Saturday, October 14, 2017

Kalahasteeswara Swamy Temple, Sri Kalahasthi – Religious Practices & Festivals

Kalahasteeswara Swamy Temple, Sri Kalahasthi – Religious Practices & Festivals
The temple follows Saivite tradition. The temple priests perform the pooja (rituals) during festivals and on a daily basis. The temple rituals are performed four times a day: Kalasanthi at 6:00 a.m., Uchikalam at 11:00 a.m., Sayarakshai at 5:00 p.m and Sayarakshai between 7:45 - 8:00 p.m. Each ritual has three steps: Alankaram (decoration), neivedhyam (food offering) and Deepa aradhanai (waving of lamps) for both Srikalahasteeswara and Gnana Prasunambika. There are weekly, monthly and fortnightly rituals performed in the temple. The temple is open from 6am - 12 pm and 4-8:30 pm.
Kalahasthi temple is closely attached with the history of Kannappar, whose bhakti (devotion) is yet to be equaled in the history of the religious literature of Tamilnadu. Acharya Shankara had devoted a verse in praise of Kannappar in his celebrated Shivanandalahari. Sekkizhar, in his Periyapuranam elaborately sings the greatness of Kannappar in 185 verses. Kannappar performed abishek to the Lord bringing water from the Swarnamukhi river in his mouth. Vibhuti Prasad is not offered in this temple, but symbolizing the Abishek Theertha of Kannappar, only Theertha Prasad (water) is offered to the devotees mixed with Pachai Karpooram. It is offered through a conch.
The Vibhuti (sacred ash) brought by the devotees are placed at the feet of the Lord, an Arati is offered and returned to the devotee. Abishek is performed to the Lord only with water mixed with Pachai Karpooram. Other Abisheks are offered only to the stage (called Avudayar – the Linga Peetam). As the Shrine is related to Rahu-Ketu planets, devotees do the Pradikshina in an anti-clockwise way. As sage Bharadhwaja performed penance here, only those belonging to the Bharadhwaja Gotra are appointed as archakas in the temple.
The Kavacham covering the Lord has the symbols of the planets, hence there is no separate shrine for the Navagrahas except for Saturn. Garlands are not offered on the body of Lord. An Angi – upper cloth – is placed on the Lord on which Thumba Flower Garland is placed. In the Oddiyanam (belt made of gold studded with pearls and precious stones), of Mother Gnanaparasunambikai, the symbol of planet Kethu is carved. There is a temple for Lord Manikandeswarar on the slopes of the hill through which Kannappar went on the hill taking his Abishek Water from Ponmuhali river.
There is also a mandap called Manikarnika Gattam near this temple carved out of the hill. The story goes that it is here Lord Shiva uttered the Tharaka Mantra to a woman (commonly known as Karna Manthra being uttered on the ears of the departing soul) as Lord Viswanatha did in Kasi – Varanasi to a devotee. Following this tradition, devotees use to bring those nearing their end to Manikarnika Gattam and place them lying here so that the last breath may leave the mortal body through the right ear. Procession of Lord is taken from the North tower entrance. As Maharishis worshipped the Lord facing the east after a dip in the Ponmuhali river, Lord Kalathiappar is facing west to bless the Rishis.
Maha Shivaratri is the most important festival when lakhs of devotees offer prayers to seek the blessings of the Lord. Mahasivarathri Brahmotsavams are celebrated in par with Maha Shivaratri for 13 days during which the Utsava Murtis of Siva and Parvati will be taken on Vahanams in a procession around the temple streets. The fifth day of the festival in the month of Maasi coincides with the Maha Shivaratri. Mahasivarathri, Nandi Seva, Lingodbhavam, Rathotsavam, Theppotsavam and Swami-Ammavarla Kalyanotsavam are the important aspects of this festival. ShivaratriVinayaka ChaturthiVijayadasami, Thirukarthigai in November-December, Oonjal festival on all Fridays, Makara Sankaranthi (Pongal) in January and Giri Valam on Shivarathri day are the other important festivals celebrated here.