Archive | June, 2019

Swamusings #1 ~ Ah, that fresh morning cuppa!

30 Jun

Swamusings ~ the new blog series by Swamy that’s a breeze to read, reminisce, reflect & relate/respond to…

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Swamusings #1 ~ Ah, that fresh morning cuppa!

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Was wondering for a while when this was going to happen… 🤔
And it finally did, today!👍

Ah, at last, an App for a very unique Indian need – that fresh morning cuppa…
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Living in MeraBharatMahan is an entirely different ball game compared to the western way of living, which most entrepreneurial ventures and their apps cater to. Implementing them as-is for akhand Bharat simply won’t work as expected, not just because of the extreme diversity, but also due to the nano cultural nuances, that date back to many a millennia, which the entrepreneurs of considerably young western societies (in terms of culture, not age of people) have no clue about and choose to ignore in their zest for rapid global expansion. 🙄 Oh, the twenty something millionaires and their billionaire dreams…
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Buying milk afresh and systematically preparing and enjoying copious cups of aromatic filter coffee or adharat chai, first thing in the morning (and many times a day, afterwards 😜), is a very unique Indian thing – practically a habit ingrained in the Indian psyche. From the long gone days of zero-carbon-footprint milkman who brought it in aluminium (oh yeah, it’s pronounced with an ‘i’ you ithings-obsessed forbidden fruit man’i’acs) cans and delivered it at every customer home to the reusable glass bottle days to the abominable single-use plastic sachet days of now (take that you – still – plastic-packet-delivering quasi-government entity that’s yet another commercial wing of the plastic-ban-implementation-attempting government), getting fresh (hopefully, who is going to check with the cows!) milk everyday is a must-do activity in many a middle class household, upper or otherwise.

Even today, in established residential localities, one can see uncles and grandpas buying milk sachets from the same vendor (for a few decades, at the minimum – despite the persistent ‘absolutely no customer service whatsoever’ motto of quite a few Aavin vendors, aka that quasi-government entity), during their morning walks. Who gives a damn about the walk – other than the family doc – it’s the current affairs chat with age-old pals and the fresh milk that’s important 😂.

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While this walking/talking/milk buying ritual is happening outside, there’ll be another ritual happening inside the houses to which the fresh milk is headed, in parallel (or is it simultaneously). With the ubiquitous M.S. Suprabhatham bgm (thou may upgrade the device that emits that enchanting evergreen voice to a smartphone+bluetooth speaker combo, but thou shalt not replace the song/chant, ever), lamp(s) get lit in the puja room, with a dash of fragrant smoke from agarbatti and/or sambrani, and the coffee maker starts the warm-up routine to delight the household souls, as unfailingly as the sun that rises to warm and light up the world.

The filter may be a generation or two old brass (பித்தளை) or eversilver (chrome) one or one of those electric coffee makers made by Preethi, Prestige, Philips and the like. The he elders disapprove of this modern thingamagig of course, but have grudgingly allowed it to take over the beloved kaapi filter’s place, in many households. But the coffee brand and the blend is so sacrosanct (Cothas in Swamily, at present – post the strong recommendation from Swamy’s Chithappa, who himself is a long term coffee connoisseur) to each family that even attempting to change it is tantamount to treason.

During his childhood, Swamy remembers visiting the friendly neighbourhood coffee (powder) maker ‘LR Swamy Coffee’ in SS Colony, Madurai, whenever the routine purchase of freshly ground coffee-chicory blend was done by some senior family member. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that a significant part of that entire street was always filled with the bewitching aroma of coffee, all day long. In fact, there was even a hand-operated mini-grinder at Swamy’s grandparents’ home (where his primary education years were spent), which was used to make freshly ground coffee powder at home. While many families in that neighborhood may’ve eventually moved on, it won’t be a surprise if LR Swamy Coffee is still around, grinding aromatic coffee afresh, for a handful of diehard nostalgic customer fans.

As soon as the milk arrives, it gets boiled with froth in a few quick minutes (when the walker impatiently scans the headlines of newspapers – full reading cannot proceed just yet) and a small cupful of milk is offered first to the family deity in the puja room. Next, the aromatic coffee decoction (which, in the western world, is called coffee, btw, heh.. heh..) gets mixed with the right proportion of milk, in multiple tumblers seated inside dabaras. Depending on each coffee connoisseur’s insulin generation capacity & capability, either excess or the right or less or no amount of sugar is added to each tumbler. Then the back and forth pouring between the tumbler and dabara happens a few times, before the piping hot first cup of frothy coffee of the day gets delivered to its connoisseur, who starts relishing it sip by sip. And thus, yet another day dawns in the (typically South, but mostly some parts of Tamilnadu and Karnataka) Indian household. A similar ritual happens in the chai consuming households, obviously.

Oh, for the uninitiated (in what’s collectively known as South Indian culture, which is obviously a misnomer, for the four South Indian states are as different as Madras Filter Kaapi and Kerala Kattanchai), traditional coffee preparation is on/near the very top of the must-learn things list of a new bride, who is keen on blending in with her new family (you are denied the opportunity to accuse Swamy of misogyny for he is the one who typically performs this morning ritual @ SwamyHome 😂). The manni / maatruppen (daughter-in-law) who masters the magical art of making the perfect family coffee is pretty much guaranteed to become the new superstar of a typical tradition-bound South Indian family, overnight, err… overday!

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Now that an app is available for home delivery of fresh packaged milk, daily, the uncles and thathas can have their daily morning cuppa, without having to venture out of the comfort of their abode – if they choose to, that is. To entice many of them, the SUPR app not only assures to deliver fresh milk (as fresh as processed milk can be, of course) daily but also throw in a few sachets of free milk. While Swamy can’t endorse the app without actually trying it (now you know for a fact why none of the SwamyView reviews can be fake), be assured that he is one of those South Indian coffee connoisseurs, for whom the daily morning fresh – and strong, and hot – cuppa is as important as the daily Kriya.

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P.S. The multitude of ‘Kumbakonam Degree Coffee’ food stalls that dot the GST (that would be ‘Grand Southern Trunk,’ not that notoriously popular all-encompassing tax) road aka NH47, at least until Vizhuppuram, that serve coffee in brass dabara-tumbler are mostly nondescript tea stalls that learnt to milk the decoction coffee nostalgia (pun very intended) of travellers,quite successfully. While some of them are quite good, others should just stick to selling chai and Bru coffee, instead of insulting genuine filter kaapi lovers.

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

Wellknown… Unknowns..! ~ AruNAchala Tales #0

25 Jun

Wellknown… Unknowns..!

AruNAchala Tales #0

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ThiruvaNNAmalai aka AruNAchala needs no introduction. Known as the “நினைத்தாலே முக்தி தரும்” sthalam (holy place that offers mukti to the one who simply thinks about it), it’s an ancient place of pilgrimage whose antiquity dates back to the age before that of Gods (33 million of ’em, no less) and demons (aka asurAs), which remains well known through history due to the innumerable saints, yogis & siddhars who lived and attained mukti there and the eponymous Girivalam (circumambulation of the holy hill, barefooted, covering approximately 14 kms, in one go) that brings lakhs of devotees from all over to this quaint little town, every PourNami (full moon).

.

Ask anyone who had either been to AruNAchala or knows someone who had, about AruNAchala, and they will unfailingly tell you an enchanting tale or two about the Adiyogi & Adi Guru Lord ShivA himself who is worshipped there as AruNAchalEswarar, BhagavAn RamaNa Maharishi (the great Realised Master of the GnAna yoga path needs no introduction either), Saint-Poet ArunagirinAdhar (the famed Saint-Poet who is associated with the illustrious warrior son of Lord ShivA, who is celebrated in this part of the world as தமிழ்க் கடவுள், i.e. the God of Tamil people), siddhars like IdaikkAdar and SEshAdri Swamigal, devotees like AmmaNi AmmAL, Realised Beings & Masters like Yogi Ramsurathkumar aka விசிறி சாமியார் (the saint with the handheld fan), about the holy hill itself and seemingly miraculous experiences that keep happening to those who undertake the Girivalam (circumambulation of the holy hill), diligently with piety. But there are amazing facts about this ancient holy space that even a dyed-in-the-wool Shiva bakthA may not know. So, here goes the “AruNAchala Tales”…
~~~~~~~~~~

ArunAchala Tales #0

Every enchanting tale has a beginning. In the age before Gods & demons, possibly during the early stages of creation itself, VishNu and BrahmA wondered who is the greater among them, since they seem to be the only two beings around in the vast emptiness. While they were debating to establish their superiority, a blindingly brilliant column (pillar / tower) of fiery light appeared, whose beginning or end couldn’t be seen. Dumbfounded by the magnificence of that light, the debating duo set out to know more about it. While BrahmA took the form of a swan and flew upwards towards the top of the column of fiery light, VishNu took the form of a wild boar and started digging into the earth towards the bottom of the same.

.

They went on seemingly forever and simply couldn’t get to either the top or bottom. While VishNu gave up his quest and humbly bowed before the light, BrahmA conjured up a yarn of how he had actually seen the top, while all he did was to see a flower falling from the top somewhere along and persuaded (coerced!) it to vouch for the completion of his quest.

.

There was a mighty roar and the SarvEswara revealed himself to be the column of endless fiery light. He praised VishNu for his honesty and humility, reminded him about his purpose, i.e. to nurture + preserve all creation and offered him the right to worship that’s almost like his own. This is why wherever there’s a Shiva temple, a VishNu temple could also be found somewhere nearby, even in nondescript villages and tiny towns. Lord MahAVishNu not only remains a popular God through the yugAs, but eventually also became related to the MahAdEva (God of Gods) by offering his sister Devi Shakthi in marriage to Lord ShivA.
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Then the mighty RudrA turned his fiery gaze towards the shivering BrahmA and simply plucked away one of his five heads and thrown it away, which was like a rap in the knuckles for his blatant lie. He also cursed BrahmA that he won’t be worshipped by humans henceforth. This is why there’s hardly any temple for BrahmA, the God of creation.

.

Despite being very knowledgeable, BrahmA obviously wasn’t very smart to learn from this event, which cost him a head and the right to worship, no less. At a later point in time, he got another rap in the knuckles from the illustrious Son of ShivA, aka KArthikEya alias ShANmukhA, the greatest warrior in the history of Godkind who was anointed the commander-in-chief of the Deva armed forces, who incarcerated BrahmA and stripped him of his power of creation, for not knowing the meaning of AUM, the praNava mantrA, which is the primordial sound of creation itself. Lord Subrahmanya, incidentally, is the manifest form of PraNavA itself. But that’s another enchanting tale for a different time.

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Finally, the TriambakA turned to the pitiful flower that was forced to vouch for BrahmA’s lie and banished it from his worship. This is why, thAzhampoo (தாழம்பூ / ketaki flower) isn’t used for ShivA worship, till date.

.

Moral of the story…

  • Be humble and truthful, in order to be receptive to Grace
  • Lying is easy but the consequences will be unimaginably hard
  • Intellectual (acquired / accumulated) knowledge is grossly overrated. Acceptance of “I don’t know” is the beginning of really knowing the Truth
  • And last but certainly not the least ~ don’t even think about messing with the all-knowing, omnipresent and omnipotent almighty ShivA, ever!
.

The symbolic representation of this ancient event can be found in pretty much all ShivA temples, right behind the garbhagrihA, in the form of LingOdhbhavar (லிங்கோத்பவர்). In a few temples – including AruNAchala – a form of Lord VishNu (VenugOpAla Swamy in ThiruvaNNAmalai) can be found facing LingOdhbhavar.

.

Now to the AruNAchala connect of this ancient tale…
  • The place where the Lord appeared as the seemingly endless column of fiery light is none other than AruNAchala, aka the holy hill at ThiruvaNNAmalai, making it possibly one of, if not the earliest known geographical location of Lord ShivA’s physical presence, on this tiny planet.
  • The popular KArthigai Deepam festival, when a huge light is lit atop the holy hill, is symbolic of this ancient tale, though the festival itself is associated with Lord KArthikEya, the Son of ShivA, who is considered to be an aspect (அம்சம்) of ShivA himself.
  • As a proof of the fiery nature of the magnificent light form of the Lord, intense heat emanates from the GarbhaGrihA (sanctum sanctorum) of the temple, where the மூலவர் (primary deity) of Lord ANNAmalayAr aka AruNAchalEswarar is worshipped, even today. One can experience this directly, while worshipping the Lord in close quarters (guided by a GurukkaL certainly helps and many are willing to offer this service, informally, for an fee, of course). The heat is always on and anyone in the fiery presence of the Lord will start to profusely sweat, instantaneously. Is it any wonder that among the Pancha BhUtha kshEtras of Lord ShivA, dedicated to the five primary elements of creation, AruNAchala is the kshEtra for Agni / Fire (பஞ்சபூத ஸ்தலங்களில் அருணாசலா எனு‌ம் திருவண்ணாமலை அக்னி ஸ்தலமாகும்)
  • Since the Dancing Lord appeared as the tower of light sans beginning or end (அடி முடி காணா ஜோதி ஸ்வரூபம்) on the hill of AruNAchala, the hill itself is worshipped as ShivA here. That’s why the pradakshiNam (பிரதக்ஷிணம் / circumambulation) is done around the hill itself, in the form of Girivalam (கிரிவலம்). .
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With the Lord’s boundless Grace, AruNAchala Tales will continue…

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~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

Wellknown… Unknowns..! ~ AruNAchala Tales #0

25 Jun

Wellknown… Unknowns..!

AruNAchala Tales #0

.

ThiruvaNNAmalai aka AruNAchala needs no introduction. Known as the “நினைத்தாலே முக்தி தரும்” sthalam (holy place that offers mukti to the one who simply thinks about it), it’s an ancient place of pilgrimage whose antiquity dates back to the age before that of Gods (33 million of ’em, no less) and demons (aka asurAs), which remains well known through history due to the innumerable saints, yogis & siddhars who lived and attained mukti there and the eponymous Girivalam (circumambulation of the holy hill, barefooted, covering approximately 14 kms, in one go) that brings lakhs of devotees from all over to this quaint little town, every PourNami (full moon).

.

Ask anyone who had either been to AruNAchala or knows someone who had, about AruNAchala, and they will unfailingly tell you an enchanting tale or two about the Adiyogi & Adi Guru Lord ShivA himself who is worshipped there as AruNAchalEswarar, BhagavAn RamaNa Maharishi (the great Realised Master of the GnAna yoga path needs no introduction either), Saint-Poet ArunagirinAdhar (the famed Saint-Poet who is associated with the illustrious warrior son of Lord ShivA, who is celebrated in this part of the world as தமிழ்க் கடவுள், i.e. the God of Tamil people), siddhars like IdaikkAdar and SEshAdri Swamigal, devotees like AmmaNi AmmAL, Realised Beings & Masters like Yogi Ramsurathkumar aka விசிறி சாமியார் (the saint with the handheld fan), about the holy hill itself and seemingly miraculous experiences that keep happening to those who undertake the Girivalam (circumambulation of the holy hill), diligently with piety. But there are amazing facts about this ancient holy space that even a dyed-in-the-wool Shiva bakthA may not know. So, here goes the “AruNAchala Tales”…
~~~~~~~~~~

ArunAchala Tales #0

Every enchanting tale has a beginning. In the age before Gods & demons, possibly during the early stages of creation itself, VishNu and BrahmA wondered who is the greater among them, since they seem to be the only two beings around in the vast emptiness. While they were debating to establish their superiority, a blindingly brilliant column (pillar / tower) of fiery light appeared, whose beginning or end couldn’t be seen. Dumbfounded by the magnificence of that light, the debating duo set out to know more about it. While BrahmA took the form of a swan and flew upwards towards the top of the column of fiery light, VishNu took the form of a wild boar and started digging into the earth towards the bottom of the same.

.

They went on seemingly forever and simply couldn’t get to either the top or bottom. While VishNu gave up his quest and humbly bowed before the light, BrahmA conjured up a yarn of how he had actually seen the top, while all he did was to see a flower falling from the top somewhere along and persuaded (coerced!) it to vouch for the completion of his quest.

.

There was a mighty roar and the SarvEswara revealed himself to be the column of endless fiery light. He praised VishNu for his honesty and humility, reminded him about his purpose, i.e. to nurture + preserve all creation and offered him the right to worship that’s almost like his own. This is why wherever there’s a Shiva temple, a VishNu temple could also be found somewhere nearby, even in nondescript villages and tiny towns. Lord MahAVishNu not only remains a popular God through the yugAs, but eventually also became related to the MahAdEva (God of Gods) by offering his sister Devi Shakthi in marriage to Lord ShivA.
.
Then the mighty RudrA turned his fiery gaze towards the shivering BrahmA and simply plucked away one of his five heads and thrown it away, which was like a rap in the knuckles for his blatant lie. He also cursed BrahmA that he won’t be worshipped by humans henceforth. This is why there’s hardly any temple for BrahmA, the God of creation.

.

Despite being very knowledgeable, BrahmA obviously wasn’t very smart to learn from this event, which cost him a head and the right to worship, no less. At a later point in time, he got another rap in the knuckles from the illustrious Son of ShivA, aka KArthikEya alias ShANmukhA, the greatest warrior in the history of Godkind who was anointed the commander-in-chief of the Deva armed forces, who incarcerated BrahmA and stripped him of his power of creation, for not knowing the meaning of AUM, the praNava mantrA, which is the primordial sound of creation itself. Lord Subrahmanya, incidentally, is the manifest form of PraNavA itself. But that’s another enchanting tale for a different time.

.

Finally, the TriambakA turned to the pitiful flower that was forced to vouch for BrahmA’s lie and banished it from his worship. This is why, thAzhampoo (தாழம்பூ / ketaki flower) isn’t used for ShivA worship, till date.

.

Moral of the story…

  • Be humble and truthful, in order to be receptive to Grace
  • Lying is easy but the consequences will be unimaginably hard
  • Intellectual (acquired / accumulated) knowledge is grossly overrated. Acceptance of “I don’t know” is the beginning of really knowing the Truth
  • And last but certainly not the least ~ don’t even think about messing with the all-knowing, omnipresent and omnipotent almighty ShivA, ever!
.

The symbolic representation of this ancient event can be found in pretty much all ShivA temples, right behind the garbhagrihA, in the form of LingOdhbhavar (லிங்கோத்பவர்). In a few temples – including AruNAchala – a form of Lord VishNu (VenugOpAla Swamy in ThiruvaNNAmalai) can be found facing LingOdhbhavar.

.

Now to the AruNAchala connect of this ancient tale…
  • The place where the Lord appeared as the seemingly endless column of fiery light is none other than AruNAchala, aka the holy hill at ThiruvaNNAmalai, making it possibly one of, if not the earliest known geographical location of Lord ShivA’s physical presence, on this tiny planet.
  • The popular KArthigai Deepam festival, when a huge light is lit atop the holy hill, is symbolic of this ancient tale, though the festival itself is associated with Lord KArthikEya, the Son of ShivA, who is considered to be an aspect (அம்சம்) of ShivA himself.
  • As a proof of the fiery nature of the magnificent light form of the Lord, intense heat emanates from the GarbhaGrihA (sanctum sanctorum) of the temple, where the மூலவர் (primary deity) of Lord ANNAmalayAr aka AruNAchalEswarar is worshipped, even today. One can experience this directly, while worshipping the Lord in close quarters (guided by a GurukkaL certainly helps and many are willing to offer this service, informally, for an fee, of course). The heat is always on and anyone in the fiery presence of the Lord will start to profusely sweat, instantaneously. Is it any wonder that among the Pancha BhUtha kshEtras of Lord ShivA, dedicated to the five primary elements of creation, AruNAchala is the kshEtra for Agni / Fire (பஞ்சபூத ஸ்தலங்களில் அருணாசலா எனு‌ம் திருவண்ணாமலை அக்னி ஸ்தலமாகும்)
  • Since the Dancing Lord appeared as the tower of light sans beginning or end (அடி முடி காணா ஜோதி ஸ்வரூபம்) on the hill of AruNAchala, the hill itself is worshipped as ShivA here. That’s why the pradakshiNam (பிரதக்ஷிணம் / circumambulation) is done around the hill itself, in the form of Girivalam (கிரிவலம்). .
.
With the Lord’s boundless Grace, AruNAchala Tales will continue…

.

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy
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