My recent trip to Tiru kazhu kundram was the best trip I have undertaken in recent times as it also involved a bit of adventure. This temple was not on our itinerary at all. But a sudden mention by my husband made me long to see this temple here. The main attraction being that this temple gets visited every day by two eagles, to partake the prasadam offered by the temple priest at 12 noon. The temple derived its name Thiru kazhu kundram, from the divine (Thiru) eagles (kazhugu) who visited this place. I wanted to witness the event and immediately searched for some information in the net and could see the picture of the same in a daily published some time in 2002. My husband and my brother in law had seen this great event some 40 years back . The temple started attracting huge crowds because of this and used to be a tourist attraction along with Mahabalipuram and Kancheepuram nearby.
We decided to visit this place the next day but there was a small hitch. I learnt that we had to climb 562 steps to reach the temple but decided to go ahead with the plan. To reach Tirukazhu kundram we had to go via Mahabalipuram. From here it is another 17 kms but when we reached Mammalapuram or Mahabalipuram (you would see that post soon, which really is a fantastic place.) we got the news that the hill temple is no more visited by the divine eagles. But that didn't dampen my spirit at all as I had made up my mind to visit the temple. The journey was beautiful as the air had become cool because of the rains, and I also got fascinated by seeing sculptors carving out beautiful idols on granite blocks and the road side was lined with beautiful images.
We reached the base of the hill and got a glimpse of the temple on top. At base of the hill there are small shrines dedicated to Vinayagar, Murugan and Ayyapan. There is a small entrance fee for visiting this temple . It was around 10 o' clock and the place almost looked deserted but for few people manning the ticket counter and few shops .We started the climb and for first few steps we were very brisk and did not feel any difficulty. By the time we had climbed around hundred steps it was becoming difficult to climb and every few steps we needed to rest before we resumed our climb. With no body around it was a bit scary as we were all alone in that hill. We reached a place from where the steps were going in 2 different directions .We were wondering what to do when we heard some people hundred steps up waving to us to follow in that direction. We followed them , the climb was becoming difficult and the frequency of our rests were becoming more. We had a few sips of water as we relaxed.
Suddenly a group of 10-15 students could be seen climbing in a trot and soon they passed us in a flash .Though our mind was matching their speeds our legs weren't. We really huffed and puffed and felt we could not proceed any more.We were sitting in one place, my husband few steps below me and I reluctantly got up and climbed a few steps to reach a landing and Presto! I spotted the temple just few more steps up ahead and immediately shouted in joy. My husband by that time was wondering on the options of giving it up felt rejuvenated immediately, got up and finished the last fleet of stairs in one go and we entered the temple. What a feat!
The Thirukazhu kundram temple is also an important sivasthalam i.e padal petra sthalam as Manikavachagar has sung hymns on this deity here.The deity in this temple is a swayambhu and the hill is formed of 4 boulders sitting one on top of the other ; representing the 4 Vedas Sama, Rig, Yajur, and Atharvana. The deity is believed to have emerged from the top most one, the Atharvana veda hence known as Vedagiriswarar.
We had to wait for some time to worship the deity here as some pooja was in progress. It was really a blessing for us as we could relax for a while before starting the descent.Though I was slightly disappointed at not seeing the eagles I was happy that I could visit a 1400 years old temple and get the blessing of the deity here.
Just outside the sanctum sanctorum is the deity of Nataraja and Sivakami and once we were outside we could see one or two shrines dedicated to the Goddesses . Viewing inside this was very difficult as one has to be almost on all fours to view the deities inside . There is a small mandap on a lower level with some beautiful pillars, from here we could capture the pictures of the town below and the famous Sankutheertham.
We descended the hill on a different route. This route had huge boulders on one side and wilderness on the other with no one in sight made us very scary. I think this is the route used to bring supplies to the temple and to carry old and infirm in dholies (palanquins) . I could see the orukal mandapam (monolithic mandapam) but it was kept locked which I believe is a store house of excellent statues of Mammala period. This route joins the main route after a 15 minute descent.
Though the main temple is on the hill top, there is no shrine for the Amman here. Absence of Nandi is also another unique feature of this Siva temple. Both are installed at the Bhaktha valsaleswar temple in the town which is just half a kilometre from the base of the hill. We decided to visit that temple also and was amazed to find wonderful carvings and huge towers which made the trip really worth while.
To be continued....