By Samy Appadurai
It was one of those typical beautiful summer days. The sky was clear and dressed up in blue and gray coloured silk cloth. There was no more lightening and thunder nor rain. The rays of the sun from beyond the sky extended its hands to the earth with love and happiness. I was heading to the Sri Meenatchy Amman temple in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada on a weekend. The roads were half empty and there was no traffic jam on the highway; but still there were vehicles crawling on the road driven cautiously by seniors who desired to come out and enjoy a taste of the summer. The energetic young ones were moving around the restaurants having good food and fun. It was a very pleasant and glorious scene.
I reached the temple at about 11.30 a.m and the Priest, administers and volunteers were getting ready for the mid day services and we devotees were looking forward to participating. All of a sudden some supernormal force penetrated and took overall control of myself including the nervous system, the brain, mind and soul, totally enveloping me. It was a fresh, energetic and dynamic experience that I had. I have tried my best on several occasions to express my experience. Words and linguistic power were ineffective. I remembered an incident when Swami Vivekananda asked his guru Swami Ramakrishna the Master, how he could see god and the reply given to him was that the Divine cannot be revealed, but it can be experienced by oneself.
I was overpowered and moved into the world of spirituality from living in the materialist world. It all happened in a fraction of a second and the nature of my experience was not in the form of light or sound or vision of any idol. My control over myself had gone and was empowered by a supernormal force.
This experience resulted in not only changes within myself, but also new thoughts, deeper, wider, and sharper divine and scientific explanations for what we already know and what we understand of many things. For example, the lady poet Awyar was a devotional and lived in Tamil Nadu, India, almost two thousand years ago. In one of her famous poems, it says that “what is learned is a handful of soil and what is not learned amounts to the size of the world.” And so far, from ordinary men to intellectuals including myself, till that moment, what we understood was that every one of us learned a handful and the rest is the size of the world. According to the Goddess Sri Meenatchy Amman, not every one of us has learned a handful; all of humanity who has lived and has been living together has learned a handful and this does not amount to the size of the world. When I mentioned this in my speech everyone was amazed.
Let me cite some other experiences so that I can explain this to you all. It is a complex wisdom that was revealed by Sri Meenatchy Amman. According to Hinduism, every living and non living thing has a soul. This includes the entire animal kingdom, plants, and others. According to some other religions, only human beings have souls, not other living creatures and thus other living things such as plants and animals are created for human beings. Hinduism considers that the soul of every living thing is equal and that of human beings is not superior. If we consider all souls equal, in the body of a man there are millions of living things inside him in the form of cells that have been surviving in their space of time and the evolution of their life cycle begins and ends in different times . How could we say the man has only one soul? It cannot be said that the soul of a man is superior to the rest of the souls within himself. What are we accounting for? It is very complex, amazing and very complicated and hard to understand. It is another example of what she revealed earlier that what we know is very little and what we do not know is like the size of the universe.
Let me cite another experience that I had with her. I was at the Canada Kandaswamy Temple in Toronto to deliver a speech. I was introduced and the audience was eagerly waiting to hear my speech. I normally do not prepare my speech in advance and I prefer to spontaneously deliver it. As usual, I got up and reached for the microphone when all of a sudden, newfound wisdom poured into me along with a new interpretation for what we already knew. It was reveled to me in a fraction of a second and it took few minutes to deliver this to the audience. I was referring to a South Indian Hindu myth that says once Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvati, respectively matter and energy that cannot be separated were being seated at the kingdom of heaven and a trouble making force reached them in a form a super man named Narthar. He took one mango fruit as a gift, knowing that in their family two sons named Ganash and Murugan, were there. The mango would be handed to one of them to enjoy and the other would be disappointed and would react unpleasantly. Lord Shiva and Parvati accepted the gift and were puzzled with how and to whom the gift should be given. Finally they decided to have a running competition and whoever won would have the fruit. The distance to run was, according to every one of us and understood was around the world. But Sri Meenatchy Amman revealed that it was an extensive distance and not limited to the earth but to the entire universe, including the earth. So far none of us, including Hindu scholars knew about this.
Another time, I was driving my car on a busy highway for work and my full concentration was on my driving when all of a sudden she revealed another wonderful explanation about Shiva and Parvati in terms of matter and energy that cannot be separated. It is an equal partnership that has been portrayed as ‘Arthanathiswara’, half of Shiva on the right and the rest as Parvati in the form of a human body to show the idea of both as equal. What was revealed is that both of them are not two halves but each one of them is fully inside the other though we only see half of each. It is not the combination of two halves, but two complete identities that have merged. I have had such wonderful numerous revelations from Sri Meenatchy Amman
The incarnation of Sri Meenatchy Amman on this Earth as a baby girl in an ordinary family, not in a Bhramin circle of priests or royal family cited to the world that every soul has the potential of reaching the supernormal stage if he or she could exploit it. She was the center of preservation of the total civilization of Tamils. The Tamils were the first to establish a human civilization in an area known as Lemuria south of the current India in the Indian Ocean. Lemuria sunk into the ocean during the continental drift and remaining pieces and the revival of the culture was established in the current states of Tamil Nadu and the adjoining states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Kannada. Other than Tamil Nadu, the rest of these places lost the identity of the Tamil language by intermingling with Sanskrit and this developed into different languages but the Hindu culture and traditions, still continued with slight variations.
Sri Meenatchy Amman was incarnated and as a human being and brought up like any of us. We have been breathing the same air and drinking the same water and using the same fire and it is our privilege to speak the same language as well. Lord Shiva brought her to the lime light by giving her the proximate position in his holy dramas. As George Bernard Shaw said, the world is a stage and we all are actors and actresses. The infinite philosophy of the Hindu religion would not be easily understood by human beings and the dramas portrayed God as living like any one of us , falling in love, getting married , chasing girls, getting involved in wars and so on. The Hindu religion is a way of living and it cannot be separated from our life at any cost. God exists everywhere and any where. The basic philosophical differences from other religions are (1) The soul can be neither created by birth nor destroyed or eliminated by death (2) Life is a continuous process, until a soul get to the stage of as Buddha said “Nirvana”. Desire is the cause of sufferings and total detachment from all attachment will be the final stage. Then the soul reached the final stage of the cycle and being with the god for ever.” (3) Karma is an action and its reaction. The balance of good deeds and evil deeds of the last birth will be brought forward to the next birth and it could switch to any form, such as an animal could take the form of human being or plants and wise reverse.’(4) God is only one but has different incarnations and one may venerate any one they like and God will respond to them in that form.
There are similarities with other religion. Every one of us irrespective of ethnicity, level of education, power, position, and material possessions has only a single goal in our entire life and that is to be happy. But the means of achieving and the definition of happiness vary from person to person. Some of the extreme eastern religions such as Jainism and Buddhism totally reject this life with its materialistic interest and the only way is to prepare for reaching everlasting happiness usually through extreme means.
All the saintly personalities in the Tamil zone were born and brought up and performed miracles, teachings, and encouraged the fine arts. The Sri Meenatchy Amman temple, located at Madurai is recognized as a holy land and the structure of the temple itself exhibits it. There are 1008 pillars in a big hall and all have Hindu theological bindings and have beautifully carved statues on them. In total 33, 000 statues were carved in igneous rock. Satisfying the thirst of aesthetic desires, sixty four types of fine arts were created and preserved. The wonderful age old painting draws the attention of the eyes of the visitors.
The beautiful lotus lake attached with divine power with selecting and blessing written poems and literature. If the written piece contains no errors of any kind, it will float on the lake and the rest will sink. For any literary work to be accepted it has to have reached perfection. The temple was surrounded by 108 big circles to form large areas divided by walls around and each one of them had many settlements and had they performed their economic activities within the area itself. The unique quality of this temple is that people had their settlements within the extended areas of the temple whereas the other temples were situated in the middle of the settlements. It has been said that one must not settle down where there is no temple or place of worship, whereas here the settlements itself are within the temple. Nowadays it has been restrained to 16 small circles not containing any settlements and they are named after certain months of the Hindu calendar.
This mighty temple was planned and the construction work started in the 12th century by the King Kulasegaran, mostly with crystalline rock and the completion took over three centuries and thousands and thousands of laborers worked tirelessly. Even today, with the remaining structure, the current site of this temple has been recognized as one of the seven wonders of India and is proposed to be included as one of the world’s wonders. We bring down to the temple and place of worship within the control of time and space of the almighty God who is beyond time and space in a stage of infinity. In some places the generation of divine power is greater than others and Madurai Meenatchy Amman Temple is one of the best. I do not know how to describe the nature of the architecture and entire operation of this multi task temple. This multi dimensional temple on one angle is a museum of the Tamil civilization and culture; on the other hand it is the center of moving towards perfection in life. It is a fine arts academy, and on the top of it the spiritual, based on scientific truth is the link between the earth and the rest of the universe through super normal forces. Hindu astrology contains extensive research works on the solar system and some of the ideas about the universe. Even today with all of the advanced technology, the scientists have known very little about the major portion of the universe.
There is significance in the incarnation of Sri Meenatchy. The incarnation of Lord Ganesh, Lord Krishna came down all the way from the kingdom of heaven to the earth. But Sri Meenatchy and Sri Ayyappa reached the respectively goddess and god status, after being like any one of us on the earth and representing the earth to the universe. Her marriage with the almighty Lord Shiva is a union between elevated human beings from the grass roots to the heavenly body. I do believe comparatively that the earth among billions of planets in a way was very fortunate to have her on our soil for a period of time and her blessings certainly contribute to the prosperity of the earth in the long run. I am very proud to be a Hindu by religion and Tamil by ethnicity and Canadian by nationality where I am able to freely express my views, by being born in the same ethnicity and linguistic frame.
The Madurai Meenatchy Amman Temple is the only Shiva and Shakti temple where Shakti is given more prominence than Shiva. Contrary to the usual Hindu tradition where Shiva is always placed in the right side and Shakti on the left, (the right side is considered more powerful such as we are mostly right handed people) Shakti in this case is placed on the right hand side. This positioning reflects that the power of energy like atoms is greater and the matter that holds the power is smaller in size. This can be explained by looking at the computers of the 1950’s. The size of a computer at that time was so big and required a very large room to fit but today, very powerful computers are in a portable size. As I mentioned earlier Shiva represents matter and Meenatchy represents the energy.
The temple was the center of governing bodies. It was a discussion center, debating corner, a judicial court for settling disputes and doing judiciary services, office of maintaining law and order, educational institutions and fine arts academy, medical centers and so on took care of the society from family life to public life. Over 48, 000 Tamil Hindu Saints in which four prominent saints, St. Thirinavukarasar, St. Thirgnanasampanthar, St. Manikavasagar and St. Suntharamoorthy are very well known and the rest of the 59 of them are somewhat known to the current Tamils and the rest are forgotten . The status of the known sixty three and their contributions to us has been remembered and the annual celebration of their lives has been performed at the Thurkeshwaram Temple on Lawrence Avenue East, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada.
The concept of rule by law and no one is above the law, including the law maker was reminded and established in one of the Shiva’s life plays performed in Madurai. A poet prayed for help from Lord Shiva and wrote a poem and presented it at the competition in the powerful kingdom, in front of the royal family and scholars. The group of judges under the chief judge Nagkeeran, after carefully listening to it, found some errors and rejected it. At that very moment Lord Shiva opened his third eye to identity himself exclusively to Nagkeeran the chief judges and indicated to him that he was the one who helped in drafting the poem. He knows everything and he never makes a mistake. Nagkeeran replied to the audience what was communicated with him by Lord Shiva and challenged him by saying that though lord Shiva had a hand it, the mistake remains a mistake and the judgment cannot be and will not be altered. The message of this life play was that nobody is above the law, including the creator of the universe.
There is a wonderful message from another life play by Lord Shiva on the dignity of labour and the respect for the blue collar and white collar jobs. The river of Vaikai flooded and the river water overflowed from the river bed to the surrounding villages. The king summoned every family, and said that every family should take a designated portion of the riverbank and control the over flowing river water by building a wall between the river and the land beside. It was a mandatory with no exception and if someone does not have a person who could do the job, they had to hire someone and accomplish the task. There was a very old poor lady who prepared food and sold it and earned from hand to mouth. She could not find anyone to help her. It was the time an energetic handsome young man passed by and she made a request and he gladly accepted it. She told him that she is poor and does not have much to pay for manual work that he is going to do for her and only thing that she could pay the remaining part of the food. The young man did not mind this and accepted the wages in form of food and went into her portion and work for a while and went under a near by tree and enjoyed a nap in the broad day light. The supervisors came around and appreciated the services contributed by everyone, except this man. They were angry and began to slash him at the center back and everyone got the same slap and got the same pain as well, the supervisors got panicky and realized it was a life play by almighty Lord Shiva. Why did he do that? To teach the lesson for everyone that no work is inferior whether it is manual labor or a white collar job in a well facilitated office.
When foreign aggression took place around the world, they brought their religion and forcefully converted many and provided privileges to the converts and made attempts to destroy their places of worship and demoralize the resisting followers. India had to face four major religious dominations by their respective rulers. They can be categorized into two groups; the Samanam and Buddhism are eastern religions that had their origins in India and Islam and Christianity came from the Middle East. The fundamental philosophy of the two blocks had some differences but also had similarities within them. For example the concept of ‘karma’ is a basic tenet and common among all eastern Indian born religions but not accepted by the other block. While they were ruling the city of Madurai, they tried their best to destroy the Hindu religion. The faith and power of the resisters could not to be taken by the temptation of materialist rewards and the Madurai Meenatchy temple with some damage was preserved and protected.
The contribution to the development of the Tamil language, one of oldest and richest languages in the world is spoken by over 80 million people mainly in Tamil Nadu, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Malaysia and in smaller number in over seventy countries around the world. Those four main Tamil Hindu Saints not only preserved the language, they developed the language more than anyone during the period of foreign aggression.
According to Hindu philosophy Lord Nataraj, another name for Lord Shiva, is the creator, protector and destroyer of matter in many forms. He created light and sound and the universe as a one piece and Shakti expanded and multiplied it and the universe reached today’s size with millions of stars, planets and other elements and at one point in time, it will contract into one small piece. The expansion and the contraction are always in motion without any break. Everything is in constant motion. Lord Nataraja stood on his right leg and lifted his left leg and began to dance and everything went into motion. Then he intended to speed up the modified motion, only once did he stand on his left leg and lift his right leg and dance. Such a significant dance was performed in the temple of Meenatchy and is known as the Tandava dance.
Although the blessing of Sri Meenatchy is all around the universe, there are few Meenatchy Amman temples established in the world. There is an island in Indonesia named after Madurai and a Meenatchy Amman temple was established there along with one in Texas in the United States of America and one in Scarborough, Canada. Mahatma Gandhi the father of India visited the Madurai Meenatchy Amman temple several times and prayed for the glory of truth and freedom of India from foreign rule and the liberation of the Indian people from caste oppression. Once the French ambassador to India visited this temple and said that his many long years of desire were fulfilled by visiting this mighty temple. I have seen and realized the valuable treasure of Hindu culture, fine arts faith in life at the Madurai Meenatchy Amman temple. The eyes that have not seen and the heart that has not appreciated this temple are like stone. Only the grace of Shakti can make those eyes see and those hearts swell with devotion.
Samy Appadurai is a renowned broadcast journalist, author, educator and public speaker who makes his home in Toronto.