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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Avinashilingeswarartemple after Kumbabhishekam

Visited Avinashilingeswarar temple, the first amongst the Kongunadu Tevara Sthalams , on 20 July’08 - exactly one week after the Kumbabhishekam. As we entered the parking lot the Deepasthambam & colorful Gopurams greeted us – regal, royal & majestic. The Rajagopuram & the smaller Gopuram opposite Ambal sannithi looked sparkling as also the well scrubbed & polished Deepasthambam & outer walls. The 70 ft Deepasthambam carved from a single stone is a unique feature of all Kongunadu temples. As we enter the temple from East side, we see the 30 pillared mandapam to the right, Selva Vinayakar to the left and Ucchi Pillayar above the tall doorway. There are two beautiful Narthana Pillayars on either side of the doorway.
We enter into a pillared mandapam called the Navaganga Hall carrying sculptures of Oordhva thandava moorthy, Alangattu Kaliammai & Virabhadran and the main Dwaja Sthambam with gold covering. On either side of the entrance to inner sanctum, are raised pavilions carrying legends of Sundarar & the crocodile who swallowed the boy on the left & of Ambal worshipping the lord on the right side.
We enter the inner sanctum of Avinashilingeswarar and pray to the deity & receive vibhooti. As we circumambulate the inner prakaram, we see idols of Nalvars & 63’vars, Santhana Kuravars, Saptha Mathas on the south pavilion, Pillayar, Sahasara lingam, other Siva lingams, Gajalakshmi & Baladandayuthapani on the west pavilion. Around the sanctum goshtam you see Dakshinamoorthy, Lingodhbhavar, Brahma, Durgai & Sandikeswarar.
On the North side is a sub shrine of Kalabhairavar. This is considered to have special significance and devotees offer vada malai on festive occasions. You emerge from the inner sanctum and circumambulate the outer prakaram. To the east is sub shrine of Suryan & the colorful Kalyana Mandapam carrying pictures/paintings of the various legends associated with the temple. To the south of the main sanctum are sanctums of Subramaniaswamy & Ambal Karunambigai – Somaskandar formation. Opposite the Kalyana Mandapam is the newly built Vasantham hall. In front of the Ambal sannithi is a colorful pillared mandapam and a pillared portico carrying exquisite sculptures. We go in pray to Goddess Karunambugai, see deeparathanai & receive kumkumam. On the Ambal sannithi goshtam you see kalvettu or stone inscriptions all around. On the west side you also see three stone slabs carrying more inscriptions. On the west goshtam is a sculpture of a scorpion, which also is of special significance – it is said to have the efficacy to cure a person of snake bite or scorpion sting. There is a Pillayar sannithi on the south west corner. On the north side is a pillared mandapam on a raised platform containing Natarajar vigraham. On the east side are the Navagrahas & Saneeswarar.
The scaffoldings erected for all vimanams & gopurams to facilitate the Kumbabhishekam were still intact.
For full details, history, descriptions, pooja timings etc you can visit the temple website: http://www.avinashilingeswarartemple.org/.
For photogallery visit: http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/AvinashiLingeswarar

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chitra Art Gallery & Ashtamudi Kayal

Trivandrum, 15 july'2008:
A visit to the Chitra Art Gallery. It has been my desire to visit this gallery for many years and this was finally fulfilled on this trip. Located within the Trivandrum zoo complex, this art gallery was opened in 1935, by the then Maharaja of Travancore, Shri Chitra Thirunal Balarama Varma. He was also also the last ruling Maharajah of the princely state. The ancient building where the art gallery is housed was one of the erstwhile palaces of the Travancore Royal family.
The gallery contains a large collection of exquisite paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, one the greatest painters India has ever produced. He is called a prince among painters and a painter among princes. He achieved recognition for his depiction of scenes from the epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Raja Ravi Varma is most remembered for his paintings of beautiful sari clad women, portrayed as very shapely and graceful. He won the first prize in Vienna Art Exhibition in 1873.
To get a glimpse of Ravi Varma's masterpieces log onto: http://www.raja-ravi-varma.keralaz.info/ . Raja Ravi Varmas paintings are also displayed at Sri Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery, Jaganmohan Palace Mysore & Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum Trust, Laxmi Vilas Palace,Baroda.
The Chitra Gallery also displays a collection of Tibetan thungkas,Chinese, Japanese,Balinese, Tanjore, Bengali,Mughal & Rajput paintings apart from works of C.Raja Raja Varma, Nicolas & Svetoslav Roerich. The collection also includes unique copies of Indian mural paintings from pre-historic times down to the 18th century.
To view some examples of works of Nicolas Roerich log on to : http://chdmuseum.nic.in/art_gallery/nicholas_konstantinovich_roerich.html
The visit to the Chitra Art Gallery was a unique & awe inspiring experience and is a must see for any visitor to Trivandrum. Available for sale at the galary sales outlet are picture postcards & books on paintings of Raja Ravi Varma.
Collectors Item: A book titled 'Raja Ravi Varma (1848 - 1906)" published by the Dept. of Cultural Affairs, Govt. of Kerala.Price: Rs.500/-.
16 July'08: Enroute from Trivandrum to Ernakulam, took a small diversion to visit the Astamudi Kayal near Kollam and the Veerabhadraswamy Koil on the banks. It was amazing to see a small post office in such a remote location. Truly India has one of the widest postal network systems covering even the remotest corners of the country.
See photo gallery of Gods Own Country ( Swamiyude Swantham Nade !) : http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/ChitraArtAsthamudi

Monday, July 14, 2008

Kamakshiamman kumbhabhishekam & Annapoorni Temples

Coimbatore, 13 july'2008: Visited Kamakshiamman koil situated on T.V.Swamy Road, R.S.Puram Coimbatore. The Kumbhabhishekam ceremoney was to be performed the next day ie.14th. This temple managed by the Kanch Kamakoti Peetham, has been undergoing major renovation/restructuring works over the past 18 months or so, hence Kumbabhishekam was necessary. This is termed as Jeerno-dharana Kumbaabhishekam & is different from the Punar uddharaana kumbabhishekam which is traditionally carried out every twelve years in every Hindu Temple.
The Kumbhabhishekam ceremony consists of the erection of Balaalayam, japas, chants of Vedas, sanctifying Kalasaas (pots of water), Homas and Yagnas. The finale is the pouring of the sanctified water from the kalasas over the stupis (steeple) on the top of the central Vimaana or the sanctum sanctorum, the gopurams and the main and other deities, by the priests.
We witnessed the elaborate Homas & Yagnas that were taking place prior to the finale to follow the next day. The purpose of the homas and yagnas was part of the process to restore the full potency of the infused powers to the idols at the appropriate muhurtham on the auspicious day. There was a large gathering men,women & children. The atmosphere was bright, festive and colorful. The renovated temple shrines were looking magnificent. The gopuram was glittering in its new coat of paint. An elephant "Ganapati" had been brought in from Kerala to add excitement to the proceedings. A separate shrine had been created and a large idol of Adi Sankara had been placed there along with the four original Sankaracharyas. All shrines & sub-shrines had been shifted to the left side and a new Mahaswamigal Mandapam constructed with murals of current and past Sankaracharyas on the backdrop. Probably this mandapam will be used for religious discourses and live dance & music performances on festival days. Shobha & Meenakshi participated in the preparation of the Asthabandhanam, which required pounding of a wooden "Olakkai" into an "Oral" containing the ingredients of the Asthabandanam.( Meenakshi happened to be in Coimbatore for a few days in connection with Siddhu's admission to Amrita Viswa Vidyapeetham)
After this we walked across to the Annapoorneswai temple next door. This is a private temple built and maintained by the Lakshmi Mills family.The Main deities are Annapoorneswari & Lakshmi Narasimhar. A Veda Patashala has been added as an annexe in recent years where young Brahmin boys are initiated into the Vedas and ultimately into priesthood. To our surprise we saw Sri Jayendra Saraswati, the present head of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, seated in the Veda Patshala, receiving and blessings devotees. We availed of this golden opportunity and took Swamiji's blessings too. He had come to Coimbatore primarily to participate in the Kumbabhishekam at the Kamakshi Temple on 14th.
The evening's proceedings ended with a visit to a nearby chat shop for mouth watering pani-puris or "golgappas"
For a detailed write up about what "Kumbabhishekam"is all about log onto: http://www.ganeshatemple.org/Articles/Article_2(pdf)/mahaabhishekam%20Article.pdf

& photogallery: http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/Kumbabhishekam

Friday, July 11, 2008

Day Trip to Gobi

Sunday 6th July'08:
Shobha & I took off to Gobichettipalayam on a day trip for carrying out some verification work related to Kerala Iyers Trust. The route was via Sathy, the road was excellent, the greenery & scenery abundant & lush with sugarcane & paddy fields. As usual we munched delicious cheese sandwiches as we travelled. We covered the distance of 95 Kms in exactly two hours. A nice archway welcomes you into Gobi town.
Gobichettipalayam is located in Erode District. This is a semi rural area. An old man named Gobi Chetti lived in this place and hence the city gots its name "Gobichettipalayam". The people of Gobi mainly engage in Agriculture and Weaving. The economy of Gobichettipalayam centers on sugarcane,banana, rice,tobacco and turmeric. Gobichettipalayam boasts some famous tourist spots like Kodivery dam and Gunderi Pallam Dam. Because of the scenic beauty and cultural richness, outdoor shooting of the film industry thrives in this area.
We decided to finish our temple visits before commencing the verification work & headed towards Kondathu kaliamman temple situated in Pariyur about 4 kms from Gobi. We enter through a tall gopuram. Immediately facing you is the South wall mounted on which are statues depicting a scene of Meenakshi Kalyanam as well as figure of Dakshinamoorthy , muyalakan & disciples. Inside the temple is the sanctum Kondathu Kaliamman surrounded by statues of "Brammahi, Maheshwari, Gowmari, Vaishnavi, Mahendri and Chamundi. In the outer prakaram are sanctums of Kalyana Vinayakar, Saptha kannigai and a huge statue of Muniappa Swamy, the protector and curer of persons possessed with evil spirits. On the North side of the temple, the Lower Bhavani Canal runs which along with the adjoining lush greenery, is cynosure to the devotees's eyes.
We also went to the Siva Temple(Amarapaneeswarar) situated nearby. The origin of this temple dates back to the 14th Century. It is a "Suyambu Lingam". This temple was built by Thangamani Muthuvelappa Gounder, Gobi. During the process of renovation, the beautiful idols of Lord Natraja, Goddess Umayammai, Lord Muruga were found. There idols were made up of "Panchaloka". The temple is exquisitely built with original white marbles and it is well maintained. There is a sub shrine for Sundareswarar & Meenakshi and another shrine for Bhairavar.
Next we drove to the Pavalamalai Muthu Kumaraswamy Temple. This a small but beautiful Muruga temple atop a small hill. You can walk up a flight of steps or drive the car up on a steep narrow winding road. We drove up in the car. The scene from the top is exquisite.
Our next destination was the Pachamalai Balamurugan Temple. The road up was closed for construction so we had to walk up all the way. The hill is at a higher altitude than Pavalamalai. The view of Gobi countryside from the top is even more beautiful. The main features of this temple are the tall ivory colored gopuram with a black vertical Vel in the front & a tall statue of standing Muruga both of which are visible from a distance. The temple interiors are colorful with beautifully carved pillars and long spacious corridors.
To view photogallery log on to :http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/DayTripToGobi