Thursday, December 4, 2014

Temples at tail end of River Cauvery

The northern bank of the river Cauvery from Kallanai to Poompuhar has many Temples that are rarely visited. Even the tail end areas of Cauvery are blessed with green paddy fields and  other high yielding crops. The final part of the river carries green memories for the visitors  who look for such an atmosphere.

The journey from Mayiladuthurai to Poompuhar on the northern bank of the river covers a distance of about 25 km. The first leg of the visit on Mayiladuthurai- Poompuhar road starts with an unique "dharshan" of Medha Dhakshinamurthi at Sri Vadhanyeswara Swami Temple on the northern outskirts of Mayiladuthurai, close to Seerkazhi road. This part of the town is called as "Uththara Mayuram"in the Puranam.

When the Holy Bull thought with an ego that it was carrying the Lord, it was asked to do penance on the northern bank of Cauvery, Shiva appeared in front of the Bull along with Ganga Devi and blessed it on an Amavasya day in the Tamil month of Aipasi and blessed. Hence the Ghat here is called, Rishabha Ghat and usually called as Thula Ghattam. During the festive month of Thulam ( Aipasi), The Lord , Medha Dhakshinamurthi, seated on silver "kailasa Vahanam", followed by Ganga  Devi on Crocodile Vahanam gives Dharshan to all devotees every year. People take bath in Cauvery during this unique event.

 On the last day of the month, The Lord ,in the form of Somaskandha Murthi, flanked by Gnanambikai , Ganapathi, Subramanya and Chandikeswara give "Theerthavari" in the river. The Temple of Vadhanyeswarara ,usually called as "Vallalar Koil"faces west and on the Deva Ghoshta, we have dharshan of Sri Medha Dhakshinamurthi with Nandhi in font of Him. The sannadhi draws good crowd on Thursdays and in the Tamil month of "Karthigai" when Mahabhishekam is conducted for Medha Dhakshinamurthi.

When we proceed towards Poompuhar we find many villages close to the main road, each one of them having a historic Temple. The Temples of Pasupatheeswara at Pasupathi Agraharam and the one at Karum Kuyil Nathan Pettai are about 3 km from Mayiladuthurai. On the outskirts of Manakkudi, we find a temple,renovated in the recent past,situated very close to the road. Though small in size, the Temple dedicated to Sri Sivakamasundhari sametha Sri Chidambareswarar presents a  serene atmosphere with a good garden having many species of plants. Sri Sundhareswarar  Temple is another one to be visited in Manakkudi.

Proceeding  further for about 4 km, we arrive at a village called "Kanja Nagaram", a big village having Temples dedicated to Vishnu, Mariamman and Subramanya besides an imposing Temple for Lord Shiva. Though the Raja Gopuram is not there, the Temple is located in a sprawling site of the village. Both the Goddess Sri Thungabala Sthanambika and Sri Garthra Sundhareswara are tall deities , occupying separate sannadhis. Swami sanadhi, facing west has a big vimanam above the sanctum.

This village is associated with Manakkanjara Nayanar, one among the 63 Nayanars praised by Sri Sundhara Murthi Nayanar in his Thevaram Hymn.Therefore the village  was named after him as Kanja nagaram. We can see the deities of Manakkanjara Nayanar, his wife( called Kalyana Sundhari ), his daughter (called as Punya Vardhini) along with her husband, Eyarkon Kalikkaama Nayanar, another Nayanar,celebrated by Sundharar. The story of how Lord Shiva blessed both Manakkanjarar and his family is given in detail by Sekkizhar in his outstanding work, Periapuranam.  The same story is narrated at another place known as Anandha Thangdavapuram ( called as Kanjaru in Puranam) , some 5 km northwest of Mayiladuthurai. Panchavateeswarar Temple of this place is also having deities of Manakkanjarar and his family.Consecration is being planned for Gartha Sundhareswarar Temple in the coming year.

When we take a round of the sannadhis, we notice steps taking us to Sattanatha swami sannadhi on top. A dancing Ganapathi gives dharshan at the beginning of the foot steps.

The Subramanya Temple of Kanja nagaram is not far away from Gathra Sundhareswara Temple. Sri  Subramanya, seated on a peacock, flanked by Valli and Deivaanai occupies the sanctum. A Shiva Lingam in Mahamandapam  called "Paapa hareswarar " and Kasi Visvanatha in the outer Prakaram are important Siva sannadhis of this Temple. The shrine carries a newlook as it was renovated and consecrated quite recently.

On travelling further, we reach Karuvazhakarai , a famous pilgrim centre dedicated to the Goddess Mariamman,now called as Kamakshi. On the outskirts of this village starts another village called Marudur. One has to visit Sri Raja Rajeswara Swami Temple of this place to believe how best a good garden with so many species can be maintained well in the Temple complex. Name any tree or flower dedicated to Lord Shiva, we can see them here all due to the tireless effort of the Sivacharyar who deserves praise from one and all. The Temple was consecrated during last year but still awaits people in good numbers which alone can bring development . The locals should also support it so that it will boost the enthusiasm exhibited by the Sivacharyar.He can be contacted on 09597437157 to give prior intimation of your visit.

Vennai Eswaran Koil and Swayambunatha Swami Temple are at Melapathi , another village close by. The other Temples located at Manigramam, Thiruvenkadu, Keezha Peumpallam, Melap Peumpallam, Thalaich Sangadu, Chayavanam, Pallavaneeswaram ,Kadaimudi(Keezhaiyur)are not to be missed before reaching Poompuhar where the river Cauvery  enters  the sea.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Vedharanyam Temples

Before worshipping Lord Shiva at Vedaranyam, the four Vedas stayed at a place called Chathurvedapathi now known as Nalu Veda pathi, and collected flowers and garlands from a place called Pushpavanam for doing the Puja. Veda vanam also known as Vedaranyam attained the name because of the worship made here by the Vedas. As the main door was kept closed, people used to enter the sannadhi through the entrance at the side. It was only when the Saiva Saints Thirugnanasambandhar and Appar visited the place and sang Hymns in praise of the Lord, the Main doors opened and closed for regular worship for all.

Vedaranyam is located 45 km from Nagapattinam; 35 km from Thiruthuraipoondi;63 km from Thiruvarur; about 100 km from Kumbakonam. The nearest airport is Tiruchirappalli which is about 135 km away. Although bus services are available to reach Vedaranyam ,it is better to go by car if one has to visit the nearby places like Agasthiyanpalli, Ramar Patham,Kodikkarai,Pushpavanam and Naluvedapathi.

There stands a 5 tier Rajagopuram at the entrance of Vedaranyeswarar Temple which faces east. The sea is around 1 km east of the Temple. At the sannadhi street corner, we see the dilapidated wooden chariot left uncared. It is said that the Temple management is arranging to get a new wooden car in the near future.

Ganapathi sannadhi at the westen Tower has a legend behind it. Lord Rama,caught by "Veea Hathi", a sin caused by killing a demon , worshipped Ganesa here and the Lord kiked the "Hathi" with His leg and Rama was freed from the sin. Hence Ganesa of this sannadhi is called "Veera Hathi Chetha Ganapathi".

The outer Prakaram consists of an exclusive shrine for the Goddess, known as Veda Nayaki. She is also called as Veena vaadha Vidhooshini in Sanskrit and Yaazhaip Pazhiththa Mozhiyaal in Tamil. This Sannadhi,one of the Shakthi Peetams, with a small Gopuram is to the left of Swami Sannadhi.

As we enter the Eastern Prakaram, we find the Temple Tank, Manikarnika, which is as Holy as Ganga,Yamuna.Cauvery,Narmadha and Sindhu. People take bath in large numbers during New Moon days and auspicious occasions like Mahalayam , Lunar and Solar eclipses. There is a small shrine for Kala Bhairava facing the Tank.

The next Prakaram has sannadhis for Saint Sundharar facing Thyagaraja , sixtythree Nayanmars, "Kaakshi Koduthavar" , Sthala Ganapathi, Subramanya,Gajalakshmi, Saraswathi Devi (in huge form), Gajalakshmi and Southfacing Durga Devi. Navagrahas are looking at the same direction. It is said they curiously look at the Newly wedded Divine Couple of Parvathi and Parameswara. The four Saiva Acharyas look at the Supreme Dance of Lord Shiva.

 The sanctum is on a slightly elevated platform. The Divine couple who gave dharshan to Saint Agasthya can be seen behind the swayambu Lingam , Sri Vedaranyeswarar.  When all Devas ,Rishis and others attended the Marriage of Parvathi- Parameswara at Kailash, the Mountain tilted down and it was at that time Lord Shiva asked Sage Agasthya to go to south to balance the earth. Agasthya went to south and the eath returned to normal. As the sage had missed to witness the Divine wedding , The Lord showed it to the Rishi at Vedaranyam.

Vedaranyam is one of the saptha vidanga sthalams and the Vidanga Pooja is held twice in a day. Vanni, the sthala vruksham is seen in the Prakaram. The fruits of the tree are long with thorns on only one side . 29 day Masi Magam festival in May-June is conducted every year when the Deities visit the sea shore on Masi Magam day for "Theerthavari". The sea at this point is called "Veda Nadhi/ Veda Theertham". Vedaranyeswarar is praised in Thevaram Hymns by all the three acharyas. Thirugnanasambandhar sang "Kolaru Padhigam"here before going to Pandya Kingdom at the invitaion of Pandya Queen Mangayarkarasi.

Agasthya was performing Siva Pooja at a place near Vedaranyam and it got the name after the Rishi as Agasthianpalli. It is on the way to Kodikarai ,about 2 km from Vedaranyam. Sambandhar has sung a Padhigam on the Main Deity of the Temple. Agasthya did penace here to have dharshan of the wedded couple. Agni Pushkarani is in front of the temple. Ambikai (Bagam Piriyaal)faces south. There is a separate shrine for Sage Agasthya. Agasthya theertham is on the western side . Vanni is the sthala vruksham of this temple which is seen in the prakaram. Chola and Pandya inscriptions and found in the Temple. Naattukottai Nagarathars have renovated the Temple.

Kodi Kuzhagar Temple at Kodikarai is close to the main road. As it is surrounded by the forest area,not many houses are seen around this area. Saivaite Saint Sundharar refers to the loneliness of this place in his Thevaram padhigam sung on the Lord. The Temple has a Rajagopuram in the front and one prakaram around the sanctum. Anjanakshi sametha Amruthakateswara (Kodi Kuzhagar) temple of Kodikaai has a Subramanya shrine in the prakaram where the Lord holds Amrutha kalasa in one of His hands. Saint Arunagirinatha has sung Thirupugazh in praise of this moorthi.

Madhurabhashani sametha Sugantha vaneswara Swami Temple at Pushpavanam is a temple not to be missed by devotees who visit Vedaranyam. It is located on the way to Nagapattinam . The temple at Pushpavanam is well maintained as the Temple priest who resides nearby takes active paricipation in developing it. The Nandhavanam in the Prakaram aims to justify the name of the place and the name of The Lord as well. There are plans to develop the Nandhavanam further to house more flowering plants.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Aaduthurai Temples

Our ancestors had clearly distinguished similar names of different places mostly by adding a prefix. But the present trend is to shorten the names of places and persons. For instance, the name Thiruchchirappalli is shortened as Trichy which carries no meaning at all. There are places where the shortened form of the original name does not affect the meaning much. Paandikkodumudi is called as Kodumudi now but still sounds meaningful. It is true with the case of Mylapore when it is called as Mayilai.

There are places with similar names such as Thirumullai voil (the one near Chennai  and the other near Sirkazhi). Likewise we have the name Aduthurai at two places,the one on Kumbakonam- Mayiladithurai road and the other on Kumbakonam- Thiruvaiyaru road. While Thevaram Hymns have clearly identified the former located on the southern banks of river Cauvery, the later on the northern banks. Hence the Thevaram text address them as "Then Kurangaduthurai" and "Vada Kurangaduthurai". Unfortunately, we have shortened the name as Aduthurai and apply it to both these places, giving rise to confusion.

"Then Kurangaduthurai"got the name as Lord Shiva was worshipped here by Sugreeva,the vanara King. The word "Kurangu"refers to monkey in Tamil.  It is located some 17 km from Kumbakonam. The Temple ,built by Sembiyan Maadevi,the Chola Queen. It has a 5 tier Rajagopuram in the front. We have dharshan of Ganapathi, Subramanya,Dhakshinamurthi , Durga and Chandikeswara in the first Prakaram.The main Deity in the sanctum is called Aabhathsahayeswarar  and the Goddess is known as Pavalakkodi.Fifteen inscriptions are available here that belong to Chola and Pandya period. Thirugnanasambandhar and Appar have sung Thevaram Hymns in praise of the Lord. Deva Koshtams include Agasthya,Nataraja and Bhikashadana.

Vadakurangaduthurai is 21 km from Kumbakonam and 10 km fom Thiruvaiyaru. This Temple is managed by Thanjavur Devasthanam. A 5-tierd Rajagopuram presents a majestic look at the entrance. On entering the outer Prakaram we find Panchamurthi Mandapam and Ambal Sannadhi A very big Cow shed is seen in this Prakaram that reminds us the good number of cows gifted to the Temple in the olden days. When we cross the second entrance,we reach the Mahamandapan where we see murthis of Shaiva Acharyas, "Settippenn",Saneeswara and Bhairava. The second Prakaram has Sannadhis for Ganesa,Subramanya and Maha Lakshmi.

Terracotta figures of of Vali worshipping Shiva Linga and The Lord blessing the pregnant "Setti"lady by offering a tender coconut to quench her thirst are seen on Swami Vimanam. Garbagra Koshta figures are those of Dhakshinamurthi,Lingothbava and Adhanareeswara which are beautifully carved.We also see coconut tree as  Sthala Vruksham  in this Prakaram.  Nataraja & Sivakami give Dharshan as stone sculptures in Nataraja Sabhai.

Big sculptures of Dwara Palakas stand at the entrance to the Sanctum. The Lord is called as Dhayanidheeswarar and the Goddess as "Azhagu sadaimudi ammai" Thirugnanasambandhar has sung Thevaram Hymns on Dhayanidheeswarar.Inscriptions of Chola and Pandya Emperors are found on the walls of the shrine.

One can easily cover both the places on a single day by staying at Kumbakonam where boarding and Lodging facilities are available at affordable rates.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Innambar and Thiruppurambiyam Temples

People normally visit shrines which they think are popular and important. Many times they skip places unknown to them even if they pass through them. Tour operators also plan to cover only those “important” places. The less known temples are thus left to the visits of few souls who consider all ancient shrines alike. If we take Kumbakonam – Thanjavur route for example, the often sought places are those in Kumbakonam town and Swamimalai. How many of us visit equally important Temples at Thiruvalanchuzhi and Nallur? Less said the better if we talk about those numerous temples en route which are left unnoticed. Not far away from Kumbakonam are the great Temples at Innambur and Thiruppurambiyam which can be easily covered within few hours if stationed at Kumbakonam.

Sekkizhar,the great Saivaite poet describes the route taken by Sundharamurthi Nayanar from Pazhayarai to Thiruppurambiyam by mentioning the places en route. After completing the pilgrimage to “Kongu Naadu’, Sundharar returned to Chola Naadu by reaching Karkudi, a place near Thiruchirappalli and sang Thevaram Hymns on The Lord. Then he went to Pazhaiyarai, one of the capital Cities of Chola Kingdom and worshipped at Aarai Metrali, located on the western side of Pazhayarai Town, very close to Patteeswaram and Thiruchathimutram. The Temple at Aarai Metrali is on an elevated platform, not looked after so well.

Then he proceeded to Innambar now known as Innamboor. The road from Patteeswaram joins Thanjavur road near Thiruvalanchuli at a distance of 3 km. The wonderful Temple at Thiuvalanchuli is about 1 km from the famous abode of Subramanya at Swamimalai. The road from Swamimalai to Kumbakonam has a diversion at a place called Puliyancheri from where one has to travel 2 km to reach Innambar and 3km thereafter to reach Thiruppurambiyam.

Sundharamuthi Nayanar on his pilgrimage from Pazhayarai to Thiruppurambiyam would have surely visited the famous Temple at Thiruvalanchuzhi. Since the palm leaves of Thevaram Hymns could not be recovered fully, Sundharar’s Thiruvalanchuli Padhigam might have been lost among them. His next place of visit during this pilgrimage was Innambar and here also we are not fortunate to get his Hymns sung on Swayambunatha Swami of this place. However, he mentions about this place while proceeding to Thiruppurambiyam. The first verse of this Padhigam reflects the disappointment he faced when he did not receive enough attention from The Lord of these places. Hence he decided to console himself and proceeded to Thiruppurambiyam. This is how the Hymn goes:

"அங்கம் ஓதி ஓர் ஆறை மேற்றளி நின்றும் போந்து வந்து இன்னம்பர்த்  
தங்கினோமையும் இன்னது என்றிலர் ஈசனார் எழு நெஞ்சமே                                             
கங்குல் ஏமங்கள் கொண்டு தேவர்கள் ஏத்தி வானவர் தாம் தொழும் 
பொங்கு மால்விடை ஏறி செல்வப் புறம்பயம் தொழப் போதுமே." 

The origin of the name Innambar is not clearly known. There are similar names that sound almost alike such as Ambar, Athambar ae there in Chola Kingdom. In this case, the prefix “ in “ distinguishes this place from Ambar which is near Poonthottam. Innambar is the 45th Temple on the northern bank of the river Cauvery. The east facing Temple has a five tier Rajagopuram at the entrance. On entering the outer prakaram, we find the shrine of the Goddess Sugantha Kunthalambikai facing south. The Temple’s garden (Nandhavanam) is also there in this prakaram. We enter the Main sannadhi by crossing the second entrance. Naattukottai Nagarathar community has renovated Swami sannathi and the inner prakaram. It presents a new look after the recent renovation and consecration. A huge Gajabrushta vimanam adores the sanctum.

After crossing the Mahamandapam we get the dharshan of Swayambunathaswami from ardhamandapam. The Lord in the form of Mahalingam is huge and the avudayar is also huge in size. It is definitely an unforgettable dharshan which one should not miss. In fact we can visit this place as many times as possible in our lifetime to have a glimpse of this Murthi. Since He is worshipped by Airavatha, the white Elephant of the Devas, He is also known as Airavatheeswara. The Temple pond opposite the Temple is called Airavatha Theertham. The Lord has taught Tamil Grammar to the great sage Agasthya in this place. The legend also says that the Lord appeared in human form and submitted the accounts of the Temple to the King. Hence He is called Aksharapureeswara in Sanskrit and Ezhuththariyum Peruman in Tamil. Appar’s Thevaram Hymn says that The Lord takes down the names of those who worship Him with flowers and also those who ignore Him. Sambadhar has also sung Hymns in praise of this Lord.

On the right of Swami sannadhi, there is yet another sannadhi for the Goddess. As this represents the married form of Shiva- Shakthi, the Goddess is known as Nithyakalyani. The devakoshtas are also absorbing and positioned at an elevated level. Nataraja in stone is small but crisp. The sthala vruksham  (tree) is said to be senbakam. Inscriptions of Chola and Vijayanagar period describe the donations made by the emperors in the name of the Temple. A chola inscription calls this place as “vadakarai Innambar naattu Innambar”

Thiruppurambiyam  is located 3 km from Innambur and Sakshinathaswami Temple of this place is praised by all the four acharyas of Saiva sect. Incidentally, this was the battle field of the Cholas in 9th Century.It is said that Aditha I built this Temple in memory of his victory and called it as Adhitheswaram.

During the days of deluge when the whole world was about to be submerged in the ocean, Brahma worshipped Lord Ganapathi. He made an idol of Ganesa with crab shell and sea weeds. Lord Shiva had deputed Ganesa to save the world from extinction. This is the reason why Ganapathy of this Temple is called “Pralayam Kaatha Ganapathi” On Ganesh Chathurthi day, Abhishekam is done with honey for Ganapathi and it is a miracle that the honey thus offered never comes out of the Deity. Pralayam stood at the outskirts of this town and therefore the place attained the name “Purambiyam” The word “puram” (புறம்) in Tamil denotes this meaning. (ஊரின் புறத்தே வெள்ளம் நின்றதால் புறம்பியம் ஆயிற்று)

This village is surrounded by river Manniyar on the east, Kollidam on north and Cauvery on south. Sthalapuranam mentions this place as Kalyanapuram and Punnaagavanam. There is a separate shrine fo Sri Dhakshinamuthi near the entrance. Special mention is made about this deity by Sambandhar and Manickavasagar. This is also one of the famous places of Lord Dhakshinamurthi. The imposing 5 tier Rajagopuram faces east and the adjacent outer prakaram has an alankara mandapam that houses Guhambika sannidhi. The Goddess Ikshu rasabhashani ( karumbadu sollammai) faces south in a separate shrine in the same prakaram. The second prakaram has Saivacharya sannadhi and Ganapathi, Somaskandha, Subramanya, Lingas worshipped by Agathya, Pulasthya, Sanakathi rishis and Vishvamitra on Thirumaligaipaththi.

Many murthis in Deva koshtas have suffered extensive damage in the hands of anti-socials. The sculpture of Kalsamharamurthi has been nearly destroyed. It calls for proper protection to all monuments.

Sthala vruksham is “punnai”which is seen on the north-west side of the prakaram. On the south east of Mahamandapam of swami sannadhi is a shrine for Pralayam kaatha Ganapathi. The swayambu murthi is also worshipped by Varuna. Abishekam for this murthi is carried out only once in a year – on Vinayaka Chathurthi day.

Dwarapalakas stand at the entrance of Sri Sakshinatha swami. Vanni, well and Sivalinga of this place appeared in Madurai to give evidence for the marriage that took place in Thiruppurambiyam between a merchant of Madurai and a girl of Puhaar. Hence the Lord is known as Sakshinatha. As the sage Dhuvasa had cursed Haridwaja, a Magatha King became sick. He got rid of the disease when he reached Thiruppurambiyam and worshipped the Lord. Himavan,Drona,Viswamitra ,Sugeeva, to name a few, have worshipped the Lord to be blessed by Him.

Inscriptions dating from the period of Rajakesai varman to Kulothunga Chola are found in this temple.

Renovation work is on at this Temple in full swing. The involvement of Sivacharya of this Temple is tremendous. Knowing fully that it required huge sum to renovate the temple, he narrates the visitors about the importance of the temple and calls for their assistance. Many donors come forward to give building materials and some others involve themselves in repairing the vahanams, painting the walls and providing backup inverter. Plastering the outer wall is the only giant work remaining. With hopes pouring from all directions, the Sivacharya is optimistic to conduct the consecration ceremony at the earliest. We need people like him at all village temples so that the devotees are briefed properly and involved as well in maintaining/renovating the shrines.