Close

Following the Journey of Alamthuruthy Bhagavati: A Vaishnava Depiction of Kuṇdalini Traversing through Ṣaṭ-Cakras


Kuṇdalini is considered as one of the most fundamental concepts in Tantra as well as in Yoga traditions and literature. Kuṇdalini is the Śakti (energy/life force) coiled in the Mūlādhāra chakra, towards the base of the spine.

Through different spiritual practices, one has to awaken this spiritual the energy which uncoils and slowly traverses through the Ṣaṭ-Cakras (six energy centers) purifying them and eventually leading to the spiritual liberation of the practitioner.

Kuṇdalini is also a symbolic depiction of the mind: the mind as the serpent which resides in the lower states of consciousness immersed itself in sensory pleasures. However, these pleasures are mere drops that are in no way comparable to the ocean of divine bliss – Ananda. Through his/her spiritual discipline and practice one can awake and arise the mind from the lethargic and sensual state to the blissful and enlightened state.

Even though Kuṇdalini customarily corresponds as the Goddess/Shakti or Prakriti and its awakening and merging at Sahasrara as the unification of Shiva/Purusha with Shakti/Prakriti, in this work, we study and present a Vaishnava depiction of Kuṇdalini through the temple traditions of a South Kerala Village called Thiruvalla.

As per the conventional belief system, any village is considered as the body of the Desa Purusha (personification of the place). In the case of Thiruvalla village, Sree Vallabha temple is considered as the Sahasrara and the deity Sri Vallabha (Lord Vishnu) himself as the Jiva. Sree Vallabha Temple is one of the 108 Thiruppathis of Vaishnavism and Thiruvalla village is included in the 64 villages established by Lord Parasurama.

There is a place called Alamthuruthy at the outskirts of Thiruvalla and the Goddess presiding that temple known as Alamthuruthy Bhagavati is considered as the Kuṇdalini of the desapurusha. In the annual 8 day festival of the temple, the Goddess makes a journey towards the Sree Vallabha temple.

That ceremonial procession draws parallel to the Tantric concept of Kuṇdalini awakening and its journey through the six chakras. The other two Goddesses of nearby temples namely Padappadu and Karinattu Kavu are considered as the two spiritual Nadis (energy nerves) Ida and Pingala respectively.

During the annual festive days, the Goddess takes 7 aratt (holy dip) in different ghats
in Thiruvalla village, as a representation of the 6 chakras and Sahasrara Padma.

Through this work, we closely follow the footsteps of the Goddess and analyze how it symbolizes the journey of Kuṇdalini through the Ṣaṭ-Cakras. By tracing and following the journey of Alamthuruthy Bhagavati, one gets to understand the Tantric traditions of Kundalini worship and its associated energy centers (Chakras).

Also, it could be inferred that the common people who associated themselves with the temple festival get a chance to understand some of the essential principles and philosophies of the otherwise esoteric Tantric tradition.

INTRODUCTION

Yatra or a journey is not just about reaching a specific destination, instead, it is more an expression of the inner urge to experience new things unknown. Tantra Sastra describes another kind of journey: The Journey of Kundalini; it has nothing to do with any external journey but it is internal.

Kuṇdalini is the Śakti (energy/life force) coiled in the Mūlādhāra chakra, towards the base of the spine. By certain Yogic and Tantric practices, one can awake and lead the mighty power Kundalini from the Mūlādhāra chakra to Sahasrara Padma. In this paper, we are analyzing the journey of Kundalini by familiarizing the Arattu procession of Alamthuruthy Bhagavati in Thiruvalla village, Kerala.

Yatra of Kundalini

Kundalini

The word Kuṇdalini could be traced to its origin from the Sanskrit root words ‘Kundal’
corresponding to the meaning “that which is coiled” or assuming the root word “Kund” which would mean a deeper place, a pit, or a cavity [1].

The word Kuṇdalini would thus refer to the Sakthi or power which lies in the dormant potential state at the base of the spine. As and when it manifests, it will be called Kali, Durga, Devi, etc [2].

Kuṇdalini is traditionally symbolized in yogic texts as the sleeping serpent. Kundalini is the divine cosmic energy in bodies [3].

Figure 1 Kundalini energy, Deccan c, 18th century, gouache on paper 4

Hatha Yoga Pradipika which is one of the ancient treatises on Yoga describes Kundalini

“As one opens the door with a key, so the yogi opens the gate to liberation with the Kundalini”

The great goddess sleeps, closing with her mouth, the opening through which one can ascend to the brahmarandhra … to that place where there is neither pain nor suffering.

The Kundalini sleeps above the Kanda … she gives liberation to the yogi and bondage to the fool. He who knows Kundalini knows yoga. The Kundalini, it is said, is coiled like a serpent. He who can induce her to move is liberated.” [5]

The Satchakra Nirupana considers Kundalini as “Very beautiful like a chain of lightning and as fine as a lotus fiber which shines in the minds of the sages. She is extremely subtle, the awakened of pure knowledge, the embodiment of bliss and whose true nature is pure consciousness.” [6]

Tantraraja Tantra says “the shining vital energy which is the manifestation of life, is called Kundalini which resides in the center of the flames of fire of Muladhara [7].

Figure 2 Kundalini with Sakthi in fire altar, 19th century, Gouache on paper

Devi Purana explains that she is called Kundalini because she has the Srngataka form [8]

Lalita Sahasranama through its mantra 111, considers Kundalini as fine as the fiber of a lotus stock. “Bisathanthu thaniyasi” [9]

In the concept of the Yoga Kundalini Upanishad (1.82):  [10]
The divine power, Kundalini, shines like the stem of a young lotus; like a snake, coiled round upon herself, she holds her tail in her mouth and lies resting half asleep at the base of the body.

Shatchakras

Tantras commonly mention about six principal centers of consciousness though this number varies in different texts and systems. Starting from the base of the spine, these centers are known as Muladhara, Svadhisthana (around the prostatic plexus), Manipura (around the navel), Anahata (near the heart), Visuddha (behind the throat), and Ajna (between the eyebrows).

Sahasrara, the seventh, transcendent chakra, is situated four-fingers’ breadth above the top of the head. [4] Sahasrara chakra is the seat of Siva or pure consciousness. Through certain yogic and tantric practices, the Kundalini Sakthi rises traverse through these shatchakras and merges with the Siva in the Sahasrara chakra thus generating bliss/ Ananda.

Figure 3 Chakras in traditional symbolic form

These energy centres are interconnected by subtle channels known as ‘Nadis’ originating from the Sanskrit root word Nad meaning motion. Prana flows like an electric current through these channels of energy. There are three most important Nadis as according to most tantric texts which are the central channel Sushumna and the two flanking channels the white lunar nadi Ida the left and the red solar nadi Pingala on the right.

Sushumna nadi runs from below the Muladhara chakra to the Sahasrara through the spinal column while the other two nadis originating at the base of the spine spirals in opposite directions and meets each other between the eyebrows at the Ajna chakra. As long as Kundalini is not awakened, the Sushumna remains closed.

Figure 4 Ida, Pingala and Sushumna Nadis

Each chakra corresponds to one of the five elements as per the Tantra. Muladhara represents solid; Svadhishtana liquid; Manipura, the fire; Anahata aerial; Visuddha etheric. [4]

This Kundalini is aroused through a certain set of yogic practices involving pranayama and through the recitation of mantras and tantric practices. The discipline and the austerities prescribed by Sashtras for the awakening of Kundalini shall be discussed elsewhere since it does not fall under the scope of this study. The awakened Kundalini travels and reaches each chakra, activates it, and continues its journey.

Muladhara is represented as a red lotus of four petals; Svadhisthana as a vermilion
lotus of six petals; Manipura as a blue lotus often petals; Anahata as a lotus of twelve petals of deep red color: Visuddha as a lotus of sixteen petals of smoky purple; Ajna as a lotus of two white petals; and, lastly, Sahasrara is the thousand-petalled lotus of the light of a thousand suns.

According to Gandharvatantra (Chap, x1), Kundalini moving up from Muladhara to Anahata chakra, shining like molten gold, is known as Fire Kundalini; from Anahata to Visuddha, as bright as a million suns, as Sun Kundalini; from Visuddha center to the end of Sushumna-nadi, lustrous as a million moons, as Moon Kundalini  [4].

Terminating her journey at Sahasrara, ‘the Kundalini Sakti, which has the brilliance of lightning and is composed of three Gunas [qualities], after piercing the unmanifest, lustrous abode of Siva, which is in the form of Bindu [the transcendental center] and which is situated in the midst of eternal bliss and divine nectar, having the brilliance of a million moons and suns, returns to her resting place, Muladhara.’ [11]

The ascent of Kundalini is marked with certain physical and psychical signs such as trembling of body, feeling of inner heat, inner sounds heard, humming of bees, creeping of ants feeling through the spine etc. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a great sage of modern India describes the movement of Kundalini as fishlike, monkeylike, birdlike, etc.

He says: “Scriptures mention is made of the seven centers of consciousness. When the mind is attached to worldliness, consciousness dwells in the three lower centers, the plexus, sacrococcygeal, sacral, and solar. Then there are in it no high ideals or pure thoughts. It remains immersed in lust and greed. The fourth center of consciousness in the region of the heart. Spiritual awakening comes when the mind rises to this center. His mind then no longer runs after worldly pleasures. The region of the throat is the fifth center of consciousness.

When the rises to this center, man becomes free from ignorance. When the rises to the sixth center between the eyebrows, man becomes merged in divine consciousness. There is still left in him, however, the consciousness of a separate ego.

The center in the brain is the seventh center. When one rises to this plane, there is samadhi. That is the transcendental consciousness, in which one realizes his oneness with God.” [12]

Yatra oF Alamthuruthy Bhagavati

Alamthuruthi is a small village on the Northern outskirts of Thiruvalla. The mother Goddess Durga is worshiped as ‘Nanda Nandini’ (The daughter of Nandagopa – Bhagavan Krishna’s sister) in the Alamthuruthy temple.

According to Srimad Bhagavata, the Goddess took birth in Nanda Gopa’s house to protect Sri Krishna from Kamsa[13]. The temple is considered by many as one among the 108 Durga temples in Kerala which were established by Sage Parasurama.

Figure 5: Alamthuruthy Bhagavati temple, front view

Goddess is considered as the protecting Goddess of Thiruvalla region. This temple is closely associated with three other temples:

  1. Thiruvalla Srivallabha temple
  2. Padappad Devi temple
  3. Karunattu Kavil Bhagavati

Thiruvalla Srivallabha temple is one of the main Vishnu temples of India. It is also common that the name Thiruvalla is a colloquial form of Sreevallabhapuram, named after the chief deity Sree Vallabha.

The temple is considered as one among the 108 Divya desams of Sri
Vaishnavas [14].

As per the Thiruvalla inscriptions, the present-day Thiruvalla temple can be dated
back to 56 BCE. Vaishnava saints, Nammalvar and Thirumankai Alwar praised Srivallabha, the presiding deity of Thiruvalla in their pasurams [14].

Srivallabha is facing East. The temple also has lord Sudarsana is facing west direction in the same garbhagraha.

Figure 6: Thiruvalla Sri Vallabha temple

Lord of Thiruvalla and Goddess of Alamthuruthi are identical in their forms. Both are holding Chakra and Shankh (Conch) in the back right and left hand – lotus in the right hand, and the left hand is resting on his waist (Kati hasta). Srivallabha is Vishnu. Bhagavathy-Yogamaya is Lord’s power for creation, protection,and destruction [15].

In Puranic view, Bhagavati is considered as the sister of lord Vishnu, Since She took an incarnation as Lord Krishna’s sister. The other two temples Padappad Devi temple and Karunattu Kavil Bhagavati are also dedicated to Goddess Durga. They are also considered as the sisters of Srivallabha.

However as per the tradition,these Goddesses are also identified with Bhudevi and Sridevi respectively. Vaishnava tantras consider the entire universe as the manifestation of one supreme reality, Para Vasudevan. From the action of Shakti who is nondual to Him, the universe manifests from Him.

Kriya shakti of that Paravasudeva is Sudarshana. Different manifestations of the Shakti are known as Sridevi, Bhudevi and Neela Devi [15].

Utsava or the annual festival in Alamthuruthi begins with the ritualistic kodiyettam (flag hosting with tantric rituals) on mrigashirshastar in Malayalam month Meenam. Festivals in Padappad  Karunattu Kavu temples will also begin the same day at the same precise time.

From the second day onwards Devi will start her Ezhunnallathu (ceremonial procession) to various villages of Thiruvalla region. While visiting these nearby village lands, the Devi takes a dip in different water bodies and this is known as “Arattu” (holy bath).

While most of the temple festivals in Kerala have elephants and fireworks since the Goddess of this temple is considered as a little child who incarnated in Nandagopa’s house, Elephants and fireworks are not allowed in Alamthuruthy temple. Instead of elephant a palanquin called Śibika is use to carry the Goddess’s Murthy for her procession.

Two priests have to carry the Śibika on their shoulders. Traditional Kerala
orchestra includes; drums (Valanthala – Veekkuchenda), Ilathalam, Shankh and
Nagaswaram, Panivilakku (Oil lamp which lit with the flame from the garbhagriha), and Thalappoli all of which will accompany the procession. Similar Ezhunnalathu will take place in the other two Devi temples also.

Usually in Kerala temples, the annual festival(utsavam) starts with kodiyettam(flag hosting) and concludes with Arattu – the ceremonial bath after the utsavam but here, these three Goddesses takes 7 Arattus in different places in the region.

On the second day, Goddess starts her journey to southeast direction, towards a village called Vengal (1 km from the temple). The villagers receive Her with offerings including Para and Anpoli.( Para = offering of paddy, rice, bananas, rice flakes or other agriculture crops in a ‘Para’-the traditional paddy measuring vessel, Anpoli = 5 Paras).

In a pond in this village Goddess will take her first Arattu. After the Arattu, Goddess will proceed to the village temple – Vengal Subrahmanya Swami temple. After reaching the temple, the priests who carries the Śibika, perform Śibika Nritha (Chivita kali) with their rhythmic steps according to the orchestra. It represents the Goddess’s bliss, joy and happiness towards to devotees. It also represents the cosmic dance of the supreme Goddess – Adi Parasakti.

After the dance Goddess will worshiped with Pantanazhi nivedyam. After this rituals Bhagavati will bless other parts of the village and come back to the Her abode. On Third day, Goddess will go to the same direction and enter to the next village called Azhiyidathuchira.(3 km from the temple) As similar the second day, locals receive Her with Thalappoli and other offerings. She performs the divine dance ‘Śibika Nritham’ there and takes the holy dip in Anirudheswaram temple pond, (a siva temple pond) and returns to Alamthuruthy back.

Figure 8: Devi on her way to Arattu

Forth day She travels more distance in the same direction, and enters another village named Peringara (5 km from the temple). Unlike the previous places, other two Goddesses also will be present there for their third arattu. Two Bhagavatis will be sitting there, expecting Alamthuruthi Bhagavati’s arrival. Once Alamthuruthi Bhagavati reaches there, She will sit there facing the other Goddesses.

The local people worship Goddesses with Thirupantham. She will bless the devotees
with Her divine dance. After this Śibika Nritham, Alamthuruthy Bhagavathy proceed for Her Arattu in Yammarkulangara pond. After Her Arattu Padappatu and Karunattu Kavu Goddesses also go for their Arattu and Goddess of Alamthuruthy comes back to the temple.

Fifth day, Bhagavati travels and reach Manippuzha village. She will perform Śibika Nritham in nearby Peringara Lakshmi Narayana temple. Then Her fourth Arattu will take place in Mattathilkadavu Madam pond, then the Goddess will go to a Namboothiri Brahmin house called Peringara Ilayidath Illom. There Bhagavati will be received and invited to their Thevaramurthy

(Deity which is worshiped in the house). The priest will do Panchopachara Puja for both
Bhagavatis together. Then people will receive Her to Karakkal ground, after their Thirupantham offerings Bhagavati bless them with Śibika Nritham. Then Bhagavati will come back to Alamthuruthy temple.

The sixth day of utsavam, the Goddess will cover much more distance in the same direction and reach Uthramel village. After her Arattu in Uthramel Srikrishna temple pond, the Goddess proceeds to the temple’s namaskara mandapa. The priest will worship Her with special poojas and then She will bless the devotees with her blissful dance in the nearby Parthasarathy temple compound. Goddess further proceed to the southeast direction.

Then She will reach the Karunattukavu Bhagavathi Temple, and She will take a look at the temple. Before Alamthuruthy Bhagavathi reaches there, Padappad Bhagavati comes there and both Padappad and Karunattu Kavu Bhagavatis goes towards south direction. While Alamthuruthi Bhagavati stands there, the other Bhagavatis come back with a great procession.

This meeting is called ‘Kavilvaravu’. After Kavilvaravu, Alamthuruthy Bhagavati preforms her majestic dance and goes to Peringol Vishnu temple. There the priest worships her with special offerings. Then the locals perform thirupantham in front of Her. After all these rituals, the Goddess will reach Alamthuruthy temple. People will receive Her with thalappoli and deepakkazhcha. After the rituals, Goddess will do seven pradakshinams (circumambulation) to the temple with accompanying Panchavadyam, Nagaswaram, and other traditional orchestras. She will do the Shibika Nritham there in[16] Thalavattams.

This ezhunnalathu is known as Makam Vilakku (Makam =Maghā star, Vilakku = Lamp). On the seventh day, She will again starts for Her Yatra towards Southeast, to a village called Mannankarachira. After Her Shibika Nritham in front of the local temple, Bhagavathi’s sixth arattu will take place there in the ghat of a small river.

Since this Arattu mostly falls on Poorva Phalguni star, it is known as Puram Kuli (Puram = Poorva Phalguni star and Kuli = bath). After Pooram Kuli, Devi will worshiped with special offerings in the temple. After pujas, the priest will take the Utsava Murthy of Bhagavati in his hand and She proceeds back to Her abode without Her palanquin.

On the eighth day, the palanquin is redecorated with new cloths. Tantri (The supreme priest) will do special pujas to Śibika. After first two daily pujas, Tantri will do an avahana from the Mulabimba to the Utsava Murthy (Inviting the Bhagavathi from Main Idol to Utsavamurthy). Then flag lowering ceremony (Kodiyirakkam) will take place. Bhagvati will start Her journey towards Thiruvalla.

At the entrance of Thiruvalla Village Padappadu and Karunattu Kavu Bhagavatis will
perform their Śibika Nritham. Alamthuruthy Bhagavathi also reaches there and She will also perform Śibika Nritham. It denotes the expression of extreme happiness and bliss of the Goddesses by entering into Thiruvalla village.

The Bhagavathis bless North, West, South areas of Thiruvalla with their processions. At late night the Bhagavathis will reach the Northern gate (Vadakke Gopuram) of Srivallabha temple. Northern gate is always kept closed otherwise, it is supposed to open only when the three Goddesses comes together. Three Goddesses will sit together there and Njazhappalli oothathhas will go to the temple and inform the authorities that, the three Goddesses are present.

Figure 9: North gate opens only for Devi

Inside the temple compound, thousands will be waiting for the arrival of the Goddesses. The conch blow sound announce the presence of the Goddesses. Northern gate will open slowly. Alamthuruthy Bhagavathy along with Padappad and Karunattu Kavu Bhagavathis enters the temple compound. The lights from the oil torches reflect in the golden decorative bubbles of Shibikas. The powerful Goddesses bless the devotees with their glances.

They move to the front side of the temple. Other two Bhagavatis will stay near the Dhwajasthambham, and Alamthruthy Bhagavati enters to the Balikkalpura. Seeing the Bhagavati, Srivallabha and Sudarshana Murthy will come out from the Nalambalam. They are mounted on big palanquins which have the shape of Garuda – the mount of lord Vishnu.

Then the Uttra Sribali begins. Srivallabha, Sudarshana Murthy, Padappadu Bhagavati and Karunattu Kavu Bhagavathi stand together and Alamthuruthy Bhagavati stand in front facing them. Once Alamthuruthy Bhagavati and Srivallabha come face to face, they would never break that gazing each other. In order for that Bhagavati has to walk backwards. During this pradakshinam Alamthuruthy Bhagavathi will perform Her majestic Śibika Nritham in the rhythm of Ashtapathi played through Nagaswaram.

When the third pradakshina reaches the north-east corner of the temple, three Bhagavatis jointly dance and moves around Srivallabha and Sudarshana Murthy. As per the belief all the Gods and Goddesses assemble in the sky to see this auspicious moment. This event is also known as Ancheeswara Sangamam (confluence of five Gods).

Then the Gods will move to inner part of the temple. Padappad and Karunattukavu Bhagavatis ill wait in the Balikkalpura, and Alamthuruthy Bhagavati and the two deities enter to the Nalambalam. After one circumambulation to the sanctum sanctorum, both the Gods and the Goddess stands face to face in the eastern side of the Namaskara Mandapam. Temple authorities offer 1 Para rice to Bhagavathi, Njazhappalli Moothath has to take a pinch of the rice and give it the Bhagavathi’s priest, to offer it to Her. But instead of Bhagavathi, the priest offer it to Srivallabha’s Murthy. This is to show that the God and Goddess are not different. According to Vaishnava Agama’s like Lakshmi tantra, Devi and Vishnu are not separate from each other [15].

Then, Utsava Murthi of Lord Sudarshana will be taken back to his place. Srivallabha and Alamthuruthy Bhagavati will enter into the main Garbhagriha and Bhagavati will sit facing Sri Vallabha. Usually in Kerala temples, other deities from other temples will never be taken to another temple’s garbhagriha.

Devotees are allowed to take Darshana of this precious moment. On behalf of Srivallabha the temple authorities will present Onappudava and Vishukkaineettam, On behalf of Alamthuruthy Bhagavathi Njazhappally Moothath will receive it and the Bhagavatis will leave the temple through the eastern gate. In the morning they will bless the eastern side of the village, villagers receive them with various offerings. She will perform Śibika Nritham in east side of the Srivallabha temple (Govindankulangara temple compound).

Both the Padappad and Karunattukavu Bhagavathis go for the seventh arattu in Chakrakshalanakkadavu (a.k.a. Chakrasalakkadavu). After their arattu Bhagavathis will again enter the temple through the eastern gate and circumambulate in clockwise direction and go ack to the Karunattukavu Bhagavathi temple through the northern gate. After these arattus Alamthuruthi Bhagavati go to Chakrakshalanakkadavu for Her arattu.

Then the Goddess run to the Srivallabha temple through the eastern gate. At the same time as part of the daily sreebali Lord Srivallabha and Sudarshana are in there circumambulation path. The priests carry Utsava Murthys on their head. Usually circumambulation in anticlockwise is not allowed in a temple, but in the rush to meet Srivallabha.

Bhagavati run in anticlockwise direction and meet the Gods in their way. By seeing Bhagavati, the priest who carries Srivallabha will be taken over by divine blissful mood. Slowly he will release his hands from the Murthy with dance steps and keep in a collecting posture.

Devotees will offer money to his hands, the priest will pour the money to Bhagavathy’s Śibika. As similar to Uttrasreebali, Bhagavati will take backward steps facing the Gods and they will finish the Sreebali. After finishing the sreebali Bhagavati and the Godesses enter to the Balikkalpura and Srivallabha and Sudarshana Moorthi leaves back to their shrine.

This sreebali is known as UchaSreebali since it would take place in the noon (ucha) time. Then Bhagavati will sit there in Balkkalpura for some more time. Devotees can see Her and can make offerings to Devi. Then She do pradakshina to temple by running and leave through the northern gate. Immediately after Bhagavathi’s departure temple authorities will close the northern gate. It will remain closed till next Utrasreebali.

Once Alamthuruthy Bhagavathi passes, Padappad Bhagavathi who is waiting there with Karunattu Kavu Devi will also go back to Her abode. Karunattukavu Bhagavathi will wait remain outside of Her temple. Alamthuruthy Bhagavathi runs Her way back to Alamthuruthy. Evening She will enter to the Njazhappalli Illom, house of the Sivadvija Brahmins (Moothath) who are the custodians of the temple.

She will sit there and they offer anpoli to Her. The priest will worship the Goddess with the offering and he will do so to the aravathil of the house, because as per the belief, the Goddess is also present there. Then Goddess will run to the temple, after one pradakshina, the Utsava Murthy is taken back to the Garbhagriha and Tantri will do the avahana from utsava Murthy to Mulabimba.

Meanwhile both Karunattukavu Bhagavathi and Padappadu Bhagavathis will be taken back to their garbhagrihas. By performing the pending pujas and rituals, the Yatra and utsava remain concluded.

Comparison of Both Yatras

According to Lakshmi Tantra, the Goddess who is known as Durga, Lakshmi, Kali, Maya and Laksmi is none other that Vishnu’s Shakti. [15] Shakti though in reality different from Brahman s always One with Brahman, inseparable from Him. And that same Shakti is manifested as the Kundalini [16].

“I (the Goddess) spread (my luminous) rays (kiranti kiranam) all over this universe. I gradually manifest kiranti myself as sonic creation). Resting on the petals of each lotuses I slowly soar up along with the air, the friend of gods and with thegem, the basic fire and finally attain the (state of) dvadasanta. Hence the wise sages praise me as Kirti. This five-syllabled mantra produces flawless yogic power.” Laksmi Tantra15 (dvadasanta = the crown of the skull and known as brahmarandhra).

In Kerala Tantric tradition temples are equated to human body. The deity is consider as the Jiva. The ritualistic flag hosting of the temple is the awakening of the Kundalini. Flagpost represents spinal cord and flag is Kundalini. The festival of temple is equivalent to brahmanubhuti, there he festival is called ‘utsavam’ which means flowing upwards. [17]

In the case of Thiruvalla, the entire Desa – region is considered as Desapurusha, the personification of the place. Alamthuruthi Bhagavathi is considered as the Kundalini Shakti of that desapurusha, Padappadu and Karunattukavu Bhagavatis are the powers of Ida and Pingala nadis; the six arattu places: Vengal, Azhiyidathuchira, Peringara, Manippuzha, Uthramel, and Mannankarachira are the Sadadhara Chakras. Thiruvalla temple is the Sahasrara chakra, and Lord Srivallabha is the Jiva who is dwelling on the thousand petal lotus.

The kundalini Shakti of Desha Purusha along with the powers of Ida and Pingala wake up and rise towards the sahasrara. First it will energise its own chakra the Muladhara, that represented by the Vengal Arattu, Ezhunnalathu and Śibika Nritham.

Similarly the Bhagavatis or the Shaktis energise the Chakras one by one. Then they will reach the Thiruvalla village which is the Sahasrara chakra of the Desapurusha. There the powers of Ida and pingala merge together to Kundalini. After the Uttra Sribali, Alamthuruthy Bhagavati alone accompanying Srivallabha towards His garbhagriha. Because the other two goddesses already merged with Her.

As mentioned earlier the rituals after Uttra Sribali clearly incites the Abhetatva (Nonduality) of Srivallabha and Alamthuruthy Bhagavathi. The Ashtapadi Śibika Nritham in the pradakshinams of Uthra Sribali shows the Anandanubhuti of Kundalini’s merging to the Jiva.

Srimad Bhagavata Says Vishnu’s power Yogamaya incarnated as a girl in Nandagopa’s house and Vishnu Himself incarnated as a boy – Krishna for Vasudeva and Devaki13. Lalita Sahasra Nama, one of the prominent hymns of Goddess in Shakti tradition, describes Goddess as Vishnu Rupini(Her who Herself in the form of Vishnu), Vaishnavi(The power of Vishnu) and Govinda Rupini,( She who has taken the form of Govinda – Vishnu) [18].

Sixteenth-century Vaishnava philosopher and saint Jiva Goswami quotes from Gautamiya tantra in his Brahma Samhita commentary: [19]

“Krishna is Durga. Durga is Krishna. One who sees that they are different will not become liberated from the cycle of repeated birth and death.”

In the perspective of the universe, this Yatra represents, how the Maya and its different
manifestations merge back to the real source, Brahman. In a Sadhaka’s aspect, this illustrates the journey of Kundalini through the six chakras towards the Sahasradala Padma.

Conclusion:

By re-tracing the journey of Alamthuruthy Bhagavati, one gets to understand the Tantric traditions of Kundalini worship and its associated energy centres (Chakras). As we observe carefully around us, we would witness different cultural symbols and practices which have withstood the vagaries of time.

These practices are in fact reflections of the philosophical understanding and spiritual goals of the people who inhabited the particular land for several centuries. It could only be with great astonishment we can reflect upon the cultural intelligentsia of ancestors who have conceived such traditional practices involving different classes and sects of local population, which secretively holds the profound ideas of Tantra.

The travelling Goddess and her counterparts and her association with Sri Vallabha the main desa purusha of the village, not only forms a nexus of divinity protecting and blessing the entire village but it also, more importantly, interconnects the different spiritual and religious practitioners of the land. Also, it could be inferred that the common people who associated themselves with the temple festival get a chance to understand some of the essential principles and philosophies of the otherwise esoteric Tantric tradition.

Acknowledgments

  • Late Srineelakandan Moosad, Njazhappalli Illom (Former Devaswam
    Administrator, Alamthuruthi Temple )
  • Sri. Unnikrishnan Moosad, Njazhappalli Illom (Trustee, Alamthuruthi Temple)
  • Sri. Eswaranarayanan Namboothiri, Peringara Karakkatt Illom, Melsanthi(Chief priest), Alamthuruthy Temple
  • Sri Anil Moosad, Kaduvallil Illom, (Thiruvalla Srivallabha Temple Karazhma)

References

  1. 1. Kumar Kamakhya, “Awakening of Kundalini through Yoga”, Nature and Wealth, 2007, Vol 6.
  2. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, “Kundalini Tantra”, 1984, chapter 2
  3. Sir John Woodroffe, “The Serpent Power” (Madras: Ganesh and Co., 1972), Pg 42
  4. Ajit Mookerjee, (1982)“Kundalini- The arousal of Inner Energy”
  5. Hatha Yoga Pradipika, verses 105:111
  6. Satchakra Nirupana Vol 3
  7. Woodroffe, J. G. (1954). Tantraraja Tantra. Ganesh.
  8. Yogini Hridaya 1;51
  9. Lalita Sahasranama, mantra 111
  10. Yoga Kundalini Upanishad (1.82). Translated by K. Narayanasvami Aiyar
  11. Sarada Tilaka V:67
  12. Ramakrishna, Gupta, M. N., & Math, M. S. R. (1942). The Gospel of Sri
    Ramakrishna (p. 53141270). New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center.
  13. [Bhagavatam, S. (1988). Vol. 2, canto 10. Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book
    Trust.]
  14. Iyengar, R. (2010). The Divya Desam Temples: A Premise for Analyzing the
    Srivaisnava Dispute in South India (Doctoral dissertation).
  15. Gupta, Sanjukta, ed. Laksmi Tantra. Vol. 15. Brill Archive, 1972.]
  16. Rangachar, S. (1991). Philosophy of Pancaratras.
  17. Madhavji, 1988, Kshetra Chaithanya Rahasyam
  18. Sahasranama, S. L. (1987). Translated and edited by Swami Tapasyananda.
    Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math. Chicago
  19. Gosvamc, J. (1973). Brahma-SamhitA with Commentary by Shri Shrila Jeeva Goswami.

(This paper was presented by Sooraj M Subrahmanyan and Rupesh K at  Indic Yatra conference)

 


We welcome your comments at feedback@indictoday.com