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Friday, September 23, 2011

Thirukoshtiyur Sowmiya Narayana Perumal Temple

4 September'2011: Thirukoshtiyur Sowmiya Narayana Perumal Temple is an ancient shrine located about 10 km from Thiruppathur in Sivagangai District TamilNadu. It is one of the 108 Divya Desams of Lord Vishnu,revered by the Tamil hymns of Alwars. Since, all the Rishis and Devas along with Sriman Narayanan and Lord Brahma met at this place and discussed the killing of the demon Hirayanyan, this Place is called as "Goshtiyoor". The temple enshrines Sowmiya Narayana Perumal as the presiding deity along with his divine consort Thirumagal Nachiyar. The temple has a Santhana Krishnan idol in the main sanctum sanctorum. Thirukoshtiyur Sowmya Narayana Perumal Temple is considered as the southern Badrinath. The Vimana in this temple is Ashtanga and it rises to a height of 96 ft. Most noteworthy feature of the shrine is that the deity can be found in all three postures -standing, sitting and sleeping. In Ground floor as Krishna in dancing posture – depicting Bhoolagam. Next level he is Sayana Thirukolam a posture resting on Adhisesha – depicting Devalogam. Directly above this the Lord is in Iruntha Kolam - depicting Indrakola. And top most level in standing posture as Sri Sowmya Narayana Perumal – depicting Vaikundam. There exist an important relationship between Sri Ramanuja and Thirukoshtiyur. Saint Ramanuja was advised by Thirukachi Nambigal to visit Thirukoshtiyur and learn the ' sacred 8 letter hymn ', Astachara manthra from Thirukoshtiyur Nambigal (i.e. thirukoshtiyur sage). Accordingly Ramanunja travelled 18 times all the way from Srirangam to Thirukoshtiyur. 17 times Ramanuja tried to meet the Nambigal refused to see him. 18th time when Ramanuja arived and knocked the doors of Nambigal ashram saying "Adiyen Sri Ramanujan vanthurukiran..!" ( which means "beloved student Sri Ramanuja here!!") on which he was allowed to enter. Thirukoshtiyur Nambigal blessed Ramanuja with the 'sacred 8 letter hymn' Astachara manthram ("Ohm Namo Narayanaya!!") and warned not to preach to anyone if so u will reside to hell!!. Ramanuja rushed to the top of temple, summoned the whole village and delivered the Ashtachara Manthram. This act angered nambigal and he questioned Ramanuja who replied - "Its my great fortune in showing the path and guiding people to heaven, I'm glad in going to hell for the act.." these words affected Nambigal to extent he just prostrated towards Ramanuja. It is said the event happened in front of Sri Lakshmi Narasimar Swami Sannathi, towards the Sowmya Narayana Perumal sannathi, third stage. We can climb through stairs of temple shrine and reach the top most layer from which Ramanuja preached the sacred words. We can have a full view of whole of Thirukoshtiyur. Ashtanga Vimanam:This kind of Vimanam is very rare - Ashta means Eight and 8 Vimanams are found on 4 sides (2 each) of the temple. For pics log onto: http://www.thirukoshtiyur.ramanujartemples.net/pg.htm

Pillayarpatti Vinayagar Temple

4 Sep'2011: Our next destination - Pillayarpatti is situated between Pudukkottai and Karaikudi.The rock cut Karpaka Vinayakar Shrine at Pillayarpatti near Karaikkudi at one of the oldest Cave Temples temples of Tamilnadu. The town of Pillaiyarpatti is named after 'Pillayar' - the tamil name for Ganesha, and this ancient temple houses rock cut images of Shiva,Lingodbhavar and several other shrines.Karpaka Vinayakar is the presiding deity here, and he is portrayed with two arms and a trunk curled towards his right in the valampuri mode. This 6 feet tall mammoth image of Ganesha is a bas relief in an excavated cave, off of a hill in the precincts of the temple. Tiruveesar is a Shiva Lingam carved in a similar manner.The Pillayarpatti Nagarathar community which has been traditionally involved with the temple - patronizing the maintenance and the scrupulous conduct of worship services. There was huge security around the temple that day-we later came to know that Union Home Minister P.Chidambaram was due at Pillayarpatti to open a new IOB Branch there that day. Due to restrictions in photography I could only manage a few pics...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kunrakudi Shanmughar Temple

4 Sep 2011: We left Devakottai around 8.00 am after typical breakfast of idli/vada/dosa & coffee crossed Karaikudi and reached Kunrakudi Murugan Temple around 9.00 am. The temple sanctum is atop a hill and we had to climb a long flight of steps to reach there. Pics of the visit are presented below:



Chettiar Bungalow at Athangudi


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Magic of Athangudi Tiles

3 Sep'2011:Athangudi is a small village in Sivaganga District with a big reputation. Athangudi tiles, named after the place of manufacture in Chettinad, Tamil Nadu, come in myriad colors and patterns and are made by a unique process using local soil. These tiles are a testimony to the rich cultural heritage of the Chettiar community, who effectively adapted many influences to their own brand of local craftsmanship. The designs and colors used in Athangudi Tiles are still those of a bygone era. However, off late new designs and patters are being incorporated.The artisans say the charisma of these tiles is due to the sand, which is of just the right composition.
We visited one such manufacturer in Athangudi and witnessed the manufacture of these hand made tiles. The series of pictures presented below tell their own fascinating story:
1.Colors being applied on template design on mould
2.The design
3.Sand being applied
4.Cement being plastered on mould
5.Curing in a large water tank
6.Baking in the sunlight
7-9: Creation of Manual designs
10-12: Designs created manually
13-17: Designs created with template

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Devakottai - Swarnavalli Vilas

3 Sep'2011: From Kalayiarkoil we left for Thiruvadanai Temple but by the time we reached the priest was leaving and the temple doors were closing. Looks we we spent a lot more time at Kalayiarkoil than we intended.
So we motored on to Devakottai and reached Swarnavalli Vilas where Venkat's father & Athai live. ( Venkat is a well known Chennai based writer & a friend). This is Venkat's ancestral house and he had kindly arranged for our stay there.The hospitality at Swarnavalli Vilas was exemplary and both of them turned out to be outstanding and extremely caring hosts. We enjoyed authentic home cooked chettinad cuisine prepared under the expert stewardship of Venkat's Athai. Venkats family members are trustees of the Kalayiarkoil Temple. Venkat's father Subbiah Ramakrishnan is involved in a social venture called The Devakottai Initiative - through which he raises funds for higher education for girls in Devakottai. He is also a publisher and runs the Avenue Press at Chennai. He divides his time between Chennai & Devakottai.
Regarding the house it was constructed over a 100 years ago. The high ceilings with wooden beams, open central courtyard and the athangudi tiles with mesmerizing designs represent a typical charming old world Chettinad bungalow. Here are some pics of our short but sweet & memorable stay:
1.Swarnavalli Vilas - view from outside
2.Entrance foyer with large circular pillars with athangudi tiled floor
3.Shobha with the gracious hosts
4.Sitting room for guests with athangudi tiles
5 & 6: Nadu Mittham
7.Family meeting room
8.Drawing room
9-11: Lakshmi Nivas - another ancestral house nearby.