Muktimati or Muktikshetra, also called “Salagrama-kshetra

Legend has it that once Bramha was exasperated at the rate of increase of the sinners among his creation. Then drops of sweat rolled down his cheeks (Ganda), ultimately collecting themselves into the form of a female child called “Gandaki.” She took it into her head to do a severe penance which became so overwhelming that the Devas started trembling before her. As usual they offered her the bait of a boon on return for her stopping her penance, but they met a Tartar in her, for she wanted to mother all the Devas. Not having the power to grant such a boon, the Devas pleaded their inability, at which Gandaki became furious and cursed all the devas to be born as worms on the earth below. The Devas in their turn placed a countercurse on her head that she should become “Jada” or inert matter.
Naturally Bramha was concerned with this unexpected development. Unable to find a way out, he consulted Indra and Rudra. With them also he drew a blank. Finally, all the three turned to Vishnu, who said: “Inasmuch as the curses have been already pronounced, they cannot be revoked, and both parties affected must suffer them. The problem is how to make them work to their mutual and ultimately universal benefit.”
After consideration, Vishnu said: ” I shall take up my abode in the Chakra Teertha near Salagramakshetra. You, Devas, shall migrate to this hallowed region as “Vajrakitas” eating into the pebbles. Gandaki shall in the form of a river fill the universe enveloping the shilas hallowed by me.” Salagrama stones are obtained only from the river Gandaki, which is a Himalayan stream, celebrated since antiquity as Narayani, Saligrami, Hiranvati and Hiranyavati. The epic Mahabharata speaks of its sanctity (Bhishma-parva) . The puranas also describe it as a sacred stream in which all the gods and titans abide . By merely looking at it, one would eliminate all his mental defilement’s, by touching it his bodily sins are burnt up, and by sipping its water the verbal demerits are thrown out: One who comes into contact with this sacred stream will be liberated from the cycle of birth and deaths, even if he be a sinner. And for the reason, the river Gandaki became among all the rivers extraordinarily sacred Being a mystic river, looking at it, touching it, bathing in it and sipping its waters will be conductive to eliminate all sins, even the greatest of sins pertaining to the body, speech and mind.

 

   I told them there  are many aspects of this pilgrimage right from   going to the Holy Tirtha of Shalagram high in the Himalayas; the challenge of one’s faith, to be there and to find one’s worshippful Lord; the material elements, and other various hardships – walking many miles/kilometres, high altitude, no food, the weather, the constant wind, wild animals, dacoits and theives, mundane trekkers, so many things.   We are now trekking near the banks of Gandaki river. Which  rises beyond the Himalayan ranges, probably in Tibet, and flows (in the north-south direction) into Nepal, There is a lake at the source of the Kali-Gandaki , called Damodar-kunda on the Nepal . The lower Gandaki is well known as Mukti-natha-kshetra, also called Saligrama-kshetra. The sacred stones are largely found on the banks of Kali-gandaki near Tukche, between the two mountains Dhavala-giri and Annapurana. Damodara-Kunda is  considered as  Saivite place of pilgrimage by Nepalis. This is the punya kshetram where saligrama-stones are found within the Nepal territory. As advised by my father the children learnt the sloka  by heart  supposed to be chanted while we trek the route .The sloka  goes like this with meaning explained below

dheya sada savitra mandala madhya-varti—  naryanah sarasijasana sannivistah
    keyuravan makara kundalavan kiriti   –hari hiranmaya vapuh dhrita sankha cakrah

     Narayana is the Supreme Personality of Godhead to be meditated upon in the center of the sun globe. He is situated on a lotus flower and seated in the lotus posture. He is adorned with beautiful golden bracelets, amulets, earrings, necklace and a crown. He has the golden effulgence and is seen holding the pure white conch and Sudarshana cakra in His lotus hands. Oh wielder of the conch, disc, club, and other natural weapons, You are the Lord and resident of the spiritual realm. Oh indestructible one, protector of the worlds, oh lotus eyed Lord, please save all of us who have taken shelter of you and appear before us .

We found there was a path that skirted the riverbed, but we preferred to walk along the riverbed. The children were delighted to see the horseman and the horses at the river bank. As we walked along we started to notice the wind was picking up and the clouds were closing in from the mountains on either side of us. My children happily rode the horses chanting the Dhyana sloka as I advised them to sincerely pray and look in the river for holy salagrama silas .En route after offering oblations and sincere procrastinations to gandaki river I requested the horse man to help the children in looking for the salagrama  which he readily obliged.

The river Gandaki is a very ancient river; and the geologists say that it existed even before the formation of the Himalayan ranges. It rises beyond the Himalayan ranges, probably in Tibet, and flows (in the north-south direction) into Nepal. And for the reason, the river Gandaki became among all the rivers extraordinarily sacred Being a mystic river, looking at it, touching it, bathing in it and sipping its waters will be conductive to eliminate all sins, even the greatest of sins pertaining to the body, speech and mind. My soul danced with joy looking at the nature and being in Gods own world.

We are now in the Lower Mustang belt as per the Map . Mustang is an Anglicization of the Tibetan Lo Manthang, which is an autonomous region in north-central Nepal that borders on Tibet. The destination of our trek today was to reach Mukthinath by evening  . En route there is the village of Kagbeni (“Crow Confluence” in Nepali). The rocky highland stretching from Jomsom to Kagbeni–through which the Gandaki flows–is called Lower Mustang. Upper Mustang is where Damodar Kund is located, a lake that is the root source of all salagram silas. We had to drop the idea  of going into Upper Mustang as expensive permits are required from the Nepali authorities . Formerly the Gandaki River Valley was the most important trade route between India and Tibet. It was controlled by the Buddhist kingdom of Lo Manthang, which was of Tibetan culture. But more than 200 years ago the Buddhist Raja of Lo Manthang allied with the Hindu Raja of Kathmandu in a war against Tibet. This is why the present region of Mustang (Lo Manthang), which is populated mostly by Buddhist people with Mongolian features, is part of Nepal and not Tibet (now fully controlled by Communist China). Now the trekking trail takes us away from the bank of the Gandaki for a while. I along with my wife started chanting  Shri Vishnu sahasranaamam , while my eyes were immersed in the beauty of Lords own little world far away from material and karmic vasanas. .   Few foreigners along with their guide walk briskly before us cheering NAMASTE … I feel their enthusiasm in trekking the mountains and truly with the protective wind shields, woolen socks, rock boots and body packs they were perfect mountaineers,  I avoided the trekking kit to tax my body in reaching Lords abode with a sincere vow as I did for Ahobilam and Tirumala.

 Muktinath is situated at a height of 3,800 metres whereas jomsom is at 2713 metres.  The distance to Muktinath from Jomsom by walk is 21 kms (via Kagbeni) whereas now there is another short-cut which involves  climbing of a steep mountain but would save about 3-4 kms.   To reach Muktinath, we need to cross 3 settlements- Eklabhatti, Khinga, Jharkot (Earlier, piligrims used to go toMuktinath via Eklabhatti, Kagbeni, Jharkot).  One can find maps displayed on boards with the name of settlement, no. of hotels,lodges , distance to the next settlement and approximate time-only in these places, one can get drinks/ food etc) I could see my children moving away from us  quickly . I wonder whether we can make it today . Enroute we see the skull of a yak. This classic symbol of desolation accentuates the atmosphere of loneliness that hangs over the Gandaki River Valley. Between Jomsom and Kagbeni one sees evidence of human habitation only rarely. We could see an   isolated stone hut of a herdsman. Nobody was home when we passed it . A  metal suspension bridge  en route spans the Gandaki River Valley. What adds a cultural mystique to the mountain paths and the flat areas of the Kali Gandaki are the teams of yaks and mules that would traverse the steep slopes carrying supplies back and forth from each area. The owner would be behind a team of 6 or more animals that methodically climb and descend (they could probably have done it blindfolded), stepping out of the way of persons who would approach from the opposite way. Each would wear an enchanting bell (like one of those wind chimes) which would create a sattvic atmosphere, especially needed when you round a sharp corner on a narrow path and if without the bell… without a warning…well you tell me…you are quietly rounding a blind corner bend over a 500 meter canyon and suddenly you come nose to nose with a large personality with long horns…how would you react? So the bells do provide tranquility and safe travels. On the pan of the Gandaki you will note on the bottom right-hand side of the picture a tiny line of such a team sauntering along. This gives you an appreciation for the vastness of the area. Incredibly strong winds often blow through the valley, and if you are crossing this bridge when such a wind comes up, you truly fear you’ll be blown off into the valley below . My wife pauses for rest on the east end of the bridge. Where I quickly take  few pictures and shoot from my camcorder . As we continued our trek, we moved away from Kali Gandaki river  ,we could view her only from a distance.  Initially, the way was broad enough but it was a stony path.  Though one doesn’t feel thirsty due to the chillness , it is advisable to carry a bottle of  water, some glucose, few apples etc on the way Some  foreign tourists were  cycling on the steep mountains. 

 

We were surrounded by Annapurna mountains on one side and Dhaulagiri mountains on the other sides.  With mountains all around, a pleasant chilly breeze and Kali Gandaki flowing below, the picturesque beauty was feast to the body mind and soul.   Visualizing the Viraata Purusha in our mind’s eye  moving upwards, the path was narrowing and in some places, we came to the edge of the cliff. We had to slowly walk forward by holding hands. This was becoming more adventurous.  Crossing  many mountains on the way and the connecting path is  usually narrow.  It took about 2 hours for us to reach the first settlement EKLABHATTI.  At this point we are thankfully within sight of the town of Kagbeni. The trek through the valley involves is mostly flat and level. But the valley itself is some 2000 meters above sea level! Thus catching your breath is a problem, since there is less oxygen in the air than normal. As we descend from the bridge to the valley floor we meet a herd of incredibly nimble mountain goats. At the upper edgey we  can see Ekla Bhatti, the southern “suburb” of Kagbeni. Behind , the holy Gandaki flows on her way from Kagbeni, visible in the distance As the sun shines  over the Himalayan horizon, we see the blackish waters of the Gandaki from a higher altitude. I finally locate the sign board of Eklabatti where my children and the horseman are awaiting. The pony rider told us that from this place, there are 2 routes  – one towards Kagbeni and the other towards Khinga.  Kagbeni is a small developing village with staying facilities and people with sufficient time stay at kagbeni.    But as we were running short of time, we decided to go via Khinga.  Further  trail to Muktinath carries us out of the Gandaki River Valley into the soaring mountain heights. This is not easy going. The air was thin to begin with, but now as we trudge ever-higher in the hot sun  and the decreasing oxygen becomes more and more of a problem. In less than half and hour, we look down upon Kagbeni as if from an airplane. We met a good number of trekkers along the Jomsom-Kagbeni-Muktinath path. Americans, Australians, Britishers, Europeans, and local Nepalese were moving in scattered numbers. The trail winds along the side of a steep valley formed by a white-water tributary that rushes down to meet the Gandaki at Kagbeni. In the cliffside opposite are many caves. The local Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns sometimes retire to these caves for meditation and austerity

 Chanting loudly Lords names We   climb the steep slippery mountain for about half an hour .  The pony rider advised us  not to look up or look down as it would instill fear in us we trek like sheeps..  There is a very narrow path where one can put only one foot carefully .  Children were frightened to sit on the pony but having come half the way, they had no other choice but to keep their eyes tightly closed and pray to Lord.  We were passing thru a deserted place where there was no vegetation but only few mountain shrubs. WE were literally gasping for breath.  Added to this, wind started blowing and it was becoming even more difficult to trek.  After climbing the steep mountain, we kept on walking on the narrow way for nearly an hour .  Suddenly the weather changed and it started drizzling.  We were unable to put a step further because it was slippery and the rains would make the road worse.  Added to that, there was no one in sight to help us in any adverse condition. Once again, our prayers to Lord did not go in vain. It stopped drizzling and there was only cool soft breeze. Prayed to Lord Hanuman for His intervention and Lo! It stopped drizzling.  Soft cool breeze was blowing .  WE felt as if Vayu Bhagavan was being kind to us as we are on the way to have darshan of Lord Vishnu.  It was 4 PM in the evening.  Rested for a while at one of the way side restaurants and with the ingredients like milk powder, sugar, coffee and Bournvita which we had taken  with us, prepared some hot drink and we are charged up once again.  It may be mentioned that enroute at the settlements, the hotels provide limited variety of fast food like rotis/ noodles and hot water.   The pony rider asked us to walk fast as it was getting dark but as we are not used to walking, we could not do so. 

The trek from Khinga was not very difficult. In and around Khinga, we came across rich vegetation, and the dwellers in these places, polite by nature,  were seen knitting mufflers and other woolen products.  Apples were available in plenty , though a bit costly compared to Jomsom, we could get them for Rs.10/- per kg.  On the way, we had to cross few mountain streams while trekking which was refreshing.  It was becoming dark at 5 itself and by 6 P.M., we could not see anything.  Exhausted, we decided to stay overnight in the nearest settlement.  The inn-keeper charged Rs.300/- INR for 4 beds.  After finishing our dinner, we retired for the night.  It was very very cold. Although short of breath, and having to stop every few hundred feet and rest, and although it took me 6 hours to get up there, I made it. Practically it was a miracle. Although I am sore tonight, I am not at all sorry that I went there and I’d gladly go again in the future

 

Next day, on 8th morning,  we woke up at 430 AM and could see the sun rise at 5.30AM . It was calm and serene throughout. We checked out of  the inn and continued our journey.  It took about an hour for us to approach the village of Jarkot.  Looking  carefully we  can see the dark red Buddhist monastery perched on a hilltop at the edge of this village. It is 500 years old. The Muktinath temple is about an hour’s walk beyond Jarkot. On the top of the mountain is the white lip of a glacier that feeds the Gandaki with its icy waters. Having left Jarkot behind, we are approaching the Dreamland Hotel, which is the first building visible as one enters the village clustered at the foot of the hill of Muktinath. The trek is really tough as the altitude is beginning to increase steadily. This is the last settlement enroute to Muktinath.  The temperature was almost 3 degree and due to the numbness in our feet and hands, we could not walk further.  (Usually, trekking shoes are worn by piligrims  which was overseen by us as a part of our vow ).  Jharkot has many lodges with staying facilities etc and usually pilgrims/trekkers who visit Muktinath stay in Jharkot.  Though a room was booked in Hotel Muktinath at Jharkot, we could not make it the previous day as we could not proceed further. We could have a clear glimpse of Muktinath from Jharkot itself.  After walking few yards, we started climbing few stone steps (may be 700 or so)  laid in an improper way with  no  proper finishing etc.  The pony drive, motor drive is only upto Jharkot. From Jharkot  , everyone invariably has to climb these steps. It took about half an hour or so for us to reach the temple. Total trekking time taken by us is  9 hours. Usually, people who are used to regular walks, jogging, trekking etc can  finish within 6 hours. The dark red structure behind is the entrance gate. As one ascends you reach plateau after plateau where you think that you have reached the summit, but it just keeps on going. Because of the altitude and our physical state you are forced to rest on the way up (sometimes after every 100 steps) The large stone stairs at the closing intervals (almost like a malicious test) takes you to the final test of patience in seeing GOD . Well! Soul stirring experiences at the cost of trimming the body ..

 

 Finally you do reach the town of Muktinath and above the town (another 45 minutes) is the  temple built in a glacier (from where the mountain pan is taken).. En route  we happened to see helipads.  Helicopters from Pokhara/Jomsom upto Muktinath  and back fly daily. During  peak season, the copter flies many times . Also, we were told that the weather conditions do not affect the copters much.  We happened to meet few Tamilians from South India who had come in package tours organized by travel agents in Chennai . It takes about 40 minutes to reach Muktinath from Pokara and  half an hour’s stay at Muktinath.   The package would cost 21000 INR . They however miss the thrill of trekking the holiest mountains.   This is safe for physically unfit and aged people.  We are entering the entrance of the temple now. A  few  Buddhist prayer wheels at the entrance to the Muktinath complex is visible  These revolvable cylinders are a common sight in Nepal. They are inscribed with the Tibetan Buddhist mahamantra Om Mani Padme Hum–”Aum! The jewel in the lotus! Hail!” The jewel is the pure spirit soul and the lotus is the purified body of the true follower of Buddha’s way. Tibetan Buddhist turn these prayer wheels to earn merit. Simply pushing on them to get them revolving is supposed to be as good as chanting the mantra as many times as the wheel then revolves.

 

 Having passed through the entrance gate, we proceed to the complex’s first shrine. Muktinath is sacred to both Vaisnavas and Buddhists.  My dream comes true. I along with my family members are very much in the 106th  Divyadesam  This is the Muktinath Temple proper. Lord Muktinath is, for Vaisnavas, Sri Padmapani (the form of Lord Visnu from whose lotus feet sacred waters flow). Tibetan Buddhists worship Him as Adi-Buddha. Lord Muktinath’s form is manifest in brass. In bodily shape and posture He resembles the Yoga Narayana Deity Atop the hill behind the Muktinath Temple is a Buddhist shrine.  Its  9 A.M. A huge bell is hung in front of the gate. There are 108 shower spouts coming from the glacier on the back wall of the shrine with the best water that makes the journey a complete success.  Since the water is ice cold and due to limited time allowed for darshan, most of them sprinkled water from the 108 gomukhis behind the temple  . Thanking Lord profusely tears rolling I brave to take  a bath  under the gomukhs. My children run under the gomukhs  reciting Dwayam. Atop the hill behind the Muktinath Temple is a Buddhist shrine. Incredibly, some Buddhist nuns who serve at Muktinath daily climb this hill to also perform worship up there Jutting from the stone wall that encloses Muktinath Temple on three sides are 108 gomukhs or cows’ mouths. From each mouth icy glacial water flows. The water is considered as pure as the Ganges, which flows from Gomukh in the Indian Himalayas. ! The tremendous Nilgiri peak overlooking Jomsom.  The Water from Gandaki is routed through these man-made gomukhis which are closely built ,the distance between the gomukhis may be hardly a foot .   WE felt as if a hammer had struck our heads after passing thru these gomukhis. Added to this, we were asked to have a dip in 2 small tanks situated in front of the temple.  The temperature for the day was recorded at 3 degrees and the chilly water was almost in a frozen condition .  Unlike in Badri where we are greeted with steaming hot water, here it was icy cold . After changing into dry clothes in separate rooms provided for ladies and gents, we went inside the temple.  The garbagriham was closed and we were asked to wait for few mintues.  Meanwhile, we did pradakshinam around the temple.  The temple is very small.  In front of the garbagriham, towards our right, there is a vigraham of our Acharyar, Sri Ramanujar.  In front of this idol, there is a homa kundam. After taking acharyar’s blessings, we approached the Thiruma mani mantapam to have darshan of Perumal.   The moment we saw the divya mangala swaroopam of the Lord, Sri Srimoorthi, we forgot the cold and the pains.  The enchanting beauty of the Lord cannot be described in words.  The deity at Muktinath is a large brass deity with a very transcendental smile. On His left and right are Bhu and Sri, two energies of the Lord manifested in their female formsThough in the divya desa naamavali, Perumal is known as “SRIDEVI NAYIKA SAMETHA SRI SRIMOORTHI”, we found ubhaya naachiyaars, Sridevi and Bhoodevi Thayar on either sides of Perumal flanking Him. Perumal is seen in sitting posture while Ubhaya Naachiyars are in Nindra Thirukolam. As it is often mentioned  that Adisesha always performs various kainkaryams to Perumal, here Adisesha is seen spreading hoods like an umbrella.  Garudazhwar and other saaligramams are also worshipped. Inside the garbagriham, near the entrance on the right side, there is a small vigraham of Buddha. Muktinath is holy place both for Hindus and Buddhists. Even foreigners enter the temple and have a darshan of the Lord even though they do not know the significance of the place, they offer their respects to the Lord.  It must be only due to their poorva janma sukrutam. I could relate the darshan exactly with THIRUVENGADAMUDAIYANS darshanam.

 

A Buddhist lady accepted our offerings to Perumal- vastrams for Perumal and Thayar, dry fruits, honey, sandal paste, rose water etc. which we had carried with us for offering it to Lord.  This lady gives theertha prasadam and offers neivedyam and is restrained from doing Thirumanjanam to the Lord.  Unfortunately, the male priest was not available in the temple and hence we could not perform Thirumanjanam.  However, the lady offered us to take one saaligramam outside the garbagriham and perform Thirumanjanam but Adiyen felt that I was incompetent, I did not accept the offer.  There was no rush and we were able to have darshan to our heart’s content.  Perumal’s smiling Thirumugam is very enchanting and we could not take our eyes off .  We recited 108 divya desa naamavali in front of Perumal and recited Thirumangai Azhwar’s pasurams on this divya desam.  In ecstasy, I remembered Thirumangai mannan’s pasurams on Naimisaaranyam which is full of repentance and started reciting the same in the temple.  My children braved to sing Annamaya Kirtans amidst the few piligrims.  Adiyen thought of everyone associated with me and prayed the Lord to bestow moksham and best devotional service  on them .  Adiyen prayed to the Lord to give me another chance to visit this shrine with my wife again and give another opportunity to visit all the divya desams .

 

The  Nepali security emphasized  that the temple was 500 years old and it would be closed during severe winter (i.e. from October to February) every year.  Due to time constraint, we left the temple reluctantly after taking few photographs.  I had heard that Westerners aren’t allowed in the temple of Muktinath, but that’s not true. It is said that Badrinath sent Muktinath to this place, high up in the mountains.  I overhear a foreigner saying  that anyone who takes the trouble to visit that place will get liberation. I, however, did not pray for liberation. Rather, I prayed for pure devotional service.

                        A five minute walk down the temple towards left led us to a place where we can see 2 wonders :- First, fire coming from water and fire coming from stone.  This fire is emitted continuously and has to peep into a small opening to see the same. A natural blue fire can be clearly seen from water which is unbelievable.  This is a representation of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu as it was here Brahma and Shiva did penance to obtain Lord Vishnu’s grace.  Lord Vishnu appeared before them and as per their desire, continued to reside in this place.  This is also considered to be a  Buddhist shrine because one Buddhist monk got enlightenment here.  As a proof of this, we could find various stupas of Buddhist monks and their dwarapaalakas.   After thanking Perumal, we left the place at 1100 hours. 

 

On the way back, we happened to visit a  small thirumaligai  run by  a Srivaishnava, a disciple of Chinna Jeerswamy.  He greeted us warmly and offered us some herbal drink which would act as an anecdote against the cold weather.  Infact, despite our bath in icy cold water, none of us fell sick . When I was expressing my desire to collect saaligramams, he immediately gave me 5 saaligramams , out of which 2 were collected from Damodar Kund and one moorthi was receiving his upacharams daily reciting Acharyar dhaniyan and Thirupallandu.  After making few purchases of photos, chains etc we left the place .

 

After few refreshments , we started our return journey to Jomsom.  As we had taken enough photos and videos , we handed over the same to our children. We were told that it would take 4 hours for us to reach Jomsom as it is easier to walk down the mountains.

 

As my wife was suffering from severe pain,  walking was tougher . We were lagging behind.  Added to this, we missed our route.  Though we were doubtful about the route, we could not get clarification as there was no one around us.  Guessing our way, we climbed down the hill and reached a cliff which was the dead end.  Below the cliff,  as we saw Gandaki flowing, we guessed that it should be the route and while trying to get down, we nearly had a fall.  Clinging to each other both of us were totally perplexed, frightened and chanted loudly Hanuman Chalisa.  Luckily we spotted few farmers who were working in a far away field and waived a cloth towards them .  Immediately a young lad of about 15 years came to our rescue.  After saving us from this fall, he accompanied us for half an hour or so and led us to the correct path.  He told that we had come near Kagbeni village and that particular place was the route to Domodar kund where the origin of saaligramam begins  and that Eklabhatti was far off.  Added to this, due to heavy winds, we were finding it very difficult to put even a step further..  By straying on the wrong path, we had to walk for another 2 hours.  Finally, we reached Eklabhatti at 1700 hours.  Meanwhile, children were worried and were enquiring about our whereabouts.  As we had gone on the wrong side, they only got negative reply which added to their worry.  Meanwhile, they went to the banks of Kali Gandaki river and while reciting the sloka told by my father , they were able to collect some saaligramams right from the  holy river.  Out of these, one murthi was that of Sri Rama, one Sri Srinivasar, Varahar,Matsya murthi and few Hiranya garbhams.  They also collected 2 big saaligramams which we wanted to gift to our Kushaiguda temple.  But maybe it was  Perumal’s will  to stay back in Jomsom itself as  the airport authorities did not allow us to take the bigger ones. It was already dark when we reached Eklabhatti and as we had another 1 hour trekking, the pony rider advised my wife to ride on pony.  My younger daughter trekked with me for more than  one and half hour amidst chanting  bhajans and hare Krishna maha mantra  We reached Jomsom at 19 hours.  We were pleased to hear about our ticket confirmation from the hotel owner.  Our flight was scheduled to leave Jomsom at 9 A.M. the following morning.Thanked God for all His grace and retired for the night.  We called home from the satellite telephone and informed Lords grace in giving us a darshan .Afterall any SriVaishnavaite desires he vist all the Divya desams and take to spirituality .Our Elders were very pleased for our children .It was a pleasant experience.Next day, i.e. on 9th October,2006, when we were about to check out, the hotel manager approached us and informed that the flight to Pokhara was cancelled due to technical failure of the aircraft.  On hearing this, we were totally shattered .  He advised us to either take a helicopter (a private one) which he was arranging for others by paying for the tickets in  dollars (INR 30,000)  or either go by jeep upto 20 kms, walk for about 15 hours to reach Thathopani, take a bus to Pokhra which would take about 20 hours.  As the second option was impossible, we decided to opt for the first one and gave our consent.  Arrangements were made to get a helicopter from Katmandu .  Though the scheduled departure was at 12 noon as promised by the hotel manager, the helicopter arrived at Jomsom at 1600 hours only.  All of us boarded it and reached Pokhara at 1700 hours. The 20 minute journey by helicopter was  very inconvenient and fearful. Worst with noise and full of congestion.  Adiyen was continuously chanting Maha mantra and the moment we left the copter, 2 devotees who hail from England  approached me and offered Prasad saying that they had done Pournami pooja at Muktinath, a day before we reached the holy shrine. I was happy to learn that they have migrated to Kashi and having undertaken penance, they are simultaneously doing research on Vedas.

 

 It is only due to the abundant grace of Perumal on this sinner that Adiyen could visit all the divya desams with my wife and children. I attribute this to my previous janma wherein I would have been associated with Srivaishnavas by touching the dust of their feet or I must have done some petty kainkaryam which yielded this fruit of visiting the divya desams in this janma.  May the divine forms of Perumal of all divya desams remain fresh in our memories and may our lips continuously chant the holy myriad names of the Lord.  May our visit to the divya desams remain fresh in our minds so that when we leave this human body, we would be qualified to get moksha. The cab driver whom we got used to address as “kaka” was waiting for us at the airport.  We rushed to the hotel where we had left our baggages and without losing any time, we left the place to go to Janakpur.  We thanked  the Hotel manager and his brother-in-law for all his intervention and help.  But for him, it would have been impossible for us to go to Muktinath.  We decided that we offer our prayers to Sita Piratti .Taking clue from the fellow Nepalis we dashed into the cab with the available 24 hrs left . We traveled whole night and at 01.00 hrs we alighted at a thickly populated area and rested. At 5AM we resumed our journey to Janakpur which is located near Bihar border in Nepal is one of the most attractive tourist spots.  This is the place where Goddess Sita was born and the place where the famous “SITA RAAMA KALYANAM “ took place.  So, we didn’t want to miss this.  It takes about 8 hours to reach from Pokhara  and we had to cross Chitwan jungle.  We reached Janakpur at 0800 hours on 10th October,2006.  The driver informed us that it would take another 10 hours for us to reach Gorakhpur provided there was no traffic jam.  We had to hasten ourselves as we had to be in Gorakpur at any cost that night. We quickly went inside the palace –converted into temple.  Prayers on Goddess sita was written in Hindi on display boards.  Morning abhishekam was just over and we had to wait for few minutes to have darshan of Thayar.  In the  sanctum sanctorum, Lord Rama, Sita Devi and King Janaka are seen.  During aarthi, prayers on  Sita Devi were sung.  Apart from this, the palace houses other shrines too.  In one of the shrines, we could find full family of Janaka – Lord Rama –Sita, Lakshmana-Urmila, Bharata, Shatruguna –Srutikeerthi, King Janaka, his brother, his queen .  Apart from this, this shrine houses 3,000 saaligramams which were covered by a red cloth.  Impressed by the songs sung by my daughters on Lord Rama, the priest started enquiring about our trip.  He was very happy to learn that we  had been to Muktinath,and immediately to our astonishment, removed the red cloth and showed us the saaligramams.  He advised us to make an offering for annadhaanam for a day by paying 251/- and gave us some rice as prasaad which he said would bestow progeny on the couple who prepared rice with it.  Else , we could simply place it in the pooja altar .  After our photo session with him, we went round the temple where we saw continuous chanting of Raama naamam 24 hours a day by some devotees.  We proceeded to Sita Rama Kalyana Mantapam which is situated just outside the palace on the left side. Rs.5/- is charged as  entrance fee . A big mantapam in the centre with life –size images . Lord Rama, and  Sita in Kalyana Thirukolam in sitting posture,Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatruguna also in Kalyana Thirukolam, King Janaka and his brother in standing posture, Dasaratha,his queens, Sage  Vasishta and other rishi in sitting postures, Brahma, Shiva and other devas blessing. The sight was a real feast to the eyes.  Around the mantapam, on 4 sides, there are 4 sannidhis for all the 4 brothers with their wives.  We were regretting for not having the camcorder with us. 

 

We left Janakpur at 0930 hours and having visited all the places as per our schedule, we continued to reach our final destination, Gorakhpur.   We crossed Nepal border at 1500 hours (that was the last day of our permit) in bihar.  The highway roads in Bihar is the most horrible one with full of bumps and it took more than an hour to cross the border on the Indian side. There is absolutely no cleanliness, no hygiene, no traffic rule, no proper roads.  Uttar Pradesh which we entered around 6 P.M. was more horrible with traffic jams.  We were stuck in traffic jam for more than 5 hours. No police to regularize the traffic.  We learnt that it was very common and most of the truck drivers had left their trucks on the road itself and were loitering.  Once again , our sincere prayers to Lord Hanuman was answered.  After hours of pleading the truck drivers, we somehow got way to move . But the way was not sufficient for a car to pass through. the the driver literally tilted the car because of muddy road on his left and drove only on 2 wheels carefully .  With great difficulty, the impossible task was made possible by the grace of Lord.  We reached Gorakhpur at 2300 hours in the night.  We checked into one of the hotels near the station, and retired for the night.  Thanked God profusely for the successful,impossible adventurous trip to Nepal.

 

We boarded Secunderabad-Gorakhpur Express at 0600 hours on the following morning, i.e. 11th Oct,2006 and reached Secunderabad at 1830 hours the following day.  Thus ended our trip to Saaligramam. 

 

After a short break of 2 days, we went to Tirumala with our parents and thanked God for His abundant Grace on this sinner . As part of our VIMSATI DARSHANAM scheme, we participated in Suprabhata seva, Unjal seva, Archana Anantara seva for 2 days and also performed Thirukalyana utsavam to Malayappa swamy ( our parents performed the same).

 

WE also visited Thiruvellikeni and thanked Sri Parthasarathy Perumal for successful completion of divya desa yaatrai as way back in 1998, we had prayed to this Perumal for visiting the divya desams.  Unfortunately, our desire to perform Thirumanjanam to utsavar could not be fulfilled as the temple authorities do not permit outsiders for performing Thirumanjanam.  However, one could offer milk during Brahmotsavam for Lord’s Thirumanjanam.  This we intend to do during April’2007 Brahmotsavam.

 

During this trip, Adiyen’s faith was put to test  several times and Adiyen passed this only due to the grace of Lord and His devotees.

 

Adiyen may be contacted for any guidance while planning for this yathirai. I can be contacted on 9849635903 any time or on

 

 my e mail  varadhan_k@hotmail.com

 

JAI SRIMAN NARAYANA

 

Dasan

 

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SRI RAMA JAYA RAMA JAYA JAYA RAMA


valmiki writing RAmayanasapta rishis at Valmiki rishibrahma sannidhi at bittoorkrounja birds on the banks of river tamasaSRI RAMA ANU YATRA- A PILGRIMS’ DIARY

SRI YATHIRAJA VALLI NAYIKA SAMETHA SRI ADIKESAVAYA NAMAH
SRI SEETHA RAMAR THIRUVADIGALEY SARANAM
SRIMAN NARAYANAYA CHARANAU SARANAM PRAPATHEY!!
SRIMATHEY NARAYANAYA NAMAH!!
SRI RAMBHAKTH ANJANEYAR DIVYA THIRUVADIGALEY SARANAM
SRIMATHEY RAMANUJAYA NAMAH!!
SRI MUDALIAANDAN SWAMI DIVYA THIRUVADIGALEY SARANAM
ACHARYAR DIVYA THIRUVADIGALEY SHARANAM

Prostrating at the holy feet of acharyars, azhwars and Divya Dampadhigal, Adiyen makes an attempt in penning down my recent “SRI RAMA ANU YAATIRAI” experiences to share the same with the SriRama devotees and bhagavatas and earnestly requesting to forgive my shortcomings and enlighten me with more facts and information.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT:-

I offer my sincere obeisance’s and prostrate at the feet of Sri Velukudi Swamin who had inspired in taking this pilgrimage to the holy places where Lord spent HIS pastimes . It is well known that Swami had conducted the first Sri Rama Anu Yaatirai in mid-September 2006, mostly traveling by bus, in which around 350 bhagavatas had participated and their travelogues and experiences boosted my spirits. Adiyen did not have the bhaagyam to participate in Swami’s yaatirai as I visited Salagramam(Muktinath) during that time. (I wish and pray that I get an opportunity to participate in Swami’s yaatirai along with my family in the near future because getting associated with such an exalted bhagavata like Sri Velukudi Swami is considered as the greatest punyam by me.

With my Acharyans kripa, Adiyen made attempts in gathering information about the holy places scattered all around Northern India . the Internet was of a very good use in the form of Antaryami .Browsing with minute search words of the places related to Srimad Ramyana many great devotees of Lord Rama have already made their contributions in making fallen soul like me to get information . Though Adiyen could get a fair idea about the location of these holy places by going thru their travelogues , but was apprehensive whether I would be able to visit the places . As the bhagavatas had gone in a conducted tour, their knowledge about how to reach the place was limited and was not sure whether local people would be able to identify these places .

Adiyen surrendered to the feet of Sri Rama Bhaktha Hanuman and booked tickets 3 months in advance but was apprehensive about the holy places and the present names. On SriRama Navami Adiyen brought silver idol of SriSeeta Rama Lakshamana and hanuman vigraha after purificatory rites at temple and started worshipping Lord daily chanting Taraka mantra daily after performing Thirumanjanam to the deities along with NityaThiruvaraadhanai . The prayers were simple .LORD we wish to have darsanam at all the holy places with satsang association and leave the phalam ti you .

Lord had HIS own plans. During a darsanam at SriHanuman temple in Skandagiri , Adiyen happened to meet a devotee in Hyderabad , Sri Raghunathan Swamy, who participated in the Sri Rama Anu yaatirai conducted by Sri Velukudi Krishnan swami . He shared his experiences and showed the photographs he had taken. These photographs helped us in identifying some temples. I profusely thank him and other devotees who made this possible and shall remain deeply indebted to them forever

OUR LORD SRI RAMA
(in a nutshell)
Avathara Details:
• Moola Roopa: Sri ManNarayana (Sri Maha Vishnu)
• Avathara: Sri Ramaavathara (Paripoorna Manushya Avathara)
• Number in Dasavathara: 7th among Dasavatharas of Lord Vishnu
• Purpose of Avathara: Dharma Samsthapana, Dusta Sikshana, Sista Rakshana
• Yuga period: 24th Thretha Yuga in Vaivasvatha Manvanthara (approx, 20 millions years back)
• Contemporary Avathara: Lord Parashurama
• Longevity of Sri Ramaavathara: 11000 years(approx)
Birth Details:
• Date of Birth (Lunar calendar): Chaitra Masa, Sukla Paksha, Navami thithi
• Birth Star: Punarvasu (4th charanam), Karkataka Raasi
• Place of birth: Ayodhya (on the banks of Sarayu River)
Lineage in Ramaavathara:
• Varna: Kshatriya
• Dynasty: Surya Vamsam – Ikshvaku Dynasty
• Moola Purusha: Manuvu
• Key persons in the Lineage: King Harischandra, Sagara Chakravarthi, Bhagiratha (responsible for the descent of River Ganges)
• Grand Parents (Paternal):
• Great Grand Father: Raghu (Raghu Vamsa)
• Grand father: King Ajha
• Parents: King Dasaratha & Kausalya Devi
• Step Mothers: Kaikeyi and Sumithra
• Name of the Yagna performed
by King Dasaratha for progeny: Sri Puthra Kaameshti Yagam
• Brothers: Bharatha (born to Kaikeyi)
Lakshmana & Sathrughna (twins born to Sumithra)
• Avatharas of Brothers: Lakshmana (Aadi Sesha Avathara)
Bharatha (Sudarshana Chakra)
Sathrughna (Panchajanya Shanku)
• Vidya Guru: Sage Vasista and Sage Viswamithra
• Number of wives: Only one (Eka Pathni Vratha)
• Name of his consort: Goddess Sita Devi (foster daughter of Janaka Maharaja) – Avathara of Goddess Sri Maha Lakshmi also known as Janaki, Vaidehi. Found in the earth while ploughing.
• Mode of marriage: Swayamvara, by breaking theShiva Dhanus
• Consorts of his brothers: Lakshmana (Urmila), Bharatha (Mandavi) and Sathrughna (Sruthakeerthi)
• Progeny of Sri Rama: Two sons (born in Sri Valmiki Ashram)
• Names of sons: Lava and Kusha (Twins)
• Capital of his Kingdom: Ayodhya (currently in Uttar Pradesh)
• Name of the Kingdom: Koshala Desam
• Key weapon (Aayudha): Bow and Arrow(Dhanurbhana)
• Sri Rama’s exile: 14 years spent in exile to fulfill his father’s boon given to his step Mother. During which period moved in Dandakaranya, Kishkindha etc… met Lord Hanuman, went to Lanka crossing the Ocean to kill Ravanasura and to bring back Goddess Sita Devi.
• Person responsible for his exile: Kaikeyi (Step Mother) provoked by the preachings of her maid servant Manthara
• Enemies (important): Ravanasura, Kumbhakarna
• Sri Rama met Hanuman: For the first time on Rishyamooka Hills in Kishkindha (currently said to be Pampa Kshetra near Hampi)
• Name of the bridge constructed by Sri Rama to cross the ocean: Rama Sethu (constructed with the help of of Vanaras led by Nala) near Rameswaram
• Close friends of Sri Rama: Sugreeva, Vibheeshana, & Lord Hanuman
• Other key names associated with: Vedavathi, Vibheeshana, Jambavantha, Vali, Angada, Jatayu, (Sages): Gautama, Bharadwaja, Agasthya and Valmiki to name a few
• Prominent devotees of Sri Rama: Lord Shiva, Lord Hanuman,
Bhadra, Sabari, Saint Tulsidas, Bhakta Sri Ramadas to name a few
• Ending of Avathara: After a long rule of 11000 (approx) years, Lord Sri Rama ended his Avatara in Ayodhya and returned to his abode Vaikunta on a request by Brahmaadi Devathas
• Pouranic references to Sri Rama:

Lord Sri Rama’s story we find in an Epic called Ramayana (Rama + Ayana). Aayana means journey. Ramayana means the journey of Lord Sri Rama. Originally the story of Sri Rama is said to have been a composition of 100 crores of slokas.Charitam Raghunathasysa Sathakoti Pravistharam(Sri Rama Raksha Sthothram by Sage Budha Kousika). We also find reference to the story of Lord Sri Rama in Vishnu Purana and Sri MadBhagavatham. Popularly we find Sri Rama’s story from the works of Sage Valmiki which was a Sanskrit version comprising of Six Kaandas.
• Primary source: Sri Valmiki Ramayana (24000 slokas)
• Other Literary sources: Ananda Ramayana, Aadhyatma Ramayana,
Sri Tulsi Ramayana also known as Sri Rama Charita Manas (Hindi), Kamba Ramayana (Tamil), Sri Ramayana Darshanam (Kannada) Molla Ramayana and Sri Ramayana Kalpa Vruksham (Telugu)
• Sri Rama known by other names: Sri Ramachandra, Kausalya Nandana, Daasarathi, Maryada Purushottama, Raghu Rama, Raghava, Kodanda Rama to name a few
• Festivals related to Sri Rama: Sri Rama Navarathri starting from Ugadi and ending with Sri Rama Navami (Nine day festival)
• Famous Temples & places associated with Sri Rama: Ayodhya, Nasik, Bhadrachalam, Rameswaram, Sri Rangam, Hampi, Kasi, Gaya, Prayaga, Srisailam, Naimisharanya, Tirupathi, Lanka
• Popular Prayers of Sri Rama:
• Sri Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama
• Sri Rama Raksha Sthothram
Rama Nama = Taraka Manthram

Due to the abundant mercy of Sriyapathi ,Adiyen desire to visit the places connected with Srirama during HIS avatar in this punya bhoomi , SRI RAMA ANU YAATIRAI was fulfilled this year 2010 . Adiyen undertook this yaatirai of having “ Sri Rama anubhavam” and sharing the bliss with many advanced devotees. In this yatra, adiyen had the bhagyam to be associated with many saints and devotees who shared their spiritual knowledge thus enhancing my desire to submit to LORD for whatever is there and will be there . Sri Rama is “Maryadha Purushothaman” full of virtuous qualities. Adiyen made an attempt in visiting the various places sanctified by Sri Rama by association of which Adiyen attempts to follow Sri Rama atleast to some extent in this materialistic world.

Keeping in view children’s academic coaching and due to time constraint, we decided to split Sri Rama Anu Yaatirai into two phases- first phase covering North and Central India(Bala kandam, Ayodhya kandam, Aranya kandam, Uttara kandam) during summer and second phase covering South India (Kishkinda kandam, part of Yudha kandam) during Dasera holidays.

Adiyen planned our journey by booking circular ticket with maximum 8 break journeys three months in advance. The total distance covered was approximately 5500 kms by train and 2,500 kms by bus . Our long distance journeys were by train. We stayed at the nearest town and hired car for visiting the surrounding holy places.

Our Train Route:- Secunderabad-Kanpur-Ayodhya-Buxar-Hajipur-Sitamarhi-allahabad-Satna-Nagpur-Nasik-Secunderabad

A route map is furnished below for ready reference .This was downloaded from Saagar web site for which I am thankful to the owners of the site as being SriRama devotees the abundant information will be of immense help from the map .

OUR TRAVELOGUE

Compared to our Sri Krishna Anu Yaatirai covering Mathura,Vrindavan and Nava Dwarakas, done during 2009 , this one was more challenging because the holy places are scattered all over India and Nepal. Repeated enquiries about these places which though have old names have got corrupted due to the civilization around

We surrendered to the lotus feet of the Lord and HIS foremost devotee, Sri Hanuman to make this trip successful. Undertook to recite 41st and 67th sargams from Sundarakandam daily and recited Valmiki Ramayanam starting on Sri Rama Navami and finishing it off with Sri Rama Pattabhishekam before we took up the yathirai . Sri Seetha ,Lakshmana, Hanumath sametha Sri Ramar graced us by entering our altar on the most auspicious day, SRI RAMA NAVAMI. We carried this Perumal to all the temples during our yaatirai, adorned them in all the sannidhis, offered dry fruits as prasadam to the presiding dieties and shared with devotees back home. All of us were regularly chanting Taraka mantra and there was always a surprise in this trip with association of LORDs devotees …

After taking the blessings of our Thirumaligai Perumal and elders, we started our journey on 7th May,2010. Boarded Secunderabad-Gorakhpur Express at 0720 A.M. and the whole day was spent in the train listening to kirtans/ Sri Velukudi Swamin’s discourse on “Kamba Ramayanam/ reading Ramayanam and other spiritual books. The train was scheduled to reach Kanpur located in UP at 0815 hrs the next day but was late by 90 minutes . We could reach Kanpur at 1030 A.M only In the train, we happened to meet some devotees from Hyderabad who were going to Muktinath . On enquiry about the train s delay etc we conversed about the holy dhams . It was suprising to see them reading our Travelogue to Salagram . On noticing that we were right in front of them describing our another trip to Sri Rama Yathirai , they were overjoyed and discussed in detail .When they shared their experience of reading our travelogue, and appreciated our kainkaryam , with tears I submitted to LORD who was kind enough to use this fallen soul for some bhagavatha service .

Our experience to these holy places marked in bold letters is followed by the details of the place and sthalavaralaaru(significance of the places)

DAY 1

Reached Kanpur Central at 1030 hours . Fortunately the status of our onward journey ticket from Kanpur to Ayodhya which was waitlisted since 3 months. had got confirmed.
We quickly refreshed in the AC waiting room and hired a cab Wagon R for Rs.800/- (including petrol charges) to visit Bittoor and return to Kanpur.

We wanted to start our yatra by purifying ourselves in the sacred Tamasa River where Valmiki rishi cursed the hunter which became the introductory sloka of Ramayana and hence proceeded to Bittoor. Due to geographical changes, presently River Tamasa has dried up .

River Ganges sanctifies this place, Brahmavrat theerth being the most holy bathing spot in Bittoor. Brahma started creation starting from Swayambhu Manu at this place which is mentioned on a board. This place is supposed to be the centre of the earth.

Brahmavrat theerth
After parking the car, we went past small shops selling various items like water cans, bangles, pooja items and reached the archway entrance to the theerth. Pilgrims were offering special puja amidst recitation of some mantras by the local pundas (priests) . As the banks of Ganges was crowded, we decided to take a boat for Rs.20/- to cross over and go to the other bank which was less crowded. Ganges was in full flow at Brahmavrat theerth.

Returned to Brahma mandir to offer prayers to the Creator who emerged from the Lotus navel of Perumal which is located on the main bank. Brahma’s footprints covered with copper plate are worshipped here . There are only 2 temples for Brahma-one is at Pushkar where the four faced Brahma seated in meditative posture is worshipped, the other temple is at Bittoor where his footprints are worshipped.

The priest made us do sankalpam by touching Brahma’s toe and performed a small puja offering incense and flowers to the feet. Like in Pushkar, bees were buzzing around distracting us from the ritual. It was informed that this place is the centre of the world where Brahma started creation

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Brahma sthal

On enquiry we were told to visit Dhruva teela . Driving past narrow and steep road for about 2 kms, we reached Dhruva Teela –the birthplace of the child-devotee Dhruva. Dhruva meditated at this place by uttering Dwadasakshari mantram ”OM NAMO BHAGAVATE VASUDEVAYAH” as instructed by Sage Narada. ( The place where he mediated is at Mathura). He did intense tapas controlling all his senses and attained Perumal’s grace within six months. He glorified Perumal with hymns known as “Dhruva Sthuthi” which enhances bhakti. There is a small sannidhi for Dhruva and few saalagramams. We visited the Jeeva Samadhi of a North Indian saint who chanted Taraka Mantram for 30 years continuously at this place.

DHRUVA TEELA

Later we visited Lava-Kusha Janmasthal- Lava-Kusha Mandir. The temple houses 3 shrines- In the centre is the sannidhi for Sita devi with her sons Lava and Kusha,; to its right is the actual place of birth of Lava and Kusha. Here the idols of Sita, Ramar,Lakshmana and Hanuman along with Lava and Kusha are worshipped. Opposite to this sannidhi, is Bandhey Hanuman’s sannidi. As Hanuman was “tied” by Lava and Kusha, he is thus known.
Recited the introductory chapter in Ramayanam describing the origin of Valmiki Ramayanam and did kirtan of 108 Nama Ramayanam. The Hanuman temple priest gave us kankanams which we tied around our wrists praying for successful completion of the yaatirai. With the support of other devotees we performed bhajan chanting Taraka mantra well received by the crowd .

Lava-Kusha Mandir

Visited Valmiki ashram which is on the right side. The priest narrated Valmiki rishi’s story.- his life as a hunter and dacoit , how his life was transformed due to saptarishi’s grace, how he meditated on the Lord, how he composed Ramayanam and taught Lava and Kusha who spread its fame throughout.

With a prayer to make us understand the deeper meanings of the great epic as expounded by our Azhwars and Purvacharyars, we left the place. Opposite to this sannidhi is Sita Rasoi (sita devi’s kitchen) and nearby is Sita Paatal Pravesh(from where Goddess Sita disappeared into the bowels of the earth). A hollow place laid by 1 X 1 stone with Kusha grass grown near it is the spot from where Sitadevi disappeared . Sri Rama tried to stop this act by pulling her hair which has now grown as Kusha grass.
Ram Stupa( a pillar in which important slokas from Valmiki Ramayanam are inscribed in Hindi) is beside Paatal Pravesh sthal. Took a photograph of the aswamedha horse and Hanuman bound by Lava and Kusha in the nearby garden. To recapitulate Lava-Kusha’ prowess who tied the Aswamedha horse which was let loose freely and defeating Rama’s army including Hanuman, Bharata ,Shatruguna and Lakshmana , the temple authorities have built a mural with fountain in the middle in the garden adjacent to the temple.

Having visited all the important places in Bittoor, we left the place around 1400 hours. On the way, the driver took us to Sai Baba Temple which is very famous in Bittoor. Considering SaiBaba as one of the Lord’s messengers in Kaliyuga, we visited the temple though we were not very keen in visiting the temple

Sita Paatal Pravesh

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While proceeding to Kanpur, a signboard “ISKCON KANPUR” attracted us. This Ashram is located on Bittoor road and is exactly in the midway from Kanpur to Bittoor.. The temple authorities wer kind to offered us “Raj Bhog” prasadam –the one that is offered to the Lord-a variety of dishes and sweets. After partaking the prashad, the chief priest took us to “GOSHAALA”(cow shed). We were surprised to find the priest addressing each cow by its name and enquiring affectionately. He demonstrated that only Krishna Conscious people can extend the same affection towards humans and animals. Remarkable indeed

Meantime, H.H.Sarvabhauma Swami entered the temple and was about to start his discourse on Srimad Bhagavatam. We used to watch him on Star TV delivering discourses few years back and today we got the opportunity to see him directly. We felt ourselves blessed . Offering our pranaams , we introduced ourselves. He was glad to know about our yatra and blessed us.

When the temple curtains were drawn open ,we had darshan of the enchanting form of the presiding diety RADHA-MADHAV . We were delighted to see the utsava murthis of Sri Rama,Sita,Lakshmana and Hanuman along with other regular utsava murthis of Radha-Krishna. We felt that Lord was giving darshan in both the forms as Rama and Krishna. This aarthi and kirtan was followed by Sarvabhauma Prabhu’s lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam. After having darshan of the Lordships to our heart’s content, we left the place resolving to revisit Bittoor and stay at ISKCON guest house.

“ISKCON KANPUR“

We reached Kanpur by 1800 hours and awaiting for our connecting train to Ayodhya. Boarded Sabarmati Exprss at 0015 hours (the train was late by 45 minutes. Reached Ayodhya at 0500 hours on 09/05/10.

DAY 2

We reached Ayodhya from Kanpur by Sabarmati express at 0500 hours on 09th May,2010. We were greeted by hordes of monkeys which kept us on check and vigilant. The little monkeys are mischievous and snatch away eatables from us.

Checked in one of the AC rooms at Hotel Saket run by U.P.Tourism for Rs.650/-which is very near to station.(Tariff –for AC rooms-Rs.650/-; For air cooled rooms –Rs.350/-; for ordinary triple bed rooms-Rs.300/– As only AC rooms have inverter provision, it is preferable to go for the same as during power cuts which is very common, the fan works. With the help of the local receptionist, finalised a seven seater auto to visit all the holy places in and around Ayodhya for Rs.1,200/- .

With a pair of clothes, we all moved at 0630 to Gupthar Ghat for a holy dip Adiyen wanted to start the yatra from Ram Janma bhoomi, the birth place of Sri Rama . But the auto driver opined that it would be crowded during morning hours and would take minimum 2 hours to have darshan. As we had to cover distant places within our planned time frame, he suggested us to visit Guptar Ghat, Nandigram, Purva Chakiya so that the remaining local temples can be visited in the evening till late in the night. Adiyen had to compromise on this. Instead of visiting the birth place, Adiyen started with the place of Sri Rama’s disappearance .

Driving past the military areas in Faizabad roads really grand , we reached Gupthar Ghat in half an hour’s time. River Saruyu also known as River Gargha who is considered as Sage Vasishta’s daughter was in full flow and calm. The bathing ghats at River Saruyu are meaningfully constructed and are well maintained. After purifying ourselves in the sacred waters and offering morning oblations, Adiyen was engaged in routine morning rituals when a group of devotees headed by Sri Gomadam Swami of Sri Rangam reached the banks of Sarayu . Looking at us near the ghat, they chose to have bath in the same place. Sri Gomadam Swami , a descendant of Manavala maamunigal, was heading a group of about 100 devotees on a pilgrimage to Muktinath halted at Ayodhya for a day. Swami conducts package tours to divya desams and can be contacted on 09047090590. Swami was addressing the assembled devotees mentioning the importance of Gupthar Ghat in which Adiyen had the bhagyam to listen.

SARAYU RIVER AT GUPTHAR GHAT

When we approached Swami to pay our respects, he was delighted to know about our trip and blessed us. He said that it was due to the divine will of the Lord that we drove all the way from Ayodhya to have holy bath in Saruyu at this place because usually devotees have bath in Ayodhya itself . Citing Nammazhwar’s pasuram,”Karpaar Ramapiraaan…..”(Thiruvaimozhi 7-5-1). , the Swami mentioned about the greatness of Gupthar Ghat and appreciated us for having chosen this place for purifying ourselves. The Sarayu flowed beside the ancient city of Ayodhya, It was a tributary of the Gogra. According to a sub-story within the Ramayana, the banks of the River Sarayu is also the place where King Dashratha accidentally killed Shravan Kumar.It is also called the only river flowing beneath the earth.

LISTENING TO SWAMIS ADDRESS AT BANKS OF SARAYU

Nearby there is a Ramar temple where we installed our dieties and offered dry fruits as neivedyam. We recited our daily parayanam of Sundara kaandam. Many devotees from the group joined us in singing ‘”108 Nama Ramayanam” and it was a memorable experience. We were invited to listen to Swami’s discourse on Srimad Ramayana in the evening. As we had to visit far off places, we skipped Gupt Harji and Chakra Harji temples near the ghat.

On the way, had breakfast and proceeded to Nandigram, the place from where Bharata ruled the kingdom on Sri Rama’s behalf. Nandigram is situated 20 kms south east of Ayodhya and 16 kms from Guptar Ghat.

Visited old Bharatha temple and new temple. In the old temple, there are separate shrines for Bharata, Hanuman, Bharat Gufa , Bharat-Hanuman milap mandir, , When we visited the old temple, Bharata was being glorified by recitation of verses from Ram Charitra Manas. The priest placed our Perumal in the altar and offered prashad to the deities . We then entered a small cave , known as “Bharat Gufa” in the old temple premises. we stepped down about 5 steps and found a small vigraham of Bharata beside which Rama’s padukas were placed.

Bharat mandir

From there we went to the new Bharat mandir located nearby. Abhishekam (Thirumanjanam-holy bath) was being performed for Bharata. This idol is bigger than the one in the old temple. An old priest , who is a disciple of Sri HathiRam Bhabha(the devotee who played dice with Lord Venkateswara in Tirumala) was performing abhishekam while adiyen had the opportunity to recite Pancha Sukthams. The priest showed us Sri Rama paduka, rare salagrama murthis and Rama bhaktha Hanuman. Switching off the lights, he asked us to observe Sri Bharatar’s thiru mukham. We can see crescent on his forehead (calm and poised Bharata resembles Shiva in meditation). Likewise , Hanuman looks ferocious when the lights are off and looks very calm and poised when there is light. Also, there is a mark on Hanuman’s knee caused by Bharata’s arrow when he wounded Hanuman. The priest showed us rare salagramams. At Nandigram, Hanuman is known as “Lagey Hanuman”(one who was hurt).

After having theertha prasadam, the priest took us to the ground floor in which “Bharat Milap mandir” is constructed. The vigrahams of Bharata and Hanuman hugging each other was a feast to the eyes. After having thirumanjana theertham (5 types) of all the deities, we took few photographs with the priest who looks ever jubilant and is in bliss. We wondered at the dedication of the old priest in performing elaborate thirumanjanam to all the deities daily. He requested us to print some pamphlets in Telugu to be given to the visiting devotees . ( Adiyen took it as an opportunity to do SriRama kainkaryam and got around 2000 pamphlets printed and sent the same to Nandigram). We then visited Purva Chakiya.

“Bharat Milap mandir”

Adiyen was interested to know about Lords Sri Rama’s first night stay during exile at a place known as “Purva Chakiya” about 20 kms south of Ayodhya ( as per Srimad Ramayana ) but the exact location could not be known. Adiyen could not gather any other info because this place was not visited by Rama anu yathirai Bhagavatas earlier. Even the local residents were not aware about the place.

Luckily, to our suprsie, outside the temple, a person whom he introduced himself as watch-man said that he knew the location and agreed to take us there. From Nandigram, there is a short cut to this place. Walking through the paddy fields through a narrow pathway for about 7 minutes, we reached the spot. A stone is laid in remembrance of Sri Rama’s stay on the banks of Tamasa. There is no temple. River Tamasa has almost dried up . it is only like a small stream. Vehicles cannot go to that place. Anyway, the adventure was worth it. The auto driver was surprised to know about this place as he was not aware of it.

RIVER TAMASA

We thanked the guide profusely, bought 2 Vyjayanthi maalas which he was selling and paying some money for his help and left the place with the contentment that it was Sri Anjaneyar who guided us. We visited Bharat Kund, the place where Bharata used to have bath during his stay at Nandigram. Bharata felt so ashamed of himself to face the citizens as he felt responsible for Sri Rama’s troubles and used to have bath in Saruyu even before sunrise to avoid contact with the citizens. The pond was full of innumerable fully blossomed lotus flowers

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We visited the nearby Bharat Ram milap mandir. The temple was closed. Here, Sri Rama, Lakshmana,Bharata and Shatruguna shaved off their jada-mudi after 14 years, changed their ascetic costumes and dressed in royal costumes reached Ayodhya along with their mothers and friends. Sri Rama seated in the royal chariot along with Sita Devi and flanked by Lakshmana and Shatruguna while Bharata along with Sumantara drove the chariot reached Ayodhya. The countless vanaras assumed human forms and headed by Sugriva and Hanuman along with Vibhishana reached Ayodhya for Sri Rama’s coronation.

BHARATS VIGRAHAM DURING ABHISHEKAM
The driver took us to Bharata’s garden nearby saying that Bharata used to do meditate at this place. Nearby there is a well where 27 kinds of theerthas from holy rivers are present. The priest who was present there, drew some water and asked us to drink it citing its significance (it removes malefic effects). Collected the water in a bottle to share it with everyone.

BHARAT KUND

After relaxing for about 2 hours, we resumed our journey at 4 P.M. The driver took us to Sri Ram Janma bhoomi. Due to security reasons, the auto stopped near Birla Dharmashaala , about 2 kms to Ram Janma bhoomi. The entire area of 2 kms is surrounded by six check posts with security and fencing all around. On the way, we visited the site of Putra Kameshti yaagam . As we had visited this place during our previous trip, we gave a skip .

Ram Janma Bhoomi area is still in ruins and is highly protected by army, security and monkeys. Compared to our last visit, we found that security has been tightened manifold due to increase in terrosits activities . We were informed that 3 years ago, few anti-social elements entered the city with grenades but the monkeys who are ever alert in Ayodhya spoiled their attempts. We were frisked at 6 places. We cannot carry anything except money purse which is also checked. Mobiles and camera are strictly prohibited. Not even offerings!!! The only offering that we can take along is “OUR HEART”. Adiyen was stopped by security for carrying my japa maala bag with me. After convincing the security, I entered with the bag but the kumkum packet which was in the bag, was removed. I prayed to Lord that I wanted to have HIS darshan with the bead bag as I had placed the worshipping deities also in the bag along with my chanting beads Seeing my attire and continuous chanting, I was let in. Lord was kind to see this fallen soul enter with my own dictums .( I just said LORD the chanting beads have been a part of my journey with YOU and do you want them to be away .In fact I still presume that it was the deities and the japa malai made me enter to HIS place . The monkeys were staring at my bead bag ,probably they mistook it to be some eatable. Passing through the strong fencing, we finally reached the place. We could have darshan of the small vigrahams of Sita , Rama along with Lakshmana and Hanuman from about 100 metres and not even supposed to stand for long. After having theertha prasadam, we left the place immediately. It was pathetic to see the birth place of the Supreme Lord in that condition.

On our way to darshan, we saw a holy cow doing pradakshinam (going about in circular path), near the fencing lifting its head facing the temple and continuing to do the rounds. One of the security persons pointed towards the cow and informed that every day the cow does 108 parikramas , lifts its head when it faces the shrine of the Lord and continues with the rounds. It has been doing this daily thrice for the past 8 years. This person keeps track of the parikramas and how the cow stops after 108 is amazing. All were attracted to this miracle and many devotees were staring at the holy cow . (While referring to this incident in Chitrakoot, our guide informed that in Chitrakut too, there is a cow which does parikrama round Kamadgiri hill continuously for 22 hours daily for the past 10 years).

It took more than one hour for us to return. We drove to Ram Ghat , Sri Rama’s bathing spot in River Saruyu which is about 1 km from RamJanma bhoomi. After completing prokshanam and sandhya vandanam , offered lamp and flowers to Saruyu as evening aarthi was going on and left the place. As it was getting late for attending kalakshepam, we didn’t visit Lakshman Ghat, the bathing spot of Lakshmana which is near Ram Ghat.

ADIYEN AT SRIRAM GHAT

We proceeded to Kanak Bhavan, the palace of Sita-Ramar. There are 3 murthis of Sita-Ramar. As the sanctum is decorated with gold, it is known as “Kanak” bhavan. The place from where Sri Rama left for forest is marked by marble footprints. Circumbulated it and went to Hanuman Gaddi, a famous temple for Hanuman in Ayodhya. This temple is situated on a hillock . There are about 79 steps to reach the temple. Evening aarthi was going on.

The driver dropped us at Manas Bhavan where Sri Gomadam Swami( whom we met in the morning at Gupthar Ghat was giving kalakshepam on Ramayanam. The discourse lasted for about 2 hours after which we left at 10 P.M. Returned to Hotel Saket and retired for the night.

DAY 3:

We checked out at 08.30 A.M. to board Mathura-Patna Express to reach Buxar. The scheduled arrival of the train was 0912 hours but as usual was late by more than one hour. Reached Buxar finally at 1800 hours.

The entire day was spent in traveling. We visited Rama Rekha Ghat on the banks of Ganges at Buxar in the evening.

Rama Rekha Ghat on the banks of Ganges

DAY 4
Buxar is a typical small under developed town in Bihar . The moment “Buxar” is mentioned, we remember “Battle of Buxar” but even prior to this , it had historical importance as this was known as “Tataka Vanam”. Staying in Bihar and visiting the temples was the challenging part of our journey as we didn’t have any information about these places. We were not even sure whether the locals would be able to help us out. As we had to spend nearly three days in Bihar, was totally perplexed about the stay facilities. Tensed because of the wayside robberies, and worst roads which was common Adiyen was worried . We remembered traveling through worst roads in 2006.

While working on my program, I gathered information that Hajipur is near Patna and thought it safe to stay in the State capital and access the holy places. So, Adiyen contacted ISKCON Patna for booking an accommodation for us for 12th May and during my conversation, I informed him about our tour requesting him to provide me some info about Buxar. That Prabhu referred a devotee’s name in Buxar who contacted me immediately. I was taken aback when I got a call from Buxar. The person introduced himself as Anil Kumar, an ISKCON devotee and was referring to his close association with our Hyderabad DGP and some politicians. He assured that he would take care of all arrangements like accommodation and arranging vehicle and asked us to contact him as soon as we reach Buxar. Thanked him profusely . This incident renewed our tremendous faith in the Lord who is ever protective. Elders say that if we put one foot towards Lord, HE puts forth 100 steps to rescue us. This has been proved in our case many times. Also, our experience at Sitamarhi is the most memorable one which Adiyen would like to share later

We reached Buxar around 1800 hours- the train was about 2 hours late which is very common. Mr.Anil Kumar had booked an accommodation at Hotel Gitanjali which is located behind Platform no. 1 in a narrow lane. There is a way out from the place where we got down. But as we didn’t know, we came out of the station and went walking thru the narrow lane to the hotel. The hotel owner greeted us warmly when we referred Sri.Anil kumar’s name and provided us with a double bedded non-AC room for Rs.200/-. Strangely we have not seen Mr Anil kumar but the hospitality in a unknown place among strangers infused tremendous faith in LORD for coming days . This was supposed to be the best room in the hotel. On enquiry, we learnt that none of the hotels have either AC or air cooler as there is no power for atleast 20 hours a day. Luckily, the hotel had generator and inverter which didn’t make much of a difference. It was the worst part of our journey with mosquitoes biting, no power, fan running at the lowest speed , sweltering heat and added to this was the noise from railway station. The day’s temperature was recorded at 48˚ c . As this was the best hotel in the city we had no option . On enquiring about Kamasram, no one knew about this place. Hence , Adiyen had to mention Balliya (I learnt that Kamasram is in Balliya district). They informed me that share autos would be available to go to Balliya and it would take about an hour to reach. As there are no street lights and as it was getting dark, they suggested me to avoid going there in the evening and I was thankful for not adventuring at that time.

Adiyen and family took 2 rickshaws to go to the banks of Ganges and spend the evening leisurely. We paid Rs.20/- for each rickshaw . Ganges is about 1.5 kms from station. When we went there, evening aarthi was going on. The place was not clean enough to have bath. So we just sprinkled some water and participated in the aarthi. I learnt that Tataka Vanam , locally known as “TADKA” is about a kilometer from this place. As it was dark, we decided to go in the morning. Returned to the hotel and had rotis with some veggies for supper . Meanwhile, we tried to contact Sri.Anil Kumar for arranging AC vehicle for the next day to visit places in Buxar-Kamasram- Chapra- Sonepur-Hajipur-Patna as we wanted to leave early in the morning but could not get network.

We waited upto 8 A.M. the next morning and as there was no response from Mr.Anil, we requested the hotel owner to help us out. He immediately arranged a Cab , Bolero for Rs.3,000/- to visit the above places and drop us at ISKCON, Patna. Adiyen was trying to gather info about the route to visit the places connected to Sri Rama from the hotel owner. He too didn’t know much about it. While waiting at the reception, a gentleman named Shri.Punit Kumar Singh passed by the hotel. The hotel owner immediately called him and spoke to him in Bihari about the places which we wanted to visit. He immediately started telling the location of the places and when requested , he gladly consented to accompany us.. Once again thanked LORD for this timely intervention by a devotee. During my interatction with him, I learnt that this devotee is the distributor for Bisleri water in Buxar. He can be contacted on 09939816488 for any help. First, he took us to Vedashira Ashram.

Had darshan of a mural of Maharishi Vedashira and prayed him to make us visit all the places connected to Sri Rama. The inmates were very cordial and informed how Sri Rama protected the seven days yagnam conducted by Sage Viswamitra. We took theertha prasadam . They offered us to have lunch in their ashram. They were referring to a particular dish which Sri Rama had and wanted us to taste the same. The ashram also provides accommodation to devotees who visit Buxar. They have around 2-3 rooms where the devotees can stay. Adiyen felt that this is a better option rather than staying in a hotel because we can have satsang of these humble devotees. The love for Sri Rama bound us together. Their hospitality was indescribable. Their address is:-

Shri Shyam Narayan Patak
Vedashira Ashram, Buxar
Mobile no. 09006461415

VEDASHIRA ASHRAM
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Later he accompanied us to Siddhasramam which is located about 3 kms from railway station. This is inside central jail, the only one of its kind in Bihar. We didn’t have any problem in getting inside. Siddhasramam is the place where Lord took avatar as “Vamana murthy” . We expected to see the Lord as Vamanamurthy(We had in my mind the gigantic Trivikrama Perumal and Vamanamurthy as seen in Seerkazhi )and imagined to see one such idol but found a small Shiva linga . The priest endorsed the sthalapuranam that it was the birth place of Vamana murthy . Amidst the beautiful surroundings , prayed LORD for more satsangh .

INSIDE BAUXAR JAIL VAMANA TEMPLE

Later we proceeded to VAIKUNTANATHAR KOVIL .This South Indian temple , popularly known as “Nuv Lakh mandir”was constructed some 30 years ago by a Marwadi family who presently reside in Mumbai. There are shrines for Perumal, Thayar, Andal,Azhwars and Acharyars. A young preist placed our Perumal in the sannidhi and after archanai and neivedyam returned to us with some Tulasi leaves. While we were enquiring about the temple, an elderly person who is the incharge of the temple met us. He was kind enough to offer pongal and nellikaay thogaiyal(amla thogaiyal) on this auspicious Dwadasi . During our conversation, we learnt that he hails from Srirangam and is related to my second brother –in-law . This temple can be approached for accommodation and food arrangements .

VAIKUNTANATHAR KOVIL
Later , Tridandi Jeeyar Temple which is at a walkable distance from Vaikuntanathar temple. A Vaishnavite who was a great Rama bhakta, took jeeva Samadhi at this place. We had darshan of the saint through grilled doors.

LAKSHMI NARAYANAN MANDIR:- this temple is beside Jeeyar Samadhi. Ram Charitra Manas was being recited by a priest. We requested him to place our Ramar vigraham and offer neivedyam to our Lordships. He glorified Sri Rama’s pastimes and was happy to hear about our trip. After taking his blessings, we left for Ram Rekha ghat.

Leaving Kamasram, Sri Rama reached Tataka vanam after crossing Ganges at this place. Hence it is known as “Ram Rekha ghat”- the most important ghat in Buxar. On the way to Ghat, he took us to 2 temples situated opposite to each other. In one temple , there are many forms of Shiva linga and akanda Rama japam is being chanted here. Opposite to this is Rameswar Mandir- Sri Rama offering puja to Shiva and Sri Rama’s paadukas carved in marble are worshipped. Water cans and puja materials are sold on the way to the ghat.

Thanking him profusely who spent more than three hours showing us all the temples, we proceeded to Kamasram. Mr.Punit gave the necessary instructions to the driver and left . The driver somehow forgot to take us to Tadka which is about one kilometer from Ram Rekha Ghat and proceeded to Kamashram. Later when we questioned him for not taking us to Tadka, he reasoned that some maintenance work was going on there which we simply had to believe. Offered obesiances to the holy dham we proceeded .

No one in the town at Buxar could exactly tell us the location of this place. Zeroing that the place has to be in Baliya district attempted to mine the info further speaking in delicate hindi ,asked the driver to take us to Balliya which is about 35-40 kms from Buxar. He stopped at BRIGHU MUNI ASHRAM which is situated near the police chowk claiming this to be Kamashram. Luckily, Adiyen’s wife remembered the photo taken by Sri Raghunathan at Kamashram and was sure that this was not the place. The arch was clear in her memory and the place seemed to be big.. Arguing with the driver that this was not the place, Adiyen decided to go inside the temple and find out the details. The important sannidhi is that of Bhrigu muni’s. A priest extolled the greatness of Brhigu rishi-how he tested the Trinities, etc . adding that Sri Rama visited this place while he was guarding Viswamitra’s yagnam(Rama guarded 5 yojanas on all sides ) in Siddhasram. This is mentioned in Valmiki Ramayanam too. Thanking Sri Brigu Muni for gracing us we moved to locate Kamasram though the head priest was not able to help us out in locating Kamasram We were disappointed and confused and decided to leave the place convincing that we could atleast place ourselves in the place visited by Rama. But Adiyen’s wife was determined to find out the location . We were worn out , dejected, verge on losing our patience due to hunger and the peak summer . Luckily we came across an elderly pundit who knew about the place. We were excited when he mentioned about the arch and were convinced that this was the place which we saw in the photograph adding that we had come far about 20 kms. We requested him to give driving directions to the driver. Initially, the driver was reluctant to go back as it would cost him extra 40 kms but finally consented to take us to the temple. The priest informed that we should ask for “KARON village near “CHITPADA GAON” and take the immediate right turn after crossing the bridge if we come from Buxar. It is about 36 kms from Buxar. Finally we reached the temple around 1 P,M. Yes, it was indeed worth driving. A big arch displaying “Kameshwar dham ” welcomed us.

“Kameshwar dham

Near the arch, is a small Hanuman temple. After about 3 minutes drive, we reached this temple . There were many devotees in the temple premises but the main shrine of Shiva was closed. A devotee pointed out to a tree in front of the sannidhi with dark marks on the trunk. He referred to the incident of Siva burning Manmatha and said that these were the marks which fell on the tree as Manmatha stood at that place. We had to satisfy ourselves with the lovely photographs displayed on the outer walls of the temple-photo showing Sri Rama and Lakshmana pressing Viswamitra’s feet is still vivid in our memory.

Rama and Lakshmana pressing Viswamitra’s feet

From Kamasram, we drove for about two hours and reached Ahroli. A very small sannidhi houses the marble sculpture of Ahalya offering obeisances to Sri Rama while Lakshmana and Sage Viswamitra look upon. Drove to Gautamasthan located in Chapra district near Rewalkunj . This is easily identifiable. The temple was closed but we could have darshan of Sita-Ramar in the main sannidhi through the grill gate. Opposite to this sannidi is the sannidhi for Hanumar near which there is Ram Paduka. On the right side, we had darshan of Gautama rishi, Ahalya, Sadanandar, Anjana Devi. The confluence of Saruyu with Ganges is located nearby. As it was summer, the river had dried up and now it was about 2 kms from this temple. Due to time constraint, we didn’t visit the place and looking at the direction , offered our obeisances from the temple itself .

Gautamasthan located in Chapra

Driving past Chapra, we reached Sonepur in the evening . Compared to other places we visited, Sonepur seemed to be a bigger town . On reaching, we enquired the location of Harharnath temple. Our driver didn’t know the location. We followed the directions and reached the temple at 7 P.M. This temple is dedicated to Shiva. Had darshan of the deities. In the temple premises, in a mantapam, we found Gajendra Moksham beautifully depicted. There are many shops on either side of the lane leading to the temple. As it was dark, we did not see the confluence of River Sona with Ganges which is about half a kilometer from the temple. The famous Sonepur Mela where cattle is traded takes place at this place.

Ahalya offering obeisances to Sri Rama while Lakshmana

WE reached Hajipur at 8 P.M. As it was not possible to go to Ram Chauda at that time, we proceeded to Patna. As it was late, we decided to visit Ram Chauda at Hajipur the next morning. Hajipur is about 6 kms from Sonepur. Patna is about 15 kms from Hajipur. Some trains which do not touch Patna pass through Hajipur. Hajipur and Patna are on either sides of Ganges. Mahatma Gandhi Sethu, one of the longest bridges is about 11 kms connects these two places. Ganga can be seen in full flow at this place. Our car rolled slowly due to the heavy traffic near Hajipur station upto Mahatma Gandhi Sethu. After paying the toll tax at the entrance of the bridge, we continued our drive It is common for a chain of vehicles to wait for clearance at the check post.

ISKCON is located about 3 kms from Patna railway station on the main road. Situated on a vast area of land, a new temple for Krishna is under construction. Presently there are about 25 rooms in the guest house. The rent for AC room is Rs,500/- per day. It was 10.30 P.M. when we reached the guest house . So, prashad was not available. After settling the driver’s bill, we checked into one of the AC rooms. (We expected the driver to charge us for the extra mileage we traveled for going to Kamasram but looked like he adjusted it for Hajipur visit) We were totally exhausted and doubtful about stay facilities in Sitamarhi. We came to a stage where we wanted to cancel our Sitamarhi trip and proceed straight to Allahabad but Lord had other plans. Surrending to the Lord to help us accomplish our trip, we retired for the night.

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SWAMY TIRUMALA NAMBI THIRUNAKSHATRAM


Today 10-06-2014 is Swamy Tirumala Nambes Thirunakshatram ( Appearance day ) One thousand years ago Tirumala was not the salubrious and convenient place we know it is today. Tirumala was a rough and rocky terrain and the upkeep of the temple in those days must have been a terribly daunting and unwelcome task. During those hard days there lived a great devotee Tirumala Nambi in Tirumala Hills at Tirupathi . Sri Tirumala Nambi was a great religious scholar in his own right but out of deliberate choice decided to devote his life to “theertha-kainkarya” ( service of bringing water from Papanasanam for worship of Lord of Seven Hills) at the Tirumala . He dedicated his entire life to the services of the Lord and in His aradhana. His entire lifetime was spent living in a small hut on the hills and worked out of it while tending to, maintaining and administering the temple of his beloved ‘tiruvengadamudaiyAn’ ( Lord Venkateshwara ) . Tirumala Nambi used to bring water from Papanasam situated at a distance of 8 kilometers from Tirumala for the daily puja. He was old but never allowed his age to interfere in his services . Lord out of his abundant compassion , wanted to grace his devotee for the great kainkaryam taken up by him. One day when Tirumalai Nambee was walking towards the temple sanctorium from Papanashanam with a pot of water ,Lord appeared before Tirumalai Nambi in the attire of a fowler addressed Nambi as Thatha ( Grandpa) . Nambee was surprised with the address . On turning he found an attractive and handsome fowler who demanded him for water to quench his thirst .Nambee was taken aback and refused to give water intended for the Holy bath (Abhishekum) of the Lord and politely marched ahead . The mischievous fowler he was followed Tirumala Nambi , slowly pierced the pot with a stone , and drank the water which oozed out of the pot. Tirumala Nambee was very sad that he could not fulfill the daily service to LORD .He said to the fowler about his old age and hardship in once again bringing the water that would make HIS LORD wait and as such delay in the service .The fowler said Grandpa , Don’t worry ! I will show a place nearby for you to collect water for the services .Saying this ,he discharged an arrow at the hillock near by in the sky , and lo torrents of water came gushing from the place hit by the arrow.. The fowler commanded that the water for the Lord’s puja should thenceforth be brought from Akasaganga and disappeared. The new fountain is now called Akasaganga . Thirumala Nambee was convinced that the fowler was none other than Lord Srinivasa. He performed various kainkaryams such as Akasaganga Theertha Kainkaryam, Thomalaseva, Mantrapushpa Kainkaryam, Saathumurai, Thirumanjanam and Vedaparayanam. Hence he was called as “Acharya Purusha” of Tirumala Temple. In honour of this humble but most noble ‘teertha-kainkaryam’ that Nambi institutionalized in his times, his heirs and progeny until this very day have been allowed to perform the same service in the temple as matter of heriditary right. The descendants of Swamy Tirumalai Nambi are known today as “Tirumala kumara-s” or “thOzhappachAri-s”. There is a historical evidence that Tirumala Nambi lived in Tirumaaliga, South Mada Street, Tirumala. The temple shrine of Sri Tirumala Nambi that stands today in the south-eastern corner just below the overhead pedestrian walkaway that leads from the Q-complex to the main temple . Now the descendents of Tirumala Nambi are managing the temple at this place where the Utsavar and Moolavar deities of Acharya Tirumala Nambi is housed. The unique Kainkaryams are performed by descendants of Tirumala Nambi even today. Tirumala Nambi, was one of the five gurus of Bhagavad Ramanuja. He was his maternal Uncle who taught the essence of Srimad Ramayanam.

Swamy ThirumalA Nambeegal Thiruvadigale sharanam
Adiyen Ramanuja dasan

 
 
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Swamy Parasara Bhattar reply to King Tribhuvana Devarayan


Swamy Parasara Bhattars Thirunakshatram ( Appearance day ) is celebrated today in a grand way .The whole srivaishnava community knows that Swamy Parasa Bhattar was solely devoted to Namperumal. ( Sri Ranganathar of Srirangam ) Bhattar could never move away from Namperumal’s presence. and Lord Namperumal could also not bear separation from Bhattar. Swamy was excellent in rendering discourses on Srivaishnava literature .Many people use to flock to listen to swami with apt attention . One day, as usual, Bhattar’s discourse was going on. The local king named Tribuvana-devarAyan was also listening to Bhattar’s nectarine words mixed with intelligent thoughts. The king was simply moved, and wanted to listen more from Swamy Parasara Bhattar. As he was a king and had to look after the welfare of his people, he could not devote time to attend the same . So, he went with some pride to Bhattar and said “Swami – Do come to my Palace one day and give your discourses to me there. I shall give you a lot of priceless jewels and wealth”. Swami Bhattar simply looked at the King, smiled at him and said – “Have you ever worshipped Namperumal and had a look at his right hand. Do you know what it says?”. The king replied to Bhattar – “Yes, I have heard that it proclaims ‘ abhayam sarvabhoothEebyo dadaami’ (I shall safeguard you from all beings that may pose danger).” Bhattar interpreted that quote and said “Yes, it is giving protection to all. Hence, it is facing towards us. But, one day, even though this will never happen, if it would turn backwards pretending that it could not protect us – even on that day I have no refuge other than Namperumal’s lotus feet ”. The king was astonished at Bhattar swami’s strong faith with Lord Namperumal, and at the same time was ashamed of his attitude and ego. He left, but surely had learned a lesson.
Sri Parasara bhattar Thiruvadigale sharanam!!!!

 

 

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LORD LAKSHMI NARASIMHAR DARISANAM


Lord Lakshmi Narasimha temple is located at a distance of 60 kms from Kakinada, 20 kms from Rajahmundry and 110 kms Korukonda Temple, an ancient and historical temple, and an important Vaishnava Divya Kshetram,The temple is called as Korukonda `where koru means wish and konda means hill in telugu’. Thus, it is a wishing hill or God who immediately heeds to the wishes of the devotees. The presiding deity here is Lord Sri Narasimha Swamy. Lord is known as “Satvika Narasimhar”, because he is accompanied here by his consort, Maha Lakshmi Devi. There two temples of Lord Sri Narasimha Swamy in this village. One is at the top of a steep and narrow hill adjacent to the village, and the other temple at the foot of the hill Of the two temples, one is a Swayambhu (self originating) and the other one which has been installed. The swayambhuvu is situated at the top of the hill which a pilgrim can access only through a long flight of 650 steps that are very steep and narrow. Because of this steepness, this temple has been called Korukonda.. The Swayambhu deity is situated at about 120 mts height atop the hill. The temple of the deity which was installed is at the foot of the hill and has much sculpted beauty around it. There are number of shila shasanams (scripted stones) which have appeared at the temple as well as on the top of the hill. The temple was constructed about 700-800 years ago by the family of Swamy Parasara Bhattar, as told by the local priests , whose descendants continue to oversee the affairs of the temple as the trustees of this temple to this day.

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THE SUPREME LORD AT OUR GRUHAM


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The grand day when Azhwar got Thirumantra upadesam


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Thirumangai Azhwar earlier known as Kaliyan,was the valiant army chief of the then Chola King that the king gifted him with a small territory to rule over. Hence, he was known as Thirumangai Mannan . He was attracted to an apsara Kumudavalli , daughter of a physician and expressed his desire to marry her. Kumudavalli who appeared on this earth to transform this valiant king to a bhakta, laid the condition that he should feed 1000 Srivaishnavas every day for one year . Thirumangai Mannan fulfilled her condition and continued to do so even after his marriage as he got habituated in this wonderful kainkaryam of feeding Srivaishnavas. In due course, his wealth diminished and as Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita, when HE decides to bless HIS devotee, HE takes away wealth and enacted a divya leela. Due to his love for vaishnavas , our Azhwar resorted to stealing and plundering wealth from the rich and the egoistic and used the wealth for feeding Vaishnavas and renovating temples. Tirumangai Mannan comes to know through his friends that a newly wedded couple bedecked with costly jewellery are passing through a forest in a palanquin and if they could plunder their wealth, they could continue with their cause of serving Srivaishnavas forever. So, Thirumangai Mannan along with his four friends leaves his place in the midnight , rides fast on his horse,who he calls as Aadalmaa, waylays the divine couple who are resting in a mandapam at “Thirumanankollai” and plunders their wealth and ties them in a cloth. Not being satisfied with the loot, he tries to remove the Thirumetti of Thayar with all his might and is unsuccessful. By coming in contact with Thayar’s thiruvadi, realisation dawns on him. When he tries to lift the loot, he is unable to do so and suspecting the bridegroom for having put some charm , he threatens Perumal who is disguised as the bridegroom with a sword to disclose the secret.that does not allow him to carry the loot Perumal advises him to purify himself and return so that he can impart the secret to him. Thirumangai mannan returns and Perumal gives him the most sacred mantram,Thirumantram . The moment Perumal whispers the sacred Ashtakshari Thirumantram , wisdom dawns on Kaliyan and he surrenders at the Lotus feet of the Divya Dampadhigal. He repents for all his earlier deeds and outbursts his pourings starting with “Vaadinene Vaadi….” and decides to glorify Perumal by visiting holy places in India.. He is transformed as Thirumangai Azhwar and riding on his Aadalma horse glorified Perumal in about 86 divya desams. Every year, this incident in recollected on Panguni-Makham (Mar-april) at thirunangoor as Thiruvedupari utsavam and this year the incident is enacted on 12th midnight April 2014 . The pics were taken during our last visit . We participated in the Thirukalyanam of Perumal with Nachiyar the previous afternoon . Later , in the night after saatrumarai, the newly wed Perumal and Thayar bedecked fully with jewellery set out on a decorated palanquin. WE were told that they would halt in a mandapam at Thirumanankollai. We drove to Thiruvali-Thirunagari temple to have darsanam of Thirumangai Azhwar also known as Kaliyan/Neelan/Thirumangai Mannan and were among the crowd awaiting the temple doors to open….Now the most beautiful THIRUVEDUPARI UTSAVAM begins .. At midnight almost 2 AM , a group of people who were playing the role of Kaliyan’s friends entered the temple to inform Kaliyan about the newly wed couple. Within minutes, the temple doors were wide open. The beautifully dressed Thirumangai mannan in blue velvette dress wearing innumerable intrinsic jewellery holding gem studded sword , precious gems studded dagger and all other weapons required by a king galloped on his favourite horse”Aadalma”, rushed outside the temple and set forth on his journey to loot the wealth. Check the pictures enclosed .The night is pitch dark . The sevarthees bearing torches literally run along with Kaliyan. It is a sight never to be missed. The zeal with which Kaliyan rides on the horse is inexplicable. One has to be physically present to witness this . The neophyte devotees who gather for this function usually engage autos/cars to keep pace with Azhwar and we followed suit. Kaliyan swifts through the narrow muddy roads to reach the place while we took another route to reach the mandapam. Perumal and Thayar in Kalyana Thirukolam were giving darshan to the assembled devotees. Adiyongal also had darshanam from close quarters. Thousands of devotees had gathered at that place and a village mela was going on. The whole place was vibrant with devotional music and few Vaishnavas were singing Peria Thirumozhi in a small mantapam . Some locals were dressed up like Thirumangai Mannan. As if to compete with the beauty of Full Moon in the sky, many others were bursting crackers which were decorating the sky. The entire place was in a festive joyous mood awaiting Kaliyan’s arrival. Kaliyan reached the place along with his attendants and circumbulated the mandapam thrice swiftly amidst chores and went inside the mandapam. The act of Thirumangai Mannan looting the wealth is enacted inside the closed curtain. Later, the thirumeni of Thirumangai Mannan is taken to a nearby mandapam where he rests for more than an hour. We were told that during Azhwar’s days, there was a small stream flowing by in which Azhwar as per the instructions of Perumal had holy bath. Today, the stream is dried and so we could walk across to the mandapam where Thirumangai Mannan was resting. All the devotees are allowed to have darshan of Azhwar from very close quarters. We recollected Manavala Maamunigal ‘s beautiful description about Thirumangai Mannan’s vadivazhagu. Later, Thirumangai Mannan alights out from the mandapam amidst fanfare and circumbalate around the Dhivya Dampadhigal who were now giving darsanam on Garuda Vaahanam. WE were told that Perumal gives Mantropadesam to Thirumangai Mannan. Wisdom dawns on Thirumangai Mannan and he seeks forgiveness and repents for his acts . The first ten songs from Peria Thirumozhi starting with “Vaadinene Vaadi” was recited by all the assembled bhagavathaas and then neivedyam was offered to Perumal. The divya dampadhigal honoured Thirumangai Azhwar with parivattam, prasadam,garland, theertha prasadam and sataari. Karpoora aarthi was given to both Perumal and Azhwar. The entire procession started towards Thiruvaali temple reciting the remaining pasurams from Peria thirumozhi. The transformed Azhwar was now seen moving slowly as he had submitted his valour, strength ,speed , ego at the Lotus feet of Perumal and as a pure devotee he was now contemplating on the divine qualities of Perumal.

Please do plan to have this darshinam at Thiruvali Thirunagari on 12th of April , have darshanam and plan to have one more darshan at Srirangam to have the memorable darshanam of Peria Perumal.

Adiyen Ramanuja dasan

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SHRINATHJEE TRAVELS TO MEWAR (BHAKTHA MEERAS PLACE) FROM GOVERDHAN


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mmmmnNathdwara is a small town in Mavli-Udiapur route. Situated in the heart of the town, SHRINATHJI temple is the main attraction with hundreds of devotees thronging to the temple daily. This is the second richest temple in India, first being Tirumala temple Nath Dwaraka and Kankroli Dwarka are two of the Nava Dwarkas – situated near ,Udaipur , Rajasthan – These two holy dhams are situated near Udaipur (one hour drive)- Here in this temple vendors sell vegetables,fruits, milk etc to be offered to the Lord at the entrance. The presiding diety is Goverdhanagiri dhaari popularly known as “SHRINATHJI” Nathdwara- temple is known as “Haveli”, a palatial building. Lord Krishna as Goverdhan dhaari is the child is well protected inside and one has to cross many halls to have HIS darshanam The darshan also would be for a very short period – about 10 to 15 minutes in time intervals of 2-3 hours. Its the devotees fortune to have darshans . Different types of bhog would be offered to the Lord when the curtains are drawn. In this Nathdwara- Temple there are separate entrances for gents and ladies. Hundreds of devotees assemble in front of the sanctum when the curtains are drawn. The devotees sing melodiously while the priest offers shodasa upachaaram(16 types of upachaarams) to the Lord. For them, the Lord is their child. Here Lord gives darshan in bluish form with HIS left hand raised upwards with little finger pointing upwards, HIS right hand closed in a fist rests on HIS hip. HIS lotus eyes glance downward affectionately at HIS devotees. Lord Shrinathji is very special and beautiful diety. There is a diamond on the chin of the Lord. This idol is swayambhu (self manifested and not carved by anyone). As the Lord is the combined form of Radharani and Gopala, HE is known as “SHRI SHRINATHJI”.( “SHRI” indicates Thayar ). The Lord is also known as “Banke Bihari”. This deity was earlier in Vrindavan near Goverdhana giri and is related to one of Lord Sri Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavan lifting Goverdhana hill.To mark this incident, Vajranabha great grandson constructed a temple at the foot of the hill and affered prayers . Due to passage of time, this deity disappeared and the whereabouts remained unknown for many years. After many years, appeared as Gopala in Madhavendra Puri’s dream, informed him about HIS whereabouts and a temple was constructed . When Aurangzeb invaded Mathura and Vrindavan, the deity disappeared into the hill and could not be traced out. Even today, in Mathura, Vrindavan, we can find many old temples in ruins and the sculptures disfigured by Aurangzeb. After many years, appeared to Sri Vallabhacharyar in his dream and informed HIS whereabouts. When Sri Vallabacharyar reached Goverdhanagiri, the deity emerged out by itself and was glorified by Vallabhacharyar. Perumal advised Vallabhacharyar, who was a very great devotee to carry Him to Mewar in Rajasthan. Vallabacharyar arranged a cart for Perumal and left for Mewar. Rana Raja Singh of Mewar helped Vallabhacharyar . After 2 months, the cart reached the present Nathdwara enroute to Mewar in the 17thcentury. But on the way to Mewar, the cart stopped suddenly at this place and did not move an inch. Vallabacharyar heard a divine voice say that Perumal wished to stay in this place itself as it was the place where HIS dear devotee, Meera bhai stayed. ( The story of Meera bhai is well known to all of us.)The Vallabhacharyar with the help of Mewar king constructed a beautiful temple for the Lord here . As mentioned earlier, Perumal instructed him to take Him away to Mewar and the later developments have already been mentioned above. Vallabhacharyar used to please the Lord with his kirtans which was later followed by his disciples. In a corner of the temple, the photographs of Sri Vallabhacharyar along with his descendants are displayed. Even today, bhog is offered to Perumal on behalf of Sri Vallabhacharyar. 6 sevas are performed daily.There is a big photograph of Perumal “SHRI SHRINATHJI” hung on a wall and pointed out to the nose ring worn by Perumal and a diamond stone studded on Perumal’s chin. It was for taking this diamond that Aurangzeb invaded Mathura but his attempts became futile because Lord disappeared from that place. In the garbagriham, Perumal gives darshan as Krishna-Radharani together and hence is known as “SHRI SHRINATHJI. The cart which carried the Lord is preserved in a separate room. Even today, this event is celebrated every year. A new cart is made and is rested on the cart. In the adjacent room, there are 2 mortars- one made of gold and the other made of silver. Once in eight days, chandan(sandal paste ) for LORD is made using these mortars.

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