This is one of those posts, which I normally would have put into my Stories and Stuff blog, and yet I feel like putting here…
Siva’s Atmalingam at Gokarna :
I am just back from a tour of the west coast of Karnataka (wonderful!), and the major point of interest to me was the sparsha darsanam of Siva’s Atmalingam at Gokarna, Uttara Kannada district. It was brought there from Kailasa by Ravana, who really wanted to take it onwards to Sri Lanka. The credit for installing it goes to our all time favorite, Ganesha. Ravana asked Ganesha, who was disguised as a Vatu (student), to hold the atmalingam for a little while as he performed his evening sandhyavandanam and so on. Ganesha said that he would call out for him thrice before setting it down, and called out for Ravana thrice at times when he could not possibly hurry back. He then set it down on Gokarna soil, near the beach.
- Thus the ‘pratishtha’ is done by our Ganesha himself and too bad for Ravana and his designs on this atmalingam. Another atmalingam brought by Hanuman (from Kasi or Kailasa) is established at Rameswaram, close to the main sand lingam made by SitaDevi, worshipped by Sri Rama and by us. (We had a netra darsanam of this a few months ago.)
At Gokarna, the atmalingam is below floor level and submerged by the water and milk used for abhishekam.. so you have to stick your hand into the liquid and feel the sivalingam with your hands, you cannot “see” it.
The social need to support Purohitas :
At the entrance we were accosted by many purohitas who offered to perform the ritual worship to the SivaLingam on our behalf and told that this would save us time in the queue for a darshan of the atmalingam. We elected to go in line (waiting for hours) and skip the the ritual procedures. We wished to undistractedly experience the darsanam as most Indians without the money would do.
But this decision brought us into conflict with our own ideals. The purohitas spend years learning the veda mantras., in absolute purity and austerity. To skip the rituals is to deny them their only means of livelihood. (See : Brahmin Dalits) The money you deposit in the hundi goes to the temple upkeep and not to the purohitas.
- See : Veda Pathasalas. It is NOT easy to learn the mantras with their chandas, shiksha, etc as I am discovering the hard way. We owe them a debt of gratitude for preserving the most ancient culture in the world at a cost of their lifestyle and brainspace.
How Ganesha solved my conflict :
There is also the internal misery of leaving a holy place without giving a daana or a dakshina, which is difficult to bear. So after the darsanam, we were sitting just outside the garbhagudi, as is the custom, looking at the sculptures on the pillars, looking at the other bhakthas and experiencing Siva’s presence.
- (pradakshinam – circumambulation before darsanam and sitting down after is the general custom. In addition my father’s rule for me is that I should sing at least one classical carnatic song in honour of the Devatha of the temple. This allows one to practice devotion overcoming the shy consciousness brought on by the physical presence of so many other bhakthas and what they might think of one’s inabilities in this regard.)
Then a brahman came offered his prayers and turned directly to us and asked for a dakshina.
- This is unusual because a daana or gift is asked of one when no service is performed and a dakshina is asked only when a puja or yajna etc are performed on your behalf.
We were delighted beyond measure and offered him our dakshina and touched his feet. And he blessed us with all the best of worldly and spiritual things with a smile on his face. After this he just left and we never saw him again, though we did see all the purohitas and others around the place. So quite convinced that Ganesha himself appeared as a brahman to accept our dakshina and make us happy, we left the place. You really have to be a Hindu or a child, to understand this bit, and to be able to put your hush your left brain.
- Subsequently, you will be happy to know, we were able to contribute to the annadaana program as well as perform the ashtottara satanama service to Devi, where we were in no one’s way and which completely satisfied my internal need to buy bilva patras from the tribal ladies, perform a vedic rite in sanskrit as well as give a dakshina to the purohita and invoke the blessings of Devi on my parents.
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