Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sholingur

Sholingur
Another name for annual check-up (physical and spiritual) for me and my family. That’s the place we go at least once every year, to thank the Lord for what He blessed us with during the last year and to pray for what we wish to happen in the course of the coming year. A recap of this week’s trip. It also gives us a good break from routine life and an opportunity to experience the ever varying nature.

Sholingur is a small town about 100 km from Ambattur where I live, and about 120 km from Chennai, on the Tiruttani-Chittoor road route, about 25 km from Tiruttani. It is connected by rail on the Chennai-Bangalore route, but the railway station is far away. The place has developed recently with the setting up of a number of factories around. Easily accessible by bus from Tiruttani and Arakkonam.

Sholingur
Legend has it that Lord Narasimha, after killing Prahalada’s father Hiranyaksha at Ahobilam (near Cuddapah in Andhra Pradesh – another lovely place to visit), came here to cool down and sat in meditation on top of the larger hill. The smaller hill has Lord Anjaneya in a stance worshipping Lord Narasimha. Anjaneya has four hands, holding the Shank (conch) and Chakra (discus) on two hands – a unique feature that can be found only here. The place is also called Ghatikachalam (Ghatikai meaning a short duration of time - 24 minutes). There are several legends that hinge on the short duration – Sage Viswamitra performed penance just for a Ghatikai and got his powers; etc. Therefore, it is believed that if you visit this place and pray for a short time or even be here for a short time, your prayers will be answered – in a short time, of course. No wonder people throng this place. More so in the Tamil month of Karthikai, when the Lord Narasimha is believed to wake up from his meditation and the devotees get to be blessed by being ‘seen’ by the Lord.

The drive from my home takes about two-and-a-half hours. On reaching the Sholingur town from Tiruttani and after crossing the bus-stand, you need to take a left turn on the road leading to Arakkonam.  Within about half a kilometer, you can see the arch for the temple on the right side, and a well laid concrete road. This road goes right up to the foothill of both hills. The larger hill has a little over 1,300 steps and the smaller one, about 400 steps. The steps are rock-cut, but are neat, uniformly spaced and not too steep. The recent development of Sholingur as a town with industries around it has seen more funds coming in for the temples and now the entire pathway of both hills is covered with roof-sheets, thus making the climb not-too-difficult even in the heat of summer or the worst of winter.

Sholingur Sholingur

The trip this year happened in a matter of minutes. My daughter who is now married, had come home for the weekend and was about to start to work. My son was at home. My wife had plans to go out with my daughter if she was prepared to take off for the day. When I too pitched in bunking work, we decided in a flash to make it to Sholingur. Being a week day, there was no crowd at all at both the temples and we had a good and leisurely darshan.

The major change we noted this year was the absence of rogue monkeys and a perceptible decline in the monkey population. Those that were there were docile and did not bother us. In fact, they did not mind us at all even when I went near them to take photographs. I had a good amount of simian scenes to capture.

Sholingur Sholingur Sholingur

The Narasimha temple has just been renovated after a long time, and hence the statues and brass-inlaid figures were in good shape, as can be seen from the photographs. The Anjaneya temple is yet to be renovated. Work is on.

Sholingur Sholingur

We reached Sholingur around 10:30 am. Even after a leisurely climb with ample rest at both temples, we could return by 1:30 pm, right on time for lunch at the Krishna Mutt near the foot hill of the larger hill. For ensuring lunch there, you need to inform them before you start the climb.

The cool-drink shop at the foothill of the smaller hill is our favourite – we never miss the ‘masala soda’ there. Regular soda-lemon mixed with a powder of pepper and jeera (cumin seeds), it serves as a good appetiser too.

The trip is the same every year, but the experience is different each time, depending on the time of your visit. I have seen the place bone-dry at one time, full of wild flowers with blooming cacti all over the terrain on another occasion, and just lush green all around because of the late rain that is still continuing to pour this year. A moderate wait of less than an hour in one year, an unforgettable wait of over three hours a year of two back, and not even a minute this year. I think this unpredictability is what makes life interesting,

The trip was fulfilling on all counts – satisfaction to the soul after a good darshan, feast to the eyes from the vastness of nature you get to see from the elevation, homely food away from home and a pleasant drive with the family in my compact Santro. Well, the Lord has blessed us well, and I hope and pray, His blessings will continue.

Sholingur

The other photos taken at Sholingur are available in my Flickr set, http://www.flickr.com/photos/raghu_ambattur/sets/72157625378238923.

Please feel free to post your comments.

Update Nov'2013: I will be failing in my duty if I do not mention the good work done by Yathugiri Ammal Trust who have provided sheet roofing for the entire stretch of stairs of both the temples.  With the work fully completed, now devotees can plan to visit any day, summer of winter, rain or shine!

3 comments:

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