I have been watching the Mahashivratri celebrations at Isha, live on television for 3/4 years now. The Sounds of Isha are hauntingly melodious. Adiyogi has his own charming spell. Amidst all this I had a thought of visiting this place someday.
My broad itinerary was drafted maybe 2/3 years ago and finally the trip happened in November 2019. After spending a few days in Ooty & Coonoor we moved to Isha Yoga Center, some 33 Kms from Coimbatore, for a couple of days.
I wanted to make the most of our stay there and that led me to do some homework. The best parts were; there is a residential facility available within the center and I managed to pick an auspicious date in November that allowed us to experience the divinity to the max we could.
The rooms are booked online and must be done well in advance as the demand is very high as there is a limited inventory. I had sent a request 2.5 months earlier for a confirmed room booking. When I did not get any revert on the status of my request even after 2 days, I did follow up. Later I realized my disciplinarian habit held me in good stead. Had I not followed up thinking we were to travel in Nov, we would have landed with no room.
There are two categories of room, AC & non Non AC with single/double/triple occupancy. We had booked an AC room, though one can do without it during Nov-Jan (still do correlate with weather status and your tolerance of heat / humidity)
No payment was asked for as these formalities are done upfront on check in. All you need is a "confirmed" booking status.
There are certain rituals & offerings that happen on certain auspicious dates. This year Kartik Poornima was on 12 November and it suited our visit plan perfectly. The days chosen allowed us to experience the usual like; dip in the Teerthakund, darshan & arti of Linga Bhairavi or Devi, meditation and Nada Aradhana at Dhyanalinga and visit to Adiyogi.
Only on amavasya (no moon) and poornima (full moon) are the devotees allowed to make the offerings of ksheera (milk) and/or jala (water) upon the Dhyanalinga, which meant we were fortunate to pay our obeisance through these offerings too. Being a full moon night, we were blessed to be a part of the immensely powerful and energetic Poornima Abhishekham followed by a grand procession of Linga Bhairavi utsavamurti with a maha arti in front of Dhyanalinga. Adiyogi's 'Divya Darshanam' happens on weekends as well as other auspicious days like poornima, amavasya, navratri.
The drive between Ooty to Isha Yoga Centre takes a minimum of ~4 hours. The travel time is highly impacted by the start time as the route is mostly through busy roads of neighboring towns/cities. The earlier you leave the better.
We reached the center in the afternoon and while my husband got busy with check in, I waited by our luggage. Suddenly, I heard a cheerful welcome "Namaskaram akka"(Akka is sister in Tamil). I had observed in their mails and read somewhere that one greets with a namaskaram and folded hands. I reciprocated the greetings and what came next left me amused....... The volunteers asked me which of my luggage was a gents bag and which was a ladies bag. My mind suddenly went back to things I had read about stay in Isha and could not recollect this one. I told them that the luggage was common to both. They then asked me go to their female counter part who would check all the luggage. Now this was getting a little absurd. I followed what they said and the young girl made me open every bag and did a broad level check.
Ideally there should be scanner to check the baggage considering security is important. A human checking each bag in a superficial manner does not serve the purpose and is simply wastage of time. Hopefully the luggage scanning machines will be installed there soon.
From my conversation with the girl who checked my bags, I got to know that there are two entrances to the Isha Yoga Center. One near the reception, where we were and other from the 'Sarp Vasal' entrance. The luggage scanning machines are there but no trolleys to carry your luggage. She seemed to be new volunteer as I don't think it was an accurate information. The entry point or car drop off point for all residential guests is where we got off. The 'Sarp Vasal' entrance was for day visitors visiting the center as well as to & fro path to Adiyogi premises for the residents. anyways, in a nutshell, its advisable to travel light and if possible not combine it with any other trip if you plan to stay there. A day trip is opted by many.
Once the payment is made you are given a wrist band that has necessary details of your visit and also helps security & volunteers identify your visitor type. The band is removed only when you leave the premises on check out.
We headed to our room with our luggage trolley. The keys were given by the reception at the entrance of that residential complex and since our room was on the first floor we had to carry our luggage thereafter. So lighter bags & lesser bags is another point to be kept in mind.
The rooms are very clean and nice. A lot of residential visitors are people who are undergoing an Isha course/program and they tend to stay for a longer duration. The room set up is in accordance. Since its not a hotel, it involves self service and certain pointers to remember like; carry your own towels and toiletries, keep some light bites or snacks. There is provision for hot water and its centrally regulated. Every floor has a water cooler and every room has a set of 2 copper glasses and a copper jug. There is a footwear stand just outside the room. Please remember to remove your footwear there before entering the room.
While on footwear, please note that when in Isha do wear a pair that is comfortable and easily removable. In most of the places footwear is not allowed so you actually land up wearing your slipper/shoe only when in open ground. Whether its your room, the check in reception, the eatery, the shops, the dining area, the teerthakunds or temple complex and even the space around Adiyogi & Yogeshwar Linga is a barefeet zone.
The room cost includes two meals every day - brunch and early dinner. Be very punctual to the timings shared, you would not want to miss it. However you do have a Pepper Vine eatery that is open from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm for light snacks & beverages..... and those who have read my post on Adiyogi know another eatery which has more options. We had only one meal there in our 2 days stay........ Pepper Vine & Moondraam were our food haunts.
Once in the room we sat down to chalk out our itinerary. After much pondering we had our plan ready. We had 1.5 days to do as much as we could.
Day 1 (half day):
I had something to eat at Pepper Vine and then went to the Isha Craft Shoppe next to it. The Isha Shoppe is nothing short of a departmental store of handmade, organic produce. There is an exclusive shop for clothes as well.
When you go to the Teerthakund, the Linga Bhairavi temple and Dhyanalinga you cannot carry any bag, mobile or camera but don't forget to carry petty cash that you will require to give for the dip and offerings that you would like to make to Devi or Linga. There is a counter nearby where you can deposit your belongings. Please ensure to collect them before its closing time else it is sent to the swamiji and one will need to follow up with him. While on counters / lockers, I would like to share a couple of points. It is advised not to keep any valuables in the room, lockers are provided at the reception area of every residential complex. If you think you must, you can avail this facility. The room keys are to be dropped at the reception every time one moves out. Do keep the locker key carefully.
The Suryakund is 20 feet below ground level and has three rasalingas consecrated with masculine energy. A stunning brass and copper sculpture of the sun hangs high above it.
After some retail therapy, my husband went for his dip in the Suryakund (for men) while I waited for him near the beautiful Lotus pond. Once he was through his dip we entered the main complex.
We first stopped at the monolithic Trimurti panel which has Shiva in his Rudra, Hara and Sadashiva roop (form) from there I headed for a dip in the Chandrakund (for women).
After a dip in the energized pool we went to the Linga Bhairavi temple to pay our respects to mother goddess, witnessed the beautiful and power packed aarti and from there headed to Dhyanalinga.
At the dome we did our meditation and experienced the Nada Aradhana (sound offerings). This meant we spent a good half an hour soaking in the energies of the Dhyanalinga.
My Chandrakund experience
"Essentially, Suryakund and Chandrakund are pools energized by rasalingas that melt away karmic blocks, and that allow you to experience Dhyanalinga. Taking a dip in these energized water bodies straightens out pranic imbalances, enhancing physiological and psychological well being as well as heightening spiritual receptivity. " – Sadhguru
You need to pay Rs 20 for the dip in the energy pool. The volunteers there will guide you on the process; changing into a robe given, showering (includes wetting the hair & robe), covering the hair in a net cap then moving towards the kund for the dip.
Huge steps take you down 30 feet where the healing pool is. There is only one rasalinga here that is consecrated with feminine energy. On one side is water cascading down like a waterfall. This too is a silence zone and volunteers here were Tamil speaking. I had a tough time trying to get a simple answer regarding the depth of the pool. all they did was ask me to be silent and go inside the pool in sign language! Thankfully I managed to get my answers from a girl who stepped out. It's about 4 feet.
The water was cool and clear. You need to touch the rasalinga with both your hands, go around it (as you would around a Shivling) and take dips. You may chant the name of God or mantra or simply remain 'present'. Its advised to be in the pool for at least 7-12 minutes. Once I was through the dips, I let the cascading water simply fall all over me and then stepped out.
You are to wear your clothes over wet body & hair, Apparently a wet body is more receptive of energies in comparison to dry one. You need to follow the given instructions with regard to the robe and net cap, once you remove them.
I enjoyed the time spent taking my dips and chanting Wahe Guru & Om Namah Shivaya. I felt refreshed as I stepped out of Chandrakund and walked towards Devi temple.
My Linga Bhairavi experience
"One who earns the Grace of Bhairavi neither has to live in concern or fear of life or death, of poverty, or failure. All that a human being considers as well being will be his if only he earns the Grace of Bhairavi" -- Sadhguru
One look at her and I was lost in her inexplicable energy. Simple yet beautiful. She is 8 ft tall and resides in a triangular abode. Two big eyes and a brilliant third eye catch your attention. We payed our obeisance to Linga Bhairavi and participated in the evening arti which was a beautiful.
At that time I did not realize that Devi had the most effect on me. The aura and energy is something I cannot describe in words. Her powerful presence was felt during the mesmerizing Poornima grand procession & maha aarti. That's when I realized that I was enamored by her divinity.
My Dhyanalinga experience
"Anyone who comes within the sphere of the Dhyanalinga cannot escape the sowing of the spiritual seed of liberation. Just sitting silently for a few minutes within the sphere of Dhyanalinga is enough to make even those unaware of meditation experience a state of deep meditativeness" -- Sadhguru
Before stepping into the profound meditative dome, that stands without a single pillar of support, we saw a short introductory AV on Dhyanalinga.
We were made to sit in the aisle that leads one to the main space waiting for our turn to enter the powerful space. The volunteers there showed the below information on placards in Hindi, English & Tamil regular intervals (silence zone so other modes of communication used)
"....To maintain the silence and sanctity of the space, a bell rings every 15 minutes to indicate when you can enter and leave. One must stay for at least 15 minutes to allow the experience of Dhyanalinga energies....."
"....To experience the Dhyanalinga, sit and gaze at the linga for a few minutes. Then close your eyes, palms facing upwards, resting upon your lap......"
The inner parikrama (aisle space) of Dhyanalinga has some beautiful sculptured granite panels and deities. Six panels illustrate the stories of six South Indian sages/devotees* of Shiva who attained enlightenment like Akka Mahadevi, Poosalar, Sadashiva Brahmendra, Kannappa Nayanar, Meiporul Nayanar, Sadhyaguru Parabrahma.
There is a beautiful and symbolic black granite statue of Patanjali**, as half human and half seven hooded snake. The snake hoods rise above the statue representing raising of the seven chakras which is the objective of yoga. There is a pretty (feminine) deity, Vanashree; in form of a peepal tree made of green granite and a single golden leaf right in the center symbolizing warmth and abundance.
The bell rang signalling our entry inside the Dhyanalinga dome. The serenity of the place is unbeatable. The Dhyanalinga looms large and leaves you awestruck. I made the lotus offering and sat down, remembering to look at the linga for a few minutes and then closing the eyes to meditate.
Now I am neither someone who meditates nor someone who has a traffic jam in the head. I believe I received what was duly mine and am sure it has touched my life in its own subtle way.
I preferred just gazing the source of energy but as guided I did try to meditate. I closed my eyes and tears rolled down. There were no thoughts and no emotional roller coaster. Once the tears stopped I kept my eyes open for the rest of the time. For me that 1 min experience was unexpected and calming.
The 15 mins were through and the bell rang. We stayed on as we wanted to be part of the Nada Aradhana. All this while my husband was in deep meditation and he was completely oblivious of things around. I had to softly nudge him once the sound offering was over and it was time to leave.
We stepped out and it felt like we were coming from a different world altogether.
"We owe our spiritual wealth not just to the sages, seers, masters, and enlightened beings who walked the path, but also to the community that nurtured them. In our tradition, serving spiritual seekers and monks has always been of utmost importance. This can be a path in itself. The most beautiful expression of this is the Annadanam– the sacred offering of food.” -- Sadhguru
It was time for dinner so we headed to the Bhiksha Hall where meals are served. The seating line for men and women is separate. You are to maintain silence in the dining hall so I landed communicating with signs. There is a regime that is followed which has its roots in Ayurveda. I will suggest you take a small portion of the food items, repeat it with a second helping and avoid food wastage. Once you are through your meal you are to wash the utensils used by you in the designated area.
A day before and day of Poornima and Amavasya, everyone is encouraged to spend sometime under the moon light to get the most of the powerful energies of the moon. The lights of all the residential complex is kept off for at least a couple of hours. Though we were tired we stayed out in the moonlight chit chatting and watching life within Isha. Once the lights were on we headed back to our room and within a few minutes were off to slumber land.
Day 2 (Kartik Poornima)
It had been raining since wee hours of the morning, I woke up my husband early that day as he had to go to the Dhyanalinga to make the ksheera or milk offering which was to begin at 6 am.
I was ready by the time he was back, Our first stop was Pepper Vine followed by Isha Shoppe where we picked up souvenirs and gifts for friends and family too. We left our shopping bags in our room and headed towards Adiyogi, a good 20 mins walk.
My Adiyogi | The First Yogi | The Originator of Yoga experience
We spent a good time there, made offerings to the Yogeshwar Linga, enjoyed a bullock cart ride, visited the Isha Nursery there and bought saplings of medicinal tulsi/basil, lunched at Moondraam Perai and came back to our room. We rested for an hour, then went to the Pepper Vine eatery for evening tea and cookies, did our cab booking for airport drop for next morning at the reception. We both were looking forward to the grand procession & aarti of Linga Bhairavi utsavmurti and we had to be early to get a good seating. We could not participate in the Maha Abhishekam; the previous day we had gone to get ourselves registered but it was already full. Those who wish to be a part of it are suggested to do the registration much earlier.
My experience of grand procession & maha arti of Linga Bhairavi utsavmurti
"....So once a month, she comes out and makes some direct contact with the Dhyanalinga because her sustenance is dependent on that. The future generations of caretakers must ensure she always comes out on Pournami and makes that contact. Even if rain is pouring, she must still come out. It does not matter if there is a flood, she must still come out. This is essential for her survival, otherwise she will deplete. She likes to be strong, energetic and beautiful. But if she depletes, she will go into a fit, and it is not good to have her that way. She will spew well being for all if kept full and vibrant" --- Sadhguru
Please do watch both the parts for a wholesome experience of the poornima procession and arti of Devi.
This is one experience I shall never forget. Grand, powerful and moving. The shamanic drum beats, the splendor of maha arti, its dance and music ....... all of it, so vibrant and alive. I remember watching it with a constant smile and the music gently swaying me to it haunting beats.
If you ever plan a trip to Isha Center do so around full moon to experience this. The chanting of "Ye Devi" as they carry the Linga Bhairavi utsavmurti with lyrical gait, men carrying reg flags, torches and fire poles burning bright, sound from the conches, trumpets, drums and huge bunch of anklet bells add to the vibrancy, men dressed like warriors perform the Kalaripayattu, an ancient Indian martial art.......... its a sight to behold, with the divine all around to feel.
"The Maha Aarti is not just beautiful – the visual impressions and sounds make it an overwhelmingly exuberant experience if you allow it. This is what human life is about – breaking your limitations and expanding your horizons." – Sadhguru
Even today if I close my eyes I can see the entire procession and the feel the overwhelming vibrancy. That's Linga Bhairavi for me....... beautiful, untamed, powerful, and full of life!
In an enchanted state we headed towards Adiyogi for the Divya Darshanam and Yogeshwar Linga arti. We had our dinner at Moondraam Perai and called it a day.
Early next morning we left Isha with loads of blessings, divine energies, memories ...........
While we were there, the place was bustling with people, the reception area looked like a thronging mandi early in the morning :) A large number of people from across the globe are part of the programs offered; there are folks who simply go to volunteer; some are now part of the Isha Yoga Centre for good. There was a group who was there for a (destination) vivah / wedding and had some celebrities like Sonu Nigam & Meiyang Chang amidst them.
Photography is allowed only around the Nandi and in the Adiyogi premises. I could hear birds chirping but what to do ..... no clicking! The photos shared in the post are either mine (if my name is on it) or googled. The photos/ videos are clicked/ shot on mobile.
*You can read the story of the devotees here https://isha.sadhguru.org/in/en/wisdom/article/the-devotees-of-the-dhyanalinga-parikrama
**author of Yoga Sutras
^ Q: Why are there so many downward flowing snake sculptures?
Sadhguru: In the yogic culture, the snake is used as a symbolic representation of higher dimensions of energy. This is because the movement of Kundalini is very similar to how a snake moves when it is provoked. This is why in many energy spaces, you will see depictions of snakes. Generally, you will see snakes depicted as moving upward because you are seeking the divine. But in the Dhyanalinga, you will see cascading snakes coming down because it is a shower of divinity, it is not in search of divinity. There is a shaft of grace – grace is spilling down. It is to indicate this that in a subtle way, we have depicted this cascades of snakes.
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Monika Ohson | TravelerInMe
This was first published in TravelerInMe