A spir­i­tual jour­ney

A son shares the story of his pil­grim­age to his fam­ily’s an­ces­tral tem­ple.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Travel - By KANNAN PASAMANICKAM star2­travel@thes­tar.com.my

MY son Rueben and I went on a trip to In­dia re­cently, to the vil­lage where my fa­ther was born. He passed away in May last year, and some Hin­dus be­lieve that prayers said at the an­ces­tral tem­ple (ku­ladeivam) by one’s descen­dants af­ter one’s death would pro­vide easy pas­sage to the soul.

So, Rueben and I set out to pray for my late fa­ther at our ku­ladeivam.

Along the way, we prayed at an­cient tem­ples and churches, saw wild pea­cocks in padi fields, stayed in 100-year-old ho­tels, met old rel­a­tives and tucked into ex­cel­lent South In­dian cui­sine. The trip ex­ceeded all our ex­pec­ta­tions.

Our jour­ney started in the holy town of Ve­lankanni in the Na­ga­p­at­tinum dis­trict of Tamil Nadu, where the Vir­gin Mary is said to have made an ap­pear­ance. I was awed by the droves of peo­ple who had gath­ered to pray and seek blessings at the fa­mous 400-yearold Basil­ica of Our Lady of Good Health.

I wit­nessed the faith of many pil­grims as they per­formed pe­nance by walk­ing on their knees on the 1.5km hot sandy path lead­ing to the church; many had blood­ied knees at the end of their jour­ney.

The next part of our jour­ney took us to the 2,500-year-old tem­ple city of Madu­rai. We stayed at the Her­itage Madu­rai Ho­tel; this 6.9ha re­sort is a 100 years old.

At the re­cep­tion area is the Pea­cock Door, which guarded the en­trance to the Mayur Palace Fort in the 1700s.

Every morn­ing, guests are treated to a sump­tu­ous, com­pli­men­tary South In­dian break­fast which in­cluded idli, tho­sai, vadai and ut­tap­pam, ac­com­pa­nied by sam­bar and chut­ney.

At night we said our prayers at the splen­did Meenakshi Am­man Tem­ple (orig­i­nally built in the 6th cen­tury BCE), ded­i­cated to the god­dess Meenakshi and her con­sort Lord Shiva. Among the ar­chi­tec­tural won­ders found within this tem­ple is the beau­ti­ful “thou­sand pil­lared hall”, sup­ported by 985 carved pil­lars.

The fol­low­ing day, we vis­ited St Joseph’s School for the Blind, a res­i­den­tial school run by the Servite Sis­ters. Be­sides ba­sic liv­ing skills, this char­ity teaches blind chil­dren from the sur­round­ing ar­eas read­ing, typ­ing and com­puter lit­er­acy us­ing Braille. It was in­spir­ing to see sev­eral blind teach­ers, hard at work train­ing the chil­dren.

Our fi­nal des­ti­na­tion was Karaikudi, in the heart of Chet­ti­nad. It’s the home of the Nat­tukot­tai Chet­tiars, a pros­per­ous bank­ing and busi­ness com­mu­nity. Chet­ti­nad is also known for its lo­cal cui­sine (Chicken Chet­ti­nad is well known to many Malaysians), ar­chi­tec­ture and tem­ples.

So as not to trou­ble my rel­a­tives, we stayed at the Saratha Vil­las, a beau­ti­ful old Chet­tiar man­sion re­turned to its for­mer glory by its cur­rent French owner. This man­sion has a link to Malaysia as its orig­i­nal owner had made his for­tune in Me­laka. Guest rooms sur­round an open air cen­tral court­yard where guests are served aro­matic In­dian cof­fee in the morn­ings.

I made it a point to get up be­fore dawn to per­form my yoga ex­er­cises and then set out for a walk in the coun­try­side, just as the sun was com­ing up. Vil­lagers were bathing and wash­ing their clothes in the large ponds in front of the old tem­ples.

One beau­ti­ful old tem­ple in the vil­lage stood out from the rest, as it cast its per­fectly sym­met­ri­cal re­flec­tion in a pond in front of it. The other great find was wild pea­cocks strut­ting around and feed­ing in the sur­round­ing padi fields.

Af­ter my morn­ing walk, I had a sump­tu­ous Chet­ti­nad break­fast wait­ing for me at the ho­tel. We were spoilt by wait­ers who would linger while we de­voured our crispy hot tho­sai and then served us pip­ing hot ap­pam with fresh co­conut milk, sweet paal pani­yaram, and then fresh yo­gurt with honey. Break­fast would end with more In­dian cof­fee with cow’s milk and fresh lo­cal fruits, in­clud­ing de­seeded pomegranates.

The next day, we drove to the vil­lage where my fa­ther was born, R. S. Man­galam, about 70 km south of Karaikudi. Along the way we chanced upon an­other beau­ti­ful old tem­ple – the Adhi Ratneswarar tem­ple, ded­i­cated to Lord Shiva. It’s one of 14 tem­ples ded­i­cated to Shiva, men­tioned in an­cient hymns by the Tamil poet Sam­ban­thar.

The splen­did an­cient Dra­vid­ian ar­chi­tec­ture and the cool quiet am­bi­ence of the tem­ple in­voked a great sense of peace as we sat and prayed. A group of devo­tees was per­form­ing the Kummi Adi dance, an an­cient vil­lage dance where women dance in a cir­cle, clap rhyth­mi­cally and sing songs.

We fi­nally reached the small tem­ple where my an­ces­tors had prayed, our ku­ladeivam. I was told that it is a duty for every Hindu to to find and pray at the ku­ladeivam at least once in his/her lifetime.

We also found the house where my fa­ther had been born 94 years ago; it was a emo­tional mo­ment for me.

The house was well pre­served and only some mi­nor ren­o­va­tions had been done.

Re­turn­ing to Karaikudi, we stopped by De­vipat­ti­nam, a hum­ble coastal vil­lage, to pray at the Nav­a­graha Tem­ple. The tem­ple, ded­i­cated to the nine ce­les­tial plan­ets, is unique be­cause it is com­pletely sub­merged in the sea. It is also said to be an aus­pi­cious place to say prayers for de­parted an­ces­tors.

At Karaikudi, my cousin’s wife pre­pared a fab­u­lous Chet­ti­nad briyani din­ner feast for about 120 rel­a­tives, whom I had not seen for 50 years.

We re­turned home two days later – phys­i­cally, emo­tion­ally and spir­i­tu­ally sat­is­fied.

The views ex­pressed are en­tirely the reader’s own. En­joyed your hol­i­day and ea­ger to share your story? We’d love to hear what made your trip so spe­cial. You can also share your in­sights and use­ful tips. Your story (in Word or text for­mat only) should be about 600-800 words long, with at least seven pho­tos (1MB). There is no pay­ment for sub­mis­sions. We re­serve the right to edit all sub­mis­sions. Send your story to: star2­travel@thes­tar.com.my.

Devo­tees do­ing pe­nance on the path to the Basil­ica of Our Lady of Good Health.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.