Homage to the gods

15 Jan 2019 / 11:32 H.

THAIPUSAM is celebrated by Hindus of mostly Tamil descent around the world. Some say the festival is to honour the birthday of Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war, while others state that it is held to celebrate Lord Murugan’s victory over the asuras (or demons) that plagued the world.

Many devotees make vows and pledges before him and, then on Thaipusam day, show their gratitude by carrying kavadis which in India are generally in the form of pots of milk.

India, being Lord Murugan’s ‘birthplace’, naturally has many temples dedicated to this son of the Hindu god Shiva and goddess Parvati. However, they are mainly found in the southern region.

One of these temples is the Vayalur Murugan Temple located near the city of Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu state. The temple is said to be built during the reign of the Cholas, around 1,200 years ago.

Tiruchirappalli itself has over 2,500 years of history and traditions. Known as Trichy for short, its name means ‘city of the three-headed demon’ in commemoration of Lord Shiva vanquishing the three-headed demon named Trisiras.

Another famous Murugan temple is found in Viralimalai, some 28km from Trichy.

Trichy also boasts of many temples dedicated to other Hindu gods and goddesses. Among them are the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple dedicated to Sri Ranganatha (a resting form of Lord Vishnu), Sri Brahmapureeswarar Temple for those seeking blessings from Lord Brahma, and the 500-year-old Vekkali Amman Temple dedicated to the goddess Kali.

Some 1,000km northeast of Trichy is Visakhapatnam. Called Vizag for short, this largest city in the Andhra Pradesh state is known as the Jewel of the East Coast.

The city, which has a history stretching back to 6th century BC, has a number of temples such as the Subramanya Murugan Temple as well as Simhachalam Temple dedicated to Lord Narasimha.

Northern India might have few Murugan temples but the region boasts of many holy sites.

One of the most well-known is in the sacred city of Amritsar in northwestern Punjab, where the Harmandir Sahib or Golden Temple stands as Sikhism’s most spiritually significant gurudwara.

While the city is inextricably linked to the Sikh religion, it also has a famous Hindu temple – the 16th century Durgiana Temple, also called the Lakshmi Narayan Temple, which is dedicated to goddess Durga and the deities, Laxmi and Narayan.

It was rebuilt in the 20th century based on the Golden Temple with its main shrine rising from the midst of a sacred lake, its central dome covered with gold, and the rest of the structure clad in marble.

Amritsar is not only known for its historical monuments and places of worship but also for its many old bazaars and colourful festivals as well as its famous textiles, shawls, and carpets.

In the northern state of Rajasthan lies Jaipur, India’s ‘Pink City’. More well-known for its wondrous palaces (City Palace, Amber Palace, and Jal Mahal, to name a few) and formidable forts (Jaigarh Fort and Nahargarh Fort), the city also boasts a number of beautiful places of worship.

One of the most-visited temples is the Akshardham Temple, an architectural wonder surrounded by lush green gardens and charming fountains. The temple is devoted to the Hindu god Narayan, whose beautiful statue is adorned in silver and gold ornaments.

Another is the Jagat Shiromani Temple, which features a mix of architectural styles including Jain, Hindu, Mughal and South Indian.

This temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and Lord Vishnu, and is said to be built around 1599-1608AD by Queen Kanakwati, the wife of King Man Singh I, in the memory of their son, Jagat Singh.

Then there is the Moti Doongri Ganesh Temple, considered the most auspicious and important religious temple in Jaipur.

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And why stop at India? It’s southern neighbour Sri Lanka, though predominantly Buddhist, also has temples dedicated to Lord Murugan such as the Arulmigu Sivasubramania Swami Kovil in the capital, Colombo.

But the oldest and largest Hindu temple in the city is the Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil, dedicated to the gods Shiva and Ganesh.

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