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Friday, May 22, 2009

Jackfruit - The Super(b) Fruit

Shobha visited her aunt(atthai) in Saibaba Colony last week and was gifted a large chunky jackfruit. The atthai has a few jackfruit trees in her compound and tends to their nutrition requirements meticulously. As a result the trees bear fruit for about 3-4 months every year.
The cutting & hacking, removal of the thick prickly skin & removal of the velvety yellow fruit & ejection of the seeds is an expert job and this duty is normally handed over to Shobhas father. But notwithstanding his "expertise: this process leaves behind quite a mess which requires articulate clean up. This time around we were lucky - our newly appointed man Friday appeared to be an expert too on this subject. He was excited at seeing the jackfruit and immediately took the fruit away to a remote corner and went about the task of skinning the fruit. He did this with such clinical precision and did not leave behind any kind of mess.
The skin had been neatly chopped away, the sticky interiors were expunged, the velvety fruit sliced open & seeds removed and the fruits deposited attractively in a steel bowl.
Some people love both the aroma & the taste of jackfruit - Shobha & her father fall in this category. Others like me are neutral to smell but like the taste of the ripe fruit. A third category like Guhan find both the smell & taste disgusting & nauseating - Guhan is very clear - its either he or the jack fruit, both cannot coexist in the same room - so make your choice !
The jackfruit tree bears fruits in the trunks or near the base of older branches from where the female flowers emerge in the first place. Given that jackfruit is the heaviest among the tree borne fruits, reaching up to 35 kg in weight, it is possible that the trees bear them in the trunk or older branches that are strong enough to hold the fruit.
Origin: The jackfruit is believed indigenous to the rain forests of the Western Ghats of India. It spread early on to other parts of India, Southeast Asia, the East Indies and ultimately the Philippines. It is often planted in central and eastern Africa and is fairly popular in Brazil and Surinam.
Jackfruit can be eaten unripe (young) or ripe, and cooked or uncooked. The seeds can also be eaten cooked or baked like beans. The leaves are sometimes used as a wrapping for steamed Idlis. Jackfruit is commonly known as "Pala Pazham" in Tamilnadu and "Plava or Chakka" in Kerala. The tree is found in almost every household in Kerala. (Family elders: Can you recollect the abundant "plavus" in the spacious compound around Lakshmi Nivas ?) A large variety of dishes are prepared with both the unripe as well as ripened fruit. Chakka Varaval, Chakka Mezhukku Varatti, Chakka Aviyal,Chakka Chips, Elisseri,Chakka Varatti (Jam), Chakka Pradaman(payasam or kheer) are some of the popular dishes served in Kerala weddings.
Tit Bit: Another innovative way of consuming this fruit - slice open the velvety fruit on one side, lift the flap, add a few teaspoons (or tablespoons if you wish) of honey, close the flap & drop the whole thing into your mouth golgappa (panipuri) stye. Its heavenly, simply melts in your mouth & slides smoothely down your gullet !

Monday, May 18, 2009

e-Scooter Rally to Maruthamalai

It was the morning of Sunday 17 May'2009. We had been planning to test drive the BSA Motors electric scooters on the Maruthamalai ghats. So we gathered at the Sankrithi BSA showroom at 8.00 am - Shobha & I, Ramesh & Prakash. Two e-scooters were brought out of the showroom - a blue Roamer & a Black Diva. Ramesh & Prakash wore smart black BSA T-shirts and donned white & red BSA peak caps. The scooter rally started at 8.20 am and took off towards Maruthamalai - a distance of around 10 kms. We followed in our blue Indigo. We went past GCT & then turned right at TNAU point towards Maruthamalai. Enroute we crossed Vadavalli as well as the vast sprawling campus of Bharatiar University and finally reached the base of Maruthamalai hills - one of the well known abodes of Lord Muruga. Then the climb began - the scooters went first into the ghats and we followed. The gradient climbing ability of the e-scooters was excellent. The 500 watt Roamer maintained the specified speed of 40 Kmph while the 250 watt Diva followed at moderate speed of 25 Kmph. Halfway up the ghat climb we stopped briefly for photographs. Then the journey resumed. Being e-Scooters these vehicles climbed silently as they are powered by electric motors. Since there are no engines as in petrol vehicles, these scooters are eco friendly and do not spew exhaust fumes.
We reached the top in virtually no time. We then took some time off to visit the sanctum of Lord Muruga and offer our prayers. Then we began the downward descend. The e-Scooters desecnded at much faster speeds since they had the gravitational support.
On our return we were ravenously hungry and so were the boys. We stopped over at Vadavalli Ananda's for a comprehensive breakfast of Rava Roast, vada sambar & strongly flavored decoction coffee.
We were back at the showroom at 10.20 am. The entire trip/rally had taken all of two hours of which 45 minutes were spent at Anandas. The Rally was remarkably successful - proved beyond doubt the hill climbing capability of BSA e-Scooters.
Trivia: Low speed BSA e-Scooters do not require registration or license and are powered by maintenance free batteries. They are extremely economical to run and batteries are rechargeable. The electricity consumption for charging the battery is one unit which translates to Rs.2 @ domestic rate. The range(or mileage) of a fully charged battery is around 60-70 Kms. This means cost of running an e-Scooter is 3 paise/Km as compared to Rs.1.25/Km for petrol vehicles. This vehicle is ideal for city running and totally pollution free.
For more information on BSA e-Scooters log onto: http://www.bsamotorsindia.com/index.asp

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Kumbakonam Temple Visits IV

Sarangapani Temple:
The Sarangapani temple is the principal and largest of the Vishnu temples in Kumbakonam dating to the thirteenth-century. It is among the 108 Tirupatis and is given third place next to Srirangam and Tirupati. The shrine is in form of a chariot. A beautiful tank called Hema Pushkarni separates this shrine and the Adi Kumbeshwara temple. Entry, into a hundred-pillar hallway from the seventeenth century (Nayak period), is through a twelve-storied pyramidal gopuram, more than 40m high which is considered one of the largest gopurams in South India. A smaller gopuram leads into a second courtyard that contains another columned mandapa and to the right, a shrine to Lakshmi. The central shrine dates from the late Chola period with many later alterations. Its entrance, within the innermost court, is guarded by huge dvarpalas, identical to Vishnu whom they protect. Between them are carved perforated stone screens in different designs, and in front of them stands the sacred, square fireplace (to do homam). During the day, pinpoints of light from ceiling windows penetrate the darkness around the sanctum, designed to resemble a chariot with reliefs of horses, elephants and wheels. A painted cupboard contains a mirror for Vishnu to see himself when he leaves the sanctum sanctorum. There are 2 entrances to the sanctum. One is kept open throughout the Uttarayan period and the other during the Dakshinayan period.
By the side of the temple is the Golden Lotus tank also known as Lakshmi Theertham. Goddess Lakshmi performed penance here and Vishnu came down as Lord Aravamudhan and married Her. Sarangapani, Aravamudhan and Komalavalli are the presiding deities.
Chakrapani Temple: Sri Chakrapani Temple, is situated at Kumbakonam a temple town in tamilnadu, India. This temple is considered to be one of the most important Vishnu temples in South India, along with Srirangam and Tirupati. Seven of the Alwars sang the glories of this temple. Lord Sarangapani is the presiding Deity of the temple.
The images of Chakrapani and with 8 arms and Sudarshanavalli Thayar with a gracious visage are inspiring. Brahma, Surya and Agni are depicted as worshipping the Lord. According to legend, Surya once competed with Vishnu to decide who was brighter. Vishnu appeared in the form of a Chakra and put down the pride of Surya. Like Shiva, Lord Chakrapani has a third eye on His forehead.
Most of the temple was built by the Nayak kings between the 13th and 17th centuries, but the central shrine dates to the end of the Chola period. There are two entrances for entering the central shrine of the temple.You enter the southern entrance during the dakshinayana period, when the sun is in the Southern Hemisphere and the northern entrance during the period of uttarayana, when the sun is in the northem hemisphere. This shrine is also called Baskara Sthala as it was established by the Sun. The passage around the sanctum in the south is Ganapathi and in the north Panchamuka (5 faced) Hanuman. In a circle of lotus blooms, the Deity stands, while goddess is seated. Wielding conch discus, bow, axe, udakkai, gadha, pan and lotus in eight hands He stands. The archana worship is conducted with Bel leaves.
Tirukkudanthai Keezhkottam Nageswaraswamy Temple: This temple is a big one located in the center of Kumbakonam town. Sun God Sooriyan and Adhiseshan are said to have worshipped Lord Shiva st this sivasthalam. A special feature of this temple is that the sun's rays falls on the Sivalingam (Nageswaraswamy) in the morning on 3 days in a year during the Tamil month of Chithirai - 11th, 12th and 13th day of that month. It is widely believed that Sun god Sooriyan Himself performs pooja at that time to Lord Shiva. Devotees gather in large numbers during these 3 days to witness the event. Scupltures depicting the whole story of Ramayana is found on the inner walls of the prakaram surrounding the sanctum. The goddess is Brihannayaki. This is the 27th in the series of Tevara Stalams located South of the river Cauvery. It is well known for its sculptural work, Vimanams and Mandapams.
The Legend: It is believed that Surya is said to have worshipped Lord Shiva here to regain his lost splendour and hence the temple tank is named after Lord Surya. Also known as "Vilvavanam", it is believed that a Vilva leaf from the pot carrying the celestial nectar (associated with the Kumbheswara temple) had drifted away and landed here. Aadi Seshan is said to have worshipped here and Lord Shiva is said to have blessed him with the might to bear the weight of the earth, here.
About The Temple: Possibly the oldest in Kumbakonam, the Nageshwara temple, one of the finest early Chola temples, noted for the quality of its sculpture. This temple is believed to have been completed during the reign of Parantaka I (907-c.940). Though the temple is small but it is known for its marvellous architecture that exceeds many of the other Chola temples. The Nritta Sabha, or the dance hall, has an elevated Mandapam with a flight of steps. The 12 zodiac signs, 2 mammoth horses, 4 elephants all in stone adorn the Nataraja shrine.
The principal shrine to Lord Shiva, standing in a country is connected to a Mandapam (also spelt as Mandapa). The main niches on the sanctum wall contain sculptures; on the north, "Dakshinamurti" ("South-Facing" Shiva as teacher), on the west Ardhanarishvara (male Shiva and female Shakti in one figure) and Brahma on the south. Joining them are high-relief near-life-size sculptures of unidentified figures, perhaps worshippers, donors or royalty. Within the courtyard, a shrine to Nataraja features rearing horses and wheels, with tiny figures as spokes. The Nataraja shrine here is shaped in the form of a chariot, and the shrine dedicated to the Sun God is of great sculptural significance. So imposing is the shrine to Nataraja, that the hymns of Appar are addressed to Aadalvallar of Kudandai Keezhkottam in awe.
Someswarar Temple: This temple is known as Kudanthai Karonam and located near Potramarai Kulam. The Sikkam (threads) around the Amirthakalasam (the nectar pot) fallen here and took a shape of Linga and hence known as Sikkeshwarar.Once Chandran (Moon god) due to Guru's (Brahaspathi) curse arrived Kumbakonam and worshipped the Lord Shiva Sikkeshwarar, he created a holy water source for the worship, this tank was known as Chandrapushkarani (does not exist now). Thirumalanavar worshipped Somanathar and received the boon to get victory over Asuras. He also built a shrine for Maleeswarar (a Linga) and Mangala Nayagi amman.
Paranthaka Chola king constructed a shrine for Choleeswara and Tripurasundari amman for wanted of a child. One among the Navagraha - Guru (God of planet Jupiter) worshipped the main deity Someshwarar and hence the Lingam is also known as Vyazha Someshwarar (Guru's Sikkeshwarar). Shivagami and Nataraja can be seen.Kodipanchagraha temple is also present.
Sambandar's beautiful idol is seen. Thirupathigam (hymn's of Nalvar) in the form of epigraph is found in this temple.
The main deity is in Linga form and the Banam ( prominent cylindrical structure of Linga) is of special type known as Narmadhai banam.
The Murugan is in the form of Arumugan (6 faces and 12 hands) in a sitting pose over his vaghana (ambassador) a Mayil (peacock), his legs were decorated with Patharatchai (shoe). Saint Arunagirinathar has sung a hymn about this Arumugan of this temple in his work Thirupugal. Thirugnana sambandar has sung a hymn about this temple deity.
Ramaswamy Temple: The temple town of Kumbakonam is the abode of several deities each unique and distinct. The temple of Lord Rama situated in the centre of the town is a connoisseurs' delight. The temple is replete with puranic lore. King Raghunayak ruled Tanjore from 1614-1640. He was an ardent devotee of Rama . His lieutenant Govinda Dikshitar called Govinda Ayyan was also devout and looked after the temple works. King Raghunayak dug a holy tank in Darasuram near Kumbakonam . while the work was in progress they found icons of Rama and Sita in the tank. The King's joy knew no bounds. Thus he built a temple for Rama and called it Ramaswamy temple. This temple is unique as Rama and Sita are in a Pattabishekam posture-Coronation scene . Rama and Sita are surrounded by Lakshmana, Shatrugna, Bharatha and the ever obedient Hanuman with Veena in one hand and the holy book of Ramayana in the other hand in a sitting posture. This coronation scene attracts people from far off places who are awe struck at the divine sight of the celestial confluence. A separate sanctum sanctorum is dedicated to Srinivasa with Sreedevi and Bhoodevi . There are separate shrines for Azhwars and acharyas. The temple looks majestic with a mammoth Gopuram which seem to beckon the devotees to propitiate the lord inside. There is a sprawling Mantap which is a treasure trove of sculptures about which we shall read in the next article. Presiding deities�Rama and Sita in the Pattabishekam Kolam.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Kumbakonam Temple Visits III

Tiruchatthimuttham:
This temple is located near Patteeswaram.The nearest railway station is at Darasuram, which is on the Thanjavur - Kumbakonam section of the Southern Railway. Located at a distance of about 8 Kms from Kumbakonam.The deity is known as Sivakozhundeeswarar and the goddess is perianayagi ammai. This the 22nd amongst the Tevara Sthalams South of the river Cauvery and the saint Tirunavukarasar has sung hyms of the Lord.
Swamimalai:
Swamimalai is a sylvan village, located about five kilometers west of Kumbakonam on the banks of a tributary of river Cauvery. Swamimalai is hailed as one of the 6 padai veedu shrines of Skanda where he sojourned during his battle against the demon Soorapadman. It has been praised in Tirumurugaatruppadai of the tamil sangam period and by the Tiruppugazh hymns of Arunagirinathar. Swamimalai is located in the vicinity of the temple town of Kumbhakonam. Very closeby is the grand temple of Tiruvalanchuzhi now in a state of neglect.
The presiding deity,Swaminathan, here expounded the inference of the Pranava mantra OM to his own Father Lord Siva Himself. The temple is built on an artificial hillock of about 60 ft height with stone steps representing the Hindu cycle of 60 years - leading to the Lord. On the ground level there are shrines to Sundareswarar & Meenakshi. The temple has an imposing golden chariot made out of 7 Kilos of gold, 85 Kilos of silver and other metals like copper.
For more details log onto: http://murugan.org/temples/swamimalai.htm
Tirukkudamookku Adi Kumbeswarar: This is an ancient temple dedicated to Shiva in the heart of the town.The Adi Kumbeswarar Temple is the most important shrine in the temple town of Kumbakonam and 26th in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola kingdom located south of the river Kaveri. The temple is said to be over 1300 years old. The Saivite Saints Sambandar, Appar have sung its praise. The Chola and Naik Kings patronized this temple The Mangalambikai shrine here is revered as a Shakti Peetham (Mantra Peetham). The Mahamagam festival,held once every 12 years,attracts crowds from all over India.
The Temple: This temple covers an area of about 4 acres & the rajagopuram rises to a height of 128 feet and is endowed with several images of great beauty. Four prakarams line this temple.
The huge Mahamagam tank is surrounded by 16 picturesque mandapams, dating back to the 16th century. The Kalyana Mandapam hall in the temple, is the seat of the Tirukkalyana Utsavam. The Navaratri mandapam bears a carvings of the 12 zodiac signs and the 27 asterisms. This temple also houses two nadaswarams made of stone. Many images in this temple deserve mention, especially those of Kiratamurthy and Subramanyar. The Image of Lord Subrahmanya, is a rare specimen. It has six heads but only six hands holding different kinds of weapons.
Kumbeswarar is represented as a Shivalingam fashioned out of earth - (said to have been made by Shiva in the guise of a hunter - Kiratamurthy). Shiva is also known as Amudha Kumbhesar and Amudheesar. The Kumbariya Vinayakar shrine is situated near the tank, while Aadi Vinayakar is worshipped in the temple. Moorka Nayanaar is one of the 63 Nayanars associated with this temple.
Legend:
According to purana, a pot (kumbam) containing nectar and the seed of creation, was decorated by Lord Brahma with the sacred thread, with coconut and mango leaves on the top and was kept on the peak of Mount Meru. At the time of deluge, the sacred pot was carried by the currents and reached Kumbakonam where it got tilted. Now Lord Shiva disguising as a hunter and aimed an arrow at the pot and all materials inside the pot fell at different places, where we find today shrines dedicated to Siva. The nectar settled at two places one of which became the famous Mahamaham Tank. Out of the pieces of the broken pot Lord Siva made out a Sivalingam and entered into it. This now enshrined in the temple, and hence the name Adi Kumbeswarar, meaning one who entered the Kumba or vessel long long ago. Now you know how Kumbhakonam got its name !
For more details log on to the official temple website: http://www.adikumbeswarar.org/

Friday, May 1, 2009

Kumbakonam Temple Visits II

Kanjanoor:
The main temple for Lord Sukran is located at Kanjanur, 18 km in the Kallanai-Poompuhar Highway of Thanjavur district. This is the 36th in the series of Thevara Sthalams in Chola Nadu north of the Cauvery. The deity is Agneeswarar and Ambal Karpagambal, tirtham is Agni Tirtham. It is one of the Navagraha Sthalams in Thanjavur area.This shrine is also referred to as Palaasavanam, Bhrammapuri and Agnistalam. Stone images of Natarajar and Sivakami are seen in this temple in the Nataraja Sabha referred to as the Mukti Mandapam. The Shivatandavam here is referred to as Mukti Tandavam. Legend has it that Shiva blessed Paraasara muni with a vision of the cosmic dance - Mukti tandavam here.
Tiruvidaimarudur:
Tiruvidaimarudur is considered to be the 30th in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola kingdom located south of the river Kaveri. The deity is known as Marudavaanar or Mahalingeswarar. The consort is called Perunalamaamulaiyaal, Brihadsundarakuchambika. Vriksham is Marudamaram,the Theertham is Cauvery & Patikam : Appar, Sundarar. Significance: This huge temple is one of the greatest Saivite shrines in Tamilnadu and is referred to as Madhyarjunam Kshetram and is said to be on par with Chidambaram and Varanasi. Madhyarjunam translates into 'Idai Marudu' in Tamil. Marudu stands for the stala vruksham maruda maram. Kings from as far away places are said to have visited this shrine. Legend has it that Shiva was worshipped by Saraswathi, Lakshmi, Kaali, the VEdas, Vasishtar, Skanda, Vishnu and Agastya. This temple is surrounded on four corners by temples dedicated to Viswanathar, Rishipureeswarar, Aatmanathar and Chokkanathar and hence the name Pancha Lingastalam. One of the interesting beliefs held here is that an abhishekam performed to Chokkanathar to the accompaniment of the megaraagakurinji raaga would result in a bountiful monsoon.
According to legends it is considered highly auspicious to do a pradakshinam (a circumambulatory walk through the corridors) on these 3 corridors:
Aswamedha praharam: This prakaram or corridor is the outermost prakaram and doing pradhakshinam in this praharam will give the effect of doing Ashwamedha yagam.
Kodumudi praharam: This is the middle corridor and doing pradakshinam in this prakaram will give the effect of visiting Mount Kailash - the Abode of Lord Shiva.
Pranava praharam: This the innermost corridor and doing pradakshinam in this prakaram will give mokshaa (salavation).
King Varaguna Pandian of Pandiya Naadu,an ardent devotte of Shiva, visited this temple to rid himself of Brahmahati Dosham. He entered the temple from the East but exited from the West and thus got rid of the Brahma Hatti Dosham.
A separate shrine for Mookambikai is of special significance here. Lord Shiva appeared in the form of Arthanareeswarar to sage Markandeyar at this sivasthalam.
Patteswaram:
The ruling goddess of this temple is known by many names such as Vishnu durga, Durga lakshmi, Navasakthi Nayaki, Navayoga Nayaki, Navagraha Nayaki, Navaratri Nayaki, Navakoti Nayaki, to name a few. She is said to protect the northern gate of this temple. The temple has five majestic gopurams and the splendid architecture of this place can be attributed to the styles of the Pallavas, Cholas and the Nayaks. Traditionally, the ruling deity is Dhenupureeswarar or Patteeswarar and the goddess is His Consort, also known as Gnanambika. This is the 23rd among the Thevara Sthalams located to the South of the Cauvery. The place has a long association with Lord Rama. Viswamitra got enlightened here on Gayatri Mahamantra and was conferred the title - Brahmarishi. She was the crowning triumph of the Chola emperors. Seated on the Mahishan, She appears as the Simhavahini, with Her eight hands holding the conch, wheel, bow, arrow, knife and a parrot, abhayakaram, and kedayam . Draped in traditional madisar saree with lemon and arali garlands, she is ‘shanta swaroopini’
People believe that everyday during the Rahu kalam, Rahu comes and worships Durga. The temple's tank is called the Rama Theertham. Tirugnana Sambandar and Ramalingar have composed many hymns in praise of Her.
Thiruvalanchuzhi:
Sri VellaiPillaiyar Temple is situated at Thiruvalanchuzhi, a village near Kumbakonam. It is easiest approached via Swamimalai from where it is around 5 Kms. A white colored image of Ganapati - Shweta Vinayakar(Vellai Vinayakar or Nurai Pillayar) is the center of worship here. Legend has it that the Gods (the Devas) fashioned this image out of the foam that was generated when the milky ocean (Ksheera Samudram) was churned by them, in their quest for the celestial nectar Amritam. Indra the King of Devas is said to have had this image in his possession after gaining immortality through Amritam, and during his penance at Swamimalai, set the image down at Tiruvalanchuzhi, after which it became rooted to the spot. Inscriptions reveal that Raja Raja Cholan had made several endowments here. There are inscriptions here from the period of Parantaka Chola I.

Kumbakonam Temple Visits

This was a visit I had made before I got into the blogging habit. The year was 2006 and we were in Chennai for our visa interview at the US Consulate. On the final day day of the trip we visited Ankichi Periamma, Sambamoorthy Anna & Manni at Rail Nagar. After a pleasant evening and sumptuous dinner Anna dropped us off a the Mofussil Bus terminus from where we boarded a late night bus for Kumbakonam.
We reached Kumbakonam early morning around 5.00 am and went straight to Hotel Raya's. A nice hotel conveniently situated at the hub of Kumbakonam. We hired a taxi and left on a temple trip in and around Kumbakonam.
Garbarakshambigai:
Our primary objective was to visit Tiru Karugavoor Garbharakshambigai Temple. This temple is located 20 kilometers South West of Kumbakonam. In this temple Parvathi took the form of Sri Garbharakshambikai in order to give special protection to women during pregnancy. Bhavana was pregnant at that time and Shobha made an offerring of Castor Oil which was placed at the feet of the Goddess and charged with manthras. When women get labour pains, this oil is smeared on their abdomen. This will eliminate all complications, dangers and after effects and make the deliveries quite easy. (In fact Shobha carried the castor oil to the USA and when when complications appeared during Bhavana's delivery, she quietly smeared the oil on her abdomen and lo and behold the complications disappeared and the delivery was smoothe)
Childless couples also come here to pray and make offerring of ghee. If the couples consume some of this Ghee at night daily for 48 days the woman will conceive soon and be blessed with children.
As per legend when Vedika, the pregnant wife of Sage Nithuvar, was cursed by Sage Urthvapada with foul disease, Goddess Parvathi came to her rescue and saved the embryo and kept it in a divine pot, till it bloomed into a full fledged child. From then onwards goddess has taken permanent abode here as Garbharakshambigai. The Lord here is called Mullaivananathar and his Linga is Swayambhu or "self manifested". The linga is made of anthill mud and hence no water is used for abhishekam. Instead the lingam is pasted with a musk called called "Punuhu".
Tirunageswaram:
Next we visited the Naganatha swamy Temple located around 7 Kms east of Kumbakonam. This is the 29th in the series of thevara sthalams south of the Cauvery and hymns have been sung by Thirunavukarasar, Sambandar, Sundarar. The lord is known as Sanbakaranyeswarar, Naganathar and his consort is Girikusambikai. The real significance of this temple is that this is one of the Navagraha Sthalas(Rahu Sthala) in Tamilnadu. Rahu worshipped the Lord here on Sivarathri day to redeem himself from the curse of a rishi. Sundays are very auspicious and devotees perform milk abhishekam to Rahu, who is enshrined with His consorts. A noteworthy feature is that the milk turns blue. A dip in Soola Theertha is said to cure diseases and give prosperity.
The mythological serpents Aadi Seshan,Dakshan & Karkootakan worshipped Siva here. The temple occupies 15 acres and has large prakarams, towering gopurams and several mandapams. Fort like walls surround the outermost prakarams of the temple. There are 12 Tirthams here.
This temple was built by Gandaraditya Chola son of Parantaka Chola I
For more details log onto the official website of the temple : http://thirunageswaramraghutemple.org/index.htm
Tirumanagalakudi:
Devotees set to Suriyanar Temple to worship the Sun God should visit this place for relief of adverse effects of the nine planets (Navagrahas). This is 38th among Tevara Sthalams located on the Northern Bank of the Cauvery in Thanjavur District.The deity is Prananadeswarar (Swayambhu Lingam) and the consort is Mangalambikai. Thirumangalakudi is known as Panchamangala Kshetra. The name of the place is Mangalakudi. The Goddess is Mangalambika. The tower is Mangala Vimanam. The Holy Water is Mangala Theertham. The Vinayaka is Mangala Vinayaka. Everything in the temple denotes Mangala or Prosperity.
There is no special place for the Navagrahas here. It is believed that the the planets in the Suriyanar Temple are the ones belonging to this temple. For more details log onto to website: http://www.dinamalar.com/koil_english/Shiva_01Arulmigu%20Prananadeswarar%20Temple_Thirumangalakudi.asp
Suriyanar Temple:
This is a unique temple dedicated to the Sun God and it also houses shrines to each of the other eight celestial bodies - the Nava Grahams. Suryanaar Koyil was built by the Chola kings. Inscriptions from the period of Kulottunga Chola I (1075-1120) refer to this temple as the Kulottunga Chola Martanda Alayam. Inscriptions from the period of Krishna Deva Raya, speaking of endowments made to this temple are also seen here. The presiding deity here is Suryanarayana in a chariot like vimaanam, representing the sun's chariot. There are also shrines to Kasi Viswanathar, Visalakshi and Brihaspati (Guru) in the sanctum. Shrines to the other celestial bodies are located outside of the sanctum. The Kol Theertha Vinayakar shrine is considered to be of importance here. An elaborate worship protocol involving circumambulating the entire temple nine times, is prescribed for devotees visiting the temple.
Uppiliappan Temple:
Next on our itinerary was Sri Oppiliappan Temple situated about 7 kms south of Kumbakonam and about 1\2 km from Kumbakonam - Karaikal bus route. This is one of the important Divya Desams and the presiding deity is known by different names: Tiruvinnagarappan, Oppiliappan, Uppiliappan, Srinivasan, Vankatachalapati. The Goddess is also known by different names namely:Bhoomi Devi, Bhoodevi,Bhoomi Nachiar, Dharani Devi, Vasundhara. The Deity stands majestically facing east. His consort Bhoomidevi is seated with a bending knee and folded hands facing north. Markandeya is seated facing south in a posture indicative of giving Kanyadan.
As per legend Lord Oppiliappan appeared to Nammalwar in 5 different forms as Ponnappan, Maniappan, Muthappan, Ennappan and Tiruvinnagarappan. Nammalwar, Tirumangai Alwar, Poigai & Pey Alwar have sung praises of the Lord. The Vimanam is named as Suddhananda, meaning "pure happiness". This place is also known as Markandeya Kshetra and Tulsi Vanam. The holy temple tank is called "Ahoratra Pushkarini". To the south of the temple, three holy rivers flow-known as Dakshina Ganga, Dakshina Yamuna and Dakshina Godavari.
Speciality of the Temple:
All food offerings strictly and completely saltless. It is a sin to carry salt inside the temple. Hence the Lord is also called as 'Lavana Varjita Venkatesa' i.e. Venkatesa who avoids salt.
The utsava deity oppiliappan is never taken out of the temple, without His consort, Bhoomidevi.
For history,legends & other details log onto: http://oppiliappantemple.org/efirstpage.html
Nachiyar Koil, Thirunaraiyur:
One of the 108 divya desams,the place is almost an hour's drive from the temple town of Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district. The main deity here is Lord Vishnu in the form of Srinivasar (Tirunaraiyur Nambi) and His consort is Vanchulavalli thaayaar. The holy theertham here is known as Manimukta Pushkarini and this sthalam has been sung by Tirumangai Alwar, who refers to the Lord as "Naraiyur Nindra Nambi. This temple was built by the Chola King Ko Chenkannan. Naachiyaar or Taayaar, gets the place of primary importance in this shrine, thus the name, Naachiyaar Koil. The Lord appears in the marriage pose or Kalyanakkolam with Vanchulavalli Taayaar (Nambikkai Naachiyaar) in the sanctum sanctorum. A special shrine dedicated to the Kal Garudan at Nachiyar Koil is very famous and it is on Garuda that the Uthsava moorthi is taken during the temple festivals. Specialty of the Kal Garuda - When it is just taken out of the shrine, only four people are needed to carry the mount. With each step, the mount increases in weight and by the time it is carried out of the temple, 64 people are required to carry it! There are also shrines to Yoga Narasimhar, Veera Hanuman, Ramar and Chakrapani.
......to be continued.....