DAY 11 – Sahasra Lakshmeeswarar Koil, Pudukkottai – Uttara Bhadra
This temple is where Goddess Lakshmi worshipped Lord Shiva with 1000 lotuses and is called Sahasra Lakshmeeswarar because Sahasram means 1000. Sages Agir Budhan, Angirasa, Agni Purandhaka and Viswakarama are all born under Uttara Bhadra Nakshatra and it its said that they come here to pray in their invisible form regularly. When I leave the hotel, I am greeted with a blooming water lily. I take a picture and am not aware that the temple we are about to visit is connected to its cousin the lotus.
This is a small and remote temple, but very powerful. It is located in Theeyathur. Thee in Tamil means fire. Devotees travel here to do fire ceremony to gain the blessing of Lord Shiva. The chanting of the swami here is special and extremely powerful. We also come to the temple to do a fire ceremony or homa.
The final preparations for our fire ceremony are underway. As we arrive, the swami who will lead the ceremony is wrapping colored tread around an altar vessel. I sit at one of the small altars to energize the essence. The flow of energy is strong and potent. I adorn the orb with a heart of white jasmine flowers.
Our fire ceremony is elaborate and powerful. It is mesmerizing and creates an altered state of awareness. The chanting, the offerings, the prayers and the burning away of what no longer serves can all be felt in a very deep way. I understand that all things of the ego must be released into the fire without attachment. I understand that even my devotion is to be gifted to the fire.
The children of the village come after our ceremony and want their picture taken. They have bright shining faces.
Abhaya Varadeeswarar Koil, Tanjore – Adra
This temple is for Ardra Nakshatra and Rahu – Ketu. It is visited by people seeking healing. The temple is believed to cure problems due to poor planetary position for people born under the Adra Nakshatra. It is also the temple for worship by those afflicted with an adverse aspect from the shadow planets of Rahu and Ketu. People suffering with incurable diseases, those afraid of death and seeking longevity, and Ardra natives wanting relief from planetary adversities all come to this temple for healing. Praises of the temple have been sung by the saints Sambandar and Sundarar of 7th – 8th century CE. The main idol is Sundaranayaki who is called “Kadal Partha Nayaki” or the “goddess who saw the seas”.
I sit with the orb to energize the essence and the energy is strong and potent. As I finish and walk around the temple admiring the colorful architecture, I notice the contrast of colors against the sky. It is beginning to turn dark. I feel a strong wind kick up and a flock of large dark birds fly around the temple complex. This gives a very ominous, mystical feeling as rain threatens. It seems so in keeping with the nature of Ardra and I sense the presence of the unseen world.
DAY 12 – Sri Tiruvaneshwar Temple, Ranganathapuram – Purva Bhadra
Sri Tiruvaneshwar Temple for Purva Bhadra is in the remote village of Ranganathapuram. As we ride in the bus we pass farms and green pastures along the way. The temple grounds are lush, vibrant and alive. It is a good background for the colorful temple. The temple was built by Kochengat Cholan and its age is believed to be 1,800 years old. Kochengat Cholan built or rebuilt at least 70 temples and all the temples he built were elevated to prevent elephants from entering. The Swami tells us a story about why Kochengat Cholan did this:
There was a Shiva Lingam that was worshiped by both a Spider and an Elephant. The Elephant brought water in its trunk to perform the ritual washing while the Spider would weave a web over the Lingam to protect it from dust and dry leaves. The Elephant saw the web as dirty and would remove it and the Spider would weave the web again. Each day this would repeat until the two had a fight and both of them died. The spider was reborn as Kochengat Cholan and he remembered his previous life and the “havoc” caused by the elephant. He decided to build temples which could not be accessed and disturbed by the Elephants. Hanging on the wall of the temple is a large picture Kochengat Cholan along with the spider and elephant directing the story.
I sit with the orb and crystals to energize the essence at the altar of the Goddess. I feel the energetic potency of paired energy in resonance… God and Goddess, masculine and feminine.
Mangalyeswarar Koil, Edaiyathumangalam – Uttara Phalguni
Mangalyeswarar Koil is known to grant blessings for marriage and partnerships. According to legend, Mangalya Maharishi is Guru to the Angels that bless marriages. The Angels visit this temple to pray to Mangalyeswarar to enhance their power to bless new marriages so that the new couple may have a long and happy life together. Young unmarried women, especially those born under Uttara Phalguni, pray at this temple for the removal of any marriage delays. Devotees place their first wedding invitation at the feet of Mangalya Maharishi. They believe that he will attend their wedding and shower them with blessings. As soon as the marriage is finalized, the newly weds come back to the temple to give their thanks. Next to the altar door are many wedding invitations that have been brought by hopeful couples. There are four of us that bring offering baskets and they are lined up at the altar creating a beautiful display. I choose to sit with this auspicious beauty to energize the essence. It is a sweet energy that is present.
Swami points out an inscription at the base of the temple wall that speaks to the special purpose of this temple to bless marriages and partnerships.
I offer my flowers and coconut at the feet of the Nandi bull in gratitude. As I place my offering, I pray for my relationship with the Divine.
That evening I climb 344 steps up the Ganesha Ucchi Pilliar Rockfort temple on the hilltop. This 7th century temple is mystical with spectacular views of Trichy. I see a turkey vulture fly, gliding effortlessly in the air, and it is a good omen.
DAY 13 – Kailasanathar Koil, Karukudi – Revati
The devotees of all Nakshatras are blessed at Kailasanathar Koil. The Goddess is known as Karunakaravalli (Merciful Goddess) for granting darshan here with Lord Shiva for all 27 star deities. After receiving darshan, Revati continued to faithfully worship here and so this temple is closely related to the Revati Nakshatra. People who are born on Revati Nakshatra are advised to visit this temple as often as possible to offer their prayers along with 27 different offering items. After worship, they distribute the 27 offerings to devotees visiting the temple so to have their payers fulfilled.
We are greeted at the door by two Swamis. Many in our group need a restroom break after the long bus ride. The primary Swami offers for us to come to his house. He lives close by on a street with small, vibrantly colored homes. I am at the end of the line and as I make my way to be next, I stand chatting in the living room with the family. Using gestures and broken English I learn that the daughter of about 10 years old likes to dance. I ask her if she wants to dance and with a little coaxing she dances with me as I sound a beat with my voice. We have great fun and everybody laughs.
The altars are dressed in fine orange cloth. I sit across from the Goddess as heavy smoke from burning incense fills the altar space. As I sit with the orb and crystals to charge the essence, I feel a strong wave of grace and mercy.
On my way out, I am attracted to a statue with the index finger pointing up toward the heavens. I am drawn to place my left palm next to the open palm of the statue. I feel a strong transmission of energy come in through my palm. I depart in much gratitude.
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam – Vishnu
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is a spectacular temple for Lord Vishnu. It is not associated with a Nakshatra. It is a major pilgrimage destination and the largest temple complex in India spanning 156 acres. It is an impressive sight that is visited by many devotees and is always crowded.
The walk on the temple grounds is beautiful with many ornate and colorful structures. Before I enter the temple complex I buy two unique flower offerings. I offer the pink one with a prayer to a figure standing in devotion to the heavens outside the temple, and take the red and white offering with me into the temple. Once inside the main temple, there are many people and long slow moving lines. Swami tells me that I must present my flower offering at the appropriate altar. I carry the offering with me as I slowly make my way through the temple lines. I feel many energies coming together with all the streams of people. As we pass by the main altar the energy is palatable and strong. Behind the altar is a huge reclining statue of Vishnu. It is so big that you can only see a portion of it. I am shown by friends I’ve made while standing in line, that there is a small copper plate on the temple floor. When you stand on it you get a clear but partial view of the reclining Vishnu. I stand on the plate and it creates a connection with the Deity that is both immediate and strong. I want to stay there to commune with the energies, but the group is moving on and we must stay together. We pass by a beautiful portrayal of the story of the spider and the elephant that Swami shared at the Purva Bhadra temple two days ago.
Toward the end of our time in the temple, I am able to offer my flowers at an altar for the Goddess. Swami gives me a beautiful arrangement of flowers with two pink lotus in the middle from the Goddess statue. I feel the flowers are perhaps given in acknowledgement of my willingness to carefully hold my offering while making my way slowly through the temple crowds. But, I’m not sure. I feel grateful. I offer the lotus arrangement to Nagakanni at the altar I have made for her in my hotel room.
DAY 14 – Sri Akashapureeswarar Temple, Kaduveli – Purva Ashadha
Sri Akashapureeswarar Temple is dedicated to the Akash element of the Five Elements – Akash (Space), Vayu (Wind), Agni (Fire), Appu (Water) and Prithvi (Earth). Therefore, it has been given the name Akasapureeshwarar.
This temple is considered to be auspicious for the people who are born on Purva Ashadha. Those who are born on this Nakshatra visit the temple to offer powders and burn incense. A sweet pudding is also offered. Worshiping at the temple will enable early marriage and give peace and prosperity in life. Devotees also come to the temple for successful business.
Clothes are hanging on a line outside the temple and there is a woman doing hand laundry in the courtyard. The temple is small and informal. I feel very energized. I offer a pink lotus flower and anoint the orb with sacred water as the essence is charged.
On the way in bus, I speak with William about my idea to have a Nakshatra Wheel made like the one in the Hindu Temple on Kauai. We discuss the possibility of going back to India on a trip to have the wheel made and to revisit temples.
We stop for lunch before going on to the next temple. I am not interested in eating much so I leave the group to explore the hotel and visit a shop. So far on the trip I have purchased very little, and it has been limited to inexpensive malas sold by street vendors and at shop stands near the temple. I relish spending my money instead on beautiful flower offerings to take into the temple. But today, I buy jewelry. I am a bit surprised by my large spontaneous purchase.
Brihadeshwara Temple, Thanjavur – Shatabhishak
Brihadeshwara Temple is a superb example of ancient south Indian architecture. Built in 1100 AD, it is now a world heritage site. It has one of the largest Vimana in south India. (A Vimana is the tower over the inner sanctum of the temple.) It is a beautiful temple complex. It is made out of granite and unpainted. I find its uniform color pleasing to my eyes. The Nakshatra for the temple is Shatabhishak.
There is no picture taking allowed inside. We are guided through the temple at a fast pace and no time to meditate inside. Just outside the doorway on the left is a statue of Parvati. Parvati is hugging a Shiva lingam and looking very sensual and present. As Vanita and I stop to admire her and feel into what she is communicating, we receive a powerful transmission of Shakti energy. I am carrying a basket of offerings for the group that includes bananas. Vanita and I each offer a banana in gratitude to Parvati.
I immediately sit outside on the lawn to energize the essence and the energy of Parvati’s transmission is further heightened.
We switch to another fine hotel and are greeted in the lobby by a beautiful floating flower arrangement and treated to a traditional foot washing. Ahhhhh! I walk through the small village and feed some cows by hand with Hingen. A tuk-tuk drives up and we spontaneously get in. We embark on a visit to town and unplanned tour of Adi Kumbeshwara temple. As our driver gets out of the tuk-tuk, we are shocked to see that he is crippled in both legs. Hingen and I are touched and deeply moved. We did not see that he drives his tuk-tuk solely with hand controls. We follow our crippled driver as he guides us through the temple making his way with crutches. His useless feet dangle and sweep the floor as he moves through the temple. Our hearts are full of compassion for him. After taking us by the main altar he motions for us to set and meditate. Filled with deep compassion I say prayers for our driver. I am grateful that the has led me more deeply into my heart. As we leave, we meet up with the temple elephant who feels to be a big, gentle soul.
DAY 15 – Apatsahayesvarar Temple, Alangudi – Punarvasu
Apatsahayesvarar Temple is one of the Navagraha (nine planet) temples of Tamil Nadu for Jupiter and it is for Punarvasu Nakshatra as well. Today is Thursday and a special day to visit the temple because it is the day for Jupiter. Both the planets and stars influence us according to their arrangement in the cosmos at time of birth. The nine planets are believed to impact the course of one’s life as they move from one Nakshatra star constellation to another, providing both good and bad effects. The bad effects can be mitigated by prayers and remedial measures. Devotees come to both the Navagraha and Nakshatra temples in search of remedies. The common worship practices include offerings of cloth, grain, flowers and jewels specific to the planetary deity or Nakshatra.
Each morning before I put the essence in its small silk bag and hang it in the middle of the geo, I add a tiny herkimer diamond to the bottle. I do this with minimal handling or touching of the crystal. The herkimer diamond helps to absorb and stabilize the temple energies. While preparing the essence this morning I spill a bit of it. At first I chastise and reprimand myself. I must pay more attention! After a bit of reflection and contemplation, I am aware of the great care I am taking and I am also aware that Punarvasu is about bringing light back to the earth. I remember William sharing that Punarvasu Nakshatra, his birth star, brings the light again. I feel the significance of my action to “spill the essence” so that it can bring back the light. I commit to share the temple essences with my new moon sisters group when I return. I also reflect on how to best share the essences with those light workers who are bringing the light back to Earth at this time.
As we ride on the bus headed to the Punarvasu and Jupiter temple, I sit next to William and we share the happenings of the early morning and their meaning. As we talk, I am inspired to adopt one of the remote temples that are in need of financial support for maintenance and upkeep. I am not sure yet which temple it will be.
As I approach the temple, I am attracted to a small metal object with circles stamped on it at one of the market stands near the temple entry. I select 2 and want to buy 3, but the 3rd one does not feel right. It needs to be different so that I can tell them apart. Once I am in the temple standing in line I know definitely that I need a third. I ask our tour guide, Parthi, and he magically produces a totally different one. It is perfect. I have purchased an offering basket full of flowers, fruit and a coconut. I add to the basket the three metal objects, a ring that I bought at lunch yesterday and my moon stone necklace. Parthi tells me that the metal objects are dice. Somehow I “remember” how to use three dice for divination. I throw them several times when I am back in my hotel room and receive guidance on their meaning and how to interpret them. Each of the three dice corresponds to a different realm – upper, middle or lower – and they are interpreted based on how they land. It is similar to reading bones.
The temple is very crowded. Since this is the Jupiter Navgraha temple, many devotees come on pilgrimage for blessings. I am surprised to look down and see a circle and dot carved into the floor. It is so similar to the circles stamped on the three divination dice. I offer William the crystals to meditate with as this is the temple of his Birth Star and it is special. I sit with the orb and the energy is very strong. We have been given beautiful flowers as part of our ceremony that I adorn the orb with an offering. I open my eyes to see Swami handing out flowers to a group that has been gathered near me.
Our hotel grounds are beautiful and serene. There is a large Shiva altar that I pass by on my way to and from my room. Indian chanting music is playing on a loud speaker and a man is quite often standing nearby to offer a smile with hands in prayer position. It is a perfect reminder to pause my mind chatter and connect once again with the infinite silence. I make it my practice to stop at the altar when I pass by, if even for a brief bow. I have created a beautiful altar for Nagakanni in my room and I sit with her for a moment in the mornings.
DAY 16 – Shri Piravi Marundeeswarar Temple, Thiruthuraipoondi – Ashwini
Shri Piravi Marundeeswarar is a beautiful old temple for Ashwini. We visit it on Friday when women come to light lamps, make offerings and pray for long marriage. They create beautiful altars on the floor and the temple is shining with flickering candle light. The energy is powerful and special. I sit with the orb near the women and in front of the Goddess altar. I am guided to hold the orb next to me. I am aware of a strong creative energy focused in my second chakra. It is pure, clear, focused and strong. It feels like a womb healing and an energizing of the space for creation. There is a long ceremony at the main altar and I sit on the floor in the center with Hingin.
I take Nagakanni to a naga temple at sunset with Hingin. Nagakanni receives a blessing from the Swammi. We are directed to an area of the temple dedicated to the Nagas. Alongside a small shrine and large tree are many stone Naga statues with candles burning. Inside the shrine is a statue of the Naga Goddess and a picture of a very large snake the appeared there. When I inquire about the stone statures I learn that they have been purchased by devotees and placed there for remedy from negative influences of the Nagas. Back at our hotel, I ask at the shop if they can acquire a stone Naga statue for me to place at the temple. They will check for me.
I visit a courtyard on the hotel grounds with William where there is an enormous Shiva wall statue. We sit across from the statue and it covers the entire wall of the courtyard opposite from where we are seated. I share my experience at the Naga temple and as I look up at the stars I feel a powerful energy. It definitely feels like celestial energy, yet I do not get specific information about it. William points out that Ketu and the Moon are directly above us. Ketu is the tail of the snake that holds ancient wisdom and past life learning. During a battle with the Gods over immortality and the sacred soma nectar, Ketu is separated from conscious knowing when its head (which is called Rahu) is cut off. I understand that when Ketu reunites with Rahu in the rising of the Kundalini energy, past life consciousness and universal wisdom are merged with present day awareness erasing separation revealing oneness. This, in essence, is the enlightened state of the sages and great yogis.
DAY 17 – Sri Krupakupareswarar Temple, Nagapattinam – Hasta
Sri Krupakupareswarar Temple for Hasta is old and remote. It is a good day to visit this temple because today is between day 12 and 13 of the waning moon. The 13th moon is called Padoosham in the Hindu calendar; a time for purification and removing past karma. Krupa is an ancient Sanskrit name which means grace, compassion and favour. Krupakupeswarar is a God who offers great mercy and compassion to those who come in earnest for healing. It is believed that ancient Siddhas vist this temple in their light bodies giving the temple powerful energy.
The Shakti of Hasta Nakshatra is “the power to gain what we are seeking and place it in our hand.” I notice a simple figure carved into the stone with hands in prayer position place over head in reverence. I feel the power of reverence and simple devotion.
I sit with the orb to charge the essence and I am given a clear reminder, “Bow your head … work of the hands is nothing without Me.” I understand that channeled messages and sayings will be given to help me remember. I place my thumb inside my palm to signify that the ego is bowing at the altar of the Divine. I am guided to also sit with the orb as the charging is done without my hands involved. I ask to be drawn to other authors.
NOTE: I have been blessed by Divine synchronicity and grace in response to my simple prayer at this temple to be drawn to other authors. I needed an astrologer’s help to compose traditional descriptions of the Nakshatras from a Vedic Astrologer’s perspective. I connected with a talented and willing Vedic Astrologer who is also a published author. When she sent her first description for my review; it was for Hasta because she began writing on a Hasta Nakshatra day. After reading her description I consulted my travel notes for the Hasta temple and there was my prayer. I did not even consciously remember making it, yet I have be granted my prayer from Sri Krupakupareswarar. I have connected with the perfect author and all the Nakshatra descriptions have been masterfully created and are in my hands. I am so grateful!
On my way out of the Hasta temple I see a small broken naga stone statue laying in a heap off to the side. The feet have been broken off and I reverently prop it up with a ghee lamp pot. I feel tempted to put the discarded statue in my bag. I know better and ask if I can make a donation for the statue. No, I am told. It is not good to worship broken idols and besides that the government controls all of the religious artifacts. In that moment I feel the influence of RAHU. It is the energy of RAHU to want more. I give a donation to the mother and children begging at the temple entrance as penance. Rahu, always wanting more, may I be released from your spell!
Sri Kalyanasundareswarar Swamy Temple, Thirumanancheri – Purva Phalguni
Sri Kalyanasundareswarar Swamy Temple for Purva Phalguni is located in a village where it is believed that Shiva married Parvati, so the place is named Thirumanancher meaning marriage village. The temple is famous for giving blessings for marriage and love. Couples visit this temple after marriage to seek the blessing of the Deities. Outside the temple, I buy flowers and bangles to offer to the Goddess Parvati. The temple is festive with bright colors and lights. It has sort of a Las Vegas marriage feel to it and is crowded with excited, hopeful devotees racing around. I sit across from the young unmarried Parvati altar under an etched figure with its hands in prayer position. It feels devotional here and I sit with the orb to charge the essence. After honoring Parvati, the Swami attending the altar gives me turmeric root and red cord. When he leaves, he allows the iron gate to remain open and I stand at the Goddess by myself. She is beautifully dressed in a fine bright red sari. In reverence when I am done, I adorn the praying figure which I sit under with flowers so Parvati will have beauty in front of her.
In the evening, the group visits Adi Kumbeshwara Temple. This is the temple that Hangin and I visited a few nights earlier with our crippled guide. Tonight there is a celebration of some sort and it is far too crowded to enter the temple. We pay a visit to the elephant again and take pictures. The elephant grants blessings by placing the end of his trunk gently on the head. The blessing comes only after the elephant receives your donation and gives it to his caretaker with his trunk. I stand for a time in admiration as donations are received and blessings are granted. I take a picture of the elephant blessing Komilla. The elephant dances from side to side in a rhythmic movement. I comment on how wise the eyes of the elephant are and at that very moment the elephant touches the end of his trunk to one of his eyes. I am surprised and wonder if the elephant knows the word…eye? But how can he, his caretaker does not speak English.