Temple towers / Gopurams

Hurray! This is the 100th post in my blog and this is really special, and by coincidence the topic says it…quite a big achievement 🙂

We visited several temples during my travelogue during the past few days and I posted the photograph of the corresponding temple tower or gopuram in my corresponding posts. Now, let’s go into some details as to what these gopurams are about, their significance and the height of these monuments in several magnificent temples.

Some prominent temple gopurams

Gopuram or gopura (Sanskrit: गोपुरम्, gopuram) is a monumental entrance tower, usually ornate, at the entrance of a temple, in the Dravidian architecture of the Tamil NaduAndhra PradeshKeralaKarnataka, and Telangana states of Southern India. They are topped by the kalasam, a bulbous stone finial. They function as gateways through the walls that surround the temple complex.  Another towering structure located towards the center of the temple is the Vimanam. Both of them are designed and constructed as per rules given in the texts of Vaastu shastra

The Tamil derivation is from the two words: கோ (kō) and புறம் (puram) meaning ‘king’ and ‘exterior’ respectively It originates from the Sangam age when it was known as ஓங்கு நிலை வாயில் (ōnggu nilai vāyil) meaning ‘imperishable gateway’.

An alternative derivation is from the Sanskrit word gopuram, which can be broken down to go (Sanskrit: गो), which means either ‘a city’ or ‘a cow’, and puram (Sanskrit: पुरम्), ‘a town’, or ‘a settlement’.

Vimanam means measure, indicating the number of measures made in the construction and design of that structure. Gopuram consist of two words, gawa and puram, meaning the place from which all the energy that exists in all living beings comes inside.

The below information lists the height of the gopurams of various temples (in descending order):

1. Sri Ranganathaswamy temple, Srirangam, Trichirapalli, Tamil Nadu – 236 ft (71.93m)

2. Annamalayyaar temple, Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu ,
(Pancha Bhootha Sthalam) – 217 ft (66.14m)

3. Brihadeeswarar temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu – 216 ft (65.84m)

4. Thiruperundhurai temple, Aavudaiyaar Koil, Tamil Nadu – 200 ft (60.96m)

5. Kasi Viswanathar temple, Thenkasi, Tamil Nadu – 178 ft (54.25m)

6. Meenakshi Amman temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu – 170.6 ft (52.0m)

7. Andal Temple, Srivilliputhur, Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu – 164 ft (49.99m)

8. Rajagopalaswamy temple, Mannargudi, Tiruvarur, Tamil Nadu – 154 ft (46.94m)

9. Sarangapani temple, Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu – 147 ft (44.81m)

10. Thillai Natarajar temple, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu – 140 ft (42.67m)

11. Thanumalayan temple, Suseendram, Kanya Kumari, Tamil Nadu ,
(Pancha Bhootha Sthalam) – 134 ft (40.84m)

12. Jambukeswara temple, Thiruvanaikaval, Tamil Nadu, (Pancha Bhootha Sthalam) – 128 ft (39.01m)

13. Aadi Kumbeswarar temple, Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu – 128 ft (39.01m)

14. Subramaniya Swamy temple, Thiruchendur, Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu – 127 ft (38.71m)

15. Ramanathaswamy temple, Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu – 126 ft (38.41m)

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Thiruvannamalai

Yesterday, we saw Thiruvallikeni Parthasarathy Perumal Temple, in the heart of Chennai, a metropolitan city, the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, India. Today, we are going to travel about 200 kilometres to a very important pilgrimage centre, Thiruvannamalai. We will also visit the heritage centre Senjhi Fort (also called as Gingee Fort), 40 kms from Thiruvannamalai and Saathanur Dam, 30 kms from Thiruvannamalai, one of the major dams in Tamil Nadu.

Senjhi Fort (Gingee Fort)

“Gingee Fort or Senji Fort (also known as Chenji, Chanchi, Jinji or Senchi) in Tamil Nadu, India is one of the surviving forts in Tamil Nadu, India. It lies at a distance of 160 kilometres (99 mi) from the state capital, Chennai, and is close to the Union Territory of Puducherry. The fort is so fortified, that Shivaji, the Maratha king, ranked it as the “most impregnable fortress in India” and it was called the “Troy of the East” by the British.”

For more information on Senjhi Fort, please visit the Wiki Page: Senjhi Fort.

Saathanur Dam

Sathanur Dam which forms the Sathanur reservoir, one of the major dams in Tamil Nadu. The reservoir has a capacity of 7,321,000,000 cu ft (207,300,000 m3) with a full level of 119 ft (36 m). An area of 7,185 ha (17,750 acres) of land is benefited by the left bank canal and 100 ha (250 acres) of land is benefited by the right bank canal in Thandrampet and Thiruvannamalai blocks.

For more information on Saathanur Dam, please visit the Wiki Page: Saathanur Dam.

Lord Arunachaleswara Temple, Thiruvannamalai

Arunachalesvara Temple, also called Annamalaiyar Temple, is a Hindu temple dedicated to the deity Shiva, located at the base of Arunachala hill in the town of Thiruvannamalai in Tamil NaduIndia. It is significant to the Hindu sect of Saivism as one of the temples associated with the five elements, the Pancha Bhoota Stalas, and specifically the element of fire, or Agni. Shiva is worshiped as Arunachalesvara or Annamalaiyar, and is represented by the lingam, with his idol referred to as Agni lingam. His consort Parvati is depicted as Unnamalai Amman. The presiding deity is revered in the 7th century Tamil Saiva canonical work, the Tevaram, written by Tamil saint poets known as the nayanars and classified as Paadal Petra Sthalam. The 9th century Saiva saint poet Manikkavasagar composed the Tiruvempaavai here.”

Every full moon, tens of thousands of pilgrims worship Annamalaiyar by circummbulating the Annamalai hill barefoot. The circumambulation covers a distance of 14 kilometres (8.7 mi), and is referred as Girivalam. According to Hindu legend, the walk removes sins, fulfils desires and helps achieve freedom from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Offerings are made in a string of tanks, shrines, pillared meditation halls, springs and caves around the hill.

Sri Ramana Ashram, also known as Sri Ramanasramam, is the ashram which was home to modern sage and Advaita Vedanta master Ramana Maharshi from 1922 until his death in 1950. It is situated at the foot of the Arunachala hill, to the west of TiruvannamalaiTamil Nadu, where thousands of seekers flocked to be in his presence. His samadhi shrine continues to attract devotees from all over the world.”

For more information on Lord Arunachaleswara Temple, Thiruvannamalai, please visit the Wiki page: Lord Arunachaleswara Temple.

Tirumala Tirupati Kalahasti

Friends, we have so far covered Kancheepuram Varadaraja Perumal Temple (“Perumal Koil”) and Srirangam (“Koil”).

Today, we are going to visit Tirumala Tirupathi (“Hill”) and Kalahasti. (The last three photographs in the album is the Kalahasti temple, famous for its Vayu linga, one of the Panchabhoota Sthalams, representing wind.)

Undertaking the journey by steps from the foothills of Tirupathi to Tirumala must be the ardent desire of any devotee seeking the blessings of Lord Venkateswara often fondly called as the Lord of Kali Yuga. The journey starts from Alipiri, the place at the footsteps of seven hills in Tirupati and we need to cover a total of 3550 steps.

I attempt to bring you the flora, fauna, the various deities (Dashavatarams) and the details of Alwars (Tamil poet-saints) who has performed mangalasasanam (praying that the holy shrines be happy all the time!) on the Lord of Tirumala, Lord Venkatachalapathy as I traversed through those glorious steps along with the ever increasing stream of devotees chanting His name “Govinda” all the way.

Tirumala Swami Pushkarini

Tirumala is located 3,200 feet (980 m) above sea level and covers an area of approximately 10.33 square miles (26.8 km2). Surrounding the hills are seven peaks of Seshachalam range, Eastern Ghats namely Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabadri, Narayanadri and Venkatadri. The temple of Sri Venkateswara is on the seventh peak (Venkatadri).”

Lord Venkateswara Temple is a landmark Vaishnavite temple situated in the hill town of Tirumala at Tirupati in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, India. The Temple is dedicated to Lord Sri Venkateswara, an incarnation of Vishnu, who is believed to have appeared here to save mankind from trials and troubles of Kali Yuga. Hence the place has also got the name Kaliyuga Vaikuntham and the Lord here is referred to as Kaliyuga Prathyaksha Daivam. The temple is also known by other names like Tirumala Temple, Tirupati Temple, Tirupati Balaji Temple. Lord Venkateswara is known by many other names: Balaji, Govinda, and Srinivasa.”

Srikalahasti town is named after Sri (spider), Kala (snake) and Hasti (elephant) that once worshiped Shiva Lingam here and attained Moksham (liberation).”

Srikalahasti temple, situated 36 km away from Tirupati is famous for its Vayu linga, one of the Panchabhoota Sthalams, representing wind. The temple is also regarded as Rahu-Ketu kshetra and Dakshina Kailasam. The inner temple was constructed around 5th century and the outer temple was constructed in the 12th century by the Chola kings and the Vijayanagara kings. Lord Shiva in his aspect as Vayu is worshiped as Kalahasteeswara.”

Conversation 020 – Quantum Physics and our Vedas

This conversation is a kind of a unique discussion…

Primary roles of Seeker 2 and Seeker 1 are reversed here…

Introducing the first philosophical guru of a child – the father. A son learning from a father the principles of life through a discussion on quantum physics!

Seeker 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aF2J6ZJsdw

Seeker 2: Please watch this video and tell me if you can relate to your learnings.

Seeker 1: Full of technicalities and jargons! I will have to watch this video twice or thrice with Vedic and gyana thrishti principles.

Seeker 1: Yes, It is not that easy to comment on this…

Seeker 2: yes…only then you can do it for me… it is totally related to Vedic concepts of time and space must be an interesting perspective for you because you are a (BSc(Physics)) dropout just like me 😇

Seeker 1: That what any science will say and so the so called modern scientists and mathematicians… but Srinivasa Ramanujam, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Sir C.V. Raman, Subramanyam Chandrashekar etc.… are exceptions in the sense they are the descendants of Vedic tradition…

Seeker 1: That is a very fundamental first year course just because I discontinued from BSc(Physics) still the urge in me makes me observe, listen and read in all courses of time…I can stretch only with the fundamentals because all are symmetrical and with regular frequency unless disturbed by external forces or phenomena.

Seeker 1: All physical, chemical, forces are in our body and related to five elements –  aakash (space or ether), air, fire, water and the earth… they are cosmic forces and energies with regular intervals and forces apart from what is discussed in the empirical modern sciences.

Seeker 1: That what Madam Curie is able to solve in her dreams of innermost conscience. Tesla went into the deepest and unimaginable space. Albert Einstein accepts and salutes Vedic wisdom and Vedic literature. I had only studied the surface and could not go into them deeply because of deviation and other disturbances.

Seeker 1: Mine is very limited and subjective.

Seeker 2: 👍 but a superb practical explanation…

Seeker 1: If a man is analytical and critical, seeking both positive and negative, knowledge automatically comes to him at his will and command; the more he interacts with the learned and the unlearned and has the appetite to learn from everyone, the more the avenues for him to get enlightened. Choose the person from you learn in courses of time – only once we learn, filtration process happens after experience and assimilation.😄😄🕉🕉🕉

Seeker 2: How is it?  Normal people can’t understand this MA philosophy…?

Seeker 2: MA MA philosophy philosophy..

Seeker 2: I am also (BSc Physics)😜😜😜

Seeker 1: Yours is an extraordinary inheritance…

Seeker 2: Also (BSc.Maths) (MSc(Tech) information systems) from BITS Pilani, (MBA Operations) from IGNOU  (MSc(IT)) from KSOU … everything only in brackets!!! and ended up with graduate and post graduate degrees in Public Administration, Political Science and Sociology…an amazing turn of events i realize now…

Seeker 1: Yes.. they interpret Vedic and ancient Tamil literatures, of course…

Seeker 2: A person with 5 discontinued degrees… Must be a Guinea’s record… Sorry Guiness record 😆😆😆

Seeker 1: You can purchase degree sitting in the Home, but knowledge and wisdom….????. Who taught time management and economics to our grand parents and great grandparents…

Seeker 1: Learning and self-learning the universe and learning the cosmos is the real pursuits of knowledge, Money! … even the beggars earn more than a average rich man 😆😆😆

Seeker 1: The way the money comes, in the same  way, it goes taken away even hoarded…

Seeker 1: Somebody earning, someone else spending it without knowing its value.🕉🕉🕉🙈🙊🙉

Seeker 1: Beware of surroundings and with people you are surrounded, learn learn as much as you can…then unlearn everything and re-learn…

Conversation 014: Om NaMaSiVaYa, Pancha Bhutha Sthala and the Seven Chakras

Seeker 1: Do you know the exact meaning of Na Ma Si Va Ya, each syllable and associated chakra in the human body? Can you input something regarding this? Na represents earth element (chakra at bottom of spine), Ma water (Navel), SI fire (heart), Va air (throat) and Ya space energy (middle eye/ mind chakra). Is this true?

Seeker 2: Yes, this must be true. Lord Shiva is considered the lord of material universe. The material universe consists of 5 elements. He manifests as Pancha Bhutha Sthala in Southern India. Sky or Akasha in Chidambaram, Air or Vayu in Kalahasthi, Fire or Agni in Thiruvannamalai, Water or Jal as Jambu Lingam in Thiruvanaikal, Tiruchirapalli and Earth as Prithvi Lingam in Kanchipuram, Ekambareswarar temple. It is being an amazing fact all the 5 temples are in a straight line with almost the same longitude! It’s still a mystery and with limited scientific knowledge thousands of years ago how the temples are established to such precision! Just like the chakras which are in straight line in our body!

Seeker 1: What? is this true? Do you have a map of these locations in India map proving this?

Seeker 2: See this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancha_Bhoota_Stalam. There is a table containing the list of temples and note the longitude and temples in almost a straight line:

CategoryLingamTempleLocationCoordinates
EarthPrithivi LingamEkambareswarar TempleKanchipuram
12°50′51″N 79°42′00″E
12°50′51″N 79°42′00″E
12°50′51″N 79°42′00″E
WaterAppu Lingam (Jambu Lingam)Jambukeshwarar Temple, ThiruvanaikavalThiruvanaikaval, near Trichy
10°51′12″N 78°42′20″E
10°51′12″N 78°42′20″E
10°51′12″N 78°42′20″E
FireAgni Lingam (Jyothi Lingam)Arunachaleswara TempleThiruvannamalai
12°13′53.76″N 79°4′1.92″E
12°13′53.76″N 79°4′1.92″E
12°13′53.76″N 79°4′1.92″E
AirVayu LingamKalahasti templeKalahasthi, Andhra Pradesh
13°44′58″N 79°41′54″E
13°44′58″N 79°41′54″E
13°44′58″N 79°41′54″E
SpaceAagaya Lingam (Akasha Lingam)Thillai Natarajar TempleChidambaram
11°23′58″N 79°41′36″E
11°23′58″N 79°41′36″E
11°23′58″N 79°41′36″E

Seeker 1: Ok. Do you agree to what each sound represent and the chakra placement in our body?

Seeker 2: How can I be the authority? It’s a known fact that any life form consists of the same 5 elements. How can anyone disagree? The mantras and truths are revealed to the ancient sages in their extreme realised state, beyond the three states of consciousness, waking, sleep and deep sleep. Hence, there is no chance of dispute. This is Vedas and Vedic Truth!

Seeker 1: Ok. if you google you will see some contradictory statements of Na Ma Si Va Ya and the order can be changed.

Seeker 2: Whatever be it, each syllable is a proper sound vibration and has meaning in its own way. Their individual meaning doesn’t change if you interchange them and pronounce. Just like 7 notes in music sa ni tha pa ma ga ri, the combinations of these sound give rise to infinite notes. Again these 7 notes belong to sama veda as Krishna himself says in Bhagavatam and in Gita he says he is sama veda among the Vedas. Remarks from unauthoritative and ignorant people cannot be taken into consideration.

Seeker 1: Ok. But there are 7 chakras in human body not 5.

Seeker 2: Yes

Seeker 1: Each chakra can be activated by 1 unique sound. Na Ma Si Va Ya has only 5 sounds not 7.

Seeker 2: Which two chakras are missing?

Seeker 1: Crown and Solar I guess.

Seeker 2: Om refers to mind. Refer http://aapkaapna.blogspot.in/2012/03/om-namah-shivaya.html

Seeker 1: Va Su De Va Ya also 5 sounds. But Va is twice, so it has 4.

Seeker 2: These mantras has no approximate translation. The sounds related directly to the principles which govern each of the first six chakras on the spine…Earth, water, fire, air, earth. Notice that this does not refer to the chakras themselves which have a different set of seed sounds, but rather the principles which govern those chakras in their place. Do not mix the 2 mantras, they are totally different and they have different purposes for chanting. Lord Shiva is the lord of material nature and Lord of Tamasa guna. Lord Vasudeva is the Lord of Sattva guna. All have different purposes in the manifestation of universe. Lord Brahma is the Lord of Rajasa Guna and in the process of creation. The supreme Lord Shri Krishna, for creating the universal manifestation manifested as three guna avatars and they are responsible for creation (brahma) manifestation (Vasudeva) and destruction (Shiva). As said in the link I gave, the mantra om na ma si va ya represents the chakras in the spine. Some say there are 114 different chakras, but there are seven main chakras that run along the spine. Root chakra is at the tail end of the spine. When a seeker asked Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Guruji, what is the meaning of Om Namah Shivaya? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said Om Namah Shivaya is one who lives in all the five elements.

Seeker 1: I know that’s what my confusion is. Whose mantra to chant: Vishnu or Siva or both? Vishnu is supreme than Siva correct? So better concentrate on Vishnu rather than Siva in daily meditation? or better to meditate on na ma si va ya?

Seeker 2: It depends on what you want. Vishnu Shiva Brahma are one and the same! But they are endowed as the controller of three different gunas – Sattva Tamas and Rajas. You meditate to one of them depending on what is your aspiration and you have to follow different rules for each of them to attain your aspirations. To satisfy vishnu is the most difficult, While Shiva and brahma is not that difficult. Only Vishnu can grant liberation and freedom from rebirth because he is Owner of Vaikuntha and resides there eternally, while Brahma in Brahmaloka and Shiva in Mount Kailash are in material universe and hence subject to the process of creation and destruction. They can only get material happiness. Did you get it?

I will show one beautiful information in Srimad Bhagavatam on this:

Canto 2: The Cosmic Manifestation, Chapter 3: Pure Devotional Service: The Change in Heart

Here it, clearly states the deity to be worshipped for specific aspirations. Read text 2-7 in https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/2/3/ and also 8,9 and 10. It is to be noted that Lord Krishna himself manifested as Lord Vishnu as the aspect of Sattva guna.