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.