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Sunday, 11 August 2019

The Rarest of Sightings

A tiny drop blooms and grows. It merges with other drops that grow in a similar manner and a thin stream begins to run down from the temple, down the outer edge of the right cheek to land on the collar bone. I watch this process in shocked fascination, wondering how the lady on my left copes with the sweat pouring down her face without trying to wipe it off. Minutes later, I find out the answer. At 10.15 in the night, my face is bathed in sweat too, but I can’t move my hand up to wipe it off – for the simple reason that there’s no space to move my arm.

Wondering where I am? Join me in the “Sarvadarshanam” queue waiting for the darshan of Lord Athivaradhar in Kancheepuram! 




(For those who are in the dark about this rare, once-in-40-years event, here’s a link that will give you more information.)

Standing in the middle of a 2.5 lakh strong crowd (as we later learn), I reminisce about the miraculous way in which this entire journey has unfolded.

My husband has been planning this trip from the beginning of July. One or the other thing intruded and the earliest date to travel is 19th July. We tried booking online for a special seva but that didn’t work out, so we’re counting on Athivaradar’s grace and some help from a person known to our relatives Narayan Mama and Lakshmi Maami who are accompanying us.


Miracle #1 - I’ve read up online about the huge crowd, the mismanagement, unsanitary conditions and the heat and yet, am raring to go, albeit with a niggle in a corner of my mind that I try to quell by constantly reminding myself that “surrender to the Lord’s wish” is the key to happiness – one divine Lord, and one worldly one, if you get my drift!


Miracle #2 – We take the advice of our Kancheepuram Mama and decide to leave on 18th afternoon itself (instead of 19th morning), so as to reach the place called Thoopul (about 2 kms away from Kancheepuram) by 18th evening , park the car there, and travel further by local auto/bus. This is important, because they’re not letting non-Tamil Nadu vehicles into Kancheepuram town.

Miracle #3 – We reach Thoopul by 6.45 pm and pay obeisance first to Sri Vedanta Desikan, the great Srivaishnava Acharya who was born here, and then, to the presiding deity, Sri Deepa Prakasar also called Vilakkoli Perumal which literally means “the giver of Light”. It being Sravanam day, we are blessed with delicious sakkarai pongal and dadiyonnam as prasaadam, too.

Kancheepuram Mama tells us to come there as soon as possible because the crowd is thinning now. Reason – a sad one - some 3 or 4 people have died in the melee and so, darshan has been stopped for some time, and many people have gone away.

Just as we’re looking out for an auto to take us to Kancheepuram, one of the elderly archakars from the Thoopul temple appears on his bike, and offers to take us close to the temple. Indicators flashing, and patiently waiting for our SUV to navigate the narrow bylanes, he is the Deepa Prakasar for us, helping us bypass the main roads manned by traffic police.

At one point, we lose him because it takes time for our large vehicle to pass through a traffic jam, but by then, we’re pretty close to the temple, and so we find a suitable spot, park the car, and start moving like the people in a walking race do, to quickly make it to the East gopuram (which is the entry point).

Miracle #4 – Even as we reach the place, police have just finished putting up barricades to stop entry for the day. One local Iyengar Mama suddenly appears, and tells the police we are “his people” and makes sure they let us in. We’ve never seen each other before. We’re the last set in – the barricades close after us.

Miracle #5 – We rush into one queue, then find ourselves jostled into another one and reach a point from where we’re turned back and told to go to the other side. Struggling to make sure we don’t lose sight of each other, the 6 of us push through the crowd, barge here and there, and finally, inexplicably, find ourselves in the correct queue. Other people around us have been standing in this queue from 3 pm, so a lady next to us wonders if we’re pulling her leg when we say we entered only at 8.45 pm. 

From 9 pm to 11 pm, we stand in the queue, like puppets on a string – not knowing when the next yank will take us ahead, or make us grind to a halt. Total sharanaagati! Being unable to move any part of your body certainly makes one the model of humility! The mind has grown totally blank and is filled with only the prayer to Athivaradar – ‘Grant me Your darshan, and make this ordeal end.’

Pushed forward by the crowd, we finally reach the Vasanta Mandapam where Lord Athivaradar is lying supine in all His resplendent glory. The dark-hued body looks like it’s chiseled out of stone – hard to believe it’s made of wood of the fig tree! As always, my mind blanks out when in front of the Lord’s form – my eyes focus on His feet and a feeling of immense gratitude for all my blessings wells up from within.

Miracle #6 – The policeman who is pushing and egging the crowd along, bends to pick and hold up, one after the other, two young children in front of me, who’re in the queue with their mother. This compassionate act ensures the kids a good darshan – it also lets me stay in front of the Lord’s form for a few more seconds than other people around me.

We make our way out and realize we don’t know which street we parked our car in. With help from some local people, and piecing together our memories, we finally find our car, reach back to Thoopul by the main road, this time, thanks to Google Maps, have a hurried dinner at 1.15 am, and collapse on the floor in the main hall of the Parkala Matham for a few hours of rest after the almost 7 km walk through.

Come morning, we catch up with a cousin of my husband who has arranged for a VIP pass and this time, the darshan is a breeze, and over in 45 minutes, allowing us to stand right next to the Lord Athivaradar Himself.

Tamil Nadu is a holy land and yet, it is also the land where many political leaders flaunt their anti-Hindu stance. Seeing the huge and swelling crowds for Lord Athivaradar’s darshanam has therefore been very reassuring of ground realities!

This is one pilgrimage I’m not going to ever forget. As my mother-in-law very sagely remarked, one can probably see the Lord sitting at home thanks to television and the internet. But for the Lord to see you, and grace you with His krupa-kataaksham, you have to brave the odds, and go stand in front of Him!



Note: None of the pictures are mine - I found them online, but forgot to note their sources and there was no time to go back and find them. 

6 comments:

  1. Similar experience but He graced us by taking a fee for it ..... Very peaceful and very serene experience......
    Ashok and me left on 28th July Sunday afternoon and reached by 7ish at Chennai busstand where we were asked to park the vehicle
    We checked in a hotel by 8.15
    Gave a call to my cousin casually and when he understood we are at Kanchi immediately he sent forth a sponsor ticket for both of us from South mada veedhi ....
    We got the tickets by 10.15 pm
    Morning 4.45 am we left the room ....
    Reached the street by 5.15 am 5.25 we were allowed to go in the temple and by 5.45 we were out .....
    He graced us His shayana darshanam from His feet to face and we were literally at His feet ..... Which is always my prayer to reach His lotus feet .....
    If He decides no one can be a barrier in our life . . . .
    Loved the whole experience the way it all just happened in a Gif and we were like .... Did we just get Graced by Him so Graciously kind of a look at each other after we were out by 5.45 am
    Just 20 mins we had His grace to have His darshanam completed .....
    No words for the feel .....
    Hare Krishna Hari Hari bol

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    1. Wow! Nice to hear of your darshanam experience! Thank you for sharing!

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  2. I am very happy to go through the post. Was waiting for quite some time!
    I for one am unable to connect with divinity in a crowded place. A quiet peaceful clean environment are prerequisites to spiritual connection. Speaks about a total lack of spirit of surrender which seems to be the door to attaining bliss through the easier route of bhakti!

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    1. Thanks for waiting, Akka, and sharing your thoughts. I used to be like that too, but am slowly changing to match hubby's way of doing things :-)

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  3. Indeed many miracles have to fall in place for having a satisfying darshan of Lord Adivardar. You deserve all the blessing. Tamil Nadu is indeed a holy place. And the delta region is dotted with many temples which you are aware. Even my small native village in Tiruvarur taluk has big temples of Perumal, Siva, Amman and other deities. It is a misconception that majority of people are anti-Hindu. They keep faith and politics apart. Many of the Dravidian families are very pious and so too are the majority of Hindus in Tamil Nadu.

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    1. Thank you, Sundarasekaran for the kind comment. You're right - people are devout indeed, and wise to keep faith and politics apart!

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