Monday, June 13, 2005


The Lord of the Seven Hills, Sri Srinivasa, more popular in North India as Balaji, has been hailed by Nammazhwar, one of the 12 Vaishnavite saints of Tamil Nadu, whose hymns in Tamil have been hailed as “Thamizh Vedam” (“Vedam Thamizh seidhan Maaran Sadagopan”, says a Tamil verse), in his “Thiruvaimozhi” as the Lord of the three worlds. His decad, a garland of ten poems, also hails Him as the one who has given His Consort, Goddess Mahalakshmi, a permanent dwelling place in His chest. The Goddess, in Her turn, has vowed not to leave His chest even for a single moment, staying there to recommend the case of the fallen souls for redemption. He is also praised as the one of ever-lasting glory, as one whom the celestials and saints long to see and to whom the saint has surrendered unconditionally. As the Lord has been hailed as the ruler of the three worlds (earth, heaven and nether world) it is no wonder that He is a universal God for whom temples have sprung up not only in India, but also in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Singapore and other countries.
Of the many temples of Sri Srinivasa in the USA, the one at Malibu (1600, Las Virgenes Canyon Road, Calabasas, CA 91302) is of great significance as the State of California has been identified by the late Paramacharya of Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu (India) as the place where a sage, Kapila, did penance in times of yore. According to legend, Bhagiratha, an ancestor of King Dasaratha, did penance to bring the Ganga River from heaven to earth. When one of his ancestors, Sagara (who was responsible for digging the earth to create a big lake known as Sagar) performed a big sacrificial offering to propitiate Gods, known as “Aswamedha Yagna”, when the well-decorated horse was sent to all parts of the world, the king of the celestials, Indra, took it away and hid it in the hermitage of Sage Kapila, which was known as “Kapilaranyam” (sounds similar to California?) the sons of Sagara, numbering 63,000, went to all parts of the world and also dug up the earth relentlessly as they came to the other side of the world (if you take a globe you can see the North Indian holy places and the State of California situated on the same longitude) and reached the hermitage of the sage. They disturbed him and the enraged sage looked at them and it was enough to burn all the sons of Sagara. It was left to Bhagiratha to bring Ganga from Heaven and take it to the place where the ashes of all his forefathers was lying like a mountain to wash off their sins and help them get salvation.
The sage is considered as an incarnation of Lord Narayana and the hymnal work, singing His glory, known as “Vishnu Sahasranama” hails the sage as “Maharishi Kapilacharya”. The priests in the Malibu Temple, while reciting the “Sankalpam” for the orthodox Hindus performing rituals to please their forbears, also give the name of the place as Kapilaranya Kshethram. The Sthalapuranam (the book giving the history of the holy place) of Tirumala-Tirupati says one of the sages to whom the Lord gave His Darshan was Sage Kapila. Hence it seems more appropriate that a temple for the Lord has come up in the hills of Malibu. Malibu can also be identified with “Mahabali Bhoomi” (the land of the demon king, Mahabali, who was sent to the nether world by Vamana. Lord Narayana’s incarnation, as sages were tortured by him.
Though of recent origin (it was constructed only in 1977), by several members of the Indian community living in the metropolitan Los Angles area, who earlier met and resolved to build a temple for the benefit of Indians living in this and other places in the USA, who formed a Hindu Temple Society of Southern California and incorporated it as a non-profit religious organization on August 18, 1977. Two key provisions of the articles of incorporation are: the specific and primary purposes of the organization are to operate a temple for religious purpose; the property of this organization is irrevocably dedicated for religious purposes and no part of the income or assets shall ever inure to the benefit of any office-bearer or other individual. The organization now has over 1,000 members.
Situated on a 4.5-acre sprawling site in the picturesque Santa Monica mountain range, flanked on either side by the majestic Pacific Ocean and the road from Los Angeles criss-crossing the mountains, the temple is a replica of the great temple at Tirumala. The total built up area is 26,000 square feet the temple was built by Sri S.M. Muthiah Sthapathi from Tamil Nadu. The construction work was started in April 1981 and the first phase was completed in October 1987.
The temple has shrines apart from the presiding deity for His Consort, Alarmel Mangai Thayar (Goddess seated on the lotus flower or Mahalakshmi or Padmavathi), Andal, the incarnation of Goddess Bhoomadevi, who though the daughter of a temple priest, Vishnuchithar, united with the Lord at Srirangam, Radha-Krishna, Lord Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana, Lord Siva, Ganesha, Subrahmanya and Kannika Parameswari. Some more shrines are to be added to the temple complex, which is a growing one.
The temple is also famous for the Jyoti (fire) worship, which confirms the legend connected with the burning of Sagara Puthras by Sage Kapila. Pulakasas, the native tribals of the region, who were away when the burning incident took place, found the meadows charred and the fire descending into the sea. They were said to have prayed to Goddess Shakti to save them. A shrine for Mother Goddess or Kannika Parameswari was built with donations given by the Arya Vysya community in Karnataka in India. (The article is based on materials given by the temple authorities and the pictures of the deities were also given by them.)