Sunday, January 18, 2015

Siva Temples near River Arasalar

It is always a breath taking journey if we drive along the banks of a river when it is in full flow. The atmosphere becomes rich when we see green paddy fields all around and the adjoining groves that present a beautiful sight. It is true with tributaries of a major river like Cauvery in  south India. Normally the Siva Temples of Chola Kingdom are geographically identified by describing them as being north or south of the river. Umapathy Sivam,one of the Santhanacharyas who has authored eight books on Saiva Sidhantha , in his work called "Siva Kshetra Siva nama KaliVenba" gives the names of the Main deities of the Temples , sung in Thevaram Hymns which are located on both sides of the river.

 December to March are the ideal months to enjoy the beauty of the nature when farmers are busy with their harvest operations. The tributaries seem to be less polluted than the parent river as they rarely pass through major towns. A drive along the river Arasalar proved this point and takes us to various shrines of Lord Shiva located close to her banks. It is always difficult to cover the entire route of the river in a single trip as we are engaged in visiting the temples in parallel. Hence we divide the route according to our convenience and try to visit as many temples as possible in a trip.

We selected the middle portion of Arasalar this time and tried to cover temples on her southern banks. Kumbakonam can be the base from where the journey  be started. The first leg of the tour starts from Saakottai which is 5 km from Kumbakonam. The road divides into two at this place, one going towards Thiruvarur and the other one to Mannargudi.

We reach Kalayanallur which should be less than a km from Saakottai on Mannargudi road. This Temple is sung by Sundara Murthi Nayanar and the main deity is called Amrutha Gatehsvarar. A calm place though, the place is so serene that offers lot of peace to the visitors. Sundarar's Padhigam on the Lord is so beautiful that it narrates Shiva Parakramam in each Hymn.

Sivapuram is located 3 km away from Saakottai. It is also sung in Thevaram by Sambandar and Appar. The Main deity, Sivagurunatha was worshipped by Vishnu in the form of white pig. The shrines of Goddess Aryambha and Bhairava face south. The Rajagopuram in the front is imposing.

By driving on Thiruvarur road for about 5 km, we reach Arisil karai Puthur ,surrounded by paddy fields. Arasalar was called Arisil in Chola times. Thevaram differentiates clearly the exact locations of places having the same name. Puthur near Valangaiman which is on the banks of the river Kaduvai is called Kaduvaaikarai Puthur. The one near Sivagangai is called Thirupputhur. Similarly, Puthur near Saakottai is called Arisil Karai Puthur as it stands near the river Arisil . This Shine is sung by all the three acharyas in Thevaram. The Hymns also describe the sincerity of the then Temple priest, Pugazhththunaiyar, when severe drought struck the village that made everybody to desert the place. However the Priest determined to stay back and continue his service despite being hungry for days together. The Lord rewarded Pugazh thunai Nayanar a coin a day to drive away his poverty . The images of the Nayanar  and his wife are seen in the Mahamandapam of the west facing Temple.

Another 3 km drive along the same route takes us to Naraiyur( to be pronounced as நறையூர் and the one on Chidambaram - Kaattumannargudi road is pronounced as நாரையூர் ) which is on the outskirts of Naachiyar Koil. Sidheswara Swami Temple of Narayur also faces west. Sung by Sambandhar and Sundharar, this Temple belongs to Chola  period.

As we follow the river Arasalar, we need to take a diversion near Naachiarkoil bazaar and drive on Poonthottam road. Penuperundurai , sung by Sambandar is now called as Thiruppanthurai.  The Temple Tank is seen right in front of the main entrance. Two Ganapathis are seen in a small shrine near the entrance. As we enter the Temple, we come across Nandi,Bali peetam and then south facing Ambal Sannadhi. Mangalambikai, The Goddess presents a graceful look. The Moolavar in the Sanctum is known as Sivanandheswarar. As He is worshipped by Bala Subramanya, we notice the image of Subramanya  holding "dhandam" near the entrance of Swami Sannadhi, facing north.

Brahan nayaki Sametha Abathsahayeswara Temple of Vikrama Chola's period comes next at a village called Dukkachi named after Goddess Durga who  worshipped Lord Siva here. A completely ruined Temple is being renovated  but at a slow pace. This shrine is known for its beautiful  carvings ,most of them are vandalised. It remains to be seen how best the renovation is done without altering the original structure along with the inscriptions.

Romacha Rishi had worshipped Jambukaranyeswara at Koondhalur which is located on the same road. The Temple,Tank and the garden are maintained well. Saint Arunagirinatha has sung Thirupugazh on  Lord Subramanya of this place. Both Ganapathi and Subramanya shrines are seen in the front as against the usual places on the backside of the Sanctum. Goddess Anandhavalli faces south and it gives a great feeling when we have dharshan of Lord Subramanya,  seated on a peacock
Koondhalur and Pudhukkudi are Thevara vaippu sthalams in this route. Before proceeding to Pudhukkudi, we pay a visit to Karuvili, a great shrine about 1 km from the main road. Sathguneswarara of Karuvili is sung by Saiva Saint Appar. Goddess Sarvangasundhari  is tall and known to fulfil the desires of the devotees.devotees. Yama theertham is facing Temple.

Swetharanyeswara  Temple at Pudhukkudi, a  Thevara Vaippu sthalam wears a new look after the recent consecration. Though a small Temple, it should be admied for  good maintenance. The painter deserves commendations as the painting near the sudhai of Dhakshinamurthi is  nice to watch.

Sthalapuranam of Manavalanallur is linked to that of Thiruveezhimizhalai where Parvathi,as Kathyayani married Nethrarpaneswara also known as Veezhinatha.  This  is also a small temple with not many visitors from outside the village.

Thethiyur, once the home of great Pundits still carries the old memories. Meenakshi Sundareswara Temple  is on the middle of the village. As the priest was not available, the temple was seen locked. We were told about the Temples at Vishnupuram.  As it was already past noon, we wanted to avoid disappointment and postponed the visit to these places to a later date.