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Spirituality en semblance
Ages before civilization tread into man’s path of life, he was closely bound by the ecological forces around him. Trees and plants, mountain, rivers, lakes, deserts, sand dunes and all other formations of nature were sentinels and guardians to him. Human beings were more influenced by these forces, perhaps due to their extra sense for thought and perception which no other living creature in the Universe seems to have - of course it is only a theoretical notion which is yet to be proved.
Set in this background, the unique realm of thoughts began to push him far ahead from these ecological guardians, into the wheels of civilization which rolled him down the path of technologies purported for easing and facilitating his strenuous life. As a result, some civilizations gained an upper hand due to greater prowess and sharpened focus for achieving technological gains while for some other civilizations particularly the oriental and Asian types which possessed deep rooted ecological bonds, it seemed difficult to sever off their traditional ecological links.
One such country is India where technology has not advanced its strides in pace with the intelligentsia of its civilization. The major reason may be that the deep rooted ecological traditions have probably blocked to a certain extent, the capacity of an Indian to spread fully, the wings of technological advancement. Hinduism, the major religion of India which has deep-rooted ecological basis, therefore embraces the worship of 33 million Gods, each representing an indigenous creation of the land. Plants, animals, reptiles and other creatures common, rare and even bizarre formed the idols of worship before the birth of civilization here, as evident from the archaeological excavations, rock carvings, hieroglyphics and even folklores’ that are being transdescended even today. Gradually with the advent of civilization the aborigines began to get weaned from these forces of nature and resorted to a more refined system of worship by erecting shrines as abodes for their Gods.
As an Indian, especially a south Indian from the southern tip of the country, I wish to reveal to you a strange mythical force which has overwhelmed me with the feeling that I am a part of my creator who has created this wonderful Universe for us, to live.
Bearing this heavenly sentiment, let us approach the southern side of the mountain range of the western Ghats that fringes the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Tucked in the lush tropical jungles and hills of these Ghats, called Sabarimala, is a shrine situated 4135 feet above sea level which is the abode of Sree Dharma Sastha also known as Lord Ayappan/Ayyanaar, one of the most venerated deities among the Hindu pantheon of Gods. One of the most sacred pilgrimage locations in India, the Lord Ayappa temple located in Sabarimala, is a pilgrimage centre in Kerala located in the Western Ghat of Kerala in Pathanamthitta District. Lord Ayyappan's temple is situated in the midst of 18 hills in the Sahyadri ranges of Kerala. The temple is situated on a hilltop which is surrounded by mountains, dense forests and the foothills are washed by the gently flowing holy river “Pamba” where the pilgrims take a dip before proceeding up for the Darshan. Every year millions of Indians irrespective of caste, creed or religion throng the tiny complex to have a darshan of the Lord whom according to Hindu philosophy of thathvamasia(that thou art), his devotees can commune directly.
There are many common myths surrounding the Sabarimala temple; the most common being of Lord Ayappa and his sojourn as a human being as the son of the King of the Pandalam dynasty. Historically, Sabarimala was once under the regime of the Pandalam dynasty.
Lord Ayyappa, the deity of Sabarimala had his human sojourn at the Pandalam dynasty as the adopted son of the King of Pandalam. It is believed that the King of Pandalam, didn't have an offspring to assume his throne. He found a baby on the banks of the river Pampa. This follows the prophecy that he should take the baby to his Palace and that the baby will show the true intent of his birth at the age 12. The baby was said to have a bell tied around his neck, and hence he was called Manikandan. The King took the baby home and the Royal Family accepted the child as the Prince. But after some time, the Queen delivered a baby and the attention of all except the King switched to the new born baby. Playing on the Queen's jealousy the Minister in the Royal Palace told the Queen that unless Manikandan was thrown out of the Palace, her own son could not become the next King.
Soon, the Queen pretended to fall ill and the Royal Family doctor prescribed her the milk of a she-leopard. Knowing that Manikandan would take up the challenge, he tricked him to go in search of the leopard's milk. Though the King restricted, Manikanta left pandalam to get milk of She-Leopard. In the forest, in a fierce battle, he killed the demon queen Mahishi. Knowing the intent of Manikandan's visit, the King of the Gods, Indra, transfigured into a female leopard and the rest of the Gods then joined him in the avatar of leopards. Manikandan climbed on top of Queen in the leopard's avatar and led the way back to the Royal Palace.
It was after this battle that he was renamed Lord Ayyappa, and he came back to rest underneath a banyan tree. The Queen and the Minister confessed to the King about their misdeeds. Despite demands from the King that Manikandan should take over as the King of Pandalam, he nominated his younger brother to take over the throne. He then took the King to the forest and told him that the intention of his human sojourn was complete and that he had to leave now. He then blazed away an arrow toward a hill. He asked the King to construct a shrine for him where the arrow alighted. Thus he gave up his human life and his divinity entered Sabarimala. Till today, the miraculous light reappears every year on the first day of the Malayalam month Makaram which corresponds to the zodiac sign Capricorn. Yet another myth says it was 'Parasurama Maharshi', the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who uplifted Kerala from the sea by throwing his axe and installed the idol of Ayyappa at Sabarimala. According to legend this temple of Sabarimala is one of the five sastha temples erected by the powerful yogi and warrior sage.
At this juncture let me introduce the young religious enthusiast, Sri Aravind Subramanian from Coimbatore, who has devoted active years of his life to the spiritual and historical investigation of Lord Ayyapa’s divinity and the spread of the cult of worship of this diety in the two adjoining states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. An extract of his article that appeared in his blog is reproduced here with his kind permission.
‘Says Sri Aravind in his blog “The Six Sastha Temples and the Shat Chakras”
For a very long time I was conceiving the idea of writing this article on the Six important Sastha Kshetrams. The Six temples which are dear to him signify the six chakras in the human body through which the Kundalini rises to travel to the Supreme State. The devotee who seeks the darshan of Lord Sastha, our most beloved God, no doubt finds Him at all of His temples. But those who really want to "realise" him, as an Yogic power, the upward climb of kundalini, there are six Kshetrams within oneself and also outside as separate temples.
The destinations of this journey are first Sori Muthaiyan Kovil, then Achankovil, followed by Aryankavu, Kulathupuzai, Erumeli and finally Sabarimalai. The fact that this sequence is far from geographically convenient is part of the austerity that comes with any true pilgrimage.
There is metaphysical meaning, too. Yogis of yore determined that each temple stimulates a specific chakra in the subtle body of man: Sori Muthaiyan Kovil lights a fire in the Muladhara chakra governing memory at the base of the spine. Achankovil moves the next chakra, Svadhishthana, below the navel, governing reason. Aryankavu animates the Manipura chakra of willpower at the solar plexus. Kulathupuzhai spins the heart chakra, Anahata, the center of direct cognition. Erumeli opens the Vishuddha chakra of divine love at the throat, and Sabarimala electrifies the third eye of divine sight, Ajna chakra.
Nowadays, only sabarimalai is thronged by thousands, or tens of thousands, of devotees every day, and the other temples are almost aloof and remain in solitude except during annual festivals. Only a very few age-old sincere seekers, follow this style of yatra and undertake the life-transforming experience of the Six Sastha Kshetra pilgrimage.
Only a very few age-old sincere seekers, follow this style of yatra and undertake the life-transforming experience of the Six Sastha Kshetra pilgrimage.
Once the process of the six chakras are properly activated, the Ultimate state of Sahasrara is attained ie Dharshan of Kanthamalai - which is nothing but dharshan of Self - Athma Dharshanam - which is nothing but Moksha.
Replete with bliss the last leg of our pilgrimage is at Kanthamalai which does not exist in the physical plane.Yes ! the Kanthamalai temple is not seen with the naked eyes and the Sahasrara is beyond the six chakras of the body.
It is a state of ultimate bliss - The joy of completion pours over us. Inwardly quiet, blissfully content, we feel we have accomplished. It is an inner fulfillment, arrived at after an outer journey. Sasthru lokam is known as Tejovathi or Mahakaalam and the hill in which the Lord resides is known as Kanthamalai.In this Kanthamalai the Supreme Lord Maha Sastha resides with Poorna and Pushkala, His eternal consorts and countless other devotees, from where he performs his divine play, known as leelas. All the clan of devotees in this material world, has to perfect themselves and go on to Sastha's world - Kanthamalai.
In yogic terms this state is called Saharara. It is the last milestone of the evolution of human awareness. Also called Brahmarandhra, it is the final destination of the Kundalini and immortality is achieved within Sahasrara Chakra.
For centuries, seekers who have performed this noble pilgrimage have testified that at its end awaits a release from the worries and concerns of their lives.
After our sojourn through the six Sastha temples and Kanthahmalai as narrated by Sri Aravind Subramanian let us cross over from here, towards the opposite face of the globe where we can reach the enormous mountain range located in North California-the mount Shastha, which stands 14,125 feet above mean sea level and is the second highest peak in the Cascade mountain range.
According to experiences of their visits, many journalists and writers have reported this special mountain to be a vortex which ancient cultures considered to be portals to higher dimension of consciousness and ancestors regarded such vortexes which are gathering places of earth’s energy, to be sacred. If someone was near a vortex it activated and energized their etheric or energetic bodies making it possible for some to become aware of what mystics have discovered...our existence is multi-dimensional. It is said that Our bodies mirror the earth, in fact the entire universe
The earth experiences these energy centers as different levels of consciousness, and so do our own bodies. There are seven main energy centers called chakras in our bodies, and also seven in the world. Below are the seven key earth chakras in order, and where their likeness is located in the human body:
First or Root (base of spine) - Mount Shasta, California
Second or Sacral (below belly button) - Lake Titicaca, South America
Third or Solar Plexus (above the belly button) - Uluru-Katatjuta, Australia
Fourth or Heart (at the heart)- Glastonbury Tor-Shaftesbury, England
Fifth or Throat (throat)- Great Pyramid - Mt. of Olives
Sixth or Third Eye (top base of the nose) - Kuh-e Malek Slah, Iran
Seventh or Crown (top of the head) - Mt. Kailas, Tibet
As you can see, Mount Shasta holds the position as the first, root or base chakra of the world. A visitor to the Mount Shasta describes the experience to the mountain as being pulled to the vortex by invisible strings. A feeling of overwhelming peace enveloped when she went to the head waters of the Sacramento River located at the base of Shasta and drank of her pure unimprinted water and this truly seemed a very special place. Shasta had a pulling affect on her own energy field. Things that she had not thought about in decades were exposed and brought into her mind with full force. Old hurts and negative happenings flooded into her mind with a much greater level of significance and clarity. It was like the mountain was going to purge all that she had not dealt with from her past.
Mount Shasta is the most widely known sacred site of California. Towering above the Cascade foothills, Shasta is surrounded by five glaciers that hold it in place. This sacred mountain emits such a strong energy pattern, that satellite photos show an atmospheric hole over its peak. Because of the strong geophysical forces within the mountain, there are steam vents, hot and cold springs, purification sites, electrical centers and caverns that have been used as power spots by the indigenous natives for hundreds of years.
Ancient legends of Mount Shasta reveal this holy site as where ancient ones lived in heaven on earth as they did in Asgard and Mount Olympus. Many people all over the world see these mysterious lights and glowing energy emissions from this sacred mountain which shows strong similarities to the Makara Jyothi of Sastha temple at Sabarimala hills. It is believed that Mount Shasta embodies the head of a huge geographical etheric energy grid. This sacred mountain has given many people centuries of access to its energy centers. The pristine meadows, graceful slopes and isolated beauty of the mountain continue to provide a haven for those who seek sanctuary from the world that lies at its feet.
Thus Mount Shasta located in Northern California, is a destination for mystics, gurus, sages and curious people from all over the world. This enormous mountain is endeared by all who come to visit or live near her. From the Harmonic Convergence of 1987 to the regular visits of Tibetan monks and well-known spiritualists, Shasta’s mystical heritage is consistently reaffirmed by the belief of many worldwide, that it is a major spiritual power center. Moreover, the regular sightings of unexplained lights over Shasta’s glistening peaks and the regular recurrence of mysterious lenticular clouds keeps one wondering whether some of the whispered tales of Shasta’s secrets are true. For the seeker of spiritual enlightenment, or the adventurous soul looking for new frontiers to conquer, Shasta’s secrets still remain unsolved, and the heart of the lonely mountain still remains unconquered.
The two mountains can thus be associated, by their similar names, the Sastha temple of Sabarimala and Mt.Shastha of California, by their bodily activation of the six chakras, by their similar topography such as the locations in Indian mountain ranges of Western Ghats and in the Californian Cascade Range, by the rivers running at their feet-the Pampa and the Sacramento, by the lights flickering in their skies and above all by their holiness- all these semblances are shrouded by mystic forces that strengthen the paradigm of oneness of this Universe, which is bound by the harmonic bonds of ecology! Of course it seems to reaffirm my feeling of being a part of my creator,
‘as aptly quoted by Sandra Weaver “Our bodies mirror the earth, in fact the entire universe”
Sabarimala hills of the Sastha temple in Kerala