A holiday of religious rejuvenation

By Sridhar Subramaniam
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The Nama Sankeerthana tour was an adventure of self-discovery for seekers of spiritualism

We have heard of eco-tourism and adventure tourism. Typically, when you plan a holiday you usually adopt a theme. As we were spiritually inclined and are seekers in the spiritual sense, we thought why not we embark on the Nama Sankeerthana tour and trust me, what an ecstatic experience that was. We came back spiritually charged and emotionally rejuvenated.

The South of India can offer an itinerant traveller may themes to work on. Popular ones are temple tourism or “kshetradanam” as it is called. There is also the Navagraha tourism. People flock to Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu and hit the Navagraha circuit to ward off the malefic influence of the planets or propitiate them, as they are harbingers of hope, to usher in happy tidings.

Arunachaleswara Temple

The first stop for our Nama Sankeertha tour was to seek the blessings of HH Sri Muralidhara Swamiji at Padappai, near Tambaram in the outskirts of Chennai. HH Muralidhara Swamiji can rightly be called the Guru for this Age. Swamiji exhorts people to chant the Nama or recite the holy name of the Lord, which he says will guarantee you mukti (liberation) from this endless cycle of births and deaths. Modern man is so caught up in this transactional world, eking out a livelihood and relentlessly engaging in hedonistic pursuits that he has little time to adhere to protocols and prescribed codes of conduct to attain liberation. Nama Sankeerthana is the high road to liberation that is so easy to tread, he says.

We then proceeded to Govindapuram near Kumbakonam to spend some time in Muralidhara Swamiji’s ashram there chanting nama. Near here there is a grotto like shrine dedicated to Yogi Ram Surat Kumar, the saint and mystic who was endearingly called “Visiri Swamiyar” as he was always seen with the traditional palmyra fan. Visiri means fan in Tamil. Yogi Ramsurat Kumar spent most of his post enlightenment phase in Tiruvannamalai, which is also the place which has become synonymous with Sri Ramana Maharishi.

Samadhi of Sri Bodhendra Saraswathi

The next pit stop was the samadhi of Sri Bodhendra Saraswathi, the 59th pontiff of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. He was also called Bhagavan Nama Bodhendral. He preached his Rama Nama Siddhanta, a doctrine that asserts that chanting Rama Nama is the way to attain purity of mind in Kali Yuga. Sri Bodhendra Saraswathi attained Jeeva Samadhi sitting in a yogic state.

We then proceeded to Tiruvisainallur to the abode of Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval. He was a saint and composer and lived in the village of Tiruvisainallur in the thenTanjore Maratha Kingdom. It was believed that his father was the Diwan of Mysore. When Ayyaval, a staunch devotee of Shiva, was offered the post of Diwan upon his father’s death, he turned down the offer and became a sanyasi (a monk) instead and started on a pilgrimage of the Shiva temples in the Cauvery delta.

Sri Sri Sri Sada Shiva Brahmendra Swami

When Ayyaval arrived in Tanjore, he was offered assistance and respect by then ruler of the Tanjore Maratha Kingdom, Shahuji I. It is believed that he once restored a man who died of snakebite and his glory spread all around. He was attracted to the Mahalingeshwara Shrine and hence set up his house in the neighbouring village of Tiruvisainallur.

Ayyaval occupies a significant place in the Dakshina Namasankeerthana Sampradaya and is a member of the trinity. Several songs composed and written on him are sung in Namasankeerthana recitals, even to this day.

Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval

Maruthanallur came next. Maruthanallur Sri Venkatrama Sadhguru Swamigal was the third of the trinity of the Dakshina Namasankeerthana Sampradaya. He travelled around India and compiled a plethora of compositions. Compositions by eminent saints and put together a system or a paddhathi (a style or norm), which has endured for more than 200 years and has passed down generations. As luck would have it, a namasankeerthana session was in progress at the erstwhile abode and it was evening hours and a dedicated group, were chanting with devotional fervour and we soaked in it and were instantly taken to ecstatic heights of devotion and bhakti.

Our next halt was the Samadhi of the Jeevanamukta Sri Sadashiva Brahmendra in Nerur, near Karur in Tamil Nadu. Sadashiva Brahmenda was a saint, a music composer and Advaita philosopher who lived near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu during the 18th century. His compositions were mainly in Sanskrit and are considered priceless jewels in Carnatic music. His contemporaries were Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval and Sri Bodhendra Saraswathi who were his classmates in the Veda school.

Thennangur Panduranga Temple

Sri Sadashiva left home in search of truth. After taking sanyas, he is said to have wandered around, naked or semi-naked and often in a trance like state. He was a Parivrajaka, meaning wanderer.

There is a story about him, that he was meditating near a heap of grains near a farm and the farmer who owned the land mistook the Saint for a thief and confronted him. The farmer raised his stick to hit the saint. He froze into a statue, whilst in the act with a raised stick. He remained in that frozen statue state till the next morning. The saint finished his meditation and smiled at the farmer. The farmer was restored to his normal state and he then asked the Saint for forgiveness.

Madhurapuri Ashram

Our final halt was in Turvanamalai. Haridhos Giri, affectionately called Guruji, was born in this town, and devoted his life to serving the Lord Panduranga and his guru, Gnanananda Giri. During his time, he established spiritual haven in Thennangur-Dakshina Halasyam in South India. He has travelled the world including to Singapore, Malaysua and other countries to spread and popularise Namasankeerthanam and sing the glories of God. He attained Jala Samadhi at Koteshwar, which 3 kms north of Rudraprayag in the Himalayas in the year 1994.

With this, the Namasankeerthana tour concluded and we returned to Melbourne with our spiritual batteries charged.

 

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