God performs Funeral Rites: Strange Custom in Tiruvannamalai


Hoysala means Lion Killer

Research Paper written by London swaminathan

Research article No. 1620; Date: 3rd February 2015

Veera Vallala also known as Ballalan III (1291-1343 CE) ruled the Hoysala kingdom for over half a century. But it was a turbulent period in South India. Sultan Alauddin Khilji from Delhi started attacking the south. His commander Malikafur came with a big force and pillaged all the temples and palaces along his way up to Madurai, the capital of Pandya Kingdom. It happened in 1311. Without knowing Malik Kafur’s invasion, Vallalan tried to take advantage of the infighting between the sons of Maravarman Kulasekara Pandya. When Vallala was not in the capital, Malik Kafur defeated the Hoysala army easily and advanced further south. In fact the Hoysalas were unaware and unprepared for the impending attack.

Hoysala kingdom was returned to Vallalan under some compromising formula. In 1327 CE, next Sultan of Delhi, Muhammed bin Tughluk attacked the Hoysalas. Vallala was a very powerful king at that time. He was assisted by Harihara and Bukka,two efficient commanders, who later established the Vijayanagar Empire. It drove the Muslim invaders back to Delhi and left the task to Veera Shivaji to finish them off.

King Vallalan was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and used to visit Tiruvannamalai, one of the Panchabhuta (five elements) Shrines. Tiruvannamalai represented Fire in the five elements. Vallala faced another attack from Madurai Sultan Alauddin Udauji in 1341. Udauji was killed in the battle field by a mysterious arrow. Then came another attack from Ghiasuddin Damghani. Now Vallala was caught by surprise and taken as a prisoner. He was beheaded and his head was hung from the walls of Madurai fort according to Ibn Batuda. The Arab traveller visited Madurai and saw it with his own eyes.


King Veera Vallala in Tiruvannamalai Temple

During his life time, King Vallala did a great service to the Tiruvannamalai and even today the main tower is known as Vallala Gopuram (tower built by Vallala). His statues in different styles are found in the temple. Flowers are offered to the great king every day. In addition to the tower, he built many buildings in the temple.  The temple still honours him through a strange ceremony. Vallala died in the month of Masi (February in English calendar). Every year on the king’s death anniversary, the priests gather there to announce the death of King Vallala. When they did it for the first time, when the king actually died, Lord Shiva announced that he would do the funeral rites

(It is said that since the king had no children, Lord Shiva promised him that he would do all his funeral ceremony. Some historians believe that he had sons.)

Every year when the priests announce the death of Veera Vallala, his image is taken in a procession and is taken to Pallikonda Pattu. That is where the king was buried. It is said that Shiva himself ordered to do this ceremony. Shiva performs the funeral rites. Nowadays the priests represent Lord Shiva. Ellappa Nayanar, a fourteenth century poet has written about the great devotion of Veera Vallalan in his Arunachaleswarar Puranam.

Nine inscriptions of Vallala are found in the temple. One interesting fact has come out of these inscriptions – that Tiruvannamalai was his Southern capital with the name of Aruna Samudra Vallala Pattana. Another inscription dated 1317 gives all the titles of the great king. It is written in Tamil and Sanskrit. King and the queen have given lot of gifts to the temple for proper maintenance of the temple. Wages to priests, food offering, repair works, construction of a temple wall were some of the items found in the inscription.


Temple photo by Lalgudi C Vedanarayanan of London

Part of the inscription runs like this:

“The illustrious king Vallala Deva ruling over the whole earth and possessing physique like the killer of elephants, is victorious. This Vallala Deva possessing all auspicious things was staying at his capital which was distinguished by the name Aruna Samudra belonging to the Hoysala kingdom which was established with love by his father ………

hoysala king

Hoysala king with his queens

Lesson of Modesty

There is another interesting story about King Vallala. After constructing the tower he became very conceited and proud of his achievement. Lord Shiva wanted to teach him a lesson. When the ten day annual festival was held, the procession of statues could not leave through that tower gateway. So they had to take the ornate palanquin of God Shiva through a different gate. This happened every day for nine days during the ten day festival. The procession was using a different route. The king got distressed and prayed to Lord Siva for forgiveness. Immediately the temple workers found it easier to go through the tower gate built by Vallala. This custom is followed even now. Only on the tenth day of the festival, God’s procession use the Veera Vallalan Gate Way (Tiruvasal). God wants to teach us to be modest even after achieving great things in life!

These two strange customs are the special things about this temple. By performing funeral rites God acted as the son of king Vallala. By refusing to leave the temple through king’s tower, he taught him modesty.

Source Book: The Light of Arunachaleswarar written by Iswari Kamalabaskaran of London.

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Miracles of Sri Seshadri Swamikal


Miracles of Sri Seshadri Swamikal of Tiruvannamalai

Written by London Swaminathan
Post No. 1120; Dated:– 20th June 2014.

Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu is famous for many things. This is one of the Five Main Shrines (Pancha Bhutha Sthala) of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is in the form of Agni (fire) in this shrine. It is also famous for several saints including Arunagiri nathar (author of Tiruppugaz in Tamil), Sri Ramana Maharishi and Sri Seshadri Swamikal. Ramana is known to all spiritual aspirants around the world. But Seshadri Swami is not known to many outside Tamil Nadu. His life was full of miracles. Studying his life shows how the world looks at a budding saint, how the family puts all the hurdles in one’s spiritual path and how one becomes great saint at the end.


Seshadri was born (22 January 1870) in Kancheepuram. The city of Kancheepuram was the capital of Pallava Dynasty for several centuries. Its fame spread throughout India because of its great temples and university. It was the Nalanda of the South. One of the Chalukya kings conquered Kanchi but not to touch a single stone. Because it was so beautiful he ordered his soldiers not to destroy it.

Long ago, Adi Shankara brought 30 families from the North to Kanchi, because of shortage of Shakta practitioners. They were known as Kamakoti family, well versed in Sri Vidya Worship. Seshadri was born in that family to Maragatham and Varadarajan. Seshadri’s mother Maragatham was extremely beautiful and well versed in arts and Sanskrit literature.
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Tiruvannamalai Temple

Seshadris father Varadarajan died when Seshadri was young. His death came on the appointed day as he correctly predicted before. After a few years his mother Maragatham also died saying the name of Arunachaleswar, God of Tiruvannamalai. Hindus believe that any one dying with the thought of Arunachal (Tiruvannamalai) gets liberated from the cycle of birth and death. His mother’s death with the words of Arunachala Siva made a deep impression in Seshadri’s mind. He used to draw the hill of Tiruvannamalai and offer puja (worship) to it.

Though Seshadri mastered lot of Tamil and Sanskrit scriptures, his mind was only thinking of god. His behaviour was very strange and similar to that of a mad man. For hours doing Puja in a secluded place or behind the closed doors and even at the crematorium was the order of the day. When the elders in the family warned about going to crematorium and getting all the ‘impurities’ it did not bother him. He made every one dumbfound by arguing with a great scholar about it for three hours in Sanskrit! A section of Hindus believe that doing prayer at the crematorium will increase its effect tenfold. But one must have proper maturity to do it. The last warning came that he can’t enter the house once he goes to the crematorium for pujas. He was waiting for those words. From that day he did not enter the house.

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Temple With the Hill of Tiruvannamalai

Every spiritual aspirant needs a guru for proper initiation. Seshadri was lucky to get one North Indian Guru by name Balaji Swami who came to Kanchi on his way to Rameswaram. Seshadri took Sanyasa (vow to lead an ascetic life) from him and proceeded to Tiruvannamalai where he stayed for next forty years.
When he was a child a few miracles happened which showed that he was going to become great. Once when his mother took him to the temple, a seller was selling Krishna idols. When he asked for one, his mother hesitated. The vendor was ready to give him free of cost. At last mother bought him one. But Seshadri was allowed to choose one from the pile. He put his hands through the pile of mini statues and chose one. As soon as he left all the figures were sold which never happened in the life of the vendor. Next time when his mum took Seshadri to the temple he came running and kissed the hands of Seshadri and touchéd his feet saying that he was a divine child. From that day he was known as Golden Hand Seshadri.

When one of the family friends came to his house asking Seshadri for his daughter, the eldest in the family told him loud and clear that he can’t be married because his horoscope was an ascetic’s horoscope. Though everyone in the family resented it, his statement came true.

What happened in Seshadris younger days never stopped even when he became old. If he went to a shop and touched any eatable with his “unclean” hand, no shop keeper would object to it, because that shop would do a roaring business on that day. He used to throw out articles from the shop. But vendors were waiting for that moment.


His control over animal world also was also amazing. I have already written about it in my post “Mysterious Tamil Bird Man” (Posted on 19th April, 2012). He called hundreds of beautiful birds of different varieties at the backyard of a house, just to amuse his devotee!!!

Another time a snake was coming quickly towards him. All his friends ran for life. But Seshadri called the snake and it climbed over him and spread its hood over him like an umbrella. He used to bathe several times every day and he was given a nickname “cormorant” (water crow in Tamil).

His behaviour was like a mad man. He used to laugh for an hour without any rhyme or reason, looking at the sky and “listen to the heavenly music of the Gandharvas (Singers in the heaven)”.

There was another holy man by name Vitobha Swamil at Polur near Tiruvannamalai. He fell sick and told his devotees that he would ‘depart’ within three days. One day Seshadri looked at the sky and was shouting “Vittobha going, Vittobha going”. Within a short time people received the news of Vittobha’s death from the nearby town. As he was a Tri Kala Jnani, he could see the present, past and the future events.

There are scores of anecdotes like this in his life. He never did any miracle for the sake of miracle to attract people. No one could predict what he was going to do next minute. In Tamil there is a proverb meaning Siddhas and beggars have the same style/attitude (Siddham Pokku Sivam Pokku; Andi poku adhe pokku) . Seshadri Swami was a typical example of this saying.

He visited the house of Judge Sundaram Chettiar once. He started playing with him by throwing his upper garment on his neck like a garland. This he did several times. Soon he was promoted as a High Court Judge. Once he sat on the pyol (Thinnai in Tamil) of a poor cart man’s house. The old woman in the house gave him porridge. He asked him to sell the cart and the bull. Next week he got married to a rich woman and he sold his bullock cart and migrated to Madras. So many good things happened to so many people. His look can destroy even the past karma and change the future to good.

Venkatrama Iyer was working as a teacher at Danish Mission High School. Because of jealousy of a few people he was about to be dismissed. One day he saw Swamikal coming and took off his shoes and fell at his feet. But contrary to his expectations of blessings, he was beaten with his own shoe several times. Venkatrama Iyer was shocked. When he went to his school he saw an envelope on the table. He felt very bad and opened the envelope thinking that it was his dismissal order. But he was promoted as the Head Master of the school. Swami can eradicate anyone’s past bad karma.

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Sivaprakasa Mudaliyar was a Sub Inspector of police. He was stopped on the road by the Swami and was asked whether he would accept ten rupees more. He told Swami that he would be glad to take it. Swami put his dirty cloth on him and took it. When he saw his superiors on the same day he was given ten rupees increment!

He did penance at the Durga Temple at the foothill. He advised his devotees to follow Rama instead of reading Ramayana. Ramana Maharishi came to Tiruvannamalai after Seshadri. When Ramana was doing severe penance, insects were crawling over him and he was bitten by the insects. Seshadri Swamikal saved Ramana and revealed him to the world as a saint. When Seshadri Swamikal died Ramana took part in the funeral procession.

Seshadri Swamikal also predicted his death and died in 1929 after a serious illness. His Samadhi ( holy grave where his body is buried) is very near Ramanashram (The author was fortunate to visit both the Ashrams). A lot of people were cured of their sicknesses and received advice from him. Even now the very thought of him or a prayer to him would do wonders.

Next time you visit Tamil Nadu, don’t forget to visit the two great Ashrams of Ramana and Seshadri at Tiruvannamalai. Seshadri Swamikal’s full life history is available in Tamil and English.


The Great Lamp Festival- Karthikai Deepam

3500 kilos of Melted Butter Burnt!

1000 ft Wick!

10 Days continuous burning!

2 Million People See the Lamp!

40 Kilometres Visibility!

Celebrated for 2000 years without a Break!

Ten feet high Huge Cauldron with a diameter of 5 feet lamp

(27th November 2012 is Karthikai Deepam Festival in Tamil Nadu)

A wonderful festival known as KARTHIKAI DEEPAM is celebrated in Tiruvannamalai near Chennai, Tamil Nadu( India) every year. It is always held on the full moon day of the Hindu month Karthikai corresponding to November. One million people visit the town on that day to witness the lighting of the Maha Deepam (Great Lamp). Another million follow suit in the ten day Karthikai festival at the Arunachaleswar Temple which is considered one of the Pancha Bhuta Sthalas (Five Elements Centres). Lord Shiva is in the form of Fire in this temple.


The beauty of Karthikai festival is that it has a 2000 year continuous history. Sangam Tamil literature which is dated to first three centuries of Common Era has several references to this festival. Millions and millions of earthern lamps ( Ahal Vilakku in Tamil) are lighted throughout Tamil Nadu like Diwali in North India. Every hut, every bungalow, every temple light the mud lamps with a special type of medicinal oil called Iuppai Ennei and arrange them in rows. Around six pm nearer to sunset the whole of Tamil Nadu will be burning billions of lamps. Anyone who sees it once in his/her life time will never forget it. The culmination of the day’s festival is a big bonfire in front of the temples (Please read my post “Science Behind Deepavali” for the scientific reason for Bonfire Festivals around the World).

3500 Kilo Ghee!

At Tiruvannamalai, there is a hill which is considered Hill of Fire (Agni Hill). On top of the 2668 feet hill, a huge lamp is lit on the Karthikai deepa day. The lamp is burnt for 10 days and put off on the 11th day. This is visible up to 40 Kilometres day and night. People throng the place to see the light and wash (burn) their sins. They contribute money or oil to burn the lamp. Temple makes millions of rupees by selling the holy ingredients.1000 feet long wick is prepared for this huge lamp at Tiruppur. The wick is very thick. The brass cauldron which is used as the lamp is ten feet high and five feet wide! 3500 kilo ghee (melted butter over three tons) is sent from Madurai to Tiruvannamalai to burn the lamp. With great difficulty temple staff carries the heavy cauldron through a seven kilometre route to the top of the hill.

The temple priests light Barani Deepam in the early hours in the temple and the Maha Deepam (lamp) is lighted on top of the hills in the evening. (Barani and Karthikai are all part of the 27 stars of Hindu Zodiac)

What is Karthikai Festival?

There are two reasons to celebrate Karthikai Festival:

  1. Lord Shiva is worshipped as five elements in five different shrines in Tamil Nadu. He is worshipped as fire at Tiruvannamalai. When Vishnu and Brahma, the other two gods in the Trinity, wanted to find out the top and bottom (head and feet= end and beginning) of Shiva he appeared to them as flame which has no top or bottom.
  2. Lord Subramanya was raised by six Karthikai girls. The Pleiades constellation in the sky is a six star system according to Hindus and Seven Sisters according to the Greeks. With binoculars we can see seven stars. Still Hindus can interpret it as Lord Kartikeya + six women/foster mothers. Lighting the lamps is like offering prayers to Skanda= Subramanya=Kartikeya. Lord Subramanya (popularly known as Murugan in Tamil) is itself Fire that came out of the Third Eye of Lord Shiva.
  3. Though Saivaite colour is given to this festival now, Vishnu temples also celebrate it under the term Vishnu Deepam linking Mahavishnu-Mahabali episode. During Sangam Age every Tamil celebrated it irrespective of their sectarian affiliation.
  4. Higher and lower castes celebrate it like Deepavali. Sisters and brothers exchange gifts. Women wear new clothes before lighting the lamps in their houses. Left over fire crackers from Deepavali are used to lit the sky.

Like any other Hindu festival Karthikai is associated with its own special delicacies like Appam, Pori and Adai. Appam is a sweet cake made up of flour and fried. Pori Urunadi is sweet balls of puffed rice in jiggery. Adai is lentil pancake, like a thick Dosai. Plenty of Tamil and Sanskrit hymns are available on Lord Shiva to sing on this day.

If anyone can see Tamil Nadu from a low flying plane on Karthikai day, whole of Tamil Nadu will shine brilliantly with millions of lamps.

Of late Tiruvannamalai is becoming more popular for full moon day Giri Pradakshina. Every full moon day hundreds of thousands of people go round the hill all through the night. Several decades ago people were afraid to go round the hill even during day time for the fear of attacks by wild animals . Tigers and panthers were roaming the foothills at one time.

Tamil References to Karthikai:

Sangam Literature: Ahanananuru 141 describes how the lamps were lit in the evening of Karthikai Full Moon Day. Aham verse 185 compares the lamps to flowers on Silk cotton Tree. Natrinai 202 describes Karthikai as the month fit for good and charitable acts. We may take it as a reference to Karthikai Viratham (Fasting like Ayyappa devotees) and festival.

Post Sangam Literature: Kar Narpathu 63; Seevaka Sinthamani 256

Kar Narpathu says that the lamps were lit on Karthikai Full Moon Day evening; Seevaka Sinthamani says that the lamps were lit on top of the mountain.

Pictures are from Facebook, The Hindu and other websites.Thanks (contact: swami_48@yahoo.com)