Mystic Travels in Search of the Eternal Creative Energy
“Om Gananaam Tvaa Ganapatim Havamahe
Kavim Kavinam Upama Shravas Taamam I
Jyeshtarajam Brahmanam Brahmanaspata
Aa Nah Shrunvan Nutibhih Sida Sadanam II
Om Maha Ganna Adhipateye Namah II”
Spirituality has a deeper meaning than being merely religious. It is a quest towards realizing the supreme through the self since that is the only viable path towards true liberation. As it is said “Yatha pinde tatha brahmande, yatha bramande tatha pinde” – As is the Microcosm (individual), so is the Macrocosm (universe), as is the Macrocosm, so is the Microcosm”.
Growing up in a traditional Hindu family in Kerala, my exposure to spiritualism was limited to occasional visits to temples, attendance in rituals and the routine lighting of the lamp during the twilight hours (Sandhya Vandanam); rituals are done these days without any thought or understanding of its scientific relevance or purpose. However, there always was a strong fascination within me to explore the realm of spirituality, a knowing that there surely was a purpose to all that is being done than what really meets the eye. This inkling remained as a mere interest in a corner of my heart for the most part of my life. Spurts of incidents and a few mind-boggling experiences with a few souls at irregular intervals which burnt impressions in my mind and grounded my belief setting me on course towards my destiny. Before I knew, I was gently entering the power orbit of ‘Yantra, Mantra, and Tantra’ and my devotion found expression through the colors of my palette. The thirst for knowing the energies that empower the circles, squares, and triangles evolved an interest in Yantras and the Tantras behind it.
However, I felt a void in my practice as the hues I used to paint the mystic geometries were not vibrant enough. They were lifeless as they were speaking to me in a language that I was not aware of; there was something amiss. This is where my mentor, Dr. MM Alex stepped in and gave direction and meaning to my quests, thus steered my inklings towards my destiny. I set out on a journey with his guidance which required my utmost faith without questioning the process but with questions for which I sought answers. Thus, began my temple travels, and though it was not the first time that I was visiting temples this journey was different. This was the first time I set out as a seeker, trying to find my Shiva and Shakti.
Adi Shakthi Peeth: The Seven Day Journey
Painting the “64 Yoginis” was one of the most important projects I took upon myself as part of my artistic explorations. When I decided to do that, I chose to follow the “Chausath Yogini” Temple of Hirapur, Odisha. There are conflicting beliefs as to the number of Yoginis, but 64 is the most widely accepted among them. Also, I felt very comfortable and connected with the names of the Yoginis of Hirapur Temple. I began my process with a book that I purchased from a book shack run from one of the homes close to the temple. The book, which had just about 120 pages, had the pictures of all the statues in the temple with the names of the Yoginis. Almost all the idols have many of their parts missing; broken and desecrated by invading marauders during the Muslim invasions.
I therefore started my process of painting the 64 Yoginis using the book as my guide. I decided to start with the first image and would not look at the next or any of the remaining images until I finished painting what I had started. I did this so as to keep my visualizations of each of the Yoginis pure in my mind without having distortions after seeing any of the other images. My idea of choosing this process was with the ultimate aim that I would conclude by painting “Lalita Tripura Sundari” as the last one. This was my way of devotion, my journey towards her as I felt that to know her, I first need to know the demi-goddesses who serve her. I set about painting the Yoginis as I intended and when I reached about halfway, the 31st to be precise, the image in the book was of “Mahamaya”, who is the head of the 64 Yoginis and hence, “Lalita Tripura Sundari” herself. In fact, the “Chausath Yogini Temple” of Hirapur is also known as the “Mahamaya Temple”. This was a proper obstacle to my “Sankalpa” and it took me by both shock and surprise. I, therefore, decided to take a break and first look for some answers, some clue on how I should proceed.
As a break, I decided that I should probably visit a few temples, hoping that I would find an answer as to how I should proceed. That evening, as I sat with my family, I discussed the dilemma that faced with my husband, Unni and told him that I would like to visit a few temples in Chennai. He agreed and asked which temples I would like to visit. I told him that I’ll check on the net and find out if there are any Shakthi Temples in Chennai. My search on the internet returned the result, “Adi Shakthi Peeth” as the first item on Google search. Until then I had no idea of what “Adi Shakthi Peeth” was all about. The name excited me and I said to myself that I should visit this temple and immediately declared to Unni the same. It is only when I checked into the details of it that I realized that “Adi Shakthi Peeth” was a group of four temples; the Vimala Temple at Puri, Odisha; Taratarini Temple at Berhampur, Odisha; the Kamakhya Temple at Guwahati, Assam and the Kalighat Kali Temple at Kolkata, West Bengal.
Legend has it that when Goddess Sati, the wife of Lord Shiva and the first incarnation of Goddess Parvathi, sacrificed herself by self-immolation in the Agni Kunda of the Maha Yagna being performed by her father King Daksha after being insulted by him; Lord Mahadeva, engulfed in his grief carried her mortal remains and performed the “Ugra Thandava” for days together, forgetting the universe and his responsibilities towards it. Lord Maha Vishnu, who realizes the extent of grief being experienced by Lord Shiva, despite him being the Trikala Gyani, decides to help him emerge out of his grief by disposing of with the mortal remains of Sati by cutting it into several pieces using his Sudharshana Chakra. It is said that these pieces fell scattered all over the earth.
For Sati to be reborn and unite again with Lord Shiva the Lord himself performed the ritual offerings at all the places and established a Shakti Peeth in each of these places and appointed Lord Bhairava is the protector of each of these. As a mark of his love towards her Lord Shiva himself stands besides Sati or Shakthi in the form a Linga in all the Shakthi Peeth’s, signifying that Shiva and Shakthi can never be separated.
Among all the Shakthi Peeth four are considered as the most prominent ones as it is believed to be the places where prominent parts of the mortal remains fell. These Shakthi Peeth were mentioned by Adi Shankaracharya and are also recognized by some of the greatest religious texts such as Shiva Purana, Devi Bhagavatam, Kalika Purana (Ashtashakti). It says in Kalika Purana: –
Vimala Pada Khandacha,
Stana Khandacha Tarini
Kamakhya Yoni Khandacha
Mukha Khandacha Kalika
Anga Pratyanga Sangena
Vishnu Chakra Kshate Nacha…..