Sath Graha Temple (Front)

Sath Graha Temple (Front)


Architects of Nineteenth-Century Calcutta: An Introduction to the Johari Sath Community

Sritama Halder is an independent researcher-writer. Her work involves interdisciplinary studies of communities and their cultural practices, the history of illustration in Bengal, and Hindu myths with focus on visual-textual representations of the Ramayana. She is also a bilingual translator and has worked with the Oxford University Press, India, among others.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, a Swetambara Jain temple cluster was built in Manicktala, Calcutta (now Kolkata). The first temple of this cluster, the Shitalnath temple, was built in 1867 and was dedicated to the twenty-third Jain tirthankara Parsvanath, while the mul nayaka (main deity) of the temple is the tenth tirthankara Shitalnath the second temple, Mahavirswami temple, built in 1868, houses the twenty-fourth tirthankara Mahavirswami and third one, Chandraprabhaji temple, built in 1895, is dedicated to the eighth tirthankara Chandraprabhaji a dadawadi (Jain shrine), originally built in 1810, completes the cluster.

The temples were built by renowned jewellers and businessmen of the time, Badridas Mookim (Mookim means court jeweler, originally a title given to Badridas by Lord Mayo, which became a family surname), Sukhlal Johari and Ganeshilal Kapoorchand Kharad Johari , respectively, who belonged to the Jain Johari Sath community (johari means jeweller and sath means community).

The Johari Sath community has been instrumental in the sociocultural construction of nineteenth-century Calcutta. The city , ever since its inception in 1690, has attracted seekers of fortune. By the late eighteenth century, Calcutta had become a thriving trading centre of the British Empire inviting people from different regions, religions, communities, and ethnicities to come and be a part of the city’s sociocultural fabric. By the nineteenth century, a Jain settlement began to form in Calcutta. The Johari Saths mainly resided around the Beadon Street and Harrison Road (now Mahatma Gandhi Road) areas. (Fig. 1) The Johari Sath community comprises of the Shrimal and the Oswal Jains the Shrimal Jains were originally from Shrimal or Bhinmal, a town in the southern part of Rajasthan, and the Oswals were originally from the Marwar area in Rajasthan. Badridas Mookim (November 26, 1832–1913/14) was instrumental in establishing the Johari Sath community in Calcutta.

Fig. 1. According to Thacker’s Guide to Calcutta, Badridas Mookim’s residential mansion was at 152, Harrison Road (now Mahatma Gandhi Road). Most of the original building is long gone except some columns with Corinthian capitals. According to Sajendra Mookim, descendent of Badridas Mookim, the original building had similar glassworks as the Parsvanath temple and still carries some traces of it. The new building is a mixture of architectural styles including one that was used in the buildings of Calcutta in the 1960s/70s along with a popular kitschy style. The numbers of this building ranges from 152A to 152D (Courtesy: Sajendra Mookim and Tri Paul)

Introduction of the Jain Religion in Bengal

Early Jains
The people of the Johari Sath community were not the first Jains to set foot in Bengal. The region already had a strong presence of Jains within its religious fold. Jainism originated in the eastern part of India as Mahavira was born in the sixth century CE in the present-day Bihar. At least two Jain texts, Acharanga Sutra (written between the second and fifth century BCE) and Bhagwati Sutra (or Vyakhyaprajnapti, the fifth Jain agama composed by Sudharmaswami) mention that Mahavira himself had spent a long time in Panit Bhumi, a part of the Rarh region in the western part of Bengal. Mahavira and the other Jain monks were not exactly welcomed in Bengal the Acaranga Sutra mentions that the monks who came to preach Jainism in Ladha (as the Rarh region was called in the Jain texts) from Magadha, located in what is now the southern part of Bihar, through present-day Purulia, were not trusted by the locals and sometimes faced physical attacks. [1]

Various Jain canons mentions Vanga (central Bengal) multiple times the Jain text Divyavadana mentions the presence of Nirgranthas, what Jainism was known till the Gupta period, in Pundravardhan, an ancient territory located in North Bengal and present-day Bangladesh, during the reign of Ashoka (third century BCE). [2] Hiuen Tsiang (Xuanzang), visited India in the seventh century AD and as he travelled to the eastern part, he observed, ‘The naked Nirgranthas are the most numerous’ [3] when he was in Pundravardhan. He pointed out the same thing when he was travelling through Samatata (eastern Bengal, now in Bangladesh): ‘The naked ascetic called Nirgranthas [4] (Ni-kien) are most numerous.’ [5] So, by the seventh century, different parts of Bengal had a settled and thriving Jain culture. By the eighth century, Jain merchants had been trading in the Bay of Bengal through various rivers along the Rarh region through the Tamralipta port town (present-day Tamluk in Midnapore).

From the ruins of many Jain temples found in Purulia and Bankura, it can be speculated that there was once a thriving Jain settlement around the place. In his article titled ‘Notes on a Tour in Maunbhoom’ in 1894–65, Lieutenant-colonel E. T. Dalton, then-Commissioner of Chota Nagpur, describes numerous ruins of Jain temples and idols in the villages along the rivers Kangsabati, Damodar and others [6] and he further adds that these temples were probably built along the route that Mahavira took. [7] However, the temples that survive today are dated from the ninth to twelfth century. The attack on Bengal by Bakhtiyar Khalji that established Muslim rule in the region essentially ended any temple building activity and the Jain community of the Rarh region were cut off from the Jain communities from the other parts of India eventually, the Jain temples were appropriated by the Hindus. Dalton states that a temple of Virrup (Shiva) in Telkupi [8] in Purulia might have been a temple once dedicated to Vira or Mahavira [9] and he adds at least two more examples of such appropriation.

Dalton had, in fact, encountered the Jain community of Rarh. He writes that they were variously called Serap, Serab, Serak, or Srawaka and practised both agriculture and moneylending as professions. This community now called the Saraks still survives along the regions of Bengal, Bihar and Odisha, though significantly small in number. They follow the Jain tradition of vegetarianism, worship Parvanath as their patron, and celebrate Mahavir Jayanti along with Hindu festivals such as Durga Puja.

The Jains of Murshidabad
The next wave of Jain migration came during the eighteenth century . This time it was in Murshidabad, the capital of Bengal in the eighteenth century. According to J.H. Tull Walsh, Civil Surgeon of Murshidabad at the end of eighteenth century and the early part of nineteenth century, a Jain man Seth Hiranand or Hira Nand Saha [10] , originally from Nagar in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, came to Patna in Bihar in 1652 [11] and set up his gadi (business firm). Legend says, initially he did not have much luck but later inherited immense wealth from an old man whom he nursed in his deathbed. Hiranand increased the inherited wealth manifold and established gadis for his seven sons in seven parts of India. The youngest (according to another version of the legend, the fifth son), Manickchand went to Decca (now in Bangladesh) in Bengal and established his office as a banker/moneylender. In 1700, Murshid Quli Khan, who would go on to be the first Nawab of Bengal, became the dewan and arrived in Decca. Manickchand became a close ally with the dewan because of their financial relations. In 1704, when the dewan shifted the capital to Murshidabad, Manickchand also went with him and built a house in Mahimapur and continued his trade according to Tull Walsh, by that time Manickchand had also become an adviser to Murshid Quili Khan. Manickchand received the title of Seth in 1715. He adopted his nephew Fatehchand as his heir in 1724, Fatehchand became the first Jagat Seth (a hereditary title conferred upon the eldest sons of Fatehchand’s lineage it means the banker of the world, honouring their capacity of lending money even to the Nawabs of Bengal) initiating generations of Jagat Seths who played crucial roles in the decision-making processes of the Nawabs including Shuja-ud-Din and Sarfaraz Khan to Alivardi Khan and Siraj-ud-Daulah. The role of the Jagat Seths in Indian politics is well known over time, the Jagat Seths continued to financially assist both the Nawabs and the British. With their assistance, the British effectively ended the Nawabi rule establishing the East India Company as the ruler of Bengal and India.

Since the early decades of the 1720s, the powerful presence of the Jagat Seth family had been inviting Jain businessmen and bankers to Murshidabad, the capital of Bengal and one of the most active and famous trading centres in India at that time. The fact that there was a large Jain population is confirmed by the presence of a temple dedicated to the twenty-second tirthankara Neminath in Mahajantuli. [12] In his A History of Murshidabad, Tull Walsh mentions a large Jain population in both Azimganj and Jiaganj with Azimganj being the main Jain colony. [13] According to the 1901 census, there were 998 Jains in Murshidabad, counted as part of the Hindus and Brahmo communities [14] and described as ‘a dissenting sect of Hindus’. [15] Azimganj-Jiaganj still has a large population of Jains, now called the Saharwali Jains many of them took active parts in India’s freedom movement and other activities that contributed to various national interests. The Saharwali Jains, while adhering to their religious practices, have also picked up some cultural components of Bengal. For example, the vegetarian elements of the local Bengali food have been incorporated within the Jain cuisine also, at some point in the nineteenth century, soi patano (a ritual ceremony to establish female friendship, with exchange of gifts and nicknames), a popular practice among Bengali women of the time was widely endorsed by the women of the Saharwali community. [16]

Jains of Calcutta: Badridas Mookim of the Johari Sath Community
After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the power of the Nawabs started diminishing and, in 1793, the capital of Bengal, by then under the rule of the East India Company, was moved to Calcutta. As the seat of power shifted, the flow of migration turned towards the young city and many Jain traders, bankers and businessmen from the western and northern parts of India started to migrate to Calcutta. The presence of the dadawadi at Manicktala and a Swetamabara Jain temple built in 1814 (now called the Burra Mandir) at Tulapatti/Cotton Street, Burrabazar, prove that by the early nineteenth century there was a sizeable Jain population in Calcutta.

Originally from Lucknow, Badridas Mookim was one such migrant. His father Shri Kalkadas Sindhar passed away when Mookim was very young. In the 1850s, the political situation in Lucknow was in turmoil. In 1856, when Awadh was felled and annexed by the Company, the tenth and last Nawab of Awadh Wajid Ali Shah was exiled to Calcutta he died in 1887 without ever going back to Lucknow. This kind of deteriorating political climate often encourages migration. With Lucknow losing its former glory, many residents began to shift their base elsewhere in search of new work opportunities and livelihoods. It was around this time, in 1853, that Mookim decided to move to Calcutta with his family, where he set up his own jewellery business and soon became a prominent jeweller. In the 1860s, he began to build the Parsvanath temple (also called Shitalnath temple or Calcutta Jain temple) in Manicktala in the northern part of Calcutta. (Fig. 2)

Fig. 2. Badridas Mookim (Courtesy: Sajendra Mookim, from the booklet published by the temple trust in 2017, celebrating the one-fiftieth anniversary of the temple)

The Calcutta Jain Temple Complex: The Available History
As the legend goes, Mookim, a regular visitor of the dadawadi in Manickatala, one day witnessed some people mistreating the fish and other water creatures in the pond situated in the dadawadi compound. He bought the adjacent land and, following his mother Kushala Devi’s advice, began to build a temple. Shitalnathji, the mula nayaka of this temple, is literally the protector god of aquatic creatures. The Parsvanath temple was completed in 1867, and within the next 30 years two more temples were built around the place creating a ‘temple city’ or a cluster of multiple temples, one of the structural characteristics of Jain religious architecture.

The Parsvanath temple was designed entirely by Badridas Mookim. Replete with coloured glass imported from Belgium, Italian chandeliers, painted tiles, marble statues, paintings and Chinese vases, the temple reflects the creative sensibility of a jewellery designer. (Fig. 3)The primary building material of the temple was marble. The marble workers were brought from Rajasthan and the brick layers, masons, and other technical staff were locals. While the Parsvanath temple is marked by sheer opulence and lavishness, the other two temples built later, with the absence of its grandeur, reflect a kind of subdued charm. The original dadawadi from 1810 had been renovated and the new structure was entirely built in marble. The richness of materials and the brightness of the immaculate white marble embody the eternal wealth and social position of the founders and the community. The temples also represent a particular phase in the visual language of Calcutta during the nineteenth century. It was the time when, through the interaction of Indian and European elements, a unique language of expression emerged and it could be felt in most sociocultural spheres such as art and architecture, education, food, fashion, entertainment, and so on . The temples, by blending the quintessentially Jain architectural elements with European architectural and visual languages, created a unique example of our hybrid modernity.

Fig. 3. Personal seal of Rai Bahadur Badridas Mookim. The design and colour scheme of the seal reflect the decoration of the Parsvanath temple (Courtesy: Sajendra Mookim)

The Man and the Myth: Biography of Badridas Mookim and the Problem of Writing History
The Parsvanath temple is closely associated with Badridas Mookim at various levels. In 1910, Mookim installed a statue of himself in the temple compound. The almost life-size kneeling statue with folded palms is placed on a dais with a lotus dome elevating the figure so, while Mookim is shown as a devotee, he sits at a height above the other devotees who come to worship at the temple. Perhaps not surprisingly, the domed altar appears to be a microcosm of the adjacent dadawadi. The whole arrangement is strategically placed right in front of the temple diagonally facing the idol of the main deity. Within the physical space of the temple, along with his abstract presence as the creator, the presence of Mookim as the ideal devotee was firmly confirmed. His iconised presence is becoming an integral part of the transcendental site of worship and, thus, his historical personality goes out of the mundane and becomes the material for myth.

How Mookim found the idol for the empty temple was an extraordinary event that places Mookim the devotee in a charismatic history. The booklet that was published by the temple trust on the occasion of the one-fiftieth anniversary of the temple in 2017 narrates the story behind the temple and the idol. After the temple was constructed, Mookim’s teacher Sri Kalyan Suriji advised him to embark on a journey to find the most suitable idol for the temple. Upon much searching, Badridas arrived in Agra. An unknown ascetic whom he met at a religious procession accompanied him into a temple inside a cave where he found an idol of Sitalnathji along with a burning lamp. Right after this discovery the ascetic vanished. Mookim carried the idol and lamp to the newly built temple and installed it. The akhyand jyoti (eternal lamp) has continuously been burning for more than 150 years. It is also said that the white shade hanging over the lamp would blacken only when the temple is tainted in any way.

The reasons behind narrating these myths of the mysterious holy man and the ever-burning lamp are manifold. Myths and legends have always been an integral part of popular imagination, especially when it comes to religious institutions, events, and personalities for it lends them legitimacy and a sense of timelessness. Personalities such as Mirabai, Kabir, and Gorakhnath or religious establishments like the Kali temple in Kalighat in Kolkata had to be mythicised. Very often, these legends gain legitimacy in the popular culture to be eventually assimilated as historical accounts.

This point brings us to our next reason, the concept of historicity in Indian context. History as the process of documenting past incidents through research was absent prior to the British coming to India. For Indians, past was a matter of legends, folklores and epic poems that were to be sung, recited, or told and could be changed as the audience or the patron demanded. When the practice of documenting history in written form was introduced, these myths and folklores, subjects of oral narrative traditions, easily found their way into actual events of the past. Thus, our sense of history was replete with stories of divine intervention, divine origin, and miraculous events. For example, Bengali linguist and author from Calcutta of the first half of the nineteenth century, Mrityunjay Vidyalankar’s Rajabali [17] , a Bengali book written in 1808 and thought to be the very first attempt to write a serialised history of India, and James Todd’s Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan [18] written in 1829 incorporate references to divine origin, mythical kings and beings, and then slip smoothly into describing events and people that historically happened or existed. In our collective consciousness, the mythical space and real space coexist peacefully and without question. The available biographies of Mookim follow the same structure, hence the incorporation of the miracles of the holy man and the lamp that clearly has elements from oral narratives within a very real chronological narrative of the temples.

In fact, we can guess how popular and well-received these miraculous incidents were when we find so many sources including the 1967 issue of the Calcutta Municipal Gazette (volume 86) promoting the story of the holy man and the lamp within the biographical notes of Mookim this is also done in both Wikipedia and a website called Encyclopaedia of Jainism. In Mrityunjay Vidyalankar’s Rajabali, we see that the Company rule was declared to be predestined because the British were sent by the Almighty to rescue Hindustan from the destructions caused by the sins of the Muslim rulers. [19] Divine intervention promotes the idea of the inevitability of a certain incident. The mysterious holy man choosing Mookim to unearth the hidden idol takes him within the realm of myths beyond the confines of reality and, in our collective popular imagination, establishes the idea of the inevitability of the existence of temple.

The problem with this kind of amalgamation of myths and history is that it tends to create a non-critical, myopic vision. Mookim was not exactly an obscure man from a distance past he existed less than 200 years ago. He, along with many others of his community, was actively involved in different philanthropic works in Calcutta and beyond, and his efforts were acknowledged. In 1871, he was appointed the Mookim of the British by Lord Mayo. In 1877, he was conferred the Rai Bahadur title by Lord Lytton during the historical Delhi Durbar on the proclamation of Queen Victoria as Empress of India. He was one of the founders of the Johari Bazaar Dharamkanta (weighing scale for heavy vehicles) Association and the Calcutta Pinjrapole (shelters for abandoned or sick animals, especially cows) Society. In 1873, he became the founder-president of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, the very first chamber of commerce in India. He was a renowned jewellery designer as well, and some of his designs were published in jewellery books in Germany. [20] He was one of the 36 members of a committee, which also included Madan Mohan Malavya that, in 1911, appealed to Harcourt Butler for a Hindu university in India the appeal that led to the foundation of the Banaras Hindu University in 1916.

Many contemporary books, encyclopaedias and collections of biographies such as Man in India (volume 67), The Golden Book of India, and so on mention Rai Bahadur Badridas Mookim and the Parsvanath temple. The author of Thacker’s Guide to Calcutta (1905), Reverent W. K. Firminger, in the section titled ‘Jain Temples’, had made an effort to locate the Jain temple and the Jains of Calcutta within the larger concept of Jainism by quoting passages from the annual address in the Bengal Asiatic Society (1888) on Jainism. He describes Mookim as ‘pride and ornament of the Jain community’ and ‘the prince of jewellers in Calcutta’ and then goes on to give a detailed description of the Parsvanath temple. [21] Other mentions of Mookim can be found in The Calcutta Weekly Notes (volume XXVI) that describes a high profile court case in 1919 involving the ownership of an ancestral nose ring and states that Mookim had estimated the value of said nose ring. [22] In her Thakurbarir Gagan Thakur, Purnima Devi, the daughter of the renowned artist Gaganendranath Thakur, mentions that Gaganendranath Tagore, in the spirit of nationalist idealism, got all her wedding jewellery made by ‘Badridas’ instead of Cooke and Kelvey [23] , the British owned clock-makers and jewellers there is no further information, but we can assume that this Badridas is indeed Rai Bahadur Badridas Mookim as, not only the name, but the profession and time period also match.

There is indeed some hagiographic accounts available on Mookim and some mentions of the Johari Sath community however, there has been no attempt to create a comprehensive history of either of them. The temple cluster was not the only achievement of the community the Johari Sath community happened to produce a number of people, along with Badridas Mookim, who were pillars of the sociocultural and economic structure of Calcutta. The founders of the other two temple of the cluster were renowned in their own rights. Both Sukhlal Johari and Ganeshilal Johari were wealthy merchants. Ganeshilal dealt in precious stones that he imported from Burma (now Myanmar) and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), among other places Sukhlal Johri’s influence in Calcutta can be gauged from the eponymous Sukhlal Johari Lane in the city’s Burrabazar area. (Fig. 4)

Fig. 4. Sukhlal Johari Lane in Burrabazar. A network of narrow lanes, this street has both shops and private houses. It is claimed that the private houses date back from the pre-Independence era. For more than 30 years, the lane has been called Sukhlal Johari, but the residents of the area are not aware of who Sukhlal Johari was (Photo Courtesy: Tri Paul)

Bengali literature of the nineteenth century across genres had invested considerable energy and time to engage with the exploits and antics of the Hindu elites both in positive and negative lights. Yet it was strangely silent about the Jain community and its leaders in spite of their immense contribution to the cultural and economic heritage of Calcutta. The Marwari Heritage, a book by business historian D. K. Taknet published in 2015, deals with the Marwari community and their history of migration, trade, and businesses and other involvements. As part of the Marwari community, the Jains who migrated from Rajasthan to Calcutta indeed feature in the book. The book mentions that by 1911, there were 15,000 Marwaris in Calcutta alone and 75,000 in the various states in the eastern parts of India. [24] But as the Marwari community includes both Hindus and Jains, and a minority belonging to other faiths, [25] it is not very clear how many of them were Jains and, specifically, the Johari Sath Jains. In fact, the Johari Saths and their activities have mostly escaped the attention of the large repertoire of scholarly and popular historical and ethnographic texts dealing with nineteenth-century Calcutta and the communities that helped build it.


The Golden Temple: Let There Be Light

One of the enduring images of the Golden Temple in Amritsar is of the glowing shrine at night, its shimmering reflection appearing like liquid gold in the Sarovar or holy tank that stretches out in front of it. It is therefore impossible to imagine the temple without its lights. When they are switched on at night, they not only highlight the temple’s magnificent architecture but also cast an ethereal glow on the spiritual centre of the Sikhs.

Yet, introducing electricity to the Golden Temple or Sri Harmandir Sahib marks a tumultuous chapter in the shrine’s history. After the idea was first proposed in the late 19th century, it sparked a raging war that divided the Sikh community down the middle and even saw some unflattering name-calling.

The controversy was so intense that the standoff lasted more than two decades. Eventually, when the temple complex was properly electrified, most homes in the city of Amritsar had already been using electricity for 13 years!

Before the Golden Temple was electrified, the shrine had been lit up in traditional ways. The sanctum glowed in the light of earthen lamps or diyas, day and night, and the parikrama or pathway around the temple was marked by candlelight. Sikh scholar Udham Singh says in his book, Report Sri Darbar Sahib (1926), that during the latter half of the 19th century, two sewadars or volunteers carrying silver plates with lit candles on them would position themselves next to the granthi Singh or scripture reader, who could then read the Hukamnama hymn from the Guru Granth Sahib.

However, after electricity was brought to Amritsar, it wasn’t long before a proposal to electrify the Golden Temple was tabled by the Sri Guru Singh Sabha, a Sikh-revivalist organisation set up in 1873 to oversee the transition of control of gurdwaras from the Udasi Mahants or priests to Sikh bodies. The organisation was also tasked with supervising the overall functioning of the Golden Temple, and it tabled its radical proposal at a meeting on January 23, 1896.

It was argued that electrifying the temple would not only enhance its beauty but also benefit the elderly and others who visited it late in the evening or the wee hours. The proposal found support among some members, including Colonel Jawala Singh, who had been appointed as one of the 11 members of the general committee of the Harmandir Sahib by the government.

Many influential Sikhs like Baba Khem Singh Bedi, a direct descendent of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, a businessman Sujan Singh from Rawalpindi, and Balwant Singh from Attari too gave their consent. Then, under Sardar Arjan Singh Chahal, an 11-member committee was set up to oversee the installation of electricity in the shrine complex.

The next step was to raise funds, so appeals were made in towns and villages for contributions towards this ambitious project. But the money raised wasn’t enough and they needed the support of the financially powerful, and who would be better to finance them than the kings of princely states! Thus, a delegation was sent to Raja Bikram Singh of Faridkot who assured them of financial support.

On April 25, 1897, representatives of the Raja told the Akal Takht, the highest religious authority of the Sikhs, that the Raja would contribute Rs 20,000 towards the temporary installation of electricity in the Harmandir Sahib, during the celebrations of the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria as the English monarch. If all went well, the Raja would then consider funding the permanent electrification of the temple complex.

Immediately, sparks began to fly and the debate around the electrification of their holiest shrine divided the Sikh community into two camps. Accusations were hurled, voices grew ever louder and there was much name-calling. Traditionalists even called the supporters of electrification ‘bijli bhakts’.

Hoping to put an end to the raging debate, in May 1897, three granthis or scripture readers of the shrine served a notice on the 11-member ‘lighting committee’ coordinating the issue, opposing the electrification proposal. It didn’t work.

On June 22, 1897, the diamond jubilee was observed in the Harmandir Sahib complex, where Prince Gajendra Singh, son of Raja Bikram Singh, was present. The temporary electrification had indeed gone through and electric bulbs were installed in a small area in the complex. They were powered by a private generator belonging to a wealthy banker from the city, Lala Dholan Dass. It was a historic moment – for the first time, electric lights were switched on in the holiest of holy gurdwaras.

But the mood was far from celebratory. While members of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha in Amritsar gloated over their ‘historic achievement’, the Lahore unit of the Sabha was furious at the development. On July 29, the executive committee of the Lahore unit officially recorded its disapproval with the lighting committee.

Even the high-profile Punjabi newspaper, Khalsa Akhbar Lahore, published a scathing editorial dated 6th August 1897, criticizing the use of electricity in the Harmandir Sahib. The editorial said that the Sikhs needed the light of the Guru’s blessings, not the invention of electricity. It added that the Harmandir Sahib wasn’t a museum that needed such novel displays and went on to add that, unlike traditional ghee diyas which could be used any time, electric lights would be subject to electricity cuts, which would disrupt the functioning and prayers in the shrine.

Neither was the Raja of Faridkot nor the Amritsar unit of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha moved. Raja Bikram Singh went one step further. When he visited Amritsar on 14th August 1897, he was told that those who had attended the diamond jubilee function at the shrine were so fascinated by the glowing Harmandir Sahib that they wished they could see it lit up again.

Standing in the courtyard of the temple complex, the Raja announced with much fanfare and drama, that as long as the Harmandir Sahib was denied electricity, his palace too would remain in darkness. Leaving everyone speechless, he announced a donation of 1 lakh rupees so that the much-feared innovation of electricity would be brought to the Golden Temple. The money was to also cover the costs of a new building for the Guru ka Langar or common kitchen of the shrine.

It was now an all-out war. The Khalsa Akhbar Lahore published another editorial, dated 20th August 1897, which while praising the Raja of Faridkot for his donation but did not spare those who had advised him to pledge the money. In the newspaper’s 27th August 1897 issue, three granthis of the Harmandir Sahib published a letter attacking the electrification proposal. Citing numerous accidents involving power lines and electric circuits in America and India, they pointed out that electricity posed a serious risk to life and the Harmandir Sahib itself.

Another article in the same issue of the newspaper pointed out that neither had the houses of worship of the Christians nor the Muslims been lit up with electric lights “in Bethlehem or Kaaba”, and “not one of them over 1,500 churches in London had been electrified, not even in Westminster Abbey”.

Some leading lights of the Sikh community made a much more poetic argument against a “useless extravagance” such as electricity in the Harmandir Sahib. It was also argued that electricity could dazzle the devotees and distract them when they prayed.

The advocates of electricity realised that they were not going to win this battle as the opposition had many influential Sikhs, including the granthis and custodians of most gurdwaras, on their side. Thus, for the next two decades, the traditional ghee lamp prevailed.

But the future began to look bright again, in the early 1920s, when the Akali Movement or Gurdwara Reform Movement, the political wing of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha, officially handed over control of the gurdwaras from the Udasi Mahants to a new Sikh body called the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which controls the functioning of gurdwaras even today.

Interestingly, Sardar Sundar Singh Majithia, the first prominent individual to argue in favour of the introduction of electricity to the holy shrine, became the SGPC’s first President in 1920. Besides, in the past two decades, the people of Punjab had begun to accept a more modern outlook to life and there was a new wave in favour of electrifying the Harmandir Sahib. This time, it didn’t flicker out like a candle in the wind.

Sikh scholar Giani Kirpal Singh mentions in his book, Sri Harmandar Sahib Da Sunhari Itihas (1991) that after important Gurdwaras in Amritsar, including the Shaheed Ganj Baba Deep Singh, Ramsar Sahib and Bibeksar Sahib, allowed their shrines to be lit up by electric lights in 1929, the following year, the Harmandir Sahib invited that much-despised, even ‘risky innovation’ into its holy precincts.

And where did they get the funds to execute the project? The money pledged by Raja Bikram Singh of Faridkot more than two decades earlier was finally withdrawn from Punjab and Sindh Bank! The Raja’s wish was finally being fulfilled. The records of the Harmandir Sahib state that the money was used to purchase all the electricity generation equipment and raw materials that were needed.

A new era had been ushered in for the Golden Temple. To light up the complex, electric poles connected by electric wires were installed at various places, including the four corners of the Sarovar, and various points in the parikrama of the shrine. One pole was placed between the Akal Takht Sahib and Darshani Deori Gateway of the Harmandir Sahib Sanctum two were placed in front of the northern and southern gateways, and the last was near the Ath Sath Tirath platform in the parikrama. When these lights first went on, in one swift action, the candles and diyas were extinguished forever.

Starting in 1943 and continuing over the years, many structures in the shrine complex, including the bungas or large mansions were demolished to make way for larger numbers of pilgrims and devotees. Among the many renovations carried out, the electrical system that lights up the Harmandir Sahib too has been upgraded.

But, in a fitting, sentimental gesture, the poles originally installed at the four corners of the Sarovar have been left untouched.

Aashish Kochhar is a history enthusiast from Amritsar who studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.


Amma Tookay Temple

Amma Tookay, a Form of Goddess Durga and Maha Kali (Kaalratri). Amma Tookay Temple, camp Diable (Mauritius). A pathway on both side with palm trees which takes you in front of an important enclosure, a main temple dedicated to Devi Durga and around a square located behind the small temples to pay homage to the main Gods : Shiva, Muruga, Ganesh, 7 form of Goddess Kali, and the Nav Graha.

It is while going to the discovery of the South of Mauritius that we made a very long break at Camp Diable, at the Amma Tookay temple which deserves a fairly long downtime! The Tamil temples are rich with statues of the Gods, colors and energy. This one offers a real trip from one God to another! They are all there!

Fields of sugar cane and suddenly a path of palm trees which takes you in front of an important enclosure, a main temple dedicated to Devi Durga and around a square located behind the small temples to pay homage to the main Gods : Shiva, Muruga, Ganesh.

A surprising environment for such a large temple, in the middle of the fields, in fact between Britannia and Camp Diable.

A mysterious temple . a legend tells that in the XIXth century when the laborers removed the stones to plant the sugar canes, one of them could not be removed, the owner of the land did not succeed either but brought bad luck after his trial that was fruitless! My grand parents told me that the owner kick the stone with his leg and later on he lost it.

Consequently, the inhabitants of the region saw a form of divine energy there and began to pray there. Subsequently, a temple was built around this stone which has a power but some say that it was not a stone but a statue of Amma Tookay. My grand parents added that the owner did repent to his mistake and ask for forgiveness to Goddess.

This temple with Dravidian architecture is superb. It is intended to honor Maha Devi Durga, the Supreme Goddess Durga, the mother of the universe.

Goddess Durga is also called Parvati,Jagadamba or Mahakali, it moves towards the ground on a lion, its animal, its mount (vâhana). In Sanskrit, Durga means “the inaccessible”.

She is revered in the form of Shakti (strength, energy or dynamism). Its ten arms hold its attributes, it brings together the strength of all the Gods, which is why it carries the trident of Shiva. It destroys demons and all evil energies and set up Dharma (righteousness)

I vividly remember my recent visit to this divine temple. A day that is as if it was yesterday. A memory that will always be attached to my soul. I was accompanied with my friend Yash, his mom and his other friends.

It was the 07th January at 11:15. I step out of the Car barefoot. Hot scorching sun, an amazing weather perfect for prayer. Listening to the sound of the bells, devotees walking to and fro. The smell of the camphor and the incense sticks awakening our inner self. we walk around the temple and then entered the temple. feeling mother Goddess closer. offering the Pooja samagri and oblation. A feeling that can’t be explain through words.

To all those who have good wishes to fulfilled, it is said offering red Sari, red bangles along one lemon, coconut and red Hibiscus flower. Begging mother wholeheartedly their wishes are fulfilled. It also break all evil spells and one can lead a prosperous life.


Sath Graha Temple (Front) - History


Guru Arjan Dev ji, the Fifth Nanak, conceived the idea of creating a central place of worship for the Sikhs and he himself designed the architecture of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Earlier the planning to excavate the holy tank (Amritsar or Amrit Sarovar) was chalked out by Guru Amardas Sahib, the Third Guru, but Guru Ramdas Sahib executed it under the supervision of Baba Budha ji.

The construction of Parikrama (circumambulatory) and the religious places around the tank were completed in 1784.


The Golden Temple, as is stands today with the luminous exterior plates with gold is chiefly the work of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. He took deep interest in getting the Temple artistically decorated .He invited skilled architects, masons and wood carvers from different part of the country. Yar Mohammad Khan Mistri was the technical expert for gold plating carried out in 1830. The entire Gold leaf covering was changed in 2003, exactly 173 years after it was first put into place.

At the top of the first floor 4 feet high parapet rises on all the sides which has also four 'Mamtees' on the four corners and exactly on the top of the central hall of the main sanctuary rises the third story. It is a small square room and have three gates. A regular recitation of Guru Granth Sahib is also held there. On the top of this room stands the low fluted &lsquoGumbaz&rsquo (dome) having lotus petal motif in relief at the base inverted lotus at the top which supports the 'Kalash' having a beautiful 'Chhatri' at the end.

All the time you are there, the sight of Temple is like the vision of a Devine Mansion, shining in the mist of morning, or disappearing in the twilight, that is truly unforgettable. Many a times in the Gurubani, there is such a Mansion of God where there is sacred music all the time and a great peace (So Dar Keha..)*

* So Dar Keha So Ghar Keha Jit Bah Sarab Sambhale
Vaje Nad Anek Sankha Kete Vavanhare
Kete Raag Pari Siun Kahian Kete Gavanhare
Gavahi Tuhno Paun Pani Baisantar Gave Raja Dharam Duare .

Where is that wondrous mansion and where the door
From whence Thou watch and sustain us all?
Where the innumerable melodies originate
Seemingly played by countless musicians
The countless "Ragas" sung by fairies
and other innumerable singers
Air, Fire and Water all Thy adore
With "Dharamraj" singing at Thy door .

For complete verse read the 27th Pauri of Japuji Sahib

Facing the Hari-ki-Pauri in the East across the Amrit sarovar is the wonderful Ath-Sath Teerath, a marble seat covered with a light canopy roof, the place where Guru Arjan Dev ji used to sit and supervise the construction work. To be able to come to Ath-sath Teerath and touch it with your finger is a blessing sought by devotees.

It rightly faces the Golden Temple. Built by the Sixth Guru Hargobind in 1609, has been the nerve centre or the Sikhism ever since. All commandments affecting the community as a whole were and are issued from here. The ground floor of the present building was constructed in 1874. Maharaja Ranjit Singh subsequently added three storeys. A number of weapons used by Guru Hargobind, Guru Gobind Singh and other Sikh heroes are preserved at Akal Takhat.


CHANDRAN MOON - THINGALOOR Temple

The temple for Soma (Moon), the 2nd of the navagraha is set in Thingaloor, Tamilnadu, India. It is dedicated to God Soma (Moon). “thingal” in tamil means “moon” thence the name Thingaloor. This is the second significant temple of navagraha. This is a Shiva sthalam and therefore the main idol within the temple is Kailasanathar or Lord Shiva who is accompanied by goddess Periyanakiamman. Like Guruvayoor, this temple is famous for Annaprasana (feeding rice to children) in Tamilnadu. Annaprasana is performed by people during the following stars days - Ashwini, Mrigasheersha, Uthiram, Swati, Tiruvonam, Sadayam and in the Chandra Hora time.

About the temple :

The temple of Lord Shiva, who presides as Lord Kailasanathar in Thingaloor, is about 1500 years old. Built in the seventh century by Pallava King Rajasimha, this ancient Shaivite shrine reflects the early Dravidian architecture. A huge Nandi is seen in the front, facing the temple. The Shodasa Linga (16-sided Shiva lingam) at the main shrine is formed out of black granite, which is a unique feature. The Thingaloor temple has a The 5-tier rajagopuram is surrounded by 2 prakarams. The place has been praised by the verses of The temple has shrines for God Shiva, who offers darshan in the form of Kailasanathar and deity Shakthi. The temple also has a separate shrine for the planet Moon, called as Thingal in Tamil. Chandran is mano karaka.

The sthala theertam is ChanthiraPuskarini The sthala vriksham is Vilwa.

About the deity :

The moon is one of the main elements in star divination. It is known as mano karaka. It rules the heart and mind. It guides mental stability and focuses on activities. It is said that Chandran changes from a zodiac sign to the next sign once in 2 and 0.5 days and is the basis of calculation in Vedic astrology. Happiness, contentment and granting boons are the main responsibility of the moon. It also controls human body fluids and health.

Legend :

According to the legend when the cosmic ocean was churned, God Vishnu, in the form of Mohini, a beautiful maiden was distributing the Amrutha (necter) amongst the devas. The whole idea was to ensure that the asuras didn't get the Amrutha. At the behest of Sukracharya, the asura guru, one of the asuras, known as Swarbanu disguised himself as a deva and tried consuming the nectar. Surya and Chandra noticed this and complained to God Vishnu, who inturn cut the head of the Asura with his Chakra. But by the time the Asura had consumed his portion of Amrutha and hence couldn't be killed. The Head joined with a snake's body and became Rahu. The body portion became joined with the snakes head and became kethu. Now Kethu and Rahu, wished to take revenge on Surya and Chandra. To escape the wrath of Rahu, it is at this temple that Chandra prayed to God Shiva and got his blessing and escaped from Rahu. Shiva also blessed Chandran by adorning him on his forehead. Another legend goes like this, there was once a person named Apputhi Adigal who was born in Thingalur, he was a vigorous devotee of Thirunavukkarasar, while never got a chance to meet the goodly soul in person. He did a great deal of welfare action in the place where he grew up in the name Thirunavukkarasar. Amid his visit to this holy town Thirunavukkarasar caught wind of Apputhi Adigal and visited his dwelling place agreed to share in the supper offered in his honor. Apputhi Adigal sent his child to the backyard garden enclosure to bring a plantain leaf in order to serve food for Thirunavukkarasar,. While in the process of getting the plantain leaf from the backyard, a snake bit him and the child passed away. Not wishing to disillusion his visitant, Apputhi Adigal secured the body of his kid and tried to serve the saint Thirunavukkarasar. Thirunavukkarasar insisted that the kid, ho was a namesake of himself, to join him for the lunch. Upon insisting on the same multiple times, Apputhi Adigal had to convey that the kid had died because of snake bite. Thirunavukkarasar immediately too the body of the child to the sanctuary of Lord Siva in Thingalur and revived the child singing and appealing the Lord with a Thirupadigam, which starts like this "Nadar mudi mel irrukum nalla pamba. ".

Festivals

The festivals that are celebrated in this temple are Mahashivarathri in the tamil month of Masi (February-March), Margazhi Tiruvadhirai (December-January), Panguni Uthiram in March-April, Tirutarthikai in November-December.

Significance:

The colour that Lord Chandran’s represents is white. He is offered with raw rice mixed with jaggery, white Arali (a flower), and white clothing. It is believed that this pooja removes obstacles in life. The gem stone Moon represents is Pearl and the directione he represents is North West.

The rays of the rising moon fall on Lord Shiva ( Kailasanathar in the tamil month of Panguni (March - April) on the Full Moon day ( Paurnami ) , The day before and on the succeeding day ( 3 day ) ). Poojas Performed on Full moon days every Mondays are very special in this temple.

Doshams related to psychological issues, mother, skin and nervous problems, jaundice, fluid accumulation are the diseases caused because of Chandra. By praying to Lord Chandran and doing the necessary pariharas, the above afflictions can be overcome.

Pooja Timings

The temple is open from morning 06.00 AM to 01.00 PM and in the evening from 04.00 PM to 08.00 PM.

Address:

Sri Kailasanathar Temple,
Thingalur,
Thanjavur.

Accessibility

By Air

The nearest airport to Thingalur Kailasanathar Temple is Thanjavur airport, which is 10 Km away from the temple.

By Train

The nearest railway station to Thingalur Kailasanathar Temple is Ariyalur railway station which is 29 Km from the temple.

By Road

Thingalur is well connected with road and plenty of buses are available to reach the temple. Thingalur is around 18 km from Kumbakonam of Thiruvayaru, Kumbakonam road.

Nearby Temple

Significance

Devotees visit this temple to seek fulfillment of the following:-

  • To get rid of doshams affecting the mother
  • To remove mental retardation
  • Skin problem cure
  • Neurological disorders relief
  • Blood disorder relief
  • wealth
Shlokas

Palasha Pushpa Sankaasham Taarakaa Graha Mastakam Rowdram Rowdraat Makam Ghoram Tam Ketum Prana Maa Myaham

Meaning - I pray to Ketu, who looks similar to the Palaasha flower, who is the head of the stars and planets, who is scary and violent.

Timings

This temple will remain opened from 7.00AM to 1.00PM and 4.00PM to 9.00PM.
Abishegam and arathanai can be done at the rate of Rs.300/-.


SRI KURMAM KURMANATH TEMPLE

Sri Kurmam is a village near Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh, India.

About the temple

According to inscriptions in the temple dated 1281 AD, the holy place of Kurmakshetra was reestablished by Sri Ramanujacharya under the influence of Jagannatha Deva at Jagannatha Puri. Later the temple came under the jurisdiction of the king of Vijayanagara. The temple is dedicated to Sri Kurmanatha, the second avatar of Lord Vishnu, Kurma Avatar. There is another temple of Kurmanatha in Kurmai of Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh,India. There is also a Yoganandha Narasimhan temple in front of Sri Kurmam temple. Simhachalam Devasthanam took the responsibility for the temple improvement. The moolasthanam (central piece) is considered to be large saligrama.

About the Deity

Lord Vishnu is worshipped in the form of the Kurma Avataara

Legend and stories

The most sacred and ancient shrine of sri kurmam, situated on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, is the only Swayambhu temple in the world where Lord Vishnu is worshipped in the form of kurma avataara (Tortoise – The second Incarnation of the famous Dasa Avataaraas). This ancient shrine is believed to be prior to the golden era of Sri Raama (Raama Raajyam). Prominent references about this shrine are available in Kurma , Vishnu, Agni, Padma, Brahmaanda Puraanaas. While the shrine is said to be more than a few million years old, outer structures were reconstructed many a time - after dilapidation of previous one, and the latest temple structure of outer walls is more than 700 years old. Legend says that during Kruta yuga, a pious king - Sweta Maharaj, observed fierce penance for many years. Fulfilling his wish, Lord Vishnu manifested (Swayambhu) here in the form of Kurma Aataar. Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe, officiated the celestial rituals and consecrated the shrine with gopaala yantra. Sweta Pushkarini (The Lake in front of the Temple) is formed by the Sudarshan Chakra. Sri Mahaa Laxmi (the consort of Lord Vishnu), emanated from this lake and is adored in the name of Sri Kurma Naayaki, in Varadaa Mudra posture seated on Garuda Vaahana.

Sri Kurmam shrine is believed to be the “moksha sthaanam” and the Sweta Pushkarini has cosmic cleansing powers. So, like in Varanasi, people perform the last rites of the deceased and drop (Nimajjan) the Asthikaas (ashes) in it, which eventually metamorphose into Saalagraamaas (divine stones). Even mother Ganga takes a bath in this lake every year on Maagha Shudha Chavithi (around February) to cleanse herself of all the sins left by the devotees. The Prasaadam of the lord is said to possess mystic curative powers – after taking this Prasaadam, the celestial dancer “Tilottama” became devotional and enunciated desires. King Subhaanga won the war, a devotee by name Vaasu Deva got leprosy cured.

Unlike many other temples , the presiding deity here is facing west and hence there are two “dwaja stambhaas” (flag posts) in east and west directions. This is also the reason to permit devotees to enter the “garbha graha” (sanctum sanctorum) for a closer darshan of the lord. This temple is known for its marvellous sculpture, particularly on the southern entrance, apart from the 108 pillars, where no single pillar is similar to the remaining. The unique stones on the floor in the pradakshina mandapam (Circumambulatory passage) are said to infuse magnetic energy into the devotees through their feet. The ancient mural paintings (frescoes) on these walls, made from natural colours, resemble those in ajanta – ellora caves. “kaasi dwaram” – the underground tunnel to varanasi in the north eastern corner of the pradakshina mandapam is another magnificent piece of ancient engineering skills. The entry is closed now, since many wild animals and snakes are entering the temple.

Many great people and holy sages offered their prayers in this shrine including, Lava & Kusha (Sons of Sri Raama, Belonging to Treta Yuga – More than a million Years ago) ., Bala Raama (Elder Brother of Sri Krishna, Belonging to Dwaapara Yuga – More than 5000 Years ago) ., Sage Durvaasa (More than 5000 Years ago) ., Sri Adi Sankaraachaarya (8th century AD) ., Sri Raamaanujaachaarya (11th century AD)., Sri Narahari Teerthulu (13th century AD)., Sri Chaitanya Mahaa Prabhu(1512 AD) etc. Sri kurmanadha is a great bestower of peace & bliss and is said to relieve the doshas related to saturn (Sani Graha Doshas).

To protect this temple from the foreign invaders during 11th - 17th centuries , like in many temples in south india, the locals applied lime stone mix on the entire temple complex and camouflaged as a hillock. The solidified limestone layers are still being peeled off now , and the same are visible even today on the temple walls. Temples are the pivots of hindu culture. Many of our fore fathers sacrificed their lives to protect these invaluable treasures for posterity. With only 3 of the 29 ancient civilizations remaining, and hinduism being one of them, the present generation has the inescapable responsibility to protect, if not further develop, and pass on to the next generations.

As the great sages said “conserve the nature – preserve the culture – to deserve a future”.

Many straws when twined together make a rope - many drops make an ocean, and your generous offerings, however small or big, will go a long way to safeguard our ancient temples like sri kurmam.

Festivals

Some of the main Festivals being celebrated in the Temple are the 3 day Dolotsavam (Falguna Paurnami - popularly known as Holi) , One day Annual Kalyanotsavam (Vaisakha Shudha Ekadasi) , One day Annual JanmaDinam (Kurma Jayanthi) Festival of Deity on Jyeshta Bahula Dwadasi, One day Festival on Mukkoti Ekadasi etc

Arti/Pooja/seva

Abhishekam (TiruManjanam)
Timings : Everyday Between 4.30 AM to 6.00 AM
Kalyanam Timings : Around 9 AM, only with prior bookings

Timing

Darshan is allowed from 6 am to 7.45 pm on all days,with very short intermittent closures for Poojas of the Deity. There is a facility for faster/special darshan, for those in a hurry, with special tickets at a nominal amount of rupees ten. Generally it takes less than 30 minutes for Darshan with all devotees being Allowed into the Sanctum Sanctorum (Garbha Gruha).

Accommodation

Devotees can choose from 3 options - At Srikurmam or at Srikakulam Town or at Visakhapatnam City. Staying at Srikakulam Town is most preferred in view of better Hygiene, Food Facilities (13Km, Travel Time – About 25 minutes., Buses – Cars – Autos are available). General individual room type Accomodation in TTD Guest House (7 Rooms - Rs 50 per room per day), Dormitory type accommodation in Tourism Guest House or 2 VIP rooms in Tourism Guest House are available at nominal rates. Please contact the Temple office for Reservations. Private Hotels/Lodges (Low End) are also available.

Accessibility

Sri Kurmam, situated on the shores of Bay of Bengal, is easily accessible by Road, Rail and Air. It is about 13 Km from the district Head Quarters town of Srikakulam, which is conveniently located on the National Highway 5 from Chennai to Kolkata. Visakhapatnam City is about 110 Km from the Temple. Ample Parking space is available in front of the Temple for Four/ Two wheelers (Self/ Chauffer driven).

Road

State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) operates Buses from Srikakulam Old Bus Stand to Srikurmam Temple every 10 minutes, and Non Stop Buses from Visakhapatnam RTC Complex to Srikakulam RTC (Main Bus) complex every 15 minutes. Easy choice is available on Local Taxis/ Autos etc.

Rail

The nearest Railway Station is called Srikakulam Road (Amadalavalasa village - Station Code CHE) which is on Chennai Kolkata Trunk Route and most Express/ Mail/ Special Trains have halts. It is about 12 Km from Srikakulam Town and 25 Km from the Temple. Regular city Buses/Auto Rickshaws/ Taxis are available.

Air

The Visakhapatnam Airport is the nearest and is about 115 Km from the Temple. Many Airlines have frequent flights and connect to major cities in India. Air India/ Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, Jetlite , Kingfisher, Spicejet, Indigo etc operate daily flights. A few International Airlines are planning to start their operations soon.

Address

Srikurmam Temple,
SRI KURMAM - 532404,
Srikakulam Dt.,
Andhra Pradesh,
INDIA.

Significance

Devotees visit this temple to seek fulfillment of the following:-

  • Fame
  • Freedom from diseases
  • Wealth
  • Courage
  • Relief from adverse effects from bad planetary aspects
  • Relief from bondage
Shlokas

Achutham Keyshavam Rama Narayanam Krishna Damodaram Vasudevam Harim Shridharam Madhavam Gopika Vallabham Janaki Nayakam Ramachandram Bhajey

Meaning - Oh Lord who cannot be perished, who also has names like Keshava, Rama, Damodara, Narayana, Sridhara, Madhava, Krishna, Ramachandra the beloved of Janaki, let me say your name regularly.

Vasudeva Sutham Devam Kamsa Chanoora Mardhanam Devaki Paramanandham Krishnam Vande Jagathgurum

Meaning - I bow to you O Krishna, the ultimate guru, Devaki and Vasudeva's son, and the destroyer of Kamsa and Chanur.

Adharam Madhuram Vadanam Madhuram Nayanam Madhuram Hasitam Madhuram Hridayam Madhuram Gamanam Madhuram Mathuraa Dhipate Rakhilam Madhuram

Meaning - Meaning - Sweet are Your lips, sweet is Your face, sweet are Your eyes, sweet is Your smile, sweet is Your heart, sweet is Your gait, O Lord of Mathura, everything about You is sweet.

Alokya Mathur Mukha Madarena Sthanyam Pibantham Saraseeruhaksham Sachinmayam Devam Anantha Roopam Balam Mukundam Manasa Smarami

Meaning - I think of this Balamukundan as the one who looks lovingly at his mother's face while taking milk from her, who has eyes similar to the red lotus, who is the embodiment of truth and intelligence and other forms.


Start time

Availability
Assemble place
Price starts
Language
Difficulty
Ratio
Possible extras

Highlights

  • The Holy Book Opening/Closing Ceremony, aka Golden Palki Sahib Ceremony
  • Backstage access to the world’s biggest community kitchen and the Langar Hall
  • Witnessing and performing volunteer work such as food making and dishes cleaning
  • Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Parikarma (encircling walkway), Watch Towers of Ramgarhia Bunga, Dukh Bhanjani Ber, the Ath Sath Tirath (68 holy places), Ber Buddha Ji
  • Main entrance, clock tower and the holy sarovar (Pool of Nectar)

Inclusions

  • English speaking guide as tour leader
  • History overview and explanation of interesting sites inside the temple
  • Sharing of pictures taken by tour leaders
  • Goods and Services Tax (GST) at 5%

What to expect

We will start our tour from the common assembly point at the entrance of the Saragarhi Sarai and then will walk all around heritage street to the Golden Temple. We reach the clock tower side of the Golden Temple and deposit our shoes. After entering from the northern side of the Golden Temple, we see the first glance of the temple while getting down from the stairs. Then we move towards the right (in an anti-clockwise direction) and pay our visit to the Ber Baba Budha Ji, an ancient banyan tree that was named after the first head priest of the Golden Temple

We will now walk to the entrance gate leading us to the bridge connecting the main temple monument. We walk down the bridge towards the sanctum, absorb the calmness and appreciate the inner beauty of the holy shrine. We will not talk much while being there since it might disturb other pilgrims who are offering their prayers. We will observe the gold plated walls and the beautiful limestone paintings enhancing the architectural value of the Golden Temple. After visiting the Golden Temple, we walk down again on the bridge towards the main square and take Holy Pudding as a token of blessing.

From there we move towards Akal Takht, the Throne of God, opposite to the bridge leading to the Golden Temple. This is the place where the holy book rests during the night. We will sit at a convenient place to look at the holy ceremony of the religious book.

It is here when our tour leader will explain the history of the Golden Temple and Sikh religion until the devotees bring a golden carriage and decorate it with flowers and scent to place the holy book, which marks the beginning of the Morning or Evening Ceremony. We will observe the various traditions and proceedings with this ceremony such as head priest of the holy shrine bringing the holy book out from Akal Takht or the main Temple, placing it over his head and then placing it inside the golden carriage. During this whole procession, there are the sounds of the drumbeat, trumpet, rose petal showers and people chanting holy hymns all around.

After the ceremony ends, we will walk towards the memorial that belongs to one of the greatest warrior and martyr who sacrificed his life in a war for the freedom of the Golden Temple from the invaders during the Mughal Rule. On the way, we will also visit the Dukh Bhanjani Ber (sorrow healer tree) and understand the history and significance of the holy pond.

It will then be time to go into the community kitchen, which is said to be the largest community kitchen in the world where food is served to nearly 100,000 pilgrims from all around the world for free. While moving through the kitchen, we will witness the chefs and volunteers preparing the dishes like lentils, puddings, roti, vegetables, and tea. We will also visit the second floor of the kitchen and witness the roti making machine, which can make as much as 6000 rotis in one hour.

With the intense feeling of spirituality, selflessness and deep respect for the volunteers, we will take rest as we sit inside the kitchen sipping into our cup of tea and try to find answers to our questions with the help of our tour leader as we recall all that we experienced in the last few minutes into our tour. After our discussions and reasoning, we will bid farewell to our group members and tour leaders and take back this overwhelming memory with us.

Private/Custom tour option

This tour is also available for reservation as a private or custom tour with a similar or modified itinerary, desired start time and duration. Contact us directly with your requirements.

Clothes and accessories

It is recommended to wear comfortable t-shirts, pants, and shoes. Clothes covering full arms and legs are recommended as they are mandatory to enter some of the religious places. During winters, it is also recommended to carry a warm jacket and hand gloves.

Avoid bringing heavy backpacks, camera bags, expensive clothes, and accessories on this tour. Avoid slippers or sandals and loose outfits as it may hinder the walking experience since the roads may not be even or smooth and clean.

Important Information

  • It is important to contact (call or WhatsApp) your tour leader 5 min before the tour starts if you cannot locate the assemble place. If in case you are going to be late to reach the assemble place, please contact your tour leader immediately
  • Please check the assemble place of your tour carefully. Some of our tours do not start at our hostel. In case you are staying at the hostel, you must gather in the common area at least 20 min before the tour starts so that we can arrange the transportation to the assemble place
  • Please be informed that since some of the tours don’t start from our hostel or may have external dependencies such as cab vendors, there may arise the chances of the tour starting late. We usually take a buffer of 15 minutes and catch up for the loss of time in such cases during the tour
  • Tours in other languages may be offered upon request
Other Information
  • Adult pricing applies to all travelers
  • Recommended not to bring anything heavy with you for a smoother and enjoyable tour. However, you may bring your phones, pocket cameras and some money (in case you would like to buy something on the way)
  • Recommended to leave all other personal belongings at your current place of stay
  • Operates in all weather conditions except rains. If canceled due to poor weather, you will be given the option of an alternative date or full refund
  • Please note that the street food and meals may not conform to recommended national or international standards of hygiene
  • Please advise any specific requirements at the time of booking. eg, allergies in food items, etc.
  • Recommended to use the toilets before joining for the tour
  • Required to accept the conditions mentioned in the WAIVER AND RELEASE OF CLAIM page



Disclaimer

All our tours are undertaken on the responsibility of its participants. City On Pedals does not assume any responsibility for accidents that are caused by its customers or can be traced to their own actions. Participants have to agree to the terms mentioned in our WAIVER AND RELEASE OF CLAIMS page before undertaking all trips which means that they realize that all activities carry an inherent risk.


Hindu temples in Switzerland

Hindu temples are spread all over the world. Even in far of countries like Switzerland Hinduism is quite rampant and hence we see a lot of temples constructed here. Here we bring to you some of the very famous temples in Switzerland.

  • Iskcon Krishna temple Switzerland– In 1980, the young Swiss Krishna conspirators decided to open a temple in Zurich.Through a series of fortunate circumstances, they were able to purchase an older villa at Bergstrasse 54 in Zurich. This central temple offered the Krishna-sanctified place for a larger temple community and also new possibilities to offer lectures and events. This increased the number of members within a few years, and the Krishna Temple on the Bergstrasse in Zurich soon became a city known address.
  • Sri Vishnu Thurkkai Amman Temple-The Sri Vishnu Thurkkai Amman Temple is a Hindu temple located in the municipality of Dürnten in the canton of Zürich in Switzerland. In the 1990s, an interreligious society was established in the canton of Zürich to support the foundation of a center for the spiritual and cultural care of Tamil people in Switzerland. So, the Sri Sivasubramaniar Temple in Adliswil was founded in 1994 as a non-profit foundation. While some 5,000 Indian Hindus in Switzerland founded their own cultural associations, but not a temple, the Tamil Hindus opened 19 houses of worship since the 1990s.

  • Bern Kalyana Subramanya Swami temple-The temple is on the first floor of a building. It is a small temple in size but maintained well. In the central garba griha (Sanctum Sanctorum) Subramanya swami with Valli and deivanai. To the left Nataraja and nagabushi to the right Ganapati. By the side of the main sannidhi, Nava Graha sannidhi is also there. The temple is open on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 6.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. On Fridays and festival days the temple will be open for more time.
  • Zurich Lord Shiva temple-The temple is on the first floor of a building. In the Garba Griha (Sanctum Sanctorum) behind the Shiva Lingam, Nataraja and Shakti are there. There are two Nandi’s in front of the Lord. By the side of the main sandhi, Nava Graha sandhi is also there. The temple is open on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays from 7.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. The temple will be open on the other important festival days also. On Fridays and festival days the temple will be open for more time. In the month of Markazi (Mid December – mid-January) the temple will be open in the morning also.

  • Hindu temple Basel– One of the interesting temples in Switzerland the present temple was created by the fusion of three existing temples. These include temples of Siddhi Vinayakar Alayam, Sri Raja Rajeswary Ambal Temple, and the Sri Subramaniar Temple. On July 4, 2004, the temple consecration took place, with Mandalâpisekam, a major purification, and sanctuary. At the end of 2008, the club received notice of termination because the site was sold. So he was looking for a new place. Since the end of March 2009, the temple at Milanstrasse 30 in the Basler Dreispitzareal is under construction.

These are details of some temples in Switzerland. Next times you plan a visit to that location do have a look at these places too.


When A Miraculous Incident Occurred During Abhishekam To Sri Varu In Tirumala Temple

This mind boggling miraculous incident occurred in 1981 during the most auspicious times of the annual Salakatla Tirumala Brahmotsavams and on the most auspicious day of Friday and during the most auspicious moments of the Abhishekam Seva that was being performed to Lord Sri Venkateswara in the Garbha Griha of Tirumala temple that day..

But before proceeding to read about this divine incident it’s important to know

What Exactly Is Abhishekam Seva That’s Performed To Sri Varu (Lord Sri Venkateswara) In Tirumala Temple Every Friday.

Abhishekham is not only the most popular seva among all the weekly Sevas performed to the moola virat Lord Sri Venkateswara in Tirumala temple but is also the most sought after Seva among His ardent devotees..

This rare seva is meant only for couples and as a ‘do not disturb’ rule, children below 12-years of age are strictly prohibited from taking part in this seva..

It is only during this auspicious Seva that a devotee gets a chance of his lifetime to view the real and the complete form of Lord Sri Venkateswara, which in spiritual terms is called the ‘Nija Roopa Darsanam’…

Therefore, there’s always a huge demand for this Seva and the tickets for the same, if you believe me, are booked as well as thirty to forty years in advance..

According to Vedic texts, anyone who views Lord Sri Venkateswara in His real form, as said above, will be emancipated from all the sins of this inhuman world and attains salvation (moksha).. PEACE

During this elaborate Seva, that is performed for about ninety minutes in the early morning hours after the Suprabhatha Seva, Thomala seva and Archana seva every Friday, the diamond crown, all the finery, all the jewelry and all the rich silk clothes worn by the holy Lord Venkateswara would be removed first, and then the process of the Sacred Bath to the Lord is begun by the designated priests of the Tirumala Temple.

During this sacred bathing process, while some priests perform the bathing to the Moola Virat, the others stand in front of Him and recite Purshasukta, Narayanasukta, Srisukta, Bhusuktha, Neelasuktha and some select Pasurams from the Divya Pradbandhams.. This entire process is called the Abhishekam Seva ..

During this seva, firstly Sri Varu is ceremoniously bathed with the holy water, that is traditionally brought by a temple priest from the Akasha Ganga teertham, and later with Civet Cat oil called the Civet Vessel, the aromatic Musk called the Musk vessel, pure milk and honey in addition to many other aromatic oils.

A huge bronze vessel, traditionally called a Gangalam, would be placed at the entrance of the Garbha Griha of the temple to facilitate the participating devotees offer milk to the holy Lord.. The temple priests in turn use this same milk for bathing Sri Varu during the Abhishekam..

After the entire Abhishekam process is complete, Sri Varu is draped with rich Silk robes called the ‘Pattu Peethambarams’.. Here a few devotees are offered an opportunity to present these silk robes to the holy Lord Sri Venkateswara..

This seva is called the ‘Vasthralakarana Seva’ or ‘Mel Saatthu Vastram’ which in Tamil language means ‘the cloth that adorns the exterior body’..

Although it is an an extended part of the Abhishekam seva, this ‘Vasthralakarana Seva’ to the holy Lord is performed as a separate seva.. Only eight tickets per week are sold to eight couples.. These couples too are selected on the basis of a lottery system.. Each Ticket for this particular seva costs about INR 12,250 and currently has a waiting list of seven years..

These selected eight couples would then be kept ready to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Tirumala Temple by the end of the Abhishekam seva.. Later, at the time of entering the temple, while the husband carries the silk robes on his head, the wife carries a silver plate in her hand..

Later, this couple partakes in a small worship to the holy Lord after which the wife collects the silk robes from her husband places them in the silver plate in her hand and then carefully hands it over to the temple priests who in turn decorate the holy Lord with those robes.

As is customary in Tirumala temple, the Executive Officer of the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams Board too attends all these sevas every Friday, along with his wife.. This is a facility the TTD board offers to all it’s Executive Officers as long as they hold the designated office of the TTD board.

And Now This Is What Exactly Had Happened During That Abhishekam Seva On That Eventful Friday..

On the early hours of that Friday, during the annual Tirumala Brahmotsavams of 1981, the entire sacred Tirumala hills were alive and active with the echoing of ‘Govinda’ namam by hundreds of thousands of devotees who had specially come from many parts of the world to witness the Brahmotsavams.

And during those precious moments, the Abhishekam seva to Sri Varu was about to begin in the Garbha Griha of the Tirumala Temple.. The small area in front of the Garbha Griha was fully occupied by the ticket holding couples (arjitha grihasthas) who had specially come there to witness the Abhishekam seva that day.

PVRK Prasad, the Executive Officer of the TTD Board and his wife Gopika were sitting in the front row of the participants waiting to witness the Abhishekam.. Finally, the countdown for the most awaited seva had begun in the Tirumala Temple as the musicians started playing the traditional musical instruments (mangala vayidyams) to please the holy Lord..

After a few minutes, the closed door curtain of the Garbha Griha was opened and the devotees were given the opportunity of their lifetime to view the divya mangala swaroopam of the holy lord Sri Venkateswara .. Going into raptures all those devotees started chanting loudly the sacred ‘Govinda Namas’.

The Abishekam Seva Was About To Begin..

There was great excitement and curiosity in each and every devotee’s face there.. Silently offering prayers to their beloved Lord Sri Venkateswara, the devotees were eagerly waiting for the commencement of the most auspicious process of their lifetime they all have been so eagerly waiting for years, to witness..

But quite surprisingly, although the dotted line to commence the Abhishekam seva has arrived, the seva had not commenced yet.. The devotees may not know about the exact time of the commencement of the seva but as the Executive Officer of TTD, Prasad certainly knows.

He also knows that it is on the same dotted line that the Abbhishekam to Sri Varu was beginning to be performed for the last several centuries and there’s no evidence in the records that it missed the line anytime..

Then “why today” he thought.. As he was so thinking, he suddenly found the Jeeyangar in a serious discussion with the priests inside the Garbha Griha of the temple.. Later, shocking Prasad furthermore, the door curtain of the Garbha Griha was closed again.

What Is Happening Inside And Why Is The Delay.

Although worried, Prasad still waited for the commencement of Abhishekam for a few more minutes.. He then saw a couple of assistant priests going out, carrying two large tumblers in their hands, and quickly returning with two other different tumblers.

Smelling something wrong, Prasad then turned his head and found Seshadri, the then Peshkar of the TTD board – who is now more popularly known as dollar Seshadri – and other temple staff hurriedly and worriedly loitering around.

Unable to understand what was happening around him, Prasad called a priest and asked, ”..why the delay and what’s happening..”.. The priest hurriedly said, ”Nothing sir.. we are commencing the Abhishekam in two minutes..” and rushed inside..

“When everything is arranged and kept ready much in advance by my staff for the Abhishekam, then why is this delay today and what is that they are all waiting for” a worried Prasad looked around..

He then saw a few more large tumblers coming in and going out.. He worriedly looked around again and saw many confused TTD faces all around him..

Prasad’s wife Gopika,who witnessed the Abhishekam seva many times before,along with her husband, knows well what time the seva commences in the Temple.. Therefore she too was worried a bit with that unusual and unprecedented delay..However,she remained quiet as she didn’t want to bother her already worried husband..

Finally..

After a few more minutes of uncertainty and a few more minutes of silent waiting, the Abhishekam seva finally commenced, much to the delight of the devotees and much to the relief of Prasad and Gopika..

Following all the rituals in the texts and with complete spiritual discipline, the priests started performing the Abhishekam seva to Sri Varu with utmost perfection..

One after the other, the priests bathed the holy Lord with water and with all the other ingredients but when it came to using milk, they were using it in small quantities and not in large quantities that they normally use every Friday.

(Normally about 250 liters of pure Milk is used every Friday, during the Abhishekam, but surprisingly on that day only a little quantity of five liters was used..)

The devotees may not have noticed the difference but the meticulous PVRK Prasad and his wife Gopika have certainly noticed it..

“Why only a few Conches of milk is used to bath Swamy Varu today.. What happened to all the milk.. Something went wrong somewhere and these people are hiding it from me.. But what went wrong.. What is happening.. Is Sri Varu upset with anything here.. If so, why this sudden shortage of milk.. And why is that they have not reported this matter to me earlier..”

Prasad was a worried man.. A disturbed man.. And a restless man.. He was very uneasy with himself and sat through the entire sacred process with great restlessness..

Finally, after the Abhishekam seva was complete, a fully fretting and fuming Prasad hurriedly walked out of the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Tirumala temple, along with his wife Gopika, and immediately called for all the temple priests, Jeeyangar and peshkar and all the staff in-charge of the Abhishekam seva for an explanation meeting in front of the Maha Dwaram of the Tirumala Temple.

All of them came running out and stood silently in front of Prasad.. Looking seriously at them and with a great difficulty trying to remain composed, Prasad said.

”..This glorious Tirumala Temple has thousands of years of spiritual history and we all are honored to be HIS servants.. We should feel proud that we got such a noble opportunity to serve Him and His devotees in our lifetime..”

“And as far as I know, this Abhishekam seva, ever since it was introduced in 966 AD, is being performed strictly on time and strictly according to the rituals prescribed in the texts.. Then why is that it is delayed today and why is that only a little quantity of milk is used to bath Swamy Varu today..”

No one uttered a word, as Prasad continued..

“..I know we use 250 liters of milk every Friday then why so less today.. What happened to all that milk.. Which cat consumed it.. Please explain.. You all owe me an explanation.. You also need to remember that am in turn answerable to my higher authorities for this unprecedented occurrence..”

There was an absolute silence there for a few embarrassing moments.. Everyone just remained silent looking at each other’s face.. Gopika too was very much disturbed and speechless.. Then breaking all the silence the Peshkar Seshadri said..

“..Sir,there’s no mistake from any one of us here.. Normally our TTD dairy farm supplies the milk to our temple and also to all our canteens here.. Unfortunately,the milk that was supplied today was alright until we carried it into the Garbha Griha but surprisingly our honorable priests found it split just before the commencement of the Abhishekam..

Since it is inauspicious to use split milk for the Abhishekam of Sri Varu, we immediately rushed our temple staff to procure milk from our canteens.. That milk too, which was fine until it was brought to the Garbha Griha, is found split just before the Abhishekam.. We didn’t know what to do since we didn’t had any milk left with us anywhere..But..”

The Peshkar was about to say something more but a fully raged PVRK Prasad interrupted him saying, “when so much of drama is happening here in the Temple what’s that our dairy farm superintendent is doing .. Is it not his duty to supply pure milk to the Temple.. It means he failed in his duties”..

Then furiously turning towards his secretary, Prasad said in an angry tone.. ”Holding the superintendent of our TTD dairy farm morally responsible for this unpleasant incident today, am suspending the superintendent from all his duties with immediate effect.. Quickly prepare a note and send it to me for endorsement..”

And suddenly shocking everyone around..

Gopika, wife of PVRK Prasad, who was until then observing the whole drama with a disturbed mind broke down with unstoppable tears.. Weeping loudly she told her husband,

“We are attending the Abhishekam seva ever since you assumed the office here in 1979.. Ever since, you know well, we have been planning to contribute,on our family’s behalf, five liters of milk to Swamy Varu for Abhishekam on one Friday but every time we are forgetting to do so and attending the Abhishekam for the last two years..

Both of us thought we should at any cost offer milk today and I have in fact ordered for five liters of extra milk only for this purpose and kept it ready at our home for Abhishekam but forgot again while coming in the morning today..

I was too busy with guests at home, who had come to attend the Brahmotsavams, and hurriedly came to the Temple with you in the morning.. This shortage of milk wouldn’t have occurred if I had brought those five liters of milk today..

I think I have sinned in my life therefore Sri Varu is punishing me this way by making me forgetful every time we come to the temple.. Otherwise why is this happening to us so frequently..”, saying so, Gopika broke down into endless tears.

Then leaving everyone around him speechless and sending them into a state of utter shock this was what the Jeeyangar had finally said,

“Amma.. Don’t worry.. It’s all your beloved Swamy Varu’s leela.. The Peshkar was about to tell that but Sri Prasad interrupted him.. Actually when we were left with no more pure milk to offer to Swamy Varu today, we were all much worried with the unforeseen development..

We then called your assistant to find out if there’s any extra milk available in your house.. He rushed to your house and asked your family members.. They then gave him the special container, in which you have stored the five liters of milk, saying “your Gopika madam kept this milk for Abhishekam today and forgot to take it with her..

Then your assistant quickly brought that milk container to us.. Since we aren’t left with any other milk we have used only those five liters of milk that had come from your house in Abhishekam to Sri Varu today..”

The Jeeyangar hasn’t completed what he was saying but a much delighted Gopika quickly turned towards the Golden Gopuram of the Tirumala Temple and stood silently, offering her prayers to her beloved Lord Sri Venkateswara, until the suspended dairy farm superintendent came running there..

Almost weeping he offered his apologies to Prasad and said. “..Sir am working in TTD for the last twenty five years and there was never a single remark against me.. Such kind of an error never occurred before at least not in my service.. Am unable to understand how it all happened today sir..

“Sir, as I do everyday I have supplied the same milk to the Temple and also to our canteens this morning .. When Gopika madam asked for additional five liters of milk, I have sent the same milk to your house as well.. But that milk did not split.. It means there’s no mistake from my side sir.. When there’s nothing from..”

Prasad didn’t allow the TTD dairy farm Superintendent to say what he wanted to say, however, he quickly revoked his suspension order..

Why only the milk supplied to the Temple and the canteen was found split. And why is that the five liters of milk supplied to PVRK Prasad’s house didn’t split. Who gave the idea to the temple priests to send the assistant to Prasad’s house for milk.

Who can provide answers to these questions. Can any atheist or a Nobel Laureate have answers to these questions. .Or

” Sri Padmanabha, Purushottama, Vasudeva, Vaikunta, Madhava, Janardhana, Chakrapani”

will come and answer. Who will tell us. And who knows.

Now, please Click Here to buy God On Call, a powerful book on Lord Venkateswara with 12 more such spellbinding stories and the life changing Sri Venkateswara Maha Mantra Puja.


Watch the video: THIRUVENGADU - The Lord Bhudhas Temple The Planet Mercury