Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Amarneethi Nayanar

Pazhayarai temple
Pazhayaarai was one of the capitals of Chola Empire. Located at about 6 km from Kumbakonam, the town is now scattered into several small hamlets like Patteswaram, Sakthimutram, Cholan Maaligai,Muzhaiyur, Pazhayarai, Vadathali, Melthali, Thenthali, Udayalur etc. Though the Palace of the Great Cholas is not found there at present, the marvellous Temples built by them are still there to tell inspiring messages for the generations to follow in the form of inscriptions on the walls. Their dedication towards Lord Shiva was not just to build huge Temples. It also nourished many communities like artisans, Priests,Oduvars( who sung Thevaram Hymns). 
Temple building took a new style during their regime. The ambitious programme of King Raja Raja was followed by his son,King Rajendra , Raja Raja II and Vikrama. Outstanding Bronze images were also made and presented to several temples. They also initiated annual festivals at various places and created Endowments for them. Incidentally, the Great Saiva Saints Thirugnana Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar belonged to that period ( 6th-9th Century) and that had great impact on  the Kings to propagate the  Bhakthi movement.

It was during the regime of King Anabhaya Chola, Sekkizhar, his minister wrote Periya Puranam which elaborated the lives of 63 devotees (Nayanmars) sung by Sundarar in his Thevaram Hymn at Thiruvarur.  Pazhayarai is the birthplace of Nayanmars like Mangayarkkarasiyar and Amarneethiyaar. Managayarkarasi  married the Pandya King, Nedumaara (Nayanar) and became the Queen of Pandya Kingdom. On seeing her husband influenced by Jain monks, she invited Thirugnana Sambandhar to save Saivism. The child prodigy went there and defeated the monks and re established Saivism. 

Amarneethi Nayanar was a trader in Pazhayarai who never failed to serve the devotees of Lord Shiva and ensured to meet their expectations fully. On one day Shiva Himself visited him in the form of a bachelor to show the world the Greatness and commitment of Amarneethiyar. He handed over his cloth to Amarneethiyar and asked him to keep it safely in his custody and return it on his return. Amarneethiyaar gladly accepted the cloth and kept it safely and made arrangements to offer food to the bachelor. When the later returned after a bath in the river Cauvery, Amarneethiyaar received him and went inside to bring the cloth entrusted to him. He was stunned when he noticed that the cloth was missing! He pleaded innocence but the bachelor went on to keep  his cloth on one side of a balance and insisted for a compensation of anything that equals the weight of the one kept on the scale. Despite offering his entire wealth on the other pan, the scale did nit rise! Finally Amarneethiyar prayed Lord Shiva and stood along with his wife and son. The scale equalled and The Lord gave Dharshan to Amarneethi Nayanar and his family. They were blessed to attain the Lotus feet of the Lord and the incident took place in the Tamil month of Ani ,the star being Pooram. 

The nearest railway station (where only the passenger trains stop) is at Sundara Perumal Koil on Kumbakonam- Thanjavur section of Southern Railway. We have to cross  Karaikal road on the way before taking a right turn from there. The road leads us straight to Nallur Temple which faces east. A beautiful Pond is in front of the Raja Gopuram. Kunthi,the mother of the first three Pandavas worshipped the Lord here and took bath in this tank. The Annual festival is celebrated every year , ending on Masi Magam day. 

The Temple is built at a raised level in the form of a "mada koil" Kailasa Ganapathi is seen near the foot steps by which we climb the elevated platform . We notice the south facing Shrine of Goddess Giri Sundhari first in the lower level of the platform. Upon climbing few more steps,we enter into the Mahamandapam of Sri Kalyana Sundara Murthi . The moolavar, a Swayambu Murthi, changes colour five times in a day. Hence He is also known as Pancha Varneswarar. Brahma & Vishnu made in Sudhais are also seen in the worshipping posture by facing the Lord inside the Sanctum. One can also see huge sudhai structure of Uma Maheswara behind the Moolavar. This Temple is also famous for the Kali Devi's shrine in the outer prakara. 

During his young age, Saint Appar( then Marul Neekkiyar), joined Jain Monks and became Dharmasena. Distressed by the decision taken by her brother, Thilakavathi prayed Lord Shiva of Thiruvadhigai(Near Panruti) for the return of her brother into Saivism. Her prayer was answered when Marulneekkiyar got rid of the incurable illness when he returned to Thiruvadhigai and sang Thevaram Hymns on The Lord. But he felt unhappy with his own act of getting into the fold of Jain monks. On reaching Thiru Saththi Mutram,near Pazhayarai,he prayed The Lord to keep His Lotus feet  But he was asked to visit Nallur to receive the wish he asked for. Appar received the supreme blessing when The Lord placed His Lotus Feet on his head. The Saint acknowledges the Grace in his Hymn on this place. A crown bearing the Feet of The Lord is placed on the heads of all devottes even now to mark the incident.

On Ani Puram day, special abhishekams are performed in the morning and Bhikshadana murthi is taken in a procession and finally arrive at Amarneethi Nayanar's Mutt, near the Temple after "Theerthavari" in the Temple Pond. 

The incident which brought fame to the Nayanar is enacted in the evening inside the Temple. A huge balance is kept inside a four pillared Mandapam on the outer prakaram. The Deities of Amarneethi Nayanar & his family are brought to this place and the offerings are carried out by placing more and more clothes given by the nayanar. Finally The Lord gives Dharshan to the family and bless them. 

It is surprising that such a great incident goes unnoticed by many locals and outsiders. It is  disappointing to find very few devotees gather there to witness the event. Perhaps the greatness of the Nayanmar is not known to most of us. Efforts are to be taken to educate the people to participate in the important festivals of rural Temples.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sri Sadhasiva Brahmam

India is considered as God' s own Kingdom not just because it is the land of thousands of temples Holy Rivers and Mountains but because of the Great Sages and Saints who brought forward the sanctity to the entire World by their scriptures, commentaries,visits which protect the nation even now. 

Kumbakonam,a temple town in Tamil nadu had witnessed the emergence of Great Saints . Sri Bodhendra saraswathi ,  then Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, Sridhara Ayyaval of Thiruvisanallur and Sathguru Sadasiva Bramendra were contemporaries who stayed in that region and contributed to Bhakthi movement.

Sri Sadasiva was born in Madurai to a Telugu couple ,Moksha Somasundara Avadhani and Parvathi. His parents were childless for sometime and they prayed to Sri Ramanatha Swami of Rameswaram Temple and their prayer was answered. They named the child as Siva Rama Krishna.  When the family moved to Thiruvisainallur near Kumbakonam, Sri Sridhara Ayyaval was the classmate of Sivaramakrishna in the Veda Patasala. He was married at the age of 17  but the desire to join a Guru was deep inside his heart.

Suddenly he left his house and went to Thiruvenkadu where he met Sri Parama Sivendra saraswathi, the Kanchi Acharya. He composed many poetic works on his Guru ," Navamani mala',"Guru Rathna Malika",to name a few. He took Sanyas under the guidance of his Guru. As he was highly knowledgeable,he conquered many scholars. They got irritated and complained to the Acharya. The Acharya called Sadasiva ,(as he was known at that time) and asked him whether he could shut his mouth instead of arguing with others.Sri Sadasiva remained silent from that day onwards throughout his life. Subsequently,  Sri Parama Sivendra Saraswathi attained Samadhi at Thiruvenkadu.

Then he started wandering from place to place as a Digambara. He rarely met people as he was moving much away from the towns and villages ,more particularly in mountains and jungles. so that no one could notice him and disturb his meditation. He is said to have met  Thayumanavar,the poet-saint in the presence of Ragunatha Raya Thondaiman ,the Raja of Pudukottai in 1738 A.D.

Sri Sadasiva Bramendra,the author of many books on Advaitha Philosophy met Sridhara Ayyaval again when the later requested him to break his silence at the time of composing songs in praise of The Lord. Sri Sadasiva Bramenrda started composing many songs of which only 33 krithis are available.

He possessed great powers due to which he could perform miracles. Some children playing in the sands of River Cauvery at Mahadhanapuram wanted to see Madurai, he asked them to close their eyes for a moment. When they opened their eyes they found that they were in Madurai!

Once he was meditating near a heap of paddy. On seeing this, the farmer who owned the paddy field started hitting him with a stick. When Sadasiva Bramendra saw the farmer in a confronting mood, he made him to become a statue. On the next morning the Gurunatha saw the statue and smiled and gave life to the wrong doer. The farmer realised his mistake and sought to forgive him.

Without bothering the flash floods in Cauvery, the Guru was sitting near the sands of the river,deeply meditating. Soon he was covered with a hump of sand and carried away. The villagers tried to trace him by removing the accumulated sand.The shovel hit the Saint but he came out and walked away as if nothing had happened.

After hearing the greatness of the Saint, Sri Vijaya Raghunatha Thondaiman, the Raja of Pudukottai met the Saint at Sivagnanapuram near Avudayar Koil in 1738 A.D.and sought His blessings. Sri Sadasiva Bramendra wrote the Moola mantra of Sri Dakshinamurthi on the sands. The ruler collected the sand on which the mantra was written and took it for worship at his palace in Pudukottai. It is still preserved in the palace and open for public on Thursdays. 

Once he entered into the Palace of a Nawab without notice. The Nawab ordered his servants to chop off the hands of the saint. When the order was obeyed, the Saint was walking freely as if nothing had happened to him . The Nawab took the chopped hands and placed them in front of the saint and pleaded pardon. To the surprise of all, the hands rejoined the saint in the original position and he walked away.

Once he took pity to an illiterate dumb boy and blessed him to gain speech. The boy instantly gained the power to speak and he was known as Akasa Purana Ramalinga Sastry whose relatives were living in Nerur until the last century.

He did penance at Gokarneswara Swami Temple,Pudukottai, Sri Kamakshi Temple and Devadhanampatti. He was instrumental in installing the Deity at Punnainallur near Thanjavur. He installed the murthi of Hanuman in Srinivasa Perumal temple at Nalu kadai veedhi, Thanjavur. He also installed Ganesa Yantra at Thirunageswaram near Kumbakonam and Jana Akarshana Yantra at Thanthonri Malai near Karur and Sri Chakra at Madhurakali amman temple,Siruvachur. His Padhukas are preserved at Sri Achala Dheepeswara Swami Temple at Mohanur. 

He left for Nerur,near Karur on the banks of south flowing river Cauvery ,considered on par with Kashi and Ganga. He found the place suitable to carry out meditation in the way he wanted. He attained Maha Samadhi  in 1755 A.D. on a Vaishaka Sukla Dasami day when the star was Makha(m) . As per his wish, a Bilva sapling was planted above his samadhi. It has grown  tall now where the Annual Aradhana is held. He is said to have attained Samadhi at Mana Madurai also.

About the Holy Bilwa Tree
During His visit to Trichy,Sri Sachithananda Narasimha Bharathi ,then Pontiff of Sri Sringeri Mutt felt that his palanquin was dragged by some external force. Upon meditating at that place for three days,He took yathra towards Nerur and reached Sadasiva Bramenral's Adhishtanam. He composed two Hymns on Sri  Sadasiva Brahmam. 

Nerur takes a festive look on the Aradhana day. People from different parts of the state assemble at about 8 A.M to witness the Abhishekam and Aradhana at the Samadhi. The Adhishtanam is inside Kashi Viswanatha Temple. The Samadhi is seen right behind the Sanctum in the outer prakaram of the Temple. Abhishekam is performed at the Bilwa tree where the Saint had attained Sidhi. Deepaaradhana & Archana are held and a portrait of  Sri Sadasiva Brahmam is taken to a Mutt where bhajans are sung. 

Veda Parayanam at the Adhishtanam
Nerur is located about 10 km from Karur . Bus facility is there from Karur bus station. For boarding and lodging, Karur is a good place. One should not miss visiting Sri Pasupatheeswara Swami Temple at Karur which is sung by Thirugnanasambandhar. Venjamakkoodal is another Shrine,sung by Sundarar which is located around 20 km from Karur. Kulithalai(Kadambar koil),Eengoimalai, Vatpokki(Iyer Malai) , Thirupparaithurai are nearby places where Temples sung in Thevaram are located.   

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Easwara Vasal, Vaipur and Thirumarugal

Thirumarugal Temple
Assurances are meant to be honoured.Long term assurances were made in manuscripts. Endowments were even recorded on stone walls of the Temples.   Failing to keep up the word was considered as a sin in those days. Nayanmars like Iyarpagayar, Thirukuriputhondar,  Thiruneelakandar, Amarneedhiyar were very particular in keeping up the verbal assurances made. At the same time there were some people who failed to keep their words. Perhaps such violations are more at present!

Marriage under Vanni tree-Thirumarugal.  Pic Courtesy: Unknown
There lived a Vaisya called Daman in Vaipur, a village  in Chola Kingdom. He had seven daughters. He assured his sister's son that he would give him the eldest daughter for getting married. When a better alliance came he failed to keep his promise and gave his eldest daughter to a wealthy bridegroom. He continued to break his promise in the case of other five daughters also  and disappointed his nephew. The youngest daughter wanted to save the face of her family by deciding to marry the very person at whom the promise was made by her father. She left Vaipur with him and proceeded to the groom's place to get married. When they approached Thirumarugal, the boy was bitten by a snake and it proved fatal. The helpless girl cried by looking at the Temple of Rathnapureeswara Swami of Thirumarugal. Saivite Saint Thirugnanasambandhar who was on a pilgrimage to Thirumarugal heard her cries and came to console her. He instantly sang a Padhigam on the Lord of the Temple by describing her plight. Once the Padhigam was over, the boy got up and worshipped Sambandhar. Their marriage was conducted under a Vanni tree in the temple in the presence of Sambandhar. This incident is narrated in Periayapuranam by Sekkizhar.

Easwara Vasal
While Thirumarugal Temple is well maintained, people have almost forgotten the temple at Vaipur. Those who take Mayiladuthurai- Thiruvarur road  should take diversion at a place called Gangalancheri. This road leads to Nagore and Vaipur is about 10 km from Gangalancheri. We come across another temple at Eswara Vasal amidst a beautiful surrounding. A tributary of Cauvery flows North- South in front of the temple. There is no concrete bridge to cross the river. The present bridge is made of bamboo sticks only. When Lord Sani was on his way to Thirunallar, he stayed overnight at this place and worshipped Lord Shiva . Sani has a separate shrine here and people visit the temple on saturdays in good numbers. The Temple seems to have been rebuilt with bricks some  300 years ago by retaining the ancient Murthis .

Swami Vimanam-Eswara Vasal
 People guess that the Kumbabishekam might have been performed a century ago. The Lord is called Sankara Narayanar and Devi as Sankara Narayani. It appears that the original names might have been some thing else and the Deities are renamed. There is a small shrine for Vishnu behind the Sanctum. The Goddess is housed in ardhamandapam of Swami Sannadhi.

Ambal Vimanam-Easwara Vasal
A small Temple,though, it needs immediate repairs to the roof and Vimanams. Initiative was made to start the renovation work to complete it by mid June so that the villagers can aim to perform the Kumbabishekam before July 15th. The one positive aspect here is that the Sivacharyar lives close to the Temple with his family .

It was nearing sun set when we reached Vaipur. We were shocked to see that the Temple was in an abandoned state.Even one Kala puja is not conducted at the moment. It is not known why the locals have failed to preserve the Shrine which has got more than 1400 years History behind it. With bushes and thorns all around the prakaram is misused by some bad elements as open toilet. The small Temple lacks a compound wall and a gate. Renovation work in Swami and Ambal Vimanams has been discontinued in the middle for reasons not known. God willing, work should resume by July end and efforts for the same will be made by us.

Thirumarugal can easily be reached by road if one takes the Nagoor road near Sannanallur( on Mayiladuthurai- Thiruvarur road) and proceed to some 10 Km. Marugal is a type of Banana tree which is the Sthala Vrukasham of Thirumarugal temple. The temple tank is in the front and Rajagopuram is there at the entrance. One can see the Vanni tree in the prakaram under which Sambandar held the marriage. Rathnapureeswara Swami sannadhi is located on an elevated place. The annual festival is conducted here during which  the marriage of Vaisya girl is enacted.
The situation has come to such a bad state as there is no revenue from any source to preserve the village temples. People normally visit only those temples which are attracting large number of devotees. Lack of interest shown by the locals and the HR & CE dept is the major  cause which makes the age old temples sink further.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Thiruchenkattangudi should occupy a special place for the devotees of both Shiva and Ganapathi. It can be accessed from Karaikal,Thanjavur, Mayiladuthurai and Kumbakonam. As very few buses go near the Temple, it is better to get down at Thirumarugal by taking buses from the above places and then proceed to Thiruchenkattangudi which is about 2 km from that point.

The name Thiruchengattangudi is derived from an interesting legend associated to this important pilgrimage centre. A demon called Gajamukasura (with elephant head) harassed Devas and Rishis and forced them to worship him. Unable to face the atrocities of the demon,the Devas and  Rishis went to Mount Kailash and sought asylum with Lord Shiva. The Lord took pity of their plight and sent Ganapathi to destroy the demon. The war went on for several days and the demon was finally killed by Ganapathi.

Gajamukasura's blood started flowing all across the place and made the soil red. Hence the place attained the name-- SEM (Red) Kaadu(Forest). As a result of killing the demon, Ganapathi was affected by Brahmahathi Dhosha. To get rid of the Dhosha, Ganapathi worshipped Lord Shiva in the Tamil month of Margazhi ( Dhanur Masa) when the star and Thithi were Sathayam (sathapishak) and Sashti respectively.This day is being celebrated as an one day festival even now. The Linga Murthi in the Sanctum of this Temple is called Ganapatheeswara. The 7th century Saiva Saint Gnanasambandhar in his Thevaram Hymns has referred the Temple based on the above sthala puranam as  Ganapatheeswaram.

The 5 tier Rajagopuram at the entrance welcomes the devotees. The first tier has terracota figures pertaining to the sthala puranam. It includes the Shiva Puja conducted by Ganapathi and unparalleled devotion of Siruthonda Nayanar,one of the 63 devotees mentioned in Thevaram Padhigam by Sundaramurthi Nayanar.

While  working as Senapathi under the Pallava King, Paranjothi who belonged to Thiruchengattangudi went to Vathapi and won the war against Pulikesin, He relinquished the post and returned to his native place and installed the  idol of Ganapathy he brought from Vathapi. Therefore the  name of Ganesa in the small shrine of the outer prakaram is called Vathapi Ganapathi. As Paranjothi was a great devotee of Lord Shiva he humbly called himself as Siruthondan. It was his routine to feed the devotees of Shiva every day.

On one day Siruthondar could not find a single devotee even upto mid day. But he continued his search throughout the village . Meanwhile The Lord took the form of a Bhairava and went to Siruthondar's house where he was welcomed by Thiruvenkattunangai,Siruthondar's wife and her servant maid, Santhanathathi. But the Lord was reluctant to enter into the house as there was no male member present at that time. He told them that he would be waiting under the Aathi tree until the arrival of Siruthondar.

Unable to find a Shiva devotee for lunch, Siruthondar as a disappointed man returned home .  His wife narrated the entire episode that happened short while ago. He rushed to the temple immediately and found the Lord under the Aathi tree who identified Himself as Uthrapathi.

On reaching Siruthondar's house, The Lord said that he could take food made of  the only son of the family who would be cut and offered willingly by his parents. Siruthondar and his wife readily agreed to the condition and offered their only son Seeralan to Uthrapatheesa. When the food was offered in a plantain leaf, The Lord asked the couple to call the boy by name . When they obeyed accordingly, Seerala came running towards them as if he was returning from school. But they could not see Uthrapatheesa anywhere. Instead they saw Parvathi and Parameshwara seated on a bull, appearing in the sky. The Lord blessed them and granted salvation.

Apart from the one day festival on Margazhi Sadhayam which marks the Siva Puja peformed by Ganapathi, the festival in the Tamil month of Chithirai (April)is conducted on a Bharani day when the above incident is recalled. It draws good crowd from many parts of the state. There is a separate sannadhi for Utharapatheeswarara on the right of The Sanctum. It faces the age old aathi tree. The idols of Siruthondar,his wife,son and the servant maid face the sannadhi in worshipping posture. Surya theertham is on the southern side of the Temple.

Devotees should also visit Ramanadheeswaram, Thirumarugal,Thiru Sathamangai (Seeyathamangai) and Thirupugalur which are located nearby.  

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Divine Journey from Thiruvanjaikkalam

Historians are of the view that '" Cheraman'" was a title held by  Kings of Chera Dynasty. According to them, Raja Sekara Varman,also known as Cheraman Perumal Nayanar, the ruler of the later Chera Dynasty became the close friend of Sundara Murthi Nayanar, one of the four great Acharyars of Saiva Tradition. during his reign in 800- 840 A.D.  He was such a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva  that he could hear the sound of the cosmic dance at the end of his daily Puja to Lord Nataraja. Readers need not get confused with Cheraman Perumal of 620A.D. because of the resemblance in their names. Later Cheras ruled from Magothai ( also known as Magothayapattinam or magothayapuram) between 8th and 12 th centuries. The city was constructed around the famous Temple of Anjaikkalaththappan. and was protected by high fortress on all the sides.

Cheraman Perumal Nayanar is said to be aware of what is said around him, both by living and non living things. Hence he was known as '" Kazharitru Arivaar". He was also known for his generocity and this quality was compared to that of clouds that gift abundant rain to the world. It was for this reason he was mentioned as '" kaar konda kodai Kazharitru arivaar" by Sundaramurthi Nayanar in his Thevaram Hymn. Once he went round the city and saw a washerman with white marks all around his body. The King got it as the marks of Vibhuthi and fell on his feet as he held such people as devotees of Lord Shiva. Cheraman told him that he reminded him of the devotees of Shiva.

It was on a day when Cheraman finished his Puja, he could not hear the sound of the Cosmic Dance. He heard the Divine voice saying that it was due to the presence of Sundara Murthi Nayanar who was singing Thevaram Hymns in front of Nataraja at Chidambaram. The Chera King wondered how great a Devotee Sundarar would be to make the Lord Himself so fond of hearing his Hymns. He wanted to meet the Great Devotee and went all the way from his place to Chidambaram. He recited his own work '" Pon Vannaththu Andhadhi " (which is included in 11th Thiumurai) in front of  Lord Nataraja.

Then he went to Thiruvarur to meet Sundarar who had just returned from Nagapattinam after receiving lot of gifts from the Lord. Sundarar welcomed the King and the later stayed as a guest in his house,'"Paravaiyar Maligai'. The King accompanied Sundarar and visited various shrines of Shiva. As requested by Cheraman, Sundarar went to Thiuvanjaikalam and stayed in the palace. He returned to Thiruvarur and continued his pilgrimage. He made another visit to Thiruvanjaikalam and had Dharshan at the Temple. He prayed to Anjaikalaththu appan to free him from worldly bondage. The Lord sent the white elephant to bring Sundarar to Kailash. Sudarar sang a Thevaram Padhigam on Kailasanatha on his way to Kailash. It was sent back to Thiruvanjaikalam through Varuna. Cheraman also joined him on his horseback and reached Kailash. He recited his own work "" Thiruk Kayilaya Gnana Ula'' ( also in 11th Thirumurai) and both of them were blessed in this way without any parallel in History. Peria Puranam, a 11th century Tamil work describes the incident that took place in Adi Swathi ( July- August).

Thiruvanjaikalam,now known as Thiruvanjikulam is located about 6 km from Kodungalur, in Thrusoor District of Kerala.Thrussur is well connected by road and rail routes and good hotels to stay. The distance between Thrussur and Kodungalur is about 35 km. The western entrance is near the Kodungalur- Ernakulam Highway. It is understood that the Temple was attacked and looted by the forces of Tipu Sultan. Tipu's army fled the scene on the arrival of  Travancore Army of Dalawa Keshavdas Pillai. The Temple was rebuilt by Paliath Achan of Kochi.

As we enter the Temple, we find a Namaskara Mandapam with 16 pilliars  We come to know that the Temple was renovated in 1801. Unlike the pyramidal roofs of Kerala Temples, we find a dwithala Vimanam over the Namaskara Mandapam. Inscriptions are found in the west Prakaram. Konrai tree,the sthala Vruksham is seen in the outer prakaam. Unlike the presence of a separate shine for Goddess Parvathi, this Temple has Shiva sannadhi only wherein the Goddess takes a part of the Supreme Lord and therefore the murthi is known as Uma Maheswara.  Images of nataraja, Sundarar and Cheraman are seen in a separate sannadhi.  Murals portraying Ramayana characters are seen in five panels.

Gopuram thevar,Dhakshinamuthi,Pasupathi, Nattakal Sivan,Sandhyavela sivan, Palliyara Sivan, Unni Thevar, Konnakal Sivan are the Murthis housed in separate shrines.

The annual festival is conducted in Feb-March for eight days. It concludes with aarattu in the nearby sea. on new-moon day. Aanaiyottam is also a part of the festival. Mahashivarathri at this Temple is very famous in this region which attracts lage number of people.
Keezhthali Sivan Temple at Thiru Kulasekarapuram and  Sringapuram Siva Temple(installed by Sage Rishyasringa), are some important temples located close to Kodungalur.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Nanjangud Nanjundeswara

Sri Srikanteswara/Nanjundeswara Temple at Nanjangud is one of the sacred shrines of Karnataka state. It is 25 km away from Mysore on Ooty road that goes through Bandipur Wildlife sanctuary. It is well connected by buses from Mysore that ply frequently.

Gaja Samhara Murthi
This Temple is on the banks of the river Kapila/ Kabini which is considered as sacred as Ganga. Hence the town is regarded on par with Kasi to be known as Dhakshina Kasi. Similarly we have Dhakshina Kasis in Tamilnadu at Vridhachalam and Srivanchiyam(Where the river,Manimuthar  and the Temple Tank,Guptha Gangai respectively are considered as River Ganga)

When the Devas and Asuras churned the milky ocean, Halahala,the deadly poison which could ruin the entire Universe came out. The frightened Devas took asylum at Kailash and prayed Lord Shiva to protect them. The Lord consumed the poison and it stayed at His neck, hence the name Neelakanta  He is worshipped as a remover of all diseases who also liberates the devotees from rebirth. Therefore He is known as '" Bhava roga Vaidyanatha'". The YajurVeda calls Him as The Supreme Physician in Sri Rudram (" Prathamo dhaivyo Bhishak") Gowthama Rishi and Parasurama have worshipped Lord Neelakanta here and were blessed. Parasurama performed "Thapas'' to get himself freed from the sin of beheading his mother Renuka Devi as per the instruction of his father, Jamadhagni Rishi.

This Temple is perhaps one of the largest shrines of karnataka as it measures about 50000 sq.feet . A beautiful 7 tier Gopuram is at the entrance with the outer walls of about 12 feet high. The outer wall presents a row of carefully carved images. 32 forms of Ganapathi are also seen in the Temple as described in the Puranas.

 Emperors of Chola,Hoysyala and Vijayanagara had constructed different parts of the Temple during their regime. The Shrine enjoyed a special status under the rule of Mysore King, Krishna Raja Wodeyar .A big Nandi is at the front Mandapam.

The inner Prakaram offers a gallery of 63 Nayanmars and the different forms of Lord Shiva, Kiratharjuna Murthi, Chandikeswara Anugraha Murthi,Kiratha Murthi,SankaraNarayana Murthi,GirijaKalyana Murthi,  Nataraja Murthi to name a few.

Apart from the daily Pujas, the Temple attracts thousands of pilgrims during Maha Shivarathri in Februay/March, Girija Kalyana in July, Chikka Jathra ( Three exquisitely carved wooden chariots drawn by devotees) in November and Pancha Maharathothsava in April. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Gokarna, The Dhakshin Kasi

According to the Legend, even a glimpse of Gokarna , one of the holiest shrines of Lord Shiva ,  bestows immense blessings to the Devotees. It is considered as Dhakshina Kasi, as Holy as Varanasi and the Temple Tank, Koti Theertham ,as Holy as River Ganga.

Gokarna is located in the Uthara Kannada district of Karnataka state. It is on the Karvar coast of Arabian Sea.It is about 60 Km from Karvar, 250 Km from Mangalore,160 km from Hubli and 450 km from Bangalore. This Temple town is close to Mangalore- Mumbai National Highway. Pilgrims fom Chennai can take the direct train to Hubli and then go to Gokarna by bus which takes around 4 hours. There are many choultries , Lodges and resorts in this town to suit various segments of pilgrims. Many foreigners visit this town as it is hardly 150 km from Goa, the Tourist destination. The nearest railway station, Gokarna Road is 6 km away from the town.The ocean with the roaring waves coupled with the sand bed and Camel rides attract them. The town,  overlooking both the Western Ghats and the Ocean presents a breathtaking picture to the visitors.

 The long journey by bus from Hubli can be less cumbersome by breaking it in the middle. We broke the journey at a choultry where the pilgrims were offered breakfast. Karnataka is known for its hospitality as most of the famous Temples feed the pilgrims twice everyday.

The Legend of this place traces back to the Ramayana period when the Demon King Ravana went to Mount Kailash and performed severe penance. His aim was to get back the Atmalinga stolen from him and thrown into the sea by Devendra. It was originally worshipped by Ravana' s mother for the prosperity of her son. Angered by the act of Indra, Ravana promised his mother that he would get back the Atmalinga from none other than Lord Shiva Himself. He praised the Lord with Shiva Thandava Sthothram and started offering his organs into the Homa Kundam. The Lord appeared in font of him and gave the Atma Linga to him and bestowed many boons with the condition that the Atma Lingam should not be placed anywhere in the middle until his return to Lanka.

On his way back Home, Ravana, on reaching the shores of Gokarna wanted to perform his evening prayers ( Sandhya Vandhanam ). There appeared Lord Ganesha in the form of a brahmin boy. Ravana requested Ganapathi to hold the Atma Linga in His hands until he came back after finishing the prayers. Ganapathi accepted his request with one condition that He would call Ravana by his name thrice and it was upto him to collect the Lingam before that  time. Otherwise he would place the Lingam on the ground.

Ravana could not return before the specified time and Ganesha called Ravana thrice quickly and placed the Lingam on the ground . Ravana chased the boy and gave a blow on His head. Lord Ganesha vanished from the scene and Ravana tried his best to lift the Atma Lingam but in vain. The Linga Murthi was deeply rooted by that time and Ravana could only feel the top of the Lingam and felt it as the ear of the Cow. Hence He named Him as Go karneshwara and Mahabaleshwara.
The west facing Temple was constructed during the period of    Mayuravarman ( 345- 365 CE) The Vimanam above the Sanctum is in Dravidian style. There is a prakaram aound the sanctum and a separate shrine for Goddess Parvathi ( Thambra Gowri). The Temple was visited by Vijayanagar Kings and Chatrapati Shivaji.

Koti Theertham
 The devotees take bath in the ocean and then in the Temple Tank, Koti Theertham and worship Sidhi Ganapathi at the Temple close to Gokarneshwara' s Shrine.Ganesa Muthi of this type is unique with two hands and in standing posture. Then they proceed to Gokarneswara Shrine where Pujas are held thrice in a day. The pilgrims are allowed to touch the Lingam inside the square pedastal and offer abhishekam.

As the place is regarded as pious as Kasi, devotees pay their respects to their ancestors by performing '" Pithru Karmas'" on the banks of Koti Theertham.

Maha Shivarathri festival in Feb-March draws very large number of devotees . The Chariot festival is held with the images of Shiva and Parvathi kept on the decorated wooden chariot.People pull the chariot with lot of enthusiasm accompanied with drum music.

The Main deity of the Temple is sung in Thevaram Hymns that date back to 6-7th century. Tamil Saint Gnanasambandhar sang a ' Padhigam'  for this place during his visit to Kalahasthi. It was Saint Appar (Thirunavukkarasar) who walked all the way to Gokarna and sang a Padhikam in praise of Lord Gokarna. He made reference to the sea shore on which the Temple stood. The Temple authorities should include this Historic incident in their publications and inscribe the Hymns on the wall of the Temple to preserve the ancient History related to it.

Among the Pancha Linga kshethrams of this region, the other four Temples are at Dhareshvar, Gunavantheshwar, Mrudeshwar and Shedjeshwar.