Thursday, January 14, 2016

Ganapatheeswaram

Thiruchenkattangudi should occupy a special place for the devotees of both Shiva and Ganapathi. It can be accessed from Karaikal,Thanjavur, Mayiladuthurai and Kumbakonam. As very few buses go near the Temple, it is better to get down at Thirumarugal by taking buses from the above places and then proceed to Thiruchenkattangudi which is about 2 km from that point.

The name Thiruchengattangudi is derived from an interesting legend associated to this important pilgrimage centre. A demon called Gajamukasura (with elephant head) harassed Devas and Rishis and forced them to worship him. Unable to face the atrocities of the demon,the Devas and  Rishis went to Mount Kailash and sought asylum with Lord Shiva. The Lord took pity of their plight and sent Ganapathi to destroy the demon. The war went on for several days and the demon was finally killed by Ganapathi.

Gajamukasura's blood started flowing all across the place and made the soil red. Hence the place attained the name-- SEM (Red) Kaadu(Forest). As a result of killing the demon, Ganapathi was affected by Brahmahathi Dhosha. To get rid of the Dhosha, Ganapathi worshipped Lord Shiva in the Tamil month of Margazhi ( Dhanur Masa) when the star and Thithi were Sathayam (sathapishak) and Sashti respectively.This day is being celebrated as an one day festival even now. The Linga Murthi in the Sanctum of this Temple is called Ganapatheeswara. The 7th century Saiva Saint Gnanasambandhar in his Thevaram Hymns has referred the Temple based on the above sthala puranam as  Ganapatheeswaram.

Ganapatheeswaram
The 5 tier Rajagopuram at the entrance welcomes the devotees. The first tier has terracota figures pertaining to the sthala puranam. It includes the Shiva Puja conducted by Ganapathi and unparalleled devotion of Siruthonda Nayanar,one of the 63 devotees mentioned in Thevaram Padhigam by Sundaramurthi Nayanar.

While  working as Senapathi under the Pallava King, Paranjothi who belonged to Thiruchengattangudi went to Vathapi and won the war against Pulikesin, He relinquished the post and returned to his native place and installed the  idol of Ganapathy he brought from Vathapi. Therefore the  name of Ganesa in the small shrine of the outer prakaram is called Vathapi Ganapathi. As Paranjothi was a great devotee of Lord Shiva he humbly called himself as Siruthondan. It was his routine to feed the devotees of Shiva every day.

On one day Siruthondar could not find a single devotee even upto mid day. But he continued his search throughout the village . Meanwhile The Lord took the form of a Bhairava and went to Siruthondar's house where he was welcomed by Thiruvenkattunangai,Siruthondar's wife and her servant maid, Santhanathathi. But the Lord was reluctant to enter into the house as there was no male member present at that time. He told them that he would be waiting under the Aathi tree until the arrival of Siruthondar.

Unable to find a Shiva devotee for lunch, Siruthondar as a disappointed man returned home .  His wife narrated the entire episode that happened short while ago. He rushed to the temple immediately and found the Lord under the Aathi tree who identified Himself as Uthrapathi.

On reaching Siruthondar's house, The Lord said that he could take food made of  the only son of the family who would be cut and offered willingly by his parents. Siruthondar and his wife readily agreed to the condition and offered their only son Seeralan to Uthrapatheesa. When the food was offered in a plantain leaf, The Lord asked the couple to call the boy by name . When they obeyed accordingly, Seerala came running towards them as if he was returning from school. But they could not see Uthrapatheesa anywhere. Instead they saw Parvathi and Parameshwara seated on a bull, appearing in the sky. The Lord blessed them and granted salvation.

Apart from the one day festival on Margazhi Sadhayam which marks the Siva Puja peformed by Ganapathi, the festival in the Tamil month of Chithirai (April)is conducted on a Bharani day when the above incident is recalled. It draws good crowd from many parts of the state. There is a separate sannadhi for Utharapatheeswarara on the right of The Sanctum. It faces the age old aathi tree. The idols of Siruthondar,his wife,son and the servant maid face the sannadhi in worshipping posture. Surya theertham is on the southern side of the Temple.

Devotees should also visit Ramanadheeswaram, Thirumarugal,Thiru Sathamangai (Seeyathamangai) and Thirupugalur which are located nearby.  

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