Sunday, August 21, 2011

Temples of India-8

SRI BALA BALAJI TEMPLE-APPANA PALLE-7
One of the doorways to temple premises

The story of Jimuthavahana and Sankhachuda..Contd.

Just as Sankhachuda leaves, Jimuthavahana's mother-in-law sends him some red clothes as a gift as it is some festive occasion. Jimuthavahan sees it as a diktat from God that he should stand in for Sankhachuda. So he quickly wears those red clothes, covers his face with a veil  and stands on the sacrifice rock. 

Suddenly he hears a thunderous noise (due to flapping of the wings of Garuda), the sun is blocked by a huge body, which shines like a dozen suns and blinding to the eyes of onlookers. The eyes of Garuda gleam red like rubies. Every time he flaps his wings a gush of strong violent wind uproots trees as if it is a forceful hurricane, huge rocks roll down the slopes of the mountain, wild animals frightened by all this run helter skelter. 

In spite of all this Jimuthavahan is calm, composed and in ecstasy, as he is going to save Sankhachuda from Garuda's clutches. 


Garuda approcahes Jimuthavahana. His eyes gleaming with hatred for the Nagas, He  pierces Jimuthavahana's heart and tears it open.  He then clutches his body with His claws and goes to the top on the mountain to eat. 


Meanwhile, Sankhachuda returns to the sacrifice rock. He is horrified to see the blood there. He realises that Jimuthavahana was taken by Garuda. He quickly follows the trail of the blood, weeping and crying that he has to save the person who has stood in his place. Meanwhile, parents of Jimuthavahana, his wife and other relatives come searching for him. They meet Sankhachuda and learn about the horrifying tale. They follow Sankhachuda to the place where Garuda has taken Jimuthavahana.


Meanwhile Garuda is surprised to see that the person he is eating is neither crying nor terrified. So He stops eating and stares at him. Jimuthavahana asks Garuda why He has stopped eating him, is his flesh not enough to satisfy His hunger? Garuda now feels respect for Jimuthavahana and asks him who he is, as he is human and not a Naga and why is he so happy and ecstatic even when being eaten alive?

Before Jimuthavahana can reply, Sankhachuda comes running to the spot and cries out that Garuda has killed Jimuthavahana the Vidhyadhara king who is kind hearted and righteous. Garuda is aghast. He cries out that he had indeed committed a grievous sin as He has heard far wide the fame of Jimuthavahana, as kind, considerate, righteous and dutiful king of Vidhyadharas. 

Sankhachuda informs Jimuthavahan that his parents are coming. Jimuthavahana asks him to cover his body with the upper cloth as his parents cannot see him in that state. Sankhachuda obeys. Parents and wife of Jimuthavahana arrive upon the scene and cry. Garuda is more ashamed now and begs Jimuthavahana to tell Him what He should do to absolve Himself of the sin. 

Jimuthavahana requests Garuda to repent for His previous deeds, not to harm any living being leave alone Nagas and do so much good deeds that the merits should override his sins. Garuda assures him saying that He is ashamed of his previous deeds and will not harm anyone. 

Jimuthavahana is very happy to have saved the Nagas. He pays his respects to his parents and tells them that he is dying. He consoles his mother and father saying that what good his body, flesh or blood is if not for helping out others. He prays to the God saying that if he has to take birth many times again, every time he should be able to sacrifice himself for others.

Saying that Jimuthavahana falls down unconscious. His parents weep and pray to Gods for saving their only son. His wife prays to Goddess Gauri and asks for her kindness in rescuing her husband. Garuda vows that he will stop Yama (God of Death) and his servants from taking away life of Jimuthavahana, if need be tear them to pieces and go beg Indra (King of Devas) for Amrutham (ambrosia or nectar) so that he can get back Jimuthavahana to life.

Goddess Gauri appears before them and sprinkles holy water and Jimuthavahana is revived. She blesses them all and praises Jimuthavahan for his scarifies. She blesses them all with happiness and all good things. Every one bows to the mother Goddess and are happy.

Now since Jimuthavahan has sacrificed himself at this place -Sacrifice means "Arpana" (to give oneself) "Phali" means the Result or the place where Jimuthavahana's sacrifice has brought in good result (saving of Nagas). ArpanaPhali has with the time became Appanpalli.

As per Jimuthavahana's request and sage Kashyapa's advice, Garuda also known as Vainatheya (son of Vinata) made a creek of the river Vasitha (tributary to River Godavari) to pass through the place so that the Nagas who were killed by Him (whose remainings were scattered around the place) could obtain salvation. That is why this river is called as Vianatheya river. It flows towards south. Hence the temple on its bank is considered as a pilgrimage center.


This is the Vianetheya river on the banks of which the temple of Bala Balaji stands today.
You can see how wide it is. 
People take bath before entering the temple.

Whether these legends can be actually proved or not I don't know. Because the present place is not on a mountain. But there must be a reason for these legends which may have disappeared or gone obscure with time. 

In my next posts read how Lord Balaji came as a child and stayed back as an idol in the temple......

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ganesha-The Elephant God

GANESHA
Part-1

Ganesha - popularly known in the west as Elephant God, is the remover of all obstacles. He is the God who is worshipped first-whether we are just saying our daily prayers, or performing some special rituals or ceremonies, celebrating marriages or other auspicious occasions -one has to pray to him first.

Even when one wants to worship or pray to other Gods and Goddesses, one has to first pray to Lord Ganesha and obtain his blessings so that no obstacles bother us . 

Farmers pray to him before tilling their lands for a good crop. Also since his vahan or carrier is a mouse, they pray for safety of crops from mice and pests. Students pray to him before sitting for their studies for success. Business men pray to him for "Subh" meaning good or auspiscious and "Labh" meaning profits.

I am going to post about, Ganesha, his birth, his story, various slokas and strotras and mantras associated with Him and how to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi...

He has many forms and many names..what they are...follow me in my posts......



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Temples of India-7

SRI BALA BALAJI TEMPLE-APPANA PALLE-6


The story of Jimuthavahana and Sankhachuda

We need to learn about this story, for this is how the place AppanaPalle got its name. 

Jimuthavahana was the son of Vidyadhara King Jimuthakethu. Vidhyadhara means those who have wisdom. Females are known as Vidyadharis. In Hindu mythology they are described as spirits of air, possessing great beauty, great magical powers. 

Jimuthavahana though very young, was a good king, kind, righteous and dutiful towards his subjects. He was caring and dutiful to his mother and father.

His parents who were old wanted to stay on the mountain named Malaya for sometime. Malaya mountain described in various Hindu mythologies, is said to be covered by thick virgin forests, surrounded by beautiful nature, a variety of colourful wild flowers, rivulets, waterfalls, ponds full of lotuses, many animals and birds living with peace and harmony. The air coming from the mountain (in the early morning hours) laden with the fragrance of sandal wood and flowers is said to be very beneficial to the living beings. 

He leaves his kingdom in the hands of his relatives and accompanies his parents to serve them. There he meets Malayavathi daughter of King Vishvavasu and marries her. 

One day while roaming around the slopes of Malaya along with Mitravasu, son of King Visvavasu and brother of Malayavathi, he comes across heaps and heaps of bones. he learns that they are the bones of Nagas(serpents). Mitravasu explains that Garuda the golden eagle, king of the birds and son of Vinata used to kill and eat the snakes. During this process,  many were killed, many eggs were broken and serpents died even before their birth. Young ones perished. 

So Vasuki, the King of serpents made a pact with Garuda saying that every day he will send one serpent for feeding him. Each day one serpent from one of the houses in his kingdom is to be supplied. That was how so many Nagas were killed and their bones and remainings were dumped in heaps.


Jimuthavahan feels sad at this destruction. He slowly wanders around on the mountain slopes looking at the ocean below thinking that it is the duty of a King to save his subjects. But Vasuki, the Naga King did not do that.


Suddenly he hears a woman crying. He walks towards the place and comes across a young man and an old woman crying inconsolably. The young man's name is Sankhchuda- a prince of Nagas. He was chosen for the day to be food for Garuda. The Messenger(sertvant) of the King Vasuki hands him red clothes to be worn and then stand on the sacrificing rock so that Garuda can see that he is the one that is food for him. 


The woman cries saying that my only son whom I begot after so many prayers and hundreds of vows is going to be killed. How can I live with out him? 


Jimuthavahan moved by the pleas and crying of the old woman offers himself to be food for Garuda in place of Sankhachuda. Sankhachuda does not agree to this. He says that it is his duty to obey his kings orders. 


Jimuthavahana argues and argues but Sankhachuda does not agree. He bids adieu to his mother and goes off to visit the shrine near by for one last time before Garuda eats him. 


So what happened next.....was Sankhachuda was killed? 


Just read it in my next post.......


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Temples of India-6

SRI BALA BALAJI TEMPLE-APPANA PALLE-5





Birth Of Garuda


Vinata was serving Kadruva as a slave. After some time the egg that she kept safely broke open and a form emerged which was half human and half bird. He had a massive and strong golden body, a white face, red wings, eagle's beak. He was very handsome and possessed a radiance so powerful that was equivalent to millions of suns. 
GARUDA
Garuda was very obedient and was dutiful to his mother. Kadruva was very jealous of Garuda since he was very strong and handsome and possessed massive strength. She told him that he and his mother were her slaves and should serve her and her sons. So he served them. 

But Kadruva and her sons kept on ill treating Vinata and Garuda. So one day Garuda went and asked his mother why and how they became slaves and how long they have to continue like that. Vinata narrated about the bet and pleaded with Garuda that he alone could relieve them from slavery.

Garuda went to Kadruva and her (serpent) sons and asked them how he and his mother could be relieved from the slavery. Then the serpents replied that they wanted Amrutham or nectar which was in Devaloka under the custody of King Indra. If he could bring it, he and his mother would be relieved from slavery.


He took blessings of his mother and father and told them that he was going to bring the Amrutham from the Devas. He then flew to Devaloka and there was a fierce fighting between Garuda and Devas who were guarding the nectar. Devas could not stand mighty Garuda and fled away. 


Lord Vishnu appeared before him and granted him immortality without drinking nectar and also made Garuda his carrier(Vahana) and flag. Even today in the temples ofVishnu, Garuda is the prime carrier known as Garuda Vahanana and the flag called Garuda Dhwajam adorns the temple flag posts on special and important occassions
Garuda took hold of the pot containing nectar and was about to fly away when Indra appeared. He asked Garuda why and where he was taking the nectar. Then Garuda explained to him that he was going to give it to serpents to relieve his mother from slavery. On hearing this Indra said that the serpents were cruel and if they drink the nectar and become immortal, it would be very difficult to control them. Instead of the nectar he would give what ever Garuda wanted. Then Garuda told him a plan as to how to save the nectar from being drunk by the serpents. Indra was very happy with that and wanted to grant him a boon of Garuda's choice. 


Garuda then said that the serpents were cruel and deceitful and caused a lot of hardships to him and his mother. So they were his enemies and from then onwards they should be allowed to be main food Garudas. Indra agreed for that. To this day, eagles staple food consists of snakes.
Garuda took the pot of nectar to the earth. Indra followed him invisibly to get back the nectar. Garuda placed it on Darbha (kusa grass). He then clled on to the serpents (Kadruvas sons) and told them that as per the agreement he had brought the nectar so he and his mother should be relieved from slavery. The serpents were happy as they were going to become immortal and relieved Garuda and his mother from slavery. Garuda told the serpents to take a bath and purify themselves before drinking nectar. He then flew away with his mother on his back.

The serpents went to take a dip. Waiting for this Indra took away the nectar and returned it to Devaloka. 

On their return the serpents could not find the nectar. They became very sad. They thought that a drop or two might have been fallen on the grass. So if they lick them they will become immortals. So they licked the grass. Kusa grass known as Darbha is very sharp and the tongues of the serpents were cut into two. Till this day serpents have a forked tongue. Darbha grass is very auspicious to Hindus as nectar was placed on it.

So this is how Garuda relieved himself and his mother from slavery. He came to be known as a son who was dutiful to his mother.

From that day onwards the Garuds started killing and eating serpents.

In my next post you will know about how the killing of serpents was stopped and how this story is related to the temple site APPANAPALLE

So watch out for it.......



Saturday, August 6, 2011

Temples of India-5

SRI BALA BALAJI TEMPLE-APPANA PALLE-4




Tale of two sisters Vinata and Kadruva: Continued


One evening the two sisters, Vinata and Kadruva were walking along the sea shore enjoying the breeze and admiring the surroundings. They saw a milky white horse at a distance. This was the Uchaisrava -the milky white horse of Indra(king of Devas), which came out of Ksheerasagara madhanam (churning of milky ocean). 

Kadruva wanted to fool her sister Vinata. So she said "look at that horse, it is white as milk. But its tail is black. Vinata looked at the tail carefully and found that it was white. So she disagreed and asked Kadruva to look at it carefully. But Kadruva did not accept that. The sisters argued on this issue. Kadruva in a fit of rage said "Let us bet on it. If I am correct you and your children will  have to be my slaves for life. If you are correct then me and my children will be your slaves for life". Vinata had to agree. She insisted on going nearer to the horse to verify the colour of its tail. But Kadruva stopped her by saying that it was getting dark and that they should get back to  home. Next morning they would examine it in broad day light. They went back to their homes for the night.

Kadruva could not sleep at all. She was the one who insisted on betting. She also knew that she would loose as the horse's tail was white in colour. But she could not think of being slave to her sister. She called her sons, who were serpents and explained them about the bet. She asked them to help her win the bet by some how making the tail of the horse black. But her sons refused to do so as this was not fair. Even though she was their mother, they refused to be a part of the deceit saying that this was not ethical or moral and one should never go out of the way of Dharma or righteousness. 

But Kadruva was desperate to prove herself correct.So she said she would curse them. her sons still did not agree. So she cursed them that they would be burnt alive in the fires (This curse came true later on when the "Sarpa Yaga" was performed by King Janamejeya). 

One of her sons Karkotaka who was frightened by the curse and also loved his mother very much promised to help her. So next morning he went to the sea shore, found the horse, claimed and entwined himself on to its tail.

When Vinata and Kadruva came to inspect the horse, they found its tail black. They were looking at it from a distance may be because if they go near it the horse might get away. So from the distance Vinata could not see that a serpent was entwined on to the tail. All she could see was that the tail was black. She lost the bet and became slave of Kadruva from that day, serving her as a slave would.

Vinata was still looking after the egg to hatch...

Read about the birth of Garuda and how he relieved his mother Vinata from slavery in my next posts.....

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Temples Of India-4

SRI BALA BALAJI TEMPLE-APPANA PALLE-3




The Story of Ksheerasagara Madhanam

I am stating this story very briefly for the purpose of identifying the link with this temple site. 

Devas (includes deities, spirits and gods) and Asuras (Raakshasas or demons) -who both were born to Sage Kashayapa but with different mothersconstantly battled for supremacy and controlling of various worlds. Asuras  due to their sheer brutal strength and devious ways and also due to many boons from Gods for their penances,  mostly had the upper hand and used to defeat the Devas.


So Devas prayed to Lord Vishnu for a way out of this. HE advised them to churn the cosmic ocean known as Ksheera Sagara or Milky Ocean for Amrutham-the Nectar/elixir/ambrosia  which would give immortality. But this could not be done by Devas alone. So they roped in Asuras too. They too wanted a share in this. Devas had to agree.


With Vasuki-the thousand headed king of serpents as the rope and the huge Mountain named Mandhara as  churn stick, churning of the ocean started. At the head side of the serpent were the Asuras and the tail was held by Devas. But soon after, the mountain being so huge and heavy started sinking. So they all prayed to Lord Vishnu to save them. Lord Vishnu incarnated in the form of huge tortoise bore the mountain on his back as long as the churning went on and saved it from sinking. 


You can see the depiction here:


http://www.flickr.com/photos/satyendra/3791844091/


It went on for thousand years or so.


Many treasures and jewels came out of it. Moon, Goddess Laksmi, Apsaras (beautiful damsels), Dhanvantari (a physician and father of Ayur veda) and many more came out of it. 


Uchaishrawa or snow white horse with seven heads came out of the ocean. This was the most beautiful, powerful and best horse which could fly. This was taken by Indra-king of Devas. Similarly other valuable things came out of it.


Finally, Amrutham or nectar came out. Both the Devas and the Asuras started fighting for it. Lord Vishnu transformed himself into a beautiful damsel- Vishwa Mohini and appeared between the warring factions. He then very cleverly distributed it to Devas but not a single drop to Asuras. 


Later on the pot of Nectar was given to Indra for safe custody. In Amaravathi, the kingdom of Indra this pot is kept under tight security. No one can enter the place nor can touch it.


I will write about this churning of milky ocean in detail some other time. For the purpose of our legend related to the temple, it is enough.Just remember Amrutham and Ucchaisrawa.


Now we have to get back to Vinata and Kadruva, the wives of sage Kashyapa. where we left them in my previous post.


Keep watching my blog for the next part of the story.....


Naga-Garuda Panchami

Today August 4th is Panchami or the fifth day of the Sravana month.

We Hindus  divinity in all, birds, animals, rivers and even mountains and stones. The reason behind this is that the environment or nature would then be respected. As humans we are more intelligent. At the same time, we have the power to destroy other creatures and nature. In order to avoid this, our forefathers-learned and wise sages taught us to see divinity in all.
Naga
Garuda
Today is Naga Panchami and also Garuda Panchami. Nagas means serpents. Garuda means the golden eagle. 
          Sage Kashyapa


Both are the children of the great Rishi Kashyapa. He had many wives.  Nagas  meaning snakes or serpents were born to his wife Kadruva. Garuda was born to his wive Vinata. you can read more about this in one of my previous posts:

Nagas or serpents are worshipped today. They represent so many mystical qualities and symbolise many things. I will write about them separately as there is lot to write about. Shiva wears snakes as ornament- primarily round his neck. Vishnu reclines on Shesha Sarpa. So many mythological stories are connected with them. They are worshipped in the form of Manasa devi-queen of serpents, Rahu-Ketu (shadow planets) as well as Kuja or Mars. Lord Subrahmanyam- son of Shiva is also worshipped in the form of snake.


Garuda or the mighty eagle, gold in colour is also known as Pakshi Raja -the king of birds and and many other names, is associated with strength. He is known for his love for his mother.

What to do today:

Lord Subrahmanyam and Nagendra is to be worshipped. Mansa Devi is also worshipped.

One can recite stotras, ashtotra, sahasranamas. A silver snake form is placed in a vessel and worshipped with cow milk (unheated), turmeric, vermilion and flowers  either by chanting the mantras or stotras of Subrahmanyam or separate for Nagendra. Sesame seeds and jaggery are powdered together and made into laddus (round balls), rice flour(raw rice washed and powdered) mixed with jaggery and made into laddus, cow milk is offered as Prasaadam and eaten. Many keep complete fast on this day except for eating the Prasaadam, some fruits and drinking milk. 

Many people don't use combs or cut vegetables with knives or cutters on this day. That is why they eat only those vegetables which need not be cut. Even cooked food is not eaten by some.

People also visit temples or other places to worship ant hills( where serpents reside) or snake pits. A little bit of earth from the same is taken and applied to ear lobes and eyes as it is believed that it keeps our sense organs healthy.  

Naga Puja or worshipping snakes is done for snakes are associated with fertility. By worshipping them many childless couples seek children. Good health of children, family members, safety from snake bites, prosperity-as snakes are believed to be safe guard wealth and possess presicious gems. They also represent spiritual knowledge and Kundalini shakthi.

Garuda is worshipped for health, for be-getting  strong children, as a protection against snakes, or snake bites and poison as well as the one who carries lord Vishnu.

Those who cannot do all this can at least recite stotras.

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