South India Yatra – 2010

South India YatraThe festive spirit of Diwali continued as a group of seventy-five devotees travelled to Madurai, Rameshwaram and SriRangam as a part of the South India yatra, organized by ISKCON Juhu’s vice president H.G. Mukund Madhav das and H.G. Rupavilas das, the head of Integrated Preaching Program(IPP). Also, Krishnamayi devi dasi joined the yatra along with her group.At the majestic Meenakshi Temple, an awe-inspiring architectural master-piece, we had the fortunate darsan of Parvati devi as Meenakshi and Lord Siva as Sundareshwar. Sri Karuna Sindhu Krishna prabhu of ISKCON Madurai, accompanied the group to Sri Kudalazhagar Temple in Madurai.

Sri Narayana Chaitanya prabhu accompanied the group to various Vishnu temples around Madurai which are not so frequented by most travelers.
1. Kal-azhagar Temple where Lord Visnu is known as “Sundar Rajan”. The Lord rides on a horse to Madurai for famous annual Chittirai festival.
2. Ancient Lord Narasimha temple in Yaanaimalai (mountain in the shape of an elephant) where the deity is a part of the vast mountain adjoining it.
3. Sri Kalamegha Perumal temple in Thirumogur where the Lord showers mercy to His devotees like a cloud distributes rain. In the same temple the Lord is seen in recline posture also.

Also, the disappearance day of His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was celebrated at Sri Sri Radha Mathurapati temple, ISKCON Madurai. Sri Sankhadhari prabhu, the Temple President of ISKCON Madurai and a senior leader accompanied the group to Thirupullani en route to Rameshwaram. In Thirupullani temple which houses Adi-Jagannath to whom Lord Dasarath prayed before begetting Lord Rama. This is also the place where Lord Rama visited twice. The first occasion, Lord Rama rested here on dharba-grass when in search of Sita and the second time Lord Rama returned here victorious from His battle from Ravana. It is at this place that the Lord summoned Samudra-raj before constructing the bridge to Sri Lanka. We also visited Setu Karai, not far from Thirupullani, from where, it is said that, Lord Rama constructed the bridge to Sri Lanka.

In Rameshwaram, the group took wonderful darsan of Sri Ramanatha Swami, one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, after bathing in Agni-tirtha and bathing in 22 kunda-tirthas.
On the way to Dhanushkodi, we also visited Kothandaramaswamy temple where Vibhisana surrendered to Lord Rama. In this place, also known Vibhisana-tirtha, Lord Rama coronated Vibhisana as the king of Lanka well before the war with Ravana.

We took an adventurous trip to Dhanushkodi in special vans traversing across sand dunes. This southernmost tip of Rameshwaram island is shaped like a bow and arrow and was a holy place for pilgrims. It is also believed that Lord Rama used the tip of the bow here to break the bridge after killing Ravana. This tirtha was swept away by massive cyclone in 1964. We strolled through the ruins of post office, railway station, temple, church and houses. On the way we also witnessed the portions of pre-1964 “national highway” and “railway track” to Dhanushkodi.

The highest altitude in Rameswaram is a sand dune, Gandamadhana Parvata. Lord Rama rested here and had a view of Lanka from this spot. There is a temple atop the parvata which has a imprints of the Lotus Feet of Lord Rama. We also had the fortune of visiting and getting the blessings of Sita kunda, Rama kunda and Laksmana kunda. In the Floating Stone temple, we had darshan of several large blocks of stone which floats in water. These stones are said to used in the floating bridge made by Lord Rama.

On the way from Rameshwaram to Sri Rangam, we also visited Tirugoshtiyur. According to sthala-purana, Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma, Lord Siva and other saints have made a meeting (goshti) to handle Hiranyakasipu. Ramanuja came to this place to learn Narayana-mantra and get initiation from Tirugoshtiyur-nambi. He was refused 17 times. On the 18th occasion, Tirugoshtiyur-nambi initiated Ramanuja with Narayana-mantra with a condition that he would not share the mantra with anyone; failing which he will go to hell. Soon, Ramanuja climbed the roof of the temple and called everyone in the village and shared the Narayana-mantra with them. On hearing the incidence, Tirugoshtiyur-nambi was very angry and sought an explanation from Ramanuja. “I don't mind going to hell if everyone is liberated by Narayana-mantra”, replied Ramanuja. Tirugoshtiyur-nambi was very happy and blessed Ramanuja. We had a great fortune of climbing the roof from where Ramanuja mercifully taught the world the Narayana-mantra.

Is Sri Rangam, we were greeted with wonderful prasadam, prepared and served by devotees from the local ISKCON center. Our darsan of Lord Ranganath seemed complete with an insight into the numerous pastimes of Lord Ranganath and his devotees by Jaya Gaura prabhu from Sri Rangam temple. We also sought blessings from the self-same body of Ramanujacharya that remains housed in the same temple complex.

It was an enlivening experience to visit the home of Venkat Bhatt and childhood home of Gopala Bhatta Goswami, where Lord Caitanya spent four months in Chaturmasya about 500 years ago. The journey seemed seamless with harinaam sankirtan, prasadam, lectures and talks on the glories and transcendental pastimes of the Lord and dhama all the way. South India yatra ki jai!

For picture click here