Monday, July 26, 2010

Dedicated to Hindu God Murugan, Skanda Vale in Wales in the UK, is one of the most famous temples run by a community of white monks and nuns.!!!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Wales Skanda Vale:

A unique temple in UK
Shyamala Devi Karunakharan

Dedicated to Hindu God Murugan, Skanda Vale in Wales in the United Kingdom, is one of the most famous temples run by a community of white monks and nuns.

Lord Shiva

Located in a hilly, dusky and picturesque landscape, it consists of three separate temples in quite a big area, with the main shrine dedicated to Lord Murugan, the second to Maha Shakthi (Kaali) and the other to Lord Renganatha (Lord Vishnu). The place draws an ever increasing number of devotees regardless of their religion or belief.

The monks and nuns who run the temples have taken strict vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and spiritual devotion which they follow with a lot of commitment.

Although the temple is of an extremely modest building structure for its popularity, the profound dedication practised there is unbelievably overwhelming and rich in its own approach. Unlike other temples, there are no charges for poojas, prasadam, accommodation or transport. The worship of God is free at Skanda Vale.

The serene atmosphere in which the temple is located adds peace and tranquillity much desired by those who are there at any point of the year. A brief stroll along the beautiful green lawn leads to the Lord Ranganatha shrine, supposed to have been built lately.

Caravans parked against the flowering shrubs overlooking the pine trees across a precipice, facilitate the devotees who come from far away places to stay overnight and be present at the early morning pooja activities. Although there is no cost for any facility at Skanda Vale, donations are accepted in order to meet the daily expenses and maintenance.

Lord Renganatha shrine

The Kali temple up in the hill takes approximately a 40 minutes walk through the woods. This gives an opportunity to wander along the woods amidst the singing of the birds and the gentle breeze.

There is an animal farm run by the community, often making the visitors to indulge in a true village environment.

The inner shrine of the Kali temple and the pious surrounding with the true performance of religious obligation by the monks and nuns in robes engulf you completely and drive you through the corridors of spirituality to a complete new world. It is an experience too subtle to be described. The way they perform the pooja inevitably sets an example to very many temples world over where religion and spiritualism are fast becoming a lucrative business.

The key principles at the temple are the worship of God in his universality and recognising and valuing all religions and cultures.

The community encourages personal spiritual experience while ensuring the original faith of the devotees is sustained or rather enhanced. No conversion is sought there. Spiritual refreshment is provided to a large number of devotees.

This community of the many names of God was founded by Guru Sri Subramanium as a monastic centre in Wales during 1973. This Sri Lankan Swamiji who came to Britain four decades ago was thoroughly overwhelmed by the destruction in Europe during World War II. Since then he was obsessed with the thought of building a temple in order to value all religions and cultures and thereby developing a strong relationship with God.

Motivated by his wisdom with the grace of Lord Vishnu, Guru Sri Subramanium found the present location and built the Murugan temple first in 1975, then the Kali temple up in a hill and later the Vishnu temple. The Swamiji passed away two years ago.

A monument was unveiled in memory of him last year in the premises.

A monk who came there 20 years ago and had worked together with the Swamiji since then admits that the love and happiness he gets in assisting the poojas is absolutely immense. The temple adheres to a strict set of rules and regulations out of which the most important requests the pilgrims to be a vegetarian for at least three days prior to their visit.

It is a treat to see the white monks and nuns partaking in the poojas chanting precisely the mantras and bajans in Sanskrit, Hindi and Tamil with such dedication and affection.

Skanda Vale is a must-visit place in Britain for all those who believe in spiritual composure.


The Yoga of comradeship
Thilaka V. Wijeyaratnam

Chakravarthy Rajagopalachayrar (Rajaji) was the first C-in-C of Independent India. His book on St. Lawrence was called Tholamai Yogam – The yoga of comradeship.

St. Lawrence communicated with the Lord – Spoke to Him as if to a friend and poured out his heart to Him.

In the series – Don Camillo by Giovani too, Don Camillo the priest talks to the Lord. It was written in a lighter vein.

In as much the same way St. Sundara Moorthy Nayanas also, in his life on earth communicated with God Siva as a comrade.

He was so close to God Siva that he addresses Him as a friend – In fact God Siva Himself has pronounced him as His pal.

Originally Sundarar was in Kailas the abode of God Siva, as a close devotee of God Siva. Daily he would pick flowers and collect Holy Ash for God Siva. At the same time, there were two maidens called Aninthithai and Kamalini who were serving Goddess Uma, the consort of God Siva. These two also picked flowers to string garlands for the Goddess.

It so happened that when Sundarar was picking flowers, three damsels also were close by. Hearing their voices, Sundarar peeped to see the maidens, and was attracted towards them. God Siva knower of all things could see that Sundarar had failed in his discipline and told him.

”Since your mind is not steady, you had better go back to earth, marry them and enjoy life”.

Sundarar, utterly humaliated begged God Siva to take him back unto His fold.

God Siva promised to do so at the ripe time.

That was the secret of Sundarar’s birth. He was born to one Chadaiyanar and his wife Isaignaniyar. They were strong Saivaites.

One day when he was a young boy, Sundarar was playing.

The king of the land, who happened to pass by saw that the boy was no ordinary one, and desired to bring him up in the palace. So with the approval of the parents, he was taken to the palace, and given all luxuries.

As he came of age, the father wanted him settled in life.

A marriage was proposed and Sundarar went on horse back to the nuptial chamber (Manavarai)

While the ceremony was going on, God Siva as promised, came in the guise of an old man and stopped the marriage, saying Sundarar’s ancestors have signed a bond of slavery to him.

Angrily Sundarar called him Pittithe madman – The old man produced the ola scripts wherein Sundarar’s ancestors have said that their entire generation would be bonded slaves to Him.

Sundarar asked the old man for his whereabouts.

Thiruvennai Nallur is where I dwell, said the old man.

”Let’s go there and settle this dispute said Sundarar, and the entire party followed him to Thiruvennai Nallur.

On reaching the place, where there was a temple called Thiniarudthurai.

He went up to the temple and vanished. While all stood dumb struck, there appeared God Siva on a white bull with Uma beside Him.

”As you requested I have taken you”, said God Siva.

As you spoke sternly to me you shall be known as Van thondar the stern devotee.

Sing me in Thamil said God Siva.

Sundarar wanted to know how to begin. “You called me a piththa - mad man -start so”, said God Siva.

Sundarar immediately sang his first song on God Siva.

”Piththa pirai soodi Perumane” arulala

Eththan maravathai ninaikindren manthunnai

Vaithai pennai thenpal bennai Nallur arud thurayul

Aththa unakalayini allelenalamo” meaning

You madman, with the cresent moon on your crown bless us,

I will forever remember you in my mind

With the beautiful maiden beside you at Nallur Arudthurai,

Other than surrender to you, what else is there for me.

Foremost disciple

Thereafter he was one of God Sivar’s foremost disciples.

God Siva performed many miracles for him. With the right of way Sundarar would demand His help and on many occasions God Siva complied with his requests.

He settled a misunderstanding with Sundarar’s first wife Parvaiyar (aninthini in former life in Kailas) and helped him to marry Sangiliyar (Kamalini formely in Kailas) also.

Once during famine Sundarar begged God Siva for provisions and there were bags and bags of paddy. He implored God Siva to have them transported to his house and the Siva ganangal - attendants of God Siva delivered them at his house.

Sometimes he accused God Siva of being indifferent to His devotees.

We devotees are forever your slaves. But when we devotees suffer in life, you of Thiruvaroor do not seem to take note of your devotees’ sufferings. Oh yes! you dwele well in Thiruvaroor”.

This was his comradeship with God Siva. He took liberties with Him because Himself pronounced Sundarar as His companion.


Bagavad Gita’s impact on modern society
Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar

Despite enormous, awesome force man has, the world is still plagued by endless and myriad of problems. The solutions to these problems lie in the integrated development of individual personality. In order to direct this power in the right way we must strive for intellectual enhancement, evaluate confusing situations and derive constructive conclusions.

In the Bagavad Gita philosophical theories are couched in a language of least confusion and it suggests schemes for self improvement which are unique in their variety and effectiveness.

In the Bagavad Gita Lord Krishna assures with a divine eloquence that success in one’s birthright.

Sky is the limit to the success, man can achieve and Gita also instructs that one has to train the mind and intellect to analyse, evaluate and decisively act even in a web of complexities – in confusing situations, sensitive conditions and threatening challenges.

Further, the greater contribution of the Gita to the modern society, apart from its priceless spiritual teachings is its emphasis on work, dedicated hard work for the good of society and the welfare of the people.

The Bagavad Gita which forms the part of Maha Bharatha is the more populous religious poem of Sanskrit literature.

It is said to be the most beautiful, perhaps the only true philosophical song existing in any known tongue.

It is a book conveying lessons of philosophy, religion and ethics. In fact, Gita is the most influential work in Indian thought. Its message of deliverance is simple and it teaches a method which is within the reach of all, that of Bhakti or devotion to God.

The way of life taught in Bagavad Gita is quite consistent with the mood and requirements of modern world. Hindu religion can be approached in a scientific spirit.

Ancient seen treated religion on the whole as a search for truth and not as a matter of Dogma. It continued to be rather a science of the spirit than a body of dogma. Naturally, therefore, every variety of approach to the ultimate truth is permitted in Hindu religion.

Yoga is the name given to that state of mind which helps a man to live a dedicated life while engaged in worldly affairs. A great deal of dedication and devotion are necessary to enable a man to live in this world.

Furthermore, Lord Krishna was a formidable warrior, an unsurpassed statesman, the greatest philosopher and world teacher. As Arjuna’s charioteer he decided the fate of the great battle of Kurushetra. On the battle field the armies of the Kauravas and the pandavas stood face to face, poised to destroy each other.

Seeing on the opposite side his cousins, uncles, grand father, teachers and several close relatives and friends Arjuna finds himself unable to fight and puts his weapon down.

Declaring himself the teacher of universe, Krishna reveals to Arjuna the man profound knowledge and expounds the importance of duty above everything else.

This is how Lord Vishnu happened to deliver the eternal message of Bagavad Gita.

Indeed, this world is a battle ground and there will be problems like the waves in the sea. We cannot run away from problems.

We have to face the problems and the teachings of Bagavad Gita given in the 18 chapters will guide us to get over from unending problems.

Undoubtedly, to a world lost in error, beset by illusions of time, weighed down by complexities, trials and tribulations conflicts and contradictions, the teachings of Bagavad Gita will definitely help us to live in peace maintaining tranquility, equanimity and serenity.


Karaikal Ammaiyar
Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar

[ Snippets]
Diyana (Intense Prayer)
Dr. Ramamoorthy, a neurology specialist says that cells in the brain gain strength when one is engaged in intense prayer and meditation in silence. He advises that everyone should engage in this daily for at least 15 minutes at any time of the day.

This should be done before meals. One shouldn’t be in a hurry. One should not engage in Digana thinking of doing something at hand. After the meals there should be an interval of 3 hours.

Pancha Puranangal
In Saivaism there are five Puranas. They are:

Thevaaram, Thiruvaasagam, Thiruvisaipaa, Thiru sallandu and Thirupuanam

Nallur Kanthan
Kanthan, Murugan, Subramanium are some of the names ascribed to Lord Muruga. In Lanka most of theSaivaites give primary importance to Muruga, who is the deity in Kataragama or Kathirkamam as the Tamilians call this shrine.

The Annual Nalloor festival begins on August 15, this year.



Karaikal Ammaiyar, a great saint and poetess who was an embodiment chanting prayer and devotion lived in the third century. The name given to Karaikal Ammaiyar by her parents was Punitavati (the holy one). She grew into an extra-ordinary beautiful lass. She was married to one Paramadattan.

Karaikal Ammaiyar belonged to a wealthy merchant clan. When devotees of Lord Shiva came to her house shelfed them and gave them gold and gems. Her domestic life was full of pure joy. One day some men called on her husband in his place of business and gave him a couple of mangoes.

He sent these to his wife. A few minutes later, a devotee of Lord Shiva with the view to get fed, called on her. She received him in the proper way. As she had not by them completed her cooking, she could not serve the guest with any side dish. However, she provided him with a mango fruit.

The devotee guest ate well, thanked her profusely and took leave of his. After sometime, her husband returned from his place of business to have his mid day meal. He finished bath and sat for his lunch. He had his square meal along with the remaining mango fruit.

As the fruit was extremely sweet like honey he said; “There should be are more, serve me that also.” She moved away as if to fetch the fruit. She fervently prayed to Lord Shiva and came by a fruit forthwith.

July 16,2010 – The Maha Kumbabisbekam Festival of Sri Arunasala Eswarar Kovil was held at Modera, Colombo 15. Large number of devotees participated. Chief Priest Sivasiri K. Senthilkumara kurukkal performed a special pooja for the main Kumbams (Holy Water Pots). Pic. A Maduraiveeran

July 15, 2010 Siva Shri Kumaraswamy Siva Achariyar’s book Siva Aagama Segeram Pradishda Vithi was launched at the Hindu Mamanthra Hall in Jaffna. The first copy is presented by the Hindu Samaya Peedathipathy Maheswaran Kurukkal to Sivasri Muttu Kurukkal. Also in the picture are: Chief Priest of Nallaui Aatheenam Somasundara Deshiya Gnana Sambantta Paramachariya Swamijal and K Ishwara Kurukkal. Pic. A. Maduraveeran


Adi Vel HINDU FESTIVAL adds colour to Colombo...!!!

After 16 years:

Adi Vel adds colour to Colombo

K S Sivakumaran

* Maheswara Pooja at Semmangodu Sri Kathiravelayutha Swami Temple
* Kaavadi Ratham at Maanicka Vinayagar temple in Bambalapitiya


[Colourful Hindu festival]
* Adi Vel celebrated in Colombo during Aadi month of Tamil calendar
* Festival is 160 years old
* Held in honour of Lord Muruga
* Festival commemorates victory of Sri Murukan over the forces of evil


In July (Aadi in Tamil) each year to coincide with the Kathirkamam (Kataragama) festival in honour of Lord Muruga or Skanda , a replica of the Vael (Vel) - a golden spear of the deity - along with the statues of the deity with his consorts Theivaanai Amman and Valli Amman are taken in procession in a chariot along the main highway to the Maanicka Vinayagar Temple in Bambalapitiya.

Devotees participating in the procession

It all started last Thursday July (22) with a Maheswara Pooja at the Semmangodu Sri Kathiravelayutha Swami Temple in First Cross Street in Colombo 11 (Pettah). This was followed by Kaavadi Ratham (‘Kaavadi’ Chariot) a procession on foot by devotees to the temple at Maanicka Vinayagar temple in Bambalapitiya. This was a prelude to the procession on the following day (July 23, 2010, Friday)

The Vale (Vel) Ratham (a silver chariot) carried a golden statue of Lord Muruga and his Vale (Vel) was taken in procession by devotees on foot on Friday from the New Kathiresan Temple at Sea Street in Pettah and reached New Kathiresan Temple in Bambalapitiya. The statue of the deity was kept in the precincts of the latter temple in Bambalapitiya.

Yesterday (July 25, 2010), the water-cutting ceremony took place in Kataragama and concurrently the deities statue was taken to the ocean waves near the Bambalapitiya marine drive for similar bathing of the statues.

We understand that the two temples mentioned above - Manicka Vinayagar temple and New Kathiresan temple- are managed by two different trustees, but they celebrate this holy festival together.

Today (July 26) the Kavadi Ratham will go back to Manicka Vinayagar temple while the Vale (Vel) cart will leave for New Kathiresan temple tomorrow (July 27).

The Vale (Vel) Festival like the Kandy Perahera draws thousands of people from different communities.

To explain more clearly here is an excerpt culled from the Internet:

The Colourful Adi Vel cart and procession

“To mark the occasion, the idols of Lord Murugan, Sri Valli and Theivaanai are driven on a silver plated chariot from the temple of Pettah Kathiresan to Bambalapitiya shrine.

The beautifully decorated chariot is followed by musicians and devotees singing songs in praise of the Lord. The ardent followers break coconuts and burn incense sticks that add to the sacredness of the occasion. Several devotees from far and wide visit Colombo to witness the religious festival of Hindu Vel or Aadi Vel. The followers burst crackers to honour the victory of Lord Murugan over evil forces. Hindu Vel Festival Colombo reflects the unique religious history and cultural heritage of Sri Lanka.” (Internet)

Here is another colourful description by a writer:
“A day or two before the water-cutting festival of Kataragama, a gaily decorated silver plated chariot drawn by a pair of snow-white bulls carrying the statue of Lord Murukan leaves the Pettah Kathiresan temple to the shrine at Bambalapitiya. This is the beginning of the Vel Festival which is held every year to commemorate the victory of Sri Murukan over the forces of evil.

The procession proceeds along the accustomed route with multi-coloured umbrellas, caparisoned elephants, dancers and oriental musicians through a mass of worshippers and sightseers. It moves slowly while the drums throb, the bells tinkle and the Tanjore band plays till it reaches its destination.

A bhajana party singing divine songs follows the chariot. After a journey of six miles the pageant enters the temple where thousands of devotees flock to pay their homage to Lord Murakan by breaking coconuts, lighting joss sticks and burning camphor. The temple with its pageantry and panorama of twinkling illuminations attracts the religious and non-believer alike.

In the temple precincts and along both sides of the Galle Road traders of all races sell their merchandise - foodstuffs, clothes, brass utensils, camphor, beads, bangles, toys, earthen ware, sweetmeats, pictures, etc. The sugarcane juice dealers also do a brisk business.

A kavadi dance

When the illuminated Vel car returns on the evening of the third or fourth day along the accustomed route the crowd swells to immeasurable proportions. The Galle Road for many miles is a sea of heads, and when the Vel cart arrives at Galle Face Green, the pageant becomes grand and imposing.

First-class fireworks specially made for the occasion continue to illuminate the night sky with their multi-coloured lights. There is much fun and excitement. Bullock carts of all sizes and shapes line the roads, for the occupants have come from distant villages to see their war-god taking a drive through the city. The roads become impassable for vehicles, but everybody is happy and smiling. With the deafening shouts of Haro Hara, the Vel cart moves slowly to its destination. Today the Vel Festival has become a national festival of the island.” (Internet)

The Vale (Vel) was taken in procession by devotees from Colombo to Kataragama on foot (paada yathra) to bathe in the Manik Ganga more than a century ago. But later (in 1874) the colonial powers did not allow this procession on the grounds that hygienic conditions not conducive prevailed due to an outbreak of cholera in 1874. So devotees from all over the island came to Colombo to obtain their blessings. Similar festivals in honour of Lord Muruga take place as a follow up in Keerimalai, Naloor (Nallur) in Yaalpaanam (Jaffna) and Mandoor and Sithaandy in the East.

In Colombo too sporadically the festival was held after 1983. The last time the festival was held in Colombo was in 2004. Earlier a public holiday was declared for devotees and visitors to enjoy the festival and receive the grace from Lord Muruga.

A devotee walks along with the chariot. Pictures by Saman Mendis

Devotees of Indian origin - the Chemmankodu Chettiars - were instrumental in honouring Lord Muruga in this fashion.

“The Vel Festival is celebrated by Hindus in Colombo and is held in honour of Lord Sri Murukan, the God of War. The event begins with a lively procession through the streets led by an ornately decorated chariot carrying a statue of Lord Murukan which is pulled by two bulls. All are welcome to this fun festival that includes street entertainment, elephant processions, music, ceremonial dancing, fireworks and much more. A real carnival atmosphere takes over the city which reaches fever pitch in the areas close to the temples.”(Internet)

The Vale (Vel) festival this year promises reassurance that different communities and every one from different faiths could celebrate such religious festivals without any fear or interference. This augurs well for a bright future for all Lankans.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reaping peace dividends : Tamil Hindu Devotees from NESL throng Katiragaamam Murukan Temple..!!! !!!

Devotees camping near the Okanda Devale
Pix: Thusitha Chandrakumara-Economic Development Ministry
Reaping peace dividends :

Devotees throng Kataragama
By Dhaneshi YATAWARA In Kumana

Devotees praying at the Okanda Devale

Colourful birds of all shapes and sizes were not the only breathtaking scene during this time of the year at the Kumana National Park. Thousands of devotees throng Kataragama for the season. Pada Yathra, the foot pilgrimage seeking the blessings of God Skanda is one of the oldest religions traditions.

For centuries thousands of pilgrims following the traditions of their predecessors make the 'pada yathra' to Kataragama or Katirgamam every year. The 'Pada Yathra' or the foot pilgrimage is believed to have originated from Jaffna following the poojas at Selva Sannithy Kovil for God Skanda located on the sand banks of Thondamannar Aru.

Today, the Thondamannar barrage is built next to the temple. Traditionally the pilgrims spend around two months for their journey starting from Jaffna. Later with the increase of LTTE hostilities in the North the devotees started this pilgrimage from Kannaki Amman Kovil in Vattapallai - on the banks of the Nanthi Kadal lagoon in Mullaitivu.

Passing Kannkerny, Kumulamunai, Chemmalai, Kokkuttuduwai, Karnattukerni, Kokilai, Pulmudai, Tiriyaya, Kuchweli, Kumburupitti, Gopalapuram, Nilaweli, Okanda, Weheragama, Bangura and Madamethota pilgrims then cross Kumbukkan Oya and finally entre the Yala National Park.

Entering Yala, the pilgrims rest at Poththana, then reach Katagamuwa and cross the Menik Ganga (river) at Warahana and arrive at Kataragama. Some start their pilgrimage from Vilundri Kandaswami Kovil in Trincomalee.

The Guardian of the Weheragama Sri Murugan Kovil, Naidihami Varunaranga (51) was busy performing poojas for the devotees. Hailing from Panama, Naidihami is dedicated to closely follow the traditions of his ancestors. Two 'nades' (pilgrim groups) were behind the kovil having their breakfast. "Normally I open the Kovil on Fridays but because of the Pada Yathra I keep it opened daily," Naidahami said. He has only few minutes to rest. The next group of devotees wait for the religious rituals to be performed. Sivayogarajah, a bank manager was resting with his 'nade', after reaching Weheragama by bus. "The pilgrimage is organised by our pilgrims' society and this time we are offering food to the pilgrims. Our families will proceed further by bus but I will walk with the rest of the pilgrims," he said.

Sivasambu, the chief of the other 'nadai' at Weheragama, has started the pilgrimage from Akkaraipattu with 20 devotees. "We set out on July 9 from Akkaraipattu. I've been on this pilgrimage for eight years," said Sivasambu. For their 'nade' it took three days to reach Okanda from Akkraipattu. Normally, devotees avoid telling their destination for the day as they believe it will be a bad omen!

The foot pilgrimage is to learn and enjoy the 'walk'. The golden rule is to accept whatever happens as they are assured of the blessings of God Skanda. Sharing whatever the meagre comforts available, the devotees to treat friendship, alms and wisdom as god given.

Basnayake Nilame of the Okanda Kataragama Devale Punchi Mahattaya Muthubanda had served 25 years. The number of pilgrims has increased. "I belong the fifth generation and I'm extremely happy that there is a conducive environment for my sons to continue family traditions," Basnayake Nilame Muthubanda said. It is the responsibility of the Basnayake Nilame with the District Secretary (GA) and local government officials to provide facilities to pilgrims.

Over 2,000 pilgrims were at Okanda Kataragama Devale.

Water and sanitary facilities are vital needs at the devale. The Government has taken steps to provide facilities to devotees. Drinking water is provided at every resting place. Water is supplied regularly in bowsers. The Special Task Force (STF) provides water and ensures security to the camping area.

Pushpawathi has put up a shop in the Okanda Devale premises. "We were doing this shop for nine years and this time number of devotees has increased," Pushpawathi said. Pushpawathi recalls the dreadful days of the terrorists. "Now it is over," she said with great relief.

Pilgrims reach Bangura, a paradise for birds. A few hundred meters away lies the deep blue ocean and on the other side is the thick green shrub jungle.

Madamethota that lies on the banks of Kumbukkan Oya, is the next resting place for pilgrims.At Madamethota a medical camp was set up by doctors from the Panama area. Garbage remains a major problem.

"We tried to remove the garbage using tractors but it failed due to the large number of devotees," said Park Warden Ajith Wasantha. The Park Warden allowed Environment Society of Panampattuwa to clear the garbage. "We collect all the garbage from the camp" Ananda added.

"We educate the pilgrims on protecting the environment during this season. We have to safeguard the devotees from animal attacks" said E.A.D. Chandrasiri a wild life officer. Following the emergence of peace the number of pilgrims to Kataragama is on the rise. According to the Wild Life officials around 30,000 devotees are expected for this year's foot pilgrimage.

By July 12 over 2000 devotees joined the 'pada yathra' at Okanda. Within two weeks over 15, 400 devotees entered the Kumana National Park.

Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2010 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Journey to Kathirgaamam...!!!

Journey to Kataragama

Kataragama belongs to the ancient Rohana Kingdom and it is an old village situated close to the Menik Ganga. According to present provincial borders it comes under the Monaragala district. According to Pali scriptures Kataragama is mentioned as Kacharagama
It is one of the 16 principal places of Buddhist pilgrimage to be visited. According to the great chronicle, the Mahawansa, when the Bo-sapling (Bodhi tree under which Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment in Buddha Gaya in North India 2550 years ago) was brought to Anuradhapura from India 2300 years ago, warriors from Kataragama were present on the occasion to pay homage and respect.
Kataragama is famous for the Hindu Shrine (Devala) and Dagoba (Buddhist - Pagoda).

God Kataragama

God Kataragama is depicted either with six heads and 12 hands, or one head and 4 hands. His ‘vehicle’ is the peacock, which is native to Sri Lanka and India.
In spite of the differences of caste and creed, all Sri Lankans show great reverence to God Kataragama. They honour him as a very powerful deity and beg divine help to overcome their personal problems or for success in business enterprises etc., with the fervent hope that their requests would be granted. They believe that god Kataragama actually exists and is vested with extraordinary power to assist those who appeal to him with faith and devotion in times of distress or calamity.
Kataragama is a multi-religious sacred city as it contains an Islamic Mosque within its Devale complex as well. It holds its annual festival which celebrates God’s courtship and marriage to princess Valli from July to August.

The Menik Ganga

The Menik Ganga which rises in the Namunukula range of mountains is closely associated with Kataragama. It is a ritual for all pilgrims who intend to go to Kataragama to purify themselves by bathing in the Menik Ganga before they enter the sacred Devale.

Sella Kataragama

According to Hindu mythology this area is supposed to be the abode of God Skanda and his Goddess Valli. God Skanda had come to Sri Lanka from S. India where he was known as Subramania. The people of India were not paying homage to him since he was rather playful. Therefore, he had decided to take up abode in Kalutara (Chelapura) in Sri Lanka, where God Skanda’s brother, God Ganesha wanted to scare Valli. It was Skanda who rescued her, at Sella Kataragama which is als known as Small Kataragama. Sella Kataragama which is a beautiful spot situated about 6 km’s away from Kataragama on the banks of the Menik Ganga.

Fire Walking

The fire walking ceremony takes place on the 13th day of the annual Kataragama festival. Devotees abstain from eating meats to participate in the perahera and walk on embers to test their faith.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

At the Siva Temple in Polonnaruva a bronze statue of God Pillayaar (Ganesh) has been discovered...!!!


God Ganesh (Ganae Deiyo)
A link between microcosm and macrocosm :

Dr Senarath Tennakoon

At the Siva Temple in Polonnaruva a bronze statue of God Pillayaar (Ganesh) has been discovered.

The God is seen seated on a flowery seat. The statue has a huge long nose resembling an elephant trunk. He has one broken tusk. The torso is that of a man. The body is covered with hair. He sometimes wears a serpent as his sacred thread. The ears are long and big symbolizing erudition.

The huge pot belly symbolizes prosperity. There are four arms. These represent him as the universal ruler of four categories of beings - those that live only in water (aquatic animals), those which can live in both water and land (the amphibians), those which live only on land (terrestrial beings) and those which can fly like birds.

It is also believed that the four arms represent the four castes and the four Vedas. It is said in Vedic hymns that the four arms cause the movement of the four principles of the element.

One arm carries a shell another a discuss, the third a club or a sweet cake and the fourth arm carries a water lily.

The vehicle of Ganesh is a small rat quite a contrast to his huge physical body weight. The rat is successful gnawer and eats it way until the target is reached overcoming every obstacle. The rat represents the skill, courage and potential of Ganesh in destroying every obstacle.

The elephant sized body also depicts his strength and power to pas through thick wildernesses, uprooting trees, smashing every obstacle and reaching the end of every desired objective.

The mouse is also the symbol of the all-pervading Atman (soul) within the heart of every being that lives in the hole called the intellect within the heart of every being (Kailash, 1993).

Ganesh has several names. Some names are, Ganapathi (lord of the tribe or attendants), Vighnesvara (controller of all obstructions/obstacles), Vinayak (the prominent leader) Gajanana (the elephant - faced one), Gajadipathi (the lord of elephants) Lambkarn (the long - eared one) Lambodar (pendent - bellied one) and Ekadant. (One with one tooth). He is also known as Pillayaar and is the brother of God Skanda.

His parents are God Siva (father and Parvathi (mother).

The Elephant God is the unity between microcosm and macrocosm as it represents the Small being the man with the Great Being the elephant (Kailash, 1993).

Ganapathy is looked upon as the Lord of beginning, the very embodiment of the material universe and presides over the intellect.

He is venerated by every Hindu with deep affection.

Ganesha Chaturthi is the traditional Jayanthi/celebration that is observed on the fourth day of the new moon in the month of Avanthi (August-September) when the image of the God Ganesa is invoked by performing abishakam (anointing the image of the God) and alankaram (decorating), offering pujas and prasadams (offering gifts) followed by aarti (waving of lighted camphor during a puja) and namaskaram (worshiping).

This jayanthi is observed with great piety and joyfulness.

It is believed that according to the Puranic version that once during the long dark night of God Brahma, the Great God appeared in the form of OM to recreate the universe. The vibrations of OM appeared in the form of a beautiful soft illumination which is regarded as the first appearance of the Sn. The sound of OM was embodied in the form of Ganesha, or by his numerous other names.

There are several legends about the Elephant Face God. There are three legends about his elephant head. One says that his mother Parvathi asked Shanti (Saturn) to have a look at her child forgetting the evil power of Saturn's looks. Saturn's look at the child completely burnt the child's head into ashes. Brahma advised Parvati to replace the head with any object that she sees first.

It happened to be an elephant and its head was fixed to the child's body.

Another myth observes that Siva (Ganesh's father) once slew Aditya the son of a sage.

One of the seven great Rishis called Kashyap became very angry with Siva. So as to punish Siva, he cut off his son's head and fixed the head of Indra's elephant to the headless torso of Siva's son.

Yet another declares that once Parvathi after taking a bath threw the water to the Ganges river where the elephant headed goddess Malini swallowed this water. She gave birth to a baby with four arms and five-elephant heads. Siva claimed this child to be Parvathi's son. Subsequently Shiva reduced the five heads to one elephant head.

The mythical explanation of Ganesh's solitary tusk is interesting. Once when Parusuram (an incarnation of God carrying and ace as his weapon) was on his way to Mount Kilash (the anode of Siva). At that time Siva was sleeping and Ganesh was at the entrance. Ganesh opposed the entrance of Parusuram and there was a fight between the two.

Ganesh threw Parusuram with a swift swirl. Parusuram initially lost consciousness. But on quick recovery Parusuram threw his axe at Ganesh which injured one of his tusks. It is said that the axe that Parusuram carried has been gifted to him by Siva and Ganesh recognized it as his father's weapon and tried to receive it with all humility.

Another legend says that the moon and the other twenty-seven asterisms began to cast jokes and laugh at Ganesh's pot belly. Ganesh was very angry. He broke one of his tusks and threw it at the moon. It is believed that the moon gradually became dark due to this injury caused by Ganesh's tusk.

There is a legend to express the high intellect of Ganesh. A competition among all the gods was held. The task was to select the god who could return first after traversing right round the universe. So the gods started to run right round the universe. But Ganesh with his heavy pot belly could not run.

His vehicle too was a small rat. What he did was he just went round his parents (Siva and Parvathi) and stood at the starting point of the run. He was declared the winner as it was held in tradition that one who goes round his parents and touches their feet traverses the whole universe.

Ganesh is worshiped first before other gods in every religious ceremony. It is said that Parwathi cried when her son got an elephant head and Brahma made a rule so as to pacify her grief by asking the devotees to worship Ganesh first and then the other gods.

Ganesh has to wives. One is called Siddi (Success) and the other is known as Riddi (Prosperity).

On all religious an cultural and private functions Ganesh is worshiped first. Except in funerals Ganesh is gratefully respected and honoured.

There is another very interesting legend about his broken tusk and his vehicle the rat.

Once a powerful demon named Gajamukan who has achieved great power and strength through penance was terrorizing the gods and sages. They appealed to Siva for salvation. The task fell on Ganesh who broke one tusk and hurled it at Gajamukan. It hit him very hard and roused his anger.

Gagjmukan rushed at Ganesh in the form of a huge rat the musika hoping to kill Ganesh. Ganesh caught this rat and made his vehicle. This legend also makes a constructive hint about seizing opportunities and making them for ones benefit and never to miss challenging opportunities in life.

The ten-day festival of Chaturthi that includes fasting ends with the ceremonial immersing of Ganesh's images in the sea/water. It symbolizes his return to Satchidananda (eternity-knowledge and bliss, the spiritual qualities of the Lord (Bhagavan) and of the minute, eternal living entities (jivas).

God Ganesh is believed to cause obstacles as well as to remove them, withdraw or bestow success and ignore or satisfy ones desires. In such a manner Ganesh seems to guide the human beings through the universe.

Ganesh is the embodiment of wisdom to whom Vyasa dictated the great epic Mahabharata. The Mahabharata is not merely a historic work but it reflects the dynamic cultural life of India (Radhakrishnan, 1973). Ganesh is accepted as the god of learning and the patron of letters (Kailash. 1993).

His image is seen in the numerous Hindu temples, house entrance gates, business places and numerous other religious as well as civil places. Often his symbol is observed at the commencement of literary works like books and other written and printed documents. Invoking the blessings of Ganesha is an essential step on the occasion of a child is first reading the alphabet.


1. Duraswamy Sivanandini (1997) Remembering Hindu Traditions, M.D. Gunasena & Co. Colombo.

2. Kailash Nath Seth (1993) Gods and Goddess of India, Diamond Pocket Books, New Delhi

3. Radhakrishnan. S (1973) Our Heritage, Orient Paperbacks, Kay Kay Printers, Delhi


More on Saiva Sidhantham
Thilaka V Wijeratnam

There are two songs of Thirumanthiram, the composition of Saint Thirumodar, which seem to talk of the same idea. But a closer look shows there is a difference in thought.

The first song goes as follows:

Ponnai maraithathu Ponnani Poodanam

Ponnin marainthathu Ponnani Poodanam -

These two lines mean - we see a gold ornament. We can see it in two ways - One the design of the gold ornament - next we see the value of the gold itself.

The next two lines go as follows:
Thannai maraithathu than karanamgalam,
Thannin marainthathu than karanangalai.

In these lines the saint says when one is worldly and is involved in materialism, one forgets oneself - one's Athma, When one thinks of the Athma, the world and all its delusions (Maya) are forgotten. While this is so in this stanza the next stanza has a similar thought.

Marathai maraithathu mamatha yanai,
Marathin marainthathu mamatha yanai

We see an elephant (yanai) sculptured in wood

If one looks at the handiwork and sculpture one misses the wood

If one analysis the quality of the wood, one misses the sculpture.

The next two lines say,
"Paraithai' maraithathu Parmuthat Pootham,
Parathin marainthathu Paarmuthat Pootham

These lines mean the Supreme spirit. Superimposes the world if you think of that supreme spirit, and if you think of the world the supreme spirit is superimposed by the world.

These thoughts in the two stanzas are explained thus:

A person is neither a male or a female - ali or hamaphodite. If the male characteristics are more prominent the individual is considered a male, and if female characteristics are more prominent the individual is a female.

This is a simple explanation to bring out the fact that what we see, feel or realise is due to our mental state the maturity or rather spiritual maturity.

According to saint Thirumoolar, that Athma is hidden by thoughts of the world and worldly pleasures.

Spiritual Maturity
Thiru Meikandar says nothing can be in space without a support. The Athma is like a swing. The tree is its support . If the rope breaks down, gravity will pull it down. Same way athma is dangling between delusion (maya) and God.

The swing is the athma. The tree that supports it is Maya. Once this bond is broken that is, on spiritual maturity, then the pull of the Divinity will bring it down to God.

Thiru Meikandai quotes another example. The flood waters is held back by a bund. Once the bund is broken, the water rushes out to merge with the sea. So is the athma held back by so many desires and attachments which are referred to as 'Pasam' in Saiva Sidhanatham. When the athma becomes spiritually mature, it, the athma - the jeevathma merges with the Paramathma - the supreme spirit.


In this book 'Psalms of a Saiva Saint' the author, T Isaac Thambyah, Christian scholar referred to the hymn of saint Thayumana Swamygal. Thambyah translated 366 songs composed by the saint in English in verse form.

In his book of 500 pages Thambyah speaks of the antiquity of the Thamil Language the Sidhanthams, the saint's life history, and such relevant facts. It took 15 years for the book to be completed and published.

It is no surprise that a christian wrote on Saiva Sidhantham. Arumuga Navalar a strong and staunch Saivaite translated the Bible into Thamil. Scholars are above petty differences be it caste, creed or religion. Now what made Isaac Thambyah write on Thayumanavar's holy songs!

In his own words:

Of all the beautiful and meaningful songs composed by poets in Thamil Nadu, Thayumanavar's songs give me much pleasure to read. The choice of words in which he speaks of Saivasidhantham, the sweet sounding words, the meaningful words, are actually a garland of words for God to wear. He had spoken of the religion as a means of lifestyle. That is why in any country where Thamil is spoken, his songs are praised by all and sundry.
Isaac Thamyah quotes the song:
Thayumanavar's song that touched the
heart of the scholar -
Sollatkariya Paramporule
Sugavarithiye 'Sudarkolunthe'
Vellatkariya mayalil enai
Vittenku Olithay? Ah! ketten;
Kallil pasiya naar urithuk
Kaduhil periya kaal adaikum
Allil kariya anthahanarku
Aalakinayo ariyene!

The meaning of the song:
O! Lord none can describe thee
Thou art well placed O! bright flame
Thou has left me in delusion
Which cannot be defeated
And then thou art hiding
Oh! I am lost

I have been made as one blinded by ego to think

Fibres can be pulled out of a stone

And the wide ocean could be blocked by a mustard seed

Thou hast made me such a man blind with ego -

I know not why

Thambyah says the saint speaks from the heart words flow spontaneously echoing the feelings of his heart. That is why his compositions are well received and appreciated.
Lake House Copyright © 2010 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.