Once again, I am before my Lord, Sri  Ananthapadmanabha,  Oh, what a majestic pose and what a royal look! I have stood like this several time before my Master, enjoying His grandeur  profile,  admiring the awesome ‘ananthsayanam’, the reclining posture on a multi-hooded mammoth snake, with the celestial consorts close by and surrounded by Devas and Rishies, saints and celestial luminaries . Every time I am rejuvenated, relaxed and long to wait in eternity in His royal court awaiting His orders

I remember the words of my father in law, who took me for Padmanabha’s  blessings direct from the wedding hall along with his daughter who had just became my wife:

“ When you worship Padmanabha remember that you are worshipping 10008 salagramams , bought with great religious fervor on elephants, from the banks of the river Gandhaki in Nepal. Those sacred stones are the base for the composition of the idol along with tons of gold. The admirable outside shape with a lustrous dark polished surface is generated with the help of an ayurvedic mix applied skillfully over the saligrama formulation strengthened  and complemented by sufficient quantity of gold. The medicinal mould called ‘ katu sarkara yogam’ was obviously an ingeniously conceived plan to avoid the prying eyes of the invaders who attacked the city and also to protect the idol from insects.  No ‘Abishekam’ is performed for the idol for which a separate golden idol is used.”

The sanctum is intentionally illumined moderately with dazzling oil lamps and the impact created by avoiding powerful mechanical devices is immense. It creates an ethereal aura and sublime ambience suited for concentration on the object of worship and facilitate meditation

The mammoth, eighteen feet long, majestic idol  aesthetically embellished with gold and stone has to be viewed through three doors .

Why three doors? I ask myself?  Is it to indicate the God’s Perennial status- ‘Adi, madhyantha rahitham’ as Swathi Thirunal sings? Or to emphasize that He is the ‘bootha, bhavaya, bhavath prabhu’-Master of past, present and future as the grandeur of Kuru clan ,Beeshma proclaims?  Is it to clarify that He is approachable through all the three ‘gunas’ or characters,  “sathwik, rajo and thamas”-saintly, human and satanic?. Or could it be an indication of the presence of all the three Gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva inside the sanctum?

Through the first gate, I see His head supported and hooded by the coiled mammoth serpent. The face is extremely attractive, with prominent nose, well chiseled ears, lovely long eyes and lavish hair lock and  forehead .The hands are long  with ornamented fingers, the right hanging down on the Sivalingam.

Through the middle gate, I see the long stem of lotus originating from His Nabhi or naval projecting on its flower the four -headed Brahma, the Lord of creation. The dazzling golden idol of Mahavishnu,  is in the center, tastefully decorated with flowers and ornaments and two colourful ‘ona vals’ ornamental swords offered by the devotees specially on the occasion of onam festival. The divine consorts are remain close to their Lord

Through the third gate, I see the lower portion of the body, the legs covered with colourful silk clothes and the feet and toes adorned by flower garlands, where Archana is performed. “Brahma kadikina padamu, Brhamamuda na nee padamu”- unknowingly flows the immortal song of Annamacharya from  my lips.

The shining huge idol is a black beauty.  Every limb has its own prominence and attraction and the overhaul appeal is awesome.. In Guruvayoor, I am tempted to embrace the small idol of Unnikrishnan, whereas here, I would prefer to stand at a distance with closed palms and view with awe and respect the divine charm in a reclining posture, enjoy the sculptured melody and experience immeasurable mental peace and spiritual solace.

While accepting the prasadam, ‘raktha chandanam’ or red sandalwood paste along with thulasi leaves, on a cut plantain leaf offered by the Nambudiri standing near the feet of the deity, I sing spontaneously, ‘Bhogeendra sayinam’ that immortal creation of Maharaja Swathy Thirunal. How lucky the royal composer cum singer was to sing his own krithy, the song penned by him, before his favorite deity!

“Give a nano gram of your strength and swiftness, vigor and vitality !” I plead to the dazzling majestic  Narsimhamoorthy, the incarnation of man cum animal manifestation, symbolizing the true nature of humans ( and to some extend, animals too?), seated at the southern entrance to inner shrine of Sri. Padmanabaha. The great Sankaracharya could say that more beautifully, more precisely and more poetically.“Give me your hand, God! ‘Lakshmi Nrismha mama dehi karavalambham.”

While coming out, comes across a familiar face with powerful eyes, attired in an unfamiliar style and followed by a big group of Ayyappa devotees. Despite his dark dress and dangling rosaries over the spacious tummy, I could locate my class mate. I  wanted to shout, ‘Adea Viddi Venkittu’ but control my temptation to address him as a fool as we used to do in the school, chiding his orthodox ways and over enthusiastic exhibition of caste symbols and other ‘appavithanam’, foolish behavior in the class, but control my temptation considering the sanctity of the place and his attire.

“ Swamy saranam; follow me ayyappas”, he instructs others, “ Keep apart one rupee as guru dakshina, form groups of three and silently (!) do saranam vili ( chanting  God’s name). I will join you shortly”

“You want me too join them and pay you the fees?” I ask him.

“ No” . Holding my hands he leads me  to the small parapet wall bordering the ‘prakaram’(outer corridor)

“Tell about you.” He asks for my life story, “from the day I absconded”. I brief him.

His followers come and hand over the coins they had earmarked for the ‘guru swamy’ but complain that they could not form the group of three as they were short of one person.

“What a pity!” The guruswamy expresses his disappointment and chide the followers. “ Why did you not take  Lord Ayyappa as the third partner? Despite following me to the holy shrine for many years, you have not attained the stage where you could feel the presence of the God at every step, along with you”.

I was awestruck. Is he divine or a man of  deceit?

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