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.