On the night of Sivarathri, one is expected to stay up all night, worshipping Lord Siva, after fasting all day. Then one is assured of a place in Heaven in the hereafter, say our religious books. This year Sivarathri fell on February 23.
In our neighbourhood in Mylapore there are seven Siva temples, and devotees walk from one temple to the other, and thus pass the night in participating in the poojas. Others stay put in one place and do poojas or sing devotional songs. Our group Gangamritham was asked to participate in the Sairam Charitable Trust’s celebrations. We were reluctant to sing as our guru Ganga was not going to be in town, but we finally gave in, especially after Ganga encouraged us to. Only one of us, Vatsala could not make it. Here are the rest of us with organiser Usha (second from right).
Ours was the first group to sing, and there were not many listeners, as the night was still young. The organizers told us that most people came in after visiting the temples. We sang for an hour, sans Ganga, sans mike and sans accompanists. But we were satisfied, for we had practiced diligently every day, and we knew we sounded in harmony.
The seven temples in this area are all said to have interesting stories attached to them. I once did the rounds for our paper with our photographer, however it was too hot in the day time to be enjoyable. But the history of each temple is remarkable.
The most famous of these temples is Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple. Parvati is said to have worshipped Siva in the form of a mayil (peahen), and hence the area is called Mylai or Mylapore. Next to it is Sri Valleeswarar Temple, where Sukracharya is said to have prayed to the Lord to restore his eyesight. Then there are the Sri Virupaksheeswarar Temple, Sri Karneeswarar Temple, Sri Malleeswarar Temple, Sri Vaaleeswara Temple (where Vaali of Ramayana fame is said to have worshipped Siva) and a little further away Sri Theerthapaleeswarar Temple, where Sri Agastya worshipped Siva, fetching water from the sea in his kamandalu. The interesting point is that these temples predate the great devotee Thiru Gnanasambandar, who lived in the sixth century and who visited all the temples when he came to Mylapore.
Read about the temples here.