Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ancient Vaishnav Temples History

As holy as Tirumala

NESTLING IN the obscure and remote village of Akkur in Thiruvannamalai district, 20 km from Kanchipuram on the road leading to Vandavasi, is the Ambujavalli Nayikaa Samedha Lakshmi Narayana temple, small but beautiful. The ancient temple may not attract devotees from far and wide to its precincts daily, yet it has its own unique features. The temple was constructed roughly 700 years ago, with the efforts taken by Doddacharya, one of the most respected savants in Akkur at that time. It is believed that the Lord appeared in his dream asking him to construct a temple. At Akkur, which derives its name from the phrase, `aru oor', meaning six villages, he constructed two temples, devoted to both Vishnu and Siva. Here, he ran into difficulties. Despite the construction of the temple, they did not have the idol of the presiding deity to be installed. Doddacharya, guided by the voice of the Divine, went to Thumbarkonai in search of the vigraha and located it from near a snake pit adjacent to a lake. Incidentally, it is believed that idols for most of the temples in this region were all taken from Thumbarkonai. The temple is very small and apart from the sanctum sanctorum, there are only a couple of other shrines dedicated to Andal and Ambujavalli Thayar. In the sanctum sanctorum, Vishnu, facing the East can be seen in a seated position with Mahalakshmi seated on his left thigh, not a common posture. There are the Hanumantha and Sesha vaahanams, on which the different utsava idols are taken in a procession round the temple. The idol of Kannan in the Kalinga Nardhana pose (the serpent, however, is not visible) with four arms holding the sangu and chakra, is unique, it is said. It is said that according to legend, worship at this temple is equivalent to visiting the shrine of Balaji at Tirumala.

Five Lords of a hill temple

THIS IS a temple with a difference. Located at Avaniyapuram, 25 km from Wandavasi, en route Arani and Cheyyar Dam in North Arcot District, it is a hill abode of two deities. One has to climb 70 steps to reach the first deity, Lord Narasimha, and ascend another 114 to have a darshan of Lord Venkateswara. (Not actually a difficult task compared to Sholingur or the Rock Fort Uchi Pillaiyar of Tiruchi.)
At Avaniyapuram, Lord Narasimha is found in a small cave (technically known as kudavarai koil). A three-tier Rajagopuram welcomes beckons one with its grace and grandeur. We first pay obeisance to Anjaneya before entering the shrine of Lord Narasimha. There is Yoga Narasimha in the same hill at a higher altitude where Lord Venkateswara is housed. Here Lord Narasimha is in a sitting posture, Mahalakshmi Thayar seated on his left thigh. His left arm is around His Consort and His right hand is in abyaha hasta position. His upper hands are holding the chakra and the conch. The unique feature in this temple is that Mahalakshmi Thayar has the face of a lioness. The utsava idol of Lord Narasimha also has the face of a lion. He has four hands and is in standing position flanked on either side by Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi. Besides there is a tiny Narasimha Moorthy in the shrine making it three images of the deity.

There is a separate shrine for Alarmelmangai Thayar near the Narasimha temple. Lord Venkateswara is atop at the hill. There are five Narasimha moorthies in all looking alike next to the Thayar sannidhi. Thus we have eight Narasimha idols and it makes a total of nine including the Yoga Narasimha atop the hill. We also find idols of Adhi Sesha and Kalinga Nardana Krishna in Pancha Narasimhar sannidhi. The utsava moorthy of Lord Venkateswara blesses us in an astonishing position in the Narasimha Sannidhi itself.

Now we proceed to the abode of Lord Venkateswara at the top. We find Lord Srinivasa standing armed with chakra and conch. There is a separate cave like enclosure in the prahara of Lord Venkateswara where we see Lord Varadaraja and Perundevi Thayar. Lord Ranganatha is seen on His serpentine bed with Ranganayaki Thayar. Yoga Narasimha is in a sitting position along with Amirdavalli Thayar. Thus we see all the main pancha divya desa moorthies — Kanchi, Srirangam, Sholingur, Tirumala and Ahobilam. Avani means lion and the Lord is said to have obliged Brigu Maharishi by appearing before him in the forms of five divya desa deities.

The temple is believed to have been built during the Pallava regime. Popular festivals here are Srijayanti, Deepavali and Vaikunta Ekadasi. Lord Venkateswara Brahmotsavam is celebrated on a very grand scale in the Tamil month of Purattasi and Lord Narasimha has his parivettai utsavam in Panguni. It is heartening to note that all the shrines in the hill temple are well maintained, a testimony to the grace of Lord Narasimha and Venkateswara.

THE LORD Lakshmi Nrisimha Temple, situated off the NH-45 opposite Ford Car Factory at Maraimalai Nagar, is 50 km from Chennai. Though the temple was constructed in the 1990s, the deity enshrined here has an ancient history. The Lakshmi Nrisimhaswami Moolavar idol, which is the presiding deity of this temple, was excavated in the presence of the then District Collector of Chingleput and the Archaeological authorities in 1990. It is estimated to be about 1,300 years old, probably of the Pallava era. Lord Nrisimha is believed to have appeared in the dream of the temple priest Srinivasa Ragavan and his wife Choodamani Ammal and given directions to the place of his presence underground. According to them, the deity was worshipped by Viswamitra before he turned a sage, when he was well-known as King Kowsika, which dates back to Thretha Yuga. The temple, constructed by the priest and his wife, now stands on a four-ground plot at Vivekananda Nagar, Maraimalai Nagar. Built with the help of their resources and contributions from a few devotees, the temple is in perfect accordance with the Agama Sastras as dictated by Brigu Muni, a sage of the Dwapara Yuga. The basement of the temple has 248 chakras on which the Moolasthanam of the Lord, Sathyagnana Perumal and His Consort, Anandavalli Thayar, has been built, along with the Ardhamandapam, the one immediately around the Moolasthanam. True to the names, the deities are a personification of true knowledge and bliss. The devotees' prayers are answered instantly, it is believed, on visiting the temple. Maraimalai Nagar is well connected both by road and rail. Buses and trains plying from Tambaram to Chingleput stop at this point.

Directed by divine command
THE PADMAVATHI Samedha Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Keelkattalai is rather unique for the simple reason that devotees have been directed by divine command in implementing certain tasks. The temple at 1A, Rajendra Nagar, (Ph: 22478640)closer to Keelkattalai bus terminus, has shrines for Padmavathi Thayar, Sri Rama, Sri Sudarsanar and Sri Narasimhar along with Sri Ganesa. The local aasthikas of Keelkattalai had formed Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Parayana Mandali and the group has been chanting Vishnu Sahasranamam on Sundays. One of the devotees had a dream in which Lord Srinivasa instructed her to donate the vacant site she owned for constructing a temple for Him

Anjaneya unique in many ways

TWO DECADES ago, Rajamani Bhattachar, a native of Tirunelveli, brought up in Vaikanasa agama tradition and an upasaka of the Vayukumara, was blessed by Haridas Giri Swami and he was presented with the idols of Sri Rama, Lakshmana, Anjaneya and a Shadchakra Saligrama at Thennangur. The Swami had made an apocalyptic statement that the votary would build a shrine for Anjaneya. Two years ago, a divine call directed him to devote his entire time and energy to construct a temple for Anjaneya at the spot indicated in his dream, at Peelamedu in Coimbatore. A sense of fulfilment can be seen on his placid countenance on completion of the sacred task. Located at a spacious plot of ground tucked a few metres away from Coimbatore on the Coimbatore-Avinashi highway, near ESSO bus stop (near Suguna Kalyanamandapam) the Ashtamsa Sri Varada Anjaneya is endued with eight special features. Hence its uniqueness in standing apart from other temples dedicated to the Anjaniputhra. Normally Hanuman is portrayed with His folded hands praying to Sri Ramachandra. But, the gomukhi-structured idol of the deity here, in Peelamedu facing west and measuring eight feet is of a different kind. The Lord's abhaya hastha (right hand) removes fear while the left hand with gadha destroys not only the five passions of lust, anger, greed, infatuation and jealousy afflicting the human kind but the external enemies as well. The face turned towards the Sanjivi hill in the western ghats bestows on the devotees a long and healthy life free of ailments. His legs pointing to the south wards off unexpected calamities like death. It is a common sight to see that the Lord's tail is hidden behind His back. But, here, the devotees can have a full view of it. It is said that the nine planets inhere the tail and so paying obeisance to the tail rids one of the malefic effects of the navagrahas. Obeisance to the tail The tail directed towards the north endows the devotee with wealth and prosperity. The Lord manifests here amid a Siva linga meaning that praying to Hanuman is equal to worshipping Siva. Goddess Lakshmi resides in the right palm of the deity to grant all-round prosperity to the worshippers. The Lord's eyes representing the sun and the moon radiate brilliance during the day and the coolness of the moon during the evening. A shadchakra saligramam adorns the crown. The installation ceremony and Kumbhabishekam of the temple was held on February 9, 2004. Since then, the town has been experiencing continuous showers bringing relief to the farmers in the district and the residents of the city. The temple has been attracting huge crowds all these days. During the last Tamil New Year's day, an offering of 10,008 fruits was made to the deity. Raja Maruthi alankaram, senthoor kaappu, vennai kaappu and vadamala offering are the regular sevas here on Saturdays in the Tamil month of Purattasi. Muthangi and Pushpangi sevas are the other offerings given to the Lord here. Frequent buses ply from various parts of the city to Kovai Medical Hospital. Getting down at ESSO bus stop, opposite Suguna Kalyanamandapam, devotees can reach the shrine easily.

A dream that led to Devadanam

TAMIL NADU is a land that abounds in temples. For the hundreds that are well known, there are an equal number of temples that lie in total anonymity, despite their erstwhile grandeur. One such is the many-centuries-old Ranganatha temple in Devadanam village, Ponneri taluk, Tiruvallur. A good 90-minute drive from the city of Chennai takes us to this little village, beyond Minjur. Saroja Sadasivam, from a leading business house here, had a vivid dream in 1983. She dreamt of a supine Ranganatha Swamy in a derelict temple, totally neglected, beseeching her for attention. The eighteen and a half feet stone idol, lying on a giant Adiseshan, was actually sweating copiously in her dream, telling her that it had had no oil application for very many years, and so could not bear the heat. From the very next day she began the search for this temple, and in the process, visited scores of them. Two years later, on a chance suggestion, she visited Devadanam, and found the then undeveloped village and temple to be the one in her vision. The deity was all covered in dirt, and the temple completely weed-ridden, and broken down. From then, till now, almost 20 years later, constant effort and a great deal of money has been spent, with the temple finally ready for Kumbabhishekham on May 23. The Lord has a `padi' or measure under His head, almost like a pillow, with His right hand placed over it. This is to measure the returns from the huge acreage belonging to the temple, says the priest, giving a clear idea of the power enjoyed by this temple centuries ago. Brahma, Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi, along with Tumburu and Anjaneya complete the stone idols in the sanctum sanctorum. The Lord has a perfectly chiselled face, with flaring nostrils. Ancient panchaloha utsavamurti idols include the Chakrathazhwar. Abishekham is done only for the small stone figure of Ranganatha, with the moolavar having `thaila kaapu' (anointment with oil). Vaikunta ekadesi is of special significance. Small shrines house a beautiful Lakshmi (Ranganayaki) and a graceful standing Andal. A separate shrine for Chakrathazhwar is getting ready. The entrance houses Garuda, near the newly installed `Dwajasthambam,' which cost about Rs. 2 lakhs. According to an elderly village resident, about 60 years ago, this temple was popular with regular worship and festivals conducted. He recalls even `devadasis 'dancing on special days, both in procession and at the temple. It is said that the Brahmins here had been ill-treated and their homes burnt, leading to the consequent dereliction of the temple. The time has now come for this deity, said to be one of the largest idols in Tamil Nadu, to be active again.

In need of attention ELANAGAR IS in Uthiramerur taluk, 25 kilometres from Kanchipuram and 100 kilometres from Chennai. Situated on the Vandavasi-Cheiyyar route, this village is famous because Sri Srinivasa Perumal is believed to have come into existence here more than 800 years ago, by the efforts of the Sadamarshana Gothram's dynasty during 1212 A.D. A Sri Vaishnavite, Thatha Desikan, son of Sri Vishnu Chittar of the Gettam family, learned all the agamas and sastras from his father. He performed Theertha Kainkaryam to Lord Srinivasa of Tirupati, fetched water daily from the Akasa Gangai and performed abishekam and other pujas. One day, when he was returning home after finishing his daily routine, a thirsty Yadhava asked for some water. Thatha Desikan gave him some water to drink and returned to Akasa Gangai to fetch fresh water for puja. And the Yadhav appeared again, and again, and the third time round, the old man fell down tired and became unconscious. The Yadhava, who was none other than the Lord of Tirumala, appeared in His original form, and blessed him. The Lord then asked him to construct five temples for Him with His consorts Sridevi and Bhoodevi in five villages, namely, Paiyoor, Elanagar, Karumbur, Nattery and Vilankkuppam. He also blessed the old man with five children who He said would establish five agraharams in these villages and look after the temples and perform pujas. And Thatha Desikan and the members of his family followed the instructions of the Lord. Gettam Kannamachari, predecessor of Thatha Desikan, now residing at Mylapore, has performed pujas in this temple for the past 15 years. He used to visit this temple every morning and find a snake sleeping at the entrance. When the Bhattacharya clapped his hands the snake gave way for him to perform the morning puja. And people say it continues even now. There is a big snake hill in the midst of Velankadu and the villagers worship it even today. The present temple at Elanagar has been constructed by the villagers and pujas have been performed according to Agama Sastra. But now, the temple is in a dilapidated state, even though Narasimhan and his son Parthasarathy conduct Oru Kala Puja. A person belonging to Srivatsa Gothram visited this temple recently and decided to renovate it. He has started a trust in the name of Elanagar Perumal Koil. Devotees who wish to contribute towards this renovation project and Kumbabishekam may send in their donations in the form of cheque drawn in favour of Elanagar Perumal Koil Trust to: Prakash Flats, New No. 14/2, Old No. 26/2, Giri Street, West Mambalam, Chennai - 600 033 (Ph: 24742282).

Reviving the glory of Pelapur temple

PELAPUR, FIVE km from Chengalpattu railway station, has an ancient temple on the banks of Palar River, known in times of yore as Ksheera Nadhi. According to records, it witnessed great religious activity during the rule of King Sadasivaraya of the Vijayanagar dynasty. The original name of the place was Palapura, according to a copper plate of the Vijayanagar period, which gives its boundaries as Parankusapuram in the north, Kavanuru in the south, Thirumeluru in the west and Vichuru in the east. Pelapur, then situated in the Padaiveedu region, was given as a tax-free gift to Brahmins, who were experts in the study of Sanskrit and Tamil Vedas (Ubhaya Vedas). Their names were, however not mentioned in the copper plate, which recorded the gift in the Saka year 1467 (1542 A.D.) with royal insignia. The gift included the entire village with "Nidhi-nikshepa-siddhi-jala" (treasure, groves, lakes, tanks etc). It was around this time that idols of Sri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana were installed in the temple originally dedicated to Lord Keerthinarayana. For over four centuries the villagers offered worship to the two deities — Keerthinarayana and Kodandarama. However in course of time, due to land reforms and other exigencies, the residents of the village migrated to nearby cities and this led to the neglect of the temple. The idol of Keerthinarayana was almost forgotten and the temple festivals shrank to the celebration of only the Ramanavami Festival. The descendants of the original inhabitants however made it a point to be present in the village for the Garudasevai and Hanumantha Vahanam days of the festival. The temple also came to be popularly mentioned as Kodanda Rama Temple. A divine directive to one of the residents sought the construction of separate shrines for Lord Keerthinarayana and Lord Kodanda Rama. The Balalayam was set up on December 15, 1999. Meanwhile a Sivalingam was found half-buried in Palar River near the temple. After the construction of separate shrines for Keerthinarayana and Kodanda Ramar, the Samprokshanam was performed in the first week of July 2001. A third shrine to house the Sivalingam, called Vasishteswarar, was also constructed, all at a cost of Rs. 9 lakhs, and the Mahakumbabishekam for the Siva shrine was performed two months before the Samprokshanam in the Perumal Temples. Eyewitnesses recount how the idol of Keerthinarayana could not be moved till an old serpent stirred out of its pedestal and inched its way to disappear harmlessly. The festivals were revived for the presiding deity as well as for Andal, Nammazhwar, Kulasekara Azhwar, Thirumangai Azhwar, Ramanuja and Manavalamamunigal after the Samprokshanam was performed. Besides these the Navaratri, Dhanurmasam festival and Samvatsarotsavam were conducted for Keerthinarayana Perumal in the month of Aani for five days. Divyaprabanda Seva and Upanishad recitals were the main features of all the festivals. People hailing from Pelapur and now residing in Chennai, Kanchipuram and other places, make it a point to be present during the festival. It has been proposed to build a new mandapam to interlink the three shrines, with the existing but dilapidated granite mandapam, to ensure greater safety and also provide congregational space for the devotees. It is also planned to renovate the Thirumadaippalli (kitchen) and vahana mandapam and to construct a compound wall around the temple, which existed in the past but has been destroyed now. Contributions may be sent to Keerthinarayana-Kodandarama Sabha Trust, 30, Hanumantharayan Koil Street, Triplicane, Chennai-600005.

Triad of sacred spots
CLOSE TO Thiruputkuzhi, near Kanchipuram, on the Chennai-Vellore road, is Thiruparkadal. The place is famous for its twin temples, where the Lord is seen in lying and standing postures. These two temples, along with Thirupputkuzhi, where the Lord is enshrined in a sitting posture, make a triad of sacred spots. The temples are agog with activity only during Vaikunta Ekadasi when thousands of people visit them for worship. On other days they are forlorn places. The two temples are situated very close to each other with a Pushkarani (holy tank) in front of them. At the first temple, Lord Srinivasa or Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal, is found in a standing posture. He is standing on an Aavudaiyar, which forms part of the Sivalinga found in Siva temples. It is said that once Pundarika Maharishi, an ardent devotee of Lord Narayana, was on his way to Kanchipuram to worship Lord Varadaraja and when he found the two temples he went inside one of them and worshipped Lord Ranganatha, reclining on the Adisesha. When he found images of the Nandi generally found in Siva shrines, outside the other temple, he did not go inside. An aged person, who wanted to know the reason for his skipping the temple, stopped him outside it. When the sage replied that it was a Siva temple, and hence he was not visiting it, the old man told him that it was one dedicated to Lord Narayana and His image was inside.

He led the sage inside the temple where the huge image of Lord Narayana, standing on Aavudaiyar, was found and the old man disappeared. The sage, understood that it was Lord Narayana who took him inside the temple to make him realise the mistake of differentiating between the two Gods. The temple faces east and besides the gigantic image of the Moolavar, rising to a height of over eight feet, there are beautiful Utsava idols of Lord Srinivasa with Sridevi and Bhoodevi, besides Alarmelmangai Thayar, Andal, Nardhana Krishna and Sudarsana. The other temple, where the Lord is reclining on Adisesha, is linked to the legend of Brahma seeking the Lord's help to stop Saraswati flowing in the form of River Vegavati to destroy the Yagasala where he was performing the ritual to see the Lord. The Lord obliged him by lying across the course of the river. A similar legend exists in the case of the temple of Sri Yadoktakari at Thiruvehka in Kanchipuram. According to Sri Nandakumara Bhattachariar, the temple priest, those who worship the Lord here would be relieved of their sins and thus freed from the fear of punishment for their sins from Yama, the God of Death. The Lord here is known as Sri Ranganatha and Goddess Ranganayaki in the temple fulfils the prayers of the devotees for progeny and happy marriage. There is a separate shrine for Anjaneya and those who want to get rid of Apamrityu Dosham offer him a garland of pumpkins.

As the presiding deity in the temple is found as in the heavenly Milky Ocean with Sridevi and Bhoodevi sitting by His side and Brahma, seated on the lotus flower raising from the Lord's navel, the place gained the name of Thiruparkadal, according to the temple priest. The image of the Moolavar is made of Thaaru (wood) like the image of Athi Varadar in Kanchipuram. On Vaikunta Ekadasi day He is adorned with poovangi (flower dress) and the temple remains open throughout the day.

Many a tale behind the Lord's posture

THE LEGEND of "Aerikaatha Ramar" Temple in Madurantakam is wellknown. There is another place which has a similar association. It is Nemili, three km from Nallattur, famous for its Jayaveera Mangala Anjaneyar Temple, situated 11 km from Thiruthani on the road to Nagalapuram. The story goes like this: Sage Bhrigu and others performed a penance in Puri in Orissa to have a vision of Lord Narayana. He appeared but not the way they wanted Him to — in full form with Chakra, Shanka and Gadayutha. The Lord directed them to go to Kancheepuram and perform penance there, assuring them that He would appear before them. The sages found too many holy places in Kancheepuram and wanted to know which was the holiest among them. They sought the help of Brahma, who in turn prayed to the Lord and He appeared in sitting posture before him in Nemili. He said when the merit of Nemili was weighed against the merit of all other places the needle would tilt in Nemili's favour by the weight of a grain of paddy. Hence the place came to be known as "Nelmeli" or Nemili.

According to another legend a farmer in the village vowed before the Lord to give a major share of the yield from his land, and he got a bumper yield that year. Paddy obtained from the land was heaped like a hill in the threshing floor, but the farmer changed his mind on seeing the big yield and tried to take it home. And the entire paddy stock on the threshing floor turned into stone pebbles and it became a hill. The farmer, who realised his mistake, fell at the feet of the Lord, who took a single paddy grain in His two fingers as His share and gave back the entire stock to the farmer. That explains the Lord's posture of holding a grain between His fingers. The Lord's sitting posture has another interesting story behind it. Once there were unprecedented heavy rains in the area and the irrigation tank in the village got filled up and was overflowing. The villagers, who feared that it might breach any time appealed to the Lord who prevented the embankment from breaching, with His back. It is remarkable that the Moolavar idol even today sweats profusely and His garments, which become wet, have to be changed frequently.

The temple has no Rajagopuram at present. However, the remnants of the Rajagopuram, which existed in the past or was left unfinished, are found at the entrance. There is a plan to estore it. The Lord, who is found seated with Sridevi and Bhoodevi on either side, has "Prayoga Chakra" in His right upper hand, while the lower hand is in "Abhaya Hastha" pose. He wears big "Thirumann" on His forehead like the Lord in Tirumala. The idols of the Lord and His Consorts have been carved out of a single stone block, according to the authorities. The Utsavar idol of the Lord, with His two Consorts on either side, is known as Vaikundavasar. There are also idols of Venugopalan, Chakarathazhwar and Kaalinga Nardhana Krishnan. Of them the last mentioned is a delight for the connoisseur's eye as it has been exquisitely crafted. Unlike other Kaalinga Nardhana Krishna idols, the image of Kaaliyan with folded hands is found at the centre of the hood of the serpent king. The Lord, who dances on his head, holds his tail by His left hand. Special "Thirumanjanam" and "Aradhana" are offered to this idol on the Rohini star in every Tamil month and a large number of people afflicted by Rahu, Kethu and Navagraha dosha throng the temple on that day The temple was said to have been built in the ninth century by Aparajithan, the last of the Pallava rulers. There are many inscriptions on the temple's walls belonging to his period. The temple, which fell on bad times, was rediscovered by a devotee, in whose dreams the Anjaneyar of Nallattur was said to have appeared and asked him to restore the temple. A committee of devotees was formed which accomplished the task with the help of the philanthropic minded public. The Mahasamprokshanam was performed on June 2, 2002. An organisation, known as Kaalinga Nardhana Krishna Bhakta Jana Sangam (2057, First Street, Vasantham Colony, Anna Nagar West, Chennai-600040, phone no. 26182167) has been formed to rebuild the Rajagopuram and also maintain the temple.
Eternal Bliss in a minute
SHOLINGUR OR Chozhasimhapuram, one of the 108 Divyadesams or holy places sanctified by Azhwars' hymns, is known as Gadikachalam as the stay in that place for one Gadigai, an ancient unit of measurement of time, which is generally said to be one hour, gives salvation for all. There is another place nearby, which is equally venerable, and it is known as Nimishachalam as the stay in this place for one minute confers many benefits including eternal bliss for the devout public. Also called as Nimbaka Kshethram in the past, its present name is Santhana Venugopalapuram, shortly known as S.V.G. Puram. It is situated a few kilometres south-east of Sholingur, on the road to Tiruttani.
There is a reference to this place, with a temple dedicated to Lord Santhana Venugopalan or Krishna, in the "Brahmanda Puranam", "Brahma Vaivartha Puranam" and "Skanda Puranam". For nearly 400 years this temple was under the control of the Karvetinagaram kings. It is said the king of Karvetinagaram stayed in this place overnight after a day's hunting and it happened to be the place where the temple was lying buried. The Lord appeared in the king's dream and directed him to excavate and renovate the temple and also instal the "Kauthuka Murthi", one of the Utsava idols, in it. He obeyed the Divine command and reconstructed the temple
Nimishachalam is surrounded by holy places like Sholingur, Appalayagunta, Narayanavanam, Karvetinagaram, Tiruttani and R.K. Pet. The Dhruva Berar in the temple is "Eka Murthi" with the Kamadhenu on the left side, which is said to be a rare one. The Utsavar idol is that of Venugopalan flanked on either side by Rukmini and Sathyabhama with Kamadhenu standing nearby. The main Goddess here is Padmavathi Thayar. Brahmothsavam, Adhyayanothsavam, Krishna Jayanthi and other festivals are celebrated in the temple. Another important feature is the presence of the idols of Garuda, Anjaneya, Azhwars and Acharyas in such a small temple. The rituals are conducted according to Vaikhanasa Agama.
Holy sangamam in the South
MANY HOLY places in and around Kanchipuram are linked with the temple for Lord Varadaraja there, in one way or another. One among them is Pazhaiya Seevaram (or Sripuram), a lovely little village with a temple for Lord Narasimha atop a small hillock, about 15 km east of Kanchipuram on the road to Chengalpattu.
The place is also marked by the confluence of three rivers — Palar, Cheyyar and Vegavathi — and one can see the three rivers merging together at the place from the temple on the hillock. Known as Dakshina Prayag, it is a much holier place than the Triveni Sangamam or Prayag in the north, according to the octogenarian priest of the temple, Sri Narasimha Sundara Bhattachariar. This is because, while at Prayag all the three rivers are not visible to the naked eye (river Saraswathi is Antharvahini, running under ground) in Pazhaiya Seevaram the three rivers can be seen at the place of confluence.
In the midst of greenery everywhere with the river Palar running to its south, the hillock was known as Padmagiri in times of yore. It was here that Lord Narasimha was pacified by Goddess Mahalakshmi and hence it came to be known after Her as Sripuram, and later became Seevaram. How it acquired the title of old or pazhaiya is a mystery.
Apart from its holiness due to the confluence of the three rivers, the hill temple is visited by Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram on the day following Sankranthi, for what is known as ``Pazhaiya Seevaram Paarivettai''. Paarivettai is observed to mark the destruction of evil forces by the Lord and is celebrated in almost all Vishnu temples.
It is said the present Moolavar idol of Lord Varadaraja at Kanchipuram was sculpted out of a rock here after the original wooden idol of Atthi Varadar got damaged hundreds of years ago. It is said to mark this, Lord Varadaraja is taken to Pazhaiya Seevaram on the day following Sankranthi every year, when thousands of devotees gather here for vana bhojanam and aradhana.
Lord Varadaraja, who leaves His abode at 10 p.m. on Sankranthi day, accompanied by devotees including those reciting Azhwars' Paasurams and Vedas, is carried all the way to a distance of 15 km and goes around Pazhaiya Seevaram village at the foot of the hillock.
He reaches the Narasimha temple, which is in the middle of the hillock, at noon and then He is taken to the Varadaraja Mandapam atop the hill, by climbing the 140 steps. He stays in the mandapam there till 4 p.m. when thirumanjanam (sacred bath) and Aradhana are performed. Later the Lord reaches the Narasimha Temple and both the Gods are taken to a temple at Thirumukkoodal, on the other side of Palar where a temple for Lord Srinivasa, known as Appan, exists. There the three Gods, along with the Lords of two other temples, give darshan.
Later Lord Varadaraja returns to Pazhaiya Seevaram along with Narasimhar and then starts His trek back to Kanchipuram late in the night and reaches there next morning.
The idol of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha in the Pazhaiya Seevaram Temple with the Goddess sitting on His left lap is full of grace. Unlike in many temples where He is worshipped as Ugra Narasimha, He is Santha Swaroopi here, full of charming beauty.
According to the 17th chapter of the Brahmanda Puranam, the Lord came to Padmagiri to grant bliss to sages Athri, Markandeya and Bhrigu, who were doing penance here, as directed by other sages at Naimisaranyam. There is a separate shrine for the Goddess where She is worshipped as Ahobalavalli Thayar as at Ahobilam, in Andhra Pradesh. The Moolavar's image is gigantic, rising to a height of over six feet and He is adorned with a five yards by three yards (pathaaru) dhoti and angavastra. The Goddess is adorned with the traditional nine yards sari. The Lord faces west looking towards Kanchipuram. There are separate shrines for Andal, the Azhwars and Desikar, besides the one for Goddess Ahobilavalli. The temple must have had been in existence long before the Chola rule as inscriptions belonging to the 11th century are found here.
Unique manifestation
The Thirumukkoodal temple, on the other side of the Palar, also has a hoary past like Pazhaiya Seevaram.
The Lord at Thirumukkoodal is considered a manifestation of Lord Siva, Brahma and Narayana. His crown looks like the matted locks of Siva and He has a third eye on the forehead.
He wears the Shanku and Chakra like Lord Narayana on His left and right hand and a lotus in one of His hands. He also stands on the lotus which is the symbol of Brahma. In recent times many preceptors including Sri Gokulnathji of Vallabha Sampradaya have stayed here for many years and the temple is managed by Gujarati Vaishnavas who have lived in Chennai for many generations.
The Tipu factor
Sathyamangalam Sri Venugopalaswami temple is one of the few Vishnu temples located in Kongunadu on the Coimbatore-Mysore highway. Sathyamangalam has a shrine dedicated to Lord Sri Venugopalaswami — Sri Krishna playing the flute leaning on the cow — one of the most enchanting forms of the deity, chiselled in stone.
The famous shrine of Bannari Sri Mariamman temple is only eight kilometres from Sathyamangalam.
The dam, Kodi Veri, is five miles from the town.
The town assumed its name after a chieftain by name Sathyaputra came to rule it.
Ancient shrine
The 700-year-old temple has a lofty Rajagopuram and a tall Dwajasthambam. In front of the Rajagopuram is installed Deepa Sthambha otherwise known as Garudasthambha, made of stone. On the sides of the pillar are carved the conch and the disc and the figure of Hanuman.
At the centre of the temple is the 108-pillared mandapam. In the middle is a 30-feet-tall flagstaff made of seasoned wood. During festivals, the temple flag is hoisted atop this.
The presiding deity is Sri Venugopalaswami — an image of unsurpassed beauty and charm. The centre of attraction in the shrine is a single stone containing the images of Sri Yoga Narasimha Murthy and Sri Sudarsana Murthy on the front and back.
There are sub-shrines for Lord Ranganatha and Lakshmi. The temple enjoys several acres of land gifted as endowments. Besides, it gets an annual income of Rs. 2,000 from the government. Sri Ramanuja, the great Vaishnava saint and preceptor is said to have sought shelter in Sathyamangalam on his way to Mysore, as he fled from persecution by the then Chola king.
Rangayya, an officer appointed by Tipu Sultan, utilised the tax money collected for the renovation of the temple without remitting it into the treasury. Fearing punishment, the officer committed suicide by swallowing the diamond from his ring. However, realising that the money of Tipu Sultan was used for the renovation of the shrine, he arranged to carve the image of the Sultan, as a token of gratitude.
Singri temple
SINGRI KOIL, is a hamlet, situated at a distance of about 25 kilometres from Vellore, in erstwhile North Arcot district and is off the main road from Vellore to Polur. It is an exclusive shrine for Lord Lakshmi Narasimha and is believed to be at least 1,000 years old.
This 10th century shrine is said to have been built by the local chieftain, Rajavarman, at the behest of Lord Narasimha, who appeared in his dream.
The temple is not one of the 108 divya desas, neither is it one of the `abhimaana sthalas.' It is not included in the 108 kshetras visited by Ramanuja either.
Yet it has been visited by millions of devotees. The temple is on a small hillock, which is nearly 80 to 90 feet high and can be reached after climbing about 50 steps.
The main idol in the sanctum sanctorum is that of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha. The Lord is seen in a sitting posture with four hands — two hands hold the conch and the discus, His third (left) hand is on his lap and fourth (right) hand is around the waist of Goddess Lakshmi. The image of the Lord is nearly six feet in height.
The Lord with Goddess Lakshmi seated on his right lap is a unique spectacle. This inimitable posture of the Lord and the Goddess is the main attraction of the Temple. Thirumanjanam is performed on every Swathi Nakshatram, which is the birth star of Narasimha.
There is a separate shrine for Sri Lord Anjaneya, who is known here as Sri Bala Anjaneya.
The idol is one foot high. Bala Anjaneya, who appears like a small child is believed to bestow the boon of parenthood on the childless. The temple also has a separate shrine for Sri Garuda.
Narasimha Jayanthi, Vaikunda Ekadesi, Ratha Sapthami, Tamil and English New Year and Purattasi Saturdays are celebrated at this temple at Singri. Buses on route No. 15-S (limited schedules — 8.30 a.m.-12.30 p.m.) ply from Vellore to Singri Koil. The journey time is one hour and 10 minutes. Darshan Timings: 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. — 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Of tilting pillars
IN ONE of his pasurams on Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam, Tirumangai Azhwar describes the Lord as "aypadi valarnda nambi..." The aypadi he is referring to is Gokul in Uttar Pradesh, a place associated with Krishna avatar. But there is a village called Tiruayarpadi, three km from Ponneri, which has an ancient temple in which the deity is called Karikrishna Perumal. To reach Ponneri one has to drive down the Grand Trunk Road that links Chennai with Kolkata. Karikrishna Perumal is in a standing posture, facing North, with a whip in His right hand, His left hand resting on His hip, balancing an Amrita Kalasam on His head.
The idol was discovered in a termite hill. When the villagers began to demolish the termite hill, they noticed the head of the idol. When they began to dig at the base of the termite hill to dislodge the idol, Lord Krishna is believed to have lifted His right leg and moved to one side to avoid being struck by the crowbar. Even today He is seen with His right leg slightly tilted to one side. The moolavar does not rest on a peetam, but on the ground. Sage Bharadwaja is believed to have worshiped this idol. It is also a prarthana sthalam where childless couples worship and are blessed with children.
The sthala vriksham is magizham and the tank is called Santhana pushkarani. The Arani flows in front of the temple. Brahmotsavam is celebrated for 10 days beginning with Chitra Pournami. There is a separate sannidhi for Soundaryavalli Thayar, seen standing. Outside the temple is a mandapam with 16 stone pillars, all slanting in different directions. It is an architectural marvel that the ceiling is firmly in place in spite of these slanting pillars. The temple has a beautiful wooden chariot, which lies abandoned in the village bazaar. The top portions of the wooden chariot have been completely vandalised. The lower portions, which are relatively unspoilt, have exquisite carvings. These represent scenes from the life of Krishna. There is also a piece that shows Karikrishna Perumal emerging from the termite hill with His slightly tilted leg.
According to the priest, the temple was built by the Chola king Karikala II, and that is why the deity has the prefix Kari before His name. Quite likely because in Karikala's time, Tondai Nadu, of which Ponneri was a part, was under Chola rule. Karikalan divided Tondai Nadu into 24 kottams and settled many Vellala Mudaliars in them.
The present temple with its carved stone pillars must have been built much later than Karikal Peruvalathan's time. Maybe the temple built by Karikala crumbled in the course of time and was later replaced with the present one by one of his descendants. The temple is well maintained, but the HR&CE must repair the wooden chariot with its beautiful carvings and restore it to its past glory. It would also be useful if a sthalapuranam is brought out.


ambuiyer said...

please tell me about an ancient Perumal temple located at Agaram village nearKanchipuram,where the rehabilitation work of the temple is going on-it was mentioned in "Dinamum in oru Divyanamam " programme-I want to make a donation to that temple- if possible, the contact phone numbers also by way of E mail to my id

V.Muralidharan said...

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1-A, Rajaram film directors colony,
Chennai 600024.

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Siddharth said...

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