Sunday, December 15, 2013

Temples on the banks of Coovam

A pilgrimage on the banks of the river Coovum may appear funny for many persons as the region does not receive the attention that it deserves.. The interesting pilgrimage of the region can be centered at Thiruvallur where facilities such as boarding and lodging are available. It is well connected to places like Arakonam  and Chennai on the Railway map. A thirty minute drive from Thiruvallur takes us to Coovum, named after the river which originates at this place. Thevaram Hymn sung by Thirugnanasambandar mentions this place as Thiruvirkolam and Koogam.  While SanathKumara Samhithai of Skandha Maha Puanam describes the importance of this place, Sthala Puranam in Tamil was written by the great Thuraimangalam Sivaprakasa Swamigal some 800 years before.He has narrated the Puranam in about 700 verses  The river Coovum originates from a lake ,North of  the Temple. Another Temple which is sung by Sambandar , called Ilambayankottur is located on the other side of the lake. The Sthalpuranam mentions the river Coovum as " Paali "
{ " புண்ணிய தீர்த்தம் பாலி அல்லது புவியில் யாதோ? } Such a Holy river gets polluted once it approaches the Metro City of Chennai ! Another Tamil Literature called Ammanai calls the place as Thiru vIrkolam as a place surrounded by 24 " Cheris " like  kumaara cheri on the west, Irulancheri on nothwest, Kondancheri on north, Keezhacheri on East, Koovumcheri on the South. { " நாலாறு சேரி நடுவே திருவிற்கோலம் பாலாறு சூழ்ந்த பதியது காண் அம்மானை." } The number also refers 24 divisions of Manavoor . It also refers to 24 villages around Koovum including Narasingapuram, Pichchivakkam, Pudhumaavilangai, Pinjivaakkam, Mappedu, Pillayar Kuppam    from where the people serve the Temple even now. Holy water is brought from the beds of Koovum to perform Abhishekam to the Main Deity of Coovum Temple. Those beds are called "Thirumanjanak Kuzhi" Special mention may be made to the devotees of Pinjivaakkam who bring Cow's milk and flowers for the Noon Puja and those from Pudhumaavilangai who serve the Temple on Padhosham days.

The well maintained Temple at Coovum with a 5-tier Raja Gopuram can be seen as and when we enter the village amidst paddy fields.The legend says that the three forts of  Tharakaksha,Kamalaksha and Vidyunmali were destoyed by the smile of Lod Shiva although He started to fight against the Rakshasas by boarding a chariot. As the Devas failed to worship Lord Ganapathi at this juncture, He broke the axle of the Chariot. Hence He got the name "Achiruththa Vinayaka". His shrine is seen inside the Temple. Lord Shiva blessed all Devas when He appeared before them by holding a bow and arrow in His hands. The Main deity is therefore called Thripuranthaka and the Goddess as Thripura Sundhari. The Sanctum faces east and on the right side is the shrine of the Goddess also facing east. The Main Deity is considered to be too Holy and the priests never touch the Murthi with their hands. Hence people call Him as " Theendaath Thirumeni"

 Mappedu is hadly 15 minutes driving distance from Koovum. The Temple is close to the highway and presents a renovated look. The main entrance is beautifully carved on both sides and on top of it is a 5 tier Rajagopuram. The Temple which belongs to Chola period is dedicated to Lord Sringeeswara , worshipped by Sringi Muni. The vimanam over the sanctum carries many images of Lord Shiva such as Dhakshinamurthi, Bhikshadana, Anandha Thandava Murthi, Sivakami, Oordhuva Thandava Murthi and Karaikkal Ammai . The sanctum is on a raised platform. Pushpakuchambika Sannadhi is on the outer prakaram.

Sri Thayinum Nallal sametha Sri Kalinga natha swami Temple at Irulanjeri is 2 km away from Coovam. It is said that this place was called Irungalur and mentioned in Appar's Thevaram as Iraiyancheri. However, this claim has to be studied further. It is a small Temple surrounded by paddy fields. A dilapidated Mutt of Devar Singa Adheenam is seen near the Temple. Inscriptions that belong to the period of Rajaraja III are also found in the Temple.

There are many Siva Temples in and around Perambakkam, which is 2 km away from Irulanjeri. Kasi Viswanatha Temple in the town is amidst many houses but wholly neglected. Deities are housed in s make shift Temple. Si Kamakshi sametha Cholzheeswara Temple is a "Parihara Sthalam" where people come in large numbers on mondays to get rid of health related problems like neurological and orthopaedic disorders. The Temple is located in a serene atmosphere.

Mangaleswara Swami Temple on the outskirts of Perambakkam is in an isolated place. Only the Lingamurthi and Nandhi are remaining. The Lingam is placed on a platform and the Nandhi is seated in front of Him. Thick bushes and trees stand helplessly by surronding the Lord. The locals should take up the construction of the Temple with the help of philanthropists from outside.

Sri Kamakshi sametha Si Ishtasidhi Lingeswara Temple is yet another Temple on the way to Chitrambakkam. The renovated Temple is close to the road and the locals come in the evenings to offer worship.

Sri Kumbeswara Temple at Chitrambakkam is being renovated and the job is likely to be completed in another few months. Sri Kumbeswara Murthi in the Balalayam is a massive Shiva Lingam. It is heartening to find some well wishers over there to mobilise support from outside.

Sri Janamejayeswara Temple at Senji , close to Chitrambakkam is in a pathetic condition . The whole granite structure is threatened by wild growth of plants. Nobody seems to have bothered to protect the ancient shrine The residents near the Temple should take up the task of rebuilding and saving the old Temple without further delay.

One can cross the railway gate near Kadambathur and reach the local Temple. Si Muktheeswara Temple of this place enjoys local support and well maintained. Another isolated Temple near the place is Saatharai where we find a quiet shrine dedicated to Sri Vedhanayaki sametha Sri Vasishteswara. The Linga Murthi is a big one and it is unfortunate that  we do not find many worshipers here.

The Temple at Koyambedu, now a part of Chennai city is also located near the river Coovam. An otherwise quite Temple took new shape and started to attract many devotees since the last decade. It is worshipped by Lava and Kusa , sons of Lord Rama and the Lord is therefore called as Lucha Lavapureeswara . Saint Arunagirinatha has sung a Hymn on Lord Subramanya here.

Nerkunram is a "Thevara Vaippu Sthalam" , located close to the highway leading to Poonamalli. One must be lucky to have dharshan of the Deites here because the Temple is mostly closed except during the Puja time in the morning. But the Temple is in a good condition and the greenery around it presents an awesome picture. Nerkunravaanar of this place had written Thiruppugalur andhadhi , a celebrated  work in Tamil Literature in praise of Lord Agneeswara of Thirupugalur.

Noombal Agastheeswara Temple is almost covered on all sides by high rise buildings of companies and it is better to enquire at street corners to reach the Temple. Noombal just before Karaiyanchavadi/Poondhamalli and the Temple is an ancient one. Gaja Brishta vimanam is seen on Moolavar's garbagrugam and the Temple is said to attract lot of devotees on festive days.
One may wind up the pilgrimage of Shiva Temples on the banks of Coovam at the last destination at Poondhamalli Vaidhyanatha Swami Temple. Sculptures at the Main entrance convey the message that the Historic Temple was under the care of many rulers.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

An Unforgettable Dharshan

 It should be a fantastic experience for those who visit Gangai Konda Cholapuram on a Full moon day in the Tamil month, Aipasi. As the grand event is poised to take place from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. it gives an opportunity to visit historic Temples on the way. Chidambaram, Kumbakonam and Mayiladuthurai are the convenient places for stay to start early in the morning and reach the destination on time. It so happened that the new month Aipasi started on the very same day when the Annabishekam day coincided. The whole month of Aipasi wears a festive look in Mayiladuthurai as the deities of many Temples of the town are taken in a procession , reach the banks of Cauvery for "Theerthavari". The first day , Amavasya day and the last ten days of the month are very important as the Deities are decorated and taken in different "vahanams" . The "Aipasi Usthavam" was started as per the customary practice when "Panchamurthis" were taken to Cauvery. It was a moment to cherish to have Dharshan of the Divine couple,Lord Mayuranatha and Goddess Abhayambika seated on "Rishaba vahanams"

The first place to break during the Pilgrimage to Gangai Konda Cholapuram was Kuthalam, about 10 KM west of Mayiladuthurai on the way to Kumbakonam. One need to take right at the bazaar and proceed for about a KM to reach Ukthavedheeswara Swami Temple. After crossing the five tier Rajagopuram, the Holy Tree of the Temple, Ukthaala Vruksham attracts us . It is covered by a dais which houses a "Padhuka" left by Lord Shiva and some "Naga Prathishtais" . The legend says that the Lord assured the Rishi that he had come form Kailasa to marry Parvathi who was born as the Rishi's daughter and He would marry Her on an auspicious day. It was during that time he left His Padhuka under the Holy Tree. The marriage took place at Thirumananjeri, some 5 km away from Kuthalam.

The Temple at Kuthalam is big and it needs to be renovated soon. The terracotta figures on the vimanam are quite big and remarkable. It is hightime to preserve them from destruction. Ukthavedheeswara Swami (Sonnavaaru Arivaar) is sung in Thevaram and a reference is made in Thiruvasagam too. The west facing Temple has a tank inside. On taking bath in the tank, Saiva Saint Sundarar got rid of the disease he had when he breached his promise of not leaving Thiruvotriyur. All Sundays are auspicious in the month of "Karthigai" (Nov- Dec) when the deities are taken round the town and reach Cauvery for " Theerthavaari".

The next stop was at Pandha nallur, known as "Pandhanai Nallur" in Thevaram Hymns. Both the Temple Tank and the Shrine are big and are well maintained. The tank in front of the seven tier Rajagopuram is called "Soorya Pushkarani" . The Goddess, Venu Bhujaambikai, facing north is said to have performed penance to marry Pasupatheeswara, the Lord of this place. Kalyana sundara murthi's shrine faces South. The important shrine of Sattainatha Swami , facing south is found in the prakaram.
The outer prakaram consisits of Nayanmars, Shrines of Ganapathi, Subramanya, Gajalkshmi, Saraswathi and Annapoorani. We also come across the sthala vruksha,"Sarak konrai" tree on the North Prakaram. Of the many Chola inscriptions in the Temple, the one which speaks about the interest shown towards restoring the old inscriptions during renovation is noteworthy.

Another half an hour drive via Anaikarai takes us to Gangai Konda Cholapuram. The massive vimanam attracts us from a distance of say 2 km. People gathered in large number to witness the great occasion. There was a separate enclosure in the outer prakaram, a temporary arrangement to cook rice for the occasion. Number of rice bags were there and the cooks were busy in their job.  Cooked rice was taken to the sanctum to perform abhishekam to the huge Linga Murthi of about 13 feet high.

Annabhishekam was started at about 10 A,M and was over by 4 p.m. amidst Veda Parayanam. This mega event was initiated by Kanchi Kamakoti Sankaracharya some decades ago and the devotees from different parts of the state continue to serve as volunteers and make this happen. Unlike in other places, devotees are allowed to have dharshan of the Deity even when the Annabhishekam is on. The Management must be thanked for allowing people to watch when the event is in progress. The rice covers the Murthi slowly and it is a delight to watch the entire process. The event , for sure, will be cherished for many years and remain in the minds as an unforgettable one.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Short Trips and Big Gains

It has always been a delightful and memorable pilgrimage whenever the places in Chola Kingdom are chosen.  Even the remote places where the transport is  scarcely available do not fail to provide immense pleasure on reaching the spots. Those who want to save time may very well go for a cab instead of waiting for the local transport. One should admit that the road condition has improved a lot though there is  scope for further improvement. But it may not be possible to find a full time archaka at many places as the same person may be serving at many places in his neighbourhood. Most of them possess mobile sets and it is therefore easy to inform them prior to the visit. Nevertheless, these Temples may be opened for visitors upto noon and again in the evening with the help of the caretakers.

It is always better to plan the route for the day which will cover all important Temples in the region. For example, a three hour trip around Kudavasal near Kumbakonam will take us to many less known Temples of that area. We may start from Sri Koneswara swami Temple at Kudavasal, sung by Sambandar and Appar.
A five minute drive from Kudavasal towards Thiruvarur will lead us to Ohai where we find the Temple of Sri Kailasanatha. Two south facing sannadhis are dedicated to The Goddess. The shrines of Ambal , called as Praanambikai and Gnanambikai are adjacent to each other. Information on how the place got the name "Ohai" and its  sthalapuranam could not be gathered as the proper person was not available at that time. We request the Temple authorities to display the details on a board so that the visitors come to know more about the Temple.

We reach Sellur after a drive of say  5 km . The Temple of Sri Gunambika Sametha Sri Kailasanatha presents a new look as it was renovated and consecrated two months back. Eight Lingams are seen in the prakaaram  near Subramanya shrine. The legend says that  Lord Kailasanatha was worshipped by Nakshatra Devathas and Chakambari Devi had performed the Puja with the flowers of "Nandhyavardham".
Thirukkollambudur, sung by Thirugnanasambandar is located about 2 km from Sellur. "Koovilam" is the Tamil name for Bilva Tree. The name Koovilambudur is said to have transformed as Kollambudur. Sri Soundaranayaki sametha Sri Vilvaaranyeswara Temple is one among the "Panchaaranya Sthalams" of this region , the other four being Avalivanallur, Thiruk- Karugavur, Haridwara Mangalam and Alangudi. Sthalapuranam suggests to undertake the Pilgrimage to all the five Temples by starting in the morning at Thirukarugavur and completing it at Kollambudur on the same day.

When Thirugnanasambandar visited the place with his followers, the river Vettar was in floods. Nobody dared to operate the boats to cross the river. Divine Grace blessed Sambandar to perform a miracle at that time. He sang a Thevaram Padigam in praise of the Lord of Kollambudur and stood inside the boat with his followers. The boat crossed the waters automatically and brought them to the other bank of the river.

Thereafter Sambandar and others went inside the Temple of Vilvavaneswara and worshipped. This event is held even now on Deepavali Amavasya Day when the idol of Sambandar is taken to the other side of the river and then brought to the Temple where the Deities of Vilwavaranyeswara and Soundara Nayaki give Dharshan to him. The Temple was renovated by Naattukotai Nagarathars some decades back. One should not miss the beautiful eyes of the Vrishaba vahanam here which shows  the mastery of the craft.

We need to go back to Sellur and proceed towards Koradachery after crossing a village called  Abhivirudheeswaram. Just before entering Koradachery, a road deviating from the main one , takes us to Pathur where the Temple is usually called as Nataraja Temple by the locals. The main deities at the Temple are Sri Viswanatha and Sri Visalakshi. The Priest comes here from Sellur to conduct daily Pujas.

We proceed towards Thiruvidaivasal after crossing the railway gate and the bazaar at Koradachery. Abhirami sametha Puyakotinatha is known for an important inscription. Unlike the inscriptions of other places, this one is nothing but a Thevaram Padhigam,sung by Sambandar during his visit. This inscription came to light only in the year 1917. Until then, the number of Thevara sthalams was 274 and with this finding  the number went up to 275. Ganapathi, Durga and other deities in the Devakoshtam are noteworthy.

The sculpture showing Ambal,holding Sambandar on her lap and offering Holy Milk is located at the entrance of Abhirami's sannadhi. The other sculpture depicting  Sambandar worshipping The God and The Goddess right on top of the main entrance is enchanting.

 The final point in this short trip was Enkann which could be accessed from Thiruvarur also. It is known as an important Shrine for Lord Subramanya although the Main Deties are Sri Brahmapureeswara and Sri Peria Nayaki. The south facing sannadhi of Subramanya is sung in Thirupugazh by Saint Arunagirinatha. The Deity is carved exceptional well in a sitting posture on a peacock with several arms in His hands. The four headed/eight eyed Brahma worshipped Lord Shiva  here,hence the name Ennkann. Itis also said that the sculptor who made the Deities of Shanmukha at Sikkil and Ettukudi was blinded by the King so that he could not make similar idols. The sculptor prayed Shanmukhanatha and made the idol here with Holy thoughts in the mind as eyes. So the place derived the name "Ennkann" and the Lord blessed the sculptor to regain his vision. People with poor vision pray to Subramanya at Ennkann  to get back their vision.

With a 3 km drive from Ennkann we rejoin Kumbakonam - Thiruvarur road beween Kaappanamangalam and Thalayalangadu. Another 5 km drive takes us back to Kudavasal via Puthukudi and Manjakudi to complete the circle. We suggest similar visits for those who are desirous to see less known Temples within 3- 4 hours on a holiday. The more the visits ,more courtesy will be the extended to the less privileged section of the public,namely the Archakas of rural Temples. There will be  scope for maintaining the Temples as well with the patronage extended. Yes, the short trips will result into big gains!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Burning with a Smile

The Legend at Thiruvadhigai is associated with “Thripurasamhara”, where Lord Shiva had destroyed the three forts of the demons, Tharakaksha, Kamalaksha and Vidyunmali. He did not just conquer the three forts of the Asuras but the three vices of ego, karma and illusion of Devas as well. The ever compassionate Lord revived the three asuras and made Tharakaksha and Vidyunmali as Dwarapalas and Kamalaksha was assigned the role of playing “Panchamukha Vadyam”. Shiva’s smile alone was sufficient to burn the three forts to reduce them into ashes.

The Temple at Thiruvadhigai, spread into seven acres isbelieved to be the place where the “Thripura Samhara” took place. It is located near Panrutti, in Cuddalore district of Tamilnadu. It has three concentric prakaras with a plethora of superb sculptures that depict the various forms of Shiva. The Thripura Samhara Thandavam and other karanas are seen sculptured brilliantly from the very entrance itself. The presiding deity is Veeratteswarar, a large, 16 faced Shivalinga. As the Temple belongs to the Pallava period, we find a stucco figure of Parvathi and Parameshwara in Kalyana(Marriage) posture.

A separate shrine known as Veeratteswarar Sabha, houses the Thripuranthaka murthi. He is shown to be standing with a bow in His hand, accompanied by the Goddess,Thripurasundari. The Lord also holds a deer, an arrow and a goad in the other hands. Another sub-shrine houses the famous Panchamukha Linga with four faces in the four cardinal directions and the fifth (athomukham), facing upwards.

Since Shiva had appeared here in a grand chariot, designed by the Devas, the entire central shrine of this Temple is built like a Chariot. The Vimana and the outer walls are filled with stucco figures, each depicting various scenes from Puranas. It is believed that this structured had inspired King Rajaraja for designing the famous Brahadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur. It is also stated that the very first Chariot built was during the occasion when the Lord went for “Thripura Samharam”.

Gedilam river that runs nearby is hailed in Periapuranam as equal to Ganges. A well inside the Temple known as Soola Theertham is said to cure diseases related to the stomach.

As the Goddess’ shrine is on the right of Veeratteswarar, many marriages are solemnized here. The Ambal is also called Peria Nayaki. There is also a popular belief among the devotees that the Lord removes the three vices of ego, karma and illusion. While applying Vibhuthi on the forehead, one has to bow his/her head which indicates that the ego is submitted in front of God.

Thevaram Trio of Sambandar,Appar and Sundarar have sung Hymns in praise of the Lord. In fact, the very first Thevaram Hymn originated here from Thirunavukkarasar(Appar) when he returned Home from Jain monks to rejoin Saivism. His sister Thilakavathi led him to the Sanctum and asked him to pray the Lord to cure him from the acute stomach pain he suffered at that time. There are two separate shrines inside the precincts of the Temple to honour both Appar and Thilakavathi.

During the annual Vaikasi Visakam festival, the Thripuranthaka murthi, seated in a chariot is taken to Kollidam.  The three forts, constructed with dried coconut and palm leaves are set to fire to mark the occasion. The deity returns to the Temple after the grand spectacle.

Before we enter the Main entrance, a 16 pillar Mandapam catches our attention. Stucco figures of Ganapathi,Subramanya are seen on both sides of Shiva and Parvathi in marriage posture. Images of Ganapathi, Dwara Palas and Nandi are seen in the 7 tier Rajagopuram behind the 16 pillar Mandapam.

As and when we enter the outer prakaram, we notice a Vasantha Mandapam on our right, facing south. Figures of Panchamukhs Shiva along with Parvathi on a bull flanked by Pathanjali and Vyagrapatha in worshipping posture are seen on top of this Mandapam. Ganapathi, seated on a mouse and Skandha on a Peacock are also seen on both sides of the Rishabarooda Murthi. A Theerthankara’s idol is also present in this prakaram. The Holy Pond, 

Soola Theertham is there opposite the Vasantha Mandapam.Images of Appar with folded arms, Sambandar receiving the Divine Milk from the Goddess and Sundarar arguing with the Lord with the Manuscript in his hand are depicted inside the arch at the entrance of the Tank. 

After worshipping near the Nandi and the flagpost, we enter the next prakaram through the 5 tier Rajagopuram that consists of images of Ganapathi, Skandha, Gangadhara, Bhikshadana, Urdhuvathandavamurthi, Kali and Nataraja. Figures at the top of Nataraja sannadhi are eye catching where we find the Lord performing Ananda Thandava witnessed by the Goddess Sivakamasundari, Pathajali and Vyagrapatha. The Nandi Mandapam in front of the Sanctum is a delight to watch. With Ganapathi and Subramanya sannadhis on both sides of the place, we enter the Mahamandapam through an entrance on the side. Veeratteswara, The 16 faced Lingamurthi gives Dharshan from here. We realize the fact that it is the same Murthi worshipped by Appar some 1500 years ago. It is also the same place where Thevaram had originated.

“Sarak konrai” is the Holy Tree of this Temple which is seen in the prakaram. A big Shivalinga is also seen near it. Uthsava Murthi Sannadhi of Thirunavukkarasar faces west. Moolavar of Appar in sitting posture is seen in a separate sannadhi. There is a separate sannadhi for Thilagavathi, sister of Appar is also nearby. She prayed the Lord to give back her brother who got converted to Jainism. Her prayer was answered and Saivism got an outstanding devotee too!

There is a separate flagpost in front of the Goddess,Brahan Nayaki. We start admiring the Chariot shaped Vimanam of Veeratteswara from here. It is filled with sculptures and stucco figures almost everywhere! The Vimanam is majestic and reminds us the one at the Big Temple in Thanjavur. The sthupi on top of the dome is simply marvelous.

On the sides of the walls of the Sanctum, one can see Ganapathi with disciples, Rama,Sitha and Lakshmana, Chandrasekara and Bhikshadana.

The minutely made Thripuranthaka will make the visitors cherish about the same for a very long time. He holds many arms including the Chakra in His hands. Vishnu, who came as a Bull to lift the Chariot is seen at the bottom. Brahma is seen at the driver’s seat. While many Devas looking anxiously at the Lord, Shiva single handedly destroyed the three forts by His smile. Warriors riding over the Lions, a typical Pallava presentation is praiseworthy.

Next we look at the image of Gajasamharamurthi dancing over the head of the elephant, Gajasura. The elephant’s skin is adorned over the Lord who holds many arms but destroyed the elephant with His nails by tearing its body.

Goshta figures are there on the backside of the sanctum which includes Lions, Dwarapalakas, Shiva resting His leg on the head of a Gana.

On the other side, we notice Ravana lifting Kailash, Paravathi and Parameswara on a Bull,row of Bhutha Ganas on top and sets of Lions.

The next figure of Ganga Visarjana Murthi and Saraba murthi are absorbing. Sarabeswara with jwala kesam setting foot over Narasimha is depicted beautifully.

A row of Shiva Lingas is seen on “Thirumaaligai paththi” the noticeable being a Panchamukha Lingam.

Being a treasure house for art-lovers and one among the group of Veerattaanams, Thiruvadhigai deserves more visitors than at present.    

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pazhayarai Temples

Pazhayarai, one of the Capitals of Chola Empire is about 5 km from Kumbakonam. During that period, the town was spread to 15 sq.miles. Pettai Naanayakkaaran street on the outskirts of Kumbakonam was bordering the then Pazhayarai Town. Mudikondan river was on  the southern end of the Town.This vast town is now broken into several small divisions .
 Pazhayar, Patteeswaram,Sakthimutram,Arichandram,Parkulam,Muzhaiyur,Ramanathan Koil,Darasuram,Konapperumal Koil , Ariyappadayur, Pambappadayur, Pudhuppadayur, Manappadayur,Rajandran Pettai are those divisions which we see now.

Excavations made in Nandan medu and Cholan Maligai have revealed that life was existing at this place since stone age. It also remained as a Temple city right from the Pallava period. Nandivarma Pallava II (710-715 A.D.) built a fort and lived here till it was attacked by a Pandyan King.Manimudi Chola ruled from here during 650 A.D. His daughter, Mangaiyarkarasi  was married to Pandian Maravarman Arikesari(also known as Koon Pandiyan and Nelveli venra Nedumaran). Nandhivarman III conquered Cholas and Pandyas and captured Pazhayarai from Cholas. Paranthaka II alias Sundara Chola (957- 970 A.D) lived here and renovated many Temples. The Town attained special attention during the regime of Raja Raja Chola I (985-1014 A.D) Rajendra Chola (1012-1044) spent his childhood here and  passed many orders. It was at this time Pazhayarai was also called as "MudiKonda Cholapuram" . Kundavai,the sisiter of Rajaraja I was living here in the palace,specially allotted to her. Rajaraja II (1146- 1168 A.D.) made Pazhayarai as his capital and built a great shrine at Darasuram. Inscriptions describe the place as Rajarajapuram and Rarasuram . Darasuram attained new heights during the period of Kulothunga Chola III. Mara Varaman Sundara Pandian invaded Chola kingdom,ruled by RajaRaja III and destroyed the palaces and downfall began for this historic town and it got divided into small villages within two centuries.

Somanathaswami Temple in Pazhayar can be reached via Muzhaiyur. Gnanasambandar  refers this place as "Aarai"  Umapathi Sivam's Siva kshetra Kali Venba refers it  by naming the Deities of the Temple as Somakalambikai and Someswarara. Amarneedhi Nayanar belonged to Pazhaiyarai. Swamimalai Temple has undertaken the renovation work of this Temple. While sculptures at the entrance showing warriors on horseback are damaged, we are left with some beautiful sculptures like Ravana lifting Kailasa giri, Ganesa and Shanmukha in the front mandapa.

The 3-tier Vimanam over the Sanctum carries images of Umasahitha & Gajasamharamurthi. Narasimha murthi is beautifully carved near the footsteps of Ambal Sannadhi. Inner Mandapam presents the image of Mangayarkarasi who was instrumental in bringing Sambandar to Madurai for the purpose of saving Saivism .

Pazhayarai Vadathali is in Muzhayur, now known as Dharmapureeswarar Temple. The elevated shrine faces east and the whole Temple, which faced extinction has been renovated fully and presents a new look. Saint Appar has sung Thevaram Hymn on this Deity after observing fast to free it from the clutches of Jains who kept it closed.

Pazhaiyarai Metrali is on the way from Thiruvalanchuzhi to Patteswaram. Sundarar has referred it in Thevaram though the complete "Padhigam"on this Temple is not available. It is said to belong to the Pallava period and a part of it has been renovated recently. The shrine is located at an elevated place. Outer wall is yet to be constructed and a board giving details of other Temples of Pazhayarai has to be kept at Patteeswaram Temple where people come in large numbers.

The west facing Temple at Pazhayarai Thenthali is under renovation. Among the mrthis on the Goshtams, those of dancing Ganesa and Ardhanari are worth mentioning.

Dheupureeswara Swami Temple at Patteswaram is a well known part of Pazhayarai. This place was also referred as Mazhapadi by Sambandar(".... Pazhasaiyul maada mazhapadiyurai Pattechcharam..." ) Palvalainaayaki is the name of the Goddess here. When Sambandar came here during hot summer, The Lord gave him a "Pandal" made of pearls. This incident is being enacted on the 1st day of the Tamil month Ani at this Temple. On seeing Sambandar's arrival under the "Pandal" The Lord ordered the Nandis to move a little so that there could be no obstruction between Him and Sambandar. This Temple is famous for its Durga Sannadhi which is worshiped by people from many parts of the country.

Sakthimutram is on the south of Patteswaram Temple. Sivakkozhundheeswarar Temple, sung by Appar is a big one and known for the famous sannadhi wherein Sakthi embraces Shiva and does Puja to Him. Inscriptions that belong to the period of RajathiRaja, Kulothunga  and Vijayanagar emperors are seen here. They describe this place as a part of Rajarajapuram(Pazhayarai).

Muzhaiyur is on the east of Patteswaram. Brilliantly carved Goshta Murthis add beauty to the Temple. This is also a place where a Veera Shaiva Mutt is located. It is said that Thuraimangalam Sivaprakasa Swamigal, Mahavidwan Meenakshisundaram Pillai and Dr U.V. Swaminatha Iyer stayed here and contributed a lot for Tamil Literature.

According to the legend, Kamadhenu,the Sacred cow of Devaloka had four daughters. Among them, Patti woshipped at Patteeswaram (place named after her); Vimali worshipped at Pazhayarai Vadathali; Sabali at Pazhayarai Metrali and Nandhini at Muzhaiyur.

The great Temple at Darasuram (Rajarajeswaram) was built by Rajaraja II (1145- 1173). In those days, Darasuram formed a part of Pazhayarai. The Temple of Airavatheswara is facing east. It is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. The main shrine is at an elevated level and the front mandapam is designed as if it is drawn by Yalis and elephants. The pillars of the Mandapam have nicely carved sculptures of Thripuranthaka, Shanmukha and Divine wedding. Those of Annapurni , Adhikara Nandi,Saraswathi and Kannappa Nayanar are awesome. The Vimanam over the Sanctum follows the style of Temples at Thanjavur and Gangaikonda Cholapuram. Emperors have donated liberally to maintain the Temple. The outer wall of the Sanctum has the sculptures depicting the lives of Nayanmars. The names of the Nayanmars are also inscibed above the respective panel. The separate shrine of The Goddess is also enriched with sculptures.

Brahmapureeswara Temple at Keezhkorkai can also be considered as a part of Pazhaiyarai as the distance from Patteeswaram is not more than 3 km. This Historic Temple was left uncared till recently. People turned blind eye over the wild growth of plants all around. The Temple would have faced ruin but for  the timely assistance of some good souls. The renovation work has started and the granite structure is carefully handled to remove the deep rooted plants. Work on front mandapam is nearing completion. The entire work may be completed before the end of the year. Murthis at Devagoshtam are outstanding examples of Chola Art. People desirous of contributing to this noble cause may contact Mr Sivakumar on his mobile,09344302966.