“Where there is no Maheswara Seva and Mahajnana Seva, need will increase; when need increases, vision will change; when vision changes, approach will vary; when approach varies, aliens will get into the mind; when aliens get into mind, the mind will get confused and that confusion will lead to change. Thus to fulfil real necessities and avoid artificial needs, seva must increase. When seva increases, Dharma will be established. The established Dharma will save the nation, its people, its religion and civilization.” – B.R. Haran
Dharma, Seva and the Vedic Civilisation
The Vedic civilization evolved on the banks of Sindhu and Saraswati with Dharma as the basis of evolution. Though it got the name “Hinduism” in later times, it is still denoted as Sanatana Dharma. The Itihasas and Puranas have vividly described the crushing of Adharma by different avatars of almighty Bhagwan, whenever it raises its head and attempts to rule over this world. In the Kaliyuga, though Bhagwan doesn’t descend as an avatar, he establishes the reign of Dharma through His Blessed Avatara Purushas such as Adi Sankara, Ramanuja, Ramana Maharishi and Ragavendra, et al. Such mahatmas bless and guide people through their immortal dharmopadesas.
In the Kaliyuga, as Adharma raises its head quite often, we would be able to protect our land and safeguard ourselves only when we adhere to the dharmopadesas of our Dharmacharyas and act accordingly. It becomes imperative for us to follow the path of Dharma to establish the truth of the age-old maxim, “Adharma will engulf Dharma; ultimately Dharma will prevail”. “If we protect Dharma, Dharma will protect us” is the code of this land.
A huge threat is looming large over this bhumi known for punya and Dharma, surrounded by Adharmic alien forces. It is essential for us to stick to Dharma to destroy the alien forces and safeguard our motherland. Though many Dharmic concepts have been described in our Vedic religion, for us, the two most important are Maheswara Seva and Mahajana Seva.
Maheswara Seva caters to (i) protection of temples and continuation of worship rituals flawlessly, (ii) construction of temples in places where there are none and daily rituals of worship, (iii) renovation of dilapidated temples and resumption of worship, and (iv) organising temple related festivals involving the local populace across castes and communities. Mahajana Seva caters to donating food, clothing, houses, education and medicines for the poor, downtrodden and incapacitated people, apart from social and community services.
The Vedic faith has identified specific auspicious days for specific worship for specific Devas and Devis. It is only during these special days, festivals and utsavams, that the entire place, village or town, comes together to worship and celebrate. So, if at all the people are to remain united and if at all the alien forces causing division among the people are to be defeated, frequent celebrations of festivals and utsavams is essential.
During these common celebrations, the “haves” must take care of the “have-nots”. The well off and capable must help the poor, downtrodden and incapacitated by establishing a system whereby the poor can be helped permanently. This will act as an impediment to the evil designs of alien forces and stop religious conversions as well.
The sacred town of Tiruvannamalai stands testimony to the fact that mahatmas reside permanently in places where Maheswaram Seva and Mahajana Seva are carried out perennially without hindrance. The thought that my recent experience in Tiruvannamalai during Chitra Pournami would be meaningless and become useless if it is not shared with others, has resulted in this column.
Maheswara as the Mountain
Tiruvannamalai, the Theyu Sthal or Agni Sthal, is one of the Pancha Bhuta Sthals where Shiva shows his Jyoti Swarup as Lingabhava to Brahma and Vishnu, who made futile attempts to find his head and feet respectively. As the bhumi could not withstand the power of His Jyoti Swarup going beyond the universe (prapancha), Maheswara compressed himself and became a mountain, Annamalai. This puranic incident is observed as Kartigai festival, and people observe the Jyoti Swarup by lighting the huge deepa on the peak of Annamalai in the month of Kartigai on Kartigai nakshatram day (Nov. 27th, 2010 [date of this article]).
Tiruvannamalai has another significance in the Puranas: Bhagwan Shiva gave his left part to Shakti (Devi Parvati) and appeared as Ardhanarishwara. During the Kartigai festival, at the exact time of lighting the Deepam on the mountain peak, the utsavamurthi blesses devotees as Ardhanarishwara inside the temple premises. Apart from being a Pancha Bhuta Sthal, the five peaks of Annamalai denote the pancha bhuta concept, as Shiva himself is a personification of a mountain comprising the pancha bhutas of earth, water, fire, air and ether.
A Siddha Bhumi known for Sevas
Tiruvannamalai is considered a Siddha Bhumi, that is, a land of Siddhas. Siddhas are considered representatives of God with complete mastery over the powers of nature. They are believed to have conquered death and live anywhere and everywhere without being seen, recognized or identified by ordinary humans, and other living beings. Certain places in general and mountain ranges in particular are considered permanent seats of Siddhas; Tiruvannamalai is one such sacred place.
Gautama Rishi, Arunagiri Yogi, Namachivayar, Namachivayam (author of Annamalai Venba), Viroobatcha Devar, Arunagiri Nathar (author of Thiruppugazh), Kondappa Desikar, Jadini Shanmuga Yogini Ammal, Ammani Ammal, Seshadri Swamigal, Ramana Maharishi, Yogi Ramsuratkumar are some of the great mahaans of later times, who lived and attained siddhi in Tiruvannamalai, apart from the countless Siddhas who are believed to be permanently seated in Annamalai.
Ramana Maharshi Ashram, Seshadri Swamigal Ashram, Yogi Ramsuratkumar Ashram, the mathams established by the disciples of Namachivayar, are some of the organisations which have been rendering great service to the people. In the recent times, in order to arrest the illegal and immoral evangelical and conversion activities by the Church and Christian missionaries and also to take care of the needs of the Hindu masses, many Hindu organizations have opened branches in Tiruvannamalai. Kanchi Matham opened a branch recently.
Short History of Tiruvannamalai Temple
Stone temples came into being only during the Pallava Dynasty. Tiruvannamalai Temple is one of the earliest stone temples built by the Pallava kings. Later, the Cholas, Vijayanagar Kings, Thanjavur Nayaks and others built many sanctums, mandapams and towers. The kings of the Tulu dynasty also made some edifices.
The Chola period inscriptions found in this temple start from Vijayalaya Chola’s time (849 CE – 9th century inscriptions) and go for about 400 years of Chola Samrajya up to 13th century CE, giving us a lot of historical information.
Then, from 13th century CE to 16th century CE, kings like Kadavarkon Kopperu Singan, Posala king Veera Vallaalan, Vijayanagara kings (Krishnadevaraya & others), Thanjavur Nayaks (Sevappa Nayak & others) marked their inscriptions with vivid details of their times. The inscriptions found in this temple are in Tamil, Sanskrit and Kannada.
Sage Meikkandaar, who blessed us with the divine treatise Sivagnana Botham donated a lot to this temple on 22 May 1232 CE. Even kings from far off places (Ganges and nearby kingdoms) donated wealth for this temple.
Annamalai in Literature
Annamalai has found place in all kinds of literatures such as Puranas, Anthathis, Venbas, Prabandhams, Pathikams, Vannam, Sathakam, Kovai, Maalai, Viruththam, Keertanas, Sthothras, Kummi and plays.
As far as Sangam literatures is concerned, Tiruvannamalai is mentioned in Akanaanuru and Natrinai. Thirugnana Sambandar (Thevaram), Thirunavukkarasar (Thevaram), Sekkizhar (Periyapuranam) and Ramalinga Swamigal (Thiruvarutpa) sung hymns on Tiruvannamalai. More than 60 Sthal Purans are available in Tamil, and in Sanskrit we have Arunachala Stotras and Arunachala Ashtakam. Tiruvannamalai is mentioned even in Keno Upanishad.
Sanctity of Pournami
Although many festivals are celebrated in Tiruvannamalai every month, Karthikai Deepam and Chithirai Thiruvizha are quite famous and both culminate on or close to Pournami (full moon day). Pournami is a very important day for Hindus, and apart from Karthikai Deepam and Chithra Pournami, we have festivals like Thai Pusam, Vaikasi Visakam, Avani Avittam, Masi Magam (Ganga Snan in Prayag) and Panguni Uthram (Holi in northern and western India) being grandly celebrated on Pournami.
Satyanarayana Puja is commonly performed on Pournami Day by people across the country. Pournami vrat has been observed by Hindus since ancient times. People observe fast right from morning and end their fast only after sighting the moon and performing puja in the evening.
Dana – The Prime Dharma
Dana and Dharma  go together and we normally say “Dana Dharma” whenever we talk about seva. Dana refers only to annadana as denoted by the term dharmashala. Hindu Dharma says one should even sacrifice one’s life to save another life. While helping a person, we should not look into his/her caste or religion and we should not bother whether he/she is good or bad. Talking about annadana, Thirumoolar’s Thirumanthiram says, “Yaarkum idumin; avar ivar ennanmin”, or, “Give to anyone; don’t look into antecedents”. The most significant aspect of annadana is that it is the only service in which the acceptor will say “enough” and “I don’t want anymore”. Such words would not come from the acceptor if any other thing is given.
“Poortha Dharma” – Community Service
In our Vedic civilisation, the essence of Dharma lies in the concept Pancha Maha Yagna comprising, “Brahma Yagna” (reciting & teaching Vedas), “Pitru Yagna” (sradda and tarpana, etc.), “Deva Yagna” (puja & arati for Ishwara), “Bhuta Yagna” (feeding animals and birds) and “Nru Yagna” (serving atithis, guests). This concept of Pancha Maha Yagna caring and protecting all of creation is postulated only in the Vedic Religion.
Apart from this, social services have also been defined under Poortha Dharma in the Dharma Sastras. Various social services undertaken by a community as a whole belong to this category of Dharma – temple cleaning, temple renovation, road laying, constructing wells and tanks, annadana for locals and outsiders during temple festivals.
The uniting of Maheswara Seva and Mahajana Seva is Dharma. The most important aspect of Maheswara Seva is Pradhakshana Namaskaram, doing namaskaram after performing circumambulation. Circumambulation can be performed for a particular sannithi, or, for the whole temple, or, for the whole hillock or mountain if the temple is located on top. Circumambulation of a mountain is called “Giri Valam” or “Giri Pradhakshanam”.
Our whole body is engaged in the ritual of Pradhakshana Namaskaram. The mouth recites slokas, namavalis or sings bhajans. Hands play musical instruments; do archanas, ring bells or merely claps to the tune of bhajans. Legs perform the main task of circumambulation; head bows down in reverence and bhakti. When we do namaskaram, the entire body from head to toe worships Bhagwan. Anga pradhakshanam is unique in the sense that it is a combination of both pradhakshanam and namaskaram.
Tiruvannamalai is a place where Bhagwan Shiva himself stands as Annamalai (mountain). That is why it attracts millions of devotees from world over for every Paurnami Day!
Mahajana Seva and Maheswara Seva
In village Koduvilarpatti in Theni district (Tamil Nadu), the Sri Sachithananda Ashram was established by Sri Paranjothi Swamigal, who had mastered Ashta Maha Siddhis. He attained siddhi four years ago and as long as he was alive, he attached a lot of importance to annadana and did it in an exemplary manner wherever he went. Even today, hundreds of poor and downtrodden are being fed in his ashram.
To cite an exemplar for his great service of annadana, this writer wants to share a personal experience. Swamiji organized for round the clock annadana during the last Mahamagam (Mahakumbh of south) at Kumbhakonam. The kitchen stoves burned non-stop all ten days of the festival and the ashramites fed not only the people who visited the makeshift ashram, but also took food and water to various temples and fed millions of devotees who thronged the temple town. This writer personally participated in the great service for two whole days, catering to thousands of police personnel who were on duty in the town, providing security to the pilgrims. The annadana service of Sachithananda Ashram was adjudged the best during the Mahamagam and the ashramites were blessed with the appreciation of His Holiness Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchi.
Sri Paranjothi Swamigal gave equal importance to Maheswara Seva and was very particular about performing yagnas as prescribed in the Vedas. He always had a team of efficient and scholarly Vedic pandits who used to perform the yagnas, homams and other Vedic rituals. During his last days, he used to talk about having a permanent ashram in Tiruvannamalai for daily annadana. As a first step, he wanted to do annadana during Chitra Paurnami festival.
Hence a group of disciples (including this writer’s friends) have been doing both Maheswara Seva and Mahajana Seva for the last four years in Tiruvannamalai on Chitra Paurnami. On one side yagnas go on and on the other side cooking of various prasads, and annadanam is round the clock. Once the annam is cooked, it is served after naivedya; this goes on throughout the paurnami period non-stop. This writer had the opportunity of participating this year and what an experience it was!
Yagna, Dana, Pradhakshana, Bhagwat Seva – Divine Experience
A marriage hall situated along the Tiruvannamalai girivalam path was the venue. The hall was used only for the stay of volunteers. Outside the hall a huge shamiana was erected dividing the area into two parts, one for performing yagnas and homams and the other for preparation of food. Close to the girivalam path and in front of the shamiana, wooden barricades were laid to streamline the crowd and serve them properly.
Maheswara Seva started with Ganapati Homam in the morning and went on with Navaratna Homam, Mahalakshmi Homam, Mahas Rudra Yaagam, Chandi Homam and Swarna Akarshana Bhairava Homam, etc. supported by thavil and nadhaswaram troupe. The prasad included a sweet, four varieties of rice, a side-dish, pickle and water packets. As and when the prasad was ready, the naivedya was performed and the food was sent to the service section. At any given time, two varieties of rice were served with other dishes and water.
The seva, which started on April 27 morning at 9 am, ended only at 6 am on 28th. As Paurnami started at 7.30 pm on 27th, millions thronged the girivalam path and throughout the night we were serving non-stop annadanam. Watching the movement of the human sea around the blackish-blue mountain in the yellowish moonlight, reverberating with the chants of “Om Nama Sivaya!” and “Arunachala! Haroharaa!”, was a divine experience! This writer disappeared into the crowd and covered the 14 km circumambulation chanting Om Nama Sivaya! It was exciting and rejuvenating! Sitting through the yagnas, completing the giri-pradhakshanam and then participating in the annadanam was a truly divine experience.
Though without sleep, we never felt tired for the entire nearly 36 hours, from the time we left Chennai and returned, thanks to the blessings of Annamalai. The divine spell, which engulfed the body and mind can only be experienced, not described. Those who have experienced it would not be surprised at lakhs of people invading Tiruvannamalai every Paurnami day.
Hindu renaissance will happen where Maheswara Seva and Mahajana Seva take place simultaneously. We at Hindu Dharma Protection Movement experienced this personally during our Dindigal Meet on 18 April 2010. In fact, Tiruvannamalai was a great motivating factor for us to organize the event in Dindigal. What we heard about Tiruvannamalai, this writer experienced personally on 27-28 April  during Chitra Paurnami. If we perform such seva throughout the country, Dharma will prevail and the nation will be safe and secure.
Where there is no seva, need will increase; when need increases, vision will change; when vision changes, approach will vary; when approach varies, aliens will get into the mind; when aliens get into mind, the mind will get confused and that confusion will lead to change and religious conversion.
Thus, to fulfill real necessities and avoid artificial needs, seva must increase. When seva increases, Dharma will be established. The established Dharma will save the nation, its people, its religion and civilization.
 Thiruvannamalai, V. Narayanaswami, Manivasagar Pathippakam, Chennai, 1996.
 Deivathin Kural (Voice of God), vols. III and VII, compilation by R. Ganapthi, Vanathi Pathippakam, Chennai.
» B.R. Haran is a senior journalist in Chennai. This article was written in 2010.
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