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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Trichy Tours - Lalgudi

15-1-2008 : Tiruttavatturai at Lalgudi situated 20 kms east of Tiruchirappalli is an ancient shrine dating back to the period of the Nayanmars - this shrine is regarded as one of the Tevara vaippu talangal. The red towers adorning this town caused the newly arrived muslim rulers to refer to this place as Lalgudi. This west facing temple covers an area of about 2 acres and is adorned with a five tiered Raja Gopuram at its entrance. The presiding deities here are Shiva, worshipped as Saptarishiswarar and his consort Srimathi. There are also shrines to Ganesha, Murugan and the seven sapta rishis. Other forms of Shiva such as Bhikshaadanar, Ardhanaareeswarar, Veena Dakshinamurthy are also enshrined here.
Legend has it that the sapta rishis (atri, brihu, pulsithar, vasistar, gauthamar, angeerasar and marichi) were relieved of a curse upon worshipping Shiva at this shrine and hence the name Sapta Rishiswara. There are also legends associated with the worship of Shiva by Lakshmi, Vishnu and Murugan here. The stala vriksham is arasamaram (banyan tree). The sacred water sources are Sivaganga and Chakra Theertham.
Deities : saptarishiswarar sannathi is west facing with idols of dwarpals & garudan at the entrance, north side of west wall - adhirai vinayakar, venugopal, tirumal & south side of west wall - sapta rishis,viswaksenar. West Prakaram-shrines for Saraswathy & Durgai ,North Prakaram - Natarajar, Gajalakshmi,Subramaniar with Valli & Devayani, North East corner Navagrahas, East prakaram - Bhairavar,Suryan,Saptha Ganapathy,South East corner-Sandikeswarar, South prakaram - Naalwars, 63'ars, Soth West corner- Vinayagar. Koshtams - North-Bhikshatanar, East-Ardhanariswarar,South-Veena Dakshinamurthy. Separate shrine for Dakshinamurhty in South prakaram.
Amman Sannithi ( Ambal Shrimathi) is East facing situated on on the West prakaram.
Ambal sannithi koshtam - Narthana Ganapathy, Gowri, Vaishnavi, Brahmi, Kaumari.
Being Sankranti a festival day we were fortunate to be present in the temple when the processional idols were brought out by devotees on palanquins carried on their shoulders. First it was Ganesha seated on his mooshika vahanam - followed by Muruga on his mayil vahanam(the peacock carrying a snake in its mouth) , then Shiva & Parvati(somaskandar) on rishabha vahanam & Ambal also on rishaba vahanam finally followed by Sandikeswarar. It was an awesome site and first ever pancha moorthy procession I have witnessed. We prayed ardently to the Utsavars before returning to Srirangam. The picture of the panchamurthy's is still etched vividly in my mind.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Trichy Tours - Uttamarkoil - Tirumandurai - Anbil

15-1-2008 : Post noon
1.Uttamarkoil :(Near Trichy) Also known as Bhikshadanar koil, kadamba kshetram or trimurthi kshetram,this is one of the Divya Desams where Tirumangai Azhwar has sung. There are shrines here to all three trinity of deities - Shiva and his consort Vadivudaiamman, Brahma and his consort Saraswati, Vishnu (Purushottaman) and his consort Poornavalli. Shiva is worshipped in the form of Bhikshatanar. Legend has it that the fifth head of Brahma, which was pulled out by Shiva, stuck to his palms; and it was only after his receiving alms from Mahalakshmi, that it came unstuck. As per another legend Vishnu took the form of a Kadamba tree to which Bhrahma offered worship, offering water from his kamandalam. Another story connected to with this kshetram deals with the dharshan given by Perumal to Janaka Maharaja.
The sanctum of Purushottamar is East facing & Perumal is in sayana thirukolam & Utsavar with Sridevi & Bhudevi. Thayar is Poornavalli. Shiva or Bhikshatanar is West facing & Ambal Soundarya Parvathi is South facing. As you circumambulate you can see shrines for Sandikeswarar,Navagrahas,Dasaratha Lingam,Varadaraja Perumal,Azhwars, Ramanujar, Manavala Mamuni, Natarajar,Vinayakar,Subramaniar,Brahma & Jaya Anjaneya.
For legends & other details log onto : http://www.srivaishnava.org/ddesam/uttamar/sthala.htm
2.Tirumandurai:(Lalgudi road) Located just a few yards from the main road around 5 Kms before Lalgudi. Shiva is called Maanturaiappar or Amravaneswarar and Ambal is Azhagammai or Balambal. It is considered to be the 58th in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola kingdom located north of the river Kaveri. Sambandhar & Arunagirinathar have sung praises.
Legends: Surya, Chandra, Kanvar and Vishnu are said to have worshipped Shiva here. Mrikandu Munivar (father of Markandeya) and a deer worshipped Shiva under a mango tree, and this legend is illustrated in stucco in the temple.
Brahma is said to have brought the Gayatri Nadi at the completion of his worship here.
Indra worshipped Shiva to absolve himself of the sin of having deceived Akalya, the wife of Gowtama Rishi.
The moolavar is East facing while Ambal is south facing. Vinayaka & Baladandapani can be seen standing on either side of Siva shrine. Separate Nandi for Ambal. As you go around prakaram you find Dakshinamurthy on south koshtam, Vishnu on West koshtam, Brahma & Durgai on north koshtam. you also find shrines for Ganapathy, Subramaniar, Gajalakshmi, Sandikeswarar & Navagrahas.
3.Anbil : Tiru Anbil is one of 108 divya desams or celestial abodes of Lord Vishnu and is located 8 Kms from Lalgudi. It is also considered one of the Pancharanga Kshetrams along the course of the Cauvery. Praises were sung by Tirumazhisai Azhwar. Moolavar is Vadivazhagiya Nambi in a reclining posture facing East while the Utsavar is Sundararaja Perumal & Taayaar is Azhagiyavalli.
This divya desam is also known as Premapuri and Triveni. It is known as Triveni as the three rivers Kaveri, Savitri and Phalguni rivers are said to have merged into one and flowing near this divya desam. Savitri and Phalguni are said to be flowing underground. This place is also known as Dakshina gaya. Those who cannot go to Gaya, can perform the sradha for their forefathers here with an equal holy effect.
Legend has it that Brahma and Valmiki worshipped Vishnu here. Legend also has it that Mandookamuni in his state of intense underwater penance failed to pay his respects to the arriving Durvasa muni who cursed him to take up the form of a toad. Upon worshipping Vishnu at this shrine, the sage was relieved of his curse, and hence the name Mandooka pushkarini. Shiva is said to have visited this place on his way to Kandiyur from Uthamar Koil in his search for liberation from Brahma’s curse
History: It is learned from temple inscriptions that Sundara Cholan - the Imperial Chola. monarch offered worship at this shrine, by placing his sword in front of the sanctum, prior to his venturing out on battles. Inscriptions here reveal information on the grants made by this emperor to the temple.
4. Anbil Brahmapureeswarar : or Satyavadiswarar. A Tevara Sthalam. Ambal Soundaranayaki east facing. Sthala Vriksham Banyan. Chandra Tirtham. East facing swayambu lingam & square avudayar. Sthala Vinayakar is also known as chevi saichha vinayakar who slants his head to listen to Sambandhar singing across the Kollidam. Brahma & Vagisha Muni are said to have worshipped here. Parambaka Chola rebuilt this temple. Appar & Sambandhar have sung praises of the Lord.
Koshtams - Dakshinamurthy in south, Vishnu in West. Prakaram - Suryan,Chandran, Saniswarar, Navagrahas, Nalwars on East side. On the West side - Sevi Saitha Vinayakar, Annamalaiyar, Bhikshandanar, Viswanathan & Visalakshi, shanmugha with Valli & Devayani,and Bhairavar South facing in north East corner.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Trichy tours - Tiruvanaikaval - Samayapuram

15-1-2008 :
It was Pongal day - a day of festivities. We had a leisurely morning session & a late morning brunch at a friends house in Srirangam. After this we proceeded to the Tiruvanaikaval Temple, one of the significant Tevara Sthalams, for the special 12.00 noon Puja .Thiruvanaikoil is around 3 Kms away from the heart of Trichy city and adjacent to Srirangam, another small but historic town and one of the holy places in India. Thiruvanaikoil and Srirangam together form an island, surrounded by rivers Cauvery and Coleroon.Thiruvanaikoil temple is one of the panchabhoota sthalams (signifying the 5 natural elements). As this temple represents element water this is also called as 'Appu sthalam' and the Shivalingam is called as 'Appu Lingam'. Even today you can see water oozing out near the Shivalingam in the temple. The ambal of this temple is 'Akilandeswari' - meaning Akilam – Universe, Aanda – Ruler, Eswari – Goddess. The power of the goddess is extremely potent and Adi Shankara is attributed to establishing two Sri chakras in the form of earrings in order to reduce the “ugra” or fierce power of the Goddess.
Many saints have visited this temple and sung songs in praise of Lord Jambukeshwara and Akilandeswari - the four famous Nayannmars or Nalwars Appar, Sundarar, Thirugnansambandar and the Muruga devotee Arunagirinathar and the legendary Carnatic composer Sri Muthuswamy Dikshithar.
The sacred tree is jambu. There are nine tirthams and all are considered sacred.
Ucha Puja : As Akilandeswari worshipped Lord Shiva in this temple, even today at noon the 'Archakar' dresses like a female and does Pooja to Lord Shiva and 'Ko Maatha' (Cow). This noon pooja is very famous and pilgrims throng the temple to witness this. For the purpose of this pooja the temple is maintaining a 'Karam Pasu' (completely black cow). Annabhishekam with cooked rice to Lingam is a daily ritual at Thiruvanaikoil.There are many legends associated with this temple like the origin of Appu Lingam, how the deity came to be known as jambukeswara, how the temple got the name Thiruanaikovil etc. For more details & pictures log onto :
http://thiruvanaikoil.com/History.aspx
Tit-Bits: Chola King “Ko Chengot Cholan” constructed this temple in 1st Century B.C. Thiruvanaikoil temple was built in an area around 18 acres and measures 2500 feet by 1500 feet. The temple has five “Praharams.The “Swami” is installed facing West and “Ambaal” facing East. There are many mandapams in this temple including 1000 pillar mandapam.
Vibhooti Praharam : When the king “Thirruneetru Sundara Pandiyan” was constructing the 5th Praharam wall on the East Side, he was running out of money to pay to the laborers.That night the Lord appeared in the Kings dream & asked him to continue the work. As per the Lords wish the King continued the construction and at the end of that day a Sanyasi (saint) came there and he gave the laborers pinches of sacred ash. That sacred ash turned into gold equivalent to the work done by them. Then only the King realised that the Sanyasi was none other than the Lord himself. Because of this instance the East Side praharam is known as “Vibhoothi” praharam.
Samayapuram : We then drove to Samayapuram, 15 kms from Trichy, for a darshan of the famous mariamman. Mariamman is a form of Shakti worshipped in Tamilnadu, and is associated with prosperity and health. One darshan of the deity & she leaves a strong, powerful & ever lasting impression in your mind. Local beliefs associate this deity with cures for diseases such as small pox and chicken pox. The main offering of the temple is the Mavilakku Mavu made of jaggery, rice flour, dhal and ghee.Thaipoosam is the major festival celebrated here amid much religious fervor. Every Sunday, Tuesday and Friday, hundreds of devotees throng the temple and perform Poojas. This temple has separate shrines for the processional image of Mariamman and the moolavar in the sanctum. There is also a shrine to Karuppannasaami a local deity. The moolavar is made of sand & clay hence there is no abhishekam. Abhishekam is done only on the Utsavar. In terms of income this is the second richest temple in Tamilnadu next to Palani.
Legend has it that Shiva created Kali, out of the poison that he had swallowed, and decreed that she kill Daarukaasuran. Having originated from the Kaalakoota poison, she assumed the name Kaali. Mariamman is believed to be a form of Kaali, and is also known as Mahamaayi or Seethala Gowri. For more legends about the Mariamman & photographs log onto :
http://pattini.org/mariamman.htm, http://www.sripremananda.org/english/e7_more/e7a_hinduism/e7a_amman_006.htm

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Trichy Tours - Uraiyur

Uraiyur Azhagiya Manavalan : This is one of 108 Divya Desams sung by Tirumangaialwar, Kulasekharaalwar.
Deities: Azhagiya Manavalar (in a standing posture) facing north, with his consort Kamalavalli in the same sanctum in a seated posture are the presiding deities here. There is no separate sanctum for Thayar here.There is no festival image for Perumaal. The festival image of Ranganathar is brought in procession from Srirangam to commemorate his marriage with Senkamalavalli
For the legend log onto :http://www.srivari.com/chozhatirupathigal/uraiyur.htm

Uraiyur Vekkali Amman : For legend log on to http://www.sripremananda.org/english/e7_more/e7a_hinduism/e7a_amman_006.htm
Whoever visits Vekkali with a pure and sincere heart will be granted boons from her. If you go to Vekkali temple you will notice that the deity is standing under the open sky. There is no roof to protect her. Her devotees say that they tried several times to build up a roof but all attempts failed. The visit to this temple gives you strong vibrations & you leave with strong impressions. As you circumambulate the inner prakaram you see shrines of Ganapathy, Viswanathar, Visalakshy,Mayura Muruga, Karuppusami, Madurai Veeran, and Navagrahas.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Trichy Tours-Tiruvellarai-Uyyakkondan-Kumara Vayalur-Uraiyur

Thiruvellarai :
One of the 108 Divya Desams located in Chozhanadu,27 kms from Trichy. Tirumangaiazhwar & Periazhwar have sung here. As this sthalam is situated 100 feet high in the top of the small white mountain it is called "Thiru Vellarai" - also known as ‘Swetha Giri', 'Uthama Kshetra' and 'Hitha Kshetra'. It is believed that Tiruvellarai predates Srirangam and hence it is also called 'Aadhi Vellarai'. The presiding deity is Pundarikakshan, in standing posture, and his consort Shenbagavalli Thayar (Utsavar -Pankajavalli) . The main shrine has two entrances, referred to as the Uttarayana Vasal and the Dakshinayana Vasal. Images of Sree Devi, Bhu Devi, Surya, Chandra and Aadiseshan (in human form) are seen in the east facing sanctum. There are also shrines to Krishna, Nammalwar, Nadamuni, Kulasekharalwar, Tondaradippodiyalwar, Aandaal, Manavaala maamunigal and Ramanuja. There is a separate shrine for thayar. The teertham is Divya Pushkarni. There are as many as 7 theerthams within the temple complex. An interesting feature is the Swastik Kulam which is designed in such a way that people bathing at one place in the bathing ghat cannot view the opposite side.
The Dhakshinayana Vaasal leads us to abode of Lord Yama.The Uthirayana Vaasal through which Jeevathmas enter into world is the place of "Lord Guberan" or the God of wealth.
According to puranas, the Goddess did penance in a well filled with flowers. She propitiated the Lord who appeared as Senthamarai Kannan.
There being no crowd when we visited we had a wonderful peaceful darshan of the lord from close quarters. We received thair satham as prasadam which sufficed for lunch.
For details of sthala puranam log on to : http://www.srivaishnava.org/ddesam/vellarai/sthala.htm
14-1-08 Noon
Uyyakondan Malai :
We reached here late evening - a tevara sthalam sung by sambandar, appar & sundarar. The temple is on top of a hill surrounded by a fortress. After climbing around 64 steps you get darsan of Lord Ujjeevaneswarar or Ucchinathar & Ambal Anjanakshi. There are some unique features - the outer prakaram is in shape of 'om'. The deity is West facing & on the East side goshtam is ardhanari. The north side goshtam bears Durgai & Brahma while the southern goshtam has Dakshinamurthy & bhikshandavar. There are two Ambal sannithis - Anjanambal is west facing & Balambigai East facing. As you circumambulate the inner prakaram - on the west wall you see Subramaniar, Gajalakshmi, Jyestha & Vinayakar on South West corner. On east side wall in the north east corner you see Bhairavar, Chandran & Sani. You find idols of Nalwars on south wall. On the North side you have shrine for Sandikeswarar & Navagrahas.
There was an old archakar who took time to explain the features of the temple & associated sthala puranam. The ambience in the temple was very peaceful & you feel positive vibrations- an ideal spot for meditation.
Log on to http://www.shivatemples.com/sofc/sc004.html & http://indiantemples.com/Tamilnadu/s083.html for sthala puranam & other details.
Kumara vayaloor :
Lord Muruga blessed Saint Arunagirinathar at Vayalur & initiated him to write Tiruppukazh. Vayalur is 9 Kms west of Trichy. The temple is surrounded by lush green fields or vayal - hence the name vayalur. Right in front of the temple is the Sakti Teertam - a big pond. It is also called Agni teertham or Kumara teertham. As you enter the outer prakaram you can see the sthala vriksham - the vanni tree to your left.
then you enter the inner prakaram through another gopuram - Lord Siva enshrined in this temple is Agneeswarar or Adinathar & it is an east facing swayambu Lingam. His consort Adhinayaki has a separate shrine. Lord Nataraja is in the Chatura Thandava pose here. Shrine to Muruga is located exactly behind Siva, along with his consorts Valli & Devayani. The utsava murthi is "Mutthukumaraswamy" seated on a peacock.
As you go around the prakaram you can see shrines of Ayyanar, Nalwars, Arunagiri,Poyya Ganapathy,Muthukumaran,
http://www.murugan.org/temples/vayalur.htm
Uraiyur :
Uraiyur was the ancient capital of the early Cholas and is believed to have been destroyed by a sand storm. Pugazh Chola Nayanar and Go Chenkan Cholan were born here, as was Tiruppaanaazhwar. Also known as Mookkeeswaram this shrine is considered to be the 5th in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola kingdom located south of the river Kaveri. Sambandar has sung praises of Lord Panchavarneswara here.The sthala vriksham is vilvam & Tirtham is panchavarna tirtham. The Ambal is Kantimathi. There is a separate shrine to Utanga Muni.
Legends: Garuda, Kasyapa Muni and Karkotakan are said to have worshipped here. Shiva is said to have manifested himself in five different shades of color to Utanga Munivar (Ratna Lingam in the morning, Spatika Lingam at noon, Gold Lingam in the afternoon, Diamond lingam at night and Chitra lingam at midnight).
Uraiyur is also known as Kozhimanagaram as legend holds that a fowl blessed with divine powers defeated an elephant in an duel. Go Chenkan Cholan the builder of 78 Maadakkovils is said to have born here.
For more details & photos log on to : http://www.shivatemples.com/sofc/sc005.html

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Trichy Tours - Gunaseelam-Tiruvasi-Thirupaingili

14-1-08 :
We went for morning coffee at Murali's coffee stall. Timings : 0430 - 9.00 AM & 3.00 - 8.30 PM. Dispenses south Indian decoction coffee - really divine stuff at Rs.5/- Strongly recoomended for anyone visiting Srirangam. Location : Just outside Rajagopuram.
We then proceeded to Gunaseelam 16 kms away on Salem - Tiruchy highway. The presiding deity is Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal on the banks of the river Cauvery. This an Abhimana Sthalam. Prasanna Venkatachalapathy stands in the same posture as in Tirupathi.The Deity holds the sacred conch and the Holy Chakra in his hands. The scepter the lord holds in his right hand is used to cure the mentally afflicted. Mentally challenged people are taken and kept in the temple premises for 48 days.
Legend : Gunaseelar,a sishyan of Talpeeyar, once went to Tirumala to worship Lord Vankatachalapathy. He requested the Lord to come with him to Gunaseelam. The Lord tells him to go back & that he will soon make his appearance. Gunaseelar returns & tells this to Talpeeyar who advises him to do penance & the Lord will appear. So Gunaseelar does 'panch agni' penance.This had such a powerful effect that even Indra became worried that Gunaseelar may become powerful than Indra himself. Indra sent thunder & lightning to earth in an effort to disturb the penance but did not suceed. The Devas then approached Brahma for a solution. On Brahma's advise they approached Vishnu directly. Vishnu assured the Devas that he will make himself present to Gunaseelar & accordingly appeared in the ashram in the form of Venkatachalapathy. Gunaseelar then regularly worhipping the deity. After some time Gunaseelam left with his Guru to Badrinath with the Lord’s permission after appointing a young boy to look after the deity. The boy however ran away and subsequently an ant hill formed on deity. Many years later king Gnana Varman happened to discover it and built a temple over it. The Lord is said to be Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal. The temple has been built magnificently and many devotees throng the temple.
Tiruvasi :
Tiruppachlaasramam or Tiruvasi is on the northern bank of river Kollidam.There lies the temple 12 kms from Tiruchy on the road to Musiri and Salem. A tevaram sthalam - sung by Sambandhar & Sundarar. Deity is Maatrarivaradar or Sameevaneswarar or Brahmapureeswara. Ambal is Balambikai and is a tall idol. Sthala Vriksham is Vanni Tree & Tirtham is Brahma Tirtham.
Legends : The name 'Maatrarivaradar' comes from a dialogue between Shiva and Sundarar where Sundarar had compared the tamarind fruits that had turned to gold at Engoimalai, with the gold received here, and Shiva is said to have asked of him 'Maatru Kuraiavillaye'. Sambandar said to have cured a girl of her disease termed as muyalakan - which is abdominal pain - hence the Nataraja here has a serpent under his feet instead of Muyalakan.
There are sculptures of both these incidents displayed.
The moolavar is East facing with Natarajar just outside the sanctum. As you circumambulate the sanctum you have ambal sannithi facing west, then Nalwars followed by 63'ars on the South prakaram, shrines of Ganesha on SW corner, Shanmughar & Gajalakshmi on West, Navagrahas on NE corner. Koshtam images of Dakshinamurthy, Ardhanareeswarar and Durga adorn the sanctum wall.
Neellivaneswarar Temple - Thirupaingili : This is a tevara sthalam. Arulmigu Viswanathar temple, also called Neellivaneswarar temple lies 20 kms north-west of Tiruchirappalli. Appar has sung here & the tirtham is Appar thirtham. We entered through a large wooden door of a half finished but well sculpted Gopuram( sometimes called rayagopuram) into a large prakaram containing many minor shrines & a colorful gopuram for Neellivaneswara.The prakaram is enclosed all round by tall granite walls - the stones carry unique tiger stripe designs. The prakaram also contains a shrine for Sorudeswarar with a Vinayakar idol outside & an underground cave shrine for Yama on the South side with a tirtham adjacent to it. Athikara vallavar ( somaskander ) in the cave shrine, gave rebirth to yama ( god of death ). The exemplary rock sculptures of Shiva, Parvati & Muruga in cave shrine is credited to Mahendraverma Pallava during 640 AD. On the West side is the Sthala Vriksham - Vazha Thottam with a small shrine for bhoga sakti amman. When unmarried persons carry out parikara poojai here their marriages get fixed soon. The 'vazhai pazham' is used only as offerring for the deity & then discarded. Humans should not consume these. There are two ambal sannithis on the North side - Visalakshi & Neelnedum kannammal - one facing south & another facing East. (the original ambal was hidden during an invasion by Mughals. Later the ambal could not be traced so a second ambal was installed. Subsequently the original ambal was located)
Inside the main sanctum, the conventional navagrahas shrine does not exist- the steps leading down to the main shrine are said to represent navagrahas. Chinnandavar & Periyandavar, rural guardian deities are also located inside. In front of the nandhi, devotees pray to navagrahas by lighting oil lamps on cavern holes in the granite floor.
Legend of Yama :
Maharshi Mrigandu and Maruthuvathi were sad as they were childless. The Lord, in recognition of Mrigandu's penance granted them a boon. He asked the sage if he wanted a child full of wisdom but with a short life or one with a long life but full of wickedness. The sage preferred the former. The boy was born and named Markandeya. When he was 16 he understood the truth of his longevity and visited many Shiva temples until he reached Thirukadayur. It was the last day of his life. He saw Yama coming to take his life, so Markandeya tightly embraced the Shivalinga. When the Yama spread his death rope, it also covered the Lord Shiva. Angered by Yama’s action, the Lord kicked & killed Yama(Samharam). After this no death occurred & the burden of Mother earth became heavy. At her request, the Lord again restored Yama back to life. This happened at Tirupainjilee.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Temple Tours - Kodumudi - Thanthonimalai -Kulithalai-Srirangam

We decided to take a 5 day road trip to Trichy via Karur to see Tevara Sthalams & Divya Desams in that region. Left Coimbatore on Sunday 13 Jan'08 on Cbte - Karur Road, took a deviation at Kangayam and reached our first destination - Kodumudi, a panchayat town in Erode dt. & one of the Tevara Sthalams in Kongunadu. Situated on the banks of the Cauvery river, the temple has three Gopurams - leading to shrines of Maguteswarar or Kodumudi nathar, Vadivudaiamman or Soundaranayaki & Veeranarayana Perumal (as Ananthasayanam). This a trimurthy or mummoorthy koil as there are shrines for Brahma, Vishnu & Siva.
Sambandhar has sung 11 songs,Appar 5 songs and Sundharar 10 songs (Namashivaya Pathigam) on Lord Magudeshwara. Arunagirinathar has sung "Thirupugazl" on Lord Muruga.
Inside the shrine of Maguteswarar as you circumambulate you come across Nartana Ganapathy, idols of 63 nayanmars, Kaveri Kanda Vinayakar, Somaskandar(utsava murthy), Agasteeswarar, Arumugar with Valli & Devayani, Gajalakshmi, Vishnu on sanctum wall, Natarajar & Sivakami with Manikkavasar besides, Tripura -sundari. Natarajar is known as Kunjidapadam as he has both feet on the ground. On the West side you can see idols of Vallabhi Ganesar, Sozhiswarar, Visveswarar, Kasi Viswanathar, Visalakshi, Saraswati & Sapta Matas.
In the Perumal sannithi - the lord is in reclining pose with Adisehans protective hood over his head. In the centre of the sanctum wall you can see Brahma flanked by Naradar & Vasudeva - on the left Garudan & Sridevi - on the right Vibheeshanan, Anjaneya, Sudarsana Chakram & Bhoomadevi. Right in the front is the Utsavar Moorthy. As you circumambulate the sanctum you find idols of Tirumangai Azhwar, Garudar, Thondaradipodi Azhwar, Venkatachalapathi, Tirumazhishai Azhwar, Nagas, Kulasekhara Azhwar, Poygai Azhwar, Tirupaan Azhwar, Peyazhwar, Nammazhwar, Udayavar, Paramapadanathar.
Other sanctums outside include Brahma (open air sanctum) located under the Vanni Tree (Sthala Vriksham), Anjaneya, Thayar Thirumangai Nachiyar (adjacent to Perumal) & Saneeswarar. The Vanni tree is reported to be more than 3000 yrs old.
Legend :
Agastiyar is said to have worshipped here - it is believed that the waters of his kamandalam flowed from here as the Kaveri river to alleviate the misery of the farmers downstream.
A well known divine story of the temple starts with the combat between Aadiseshan and Vaayu . This war pulverises the holy Meru (Divine hill) into five pieces which ultimately changes into five Swayambulinga Sivasthalas. 5 gems are said to have gotten scattered from the head of Adisesha. A red stone landed at Tiruvannamalai, an emerald at Eengoimalai, a blue diamond at Potikai, a manikkam at Vaatpoki and a diamond here.
Thanthonrimlai :
From Kodumudi we reached Karur had breakfast at Ananda Bhavan(neat & clean place,nice vegetarian items) & proceeded to Thanthonimalai located 3 km from Karur. We visited the Kalyana Venkatarama Perumal temple . The idol of the Lord is situated on a raised portion of a hillock. Lord Srinivasa is the presiding deity and the Thayars are Sri Devi and Bhoomi Devi. Thaanthonri Malai was known as 'Dakshina Tirupati' in the past. The speciality of the temple is that the lord is found in the standing posture. Built 300 years ago, the temple was carved out of a cave by the lord himself - hence also known as Swayamvyakta Venkatavaradha Swamy.There is no separate sanctum for Thayar.
In an adjacent room to the left of the sanctum are installed idols of nine Azhwars, Udayavar, Desikar, & Manavala Mamunivar. Outside the sanctum to the immediate right are shrines for Garudar, Venugopal & Anjaneyar.
Kulithalai :
Kulithalai municipality is situated in between Karur and Trichi.The distance from Kulithalai to Karur in 40km and to Trichi in 35km. The Kulithalai Kadambaneswar temple, a tevara sthalam, is located here .We reached around 1.00 pm & fortunately the temple was open & the noon Pooja was just about to start. Moolavar is Kadambavaneswarar & Ambal is Balakujambal. Sthala Vriksham on the Southern side is Kadambam tree. Theertham is Cauvery. Praises sung by Appar & Ayyadikal Kadavarkon. Saptakanyakas were relieved of their Brahmahatti Doshams here.
Moolavar is a swayambu lingam with a square avudayar. Behind the lingam you can see sculptures of Saptakanyakas. The deity is North facing which is unique (normally facing East).
Koshtams : East side koshtam - 6 faced Brahma & Sandikeswarar. South koshtam is Dakshinamurthy.West koshtam is Annamalayar or Lingodbhavar.
As you circumambulate the prakaram - you can see in the North side,two vigrahams of Natarajar - one without Muyalagan.On the East you see Saneeswarar & Navagrahas. On the South - Jeshtadiri, Nalwars & 63'ars.Vinayakar is on the South West corner & on the West Shanmughar with Valli,Devayani & Somaskandar, Gajalakshmi.
Mookombu is located about 20 kms (towards Trichy) from Kulithalai.It is a lovely picnic spot with a lot of water. The Kollidam (or Coleroon as it was known during British times) river divides from River Cauvery here. There is a big dam (Upper Anicut) here. You can walk on top of the dam and take a look at the fast flowing water.
Srirangam :
After Kulitalai we headed for Trichy & we went straight for thali lunch at Vasantha Bhavan near bus stand. Neither the ambience nor the food was of desired standard. Try & avoid this place next time you are in Trichy. After that we headed towards Srirangam crossed the bridge across the Cauvery & arrived at the island called Srirangam in Chozha Nadu. We arrived at the Sri Veera Raghava Ramanuja Kutam run by the Tridanti Jeer right next to the Raja Gopuram & checked in. Nice two bedded room with tiled flooring & attached bath. The tariff Rs.350/- day inclusive of B.Fast, Lunch & Dinner - not a bad bargain at all. Sri Rangam is an Island city of around 600 acres lying between Rivers Kaveri and Kollidam. The Raja Gopuram is a tall impressive brightly painted gopuram which is considered the tallest in Asia. It is easily & distinctly visible from a far distance as it towers majestically over all other structures in the vicinity. We went straight away for darshan of the moolavar - Sri Ranganathar reclining on Sesha Naga, who is also known by various other names - Periya Perumal, Nam Peruman, Azhagiya Manavalan. Srirangam is considered the foremost of the 108 Divya Desams. The 11 Azhwars have sung praises of Lord Ranganatha in Srirangam. The temple is spread over an area of 156 acres and has 7 prakarams with 21 gopurams. The temple is also known 'Bhooloka Vaikuntam' or 'Heaven on Earth.'
Srirangam cannot be discussed without mentioning about the great Vaishnavite scholar Ramanujacharya who attained divinity here. His "Swayam Thirumeni" (the symbolic body) is preserved in a shrine by periodical application of saffron & camphor and prayers offerred even today after 8 centuries. There are several legends associated with the temple. For these and other details log on to : Srirangam temple, Temples in tamil nadu, Hotels,Tamil Nadu History ... Also : http://srirangapankajam.com/default.aspx,
There are total of 9 thirthams - the most significant one is Chandra Pushkarni. Sthala Vrikshan is Punnai.
Prasadam : On most days, the devotees are treated to prasadam offerring of Chakra pongal (A sweet made with jaggery, pulses and rice), Puliyodarai and thayir sadam (Rice with yogurt/curd).
It is customary when the temple doors open every morning,for Lord Ranganatha's eyes fall first on an elephant & a cow standing with its rear facing the Lord. This is considered very auspicious.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Kerala Tour (cont'd)



From Trivandrum I travelled north by Road on NH47. Crossed Attingal & just before Kollam turned right towards Kundara where I had to meet a business associate. From there straight to Kollam - business priorities prevented me from visiting Kollam beach & the large Ashtamudi lake. Kollam,sometimes referred to as cashew country, is the centre of cashew cultivation.
The Ashtamudi is one of the largest wetland ecosystems in Kerala.It is a palm-shaped extensive water body with eight prominent arms - Ashtamudi.The arms converge into a single outlet at Neendakara near Kollam, to enter the Lakshadweep sea.The major river discharging into the Ashtamudi is the Kallada river, formed by the confluence of three rivers, viz., the Kulathupuzha, the Chendurni and the Kalthuruthy.The Kallada river originates from the western ghats. It traverses through virgin forests and finally falls into the Ashtamudi wetland, after travelling a distance of about 120 km.
From Kollam I continued Northwards along the coastline, crossed the Neendakara past Chavara, Karunagapalli, Kayamkulam before turning into Mavellikara to meet another business associate. Kayamkulam Lake, spread over an area of 60 sq km, is one of the most scenic backwaters in Kerala. It is a shallow lake which merges into the sea at Kayamkulam barrage. With a length of 30 km, it is a favorite destination for nature lovers. Kayamkulam Lake connects Ashtamudi lake by the Chavara - Panmana canal.
From Mavelikkara we returned via Oachira back to the NH47 at Haripad proceeded to Mannarsala.
Mannarsala Nagaraja Temple is one of the most important centre of snake worship in Kerala- about 35 Km before Alappuzha. Mannarsala Ayilyam is the famous Festival of this Temple. It is believed that by 'Uruhi Kamizhthal', which is placing a bell shaped vessel upside down as an offering to the deity,childless couples are blessed with children. The sacred turmeric paste of the temple is believed to cure leprosy. The eldest Female member of the Mannarsala Family Known as 'Amma' is performing Pujas in the temple ( Did not visit the temple though - will do so at a later date).
Next we reached Ambalapuzha.The Ambalappuzha temple (click on this for history & legends associated with the temple) is one of the three important Sri Krishna temples in the state of Kerala. As I entered through a tall archway my eyes fall on the magnificent circular temple tank with abundant crystal clear water & convenient bathing ghat - clear invitation to have a refreshing dip. As I went around there was the temple elephant lying on its side & being given a nice scrub & hose bath by its mahout. I could get a nice long peaceful darshan of the deity. The inner sanctum walls are filled with paintings of Lord Krishna as a child & one of Anantha Padbanabhaswamy in reclining pose. The temple is famous for its payasam ( rice & milk kheer) and I was lucky to get a glass of pal payasam. Karumadi is a town near Ambalapuzha - when we make pal payasam at home & it turns out very tasty - we say "Karumadi Etthi" since no payasam can be equated to divine payasam of Ambalapuzha.
During the attack of Guruvayoor by Tipu Sultan, the idol of Guruvayoorappan was brought to Ambalapuzha Temple for protection.

Kerala Tour

I was in Kerala for 4 days from 8-11 Jan'08 and my first stop was Trivandrum. Revisited Padbanabhaswamy & Attukal Bhagavathy temples. Regarding Padbanabhaswamy temple please refer to my blog written in Feb'07 (go to archives) for detailed information.I am now furnishing additional information. As you go around the inner sanctum you can see shrines for Narasimha on the South and Vyasar & Aswatthama towards the North West. Inside the sanctum sanctorum you have two shrines - one for Viswakhsenar(North) & another for Rama,Lakshmana & Sita (East). On either side of the Utsava Moorthy of the Lord besides Bhuma Devi & Sree Devi there are two sages seated in obeisance to the Lord - one of the sages is Koundinya Muni & the the other is Agatsyar. The Lords right hand drops down & one finger is touching the Siva Lingam.
In the outer most prakaram as you walk the splendidly corridorred seeveli pura - you reach the Sastha temple on the South. After offerring prayers to Ayyapa you continue clockwise & towards the North West corner you reach the Thiruvambadi Temple - Ambadi is the abode of Krishna. This has a large Mandapam with exquisitely carved wooden structures. A group of women were singing bhajans in praise of Lord Krishna. You go inside the sanctum and pray to the Lord. Around the sanctum you can see brightly coloured paintings depicting the life & times of Krishna.
On the Western side in the open sandy space between the corridor & Temple walls you can see two very tall multi tiered brass tortoise lamps (ama vilakku). The Temples walls carry myriad lamps on all sides These lamps are fitted with small zero watt bulbs & electrically illuminated at night. Unless you look very closely you will mistake these for oil wick lamps. However inside the sanctum only oil lamps are used. There were large contingents of Ayyapans ( devotees of Lord Ayyapa) that evening to offer prayers to Padbanabhaswamy before proceeding to Sabarimala for the forthcoming Makara Vilakku.
Next I visited Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, one of the most ancient temples of Kerala - located at Attukal, 2 km away from the city. 'Pongala' is the favorite offering to Attukal Bhagavathy. This temple is considered as the Sabarimala for Women. Women form the major portion of the devotees here. The Goddess is worshipped here as the Supreme Mother. The pilgrims who visit the Sri Padmanabha Swami Temple also visit Attukal amma without which their pilgrimage is not considered complete.
According to the legends, the Attukal Bhagavathy is the divinised form of Kannaki, the heroine of the famous Tamil work Silappathikaram. Kannaki is considered as an incarnation of Goddess Parvathi, the consort of Lord Shiva.The temple structure is a blend of Kerala and Tamil styles of architecture.
The Attukal Pongala festival is celebrated once a year during the months of February and March. It is a festival of ten days with the Pongala offerring on the ninth day & is a festival exclusively for women. During this festival, the Temple becomes very colorful and lakhs of women throng to the city and enjoy the festive mood. In 2007, the Pongala was held on 3rd March and it has been reported that about 2.5 million women participated.
I also visited Rajamony Mama & Rajam mami at Revathy, Thycaud & had breakfast of idiappam & coffee. I took snaps of Anna & Manni from their well preserved portraits hanging in the drawing room. Mama gave me the shocking news that the out house in Lakshmi Niwas ( where we had lived during late fortie & early fifties) has been pulled down to make way for a new structure. The main house is also expected to be demolished shortly.
As I prepared to leave mami handed over a packet of delicious home made Chakka Varatti to carry to Coimbatore !

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Bangalore - Coimbatore

By the time we finished worshipping at Melkote it was 7.30 pm and we drove off towards Bangalore – it took us about an hour to reach Mandya on the National Highway & then at sped away via Chennapatna – Ramnagaram – Bidadi and finally reached Bangalore @ 10.30 pm and checked in at Woodlands. The drive on the multilane NH was excellent – we could drive at speeds of 100-110 kmph & average 80 kmph plus.
Next day I had some official business to attend at Bangalore – we took time off to visit Gopu – Pushpas & also the Rosarios. Shonali (who had come home for Christmas) & Kavitha with cute bonny baby Kavya were present when we visited. I could snap up some adorable pictures of Kavya !
Our original plan was to depart the same day after noon – but it had become late and we deferred the departure to next morning. We left @ 6.00 am & reached Dharmapuri around 9.30 am just in time for a wholesome breakfast at the newly opened Adhiyamaan Palace Hotel. The hotel provides good rooms at reasonable rates & is a convenient place for a night halt – thundering Hogenekal falls is hardly 40 Kms from this town. The road upto Hosur was bad due to heavy construction activity of new flyovers. After we entered the Toll Rd we had a smooth drive for about 50 Kms before the road degenerated upto Dharmapuri. The condition of the road continued to be miserable so we took a diversion before the Thoppur Ghat ( 40 Km before Salem) & travelled via Mettur & Bhavani and bypassed Salem completely. The view of the Stanley reservoir was breathtaking. From there we went downhill towards Mettur town – had a gorgeous view of Mettur Dam & the the river Cauvery in full flow downstream – an awe inspiring sight. Besides providing precious water for irrigation,the Dam is also a source of Hydel Power. Built in 1934 it is one of the oldest dams in the country and also a premier tourist attraction in this region. Upstream from the Dam is the famous Hogenekal falls.
We continued on our journey towards Bhavani – travelling alongside the Cauvery and witnessed fertile land with rich cultivations of bananas, paddy, sugar cane & coconut palms. It was indeed a rare, rich & refreshing rural experience which we city dwellers seldom get to see. As we crossed village after village we witnessed many rural temples with local gods (Ayyanar or Karuppurayan), erected & worshipped to provide protection to the farmers. I stopped by to take a snap of one such temple.
We finally reached Bhavani and went directly to the celebrated Sangameswaran Temple. This Thevara Sthalam in Kongu Naadu ( praises sung by Tiru Gnanasambandhar), is a shrine at the confluence of Bhavani, Kaveri & Amrutavahini (Mukkoodal). Other Sanskrit names associated with this shrine are Dakshinaprayag, Dakshinabadri, Triveni Sangamam. The temple campus is large & sprawling (four acres) and has sanctums for Sangamesawarn, Ambal Vedanayagi, Subramaniar in the center ( Somaskandar) flanked by Sanewarar & Jorahareswarar. When water or milk is poured on the two identical stone statues in front of ‘Ambal Sannathi’ one smiles at you, while the other sheds tears at you. Besides the navagrahas is the sanctum of Kalabhairavar. The temple also has shrines for Soundaravalli Thayar, Lakshmi Narasimhar, Adikesavaperumal & Venugopal. Outside the sanctum of Perumal are stone images of Krishna, Ramanujar, Anjaneyar. Outside the Venugopal sannithi is a stone image of Krishna flanked by Rukmini & Satyabhama. We saw and photographed the Temple elephant Vedanayaki aged 31 years who was tethered in her shed. We exited the temple through the Swarga Vashal (considered auspicious) which was open because of Vaikunta Ekadesi.
This temple is surrounded by the 5 hill shrines located at Sankagiri, Tiruchengode, Padmagiri, Mangalagiri and Vedagiri.
There are bathing ghats at the confluence point, located adjacent to the Sangameswarar Sannithi, and the water here is nice, cool, refreshing & invigorating.
Legend:
Kubera, Rama, Arjuna, Viswamitrar and Parasarar are said to have worshipped here. The remnants of the celestial nectar, drawn from the milky ocean and buried here by Parasarar,turned into the Shivalingam.
True Incident :
During British Rule, Coimbatore Collector W.Garrow visited Bhavani on official work & was resting at night in the Inspection Bungalow. It rained heavily that night with heavy thunder & flashes of lightning.In the middle of the night a young girl child came in, took him by his hand & pulled him outside the IB. The next moment the roof of the IB collapsed. The collector looked back & saw the girl hurrying away. He followed her but she entered the temple premises & disappeared. He realised it must have been the Goddess Bhavani, in the form of the little girl, who had rescued him. Since he was not a Hindu he could not enter the temple. So he had two viewing ports created on the temple wall facing the Ambal Sannithi to enable him to see her divinity . The Collector also gifted an Ivory palanquin to the Temple.

Mysore & Bangalore (contd)

After a nice Thali lunch at Hotel Siddhartha we left Mysore @ 2.30 pm – our destination Srirangapattana about 13 Kms away on the Bangalore Road. Enroute we crossed the magnificent twin spired St.Philomenas Church rising into the sky like the Twin Towers. We filled up gas enroute and reached Srirangapatna in about 30 minutes.The town takes its name from the celebrated Ranganathaswamy temple which dominates the town, making Srirangapattana one of the most important Vaishnavite centers of pilgrimage in South India. Srirangapatnam is a river Island – the river Cauvery splits into two & rejoins at Ganjam & thus forms an Island.
We first visited the Nimishamba Temple on the banks of the river Cauvery. The main deity is Nimishamba & other two deities are a Siva Lingam & Lakshmi Narayana. In the outer sanctum you can see Suryanarayana, Pillayara, Anjaneya & Navagraha (on the river bank). A king by name Muktaraja belonging to "suryavamsha" had performed his penance here. Muktaraja had got a carved "shrichakra" on a stone and started performing poojas. It has been kept in front of Nimishamba inside the temple, which we can see even today. There is a belief that Parvathi is going to resolve all problems of her devotees within a ‘nimisha’ or ‘one minute’. The Sangam or confluence of rivers is near the temple & it is considered holy to have a dip there.
Next we visited Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple - dedicated to the Hindu God Ranganatha, a manifestation of Vishnu and is one of the Pancharanga Kshetrams or five Ranganathar temples situated on the banks of the Cauvery. The main deities are Ranganathar, Lakshmi Narasimhar & Mahalakshmi. In the outer sanctum you can worship Garudar & Anjaneya. Here Lord Vishnu is in reclining pose.
Next we proceeded via Pandavpura(5 Kms) towards towards the temple town of Melkote(30 Kms) – it was an off highway road but the road was in good shape & we covered the distance from Pandavapure in 45 minutes. As we approached we could see tha Yoga Narasimhar temple situated majestically on a hill top.Then we entered Melkote which houses an ancient shrine to Vishnu.This shrine is known for its long standing association with the spiritual leader Ramanujacharya. Melkote is also known as Yadavagiri, yatistalam, Vedadri and Narayanadri. The presiding deity here (moolavar) is known by the name Cheluvanarayana or Tiru Narayana, while the Utsavar is known as Selva Pillai or Sampath Kumara. There are shrines to Yadugiri Taayaar and Kalyani Nachiyaar. Within the main sanctum are sanctums for Viswaksenar, Ramanujam. Other sanctums for Anjaneya & Mahalakshmi. Outside the Thayar sannithi is a long corridor with exquisitely sculpted pillars.
A crown set with precious jewels known as Rajamudi was presented to this temple by Raja Wodeyar (1578-1617) of Mysore. Krishna Raja Wodeyar III (1799-1868) also presented a crown set with precious jewels known as Krishna Raja Mudi.The Vajramudi festival is the chief annual festival here.
The Main temple tank is known by the name Kalyani Kulam – a large ancient beautiful pond with steps & well sculptured mandapams all around. There are two other smaller kulams –known as akka & thangai kulams.
Early in twelfth century, the great Vaishnava saint Sri Ramanujacharya took up his residence and lived here for about 14 years (said so). It thus became a prominent centre of the Srivaishnava sect of Brahmins,
Legend has it that during the Muslim raids of South India, the Utsava Murthy was stolen and taken away and that Ramanujacharya restored it from the court of the ruler. It is said that it the Muslim princess had grown fond of image of Selvappillai and that being unable to part with it, she followed the Acharya to Melkote and then merged into the shrine there. In honor of this, there is an image of Bibi Nachiyar here at the feet of the moolavar, Thiru Narayanan.The town appears poor and most people living there seem to be associated with the temple in some form or other for their livelihood. People appeared humble & friendly. There was this guy who convinced us to buy his pulihora - we had pulihora for dinner that night and true to his promise it was really good stuff.
We did not visit the Yoga Narasimha temple as it was quite late and it had become dark. Besides with my sensitive back I did not venture to attempt the steep climb up the hillock