Monday, April 25, 2016

Journey of Faith ....

The temple arathi was reaching its crescendo when the whole Thiruvannamali temple was enveloped by the sounds of the bells. The lamps, the camphor, the incense and the flowers showered on the Thiruvannamalayan Arunachaleswarar, the deity in the sanctum sanctorum was giving a divine pleasure in the hearts of the hundreds assembled there. Kannan was standing near the doors of the main deity and his eyes were filled with tears of ecstasy, a feeling which can be described with no mere words for sure. The lamps lit behind the deity were giving a glow as if the Lord was present there to receive the lamps offered by the devotees.

Kannan took the prasad from the poojari and walked out of the temple. The evening winds made his salt and pepper long hair sway like the waves of sea. His beard and the vermillion on the forehead gave him a majestic look, like a king of the yesteryears living in the modern age. The fresh evening moonlight gave the smiling six footer in white long kurta and white dhoti a strange peaceful glow. He was setting out on the girivalam, the walk around the mountain, which is a customary practice in Thiruvannamalai. 

Kannan walked fast through the busy streets and finished his darshans of the Brahma Lingam and Indra Lingam temples and moved towards the Karpaga vinayagar temple, when the busy streets slowly gave way to the mountain roads... silent, peaceful and serene. He walked through a small street to reach the Agni lingam temple. Quickly had a darshan and walked out by the side of the Indra theertham.

There were a few buses and cycles moving past him while he walked with his steady speed towards the outskirts of the town towards the girivalam road. He had walked those roads many times before and the faith in his heart gave him all the strength to move forward. There were not many who were taking the girivalam at that time... As the wind wiped a sweat from his forehead, Kannan thought of the fortunes he had in his life. The temples he had visited since his childhood. The ups and downs in his faith. The divine intervention in his life and the blessed moments for which he is thankful even today. 

As a child Kannan was god fearing to an extent of living a sagacious life even at a very young age. He hardly knew what worship is when he started spending hours in prayers. Time changed his thoughts with the life around him when his teens wanted more than prayers and even had a fight with Appa.

"Why is it that every vacation we go to temples, why can't we go somewhere nice..." Kannan asked Appa
Appa smiled and remained silent. Kannan now understands why he smiled. Those smiles just said one thing
"You will know why... when the time comes"

Kannan smiled the same smile Appa smiled and walked towards the Yam lingam temple. As he smeared the holy ash on his forehead and walked forward.

A small boy was walking holding on to his father’s hand... and Kannan heard him ask his father

"Baba... hum paisa nahin denge to bhagwaan naaraz honge kya"

Kannan laughed in his heart as he had the same doubt when he was a small boy. Kannan waited to hear the answer, which turned out to be more hilarious

"Shhhhh... badmash... aisa nahin kehte...paap lagega"

We tend to silence the doubts our children have but not give them the answer or whether we know or not. Slowly enjoying the nightfall Kannan reached his next stop over for the walk which was at the Nirthi Lingam temple. The night pooja was being performed and Kannan was praying for Narayan when the mobile buzzed to life in his pocket. The vibration was felt and not heard amidst the noise at the temple filled with people.

Kannan walked out and took the call as he continued his walk

"Appa... are you okay... how are you ... when are you back" Narayan was eager to know how his Appa was
"I am fine ... just finished a quarter of the Girivalam... praying for you"
"Appa ... does your leg hurt now" Narayan asked
"A little... but its okay" Kannan replied "I will finish the girivalam and call you... you have your dinner"

Kannan cut the call and continued his journey forward physically and backward in his mind. The leaves from the trees cushioned his walk forward... but the time in his life which hurt the most came to his mind.

The young blood and the association with the Extreme Left thought teacher Suresh Sir gave him a period of rational thought. Seeing God as a lie told to fool and scare people. Kannan turned to be an Atheist against what he used to be during his late teens. Kannan's eyes filled with tears as he thought about those foolish days when he argued with those who had the faith and asked him to keep the faith in the supreme power. Kannan's phone rang again... He looked at the screen and the name flashed

"God's Gift"

and Kannan answered.... "Narayana...., what now? I said I will call you after I finish"
"Nothing pa... just was worried about you" and he cut the call.

The bond between the aging father and the young son in his late teens was beyond anyone could understand. Kannan moved to the next temple which was Surya Lingam temple. As the night sky was getting darker, the full moon was lighting it more. Kannan walked forward and stopped at a tea shop and had a tea... sipping it, he was thinking of the moments at Udupi temple during one of the vacations.

"Kanna..." called the priest as Appa, Amma, Kannan and Akka were walking out of the Udupi temple.
Kannan looked back at the frail hermit with dark short hair and a thick beard clad in saffron smiling at him. All were surprised as Kannan walked towards the head priest in charge of the temple for that period. He was Swami Paryaya from Puttige Mutt in Udupi. A person never seen before, calling him by name and that did not astonish Kannan. 
"Will you have lunch with me" asked the saint
Kannan smiled and agreed.

Those memories sweetened the thoughts hurt by the memories of being an atheist for a period later in life. Kannan gave the change and smiled at the tea vendor. His walk was to the next temple which was Varuna lingam temple... Many temples crossed the minds of Kannan as he walked forward.

"Kanna... I did not know that I was pregnant when I was at Samayapuram temple" Kannan remembered Amma's words, and the eyes that lit up when she said that. "I prayed for a baby boy at Guruvayoor and you are His gift to me". The talk with Amma echoed in his mind as he walked forward to Vayu Lingam temple.

Kannan swiped the screen to open the gallery and see some old pictures while he walked forward. In the heart of hearts he thanked every happy moment in life. He saw baby Narayan's picture and smiled. "God's Gift" He said to himself, as a horse cart trotted beside him.

"Sir... savaari" asked the horseman
"No thanks" said Kannan and walked forward.

The speed which he started was slowly ebbing off as he reached the Kubera Linga temple. Kannan sat there for a while and drank some water from the stainless steel drinking water cooler which had a list of donors name written on it in red paint. As he got up Kannan had the two remaining destinations in mind. The idukku pillayar temple and the Eesanya Lingam temple which would complete his this year’s girivalam. Slow yet steady steps lead him to the small temple which had an opening hardly that would let a baby boy through. The belief is that if you come through it it’s more a rebirth and all your sins are atoned. Kannan went around and put his arm first through the opening. With great effort he started pushing himself through the opening.

"Saami... even more bigger guys come through it... you can... push" Kannan heard the voice of a roadside vendor who was standing near the temple. Kannan slowly pushed himself through when a hand held his outstretched hand and started helping him. "Who could it be" Kannan thought as the hands felt so familiar. As he pushed himself through and came out through the opening Kannan saw a smiling tall teenager holding his hand.

"Narayana ..." Kannan called out in amazement
"Did not want you to do it all alone .... I was just behind you" Narayan said with a smile.

Kannan hugged him, bearing the Idukku Pillayar (Ganesh) as a witness to the love between the father and son. The last stretch of 3 kilometers were devoid of thoughts and filled with smiles when Kannan put his arm over his son's shoulder and walked towards the last of the temples in the Girivalam.

"So you said you did not want to come and what brings you all the way" Kannan asked mockingly
"You ..." was the answer from Narayan.

Both of them walked towards the room after the darshan at Eesanya Lingam temple completing the girivalam. The walk had made Kannan tired and slept off reaching the room, woken in the wee hours of night when he felt something cold in his feet. He opened his eyes and the misty eyes saw Narayan by his feet in the brightness of the night lamp. He was awake applying cream on the blistered legs of his Appa. The smile on the face of the two was similar to the divine emotion the previous evening which leave no words to describe.... Love is simply divine.

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