Monday, October 20, 2008
MALAYSIA: BATU CAVE TEMPLE!...& HINDUISM
Batu Caves temple attracts million worshippers
The Batu Caves Temple in Malaysia stands out as a monumental focal point of the significant contribution made by the Indian settlers in the development of Malaya and then Malaysia (1963). The 116 year old main temple, dedicated to Lord Subramaniar (Karttikeya), is lodged in a cave about 400 feet above ground level.
Batu Caves Sri Subramaniar Swamy Devasthanam, Malaysia
It is the main cave, the temple cave, in a hilly massif known as Bukit Batu, Rocky Hill. The name is derived from the name of a nearby river known as Sungai Batu, Rocky River in the Malay Language, the National Language of Malaysia.
Devotion, cultural heritage and love for the Tamil Language are the priorities for the Tamils. Wherever they reach, together they bring those fundamental qualities. The life-style of the Tamils is situated around the surroundings of temple shrine. They strongly believe that their life is destined by the supreme power.
Within the four seas, they travelled to search for fortune. In the 18th and 19th century, Malaya (now Malaysia) was no optional. The ancestors who came here, brought along with them the Divine Mother - Sri Maha Mariamman and his Gnana Kulantai, Sri Subramaniar to be worshipped and prayed for their protection. Thus Sri Maha Mariamman Temple was built in 1873 in Kuala Lumpur.
In 1891, K. Thambusamy Pillai, an influential descendent of Indian immigrants from Tamilnadu, India, the founder President of the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur, installed the murti (consecrated statue) of Sri Subramania Swamy in what is today known as the Temple Cave. Since 1892, the Thaipusam festival in the Tamil month of Thai (which falls in late January/early February) has been celebrated there.
Thaipusam is grandiose affair. It attracts about a million worshippers and tourists from within the country and abroad over three days of festivities. Nowhere else in the world (not even India) is this festival celebrated on such a grand scale.
Thaipoosam or Thaipusam falls annually on the full- moon day in the Tamil month of Thai which occurs between January 14 and February 15. This is when the moon moves through the zodiac period of Cancer according to the Indian Calendar.
Throngs of people begin to converge at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur and Batu Caves on the eve of Thaipusam. The murti of Sri Subramaniar Swamy which resides in the Kuala Lumpur temple throughout the rest of the year, is bathed and elaborately decorated on the eve; and, on the following day, Thaipusam, a bullock drawn chariot winds its way through the city on its way to the Temple Cave - an annual journey to mark the occasion. The gleaming, elaborately lit, silver chariot towers to an awe inspiring 21 feet above ground level.
The chariot stops at several points along its journey to allow gatherings of devotees to offer prayers and smash coconuts on the roads as a mark of the supremacy of good over evil. For a period of a fortnight to a month, the devotee who has vowed to do penance observes fasts on prescribed days.
The devotee partakes of only vegetarian food, abstains from all forms of self-indulgence and remains chaste and clean in word, thought and deed. The devotee lives in seclusion or in the company of other fasting devotees.
From well before sunrise on the day of the festival, devotees with chests, backs, thighs, foreheads, tongues and cheeks pierced with silver needles or skewers, carry contraptions called kavadi.
The kavadi may be simple wooden arched semi-circular supports holding a carrier foisted with brass or clay pots of milk or huge, heavy ones which may rise up to two metres, built of bowed metal frames which hold long skewers, the sharpened end of which pierce the skin of the bearers torso.
The kavadi is decorated with flowers and peacock feathers imported from India. Some kavadi may weigh as much as a hundred kilograms.
After a bath in the nearby Sungei Batu (Rocky River), the devotees wend their way to the Temple Cave and with remarkable endurance they climb the flights of stairs to the temple in the cave. Devotees use the wider centre staircase while worshippers and onlookers throng up and down those balustrades off on either side.
When the kavadi bearer arrives at the foot of the 272 step stairway leading up to the Temple Cave, the devotee has to make the arduous climb against gravity- against the press of the bustling masses.
Once the kavadi bearers reach the Cave Temple, they offer prayers to the murti of the Lord Murugan who is now in the residence at the Temple Cave after His Chariot journey from Kuala Lumpur. Priests attend to the kavadi bearers.
Consecrated ash is sprinkled over the hooks and skewers piercing the devotees flesh before they are removed. No blood is shed during the piercing and removal.
Batu Malai Sri Subramaniar Temple is managed by the Board of Management of Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Devasthanam (performing the role of Hindu Religious Consultant to the Government of Malaysia in determining the Hindu yearly calendar), which also manages the Sri Ganesar Temple at Court Hill. The statue of Lord Muruga at the entrance of the steps stand at 130 feet tall, making it the tallest Lord Muruga statue in the world.
Spiritual Leader Sri Chinmoy passes away
Internationally renowned peace leader and spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy passed away on the morning of October 11, 2007 in his home in Queens, New York. The cause of death was a heart attack.
Respected and loved worldwide, Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy for world peace was manifested through a wide array of activities, ranging from literature to art to sports to music.
The universal nature of his philosophy embraced and encouraged people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities to work together for peace. Over 600 leaders, luminaries and professors had nominated Sri Chinmoy for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
He was one of the finalists for that year’s prize, which could not be awarded posthumously.
Hailed as a modern day renaissance man, Sri Chinmoy wrote over 1,600 books of prose and poetry, composed over 20,000 pieces of music, played over 800 Peace Concerts in venues like Lincoln Center and Charnegie Hall and was an avid runner, tennis player and champion weightlifter.
Sri Chinmoy was born on August 27,1931 in a small village in East India. Orphaned at the age of 11, Sri Chinmoy travelled with his six brothers and sisters to a spiritual community in South India, where he spent the next 20 years in intense prayer and meditation. Heeding an inner call, he travelled to the United States in 1964 and made New York City his home.
In the 43 years since his arrival in the West, Sri Chinmoy became a model of the potential of humankind. Opening centers throughout the world for peace and harmony he tirelessly travelled the globe to share his inspiration and goodwill.
A champion of interfaith harmony, Sri Chinmoy was beloved by religious leaders of all denominations. From Mother Teresa to Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II to the Dalai Lama, Sri Chinmoy was celebrated as a true servant of God.
Sri Chinmoy was an ardent supporter of the United Nations. Since 1970 he had served as the leader of the Peace Meditation at the United Nations, an association of delegates and staff he founded under the aegis of the third UN Secretary-General U Thant.
Sri Chinmoy took Mahasamadhi, passing away at the age of 76
Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual teacher who dedicated his life in the service of humanity, took mahasamadhi - the mystic process through which spiritual Masters exit the body - and passed behind the curtain of Eternity on the morning of 11 October 2007. In his 43 years in the West, he endeavoured to inspire and serve mankind with his soulful offerings - his prayers and meditations, literary, musical and artistic works.
Sunil Jayantha Wanigasooriya
Hindu saints and the bakthi cult - 6:
Women Saints - Tilakavati
Tilakavati and Appar were born as sister and brother in a farmer’s family. When Tilakavati came of age, a marriage was arranged for her with one Kalipahai living in the neighbouring village. Just as the marriage negotiations were over word came that the Chalukiya King was invading the Pallava territory. In the general mobilisation Kalipahai who was also a soldier was summoned by the King.
He could not give marriage as an excuse. The country came first before personal life. Kalipahai went to the King. A detachment was given under his command and he was sent to the front. He fought valiantly.
The Pallava King was victorious. But unfortunately Kalipahai was killed in the battle. In the meantime, Tilakavati’s father died of an ailment and his wife too ended her life after her husband’s death. Having lost both the parents, the brother and sister were forlorn. The news of Kalipahai came as a shock to both.
Tilakavati has decided Kalipahai would be her husband and though the marriage ceremony didn’t take place, the man was to be her husband. On hearing news of his death, she got ready to join him in the nether world. But her young brother cried, “Sister, I am a little boy.
How can you abandon me? What would I do without you? You are now like my parent.” Hearing this Tilakavati was helpless. She did not want her brother to be an orphan. So, she decided to live for his sake but strictly as a widow. She kept indoors and led a life of austerity and penance.
Her brother became a learned man well-versed in all the subjects he studied. During a comparative study of religions he was fascinated by Jainism. He left his sister and entered the monastery.
He was named Dharmasena. His sister couldn’t bear it. She did temple service at a shrine at Tiruadibai and tither she went to plead with Lord Siva to get back her brother to Saivaism. Lord Siva appeared in her dream and told her that her brother would suffer from a colic and that would bring him back to the Siva fold.
Soon Dharmasena began to suffer from severe stomach pain. This became so acute and the medicines and magic of the Jain monks did not heal him. He sent the cook to his sister. He told her about her brother’s plight and insisted her to go to him. She sent word saying she wouldn’t enter the Jain quarters.
That night Dharmasena came to her, fell at her feet begging her to save him. She prayed to Lord Siva and applied the holy ash to his forehead and took him to the shrine at Tiruadihai.
There she prayed to God to help her brother. By the Grace of God Siva he was healed of his ailment and having realised his folly of joining the Jaints, he sang God’s praise and started doing manual service in the temples.
Tilakavati’s life was not as impressive as Karaikkal Ammayar’s or Mangaiyarkkarasiar’s, but Sekkilar enumerated her as a saint because she gave the world a saint (Thirunavukkarasar) who preached to the world that humility and service to God are also pathways to God realisation.
He taught the followers that to be in a state of complete surrender to God is another way to realise the Great Presence.
Anyway, Tilakavati brought back the prodigal brother to Siva fold. To know and to teach Lord Siva is God Supreme and the aim of all Atmas (souls) is to attain Moksha at the Lotus feet of the Lord God.
She is truly deemed a saint for she abstained from all mundane pleasures and lived to make her brother a renowned Siva devotee. Her bearing was saintly and she was an ideal woman in that she led an austere life and spent her time in serving God.
Understanding Hinduism - 8:
Monism of the Hindus
Hinduism is one religion that is not rigid and it is flexible. It could accommodate many views. A Hindu can express his opinion on any religious problem just as much as he could adopt his religious life in terms of his convictions, irrespective of his age, education or social standing. This is his birth right. Taking advantage of this I have ventured as a humble seeker of truth to air my views on some basic features in Hinduism.
Hindu metaphysical philosophy as we know has two aspects: one claiming spiritual origin and the other physical- both from all types of phenomena.
If we flash our thoughts into the dim past and trace the developments of the revelation and rituals, we will see that all conceivable ideas on the subject from the crudest ones to the finest have been applied, tested and rejected.
Schools of thought like Atomism, Materialism, Spiritualism, Nihilism and ideas like Evolution, Involution had all their impact on thinking.
But it is almost impossible to think anything new which has not been thought of earlier and which had not been practised and rejected after trial. You would agree that all the ‘isms’ of the present day are mere modifications of the past ideas with new labels. It is perhaps for this reason that the Vedas are called eternal. All possible human thoughts have been recorded already and the human intellect was as piercing than as it is today.
Instinct, reason and inspiration are all names for the same instrument for different operations.
Human intellect is flexible and discriminative. It was able to raise its head from nature worship, ancestor worship, idol worship, Devas worship and the like until it recognised a primordial intelligence and consciousness; and the bedrock on which the whole phenomena depended. As the expanding universe was too great for the human’s investigations, the humans turned their search light inside themselves.
This was on experimenting that the investigation of a lump of clay could be sufficient to find the component parts of the whole earth.
All schools of thought in the Hindu religion accept the Vedas as authentic or as revelations.
The four Vedas have been strained by reason and experience and the result is the teaching of the 108 Upanishads, throughout it was clear even to an outsider not well-versed in the scriptures what the Vedas were hitting at: The unanimous verdict of the Vedas was Monism complete pure Monism.
Monism should not be confused with Monotheism. Monism is that there is only ONE, without the second. Conversely Monotheism speaks of only ONE GOD.
There are hundreds of sects in the Hindu religion that everything God is their bottomline conception. All phenomena originate in Him, rest in Him and emerge into Him.
This concept however could be acceptable to contending parties calling them ‘idealists’ and ‘materialists’ for the simple reason that Monism (that is complete pure monism) covers both those terms.
Many take this Monism as a working assumption without any pangs of conscience as Monism is the final verdict for Hindus. But a final solution to an infinite problem is not possible. We cannot embrace the all embracing.
However we can presume that the Spirit the Hindus speak of may be a superfine matter beyond the search of all human instruments both physical and mental.
The matter they speak of is only a visible manifestation capable of being examined by human intellect.
This process is called Sruthi, Yugthi and Anubavam in Thamil.
The teachings of the Vedas, our own reasoning, our own experiences are the means of ascertaining the truth and not parrot-like repetition of what others have said.