Murugan Bhakti Newsletter No. 18
In this issue...
- Dhandapani Murugan Bhakti Discussion Group
- New Publications appearing soon in print
- What's new on Murugan Bhakti sites?
- Pada Yatra pilgrims reach Batticaloa
I. MURUGAN BHAKTI DISCUSSION GROUP
Murugan devotees have long felt a need for an online discussion group dedicated exclusively to Lord Muruga. At last, devotees can join a Murugan Bhakti discussion group to share insights, information and experiences with like-minded from around the world.
"Dhandapani", the new Murugan Bhakti discussion group, is moderated by R. Sivaramakrishna Sharma email@example.com, an ardent Indian devotee who is knowledgeable both in details of Kaumaram and computer matters (a computer programmer, he also maintains his own site devoted to Palani Muruga).
Internet discussion groups like 'Dhandapani' are free, e-mail based networks of like-minded people who communicate ("discuss") information of common interest. Membership in the Dhandapani discussion group is limited to Muruga devotees, and includes newcomers to Murugan Bhakti as well as experienced and knowledgeable devotees. Discussion groups like Dhandapani typically start out small and grow as the number of members and volume of messages increase. Any member may submit a message for distribution to the membership, but the group moderator may decide which messages and which topics are suitable for inclusion.
The Murugan Bhakti discussion group is the forum where one may submit questions about Kaumaram or Murugan devotion and receive prompt replies from devotees of various backgrouds, including the Moderator. Group messages often contain links to sites and documents of special interest to devotees. The group also reminds members of coming festive occasions and their significance to Muruga bhaktars.
II. MURUGAN BHAKTI PUBLICATIONS TO APPEAR IN PRINT
Murugan Bhakti Publications began in 1990 with the publication of BHAKTI, the newsletter of the Kataragama Devotees Trust. But due to the high cost of paper and printing (BHAKTI was distributed freely during the Kathirkama festival season in Tamil, Sinhala and English), publication was discontinued until the advent of Murugan Bhakti web sites in 1997.
Now, once again Murugan Bhakti is preparing to come out in print, both with rare old publications and with new booklets in Tamil and English. Coming publications include:
NATCHINTANAI: THE SAYINGS OF YOGASWAMI
Yogaswami, the early 20th Century jñani of Nallur (Jaffna, Sri Lanka), collected around him a large following of householders and sannyasis who cherished each word that fell from the sage's lips. In 1972, years after Yogaswami's samadhi, devotees published a collection of Swami's writings, songs and sayings, which Yogaswami called simply 'Natchintanai' or 'good thoughts'.
Now Murugan Bhakti Publications, in conjunction with the Sivathondan Society and the Thiruvadi Trust of Sri Lanka, is pleased to announce the online publication of the complete 320-page book 'Natchintanai: The Sayings of Yogaswami'. The entire book may be downloaded freely as Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) files from the new Murugan Bhakti site:
'Natchintanai: The Sayings of Yogaswami' will also come out in late 2004 as a handsome yet affordable hardcover publication of the Thiruvadi Trust of Sri Lanka. Information on how to order the hardcover edition will be made available on the Sivathondan.org site.
'KATHIRKAMAM' The classic 1947 guide booklet
Murugan Bhakti Publications is also undertaking to republish popular out of print publications, starting with the classic 1947 Tamil guide and song booklet 'KATHIRKAMAM' by Kula. Sabhapati. This booklet of 110 pages, for many years the commonly available standard guide booklet to Kataragama, gives an early 20th Century devotee's eye view of the powerful shrine's history, traditions and practices, together with 40 pages of Tamil stotras or songs in praise of Kataragama Skanda.
Other publications now being planned include an up to date guide booklet about the multi-religious Kataragama shrine. The new guidebook, to be authored by Murugan Bhakti Publications Editor Patrick Harrigan, will compare Kataragama's Vedda, Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim traditions and will include maps and plenty of photos of Kataragama's sacred shrines and ritual activities. The new guide booklet is intended to meet the need of first time visitors to Kataragama as well as old-timers and devotees living afar who wish to have an affordable, concise, and authentic collection of short articles, maps and photos of the famous sylvan shrine. The booklet, which is expected to go to press in early 2005, will be available for purchase in India and Sri Lanka only until arrangements are made to distribute it overseas.
Subscribers are invited to suggest other new or out-of-print books for consideration by Murugan Bhakti Publications.
III. WHAT'S NEW': NEW PAGES ON MURUGAN BHAKTI SITES
Visit the new Murugan Bhakti site http://sivathondan.org devoted to Nallur Yogaswami (see above)
22 June 2004: Kathirkama Pada Yatra pilgrims reach Batticaloa (see article below)
Dhandapani: Murugan Bhakti Discussion Group
"Vel, Mayil, Seval Virutham" article in Tamil
Poondi Swami: Bharanidharan's description of the 20th Century siddhar
Kanda Sasti Kavacam in Tamil & English with translation
Fire-walking: "A Vow to Walk the Fiery Path" 1966 National Geographic article
"The Worship of Muruga" from The Sivathondan
Palani Andavar Mayilvidu Thoothu: The Incomparable Greatness of Subrahmanya
"Palani" by R.K. Das
Jñanasramam Trust, Jnanamalai
1940 Esala Festival in Kataragama by M. Chandrasoma
IV. KATARAGAMA FOOT PILGRIMS REACH BATTICALOA
This article with accompanying photos may also be viewed online at http://padayatra.org/py2004-1st.htm
(The following article was written and published by Murugan Bhakti Editor Patrick Harrigan, who is currently walking with the Kathirkama pada yatra pilgrims from Jaffna to Kataragama, Sri Lanka.)
(Batticaloa, June 22) Hundreds of Tamil devotees from the North and East who assembled in Mullaitivu District at Vattappalai Kannaki Amman festival today reached Batticaloa, midway throug the traditional two-month pada yatra or foot pilgrimage from Jaffna to Kataragama. The largest kuttam or party of pilgrims coming from Vattappalai already numbers over 300 and other kuttams are also starting and growing.
This year was the time since 1983 that a significant number of pilgrims are undertaking the arduous foot pilgrimage from Jaffna to Kataragama. Their colorful presence has been welcomed everywhere by villagers of all backgrounds, many of whom are astonished to see Sinhalese devotees and foreign pilgrims from Europe and America among the Tamil devotees.
On 21 May, pilgrims assembled at Jaffna Selva Sannidhi Murugan Kovil, recited their vows and proceeded south. Villagers in Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu districts, who during decades of conflict had not witnessed the spectacle of Pada Yatra, welcomed the hearty pilgrims along the way with traditional offerings of refreshments and annadanam.
The pilgrims' first major destination was the grand Kannaki Amman festival at Vattappalai near Mullaittivu, where hundreds of thousands of devotees gathered on 31 May to offer pongal to goddess Pattini or Kannaki Amman. On 11 June they reached Trincomalee and worshipped at the famous Tiru Konamalai Sivan Kovil.
The Pada Yatra pilgrims walk from as far as Jaffna and Mullaittivu districts, taking up to two months to reach the sylvan shrine. All along the way, villagers wait for their chance to offer annadanam to the growing bands of swamis and swami ammas, who are mostly in their 50's, 60's and 70's -- some even in their 90's.
Many villagers make vows to join the Pada Yatra as it passes through their own village, so the parties of pilgrims tend to grow from day to day. With weeks still remaining before the flag-hoisting ceremony on 17 July, thousand of pilgrims are expected to join or follow the bands of pilgrims as they pass through Batticaloa and Ampara districts.
Kataragama Devotees Trust spokesman Manik Sandrasagra notes that it was last in 1988 that a few hardy pilgrims gathered in Jaffna District and proceeded to Mullaitivu to attend the grand Kannaki Amman festival at Vattappalai. At Trincomalee among distinguished observers were the then British High Commissioner David Gladstone, General Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Admiral Clancy Fernando, who participated in special pujas conducted at Tirukoneswaram Temple.
"Pada Yatra is certainly not about mental or political agitation," notes Sandrasagra, adding, "The Kataragama God is hugely popular and respected today precisely because He is above all politics and artificial differences that divide peoples. Indeed, He is not just above sectarian politics-He is above sectarian religion itself for that matter."
Setting aside politics for the sake of island-wide peace, justice and prosperity is exactly what the Pada Yatra pilgrims have been doing. Last year Kataragama swamis and swami ammas invited villagers all along the route of the Pada Yatra to articulate local development issues together with proposed solutions.
The project, called 'Let the Villagers be Heard', which interviewed hundreds of villagers in 40 villages in three districts, was conceived and coordinated by the Living Heritage Trust. The project was such a success that this year it is being expanded to cover up to 60 villages in seven districts, with thousands of villagers already having participated.
The project collects villagers' own appraisals of local problems and ideal solutions, and aims to stimulate open discussions, collect villagers' insights, and forward results to concerned ministries for consideration and incorporation into local development programs.
The pilgrim-interviewers include male pilgrims who interview men, and women pilgrims who interview women villagers. The project has both Tamil and Sinhala language volunteers. The project has been interviewing men and women of the East Coast's Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim communities.
Most villages in the North and East are populated by Tamils. The survey, however, also specially visits Sinhalese coastal enclaves like Seruvila.
Since 1988 the KDT has annually coordinated the yatra by notifying devotees and temples all up and down the East Coast. It also helps to facilitate dana, the ritual sharing of food and hospitality, which remains essential to the pilgrimage even in times of peace, since most pilgrims are poor and none can carry food for months.
The age-old tradition fell into abeyance with the 1983 civil disturbances but was revived in 1988 under Kataragama Devotees Trust patronage. The number of pilgrims has grown steadily ever since, with up to 10,000 pilgrims walking the last 100-kilometre stretch through the Yala East National Park in recent years.
This year is the 17th consecutive Pada Yatra sponsored by the Kataragama Devotees Trust since 1988 with the support of Sri Lankan villagers and officials at the national, district and local levels.
Murugan Bhakti Newsletter No. 18: Newsletter of the Murugan Bhakti Network
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