Saturday, December 3, 2011

Temples Near Thiruvarur - Part II

Absorbed by the divinity of Vidanga Murthi, woshipped by King Musukuntha, Devendra asked Visvakarma to make six more Vidangas resembling the one at Thiruvarur. With the Divine Grace of Thyagaraja, Musukunda identified the original Vidanga among the group of seven Vidangas. The disappointed Indra was convinced later by the Lord and asked to worship them in six places around Thiruvarur namely, Thirukaravoil, Thiruvoimur,Thirukuvalai(Thirukkolili), Thirunallaaru,Vedaranyam and Nagapattinam. These Temples are therefore known as "Saptha Vidanga Sthalams"

Thirukkolili (Thirukkuvalai) is 35 km southwest of Thiruvarur. Buses are available from Thiruvarur and Kachanam on Thiruthuraipundi road. The nearest railway station is at Thirunellikkaval, 20 km from this place. Since Navagrahas {"Kol"} have worshipped Shiva here and stand in the same row unusually , those who visit this place are believed to get rid of "Navagraha Dhosha". Since the effect of Graha is nullified/reduced the place got the name, "Kol ili" Both Swami and Ambal sannadhis face East. Thyagaraja sannadhi is on the right of Sanctum where Brahmapureeswara is the main deity.Bheema freed himself from the "Dhosha" of killing Bagaasura by worshipping at Thirukkuvalai. Inscriptions date back to the period Kulothunga Chola and Sadaya Varman Sundara Pandian are found in this Temple.They talk about their donations offered to oil the lamps inside the Temple.

Lord Brahmapureeswara of Thirukkuvalai is sung in Thevaram Hymns by all the three acharyas. Sundara Murthi Nayanar was feeding Shiva Devotees at Thiruvarur for which he used to pray the Lord to give him Paddy/Gold so that it could be possible for him to carry out the Holy Task. During his visit to Thirukkuvalai, Sundarar prayed the Lord to show way for this noble cause. There was another devotee called Kundaiyur Kizhar,residing at Kundaiyur, about a km away from Thirukkuvalai, equally interested in feeding Shiva Bhakthas. Shiva appeared in his dream and told him that he was blessing him with a mountain size of paddy to be handed over to Sundarar. On hearing this, Sundarar was delighted and wondered how it could be shifted to Thiruvarur. He sang a "Padhigam" in which he prayed the Lord to arrange for the shipment of paddy to Thiruvarur. As a Miracle, the Shiva Bootha Ganas shifted the entire paddy overnight and laid them in front of each house at Thiruvarur.

Kundayur comes under the list of "Vaippu Sthalam" as a separate Padhigam is not available on this place. Sundarar has referred this place in his Hymns on Thirukkuvalai. The Temple at Kundaiyur is small but old. The sthala vruksham(Holy Tree) is also very old. Pilgrims visiting Thirukkuvalai should also make a visit to this Temple. The main deities are called Rishabhapureeswarar and Mangalambigai and there are sannadhis for Meenakshi and Sundareswarar in the prakaram. The trees near these sannadhis cover them like Umbrellas

Thiruvoimur, another Vidanga sthalam is about 7 km from Thirukkuvalai. The famous Subramanya Temple at Ettukudi is on the way. Etti is the Holy Tree here and hence the name. Valmeeki rishi worshipped Shiva here The moorthi of Subramanya is very special as the whole weight rests on the legs of peacock with fine craftmanship. His shrine is located between the sannadhis of Soundhareswarar and Anandhavalli.

Thiruvoimur is known as Leelaahaasyapuram in Sanskrit. A three tier Raja Gopuram is at the entrance and the area of the Temple is 180 x 144 feet Among the theerthams , Soorya Theertham on west, Paapamega Prasanda maarutha Theertham in front, Indra Theertham and Harichandra Nadhi deserve special mention here. The Sun God worships Voimur Nathar on 12th and 13th days of the Tamil month, Panguni when his rays fall over Swami and Ambal(Paalinum nan mozhiyaal/ Ksheeroba Vachani) Saiva Acharyas Sambandar and Appar have sung Thevaram inpraise of Voimurnathar. Neela Vidanga Thyagaraja Sannadhi is on the right of Voimur Nathar.Bhairava sannadhi on the Prakaram is a must for the visitors. Dhakshinamurthi on the Deva goshta is graceful.

Naminandi Adigal, a Nayanmar, hailed from Thiruneiper , not far away from Thiruvarur. He used to light the lamps at Thiruvarur Temple with ghee. As some Jains made mockery at his act and dared to light the lamps with water, Naminandi Adigal could do nothing except praying the Lord. He heard a voice from the sky asking him to light the lamps with water from Kamalalayam Tank . The lamps thus lighted by the Nayanar stood throughout the night to tell the world how great his devotion was.

The birthplace of the Nayanar has a Shiva Temple which is in dilapidated state. The compound wall has collapsed. It is strange why this small temple is ignored by the locals and other devotees who regard the 63 Nayanmars in high esteem. There exists a small sannadhi for Naminandi Adigal with folded hands in the prakaram. There is also a separate shrine for him on the main road which is of recent origin. Philanthropists from Thiruvarur and other places should come forward to save the Shiva Temple from destruction. This temple at Thiruneiper is located close to the main road that leads to Thiruthuraipoondi.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Temples near Thiruvarur - Part I

A girl from a Saivaite family got married to a Vaishnavaite and settled at a place near Thiruvarur. She could not resist worshipping Lord Shiva much against the wishes of her husband. However, she continued her worship in a cattle shed behind her house by assuming the place where the calf was tied as a symbol of Lord Shiva. The Vaishnavaite husband got angry on seeing this and went on to cut the axis to which the calf was meant to be tied  with an axe The Lord appeared from "Kanru Aappu"  to prove that He is omnipresent much to the delight of the girl. The Murthi is therefore called as "Naduthari nathar" ( Vathsa Sthamba Natha in Sanskrit - Vathsa means calf )and Saint Appar who visited the place sang Thevaram Hymns in which he referred the Lord as Kanraappur Naduthari".It is said that the deep cut made by axe is still found on top of the Linga murthi.The Murthi is also worshipped by Parvathi Devi, Idumbaasuran and Dharma sarma, a deciple of Medhaavi maharishi.

 As we enter through the three tier Raja Gopuram we find the Nandi Mandapam facing the sanctum. Beautifully carved Ganapathi and Subramanya are found on both sides of the entrance. The outer prakaram is spacious which houses a platform ("Thirumaaligaippaththi" ) where we find many shivalingas. Dhakshinamurthi in the Deva Goshtam is awesome. He is flanked on both sides by Chanakaathi Rishis as seen everywhere. But the unusual additions here are the deities of Saints Sambandar in dancing position and Appar on one side and Adhikaara Nandikeswara with folded hands standing along with his wife.  Swami Vimaanam is tall and majestic.One can see Saiva Acharyas, Surya and Bhairava on the western platform of the prakaram. Maadhumaiyaal , as mentioned in Thevaram of this place , is the name of the Goddess ( Sri Valliyaambika in Sanskrit) whose shrine faces south. All the ten songs of Appar's Padigam are carved in a stone slab and installed in the Mahamandapam. Naattukottai Nagarathaar have renovated the Temple in granite few decades ago. Siva Theertham, the Temple Tank is in front of the Temple. " Kal Panai " is said to be the Holy Tree of the Temple. The Temple is so neat that it presents a divine atmosphere to the devotees, thanks to the young Sivacharyar who has to come from a neighbouring village to do the Pujas.A three day festival is being conducted every year in connection with Vaikasi Visakam.

There is a deviation at Mavur road on Thiruvarur - Thiruthuraipundi road from where Koil Kanraapur is at a distance of about 5 km.Town buses are available from Tiruvarur but not frequently.A journey by car can also cover many important temples situated around this place. On the East is Saattiyakudi ( 3 km)  Naattiyathaankudi is on the west ( 5km) and Valivalam is in the southern direction ( 3 km ) Nearest Railway station is 6 km from here.

Sri Vedapureeswarar Temple at Saattiyakkudi is sung by Karuvur Thevar in Thiruvisaippa ( 9th Thirumurai). Vedha Theertham , the Temple Tank is considered Holy as it cures many diseases People take bath on auspicious occasions like Pournami days of the Tamil months, Maasi and Vaikaasi as Jwara Devathai took bath here and worshipped Rigvedha Natha Swami. A king called Devathatha was cursed by Saattiyayana Maha Rishi as a result of which he suffered from Leprosy. The Rishi pardoned him later and asked him to take bath in Vedha Theertham of Saatiyakudi Temple and worship the Vedha Nayaka.  On reaching Sattiyakudi, he came to know that the place was worshipped by Saandilya Maharishi. The dip in the Tank cured the disease and he returned to his place after receiving the blessings of The Lord.

The West facing Temple has a three tier Rajagopuram in the front. Kamala Vinayaka sannadhi is on our right when we enter the outer Prakaram. Saandilya Rishi had worshipped this Ganapathy with Lotus that blossomed in Vedha Theertham.  Hence he is also known as Kamala Vinayaka. This Temple is mentioned as "Ezh Irukkai" in Thiruvisaippa. It means that The Lord is seated on seven aasanaas namely, Ananthaasana, Simhaasana, Yogaasana, Vimalaasana, Padmaasana, Veeraasana, Vimalaasana Urdhwam. Deities of Karuvur Thevar and saandilya Rishi are seen in the Prakara.  Special worship is conducted to Karuvur Thevar on Pournami days. Kubera, known as Vaisravana in his previous birth became the King of Alagapuri as he lighted deepams in many Siva Temples,. Later he was blessed by Shiva to become His friend. Kubera has worshipped Vedhapureeswara at Saatiyakudi  Karuvur Thevar refers Kubera as " Sivapuran Thozhan" . Vanni, the Holy Tree ,on the south east is very old and making rounds around the Tree is said to remove sickness and bring peace.

The shrine of Vedha Nayaki is on the right of Vedhapureeswara Sannadhi. The Goddess is tall and faces west. The Sivacharya stays close by and very much devoted like his ancestors. More details about the Temple can be had from the Archaka on 094424 46077.  

Hrudayakamala Natha Swami Temple in Valivalam can be reached from Sattiyakudi .It is 8 km away from Thirunellikaval, the nearest Railway station on Thiruvarur - Thiruthuraipundi section. It is located between Kachanam and Keezhvelur on the bus route. Town buses are available from Thiruvarur. This shrine is sung by all the three Acharyas in Thevaram Hymns. According to the legend, a bird got the wisdom to worship the Lord of this place and made circles around the sanctum. Since the bird "karikuruvi" was so devoted , it received compassion from the Lord and became stronger than ever to protect itself from stronger birds."Karikuruvi" thus became "Valian" and continued to make circles around the Temple. Lord Shiva was so pleased and offered the bird  salvation and the place was therefore known as "Valivalam" The Temple pond, "Kaarana Theertham", created by Kaarana Rishi is on the East. An " aghazhi" encircles the shrine as a garland. The Main entrance is without a Raja Gopuram but well carved PanchaMurthis adorn it. Ambal Sannadhi is on the outer Prakaram which also houses the Holy Tree, "Punnai". Swami Sannadhi is on a raised platform. Such Temples ( "Maadak Koil") were built by Ko Sengat Chozha Nayanar .Sun God had created a pond here with the wheel of his chariot and named it as Chakkara Theertham. Surya Puja is conducted for three days in the Tamil month of Purattasi. Inscriptions of Chola and Pandiya period show how religiously the Kings took care in maintaining the Temple and its property.

Kachchanam is located at 25 km south of Thiruvarur and 11 km north of Thiruthuraipundi. Buses are available from Thiruvarur, Thiruthuraipundi and Nagapattinam. The main Deity is worshipped by Indra, Agasthya Rishi, Drunabindu Rishi,Viduman and Mithrasakan. When Indra tried to remove his hand after making a Lingam out of sand, his finger prints got embossed over it. That is why the place is called "Kai Chinnam" which got changed colloquially into Kachanam. Devendra dug a tank near the Temple with "Vajrayudha" , his weapon. Hence the Tank is called "Vajra Theertham". The Lord gave Dharshan to Indra as "Thyagaraja".This Temple is also a "Maadak koil" built by Ko Sengat Chozha Nayanar. A three tier Raja gopuram greets the visitors and among the Deva Goshtams, Dhakshinamurthi's dharshan makes us unmoved from the place.
"Kongilavam" , the Holy tree is near the Ambal sannadhi.The Goddess is known as "Vel Valai Nayaki" as Indra offered white bangles made out of tusk of Airavadha, his White Elephant.  Temples at Thirukuvalai, Ettikudi, Thirunellikkaval, Thirukkaaaravasal can easily be reached from Kachanam by road. In a nutshell, the whole region presents a spiritual fragrance and treat to the devotees.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Temples near Karaikal

It is with great reverence the Emperors have constructed the Temples which speak volumes about their dedication. They did not impede the imagination of the sculptors as long as they remained within the frame work of Agama shastra and Silpa shastra. It is also said that the sculptors had agreed to begin a project work with the king except going for the repetition of marvellous work done at Thiruvalanchuzhi- {Single stone Window}, Thiruveezhimizhalai{Pillairless Hall}, Thirupperundurai(Avudayar Koil)- {Kodungai} and Thirunanipalli(Punjai- Vimanam). Temples built by Kochengat Chola were constructed on raised platform (Maada Koil). Our Journey along the East coast of Tamilnadu will come across many Temples which are more than 1000 years old. Karaikal and its suburbs drew our attention when we covered some Historic Temples in that region.

It takes nearly 8 hours to reach Karaikal if we start from Chennai. Since we break the journey en route, it should take couple of hours more. For instance we stopped at Thiruppadiripuliyur (Cudalore) after crossing Pondicherry. The Temple is well maintained and the locals show interest in upkeeping it. The sthala vruksham(Holy Tree) is Padhiri , hence the name. Lord Paataleeswarar has been sung in Thevaram Hymns by Thirugnana Sambandar(for whom there is a separate shrine facing the main Temple) and Appar. When Mahendra Pallava who ruled in 6A.D. was influenced by Jain saints , Appar who returned to Saivism was tied with a rock and thrown into the sea. A miracle happened at that time when Appar sang "Panchakshara Padhigam". The stone started floating and the waves safely carried Appar to the coast. On seeing this , the King repented for his mistake and apologised. Appar in sitting posture occupies a shrine inside the inner prakaram , facing the sanctum.

Thirukkadavur was the next destination during the trip. After crossing Chidambaram and Sirkazhi, one has to take the road leading to Nagapattinam. The sign board at Akkur "Mukkoottu" will guide us to Thirukadavur. This is the place where Lord Shiva destroyed Yama and saved His devotee, Markandeya. Many aged couples who throng here on their 61st / 71st /81 st birthday conduct Homam at various places inside the Temple. Amruthakadeswarar,Abhirami and Kalasamharamurthi are important deities of the West facing Temple.

We joined the coast line at Tharangambadi and proceeded towards Karaikal. We halted at Thiruvettakkudi, where the Lord Thirumeni azhagar (Sundareswarar) appeared as a Hunter in front of Arjuna and fought with him. The Temple presents a new look after the renovation. It is sung in Sambandar Thevaram. Idols of Shiva & Parvathi as Hunters and Arjuna are seen in the shrine.

On the outskirts of Karaikal Town is Thiruth Thelicherry , now known as Koil karai Pathu. It is also sung by Sambandar. Naattukottai Nagarathar have renovated the west facing Temple .The Lord is called Parvatheeswarar and Ambal as Swayamvara Thapaswini. Sun's rays fall on the main deity in the Tamil month of Panguni.

Naganatha Swami Temple at Nagore is regarded as an important shrine in the Puranas. According to the Legend, the Great Serpent, Adhisesha worships Shiva on Maha Shivarathri at Nageswara swami Temple Kumbakonam, Nageswara Swami Temple at Thiru Nageswaram, Seshapureeswarar Temple at Thiruppaamburam and finally at Naganatha Swami Temple, Nagore. A five Tier Raja Gopuram adorns the entrance and a majestic Nandi is seen in the front Mandapam. Beautiful images of Gaja Samharamurthi, Bhikshadana, Ekapadha Murthi,Ganga Visarjana Murthi and Sarabeswara are seen in the front side of the Gopuram. People visiting Thirunallaru should not miss visiting this sacred Temple.

Yazhmoori natha swami Temple at Dharumapuram is situated 2 km ahead of Thirunallaru. Sambandar sang "Yaazhmoori Padhigam" which could not be reproduced by Thiruneelakanda Yaazhpanar in his "Yaazh", a string instrument. Such a great Temple is under renovation.

Thirunallaaru is busy on all days but the crowd surge more on saturdays and "Sani Peyarchi" period. "Dharbhai", a form of grass is the Holy Tree found in the prakaram. The Lord is therefore known as Dharbharanyeswarar who is sung in Thevaram by all the three Nayanars.

Karaikal is the birth place of Karaikal Ammaiyar whose life and works are described in Peria Puranam. There is a Temple for Karaikal Ammaiyar in the middle of the Town. Since she obtained the Holy mango fruits from the Lord to be offered to her husband, people offer mangoes in the Tamil month of Ani when Bhikshadanar from the Temple is taken out for procession (Photo courtesy: Dinamalar)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Three in one makes Unparallel

Visiting Kashi and Rameswaram continues to be top in the agenda of every devout Hindu. It is considered as an act to open the Gateway to God. But our tradition which is bound by Sastras and Puranas shows enormous amount of compassion towards those who can ill afford to spend time and money to offer worship at these places. They are not only lenient but show the alternate path to reach the goal. While doing so, the direction shown always reminds people not to forget Kashi. For example, six places in the elstwhile Thanjavur Dt of Tamilnadu are indicated on par with Kashi. They are Mayuram (Mayiladuthurai), Thiruvidaimarudur, Thiruvaiyaru, Thiruvenkadu, Chayavanam, and Srivanchiyam.

Interestingly, we find many Kashi Vishwanatha Temples in Mayuram. Cauvery river that flows across the town is regarded as Ganges as a dip here is regarded equal to the bath taken at Kashi. The important deities of Kala Bhairava and Tundi Ganapathi are also installed in separate shrines on the southern bank of Cauvery.Utsava idols of Medha Dhakshinamurthi and Ganga Devi are taken to Cauvery during the Tamil month of Aipasi (Oct-Nov) and a dip in the river on that day is as Holy as the one we have at Kashi.

The Panchanatheeswara (Aiyarappar) Temple in Mayuram belongs to the Chola period.It is on Mayuram- Thiruvarur road and one can walk down about a KM from the Big temple of Mayuranatha.In the absence of Rajagopuram, the entrance is beautified by installing fine images of Shiva and Parvathi flanked by Ganapathi,Subramanya, Maha Lakshmi, Saraswathi and Dhakshinamurthi. Tall statues of Dwarapalakas are also seen on both sides of the entrance. Like in Thiruvaiyaru, the deities of The Lord and The Goddess are taken in a palanquin to seven Temples located in and around Mayuram. This "Saptha Sthana Utsavam" was restarted few years ago by the efforts taken by the Adheenam and the devotees.

The west facing Temple has beautifully carved deities in Deva koshtam. They include Ardhanareeswara and Dhakshinamurthi. A small tank is seen in the front and The Goddess' (Dharmasamvardhani) shrine is facing south. Lot of inscriptions are seen on the outer wall of the Sanctum. Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam who maintain the Temple have renovated it and performed Kumbabishekam few years back.

MahaGanapathi of this Temple remains in our memory for a long time after the visit. Mayuram has thus become the place where we get the opportunity of remembering both Kashi and Thiruvaiyaru together. Hence it is no wonder why the Tamil proverb claims the place an unparallel one ( "Aayiramaanaalum Mayuram aagaathu". )

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Divine Route -- Kumbakonam to Thiruvarur

Kumbakonam region of Chola Kingdom offers cluster of awesome Temples , each one carrying evidence in the form of inscriptions to tell the History of the past glory. Probably for every 2-3 km, there is a village that has an ancient Shiva Temple.

If one takes the Thiruvarur route from Kumbakonam, the journey has to be broken at Saakkottai, about 3 Km from Kumbakonam. Sivapuram Temple where Lord Vishnu had worshipped Shiva(Siva Gurunatha) in the form of white pig , is hardly 2 Km from here. Sambandar and Appar have sung Hymns in praise of the Lord of this place. Bhairava Sannadhi of this temple is very popular among the devotees who offer worship on Ashtami days.

The road leading to Mannargudi from Saakootai will immediately take us to Kalayanallur within a distance of 2 Km. The utsava idol of Sri Amruthakalasanatha Swami will be taken to Mahamaham Tank once in 12 years.The Hymns of this Temple can be found in Sundarar Thevaram. Marudanallur is hardly 2 km away from here where we find Shiva Temple sung by Sambandar. This place was called Karukkudi during that time. Karukkudinatha Swami is Swayambu and the Archaka places a copper cover while performing Abhishekam. The Temple is being renovated and Kumbabishekam will be conducted on Sunday, 10th July,2011.

Journey towards Thiruvarur from Saakkottai for about 3 Km will take us to Arisikkarai Puthur, now known as Azhagaputhur. Sri Swarnapureeswara Swami Temple is surrounded by paddy fields and the atmosphere is very calm and breathtaking. Pugazh Thunai Nayanar, one of the 63 Nayanmars, belonged to this place. He did not leave the Temple even when people of the entire village deserted the place due to severe draught. He was blessed by the Lord who gave him one measure of coins every day to save him from the draught. Sung by all the three Acharyas in Thevaram, the Temple has a Subramanya sannadhi in which the Lord carries conch and Chakra in His hands.

Just before reaching Nachiar Koil, we come across Sidheeswara swami Temple at Thiru Narayur (Not to be confused with Thirunaarayoor, near Kaattumannargudi). The main deity is worshipped by Gorakka Siddhar and other siddhars, Hence the Lord is named Siddheeswarar. Thevaram Hymns of Sambandar and Sundarar call this place as Narayur Siddheeswaram. Deva Koshtams such as Bhikshadanar, Nataraja,Agasthya, Ganapathi and Gorakkar worshipping Shiva draw our attention. The Goddesss is on the right of Swami Sannadhi, both facing west.

Sara Parameswara Temple at Thirucherai, about 3 km from here is our next destination. Runa Vimochana Lingam in the Prakaram is worshipped by many to get rid of debts. People come to offer prayers in large numbers on Mondays. The Devakoshtams are wonderful at this place also.

Another 10 minute drive will take us to Naaloor Mayanam, sung by Sambandar. The Temple is about 1 km away from the main road. The priest comes to offer pujas once in a day. The Temple is in fairly good condition but the visitors are not many. A pious family of this village takes care of the visitors and arranges for worship at the shrine. Dakshinamoorthi in the Deva koshtam is a must see for the devotees who seek the Adhi Guru's blessings. One should not miss to see brilliantly carved Chandikeswara in the Prakaram. It is said that a snake encircles the Moola Lingam (as mentioned by Sambandar,"Paaloorum Malaip paambum") occasionally. There is also a sculpture on the wall of the sanctum, showing a king (said to be Aditya Chola)worshipping a Shiva Lingam.

Koneswara swami at Kodavasal is worshipped by Garuda and the Temple is close to the main road, separated by the holy pond.

Of the 70 "Maadak koil" (Elevated structures), built by Ko Chenkat Chola Nayanar, Kudavasal Perunkoil belongs to this group. The shrine built on elevated platform has a huge Vimanam over the sanctum with eye-catching stone idols describing various legends. Ardha- Nareeswara in sitting posture , Dhakshnamoorthi and Bhikshadana Murthi are to be watched by standing close to the vimanam.

Thalayalangadu is another 10 mts drive from Kudavasal. Appar has sung Thiruth Thandagam on Lord Nardhanapureeswara of this Temple. Though the Main Vimanam is renovated, the other parts are getting facelift. The Archaka lives close to the Temple.

By proceeding another 3 Km towards Thiruvarur, we reach PeruVelur, where we find another "Madak Koil" built by Ko Chenkat Chozha Nayanar. Piriya nathar sannadhi is a tall structure and Ambal is known as Abhinna Nayaki. The Lord is sung by Sambandar. Sivacharya's house is nearby and he facilitates us to have dharshan.

The same Sivacharyar who also conducts puja at Thiruk Karaveeram, 2 km from here, takes us over there.There is an alankara mandapam in front of the Temple. One fails to understand why the HR&CE is keeping a blind eye on it. What is left now is a few pillars surrounded by bushes. Dancing sculptures are there made in bricks!! The authorities should wake up now to save the Mandapam. Karaveera Natha swami Temple, Moola Lingam and Ambal are all big in size. Prathyaksha Minnamai, as the Goddess is called, is on the right of Swami Sannadhi. Swami and Ambal Vimanams, standing side by side are a pleasure to watch.

Our last leg of the tour was Sri Swarnapureeswara Swami Temple, Aandaan Koil. We have to come back towards Kumbakonam upto Kudavasal and take the road leading to Valangaimaan and drive for about 15 km. Appar in his Hymns has called this place as Kaduvaaik karaip Puthur. It is renovated and maintained well.

We are of the firm belief that our visit should not be allowed to be confined in admiring Historic places and writing blogs or just to gain spirituality for self. While admiring the past and gaining spirituality, we should also take stock of the present situation of the Temple, its maintenance and the livelihood of Sivacharyars who dedicate their entire lives by staying in the remote villages. In this connection, our Sabha has honoured Sivacharyars of Nine rural Temples in 2010 with a Sambavana of Rs 2000 to each of them. We continue to serve them and it is indeed a sevice to God Himself. Honouring the third batch will take place on Monday, 11th July,2011 at Thiru Narayur (Nachiar Koil) at 9.30 A.M. when Sivacharyars from Karukkudi, Thalayalangadu, Peruvelur and Aandan Koil will assemble here and participate in the event.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pazhuvur and Govandhaputhur

"Pazhuvettarayars" were ruling Pazhuvur region under the control of Chola Empire. It is on Tiruchi- Ariyalur highway and has three Shiva temples of that period. For easy identification, Pazhuvur is divided into three parts namely, "Keezha pazhuvur" (on the east) , "Mela Pazhuvur" (on the west) and Keezhayur.All the three temples are said to have been worshipped by Sage Jamadagni and his illustrious son, Parasurama. Keezha pazhuvur Alanduraiyappar temple is sung by Thirugnana Sambandar in his Thevaram Hymns. It is mentioned in the Hymn that the temple rituals were conducted by Keralites who settled down there. The legend says that Parasurama himself brought them from Kerala to conduct Pooja at this temple. Some scholars are of the view that Pazhuvettarayars might have brought them as they belonged to the land of Parasurama. This shrine was rebuilt in granite during the reign of Paranthaka Chola-I . It contains inscriptions of the Emperor describing his victory over Pandyas at Vellore. Another inscription of Parakesarivarman says that the temple was reconstructed by Pazhuvettarayan Maravan Kandan This east facing temple has 14 feet square type sanctum. over which the round shaped dome is seen. Devakoshtas include Ganapathi and Dakshinamurthi on the south and Lingodhbava on west , Brahma and Durga on North Prakara. The Mukha mandapa has Kala samhara, Ardhanari, Kalyana sundara, Gangalamurthi,and Bhairava .

Melapazhuvur is about 1.5 km from Keeazhayur and located close to the Main road. Both Melapazhuvur and Keezhayur were collectively called as "Perum Pazhuvur" during Chola Period. Sundareswara Temple at melapazhuvur belongs to the period of Parakesari varman. The Lord of this temple was called "Pagaividai Eechwara grahaththu Mahadevar" in one of the inscriptions. The inscriptions of Raja Raja and Kuloththunga refer the Lord as " Thiruththotramudaya Mahadevar" Probably this name has been translated later into Sanskrit as Sundareswarar. According to the legend, Jamadagni Rishi, father of Parasurama worshipped here and we still find the sage's statue in the Prakara, facing west. There are inscriptions which say that one Pazhuvettarayan kandan maravan had renovated this temple. Another important inscription says that the temple which was built by using bricks had to rebuilt as it was facing ruin. It was rebuilt by Ilangesan during the period of kulothunga Chola and renamed it as Kulothunga Choleeswaram. High statues of dwara palas welcome us at the Raja gopuram entrance . Nandi Mandapam has a beautifully carved Nandi and the Prakara has equally well carved Subramanya, Chandikeswara and Gajalakshmi. The temple needs urgent renovation in order to prevent further damage due to negligence.

Avani Gandarva Eechwara Gruham in Keezhayur is known for Chola masterpieces and is under the control of ASI. One must be lucky to see the gates open as our attempts go in vain on many occasions. There are two west facing shrines inside the compound. They are called as "Agastheeswaram" and "Choleeswaram" Both these temples belong to the period of Adhitha Chola I ( 884 A.D) and are considered as outstanding examples for the construction of vimanam.

Govandhaputhur is located around 25 km from Ariyalur and the temple of Gangajadeswarar presents a new look due to the extensive renovation work undertaken by Thayumanavar Manram, Thiruchirappalli. The once dilapidated temple has been put back to its original glory by the untiring efforts of the Manram and other philanthropists. A similar effort has to be taken for the temple at Vikramangalam which is 4 km away from this place. As the presiding deity is worshipped by Kamadhenu, the place is named as Go vandhaputhur.

River Kollidam flows nearby and one can reach Vijayamangai , sung in Thevaram by crossing the river. Appar has praised Govandhaputhur in his verses on Vijayamangai. Statues which are said to be those of Rajaraja Chola ,his queen and Karikaal Chola are seen in the Prakaram. Durga Devi with prayoga Chakram on Her right hand and the smile on Nataraja's face are not to be missed by the visitors. A damaged statue of Jyeshta Devi is found inside the compound of the nearby school. It is not known why the renovation committee has left the Mandap on the right of Ambal sannadhi untouched . The locals expressed the desire to renovate it as it would involve a low budget. Our Sabha has accepted in principle to renovate it after obtaining the necessary formalities.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chandikeswara Sannadhis

Madhyarjunam, also known as Thiruvidaimarudur occupies an unique place in the map of Shiva Temples. The Purana says that it is centrally located as the Main sanctum and the Linga murthi is not named as seen in other places. he is simply called Mahalingamurthi, considering the importance of the place. It is also viewed as the Shiva Sannadhi of a temple for which the sub shrines(Parivara sannadhis) are surrounded though distantly. Ganapathi Sannadhi is at Thiruvalanchuzhi on Kumbakonam- Thanjavur route and Subramanya sannadhi is at Swamimalai, about 5 Km from Kumbakonam.

Thiruvalanchuzhi Temple is of Chola Period and is very big in size. The Vinayaka Sannadhi is unique as the window in front of Vinayaka is made of single stone and gives a look as if it is made of wood. In those days, the sculptors refused to reproduce certain masterpieces before entering into new contracts , Thiruvalanchuzhi Window is one among them. Ganapathi inside the sannadhi is worshipped by Indra and Vishnu. The utsava murthi has two consorts namely Siddhi and Buddhi. Kapardheeswara Sannadhi behind this shrine is a splendour in stone.

One has to cross the rivers Cauvery and Arasalaru before reaching Swamimalai, the abode of Subramanya. His Sannadhi is located at an elevated place with sixty steps representing Tamil years. Since this place falls under the six abodes of Subramanya, people visit in large numbers to offer their prayers.

Chandikeswara sannadhi for Mahalingamurthi is at Thirucheignalur, which is around 15 km from Kumbakonam on the way to Thirupanandal on Chennai High way. The temple is situated two km away from the High way. This is the birth place of Chandikeswara. His boyhood name was Vichara sarma. When he was seven years old , upanayanam was conducted for him and everyone was surprised to see the pace at which he learnt the Vedas. As it was his turn to take the cows to green pastures, he obliged to do it willingly as he had passion to do it. He worshipped Lord Shiva by making a Lingam out of the sands of the river manniyaaru. The river attained this name after Subramanya who once visited the place and performed Sivapuja. Hence the place got the name, "Seignalur" as the word "Sei" in Tamil means "Kumara" or son. On seeing his son milking the cows and performing abhishekam to sivalingam under an ""Aathi" tree, Vicharasarma's father became angry and kicked the milkpot with his leg. Vicharasarma instantly realised that whoever does "Sivaparatha" should be punished. The stick he had in his hand became an axe and he cut his father's leg with that. The Lord appeared in front of the child and blessed him by offering the garland taken from His head and was crowned as Chandikeswara.
The Temple at Thirucheignalur is in good shape as the renovation was carried out few years back. Sathyagireeswara shrine is on an elevated place. He is praised in Thevaram Humns by Thirugnanasambandar wherein Chandikeswara's story is mentioned. Sekkizhar in his Periapuranam gives a detailed account of the place and the devotion of Vicharasarma . This place was also one among the five venues where the new Kings of Chola dynasty were crowned. There is a separate sannadhi for Subramanya in the Prakara in which the Lord is seen riding on a peacock.The priest comes here once in a day from a nearby village to offer Puja.

Thiruvapadi can be reached from Thirucheignalur by taking the High way again and proceeding towards Thirupanandal. This is the place where Chandikeswara performed abhisheka with Cow's milk under the "Aathi" tree. Hence the Lord is known as "Paal Ugantha Nathar" . The Temple presents a new look, thanks to the renovation committee members. "aathi" tree is seen in the Prakara, Unusually, the vimanam above Chandikeswara shrine is a huge one. It shows the importance attached to him by the Chola Emperors.Thirunavukkarasu Nayanar has sung Thevaram Hymns on the Lord in which he has indicated the Sivapuja done by the young Vicharasarma.

Both Thirucheignalur and Thiruvapadi deserve better attention as we find only one kala puja in both places. Milk is rarely offered for abhishekam and there are no sponors either within the village or from outside.Our efforts to offer cows to the Temple was not welcomed as no one was prepared to look after them. The only option left is to purchase Cow's milk from the villagers and offer the same to the temple. The primary concern is the absence of a person who can take lead role and organise things properly without any break. People should think loud instead of just visiting the temples. We must instil confidence in the mind of sponsors and assure that their initiative will never go as a waste and utilised in the way they wanted.