Friday, July 11, 2014

Shattered Splendour!

Idols in front of the Shenbageswarar Temple at Natham Parameswaramangalam
Natham Parameswaramangalam - The name might ring a bell to history and heritage enthusiasts. Not before long, two temples in this little village along the ECR were in the news. The first, the extremely picturesque Kailasanatha temple, right in the middle of Palar River, and the other the Vaasthu Devapathi Perumal Temple, where bronze icons belonging to the Pallava era where unearthed during renovation.

Both these temples have now been completely renovated and have regained their lost glory and patronage. But there is yet another beautiful gem lying in the dust in the same village - the Shenbageswarar Temple.

The beautiful Kailasanatha Temple in the middle of Palar River
History of the temple:

Goddess Lakshmi chose a "Shenbaga Vana"(a forest of Champak trees) to install a Shivalingam and pray to it. She meditated for several years before the Lord. Pleased with her devotion, Lord Shiva appeared before her. Nandi Deva followed Goddess Lakshmi into the Shenbaga Vana and stood guard to see no harm presented itself to the Goddess or the Lord. Because of this, he is seen till even today, with his back to the Lord.



He blessed her saying the place she chose to worship him would always be special and even Goddess Soundaranayaki would assume the adornments of Goddess Lakshmi by giving up the Paasam and Angusam and holding the Lotus and Nilothpalam in her hands. Moreover, the first honours would always be offered to the Goddess in this Kshetram. Having said this, he left the Shenbaga Vana and moved up a small hillock on the Palar river and manifested himself in the midst of the wilderness.

Goddess Soundaranayaki was distraught that her husband had left her all alone at Natham and went looking for him. He had by then hidden himself in the midst of the wilderness, in the company of a snake that shielded him from the elements and a cow that showered its milk on him.


The Sthalapurana Idol at Kailasanatha Temple
The Goddess in an attempt to convince her Lord to come back to his abode in the Shenbaga Vana is said to have moved up the hillock on her knees, the imprint of which is still found in the circumambulatory path around the Kailasanatha Temple.

Goddess Soundaranayaki's knee impressions on the rock up the Kailasanatha Temple
The temple is said to have been originally built by Nrupathungavarma about 1200 years ago and then subsequently strengthened by Kulothunga Chola I , and then by Maravarman Sundarapandiyan.
Usually we find Shiva temples have five Goshtams featuring Ganesha, Dakshinamurthy, Lingodhbavar or Vishnu, Brahma and Durga. However, this temple has seven Goshtas, each one of them more beautiful than the other - comprising of Bhikshadana, Ganesha, Dhakshinamurthy, Lingodhbhavar, Brahma, Durga and Harihar.

The One-legged Bhikshadana :(
As you can see in the picture, there are inscriptions all along the walls of the temple. These inscriptions bear testimony to the patronage by the glorious kings of yore. King Raja Raja Chola I's queen Sakthi Thanthi Vidangi (Lokamahadevi) has been instrumental in converting the barren lands near the temple into fertile agricultural lands and then donating them to the temple for its upkeep and maintenance. During the rule of Rajendra Chola I in 1015, he has appointed a Sathvanjara Committee to discuss and explore Town planning. During the time of Kulothunga Chola III, a 16 pillared mandapa was built outside the temple.



It is sad to see that this mandapa has been brought down by the natural elements and passage of time, and portions of it have been used to create a mandapa over Nandi. Apart from this there are seven Shivalingams found along the Goshtas around the temple. These are known as Kailsanatha, Shenbageswara, Arunachaleswara, Jagadeeswara, Ekambaranatha, Valmikinatha and Vyagrapatheeswara.

Scattered Shiva lingams around the temple
The temple did not have vimanas for the Swamy and Ambal shrines earlier and it is really sad to see that when a donor came forward new cement vimanas have been built over the heritage structures threatening their stability and sustainability. I truly felt the funds could rather have been diverted to strengthening the weather course and the flooring inside the Artha Mandapa.

The Artha Mandapa 
Each one of the dieties is a beauty in itself. Apart from the majestic Shenbageswarar who sits in the modest sanctum sanctorum which leaks throughout the rainy season, sometimes even putting out the few lamps lit inside, and the magnificient Soundaryanayaki who as her name denotes is a beauty unparalleled, even the other idols in the temple are unique.

Goddess Soundarambigai 
The Subramanya in this temple needs special mention too. With the peacock turned in the opposite side (Asura Mayil) and weapons in all his arms, he is said to have been installed during Rajendra Chola I's time and is a beauty to behold.

Subramanya at Shenbageswara Temple Natham Parameswaramangalam
Apart from this Subramanya there is yet another at the entrance of the Sanctum Sanctorum. He is found with Gendi and Akshara Mala in his hand, in the form of Brahma Sastha.

Lord Muruga as Brahma Sastha
The circumambulatory path around the temple is full of creepers and overgrowth, strewn thorns and broken pieces of stone from the temple. If some Uzhavara Pani Kuzhu helps with the clearing of vegetation around the temple, it might attract more people to go around the temple, and take a look at the shattered beauties.

Harihara
 The temple definitely requires a donor sensitive to heritage renovation to help with the repairs and strengthening. The walls and overall structure are still good, but will have to be protected before it is too late.

How to get here:

The temple is about 80 kms from Chennai. On the ECR if one proceeds five kilometres from Kalpakkam, you can reach the Vayalur Bridge. About a km from the Vayalur bridge is a junction called Kaathan Kadai. Turn right at this junction and proceed towards Anaicuttu Salai. In Anaicuttu Salai you will see a board which directs you towards Natham Parameswaramangalam. The Vastudevapathi Perumal temple is quite close to this temple and the Kailasanatha Temple on the Palar river is about a km away.

Temple Timings:

As there is absolutely no traffic to this temple, it is only open for poojas in the morning and evening. However, the Gurukkal stays a few houses away from the temple and is happy to open it for anyone who comes along. It is better to call him the previous day to confirm his availability.

Contact Details:
Shri. Sambagesa Gurukkal - 97900 70473

While visiting these temples, one can also visit these beautiful temples:
Vedal Vadavamukhagneeswara Temple
Musical Ganesha at Cheyyur
Cheyyur Kandaswamy Temple with the 27 Star Vedalams