Selective Amnesia There was a point to this. But I forgot.


Road to Salvation


The last photo I shot, and the most welcome sign I’ve seen ever.
Some people have called me crazy, for such inane things as talking back to a professor or drinking 5 cups of coffee in 2 hours. If only they knew what I did last Sunday.

I shall begin though, at the beginning. There was a star we called the Sun. Then there were 9 rocks, each called by different names. The one I know best is the third one. Called Earth, it is pretty tiny. On that is a tiny country called India, part of which is a tinier state called Tamil Nadu. But nothing about Tamil Nadu is tiny. The people, the places, the temples. But the biggest of them all is the people’s belief in god, and in Salvation. And no place knows more about Salvation than Chidambaram.

Shiva, the destroyer/regenerator of Indian mythology is considered the ultimate, for he holds in him the power of death and Salvation. Usually represented as the Lingam (a sign of harmony, the Lingam is the union of the female and the male, of Shakthi and Shivam, of energy and matter)
An important aspect of the Indian religion is the worship of the elements of nature. And in this, Tamil Nadu preserves a much earlier, pantheistic religion in its representation of the five basic elements (pancha-bhutankal) – Earth, Fire, Air, Water, Ether/Space.
These five elements are represented by five special lingams in five different temples. Chidambaram is the seat of the Ether Lingam.

Allow me now to take a back seat, and let my great grandfather continue this little story.

The apprehension of God in the last of these five as ether is, according to the Saiva school of philosophy, the highest form of worship, for, it is not the worship of god in a tangible form, but the worship of what, to ordinary minds, is vacuum, which nevertheless leads to the attainment of a knowledge of the all-pervading without physical accessories in the shape of any linga, which is, after all, an emblem.
That this is the case in Chidambaram is known to every hindu, for if he ever asks the priests to show him the god in the temple he is pointed to an empty space in the most holy of the holies, which has been termed the akasha, or the ether-linga. In this lies the so called Chidambaram rahasya – the secret of worship in the sacred city of Chidambaram. When any devotee has reached the stage of worshipping God in this manner, he is, according to the Saiva Doctrine, deemed to be exempt from all future births and is supposed to secure absorption in the supreme essence of God.

Pandit Natesa Shastri in the NRI Bhakta.

After listening patiently to what the priest had to say of the temple and its history, and not finding any answers to the one question I had (viz. why are the pillars each in a different style?). I head out to Sirgazhi.

The river Kollidam, the most major distributory/arm of Cauveri, lies between Chidambaram and Sirgazhi. Riding on a deserted bridge, with the river bed gleaming in the sun, and tiny trickles of water forming pools here and there is a sight I will always hold dear. Across the bridge, and into Nagapattinam district is a matter of 5 minutes.

(to be continued)

Comments (14) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Nice info on chidambaram..

  2. ur southern excursions have prompted me to take up vol 4 of ponniyin selvan and finish abt 80 pgs in 3 days or so.. it was lying untouched for more than a year now

    dude one thing u ought to do is get a nice lil map of TN and mark all of this out..
    if ever a doubt arises abt the relation between blogs and vicarious thrills, i’ll point them to ur blog..thanks a ton for the road trips

  3. Amazing accounts. Really inspiring story and pictures. Cant wait for further parts. Feel like going to India now! will do soon i really hope.

  4. Yes it does. But your answer also raises another question – you travelled to GKC/ tanjore by car, did u also stay there? do rep. Actually, even if u dont, its ok .. i will probably end up staying for a nite somewhre … its too long to go, see and come back…

  5. Nice. Did you figure out the Chidambara ragasiyam whilst you were there?

  6. You probably know this already. But then, you don’t.


  7. Arjun, I really didn’t put up this post as a case for salvation or chidambaram. I only wanted to write about my trip – I don’t care much for salvation in fact.

  8. Please check my blog – I have put up a counter argument to the above post :)..

  9. Hi Amnesia – sorry this is the first time I am coming here – as this thread was pointed out to me by Venky I dont know ur name :)..anyway – I read ur thread on Chidambaram and have put a counter argument to say why Chidambaram may not be the best place for salvation ๐Ÿ™‚ – Its just a counter argument.. no offences meant ๐Ÿ™‚ – please check out my blog and leave your comments

  10. Puddlefrog: Chidambaram and GKC Puram can both be accessed via ECR. In fact, for most part the route to GKC and Chid are the same. You get to Pondicherry, Cuddalore and Vadalur. Here, at Vadalur, taking the fork left takes you to Chidamabaram and the right fork to GKC

    The roads for most part are pretty good. And the weather is/was pleasant – especially this sunday. A chill breeze till 12. From 12 to 2 was a little hot, especially in the Sirgazhi to Vaitheeswaran koil stretch.

    I’ve been to GKC, Tanjavur and Kumbakkonam. The Tanjavur and Kumbakkonam trip was made by car, so I didn’t post about it.

    Does this answer all your questions?

  11. heylo chandru – am posting a part of my earlier comment here again!
    3. And most importantly, hows the weather in all these places? Same as chennai or better? Along the ECR? is that better …. guess it would be breezy atleast …

  12. Anand: No more Saiva Sidhanta, unless it is integral to the story I have to say. I am planning to go to Cholamandalam again, probably Poompuhar, Vedaranyam and odiakarai. Will post about it soon

    Sat: The photo finally told me I am getting close to home. Riding 600 kilometres a day on a bike, you’ll be happy when your destination is just 100 kms away. besides, the picture has such a sharp contrast. Chennai is 100 kms away, but the other place is just 1 kms – 1% of the distance I had to travel

  13. Whats so special about that photo, I am not able to figure it out.
    Nice pictures from the previous post.

    Visited the Chidambaram temples a long while back (something like 12 years), though I didnt understand much at that time.

    Though what I feel is that, temples seem to have lost that spirituality, so to speak. They have become like a market, with the priests haggling for money, and crazy onlookers staying on. You hardly ever get to see an “unspoilt” temple.

  14. Are we to expect more saiva siddhantham from you in the future? Nice stuff. For me, the trip down south to Cholamandam was an annual affair I always looked forward to. Missed it this summer. Not anymore… keep them coming!

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