The seas of the South are wild, uncontrollable, un-swimmable – these big lashing tongues stride towards the shore…lapping and drinking whatever comes their way.
Lord Muruga, son of Shiva and Lord of War and Love, prefers to reside on hill-tops (kurinchi) amidst lush forests (mullai). Sometimes the Lord takes an unexpected turn – Lord Muruga strides past mountains and forests, to settle by the sea.
The seaside temple at Tiruchendur marks this happy deviation!
We were standing there in a small group, jostling with each other and the waves! Trying to stand ground in that swirling rush of love, edging closer to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and trying not to get swept away by those pulling, tugging, jostling mad waves!
What were we doing there?
A few bus loads of us had joined Gurudev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, on a South Indian temple tour. One of the stops was Tiruchendur. I knew nothing of the place, had not bothered to Google any of the temples we were visiting. I was a shamelessly uninformed traveller. I didn’t care because my point was to visit all these historic temples with my Master. And really the point wasn’t even so much in seeing these magnificent temples as seeing My Master against the backdrop of these temples!
So there we were – our bus had reached before the other buses – and we stood at the temple entrance to welcome . It was a large temple complex and there was a rush of daily visitors. But without much ado, his car slid into view, and he stepped out.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar conducted a Rudra puja under a makeshift shamiana. It was beautiful. Once it got over, he got up to leave. And we followed him. As we usually do.
We swept behind our Master, whose rapid steps deftly took us past the huge temple structure with its formidable ornate columns, unexpectedly towards the shore: down a soft sandy slope, straight into the mouth of the churning, buoyant sea!
What a surprise! I kept imaging Gurudev would take us through some other entrance to the temple’s inner sanctum. Instead, he took us straight into the sea.
Then we realised, “Ah, he’s come for a holy dip!”
What excitement, what euphoria to be with Him, my Master and Master of Sea and Land and all things visible and invisible! To be with Him, standing there on the shore of Time and then stepping into the absolute joy of Timelessness!
Now let me narrate this again, a little differently because the flood of excitement allows for a renewed repetition!
I was wondering why we hadn’t entered the main entrance and when Sri Sri Ravi Shankar walked past it I thought he was taking us through another doorway. Very swiftly I followed and sometimes walked ahead, taking care not to bump into a dog, a seated beggar, a wayside visitor, turning around every now and then to navigate and make sure he was still in sight. Gurudev quicky walked on. And all I could see was Him in all his magnificent beauty, garlanded and regally striding on and on. I had stopped thinking and was simply admiring him and suddenly my naked feet touched soft sand and we skimmed down a slope and were in the sea.
Here I was with Narayana Himself, in the Ocean of Love!
I’d never entered the sea with Him and here I was. With my first and ancient love – the sea – and with Him, my new found ancient love! It was a joy just to see his face…his smile, eyes, hair and clothes (which just moments ago were so composed) now rippling about with childish delight! And the Ocean greeted him with the ebullience a canine pet would show its Master – forgetting its power and going all out to greet Him!
I thought there’s no story to tell, what story to tell when you’re in the sheer experience; in that exalted state no words exist…just a boundless bursting joy that dances with the Universe!
A year and five months passed and then out of the blue, in satsang, my Master, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar shared a story. He said “Tiruchendur” and my ears pricked up and the sea jumped up to wet my face with its memory!
One of many stories, I’m sure, but this is the one he selected:
During the British rule, a group of British officials looted the Tiruchendur temple of all its fine jewels along with the main deity. Just as the ship was ready to set sail, the sky darkened menacingly and the chief Purohit warned the British that if they didn’t leave the statue behind there was definite doom for the ship and all its passengers. Seeing a storm heading towards them the anxious crew dropped the idol into the sea. Immediately the weather calmed, and the storm retreated!
The ship sailed off with its bags full of booty.
At night the Purohit had a dream. Lord Muruga was instructing him to fetch Him from the ocean. Yes, but the ocean is vast, how will I find you, wondered the Priest. Lord Muruga showed him how. A yellow lime bobbing up and down on the waves would indicate His location! So the next morning the priest with a small group set off in a small boat. Sure enough, within a small radius near the shore, they found the sign they were looking for…the lime bobbing with each wave.
They pulled out Lord Muruga and reinstalled him in the temple. Fishes had left many small dents all over the face, but that hardly mattered. Lord Muruga was at home: safe and sound in his seashore retreat.
Gurudev shared that although cyclones have often hit the Tamilian shores, they somehow always circumvent the temple, which has remained untouched by the wild sea for thousands of years! Also the main sanctum is below sea level and even though the temple is situated on the seashore there has never been an incident of the sea entering the temple. So the temple, second in reverence to the one at Palani, has an invisible ring protecting it for sure.
It’s incredible how much of the Universe is beyond our senses of perception… only a tiny portion exists which we can study, measure, analyse and even then we are left with nothing but postulations.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar explains this beautifully: The Universe reveals a little, scientists take their learning a little further… and further, but at each stage they are faced by another wall. Something remains unknown, beyond explanation. The wall or curtain of understanding just gets pushed further and further, but the wall remains. It is impregnable. The Universe likes to be mysterious. And remains so!
Inside the temple Sri Sri Ravi Shankar received a royal welcome. The Priests took him into the sanctum sanctorum, out of bounds for all except the pujaris of that temple. I saw them garland Gurudev, crown him and offer him Lord Murugan’s sceptre! They honoured him as the living embodiment of their Lord!
And there I was, witnessing this glorious reception of my Master!
I taste salt water. A tiny drop slips into my mouth. The tears on my cheek spring straight from that Ocean.