Varanasi Again – 48: The curious case of the missing deity

‘Thus, you see, Nandi the bull is still facing its deity, even though the temple is no more there,’ I said. ‘But shouldn’t the statue of Nandi also have been moved, now that the location of the temple has changed?’, the children asked. I smiled, ready to spring one more surprise on my unsuspecting listeners.…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 48: The curious case of the missing deity

Varanasi Again – 47: The story of the shifting temple

‘You know’, I started, ‘long ago there were two very sacred shrines to Shiva or Shankara in Kashi, the city of light.’ Vandita, and Vatsala listened in rapt attention. ‘Actually,’ I corrected myself, ‘there were many throughout the city. But the most sacred, the most revered were the two shrines of Shiva where he was…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 47: The story of the shifting temple

Varanasi Again – 46: The lingam that moved….

‘Why is the lingam placed eccentrically to one side, Papa?,’ the elder one asked, as we filed out of the KV Dham Corridor, and started to retrace our steps to the barge which waited for us at the Lalita ghat. I smiled, delighted at where I knew the conversation was going. The walk back would…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 46: The lingam that moved….

Varanasi Again – 44: Of temples and mosques

The Gyanvapi kupa, and the statue of the Nandi bull escaped demolition and desecration by the hordes of Emperor Aurangzeb when they destroyed the original Vishveshwara temple in the year 1669 CE. This was the last time the temple would be destroyed; but this was not the first time. What? The question naturally crops up…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 44: Of temples and mosques

Varanasi Again – 43: A well, a bull and a tree

Historical picture of the Nandi Bull at Kashi Vishwanath Shrine There on the northern side of the quadrangular enclosure around the temple was a tree – a Ficus tree!! Is it……?? My thoughts trailed off……my eyes scanning the area for the other two objects. Yes, there they were – the bull and the small octagonal…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 43: A well, a bull and a tree

Varanasi Again – 42: Inside the shrine

The Kashi Vishwanath corridor that we walked along was seventy five meters wide, and at least several hundred meters long. Flanked by shops, museums, tourist amenities and walkways, the corridor was also decorated by several interesting statues including those of Adi Shankaracharya, the proponent of Advaita Vedanta and the architect of modern Hinduism as we…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 42: Inside the shrine

Varanasi Again – 6: Shivoham

Ghats of Varanasi

It IS Rudra….the Adi Yogi, a small voice whispered to me, but I did not believe it, not even when I saw his iridescent blue neck, and the fire of destruction glowing in his third eye. Suryashashankavahninayanam……. the voice inside my head intonated one of the many names of Shiva. Still I did not believe…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 6: Shivoham

Varanasi Again – 5: The blue throat

Ghats of Varanasi

Clang, came the sound as the trident hit the stone steps of the ghat. Clang! Issued the report, shattering the deathly silence of the night, reverberating across the ghat, and echoing over the dark waters of the Ganga. Clang, clang, clang, clang…..on and on, the sound of heavy metal against the aged stones of the…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 5: The blue throat

Varanasi Again – 4: The ascetic with the trident

Ghats of Varanasi

I stood still in the gathering dark, rooted to the spot, frozen immobile with anticipation, not batting an eyelid, and hardly breathing. I stood still, alone on the banks of the Ganga, at the Lalita ghat, watching the dark figure materialise from nowhere. It emerged from the shimmering waters of the river which flowed slowly,…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 4: The ascetic with the trident

Varanasi Again – 3: The axis mundi

Ghats of Varanasi

Varanasi – the piece of land between the rivers Varuna, and Assi, is the land chosen by the Mahadeva, the primordial ascetic Shankara, to be his abode. He resides here as Avimukteshvara, on the request of Martanda, the Sun God. It is through his inspiration that generations of pious travellers, pilgrims, scholars, kings, courtiers, sages,…… Continue reading Varanasi Again – 3: The axis mundi

The Legend of Shankara – 15: The six streams

As the sun rose from behind the snowcapped peaks in the distance, shining its golden light on the little hamlet of Dev Prayag, Shankara sat on the banks of the Ganga along with his disciples, contemplating his next move and answering the queries of his followers. The number of his followers had swelled, and now included sanyasins, and scholars, and…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 15: The six streams

The Legend of Shankara – 14: Shankara leaves Kashi

Shankara was unhappy leaving Kashi, the city of light. The city had practically become his home for the last several months that he had stayed, and studied, and taught, and debated there. He had gained a huge following of students and admirers. The adherents to his Advaitic philosophy had grown, people had begun to see the light; the light of…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 14: Shankara leaves Kashi

The Legend of Shankara – 13: Shiva summons Shankara

Ever since his ‘chance’ encounter with the chandala in Kashi, Shankara had become increasingly restless. He knew not what ailed him, but his peace of mind had been disturbed. No more could he enjoy the tranquil placidity of the atman, or the peace of the deep meditative states whereby he used to unravel the mysteries of the Vedanta. A sense of urgency…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 13: Shiva summons Shankara

The Legend of Shankara – 12: A small diversion, and a word of caution

Before we continue our story of Adi Shankara, we must necessarily make a small diversion. This blog was supposed to be about the Bhaja Govindam, and I offer my apologies to those readers who would have been expecting this. However, several issues need to be clarified, some pertinent points need elaboration, before we can rejoin the mainstream…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 12: A small diversion, and a word of caution

The Legend of Shankara – 11: The Manishapanchakam

The sun rose in the sky from the eastern banks of the river Ganga, washing the city of Kashi, which nestled on its western banks, in its golden light. The city was already alive with the sounds of Vedic chants, temple bells, conch shells, cymbals, and drums. The city and its inhabitants had risen early, always, since times immemorial,…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 11: The Manishapanchakam

The Legend of Shankara – 10: Shankara goes to Kashi

From Omkareshwar, Shankara proceeded towards Kashi, the city of light, the immortal city, the indestructible city, the city which was supposed to be situated on the trident of Shiva, the immortal ascetic. Kashi was the natural choice, Shankara thought. It was the spiritual heart of India, the node of all metaphysical discourse, the center of learning since times immemorial, the city where the…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 10: Shankara goes to Kashi

The Legend of Shankara – 9: Shankara tames the Narmada

The time of the evening sandhya was approaching, and Shankara accompanied his guru Govindapadatowards the cave for his evening meditation. Shankara was now a disciple of Govindapada and had endeared himself to his guru by his diligence, his loyalty, and his steadfastness. His service, and his devotion towards his guru was absolute.  Pleased with his service, Govindapada had lovingly taught the tenets of Advaita to Shankara, had guided him, encouraged him to read esoteric…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 9: Shankara tames the Narmada

The Legend of Shankara – 8: Shankara the disciple

Listening to the Atma Shatakam, Sri Govindapada was pleased. He extended one of his feet outside the cave in a symbolic gesture. The young Shankara understood the symbolism, and bent down and touched the feet of his master; thus he was accepted into the tutelage of Sri Govindapada, son of the illustrious Gaudapada. Shankara would spend the next two to three years learning the tenets…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 8: Shankara the disciple

The Legend of Shankara – 7: Atma Shatakam/Nirvana Shatakam

मनो बुद्ध्यहंकारचित्तानि नाहम्न च श्रोत्र जिह्वे न च घ्राण नेत्रेन च व्योम भूमिर् न तेजो न वायु:चिदानन्द रूप: शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ॥१॥ I am not the mind (manah), the intellect (budhhi), the ego (ahamkara) or the memory (chitta),I am not my ears (shrotra), my tongue (jihva), my nose (ghrana) or my eyes (netra),I am not this body composed…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 7: Atma Shatakam/Nirvana Shatakam

The Legend of Shankara – 6: Who are you?

The afternoon sun had slipped down in the sky, turning the sky saffron, by the time Shankara exited the Omkareshwar temple. He paused near the entrance, looked back, and then looked up at the sky which was growing crimson by the minute. The mighty river Narmada flowed nearby, the sound of her rushing waters loud in the pervasive silence which was…… Continue reading The Legend of Shankara – 6: Who are you?