2019 was unlike any other.
In this one year,
I visited 38 ancient temples in Kumbakonam-Mayavaram belt with my school friends gang after some meticulous planning. In fact for Chitra Pournami that fell on a friday in April that year, I was sitting teary eyed in front of my ishta devta Mother Lalithambika in Thirumeeyachur for over 5 hrs reciting Lalitha Sahasranama at least for 3 times and then singing in chorus many bhajans along with my friends and other devotees. The temple was very crowded. We got our Mother Her favourite silver anklets. There is no way I can put into words the range of emotions that washed over me in those 5 hours. At that moment, I was ready to take leave of everyone and everything at the lotus feet of my Mother. From Brahadeshwara temple in Tanjore to Airawateshwara in Kumbakonam and rest, we covered vast grounds in mere 5 days in very hot April starting our days by 4 am and retiring to bed by 11 pm. All of us are middle aged women – friends from school days. We all have our health woes. Then what gave us the strength and will power to go on. I wonder whether I can ever repeat this feat in future.
Before embarking on Kumbakonam Mayavaram tour, I had already paid a visit to the temples of Kanchipuram. Of course, as Kanchi is stone’s throw away it is not a surprise still periodical darshan of Kamakshi and Ekambareshwara and Varadaraja temples is like tonic to me. This was with my Zumba gang.
Earlier with my school friends I had also visited the Chengleput temples – Eri Katha Ramar temple, Bhagavathy temple at Mel Malayanoor and Selva Lalithambika temple, which is not on tourist map.
Before it was time to leave for Doha, a short stop at Madurai on way to Kodai couldn’t be missed for a million dollars. Mother Meenakshi beckoned.
Of course, not before visiting our Kula Deivam in Arni, a must for us. We don’t do anything without getting Her approval.
A friend from Hyderabad flew down to Kerala and four of us friends were scouting the Athirapalli forests going up on the mountains until Valparai where we doubled down to get back to Thrissur the day after we had a hearty darshan of none other than Shri Guruvayurappan at Guruvayur and of course the unmissable Vadakkunathan (Shiva) and Bhagawati before I exited India this time from Kochi.
Guess I flew in and out of India at least half a dozen times. There was still time to go on a short holiday to Azerbaijan with my hubby and then later on to Turkey. Both were different kind that I enjoyed maximum, unaware that Turkey could be our last vacation in a long time to come.
Before Turkey, my zumba gang booked me into Tirumala Tirupathi tour. I was still in Doha when arrangements were made. Within a couple of days on landing, it was time to leave for Balaji darshan on the last day of Purattasi. Believe me or not, it took us not more than 1.5 hours in queue for a glorious darshan of Venkateshwara, the lord of the seven hills. As I neared the sanctum, all prayers were forgotten; with eyes watering for no reason, all that my heart was filled of was Balaji. None else. You called me without my asking, why. I kept asking. Nothing else mattered. I was there.
Before the end of the year, it was time for a Karnataka round trip covering the Mangalore coastal belt with my Doha wives gang. My second visit to Mookambika temple in Kollur, first to Sharadamba temple in Sringeri among others.
With Mookambika, this is my life experience. From 2001 I am doing this Kuthuvilakku Puja assuming Mother resides in jyothi swarup in the flame reciting Lalitha Sahasranama (which I am reciting since 1993). First I was using my mother’s tall brass diya Pancha muka one, now i have moved over to small and compact silver diya. I never believed I would be visiting these holy shrines at all shuttling between Qatar and India. My hubby wanted to just stay home whenever he visited. My friends and I weren’t bold enough to go on temple tours on our own. This we are doing in last 5-6 years only. But I always told Mother Goddess, even if i couldn’t visit Her, She was there in my thoughts and prayers always. Never made a conscious effort therefore for visiting Kollur but the train tickets were booked by a Doha friend of ours without even my knowledge for his wedding in Udipi. And that’s how I ended up at Mookambika unasked for.
During my first visit to Mookambika temple in 2010 i think along with my hubby, it was not very crowded. I stood with my eyes closed in front of my Mother. A priest walked to me and said, ‘hold this diya (a small size kuthuvilakku) and show the aarthi to Mother right from where you are.’ I couldn’t believe it. My hubby who stood with me understood in a moment what was happening to me, and the significance of the entire development. I lost sensation of my entire body right then and felt like floating. Felt extremely light like a feather, as the priest handed over to me a same 5 wick (pancha thiri) mini kuthuvilakku like I used in my Puja, encouraging me to do the aarthi. Mother was caressing me as I performed the aarthi in total stillness. I stood pretty close to Devi as much as it was allowed. At that moment I knew, my Mother heard me every single day, every single time. She honoured me the way unimaginable to human mind. I never once asked to visit Mookambika. She summoned me out of the blue to Her abode. I could be the smallest ant worthy of squashing, but She still got down to my level even if I could not lift myself up to Her level. I felt connected and only my husband knew and believed the same way I did. I related this to my closest friends who were stunned to hear this story.
This second time in Nov 2019, just as my foot touched on crossing over into the Mookambika temple doors in Kollur, I felt a shocking vibration course through my body. Like if you get a mild shock on touching a power point. Barely lasted for 30 seconds. I was here with my different gang of friends again. I wasn’t prepared for this welcome, but I knew at heart my Mother was waiting for my return. We had late night and morning darshans, double bonanza. Blessed to have a darshan of my Devi in Her golden chariot. Blessed to see Her in her golden lehenga. Just staying the night over very close to the temple was enough for me.
I kept asking Mother, why Ma. Kamakshi, Meenkashi, Lalithambika, Mookambika, Sharadhamba, Durga (Kateel and Patteeswaram), Abhirami, Garbarakshambika just to name a few avatars of Hers apart from Balaji darshan. Left out was Athivaradha and Arunachaleshwara temple at Thiruvannamalai (finished in fag end of 2018) and Chamundeshwari in Mysore (covered in January 2020). Why such an avalanche of blessed darshans.
So much has happened since. I flew back to India on Dec 1st, 2019. Never did I imagine that our life course was set to change forever and my return to Doha would become a big question mark. Not that I regret. I started 2020 too with a visit to my street Shiva temple for midnight zero hour darshan. Visit to Kapaleeshwara temple and Mundagakanni Amma temple very regular. Even Navashakthi Vinayaka temple in Luz. My favourite is Devastana Balaji temple run by TTD in T. Nagar.
A complete roller coaster of emotions since December end but all is well that ends well. I now understand the significance of the events of 2019. Life has since given me back to back promotions 😀
Sometimes when I pray only tears stream down my eyes. There is no way I can explain this to others. I just know that my Mother Raja Rajeshwari is hanging on to every single word of mine. All the more it is important for me now to be more responsible and cut down on the negative things. But then we are human. To err is human.
During this Navratri I only wish to record that, Mother listens to every heart. There are subtle ways She lets us know that She is listening. I got married as an orphan. Today if i am at least in this station in life, it is not without Her guidance and blessings. Before my wedding, everyday I would be before the Durga in Valleeshwara temple, Mylapore and Karpagambal in Mylapore. Mundagakanni Amma. Not to leave out our street Renuka Parameshwari. Making jaggery pongal for Mundagakanni for years, decades now. Used to make within the temple precincts but age has caught up with me now. My energy level is low so I now make it at home and take Her the offering. Also for the local Devi temples here that are Kaval deivam for this locality.
In january, I don’t know why I rushed a visit to our Kuladeivam and then to make pongal for Mundagakkanni amma and our Kaval deivams. Normally I do it in Aadi and if i am there in Thai month, if time permits I do it. Yearly once, a ritual. But this year, I finished my annual ritual well in advance in Jan. After corona, there is hardly scope for the ritual now.
She is the Mother for the motherless. Just surrender. Without questioning. More accepting Her direction in total faith. That’s what I do.
Used to attend Varahi homams once upon a time for over 2 years every Amavasya. From then on, I tell myself, ‘Vaa endru azhaithaal vaaradhiruppalo Varahi.’ I take Her everywhere with me. She is my courage. She is my strength. I pray with Her to kill my self pity even after all these years. I am on my way to become a grandma. Mother has more than compensated me over years. I acknowledge Her direct hand in my life, yet as a lowly human form, all I can think of is about myself. My world is very small. How I wish I could break this jinx and become less self centered.
Navratri to me is awakening of these powerful emotions. I have a different kind of relationship with my Mother Goddess. I have arguments, I call Her ‘vadi podi’ – I don’t know if anyone will understand this equation between us.
To my Mother I pray for the gentlest heart that can understand others and bring happiness to everyone. To recite the Lalitha Sahasranama in every birth of mine and be able to visit Thirumeeyachur and Kapali temple in Mylapore in every janam of mine. I don’t think i will break the birth cycle in another 1000 years 😀 To have the same family every birth.
I think I prayed very much for same things in my previous janam. Just an intuition. In every single Devi temple I stepped into in 2019, i managed to recite Lalitha Sahasranama. I wish I could die with Mother’s name on my lips even as I chant Her nama.
Mother exists for those who believe in Her. Sometimes all I long for is to keep my head in Her lap and go to sleep forever and never wake up, in content and peace.