Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Srimad Ramayanam.

Srimad Ramayanam.

A lively controversy is going on in our Country about Rama-Sethu, Rama and Ramayanam now. It all started with the plan of building a water way for shipping cutting across the legendary Rama-sethu in Palk Straits. Our, self proclaimed "noted Historians" and experts jumped in the debate as usual after reading news reports. Some of them had gone to the extent of doubting the legitimacy of Valmiki Ramayanam as well. Our visual media who are waiting like hawks for a controversy opened up debates and panel discussions with known political faces, on the subject. In the mean while our Dr.Subrahmanyan Swami (who else!) tookup the matter to the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the construction and got a stay order too. In response to the Court order the Union Government asked the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) to file an affidavit in the SC. The Minister incharge of Cultural Affairs, as usual, had gone on tour, this time to to Japan to attend some meeting and left the matter in the able hands of ASI.

Well, here comes the interesting part of the story. As per "The Indian Express" the Central Government told the SC that "contents of Valmiki Ramayana, the Ramacharitamanas by Tulsidas and other mythological texts, which admittedly form an important part of ancient Indian literature...cannot be said to be historical record to incontrovertibly prove the existence of the characters, or the occurrence of the events, depicted therein".

ASI in their counter affidavit on behalf of the Government said further that "Adam's Bridge is merely a sand and coral formation which cannot be said to be of historical , archaeological or artistic interest of importance". Reminding the court that it had in a separate case defined archaeology as "a study of human history and prehistory through excavation of sites and analysis of physical remains", the ASI said the" Adam's Bridge site cannot, therefore, be said to be of any archaeological interest".

"Unless these ingredients are satisfied, the question of construing Adam's Bridge as an ancient monument and declaring it as a protected monument does not arise".

Understandably ASI has defined the correct position. But the question is .who is to do this job? It is the job of ASI only. If so,why it has not been done before arriving at the conclusion. For this also ASI has an answer. The ASI said that the formation known as 'Adam's Bridge' has till date not been declared as a "protected area" or a "protected monument" or as an "ancient monument". under the provisions of the Act as there has been no occasion for it to even make a primafacie determination that the said formation could be an ancient monument entitled to protection and therefore the ASI has not undertaken any study in this regard as yet. But concluded "After considering the available materiel the ASI has reasonably concluded that the formation known as Ramar sethu/Adam's Bridge is not a man made structure, but rather a natural structure made up of shoals/sand bars".

Laymen like me wonder how could a professional body like ASI could file a determined Affidavit with the highest Judicial forum like Supreme Court of India on such a sensitive issue without undertaking proper investigative study. Interestingly, foreign agencies who had done better study with satellite imagery have not come to a conclusion for certain.

Sethusamudram Project was planned since many years. Originally proposed by Com. A.D.Taylor of British Marine in 1860, it did not take off for one reason or other in spite of examination by many committees appointed by then Governments. But from the records, it seems there has been extensive sampling and research done on various levels to satisfy the economic viability of the Project. The idea is to shorten the navigable distance by 784 KMS and 30 hours of journey for ships proceeding from Eastern Ports in Bay of Bengal to ports in Arabian Sea. Also the project is expected to give a boost to the economic and industrial development of coastal Tamil Nadu. That's a good point indeed.

Ultimately after considering various reports the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project (SSCP) was finalised in 2000-01. "The SSCP envisages dredging of Two ship channels across the Palk Straits between India and Sri Lanka. One across north of Adam's bridge (Rama Sethu) chain of islets and shallows linking India with Sri Lanka South east of Pamban Island and the other through the shallows of Palk Bay by deepening the Palk Straits. The total length of these two channels would be 89 Kms".

Next let us consider what are the objections for taking up the Project. First the ecological and environment objections. The Gulf of Mannar and Palk bay covering about 10,500 Sq.Kms are biologically rich and rated among the most highly productive seas in the world. This region provides livelyhood for several lakhs of fishermen in coastal villages of Tamil Nadu from Ramanathapuram to Tutucorin Districts. The fear is that after completion of this project the noise pollution due to shipping activity would cause enormous ecological disaster and irreparable loss to the system with devastating effect on aquatic life which was built by nature over millions of years. This will affect the fishing community in a big way. The Government had considered this aspect carefully and the experts appointed by them had given detailed reports on every aspect affecting socio-economic environment profiles and ecological analysis.

Second. Religious.To start with, how many of us knew the existance of Rama-sethu formation or visited the site, before this controversy ? Very few, perhaps only the fishermen around the place and the Government officials would have known about it. But Sage Valmiki who compiled Srimad Ramayana perhaps from some where in north had described Sethu bandanam in detail, as to how it was built under the supervision of Nala, more distinguished among the monkeys and son of Viswakarma.the celestial architect(Slokas 2-22-50 and 2-22-72). According to Valmiki Ramayanam the bridge across Sethu built by Nala in five days was of Ten Yojanas width and One Hundred Yojanas in length. Srimad Ramayanam is an "Itihasa", historical account passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. We must understand that Sage Valmiki had written the epic Ramayanam from the details as available to him. But when we read the epic we will understand his knowledge of Geographical locations is astounding. He did not have the facility of modern day Atlas or Sattalite imagery. But we can see all the locations mentioned in the Epic accurately even today. Hence I have to believe that the incidents mentioned in the great epic should have happened at some time or other in our country. Being a poet, Valmiki might have taken the liberty of deviating from the main story by"exaggeration and embellishment", just like any other poet.

Faith and belief are beyond scientific scrutiny. This is very true in the matter relating to one's Religion. Most of the people who believe Ramayana and Sri Rama feel that what we see today in Rama-sethu is the remnants of the bridge built be Sri Rama and his associates, and it should not be disturbed for any reason. Some others are of the view that it is a natural formation. There are enough research material available supporting both sides of the arguement. But the fact is it is there, whether it is a man-made or natural formation.As for me it is a heritage site, and it should be protected.

If we go through the history of the Sethusamudhram Project we find Nine Committees had done detailed study and presented proposals during the Pre-Independence era between 1860 and 1922, but no progress was made obviously due to lack of finance. Again the project was taken up and five fresh proposals were made during post independence period between 1956 and 1997. Almost all the committees had suggested cutting the canal north of Rameswaram Island. Finally a Committee under the chairmanship of Mr.H.R Lakshminarayan was constituted in 1981 to proceed further. The Committee collected the opinions and representations of the leading Public, Industrialists and Government Officials of the State. All of them accepted the importance of the Project and urged the Government to execute the scheme at the earliest. But the prominent citizens of Rameswaram Island represented that the canal would serve better if located east of Rameswaram Town as far as possible, as it would otherwise affect the movement of th pilgrims of the Temple town. Accepting the same the committee proposed a new alignment across Dhanushkodi one Km. from Kothandaramaswamy Temple.

So far so good.

Till then there was no objection from any quarters on Religious reasons. But the trouble started only when the politicians jumped into the project. It went to the extent of some worthies questioning the existence of Sri Rama! And some other has asked in which engineering college Sri Rama had studied. All unwanted comments. Which only added fuel to the fire. Now the Nation is spending its time and energy on an unwanted controversy.

To avoid further division I feel it is time that the Government should take a fresh look at the entire project basing on the Report and the proposals given by the committee headed by Sir A,Ramaswamy Mudaliar in 1956, which had suggested the canal crossing the main land at Mandapam. This new alignment I hope will not disturb the Rama-sethu Heritage site.

posted on Monday, September 17, 2007 10

Koodalmanickyam Temple.

Koodalmanickyam Temple.

I understand very few people would have known about a Temple is there for Sri Bharatha in Kerala.But, I have read about this Temple in some Magazines before. So I was particular to visit Koodalmanickyam this time when we took a Pilgrimage to Guruvayur and other Temples in Trissur District.

We drove to Koodalmanicyam from Trissur after visiting the famous Vadakkunathan Temple there. It was just 21 Kms. drive from Trissur. The road was good. We reached Irinjalakkuda by about 10.45 AM . This town I am told is known for its clenliness in Kerala. Yes I agree with that statement. Seems to be a prosperous place with lot of shops and good market area, filledup with all the modern things.

Koodalmanickyam Temple is in the western part of the Town, walkable distance from the main Bus stand. The Temple wecomes you with its impressive eastern Gopuram (gate way) built in Kerala style. But only when you enter the gateway you understand how big the Temple is. It is a Magnificient Temple, situated inside Ten acres site with compound walls built all around. It has an outer quadrangle. And the Sanctum-sanctorum (Garbagruha) of Main Temple is a huge round shaped conical structure covered by copper plates. The six foot Kalsa (called Tazhikakudam in malayalam) on the top adds to the majesty of the gopuram.

This Temple is known for its art and architectural beauty. There are old paintings (murals!) on the walls. There are wood and stone carvings on the walls and pillars. We were there after mid-day Pooja. We could see Huge" Uruli" type of old bellmetal containers full of "Payasam" and other prasadams being sent out for distribution which were offered to the main and only diety Sri Bharathalwar.

There is vast area of open space for Elephants and for conducting various Temple Arts like Kathakali and Koothus in the Temple.There is a big Tank within the Temple. This Temple is really great. I would request the readers not to miss this place when they visit Guruvayur or Trissur. posted on Sunday, October 15, 2006 11:50 AM

Triprayar Sri Rama Temple

Triprayar Sri Rama Temple

A few years back when we were travelling on the highway to Kodungallur, on the way we passed through Triprayar Temple which was just 17 Kms from Trissur. The view of the rear side of sprawling Temple on the banks of the river, by the same name, itself was magnificient sight which I could never forget. In view of time constraint we could not visit the Temple at that time.

But this time when we took the pilgrimage to Guruvayur and other places in Trissur District two weeks back, we made a point to visit Triprayar and have the Dharshan of Sri Rama. But this time we travelled from Kodungallur to Guruvayur. On the way we reached Triprayar Kshetram late in the evening and we were enthralled to have the Darshan of Sree Rama just after the evening Pooja. Since the idol of Sri Rama is inside the sanctum which is little away from the worshiping area we could not see the deatails in the soft light provided by numerous oil lamps beautifully lit around the deity. But we were told here Sri Rama has four arms like that of Maha Vishnu and with Sridevi and Bhudevi on either sides. This Temple is said to be built in the same architectural style of Vadakkunatha Temple in Trissur. It has exquisite wood carvings, murals and stone carvings. The rear side of the Temple is on the banks of the river Triprayar, and has well built steps leading down to the flowing river. The long rows of thick coconut groves on the other side of the flowing river added to the beauty of the evening sight. We could see many varieties of fish swimming by the side of the steps waiting for the puffed rice thrown by the devotees who visit the Temple. For my city bred little grand-daughters it was a most welcome sight. They were reluctant to leave the place. Thanks to the thundering of the "Vedis" usually blasted in the evenings at the Kerala Temples, the littleones started to run towards us to leave the Temple.

The Gopurams in this Temple are not very big compared to other Kerala Temples nearby. But they are beautiful. The main copper tiled Gopuram on the sanctum is in round conical shape with with gold Kalasa on the top. There are separate shrines for Ganapathy, Hanuman, Ayyappan and Dakshinamurty in the Temple.

Tripryar Temple has an interesting History.The Vigraha of Sri Rama was found along with the images of his brothers Lakshmana, Bharata and Chatrugna by the sea shore by one Vakkey Kaimal, the local Chieften. The date of building this temple is not known for sure. But it was under the Zamorines originally, then under Dutch (!) and Mysore Sultans before it came to the possession of Cochin Maharajas.

According to to belief Triprayar Temple should be the first to start with for the" Nalambalam yathra" (four Temples) taken during the rainy month of "Karkatakam", which is considered sacred by the devouts. The Others are Sri Bharata Temple at Koodalmanikyam, Sri Lakshmana Temple at Moozhikulam and Sri Satrugna Temple at Payyamal. Visiting all the four Temples during this Yathra should be completed in one day. But this time, We could not complete this Yatra as we could visit only two Temples. Perhaps we may be called to do the" Nalambala Yatra" by the Lords some other time. Till then, Namaskarams.

posted on Tuesday, October 17, 2006 11:43 AM

Guruvayur Kshetram.....

Guruvayur Kshetram.....

There are some places in our Country, by mentioning the very name of them will evoke inexplicable ecstacy of reverence in mind. One of them certainly is Guruvayur in Kerala. Early during the first week of this month we took a pilgrimage to this holy abode of Sree Krishna with our family, about which I have been writing in my previous Blogs. After visiting the Temples at Kodungallur and Triprayar we drove to Guruvayur Kshetram. It happened so that it was an Ekadasi Day( Eleventh day of the lunar fornight of the month), considered auspicious for Dharshan of Sree Krishna, that too at Guruvayur Kshetram. My wife who was observing strict fasting on Ekadasi days, since a long time, felt thrilled to know that she was in Gurvayur Kshetram this time on the Ekadasi day to have the Dharshan and blessings of the Lord. Incidentally, one of the most important festivals in this Temple is " Ekadasi Festival" that is celebrated in Nov-Dec - Vrischika, suklapaksha Ekadasi, more commonly known as " Guruvayur Ekadasi".

By the time we reached Guruvayur it was about 7.30 PM. We were lucky to get comfotable accommodation in "Panchajanyam Rest House" run by Dewosvam. After having a wash we rushed to the Temple to stand in the queue for Dharshan after the evening Pooja. We had gone there two times before to this holy place. Last time we were lucky to have the Dharshan in "Udhayasthamana pooja"(continuous Pooja from dawn to dusk) of Sree Guruvayurappan. We were told this most coveted and dearest of all the poojas to the Lord has been booked upto the year 2047 ! We were in the queue for about 45 minutes before we were able to enter the main door leading to Srikovil. This gave me time to see the surroundings in detail. Srikovil is surrounded by the outer walls of wooden trellis with array of about 8000 brass lamps, which are lit on special occassions. The 60ft Dwajasthambam (Flag post) fully covered by plated gold stands majestically before the entrance. Two Deepastambams of 24 ft tall with 13 discs of lamps adorn both sides of the flag post.

The doors of Srikovil opened after the evening Pooja and the queue moved slowly. When we entered the main entrance of the inner courtyard we passed through two large platforms on both sides of entrance to Srikovil. It is said, previously these places were used by the Brahmins to recite holy scriptures. True, Fiftyfive years back when I visited this Temple for the first time, I had seen Brahmins reciting holy scriptures from this place. It was also claimed the famous Melpathur Narayana Bhattathri composed the " Narayaneeyam" sitting in the southern part of this platform.

As we went further we came to "Namaskara Mandapam", in front of Srikovil, this Mandapam is covered by Gold plated copper roof, supported by granite pillers on four sides. Here itself we had the first Dharshan of the Lord Guruvayurappan in traditional form of Sri Maha Vishnu, with four arms holding Sankha, Chakra, Gadha, Padmam fully decorated with flowers and jewellery. Enhanced by surrounding the soft light of numourous oil lamps lit around. It was a devine sight for the devout. In the midst of continuous chanting of the name of the Lord by almost all the devotees slowly wading towards the Srikovil entrance to have a few seconds of Dharshan of Guruvayurappan, in my mind I felt that I am alone with him taking his blessings. Before Him we close our eyes to take the moment of ecstacy fully inside. This is a spiritual experiance, that cannot be defined by any of our senses.

The Moorthy is made of "Pathalanjana shila" considered extemely sacred. All the pooja vessals and articles are made of Gold.

The outer walls of the square shaped Srikovil are embellished with mural paintings. We went round the Srikoil and came out of the northen doorway to the "Prakaram" and saw the Six Temple Elephants tied there. The Children enjoyed the sight of Elephants more than us. Behind them was the hall where the Prasadam Counters were distibuting the Prasadams to public. My wife was particular to take the Prasadam to break her fasting on the Ekadasi day at Guruvayur.

Early morning next day my wife had the "Nirmalya Dharshan" of the Lord . I and other members of the family followed it by 5.00 AM only. It was indeed an experience that will stay with us forever.

Next as planned we visited Mammiyur and other Temples around Guruvayur and had Dharshan there. Then we proceeded to Punnathoorkotta to see the Temple Elephants.(about which I have written separately) After lunch we started off to Palakkad for the night stay on our way to Ooty.

posted on Monday, October 30, 2006 6:18 PM