Cauvery Delta is not only blessed with vast green fields ,best described as "granery of South", but with numerous Temples on her banks. On the southern bank of Cauvery we have as many as 127 Shiva Temples sung in Thevaram Hymns. This number is based on what is available today. Many Palmleaf manuscripts carrying Hymns on other places might have been lost or destroyed by pests during storage. Hence it is equally important to visit those ancient Temples, for which Thevaram Hymns are not available. While we plan to write more on them in the next post, we continue to write about the shrines close to Thiruvarur as third part in this series.
Gayakarai (now called Gekarai) is about 4 km north of Thiruvarur from where a diversion takes us to a place called Palliyin Mukkoodal, sung by Appar in his Thevaram. Minibuses from Thiruvarur ply upto this place,though not frequently.One can also alight at either Kodikal Palayam or Virkudi railway stations , if the rail route (Mayiladuthurai - Thiruvarur) is preferred ( At present, gauge conversion work is on and it is better to go by road.) Lord Rama is said to have performed rituals for his father ,King dasaratha here as this place and theertham are regarded on par with Gaya. Like in thriveni sangam (at Allahabad),where three rivers meet, "Mukkoodal Theertham" infront of the Temple is considered equally Holy. The east facing Temple , renovated by Naattukkottai nagarathar has just one Prakaram. Nandi, facing the Sanctum has turned its head slightly. The Murthis of Ganapathi, Subramanya and Lakshmi in the Prakara are extraordinarily beautiful. According to Thiruvarur Puranam, a Chola King who never missed a Shiva Dharshan before taking meals, reached late at this place and found that the Temple was closed by that time. His assistant who came in a horse, decorated a bag containing horse- feed as Shiva linga and kept it in front of the King. Thinking that it was a Linga, the King worshipped it and took dinner that night. He came to know the fact on the next day and tried to lift the bag. He could not succeed as the contents of the bag really transformed into a Linga.There goes another story in the Purana that Lord Parvathi appeared as daughter to a Queen called Thapovadhani on a Lotus and The Lord married her later.
The journey covering a distance of 3- 4 Km from Palliyin Mukkodal will lead us to Virkudi. It is one of those eight "Veerattanams" where Shiva is worshipped as "Samhara Murthi". In Virkudi, we find Samhara Murthi Sabhai wherein The Lord holds a "Chakra" in His hand. This place is 2 Km away from Virkudi railway station. One can also alight at Gangalanchery on Sannanallur - Thiruvarur bus route and walk down for 3 Km. The Temple is west facing and Naattukkottai nagarathars of Pallathur have renovated it. There is a 5 tier Gopuram at the entrance and the shrine has two Prakarams. Goddess Parimala Nayaki ( Elavar Kuzhali) sannadhi is close to Veeratteswara Swami sannadhi. This is the place where Shiva killed Jalandhara Asura,the son of Samudra Raja. The Asura married Brinda ,the daughter of Kalanemi and then started terrorising the Devas. He defeated Vishnu and Indra took asylum at Kailash. Finally, Shiva killed the demon with His chakra and the Chakra returned to the Lord after meeting the purpose. Sambandar has sung a Thevaram Padigam praising the deity of this place.
Thirukkondeeswaram and Nannilam are two places sung in Thevaram which can be accessed by road. A ten- minute drive from nannilam will take us to Thirukkondeeswaram, sung by Appar. This place is fondly worshipped by Parvathi who took the form of Cow by pouring milk over the Shiva Linga.The name of the deity is therefore known as Pasupatheeswara. The Goddess is named as Santha Nayaki and this Temple on the southern banks of the river, Mudikondan has a tank called Ksheera Pushkarani and the Holy tree is Vilvam.
The Temple at Nannilam is right on the heart of the town. It is otherwise known as Devaranyam, Sundaravani, Bruhathpuram in Sanskrit. Ko Chnkat Chola has built this "Madakkoil", constructed on a raised platform. Sundara Murthi Swamigal in his Thevaram Hymn has mentioned about this. Defying the Asuras, the Devas took the form of bees and found asylum here. Hence the place, the Moola murthi and the Goddess are called as "Madhuvanam", "Madhuvaneswarar" and "Madhuvana Nayaki" respectively.
Sri Vanchiyam, one of the Mukthi Kshetrams is located about 6 km from Nannilam on Kumbakonam road. A deviation at Achuthamangalam takes us straight to the temple. Vishnu worshipped Shiva here to be beloved with Mahalakshmi. Hence the deity got the name, Vanchinatha. Brahma, Parachara, Athri, Makudavardhana, and Charumathi have also been blesssed by Shiva at this place. A 5-tier Raja gopuram welcomes the visitors at the Eastern entrance. A unique feature at this shrine is the presence of a Sannadhi for Yama. There is an "Yama Vahanam" at this Temple, over which the Utsava idol is seated and decorated during the festival in the Tamil month of "Masi". Since the Lord is said to bless all souls who die here to attain salvation, Yama has no role to punish the sinners.All three Acharyas have sung Thevaram verses in praise of Vanchinatha. Saint Manickavachakar has also referred this place along with the name of the Goddess as "Maruvar Kuzhali" in Thiruvachakam. The second entrance also has a 3- tier Gopuram and Ambal sannadhi can be seen on the right. We enter swami prakaram after crossing the third entrance. This prakaram has sannadhis that belong to ganapathi, Shanmukha, Pancha bootha Lingas, Gaja Lakshmi, Bhairava, Shani, Lingas of Mukthi kshetras etc. An exclusive east facing Durga sannadhi is seen in north Prakara. Shiva is said to have created the Temple Tank, Guptha Gangai with his Trisoolam.. Ganga Devi is said to have washed off the sins she received from devotees at Kashi by bathing at this Holy Tank,which is also known as Punya Theertham, Athri Theertham, Parachara Theertham and Muni Theertham in all the four yugas. Hundreds of people take bath here on Sundays during the Tamil month of "Karthigai". Inscriptions of Chola, Pandya and Naick period are seen here which glorifies this place as " Raja Gambeera Chathurvedhi Mangalam".
Thiruppugalur can be reached from Nannilam/ Sannanallur by road(7 Km) that leads to Karaikal. Since Agni has worshipped Shiva here, the Lord is called Agneeswarar. Banasura, a great Shiva devotee tried to lift this Linga to be taken to his mother's place failed in his attempt. However, the Lord tilted in the same place and got the name, "Kona Piraan". The deity is sung in Thevaram by all the three Acharyas. Saint Appar attained Mukthi on a Chithirai sadhayam day. This event is celebrated every year elaborately during this period. When Sundarar came for dharshan, the Temple was undergoing renovation. He kept few bricks to support his head and started taking rest outside the temple. When he started collecting the cloth spread over the bricks, he found that the bricks were converted as golden blocks by Agneeswara's grace. On seeing the miracle, he sang a "Padhigam" with tears rolling from his eyes. The Temple has a 5 - tier gopuram in the front and a 3-tier gopuram at the second entrance. There is one more shrine close to the shrine whch was served by Muruga Nayanar. It is called Vardhamaneeswaram and Sambandar's Padhigam is there on this deity. Agni Theertham covers the Temple on three sides. Punnagam (Punnai) is the sthala vruksham of the Temple.
Sowrirajaperumal Temple at Thirukkanapuram is hardly 1 km south of Thiruppugalur. Both the tank and the Temple at this place are very big in size.On the eastern side of Thirukkanapuram, a Shiva Temple, sung by Sambandar is located at Ramanadheeswaram. The renovation work which was started many years ago appears to have been almost completed. After defeating Ravana, Rama worshipped Shiva at Rameswaram and Ramanadheeswaram.Hence the tank is also named after Rama as "Rama Theertham". Kulothunga Chola has gifted lands of Sivapathasekaramangalam for the maintenance of this Temple and renovated it. The inscription mentions about a period in which there was no income from the lands of this temple due to severe draught and the Temples at Rararaja Pondy Mangalam, Veera Chola Mandalam Jayamkonda Chola Mandalam and Naduvilnadu were asked to assist Ramanadheeswaram Temple by sending Paddy and Gold.This message should be an eyeopener to all administrators who do nothing when the temples reel under poor income.