Friday, March 19, 2010

Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple- Sri Rangam (Trichy)

Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple is the biggest temple in Trichy , covering an area of 156 acres. It is the first and foremost among the 108 divya deshams of Vishnu and here, the Lord Ranganatha ( Vishnu) is in a reclining pose on Aadisesha. The massive idol of the main deity is beautiful . The Utsavar is fondly called as Nam -Perumal meaning "Our Lord" in Tamil, Azhagiya Manavalan " the handsome groom" while His consort Ranganayaki is known as Thayar meaning "Mother".

Sri Rangam is an island surrounded by river Kaveri. There are 21 towers for this temple and the temple is enclosed by 7 concentric walls with a length of 6 miles. With in these towers situates the whole town. The town cannot be separated from the temple. The temple is the biggest functioning Hindu temples in India. This temple is about 2000 years old.

The outer most tower on the South side is the tallest, called as Rajagopuram with 13 tiers and as you walk towards the main sannidhi you cross 6 more towers. The temple is an architectural marvel and also houses a 1000 pillared mandapam. The 4 th tower is the one which leads us inside the temple and here one gets an opportunity to get on to the terrace of the temple for a panoramic view of the whole temple complex. . Non- Hindus are allowed to go up to the 6 th tower and not beyond, near the Lord Ranganatha's Gold plated sanctum.

The Garudalwar facing the Ranganathar is a massive form around 15 feet in height, in a sitting posture facing the main sannidhi. Photography is banned here. Vaikunda Ekadashi festival is very famous and pilgrims throng the temple to have a darshan of Lord Ranganatha during this 21 day festival.

Enroute to Thayar sannidhi I found something interesting, There are 5 holes in the floor just in front of a small Vishnu shrine, inside a lotus pattern and pilgrims were trying to put their fingers inside and peeping towards the direction Ranganatha swamy's shrine. It is believed that the Goddess used to look at the God by supporting her hand on the floor. Pilgrims were trying to experience the same.( see photo)

Ranga Thayar idol is beautiful and she is in a sitting posture and has the Panchaloha idol in front. There is also a Gold plated mandapam here to conduct special poojas for the deity. There is a small gallery in front of the Thayar sannidhi and there are some fabulous paintings of Narasimha Moorthy. There are shrines for Chakra thazhwar and Anjaneyar, Ramanujar and a dozen others dedicated to various forms of Vishnu like VenuGopal, Narasimhar etc. The Kodanda Ramar sannidhi and Utsavar of Andal also is very attractive.

I have already written about the legend of Ranganatha in my earlier post , Trichy- Rock fort temple how he came to reside in Sri Rangam.

Andal shrine is of great importance here. She was a great devotee of Lord Ranganatha and she is believed to have merged with the God here. The Tiruupavvai (collection of hymns) composed by her praising the Lord is sung by young and old in the month of Marghazi .( December mid-January mid)

Trichy is well connected by rail air and road. Srirangam also has a railway station but for a good stay it better to stay in Trichy town which is just 5 Kms.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Trichy - Rockfort temple,

Rockfort temple stands tall on a magnificent hill which is believed to be 3500 million years old. This temple dates back to 7th  century. This hillock forms the landmark of bustling Trichy town.

 There are two temples here one for Siva and the other for Vinayagar known here as Ucchi Pillayair , Ucchi means  zenith . The deity here sits and watches the whole Trichy town from the summit. The  Uchipillayar temple  is very small , one has to climb about 400 steps to reach the summit. One can have a panoramic view of the whole town from the top of the hill.

The legend is that after slaying Ravana , Rama before proceeding to  Ayoydha  presented an idol of Vishnu -Ranganatha,(the post soon to follow) to Vibeeshana , Ravana's brother. En route to Lanka  to his kingdom he reached Trichy. Many Gods were not in favour of him taking this idol to Lanka so they sent Vinayagar to prevent Vibeeshan from doing so. Vinayagar appeared in the form of a young lad and when Vibeeshana wanted to perform his ablutions he asked the boy to take care of the idol with the condition that it should not be kept on the ground. But Vinayagar kept it on the ground and it got routed there. Enraged by this Vibeeshana chased Vinayagar. It is believed that Vinayagar to escape the wrath of Vibeeshana came and hid in this rock. What ever the legend may be, the trip to the temple was a great experience.

Before ascending the Ucchi Pillayair temple, mid way through, there is a Siva's temple  very famous here known as Tayumanavar meaning "He became a Mother also" 'He' here stands for Lord Siva. The legend is that a woman while giving birth to her child suffered as she was alone and prayed to Lord Siva. God appeared here as a mother( midwife) and helped her to deliver her child safely. Many 'mothers to be' reach the temple and offer their prayers and seek the blessings of the Lord. 

The Sivalinga here is huge and around 6 feet high . Amman has separate sannidhi . There are shrines for Somaskandar, Nataraja- Sivakami, Subramanya, Vinayagar, Durgai and Kalabairavar.  Lord  Jeerakeshwar is special to this temple and he is adorned with sandal paste and it is believed that worshipping him would cure many ailments.There is a huge mandapam just outside the Tayumanavar sannidhi and it has exquisite paintings of the legend associated with the temple . The tower of Amman sannidhi can be seen at close quarters from this hall.

Amman sannidhi is few steps below the Siva's sannidhi and the dwajasthambam and Nandi mandapam  are also there in this level.  Photography is prohibited inside the temple. In between the Tayumanavar temple and Ucchipillayair temple lies the Pallvas cave and is a store house of brilliant art work.
  Have a look at the pictures I could gather during my recent visit.

How to reach: Well connected by air , road and rail from all important destinations.
Accommodation- Budget and luxury class hotels are available. 
Public conveyance -  City buses, auto rickshaws,  taxis and call taxis are available regularly.

Photos-1 & 2 The Uchipillaiyar temple, 3. steps leading to the temple 4, A tower on the rock, 5& 6 Tayumanavar temple 7,8, 9, 10, Pallava caves,11,Gold plated sanctum,12, Entrance of  Tayumanavar temple13, 14 A view of Trichy town the famous St. Joseph's church dating back to 18th century and bridge across river Cauvery.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Kottai Mariamman temple Festival- Dindigul

Dindigul is slightly interior part of Tamil Nadu and is well connected with places like Kodaikanal, Madurai, Trichy, Karur and Palani. It is famous for locks, textile mills and tobbaco cultivation. The rockfort is the land mark for Dindigul and this is visible from any part of the town and I am staying at present in this place.

There are a quite a few temples here and Masi festival of Kottai Mariamman temple is very famous and has concluded recently.

I never like crowded places but my curiosity was kindled by my neighbour who gave me a detail description of the temple and the rituals. Armed with my camera I went to shoot. This was really a different experience altogether as some of the rituals were very unique.

Kottai Mariamman temple is about 200 years old and the deity is believed to have been installed by the soldiers of Tipu Sultan. This temple is at the base of the rock fort. The idol of Mariamman is worshipped by all the people in and around Dindigul and people from villages flock here with their offerings to their deity. The Mariamman temple festival is for 15 days.

The main idol in the sanctum is installed on the floor of the temple and She is always adorned with golden Kavacham during the festival. The Utsavar is taken around the streets surrounding the temple on a chariot. There is a flower chariot festival and on that day all the people in Dindigul come out to offer flowers to the deity and the streets also get decorated with flowers. As part of the celebration the temple is decorated with floral patterns. Carrying sprouted grains, fire pots, milk pots with the accompaniments of percussion instruments is a common sight during this festival. One thing made me nervous was the Pookuli. Here a fire pit is made which is about 8- 10 feet in length and is filled with burning charcoal and devotees walk through the pit chanting the Amman's name. I witnessed the same and have included various clippings of the festival.

How to reach : The nearest Airport is Madurai, is about 70 Kms. from Dindigul.
Railway station is in the heart of Dindigul town itself.
Many State Government buses as well as private buses ply from nearby towns.
Good hotels are available in Dindigul.

Photos 1. Maraimman Utsavar,2. Balaji , brother of Maraimman, 3, 4, 5,6 floral carpets and rangoli, 7-10 flower chariot 11. Decorated pandal with a idol of Amman on the road side 12, Flower offerings kept ready for the deity. 13. Elephant pilot in front of chariot. 14. sprout pots, pot 16, 17, 18, Pookuli( fire walk) 19, Amman temple in the background is Dindigul rock, 20 A decorated pandal during the flower chariot festival.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Kochi Tirumala Devaswom Temple

Venkatachalapathy is the presiding deity of Kochi Tirumala Devaswom temple, also known as Gosripuresha Tirumala Devar.This temple is a socio-religious institution of Gowda Saraswaths Brahmin (GSB) community . It is also frequented by all Hindus and this is the biggest temple in Kochi , the mother institution of GSB of Goan origin living in Kerala.
GSB here migrated from Goa in 1568 fearing mass conversions by Portuguese and made coastal towns their homes. The idol of Venkatachalapathy is believed to have reached here from Viyayanagaram. The king of Vijayanagaram was a great devotee of Lord of Seven Hills, Balaji and when he was unable to visit the Lord , he had a dream that a sculptor would visit and help him to carve a image of the Lord so that he need not take the trouble of visiting Him at the Seven hills. As per the dream the sculptor appeared and after taking necessary materials started working in a closed room . When the sculptor didn't come out, even after a few days the door was opened by the king himself and he was happy to see the resplendent image of Lord Venkatachalapathy and that is the image believed to be in Kochi temple brought here by Swami Vijayendra Teertha after retrieving it from a well in which it was deposited when Vijayanagaram was engulfed by fire.
The temple has 5 sub shrines having Hanuman, Brindavan (Samadhi Of Sukrateedra Swamiji of Kashi Math), Vigneshwara, Mahalakshmi and Garuda.The temple also has a Tulsi and Yakshi . The temple conducts festivals twice a year of 8 days duration and it falls in the month of November and the second one in April. Most of the GSB's who belong to Kochi come back to these festivals even if they are far flung and other GSB's also visit their relatives in Kochi during the festival times. The Garudotsvam, and Aaratu festival on the 8th day where the deity gets the ritual bath is very famous.There is a temple is tank outside to conduct the float festival. Outside the tank, one would find the statues of the Vijaya Nagara king and Swami Vijayendra Teertha. The temple also runs educational institutions and is efficiently run by a committee elected by the Mahajans ( the whole community).
The temple has a huge bronze bell, the second largest in Asia which is 4 ft in diameter and 6 ft in height .The gong when it strikes during the worship resonates through out Kochi and it used to be even heard in the near by town of Alleppey which is 50 Kms. away even as late as 1950's when the automobile noise pollution was not very high. The temple is surrounded by the settlements of GSB's and they guard the temple very well and are highly devoted to the Lord here. How to reach:- This temple is situated in Mattancherry. It is well connected by air, rail and road ans sea. Nedumbassery International airport is 50 kms. from this place. Ernakulam junction is the nearest railway station and is at a distance of 10 Kms. Regular buses and other modes of local conveyance are available.