Thursday, November 26, 2009

Shore Temple-Mahabalipuram

Mammalapuram or Mahabalipuram is about 56 Kms.from Chennai, is famous for it's shore temple, an architectural marvel dating back to Pallava period. i.e 600 AD . This is a classified as an UNESCO World Heritage Monument and it has become a protected sight. There is no worship in this temple though there are one or two shrines. Out of the 7 temples or pagodas , only one is remaining now and others got submerged in water. The shore temple is famous for its monolithic sculptures, bas reliefs and small caves. Tourists flock to this place and spend time leisurely enjoying the beauty of the monuments and the wonderful beaches.

The deities and outer walls of the main temple have started eroding due to the exposure to saline water which flows into it during high tidal waves. This temple along with the monolithic Rathas and Arjuna's Penance are famous. There are also a couple of temples nearby. This place is a must see for those who are planning a South Indian tour.
To reach:
Many AC and non AC buses ply to Mahabalipuram from different parts of the Chennai city

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sthala Sayana Perumal Temple

Sthala Sayana Perumal temple is situated in Mammalapuram or Mahabaliuram which is about 56 Kms from Chennai. En route to Tirukazhu kundram we decided to visit this temple also which has its own legend, history ,and captivating architecture. The journey was easy and weather was fine.We were travelling parallel to the sea, which was so till we reached Mammalapuram. After a light breakfast we decided to visit the the temple which is just behind the main bus stand. The name indicated it was a Perumal (Vishnu) temple. The big Tirunamam which is common for all the Vishnu temples was in front of the tower. The name Sthala means place and Sayana means reclining position. The Deity found here is in a reclining postion .We could not go near the inner most prakram as some pooja was in progress. The other shrines inside the temple are for Sreedevi and Andal, Anjaneyar, Narasimha Moorthy ,Chakrathazhwar, Rama, Lakshmana and Seeta and some saints.The dwaja sthamba is in front and there is one mandapam on the left side.
As per the legend a rishi named Pundariswar wanted to offer a lotus with one thousand petals to Lord Vishnu and with that in mind to reach near the God, he started bailing out water from the sea. Seeing his devotion the God took pity on him and appeared before him as an old man and asked to bring him some food from the nearby village and promised him that he would help him in his efforts. The devotee went away to a nearby village and when he returned, the Lord was waiting for him here in a reclining posture lying on the floor. Hence the deity came to be known as Sthala Sayana Perumal. I was very happy to visit this age old temple which was built in the 8th century by the Pallava kings.
How to reach- This place 56 kms from Chennai. Excellent bus services are available.and the fare is nominal. Frequency of the buses is about every 10-15 minutes.There are also many tour operators who offer package tours to temples in and around Mammalapuram.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tirukazhu kundram Vedagirishwarar ThazhKovil

This a continuation of my earlier post. The temple in the town is known as the The Vedagirishwarar tazh kovil or Tripurasundari Amman koil as she has a separate sannidhi here.The main deity here is known as Bhakta valsaleswar (Siva) and this temple has tall towers on all 4 sides and there is a temple tank in the outer most prakaram and we could see the Nandi of the hill temple near this tank facing the hill.

This ancient temple has exquisitely carved sculptures all around the temple. Outside the sanctum sanctorum there are idols of Aruvathimuvar (63 saints) ,Vinayagar, Dakshinamurthy, Lingodhbhavar, Durgai amman, utsavar, and a separte niche for Bairavar. Outside this prakaram is the Nandimandapam and here we could see the Agora Veera Bhadrar , a fierce form of Siva's idol. We could see many vehicles and chariots used for the festival season in this mandapam.

As we go around the temple there are shrines for Somaskandar, Athmanadhar, Ekambareshwar, Annamalaishwarar,Jambugeshwar (all different names for Shiva), Vinayagar and Shanmugha. There is a shrine dedicated to Manikavasagar one of the four saints, the great devotee of siva. it is believed that the God appeared before him at this place.

The Amman sannidhi, the temple of Tripura sundari is also facing the east but is at the Northen side. The Amman idol was looking beautiful and the idol was decorated beautifully. This temple has separate dwaja sthambam and in front of this temple also there are two shrines one for Vedagiriswarar and other for Kalasthiswar . Nataraja has a separate shrine in the outer most prakaram and there is a long corridor in front of the shrine wih intricate carving on pillars.

The Sanku theertham is again half a kilometre from the temple and people converge here every twelve years for a festival which is next to the Mahamaham in Kumbakonam. The temple has a huge collection of conches numbering one thousand and these are used for performing abhishekam (bathing) the deity on special ocassions.The legends, linking it to various epics always stupifies me and the architecture of the temples makes me wonder how could they create such collosal structures when no machinery was invented.

How to reach: Easily approachable from Chennai via Mahabalipuram .
Regular buses ply from Mahabalipuram

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tirukazhu Kundram Vedagirishwarar temple

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....

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Karaikudi and Nearby Temples

Pillaiyarpatti KarpagaVinayagar temple -

Pillaiyarpatti is situated 12 Kms. from Karaikudi which is the prime town of Chettinadu. As there is a famous Pillaiyar temple, the village takes it name as Pillaiyarpatti. The temple is a rock cut temple and the sanctum sanctorum is inside a cave. This temple 1600 years old. This deity is believed to be the benefactor of all the business community and every one from this community apportion a small percentage of their income as their offering to this deity and they also ensure excellent maintenance and up keep of the temple through regular contributions and care. The main deity faces the North and it is considered, a worship here bestows prosperity as he is facing the direction of god of wealth Kubera hence the attraction for the business community.

The mammoth idol of Vinayagar is a bas relief, more than 6 feet in height and is in a sitting posture. The uniqueness of this deity is that it has only two hands compared to the other Vinayagar idols and the trunk is curved to the right and he is known as Valampuri Vinayagar. Another name for this deity is Karpaga Vinayagar. The Sivalingam, Tiruveesar is also a bas relief. Nine lamps always glow around the Vinayagar idol as it is believed to be representing the Navagrahas. The Lord Vinayagar looks magnificient in his golden kavacham and people flock to this temple to seek his blessings.

There is a beautiful temple tank in front of the temple and there is an entrance from the east side also. There is a small shrine outside the temple above a small rock.

Other deities of the temple are Siva, known here as Marundeshwar and his consort Vadamalar Amman. There are niches for Lingodbhavar, Dakshina moorthy, Muruga and Navagrahas. The sthala vriksham is also inside the temple. The small road leading to the temple is lined with shops selling various items related to worship, devotional books and idols of Ganesha made of granite.

The main festival in this temple is Vinayaga chathurthi and during the festival period the temple gets thronged with pilgrims. The Karthigai festival is also very important and special buses ply during these periods to help the pilgrims. On April 1 st also this temple attracts lot of crowd as that is the beginning of the financial year for the business people.

Last two pics.  Pillaiyarpatti idol , pictures courtesy Wikipedia.

Enroute to Pillayair patti from Karaikudi 3 Kms before, is a Murugan temple atop a small hillock.This place is called Kundra kudi . One has to climb a fleet of stairs cut in the rock itself to reach the temple. It would take about 10 minutes to reach the top . The temple is about 1000years old and is situated at a height of 200 feet from ground level. The famous violinist Kunnakudi Vaidya nathan hailed from this place.

Then Tirupathi- .Ariyakudi
Ariyakudi is 5 Kms. from the town of Karaikudi is famous for the Venkatchalapathi koil known here as Thiruvenkadamudayian. This temple also very old and was recently renovated. When we went there some special pooja was being conducted to the deity. This is considered to be an important abode of Lord Balaji. It is believed a worship here is equivalent to that of a worship a Lord Balaji at Tirumala and hence it called Then Tirupathi meaning Southern Tirupathi. There is a special Garuda's idol here on the Norther side of the temple known as Kalgarudan. Some pictures which I captured during my recent visit.

Vairavar Koil
Two Kms. from Pillaiyar patti ,on the way to Tirupathur there is a temple dedicated to Lord Vairavar, another incarnation of Lord Shiva. The Vairavar idol is beautiful and is always decorated with a golden kavacham which is around 1000 sovereigns, There are separate shrines for Siva known here as Varalori Nathar and and his consort known as Vadivudai Amman. This temple is small and the ceiling of the temple is painted in myriad colours. Near the entrance of this there a shrine for Vinayagar.

Tirupathur Koil
Thiruthali Nathar Koil is an ancient temple near Tirupathur bus stand. This is on Karaikudi- Madurai route in Sivaganga district. It is 12 Kms. from Pillaiyar patti.This temple is under renovation and here, there is a seperate shrine for Yoga Bhairavar. Of the 64 forms of Bairvar, Yoga Bairavar is considered to be the most important as he is the Moola Bairavar meaning he is the first. All other Bairavar's came off him. We could not approach the Amman sannidhi as it was under renovation. It is believed that sage Valmiki stayed at this place  and also took care of Sita, Rama's wife when she was banished from the kingdom. The Lord  Siva here helped his devotee to win rewards from the king by helping him by composing a poem.

A word about Chettinadu
Chettinadu is famous for Sir Raja Annamalai Chettiyar, Sir Raja Muthiah Chettiar, Dr. Alagappa Chettiar etc. who contributed to their well being of their community and founded many educational institutions like Annamalai University , Alagappa University, A.C.Tech in Karaikudi and Chennai and many schools in Chettinadu and Chennai . Even now the Chettiyars community people who do business in other parts of the country and outside India make it a regular habit to come back to their roots at regular intervals and they have built palatial buildings with best accessories imported and each house is a store house of antiques and arte facts. Most of the houses have open central courtyard with rooms arranged on all four sides. The Chettinadu cuisine is very famous , would be attractive for people who like spicy food. Chettinadu saris are also very famous and is a definite attraction for women.

How to reach Karaikudi
Can be reached from Madurai and Trichy which are at 70 Kms and 82 Kms respectively. Both the cities have airports and railway stations. Karaikudi also has a railway station.

Buses ply from all the towns in Tamil Nadu to Karaikudi and all the above temples are on regular bus routes and are easily reachable.

Karaikudi town has good number of hotels for boarding as well as lodging.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Poornatharayeesa temple - Trippunithura

This time I am taking you to Kerala, the place I was born and brought up. It is known as God's own country. This state also abounds in temples, some of which are over 1000 years old. Kerala is famous for its picturesque landscape, lagoons, beaches, hill stations and Asia’s first synagogue (Shall write about the same later ) and few monuments which has made this place a haven for tourists. Here I am going to start with a temple in a locality, where I have lived for about 7 years and used to visit daily. The place is Trippunithura situated in Ernakulam district.

The temple architecture is different from the ones that we see in Tamilnadu.

Poornathrayeesa temple

The presiding deity is Mahavishnu and this temple was constructed by the erstwhile rulers of Tripunithura which was the seat of royalty. Even to day we find many palatial buildings here. The temple is very big and the idol is sitting on the serpent God Ananthan whose hood serves as a canopy for the Lord. The deity here looks magnificent with his right leg folded at knees and perched on the seat and left leg hanging down. He carries conch and discuss in two hands and the third hand holds a lotus and fourth hand is resting on the seat. The sanctum sanctorum is circular in shape and on the South side there is a shrine for Ganapathy (Vinayagar). Facing West side is the shrine for Ananthan. The door of this shrine always remains closed and the idol can be viewed through a small slit in the wall. A lamp always glows inside here round the clock called as keda vilaku, meaning a lamp that keeps glowing always. Excellent brass idols of Gods moulded to artistic perfection line the circular walls of the temple.

Kerala temples give so much importance for cleanliness and the temple precincts are always kept clean. The area of temple is around 5 acres and it is always frequented by the tourists and the locals as well. There are view galleries on the south and west side side, these were meant for the members of the royal family where they used to assemble in large number during the festival to watch and listen to the various art and classical performances.

The custom in Kerala temples here, the devotees are expected to wear traditional Kerala costumes. Men are expected to wear dhoti and angavastram and women, saris or chudidhars. Western clothes are not allowed. Some temples allow men to wear trousers but expect them to remove shirts and vests while entering the restricted prakarams. The devotees who do not want to follow these customs are allowed to worship the deity from the outer most prakaram. It is recommended that people travelling to Kerala on pilgrimage keep this in mind.

There are many oil lamps here big and small, which always glow and the devotees ensure the replenishment of the oil by regular offerings. The wall of the outer prakaram is fully is lined with columns of lamps and a tall deepa sthambham (multi layered lamp post) in front of the temple which are lit up during the temple festivals.

There is a huge Peepal tree in front of the temple and a Sivalinga on a pedestal below the tree. The flag mast is very tall and considered to be tallest in these parts of Kerala. There is a pond inside the temple itself and it is not uncommon to find one or two elephants inside the temple as the deity here is a lover of the same.

There 2 main festivals here, one during the Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala and the other in November which lasts for about 8 days. This festival in November draws huge crowd here and the whole town gears up days before the commencement of the festival. The main roads leading to temple get decorated with festoons, arches and illumination. Shops spring up on either side of the road and it resembles a village fare.

The main attraction for the festival is the Seeveli, it’s a procession of caparisoned elephants carrying the idol atop. At least 11 -15 elephants get lined up for this and it is really a spectacular show where young and old participate with enthusiasm and sway to the accompaniments of percussion instruments; the ensemble called as panchari melam. The colourful parasoles held atop the elephants add charm and brightness to the whole atmosphere.

Yet another festival is the ambalmkathi festival (ambalam= temple, kathi = caught fire, in Malayalam) in remembrance of a fire that engulfed the temple years ago. On that day the whole temple would be lighted with lamps and heaps of camphor around the temple.

Even for daily poojas carrying the deity on an elephant is part of the custom here. The idol that is used for these rituals is the utsavar. Devotees accompany these seeveli chanting the name of Lord and participate in the worship there after.

The abode of Mahavishnu here is considered to be an important holy place for the Hindus and it is believed that the deity here was installed by Arjuna one of the Pancha Pandava brothers. He consecrated the temple here and lit the lamp by crushing gingely seeds from a near by plant and from that day lighting the lamps with gingely oil came into vogue.

Poornathrayeesa is also known as Santhana Gopala here and child less, aspiring couples offer their prayers here in the belief that God will bless them with children. This temple is situated on the shores of river Poorna hence the place takes its name Trippunithura.

The birth star of God is Uthram and on this day thousands of devotees throng the temple and about 35000 participate in the annadanam. (Free meals) . In the evening there is a ceremony called Lakshmi Narayana Vilakku and God's sister from the nearby Pishari temple is brought here. The main deity of Poornathrayeesa is always adorned with garland of lotus flowers and tulsi. (Basil leaves).

When ever I go to Tripunithura I never miss a chance to visit this temple as I like the atmosphere very much. The effulgence emanating from the sanctum sanctorum is difficult to be expressed in words. The vision always lingers in the mind.

The temple timings are 3.45 am, 4 p.m-8.30 pm

How to reach:
Tripunithura is 10 Kms from Ernakulam Junction. Frequent buses ply from the town to this place. This place is an extended part of Ernakulam itself.
The nearest airport is Nedumbassery which is 30 Kms, from Tripunithura.

Accommodation: Luxury, deluxe and budget hotels are available in Kochi which is the new name for Ernakulum and Cochin twin cities.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Anjaneyar temple- Anai patti

 This temple is situated near Nilakottai which is 40 Kms from Dindigul. From Nilakottai we had to travel 5 Kms. more to reach the temple of Anjaneya.  We were travelling parallel to the  river Vaigai at times,  only  there was no water in it. But there is a dam near the temple called as Peranai, a regulator constructed by the British.  We had to cross a bridge to reach this Anaipatti (anai meaning dam, patti meaning, village.) an obscure village. The climate was cool and the temple was set in sylvan surroundings. The temple is quite small, no special  architectural splendor as it is normally found in temples around here .

We entered the temple and could see the idol of Anjaneyar inside the sanctum sanctorum, which was about 4 feet tall and was adorned with silk. The eyes were big , the display board mentions the God is watching his devotees with one eye and the other eye is looking at the direction of Ayodhya, Lord Rama's abode. The  hand which carried the Sanjeevani parvath (the hill which he brought  from Himalayas during the Ramayana war) is on his thigh. The tail is ponting upwards.  Though I could not see all the details, the display board gave all the description. When water rises in Vaigai river the idol gets half immersed in water. But when I went, due to lack of rains inside was dry. The archanas are offered to another small deity kept outside the sanctum sanctorum.

At the back side of this sanctum  there is another Hanuman  idol where pilgrims were lighting lamps. It  was windy and it  was difficult to light the lamp but after a  few  futile attempts I could also light one. Outside this temple there is another deity of Vinayagar and of serpent God.

The legend says that when the Pancha Pandavas were in exile Draupadi wanted to drink water and  Yudhishitir the elder brother sends Bheema to fetch the same. Anjaneya intercepts him on his way and an argument ensues between the two  but Bheema is not able to get water. Bheema goes back to Yudhishtira who advises him to  pay respect to Anjaneya and he would oblige . Bheema does as advised and Anjaneya gleefully allows Bheema to take water from vaigai.  This is the place they met.

I enjoyed the visit to this temple and I wanted to add one more interesting experience of that tour. Just outside the temple is a huge banyan tree which is providing a canopy of sort to the travelers. This place is abounding in village eateries and a simple South Indian food  is offered and we decided to have our break fast in this simple open air surrounding as the next possibile hotel was at least one  hour away. An old woman was making kuzhi paniharam and dosai. The air was filled with the fragrance of freshly cooked food and they were  using primitive  method of cooking, using the dried palm leaves and coconut husk as fuel. I was really fascinated by this as people were making use of the  bio fuel for cooking, which has become a thing of the past for all .  We decided to have a go at that eatery.  We were made to sit on plastic stools  under the Banyan tree and food was served to us in banana leaf. The Paniharam and dosai were very soft and we could finish our breakfast with out much ado. Three of us ate and I was surprised when I heard it has cost us only Rs. 14. We could really enjoy the simplicity of village folks.

Mallishwarar temple.

Just one kilometre from Nilakottai  on the way to Madurai we found this 1500  year old Siva temple.  Here  Siva is known as Mallishwarar and  his consort is sitting outside the sanctum .  History of the temple is not known . The entrance of  the temple is just 4 feet x 2 1/2   feet opening and we had to stoop  to get inside. There was an idol of Bairavar outside the temple.

How to reach:

The nearest railway station is Dindigul.  Regular buses from Dindigul, Vatala gundu and Madurai though frequency is low. It is better to stay in Dindigul or Madurai which is around 50 kms.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kuchanur Saneeshwarar Temple

Kuchanur is a small village, 20 kms. from Theni town and the temple here is dedicated to the planet Saturn i.e Lord Saneeshwarar. People flock to this temple to ward off any ill effects due to the transit of Saturn by offering worship to the deity here. This place is second to Tirunallar in Kumbakonam district which is also famous for the Saneeshwarar temple. The temple in Kuchanur is small and the idol is resembling a Lingam which is considered to be a swaymbhu. It is believed that the idol is growing in size over the years and turmeric is applied everyday on the idol. A small Utstavar is also near the main deity. Behind the temple is the shrine for Vigneshawara and here too I found a sthala vricksham. It was not crowded when we went and we could get the darshan easily. The pilgrims were lighting lamps made of sesame seeds and gingely oil, in front of the temple.

There is a small sculpture of a crow, the mount of Saneeshwarar in front of the temple. Offering food to crow is considered auspicious and is very common here.

A small rivulet, Surabhi flows near the temple and I could see many were taking bath in the same before offering worship to the deity.

After offering prayers to Saneeshwarar we went to the nearby temple of Guru bhagawan .There is also a separate shrine for Siva here. The Guru's temple is believed to be very old and it is believed that Lord Indra himself worshiped the deity. Pilgrims perform various poojas to fulfill their wishes. This temple is under renovation and there are two new small temples outside the Guru temple dedicated to Lord Anjaneyar and Pancha Mukha Ganapathi.

How to reach: Nearest railway station is Madurai which 75 kms. from Theni.

Bus services are available from all parts of Tamil Nadu to Theni and from there regular buses ply to Kuchanur.

Accommodation- Theni has good hotels and lodges for comfortable stay.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Guru Temple- Kuruvithurai, Sholavandan

Guru temple and Perumal temple in Kuruvithurai near Sholavandan is very ancient and famous. From Sholavandan town it is only 8 Kms. The road to the temple is through small villages and we could see banana plantations on either side of the road. We could really enjoy the greenery of the pristine surroundings.

The temple here is dedicated to Guru Bhagavan and along with him is the deity Chakrathazhvar. Opposite to this small temple is the Chithra Ratha Vallabhar Koil and the deity here is Chithra Ratha Vallabhar as Perumal came riding on a decorated ratham in the Tamil month of Chithirai to grant the wishes of the Guru Bhagavan who meditated sitting on the banks of river Vaigai.

First we rushed to the Perumal temple as we feared the temple would get closed as it was nearing noon. Luckily for us the temple was open and the priest told us that the temple remains open till 12.30 pm. The main idol of Perumal in the sanctum sanctorum is sculpted in granite. On either side are Bhooma Devi and Sree Devi but I could see only their crowns as they were in a sitting position. A red cloth was tied across the main idol and only the chest of Perumal and above was visible. Outside the sanctum sanctorum small panchaloha idols were kept and the priest was performing archana for those. Opposite to the main deity is the Garudalwar sannidhi and on the south side facing east is the shrine of Lord's consort Shanmughavalli Thayar.

The legend is that the Guru bhagavan performed his penance on the banks of Vegavathi ( Vaigai) to redeem his son from dosham and Perumal appeared to him in this place and granted him the boon. Guru requested him to stay in this place to fulfill the wishes of all devotees . The priest informed me to pray fervently to God if I had any wish to be granted.

Outside this temple is the seat of Guru. Here we could see Chakrathazhwar, both are swayambhus. Chakrathazhwar was guarding Guru when he performed the penance and they are on the floor of the temple. Two idols are on top of this which were adorned with kavachams. Here also the priest was asking the devotees to make their wishes to Guru as he would help to fulfill them by requesting to Perumal. This temple gets thronged with pilgrims during Gurupeyarchi ( transit of Jupiter).

How to reach : The nearest airport and railway station is Madurai and this place is about 26 Kms. from Madurai. Regular transportation is available from the town.

Accomodation : All types of accommodation budget and luxury hotels are available n Madurai town.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Edaganatheswar Temple -Tiruvedagam, Sholavandan

This is another very old padal petra sthalam of Siva situated in serene surroundings away from the dust and din of the city. There are two temples here one for Siva known here as Edaganathar and one for Parvati known as Elvaarkuzhali. Both the temples have separate gopurams (tower) and entrances. Edakanthar temple has a Dwaja sthamba at the entrance and a Nandi atop a platform. On either side of the entrance there are shrines for Vinayagar and Murugan . The Sivalingam is small and is visible only with the help of oil lamps.

When we circumambulated the temple we could see the usual shrines dedicated to various Gods typical of any Siva temple like Dakshinamurthy facing the South, Lingodh bhavar at the back facing the West and Durgai amman on the North side. Behind sanctum sanctorum on the right side there is shrine for Shanmugan and just outside his shrine we could see the idols of Sapthu mathrukal, Irattai Ganpathi, Durgai, and Lakshmi. There is a separate shrine for Nataraja and Sivakami on the North -East corner . An idol of Bairavar and Navagrahas are also outside this shrine.

There is an inter connecting door between the Amman and Sivan temple. There are beautiful carving on each pillar inside the temple. There are 3 idols of Sakthi around this sanctum sanctorum known as Ichha sakthi, Gnana sakthi and Kriya sakthi. There is also a small Vinayagar shrine behind this temple in the inner prakaram. The divine couples palliyarai (sleep chamber) is also in this temple.

It is believed that marriage obstacles are removed if one prays and conducts Archana at this temple. A wedding ceremony was in process when we were there. Another specialty of this temple is there is annadanam (offering of free lunch to devotees and poor) in the temple every day , for this contributions are accepted from the interested pilgrims or the temple provides food on its own. This I found very attractive as it may be useful for a wary traveler or a hungry person who will at least get a meal a day.

This is the 14 th Siva sthalam of Pandiya nadu, so reads the sthala puranam board outside. The legend is that a Pandya king had embraced Jainism under the influence of Jains and this was not to the liking of his wife who was the daughter of Chozha king. She arranged to invite saint Gnana Sambandar to resolve the matter. The Jains challenged Tiru Gnana Sambandar for a verbal duel of poetry. The first was fire duel in which both wrote a verse and threw it in fire. The verse of Sambandar survived where as the verse written by Jains turned to ashes. The enraged Jains then challenged for a cold duel in which the verses of both were floated (pathigam) in the Vaigai river. The leaf (edu) of Sambandar reached the other side of the river flowing against the current while the one floated by Jains got blown away in the current and they were humbled, restoring Saivism to its past glory.. The place where Sambandar's Edu landed is called Tiru edagam. Hence the deity here is named Thiruedaganathar. The Eduthurai eriya utsavam is very famous here which falls in the month of May. The sthala vricksham is Vilvam and is just outside the temple and this place is also called as Vilvaranyam. Saint Sambandar has composed many hymns on the God here.

The nearest railway station is Madurai, only 16 Kms. from this temple. Regular buses ply from the city to this place. Madurai is well connected by air to Chennai, Bangalaore and Mumbai.

Madurai city has many hotels suiting to individual needs from budget to luxury hotels.