Breakfast, Penance & The Ecstasy

Breakfast, Penance & The Ecstasy

An Exceptional Experience in Guruvayoor

First Hurdle -The Jam Night

It seems that the traffic peak hours fall on the Bangalore-Salem-Palakkad-Thrissur route during that 12-hour stretch, which is popularly known as night! There are a number of traffic hot spots along this busy highway. At least half of them become ‘operational’ in any given night. The Walayar Sales Tax Check Post, which is a 24-hour provider of efficient traffic jams, is a ‘regular’ in this Great pre-Nano Road Show! During the beautiful moonlit night of last Friday, that is, 23 February (2008), when we were traveling in this stretch, all the famous and not-so-famous snail traffic stimulators were in full attendance at their functional best!

Our family, that is, Sree, Vikas and yours truly were enroute to Guruvayoor, the abode of our favorite deity! After Walayar, we had hoped that the age of the snail traffic is passé. But, within ten minutes into the Palakkad-Thrissur highway, we hit the mother of all traffic jams caused by a bus-truck head on collision. We escaped the climax of that Jam night with great ease, thanks to the efficient and prompt services of the rapid action highway police and the Cranes they had pressed into service.

At the end of the hope-stop-jostle-and-crawl highway traffic show, we got down at the Thrissur bus stand at 8 am, late by merely four hours (in a journey normally must not exceed 8-9 hours).

 The auto driver, who was ‘kind enough’ to take us to the private bus stand, did a performance that could fetch him top notch pass if he were to appear for a marketing exam in any IIM. He had almost persuaded us to hire him to take us to Guruvayoor by auto. Unfortunately, for him we were not in a mood to go through yet another adventure.  The bus we chose to take us to the temple town was fast enough to reach the destination much ahead of the scheduled travel time. This has to be appreciated when we consider that, a few of the private busses in Kerala have a strange dual-personality syndrome. Inside the bus, if we close our eyes while it is moving, the great vibration and the accompanying decibel level would convince us that we are inside a jet plane that is testing its speed limit. However, the moment we open the eyes, the truth hits us hard that the bus is only competing with a cyclist.

After all these impromptu delays, we had anticipated another ordeal to locate a room so that we could bathe and wear a more civilized look. The trepidation was realistic, considering the day of our landing was a holiday (Saturday) and that too in the midst of the temple-festival week. However, the script took another turn, this time for good! After teasing us playfully for long hours until then, the Lord of the Cosmos might have thought that it was time to show a little mercy on us. The result; we got a convenient room without any struggle.

An Unending Q

By the time we came out of the lodge, it was nearly 11 O’clock. The long ‘queue’ of devotees that had reached the Sathram gate, which is about 100 meters from the East Gopuram, had persuaded us to have breakfast before entering the slow moving line. That probably was a sign of mistrust in HIS love and affection towards us.  Wrong! It was definitely a sign of mistrust and an unpardonable mistake at that. The loving Father took all the trouble of bringing us to His Devalaya to pour His Love into our heart and to Bless us! Then, see what we did in return! Instead of going to have His Darshan and worshipping Him, we went to have our stomachs worshipped. Any loving father would get hurt at such a sleight and misdemeanor from his progenies. Even a small dose of caning is justifiable against such thoughtless gestures. But Guruvayurappan, being the manifestation of Eternal Love, did only raise His eyebrow showing His slight displeasure of our questionable action. That little deed from Him, indeed, was sufficient to make us suffer for four hours until He had decided to forgive us later, that day!

A Darshan Finally!

Every passing moment raised our tension. Seeing the speed (means slowness) with which the line was moving, we had doubts of entering even the ‘chuttambalam2’ (inside the temple Gopuram) before the closing time. We had come to do booking certain offerings in advance. How could we do that before offering our obeisance at His Lotus Feet even once? Was He irritated with us for some of our unintentional slip-ups or oversights? Will we have Darshan, at least in the evening? Could we complete all the offerings? Will we be able to reach Thrissur in time for our return bus? Our worries were unending and the tension was mounting. Just before entering the Gopuram, we got a reassurance from Him that things are not that hopeless. A pleasant looking Police Officer assured us that the Inner Sanctum would be closed after the ‘Uchcha Pooja16’ only after all of us, who were in the queue at that point of time, have Darshan.

By the time, we had reached the sacred door of the ‘Sree Kovil11’, the combined effect of nighttime bus journey and waiting in the 3-hour long queue had us tired both physically and mentally. Probably due to this fatigue, I could not sense the usual nip, the freshness or the invisible rays emanating from HIS Presence, while standing in front of HIM for the blessing. Or, more probably, the better explanation of this would be that the Master of adorable mischiefs was pretending to be annoyed with us for not coming directly to His ‘Thirunada13’ (Sacred Door). That is right, He only pretends to be and how can a dotting father be angry with his children for such stupid oversights.

‘Mara Prabhu’ & Guruvayoor Keshavan

 To cut the story short, we had Darshan and came out of the temple at around 2 PM. After having a quick lunch and a little shopping (buying some CDs containing devotional songs), we came back to East Gopuram by 3PM. During our ‘lunch break’, Sree had resolved for all of us that we must have one more Darshan. The Gopuram was nearly deserted and hence we had decided to go to Administrator’s Office, which was located at ‘Thekkenada’ (South entrance). We had to book a ‘Chuttu Vilakku’ (Temple Illumination) in Sree’s name. The earliest date available was in 2013. Another booking was for doing certain monthly offerings for one year in the name of Vikas. While returning to main entrance, I caught the approving, encouraging glances from the statues of ‘Mara Prabhu’ (http://kartha-pes.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/08/bhakthi-vs-vibhakthi-ii.htm) and ‘Guruvayoor Keshavan’ (http://www.guruvayurdevaswom.org/kesavan.shtml), Guruvayoorappan’s favourite elephant. That really was soothing and gave us a sense of serenity.

Ecstasy, Tears of Joy

With that serene inner peace, we slowly entered the Gopuram and none of us would have imagined the scene that got unfolded before us there! HE was there! HE was there in His total Cosmic Magnificence, Eternal Splendor! HE was there patiently waiting for us, the insignificant, ignorant, unfocussed, tardy, clumsy beings, to arrive. HE was there to tell us, in the morning, He was only teasing us and after all, we are His children! HE was there exactly like His devout devotee, Melpathur Narayana Bhattathirippad had described in Narayaneeyam:

Sandranandava bodhatmakam anupamitam kaladesha vadhibhyam |

Nirmuktam nityamuktam nigamashata sahasrena nirbhasya manam | |

Aspashtam drishtamatre punaruru purusharth atmakam brahmatatvam |

Tatta vadbhati sakshad gurupavanapure hanta bhagyam jananam | |

 

My eyes were brimming with the tears of joy and ecstasy that could wash away all that were negative and abhorable from my soul tainted from this materialistic life.

The Royal Procession in all its Splendor

It was the time of the day for the ‘Utsava Seeveli’, when the Lord emerges out of His Sanctum riding on His pet elephant, Guruvayoor Padmanabhan, who was the understudy of the legendary Guruvayoor Keshavan. When we had stepped into the ‘Chuttambalam’, the ceremonial procession of the endearing Lord was at the side of the ‘Swarna Kodimaram6’ (Golden Flag Post).

The ‘Ezhunnallethu4’ was befitting the Glory of Sree Guru-pavana-puradheesan.  Three pachyderms adorned with ‘Swarna Nettippattom10’ and brightly colored ‘Venkottakkuda15’ bedecked with golden embellishments, were regally standing in a row and were rhythmatically swaying and flapping the ears to the tune of the percussion music. Bhagavan’s pet, Guruvayoor Padmanabhan was at the middle carrying the ‘Kolam / Thidambu7’ of Sree Bala Gopala Krishnan. The ceremonial display of ‘Alavattom1’ and ‘Venchamaram14’ from each elephant was certainly enhancing the dignity of the occasion. 

The Presence

Leading the grand pageant was the traditional ‘Kuthuvilakku8’ and arrays of ‘Kodi5’, ‘Suryamara12’ and other paraphernalia of Deity’s Ezhunnallethu. The ‘Pancha Vadyam17’ was climbing on its own unique pulsating tempo. The atmosphere was charged with HIS Presence. I stood in front of HIM with my heart reaching out to touch His gorgeous feet without knowing for how long! The time stopped the pretension of moving forward! I came back to the present time, when I was nudged by Vikas to move forward in the queue. I could not tell him that my pilgrimage was already fructified, as he is not ready yet to understand such a language. So I had decided move forward along the path towards the Sree Kovil where too would be Sree Nidhi glowing in His Celestial Splendor.

Sree Bala Gopala Krishnan

This time, the line was moving with a vigor that was conspicuous in the morning with its absence. In reasonably good time, we had reached in front of the Namaskara Mandapam. The flower-decked image of the Lord did look like Gopalakrishna dancing with His trademark murali touching the lips. It is said that in Guruvayoor, for every Pooja, Krishna’s different ‘Bhava’ (characteristic expression) is normally depicted, starting as butter swallowing Balagopala in the morning to the ‘Chaturbahu Lord Maha Vishnu at the last Pooja. Whatever may be the depicted ‘Bhava’, His sense of humor and the romantic twinkle from those mischievous eyes cannot be kept hidden under any disguise!

It is not for any thing, that the Sree Krishna is considered as the ‘Poornavathara’ (The Complete Incarnation). Krishna depicted an extraordinary Godhead concept full of fun and Romanticism and yet He was aloof from everything around Him. At Guruvayoor, if we keep our hearts completely open to HIM, we get a glimpse of that divine ‘Leela’ of Yogeswara, Paramatma, Sree Krishna Bhagawan!

I wish I could take it with Me

During my current 60+ years long visit to this beautiful planet, Lord Guruvayoorappan have taken me to His Temple, innumerable times. This time, though, the experience was so unique that I wish I could take it with me beyond the final curtain. 

Glossary

1.                Aalavattom        = Ornamental or peacock fan used for temple                                    pageants

2.                Chuttambalam  =The area between the compound wall and the Naalambalam and Naalambalam and the Sreekovil

3.                Chuttuvilakku   =Lighting the thousands of oil lamps on the surrounding walls of Naalambalam

4.                Ezhunnellathu  =Spectacular, ceremonial procession of Deities

5.                Kodi           =Flag

6.                Kodimaram       =Flag post

7.                Kolam/Thidampu       =Small Idols used in temple processions

8.                Kuthuvilakku    =Long handled Ceremonial lamps used for procession of Deities

9.                Naalambalam    = The rectangular building complex with a special traditional design surrounding the Sanctum

10.           Swarna Nettippattom=Golden caparison

11.           Sreekovil     =Sanctum Sanctorum

12.           Suryamara  =Ornamental sunshade

13.           Thirunada   = Sacred Door in front of the Sreekovil

14.           Venchamaram     =White ceremonial Fan made out of the tail hair of a kind of white deer (‘Chamari’ Deer)

15.           Venkottakkuda    =Ornamental Royal Umbrella

16.           Uchcha Pooja      =The last Pooja of the morning session in any Kerala Temple

17.              Pancha Vadyam        = Pancha Vadyam (or “five instruments”) is one of Kerala’s great folk art forms. Featuring three different types of drum (Thimila, Sudda Maddalam & Edakka), horns (Kombu), and the ‘Sankham’ (conch shell) and ‘Elathaalam’ (bells that are common in Hindu religious music)

 

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