BY SWAMI AYYAPPA GIRI, Acharya, Yogini Ashram
The village of Mahur, birthplace of Dattatreya, stands as a lone sentry for dharma at the border of Maharastra and Telegana. It serves as a beacon of Shakti, Unity consciousness and grace-light. Remote and accessible only through a land route, one takes an overnight train from Hyderabad followed by a somewhat perilous bus ride through the winding roads of a small mountain range forested with teak trees.
It is a pilgrimage well worth the effort, for it holds two precious gems.
Dattatreya, Peerless Avatar of Oneness
The first is that it is the birthplace of Dattatreya, the peerless Avatar of oneness. Dattatreya carries the full and complete creative power of cosmic manifestation (Brahma). He also manifests the preservation principle and the merciful love-grace (prem) through its ultimate embodiment.(Vishnu) Additionally, he is the essence of yoga and transcendental bliss with perfect discrimination and the capacity to dissolve ego and destroy the veils of illusion (Shiva), This is the illusion principle which hide from our conscious mind. With this clarity, our hidden powers and potential (siddhi) are unleashed. Little wonder that Dattatreya is the favorite diety (ishta deva) of the celebrated Naga Babas, and the very light of the celebrated Juna Akhara, the largest of sanyasi orders!
The second grace in this small town is a great vortex of feminine power, for here is the site of an ancient Maha Shakti Peeth power spot, the temple of Renuka Devi, one of the 18 great Shakti Peeths identified in classical literature. Mahur stands, as she has for unknown centuries, as a vortex of power, guaranteed not to disappoint any sincere yoga sadhak or tantric who seeks her power, motivation and mystical gifts. The temple is one of 52 Shakti Peeths identified in ancient texts as holders of the mystical power of Devi’s body, in this case, her backside, which according to tradition, landed at the site when Sita Devis body was dismembered by Vishnu (see text on Kamakya Shakti Peeth in this blog)
Renuka Devi Shakti Peeth
The sanctity of Mahur is confirmed in the Devi Gita, wherein Devi spoke, “It is out of affection for those who love me that I reveal Matapur in the Sahyadri mountains, where resides Renuka Devi.”
The temple sits on the apex of a 1000 foot hill overlooking the township. After a ten minute rickshaw drive up the hill, one reaches the beginning of a long and winding stone staircase, lined with vendors selling every manner of puja articles, flowers and sacred pictures.
Following several hundred feet of climb, we enter the temple grounds, passing under an image of Ganesha, and climb a few last steps to feel the expansiveness of sky open in every direction. Devotees who have just emerged from the temple itself are joyously observing the inspiring view far below. Incense wafts about and the sound of bells can be heard ringing in the background. Completing the trek, we enter the sacred chamber, lowering our heads in humility to clear the five foot door frame of the sanctum sanctorum. The line is short and darshan of Maa is made in mere seconds. Her massive head alone is visible, flanked by priests with expanded auras on either side. Her face reflects both intensity and love. Each of her beautiful eyes, decorated gorgeously with eye liner and gold leaf, is the size of a football. Something about her face simply melts our hearts. The priest receives our tray offering of flowers and places kumkum on our foreheads, symbolizing the opening of the 3rd eye. A wave of energy envelopes us along with a desire to meditate and remain in her presence.
Fortunately, there is a cordoned off area just in front of Devi where yogis and shaktas meditate in her powerful aura. Sitting in easy visibility of her enormous face, we soon become lost in time and drenched in bliss. Jai Maa!
Vivid dreams that night were witness to Maa’s ability to take us deep into the inner being for clarity of purpose, a pre-condition to realization of the self.
Winding down the stone staircase after an exhilarating experience in the vibration of the temple, we pondered the grace that has brought us to such high states.
The next day we start off for the Dattatreya temple, six kilometers beyond Renuka Devi’s hill temple, again through the rolling hills.
The forests themselves harbor leopard, deer, cobra, and tiger. The dwindling numbers of these great animals have increased in recent years since the government passed protective laws. An army of monkeys flank the road leading up to the temple.
The temple is approached by foot, negotiating several hundred steps to arrive at the hills peak. As we approach the innermost sanctum, Dattatreya’s 3-faced head seems to be emerging from the stone below it. The three faces represent his Avatarship of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. His magnificent face is carved from white marble and stands about 3 feet tall. We cannot help but be moved by the energy which seems to reverberate into the being for many days.
Both the temple and moorthy were established during the reign of the Chola Kings, though it is undoubtedly a destination for yogis and sadhus for millennia previous. We paid homage to many obviously ancient Shiva Lingams and Yonis which lie in an adjacent courtyard of the temple, all reflecting earlier origins of the Naga sadhu tradition.
Politics, pop culture, and the latest fads are a distraction to the mystic, who is fortunate enough to be obsessed with a deep longing for inner truth. Pilgrimage to sacred locations purifies and fulfills us in ways unimaginable as we approach that truth. The sages advised that we give material pursuits for a time in order to jump start our progress. The outer pilgrimage is always an extension of the inner one, where there will be no regrets, for the prize is great and the payment relatively small.
Dattatreya is truly the Avatar of Oneness (ekavatar) A pilgrimage to his birthplace and to the Shakti energy that spawned and powered his phenomenal realization brings every soul who approaches this great center many steps toward the same unity consciousness.
Swami Ayyappa Giri
16 Jan 2016
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