It is a well known story that how the Guruvayur Temple came up. As the history unwinds, Lord Krishna, before leaving his mortal coils, predicted to Uddhava, HIS close friend, that Dwaraka will completely be taken over by the sea in a matter of 7 days. He instructed Uddhava to take care of the Lord Vishnu idol and do the prathishta in a very sacred place with the help of Guru Bhruhaspathi and Vayu Bhagavan. Thus Guru and Vayu identified a very sacred place which came to be known as Guruvayur. The idol at Guruvayur temple was salvaged from floods and still going strong even after 5000 years.
The title Pralayapayodhijale, exactly refers to the first verse of Dashavathaara song of Gita Govindam composed by Jayadevar. It goes as follows
pralayapayodhijale dhritavaanasi vedam |
vihitavahitra charitrama khedam ||
keshavaadhrita meenashareera jayajagadeesha hare||
As per this verse, when all the worlds were under the worst deluge of floods from all seven seas, Lord Keshava took the Matsyaavatharam, (Meena Sareera as per the verse above) body of a fish, to uphold the chatur veda-s.
August 15th 2018, was one of the most memorable days in my life. We, myself along with my family and my 16 students, chose this day to sing Ashtapadi at Guruvayur Temple. We had practiced for one full year to render 10 songs from Gita Govindam.
By the time we finished Ashtapadi singing, news started coming up that many districts of Kerala are flooded and the magnitude of loss was unimaginable. We came back to our respective hotel rooms only to see the extent of devastation that was happening in Kerala. Never witnessed such a sight ever in our life. We realised that 100 meters from Guruvayur Temple, water was flooding and many bridges were washed out and the rivers started overflowing. We could not move out of Guruvayur. Guruvayur was isolated like an island. People who were there were safe.
All roads were blocked and we were stuck in Guruvayur for 5 days. But Lord was kind enough to provide us with food for all these days along with the Nivedyam, Paal Payasam. A few of us , hardly 15 or 20 people were there in temple. No long hours of standing in queue just to see a glance of lord. There was direct entry into the temple and we could stand in front of Guruvayoorappan till such time that we wished. Yes!! to our heart’s content. I have never seen Guruvayoorappan in so much proximity and that too, as much i wished to stand there in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum. Next day, it was the Auspicious Chingam 1, the beginning of a new month. It is absolutely impossible to get a darsanam on Chingam 1 at Guruvayur normally due to the heavy rush, being the beginning of the harvest season.
But, What a Blessing it was to have Nirmalya Darsanam early morning without any rush and my heart welled up with love and bhakthi towards the Lord. May be, the Lord loved all of us so much that HE made us HIS captives for 5 days closely guarding our lives. Our devotion to Guruvayoorappan was with implicit faith and absolute surrender. So HE cannot just leave us like that in the midst of Pralayam.
As everybody knows this is the month when Onam festival is celebrated in Kerala. But this Onam was quite different. The usual floral patterns, swings in front of homes, people with big paunch dressed up as Mahabali etc were completely absent. It was not at all colourful. But as the legend goes, every year Mahabali visits Kerala to see the well being of his pupil. Mahabali would have wondered seeing the people of entire state as one single community. It was a community celebration when people were still in rescue shelters unable to come back to normalcy due to the shock they have faced in their life time. There is an old song which we use to sing during Onam in Kerala.
It is ” Maveli Naadu Vaneedum Kaalam, Manushyarellarum onnu pole “! People were living exactly as during the times of Mahabali. There was complete unity and everyone was helping each other in times of distress. When people buy dresses for their own family during Onam, We could see, that people were donating new dresses for others who have lost everything in floods. Almost every house has given a feast to more than one family during these days. Its been a life changing experience for many !
I have been singing Ashtapadi in Guruvayur Temple for the past 2 years. Now this is the third time, we were doing. Lot of testing time this year. A few among us were frustrated about the turn of events. My answer to them is just this.
This can be illustrated with a simple example. There was a farmer who was a great bhaktha. He had a few cows which used to help him by providing milk and that was his livelihood. He was so much attached to these cows. Strangely, the cows begin to fall sick one after the other and the farmer was so much worried, he was crying his heart out to the Lord to save at least the last cow which is left. At this Lord’s wife asks the Lord, Oh God, why are you being so unkind to this poor farmer who always thinks about you and chants your name. To this God says, I am slowly removing all the obstacles in his path one by one, so that he does not have any more worldly attachments. Now he also thinks about that cow every now and then and of course ME too in between. But if I remove that obstacle also, HE thinks only about ME and I am there to take care of his life !
When we near God, he will put us through trying and testing times. But HE will help us to overcome it and reach HIM, if we have absolute faith in HIM and if there is unconditional surrender. Though my team is singing Ashtapadi for the past two years, nothing of this sort has ever happened. This time we were stranded in Guruvayur for 5 days. May be I became so attached to Lord Krishna for the past one year, thinking only about HIM when I practiced Ashtapadi, when i notated it and when I taught my students. HE knew that me and my team were so devoted to HIM that HE put us under trial. To be very honest, I was personally not affected, as me, my family and my students were completely safe. We had food, water and shelter. We further infer that, when a Sangeetha Upasaka sings ONLY FOR GOD and FOR THE LOVE OF ART, amazingly, nothing bothers him/her.
It was blessings in abundance, when we were given permission to sing Ashtapadi one more time inside the temple on the last day of our stay in Guruvayur. The first performance(first day) was outside the temple. May be the Lord wanted to hear our singing once again without any amplifiers or supporting accompaniments. Had a wonderful darsanam after that. Then it happened. The Melshanthi (Chief Priest) handed over the Peethambara Pattu (Yellow Mundu),the Pattu Komanam the Lord was wearing that morning after Vaakacharthu along with lot of lotus petals and a ball of harichandanam into my hands. I couldn’t just believe this ! It is the most precious gift I have ever received in my life. This taught me a great lesson. Single pointed devotion (Ekaagra Chittha), thinking only about the Lord in words and deeds, will take us to the destination.
Now, if my wish and destination is a lot of wealth and materialism, definitely, HE will shower that. BUT HE WILL NOT BE VISIBLY PRESENT IN MY LIFE. BUT MY ONLY WISH WAS TO SEE GURUVAYOORAPPAN TO MY HEART’S CONTENT WITHOUT ANY RESTRICTION AND SING HIS PRAISE AND I WAS IMMENSELY BLESSED ! Not only me, many of us in my team had this divine blessings.
The only worry that I had in my mind was about my music books and the veena-s and Goddess Kamakshi’s painting in my home. During heavy rains in the month of July this year, water almost came up to my home’s entrance. This time the intensity of rains were hundred times more. What would have happened to my veena-s and music books ? I had absolute faith in HIM. I was not surprised to see that my home was untouched during these floods. Not even a single drop of water entered my home. So I learned one more lesson. FAITH AND SURRENDER TO THE SUPREME POWER IS EVERYTHING .
So, on a lighter note I told my students. People with absolute faith can join me. Of course, God is definitely going to put us through testing times. But if we are inside the boat named TRUST AND DEVOTION WITH INTENSE FOCUS AND BHAKTHI, HE WILL TAKE CARE OF US AND SAIL US TO SAFETY FROM ANY TSUNAMI.
Through these testing times HE taught me,
- how to handle a crisis,
- how to cultivate the habit of developing level headed thinking,
- that right wisdom comes from our own wrong decisions
- be aggressively persistent to continue working with more integrity and passion and
- never give up or quit come what may.
During these 5 days in Guruvayur just contemplating on HIM, it was a realisation for me
- that the secret to a special life is less about things and more about experiences
- Less about getting and more about growing intellectually and spiritually.
- Less about taking and more about giving.
- Less about counting misfortunes and more about counting the blessings.
We have to kindle a flame called FAITH and love to GOD within ourselves. Initially the flame may be weak. But TRUST that it will grow each day. Faith has to be put in action. We have to think that God exists and listens to our prayers. He is residing inside us within our hearts, and we can grow closer to HIM through steady and consistent effort and devotion.
Had a chance to visit a few homes completely taken up by water. It was heart breaking to see the ground reality where people had lost everything. Along with those disastrous scenes, I also discovered beauty and love among the people who were living in complete harmony, as a community, sharing with each other whatever little they had with them. Discovered beauty in unexpected places, did work that enriched the spirit, being kind to strangers everyday and passing through each day with simple grace. Now I am filling the holes within myself not with ego and materialism, but with kindness. And quiet STRENGTH. In my own small way, I am also helping the community who are affected by flood, though it may be just a drop in the ocean.
As Krishna says in Gita, dedicate all vichara (thoughts), karma(deeds) and karma phala (results) to HIM. Let us dedicate whatever we do to this Parabrahma that resides in us. Rest is taken care.!!