Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sringeri - God's own abode

grahEShu dhAriNI ramyA tatra ramyA dharAdharAH |
abhibhUtAsmi tatrApi pashchimAdrErvishEShataH ||

ग्रहेषु धारिणी रम्या तत्र रम्या धराधरा: ।
अभिभूतास्मि तत्रापि पश्चिमाद्रेर्विशेषतः ॥

I have professed my love for the hills and valleys of Malnad in an earlier post. No place in the world I have visited hitherto, has moved me as much as malenaaDu has. I read Kuvempu's 'malenADina chitragaLu' and similar works with greed. The reason is not just that the place is beautiful, it is something much more than that, something that I cannot put my finger upon. Though my trips there have been short, they influence me in undescribable ways. I always get the feeling that I am visiting home, during my travels to that area.

It was, therefore, with great enthusiasm (tempered with a little apprehension because my little son was to accompany us) that I prepared for our weekend trip to Sringeri. As Mother Sharada willed it, we did not get tickets for the Rajahamsa bus, and we had to take the ordinary bus which was euphemistically called an express. After a slightly uncomfortable journey, we alighted near the Sharada temple, the cold breeze biting into our hands and faces.

Sringeri is a place made famous by Shri ShankarAchArya. Legend says that the Acharya, during his travels, saw a cobra sheltering a pregnant frog from the heat of the Sun, on the banks of the Tunga river. He established the dakShiNAmnAya peetham, and made SureshwarAchArya, one of his chief disciples, the head of the peetham. Shri Bharatitirtha, an eminent scholar, is the present pontiff, and comes from an unbroken line of highly accomplished aacharyas.

There are two main temples in the complex. One is the temple dedicated to Mother Sharada, and the other one is the Vidyashankara temple. Vidyashankara temple was got constructed by Vidyaranya, the preceptor of Harihara and Bukka. The temple architecture is a beautiful icon of Shaiva-Vaishnava harmony, with imposing sculptures of the dashaavataaras along one half of the temple walls, and sculptures of Shiva on the other half. The inside of the temple is extremely soothing and peaceful. Biyadiya liked this temple the best, probably because he got to test his climbing skills (the steps are a little steep for a kid).

Of course, this is only the religious face of the Shankara matha (I hate calling it mutt). Borrowing words from Jane Austen, I can say that I have never seen a place for which Nature has done more, or where natural beauty has been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. The lamps in the Narasimhavana (the grove next to the temple), are all solar. Right next to it flows the beautiful but dangerous Tunga river. The fish in the river are taken care of by the matha. Needless to say, this was the little one's favorite part of the trip! There is a deer park nearby, also maintained by the matha. And the biggest attraction for me in all the temples of Udupi and South Canara, is the food. Hot and fresh and yummy. Before you know it, the plate is empty and you are left waiting for the next item, in spite of the serving being superfast and the helpings large. Even my son, the slowest and most picky eater I have seen till now, liked the food. An added aspect at the Shringeri Matha is that the food is cooked mainly using solar energy. It behooves us to take this leaf out of the Shrimatha's book!

After a brief rest in the afternoon, we left for a place called Hariharapura, a short distance away from Sringeri. Hariharapura houses another famous matha and a temple, whose main deity is Narasimha.

But the best attraction of Hariharapura has to be the Prabodhini gurukula . We crossed a small suspension bridge with a breathtaking view, to reach the gurukula. It is a gurukula in every sense of the word, with affectionate teachers (as far as we saw them) and lively children. Though I have my own reservations about residential schools, I really liked this gurukula. The students of the gurukula are taught organic farming and yoga along with Physics and Chemistry and the Vedas and fine arts. Not to mention discipline. There is an icon of Lord Krishna, sculpted by the students and worshipped by the students. The names of the classes are also interesting - ShraddhA, mEdhA, prajnA, etc., all very desirable qualities. Many of the gurukula's students have gone on to study various branches of Sciences and Arts. A few continue their studies at the Veda Vijnaana Gurukula near Bangalore, and join Prabodhini Gurukula as Acharyas. This school also conducts summer camps for children aged 13-14 years.

From Hariharapura we went to Kigga. Kigga is a very small town, recently in the news for Naxal activity. The Sun was already setting by then. The orange rays of the Sun played with the green leaves to create a heavenly effect. The temperature had fallen by this time, and it was very pleasant. How anybody can dare to disturb the peace of these small hamlets, is more than I can comprehend. Kigga has the temple of Rishyashringeshwara, the form of Shiva worshipped by the deer-horned sage, Rishyashringa. A rare and unexpected treat awaited us by the time we exited the temple. It was already dark by then, and power went off. We just happened to look up, and the night-sky was revealed to us in all its glory. For us city slickers, this kind of a view is as exciting as sighting a UFO.

Much can be said about the beauty of the Sringeri and the nearby hills. We did not pass by the Charmudi ghats this time. We could have possibly included Horanaadu or Agumbe, but after a terribly hectic one-day trip to Madurai last month(I was dreaming of Saravana Bhavan, but all of us had to settle for a banana and a couple of kODubaLes each, because we did not have time to dine!), we played it safe and stuck to Sringeri and a couple of the places that were very near, and enjoyed every minute of it.

R says that I love the place so much because of the novelty (I was brought up in Bellary, and live in Bangalore), but I refuse to believe that. Maharashtra did not inspire me with the same kind of devotion and awe and love, even though the beautiful Bhimashankar situated amidst the Sahyadri range is worth more than just a visit.

Our return journey was a day-journey. Biyadiya and some of the others fell asleep as soon as we got into the bus. I picked up my book to read, but shut it within two minutes. I could read the book any other time, but these hills and valleys would elude me for at least another year or two. The diversity of the flora struck me as I looked out of the window. Sometime I have to trek in these parts, just to observe the plants. I am sure that such a thing is not going to happen soon, but till then, I have memories of this trip to keep replaying in my mind.


Aram said...

I have passed through Shringeri town 2-3 times and have enjoyed the beauty and serenity of Chikkamagaluru district and the good "nature" of its people.

Shaaradaambe is yet to summon me. Your excellent travelogue inspires me to pray Her to summon me early.

Your narration is as good as the place.

You might want to do the Baba Budangiri to Mullaiyangiri trek.


Aram said...

I had recently heard of the Prabodhini Gurukula. Your description makes me want to pay a visit there.

Your post also makes me think that in this age of failed government schools on the one hand and the costly private schools on the other( Even the Rishi Valley school near Kanakapura charges 5K per month),
the answer lies in such Gurukulas where ancient wisdom is married to modern technology to produce tomorrow's citi zens.

parijata said...

Thanks for the comment and the link. Hopefully we can do this trek next summer.

When you mentioned the name 'Chikkamagaluru', I remembered that on our way back to Bangalore, we saw the procession of this young Jain woman who had taken sannyaasa. Recently there was an article in Sudha about her. It was nice to witness such a thing.

parijata said...

We cross-posted! :)
Prabodhini Gurukula is certainly worth a visit.

But I have my own misgivings about residential schools. Of course, this school offers much more than any other school can. But its proximity to the river, and the fact that kids have to stay away from their parents, troubles me. If the parents can influence their children to be interested in at least two or three things other than their regular curriculum (say fine arts, some spiritual teaching and regular exercise), which helps them lead happy, sensible and responsible lives, I think it is enough.

You are right. Government schools are of no use, and the private ones are darned expensive. We got our little one admitted to a "prestigious" school, shelling out 65K as a year's fees! My whole education until graduation did not take that much money! I only hope that we will get our money's worth.

Aram said...

Superfast response and
interesting coincidence of cross-posting!

Trekking: If I have not previously mentioned it here, Youth Hostels India, Shivaji Nagar conducts excellent guided treks to various places almost every week.

I don't read Sudha regularly, but this week I happened to buy it and read about Deepika Punamiya.

For a more detailed description of the renounciation ritual of the Shwetambar Gujarati Jains, you might want to read Suketu Mehta's classic, Mumbai: Maximum City.

Whole families of obscenely rich diamond merchants giving up their fabulous wealth and becoming bhikshus! Requires tremendous will power and I cannot even imagine....

You must read this book. Amongst other things, there is also a gripping account of the Mumbai underworld, how Sanjay Dutt was nabbed, the incorruptible unnamed supercop and how he worked, etc., etc.

"the fact that kids have to stay away from their parents, troubles me....." Is that good or bad for the child - this staying in a gurukula, away from the parents?

How was it in ancient times, how early were the kids sent away?

If it is only the maternal concern, then the solution is simple and elegant - have more kids!

I don't really understand why healthy, young couple who are affluent and can easily afford it, don't want more kids !

Only today afternoon, I was remarking to the tallest guy with the largest heart in my office that Shobha De was a proud mother of six.

Hope you will give a very serious thought to this issue about having more and more issues.

Upto the eighties, the thinking was that population explosion was a curse to the nation. Now the thinking is the exact opposite. The biggest asset of China and India is its teeming trillions of people. At the same time, Europe, America, etc. are having a big problem on their hands - that of an ageing population with low birth rates.

ಹಂಸಾನಂದಿ Hamsanandi said...

Nice post. Reminded me of some of my earlier visits to Sringeri and Kigga. Winter is a great time to visit these places.

During one of those visits, I had a chance to see the famed Agumbe sunset too.

Aram, thanks for the link on muLLayyana giri trek.

Aram said...

Thanks for finding the link useful. Hope to read your post after your trek.

Apart from Kuvempu's Malenaadina Chitragalu and Kanooru Subbamma Heggadathi, BGL Swami's books (Hasiru Honnu?) also describe botanical study treks in the then dense Agumbe forests.

Agumbe is also one of the shortest yet steep ghat roads with just 14 hairpin curves.

parijata said...

Thanks for telling me about the book. I googled for it, and found it extremely interesting.

"Whole families of obscenely rich diamond merchants giving up their fabulous wealth and becoming bhikshus! Requires tremendous will power and I cannot even imagine...."

This was exactly what I wanted to convey in my post on Kalidasa, which curiously made its way into what I call 'Ashramasankara'. After leading a peaceful grihastha life, transition to the simple life of a vAnaprastha becomes easier. I think that is the case with the rich diamond merchants. But try as I might, I have not been able to imagine myself into Deepika's place.

About gurukulas, well, kids used to be sent away at the age of about eight years. There was no other way, at that time. But today, with family values disintegrating slowly, I think it is important for the parents to spend quality and quantity time with their children. I prefer taking my child with me wherever I go - be it a concert or a lecture, so that after a few years, our activities do not seem weird to him. Hopefully, he will even enjoy taking part in these things!

About population, I should slightly disagree with you here. The resources of the Earth are limited, and unless we find a way to actually live on other planets like in Star Trek, we cannot afford more people, IMO.

Another problem is that in this time and age, it is important for parents to spend a lot of quality time with their children. There are so many bad external influences that to counteract them, the parents have to spend a lot of effort, not to mention time, to inculcate their values in their children. And this becomes a humongous task when there are more kids. Of course, if the parents feel that they can do justice to all their children, they can have more kids. I think 2 is a good number.

I have read 'hasuru honnu', and have enjoyed it immensely. BGL Swamy is really an amazing writer.

Thanks for the comment. Yes, winter is a good time to visit these places. I have been there during mid-May, and even then, it was very enjoyable. But I really enjoyed my visit in June, when it was raining really hard wherever we went. It was beautiful.

ಹಂಸಾನಂದಿ Hamsanandi said...

One of the rich diamond merchants, who renounced everything, came from this very region.

6th February is Purandara's ArAdhane. Now, the evidence suggests that Purandara came from Geraspoppe,(Kshemapura) in the western ghats, which was also called Purandara puri.

Aram said...

While my vision was limited only to the country's economy, you extended it to concern yourself with the planet and its doom.

I thought nature took care of itself and Bhoodevi every now and then corrected the imbalances.

Anyway, mothers know best. As my own late Amma used to say, "Kuputhro jayetha kwachidapi, kumatha na bhavathi.."

I was about to say that Pandavas were 5 (six if you include Karna), Rama and siblings were 4. Then I realized that only 3 plus 1 were Mahataayi Kunti's children and of the 4 Rama brothers, except the twins, the other two were lone kids to their respective mothers.

Aram said...

@ HamsAnandi:

"One of the rich diamond merchants, who renounced everything, came from this very region(Malnad)."

You mean the great Purandaradasa?

I just remembered that Srinivasa Nayaka was also called Navakoti Narayana dealing in diamonds and moneylending.

The renounciation of Jains benefits only themselves whereas Srinivasa Nayaka's renouncing his Navakoti wealth benefitted the whole world and continues even after nearly 500 years to influence us and his kruthis are a source of guidance, inspiration and delight to us. Maybe because it was due to the divine miracle behind his enlightenment.

turanga said...

"If it is only the maternal concern, then the solution is simple and elegant - have more kids!

I don't really understand why healthy, young couple who are affluent and can easily afford it, don't want more kids !

Only today afternoon, I was remarking to the tallest guy with the largest heart in my office that Shobha De was a proud mother of six.

Hope you will give a very serious thought to this issue about having more and more issues."

I suspect this can only come from a male!

Anonymous said...

malenADu in general is beatiful..Sringeri is very charming...I am convinced it is beacuse of peace and purity. To sit by the river or to gaze at the sky, sitting near the temple, or to walk around the greens, or even to just relax inside the temple...so so soothing and precious!!

Totallu out of context, but I have to write about this hilarious story...The last tiem I was in Sringeri, a friend of mine wanted to kinda "show-off" his knowledge...so, once we were inside the temple he loudly started singing Kuvempu's "sri shAradA dEvi, hey mahAmAte, sri rAmakRuShNa guridEva sMprIte"....Nothing worng, still :)

mouna said...

your son and a much younger me have the same story to tell, i guess :D

i too was very choosy about food. it was at kollur when i started eating heartily(my parents opinion). the reason being; the food is served very quickly at these temple towns.

Aram said...

"I suspect this can only come from a male."

Thanks Turanga, you could have even used the word MCP! :-)

On a serious note though, I would like to present here my views advocating more kids.

My own mother had 5 kids as did her own mother. In both cases, while all the kids did quite well for themselves, only one out of the 5 was extraordinary and truly outstanding.

Similarly, take the example of Pandavas and Kauravas. Of the five Pandavas, only one was the finest, Dharmaraja. Even among the 100 Kauravas, only one Duryodhana was exceptional. I guess this is a universal law.

Recall how in the amrutha manthana, before the supreme nectar Amrutha could materialize, lots of other things came up.

There is also another minor issue. If we want our ancient time-tested culture to proliferate and dominate, our population has to increase beyond the 1-2 kids limit per couple.

Aram said...

Sringeri Sharadaambe is also the Goddess of Learning. Invoking her blessings to all of us, I invite your attention to an article by Gurucharan Das ( see even his name is associated with learning!) in today's TOI. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Gurcharan_Das_End_this_killer_Raj/articleshow/2770165.cms

That inspires me to suggest to you and Nilagriva (assuming, of course, that you are not already MBAs):- Why don't you two think about enrolling at ISB? It is the only 1-year MBA course in the country, and is ranked better than the best IIMs. My kid was talking about doing it but is ineligible as they only take people with 2-3 years experience.

parijata said...

The discussion about population reminds me of a joke. A man said to another "Too much population is the cause for all the woes of the earth. That is why we have decided not to have kids". The other man said "That is so wise! May your tribe increase".
On a more serious note, the problem is not just population explosion, but unequal distribution of population. The poor and uneducated classes (and countries) tend to have much more population than the rich and educated classes. A very disturbing scenario.
ISB should wait a few more years, if it is going to happen at all. Some friends of my husband have done their MBA at ISB, and have found it very rewarding.

Hilarious incident. I remember you narrating that. Yes, Sringeri makes one so relaxed. Apparently, when R went back to work after this trip, his colleagues remarked that he was looking very fresh.

Yeah, true. And it does help that the food is hot and fresh.


Deepak said...

After reading article,ive decided to go one more time to sringeri

Kadalabal said...

I have visited Srigeri several times and I simply adore the serene atmoshphere there. It is simply superb.
parijatha glad to note that u are basically from bellary my own district I am from hospet born and brought up there now in bengalooru for last 18 years
your posts are simply marvellour you address issues very clearly. glad to read and wish u all the best

Aram said...

unrelated, but.....

God was sitting in heaven one day when a scientist said to Him, “God, we don’t need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing - in other words, we can now do what you did in the beginning.”

“Oh, is that so? Explain…” replies God.

“Well,” says the scientist, “we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of you and breathe life into it, thus creating man.”

“Well, that’s very interesting… show Me.”

So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mould the soil into the shape of a man.

“No, no, no…” interrupts God, “Get your own dirt.”

Arun said...

I'm with you on my love for malenaad...I've been there so many times that I lost count. The place just holds me in awe. I went to once in a life time trekking. Shringeri is my favourite place too, I guess I've been there couple of times. But my personal favourite is horanaadu. That place is so so beautiful, completely surrounded by hills. Your post revived my memories, thanks :)

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Phal Guna said...

Sringeri is situated on the banks of Tunga River in the Chikkamaglore district of Karnataka. It is best known for the Sharadamba (Saraswati) Temple and the Shankara Math established by Adi Shankaracharya.

Phal Guna said...

Sringeri is situated on the banks of Tunga River in the Chikkamaglore district of Karnataka. It is best known for the Sharadamba (Saraswati) Temple and the Shankara Math established by Adi Shankaracharya.

snigdha G said...
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