Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sree Varasiddhi Selva Vinayakar Temple, Shenbakkam

Entrance to the Shenbakkam Selva Vinayakar Temple
It was Vinayaka Chaturthi Day, and we had started by road towards Sangagiri. As we approached Vellore, we started speaking about the Shenbakkam Selva Vinayakar temple, and decided on the spot that there would be nothing better than seeing the 11 Swayambu Vinayakas arranged in the shape of "Om" at the same place on a day so auspicious and special to Lord Vinayaka.

Shenbakkam is a part of Vellore and as you go down the huge Vellore flyover and take the last right turn it is about a km and a half away. It is also close to the Shenbakkam Navabrindavan which houses the Mrithika Brindavana of Sree Raghavendra among other brindavanas.

The ancient temple is well renovated and maintained. It has a mandapam in front with corridors on all sides - almost like the old houses with an open "mutram" which houses the "Ekadasa Ganapathis". The main deity who is also the largest Swayambu Vinayaka is called Selva Vinayakar, and there are 10 other Vinayakas next to him in varying sizes. Since they are Swayambu Moorthis, they look more like Shivalingams. Some of them (the larger ones) have been adorned with Silver Kavachams. The smallest Ganesha, is called Bala Vinayakar, and is just a little mount of stone on the ground. It is believed that the Ganeshas have been growing in size since they were excavated.
A view of the Vinayakas from one of the corridors

The temple was extremely crowded since it was Vinayaka Chaturthi Day and we had to squeeze ourselves into one of the balconies. There is a Somasundareswarar Sannadhi behind the Vinayakas.

The Kanchi Mahaperiyaval has narrated the thala puranam of this temple and his own experience in Deivathin Kural Volume 6 which is also displayed in the temple.

There was a time when there were Ekadasa Swayambu Vinayakas here and they subsequently got buried under the ground over time.Once a Maharashtrian Minister called Thukoji was travelling on this route when suddenly the axle of his chariot broke. When he got down to see what had happened, he found that there were blood stains on the ground but could not find anyone injured. He was perplexed, and prayed to Lord Vinayaka, not able to understand the reason behind this Vignam ( hurdle). As it was getting dark, he decided to spend the night there, and look for someone to repair his chariot at dawn. Lord Vinayaka appeared in his dream, and told him about his existence as 11 swayambu moorthys arranged in "Omkara" shape under the ground there and asked him to excavate them and build a temple for them. Thukoji was overwhelmed and gladly performed the task. The chariot wheel impression can still be seen on the back of Selva Vinayakar.
A closer view of the Vinayakas

Once when Maha periyaval and Sree Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal were travelling by this route, the elephant on which the Chinna swamigal was sitting refused to move when it got near the temple.Any amount of coaxing or cajoling by the mahout did not make it budge. It was only then that the Maha Periyaval remembered having made a vow to offer 108 " Setharu Thengai" ( breaking 108 coconuts for the Vinayakas) to the Shenbakkam temple which he had totally forgotten about. He immediately requested the accompanying Mutt officials to organise for the same. Once the offering was made, the elephant quietly started moving forward without any protest.

Vinayaka was able to remind Maha Periyaval about his prayer through himself!(The Elephant). This is really a one of its kind temple and a not-to-miss site for all Ganesha/temple lovers!

Monday, September 27, 2010

1008 Shiva Temple, Salem

A view of the hillock of 1008 Shiva temples from the starting point!

1008 Shiva temples on a hillock! Surprised! Vinayaka Mission Institutions, Salem has built 1008 Shiva temples with identical Nandis in front of them all over a hillock on the Salem - Sangagiri highway on the right just after crossing the Vinayaka Mission Institutions.
Ganesha - Muzhumudharkadavul at the starting point

A huge Vinayaka greets you at the foothills, and the guard is very helpful in guiding devotees on how to go up the hillock by walk/by car. I would suggest walking up if time and health permit as it gives ample time to stop at each lingam, named after the sahasra namas of Lord Shiva, and offer prayers.

Beautiful settings as we go up the hill at dusk
The surrounding greenery, and the Sangagiri mountains at a distance, create an ethereal sense of serenity.  The lingams are interspersed with other sannadhis of Lord Muruga similar to those at the Aru padai Veedu, Raja Rajeshwari, Anjaneya, Mahalakshmi, Venkatesa perumal among others- all magnificient, the deities beautifully sculptured and maintained extremely well despite the size and location.

Replica of Thiruparankundram - one of AruPadai Veedu temples 
A special mention is definitely required about the main deity on top of the hillock - Sri Umaiyambigai Samedha Sri Arunachala Sundareswara. When one beholds him, all the effort of going up the hillock vanish. He is so huge and magnificient - a true jewel on the crown of the hillock. They say the height of the lingam is about 17'
The gopuram of Arunachala Sundareshwara seen from the foothill

As it is on the By - Pass, this temple is easily accessible to devotees who travel by road and on a weekend there are several devotees who come from other parts of the city and spend a quiet and serene evening here amidst nature and divinity.
More lingams as we go down

Definitely stop by if you happen to travel that side ! You can also read this post from  http://salem360.blogspot.com This website also has a lot of interesting info about Salem.
A panoramic view from our car as we move down the hillock reluctantly !!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pidaari Karukaathamman Temple, Mamallapuram

Pidaari Karukaathamman 

Pidaari Karukkathamman Temple is on the Tirukazhukunram Main Road, just when you enter Mamallapuram. The amman as her name signifies, grants the boon of childbirth to issueless couples.Several devotees throng the temple on Full Moon and Fridays. It was around 5.30 pm when we reached this temple. The small, ancient temple with just one sannadhi is now being extended. New sannadhis are being built for Ganesha, Subramanya and Navagrahas. The mandapam in front of the sannadhi has been moved forward along with the ancient Bali Peedam and Dwara paalakas.
Ancient Bali Peetam
The amman looks magnificient with braided hair - "Jadamudi". The eyes are glowing even from a distance and seem to penetrate the hearts of those who have come in search of fulfillment of their desires. It is believed that the Amman looks ferocious for six months and calm for the other six months.
Extension work being carried out at the temple
Devotees who come to pray for a child, bring flowers, coconut and lemon, and offer to the goddess. They tie pebbles ( surprisingly the pebbles that lay scattered in the temple, are almost shaped like a tucked up infant!) in yellow cloth, shaping it like a cradle, which the Poojari places on the lap of the amman and returns to the devotees, on to the several "Etti" trees (Nux vomica trees) that surround the temple. The lemon is placed on the Goddess' shoulders and returned to the woman who takes it home and consumes the juice as prasadam. This ritual is repeated for three full moon days. We could see several women who had been blessed with children, having come to offer gratitude, and were adorning the goddess with sarees, and offering sweet pongal. Several women praying for childbirth, were lined up on their knees, accepting the lemon that the poojari gave along with Veebudhi, Kumkumam and Manjal Kaapu in the pallav of their sarees. Those girls praying to get married tie turmeric sticks on yellow thread on to the Nux vomica trees.
Pebble cradles on the Nux vomica trees around the temple

The beautiful setting of the temple with several stala vrikshas around
The unique feature about this temple is that usually Pidaariamman temples are North facing while this temple faces East. The amman also serves as the "Ellai Theivam" for the town of Mamallapuram. Navarathri is very special here and the amman is decorated in different alangarams each of the nine days. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sree Raghavendra Mrithika Brindavana, Kannankurichi, Salem

With the grace of Guru Raghavendra who is the guiding source of my life, I have been able to worship his Moola Brindavana at Mantralaya several times, as well as several other Mrithika Brindavanas, and the three Nava Brindavanas.
This mrithika brindavana recently been built in Salem is one very dear to my heart. It is so similar yet, so different from the others, and really endearing that one would want to stay there forever.

The similarity is that like any other mrithika brindavana ,it has Sree Raghavendra as the principal deity of the temple. The difference is that it also has a huge Kamadhenu and Kalpaka vriksha behind the brindavana. When you stand there and chant the mantra " Poojyaya Raghavendraya, Sathya Dharma Rathaayacha, Bhajathaam Kalpavrukshaya, Namathaam Kaamadhenave" the wholesome view of Raghavendra Swamy along with the Kalpavruksha and Kamadhenu in front of your eyes, brings tears of joy as you pray.
The Mrithika brindavana on Koorma peetam with a partial view
of Kamadhenu and Kalpakavrisha behind it 

Not just this, the platform also has idols of Sri Yoga Lakshmi Narasimha and Dhanvantri, as well as Sri Anjaneya on either side of the brindavana. The devotees while going around the brindavana also circumambulate around their and Sri Raghavendra 's abhimana moorthys.

The temple is undergoing civil works still but already has started drawing several devotees to it. The recently concluded Aradhana saw several people visit and worship here. Food was served all around the temple on the open area.

There is yet another highlight to this temple. Those devotees who have had the grace to visit Mantralaya would have seen a miniature brindavana on top of the moola brindavana which can be viewed from far. Sree Raghavendra had requested for this to be constructed to fulfill the desire of Nawab Siddhi Masood Khan who had wanted to worship him from outside the temple. This brindavana also has the "Prana Prathista" of Sree Raghavendra.

Similar to this, the Kannangurichi brindavana has a prototype of the brindavana constructed on the top, serving like a gopuram. This golden brindavana is huge, and the tulasi mala that is adorned on it (made of golden cement balls) looks so natural and real. This brindavana is visible from a distance and is a joy to behold. It is as if from far, you see him calling out towards you, recognising that you have come to visit him.There are steps leading up to the terrace, from where you can get close and worship this brindavana as well.
Brindavana on top of the temple

The temple is in Nithya Nagar 3rd Street,
Kannangurichi, Salem 636 008. The contact numbers are 94432 68887/94439 88424. Do visit if you are passing that way and gain the grace of Rayaru!

You can also read this post from  http://salem360.blogspot.com This blog also has a lot of other interesting information about Salem.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sree Aatcheeswarar Temple, Achirupakkam

Rajagopuram of Aatcheeswara Temple

The post on Aatcheeswara Temple of Acharapakkam is one of the earliest posts on Aalayam Kanden. At that point, I had not been able to take any photographs inside the temple and therefore, the post had been brief with just one photograph of the Rajagopuram. Although I had travelled past the temple several times over the last two years, the opportunity to visit again did not present itself.

Last week, there was a sudden invitation to visit the temple and without a second thought, we hit the road. 
The temple is off the National Highway No 45 at Achirupakkam (The Chennai-Trichy Highway) after Melmaruvathur. For those who frequent NH45, the Ganapathy Vilas Hotel at Achirupakkam is a favourite stop. The Aatcheeswarar temple is not far from there.

The story about the temple goes like this:

Three demons - Tharaka, Kamalaksha and Vidyunmali, powered by the boon received from Lord Brahma, built fortresses of gold, silver and iron with wings, and flying about in the air, started harassing the Devas to no end. The Devas in distress, approached Lord Shiva to kill the Asuras and save them from the misery. The boon from Lord Brahma meant that the Asuras could only be killed through a single arrow that shot through all three of them and since the fortresses moved about in the air, the feasibility of them coming on a straight line was very rare and to kill them through a single arrow was next to impossible.

A small Vinayaka opposite to the Rajagopuram
Lord Shiva set out on this difficult task using the heavens as the roof of the chariot, the lower worlds as the base, The Sun and the Moon as wheels, the four Vedas as the horses, the Mount Meru as his bow and Vasuki as the string and Lord Narayana as the arrow. While he ascended the chariot, he forgot the most important thing, which was worship of Lord Ganesha. 

Although Lord Ganesha is his son, he was not an exception to the fact that any task has to begin with the worship of Lord Ganesha, the preventor of hurdles. Since Lord Shiva had forgotten this important aspect, Lord Ganesha broke the axle of his chariot. 

Achu Muri Vinayakar

Lord Shiva realising his mistake, came down and worshipped Lord Ganesha and then set out on his task and he was able to defeat the Tripuras at Thiruvathigai. Since the achu (axle) broke at this place, it came to be known as அச்சு + இறு + பாக்கம் = அச்சிறுபாக்கம் (Achu+Iru+pakkam = Achirupakkam).This Lord Ganesha, is called Achu Muri Vinayakar (the Lord who broke the axle) and is located a little distance away from the main temple. We stopped by first to offer lamps and coconuts ( சிதறு காய் ) at the temple of Achu Muru Vinayagar.

We then entered the main temple, and found that the Dwajasthambam and Bali peetam are away from the Sanctum Sanctorum. This is probably the only temple that has two main sanctum Sanctorums - containing two Shivalingams, one Swayambu (Umai Atcheeswara) and the other installed (Emai Atcheeswara). How did this happen?

The shrine of Aatcheeswara with Tharakan and Vidyunmali as Dwarapalas

Once a Pandya King was passing through this area,he saw a giant golden lizard running through the bushes. He ordered his men to trace it and soon they found the lizard disappear near the root of a "Sarakondrai" tree. The king ordered the tree to be axed down and when the men tried to do that, blood started oozing from the roots. The King was shocked. That night, Lord Shiva appeared in his dreams and asked him to find the Swayambu Lord under the tree and build a temple for him.

The King sought the assistance of Sage Trinetradhari to build the temple. He then proceeded onwards on his journey. On his return, he found the temple had been constructed with two sanctum sanctorums. When he questioned Sage Trinetradhari about it, he said one is for the Lord who occupied your heart (Umaiaatcheeswarar) and the other is for the Lord who occupied my heart ( Emaiaatcheeswarar). The shrine that Sage Trinetradhari built for the Swayambu Lingam is in line with the Dwajasthambam, and Bali peetam. The special feature here is that the Asuras Tharakan and Vidyunmali who were killed by Lord Shiva are the Dwarapalakas in this shrine.

The other shrine called Umaiaatcheeswarar which the Sage built for the King is in line with the Rajagopuram. It has a Nandi which is in a meditative posture and it is believed that the samadhi of Sage Trinetradhari can be found below this Nandi. This shrine also has the idols of Lord Shiva and Parvathi behind the Shivalingam in a marriage posture.
Meditative Nandi with the Samadhi of Sage Trinetradhari under it.

The Sage also had darshan of Lord Shiva and Parvathi under the Sthala Vriksham - the Kondrai Tree. A beautiful shrine which has idols of Shiva, Parvathi and Trinetradhari under the tree.

Kondrai Adi Shiva Temple

Lighting lamps at the shrines of Ganesha, Lords Umaiaatcheeswarar and Emaiaatcheeswarar, Goddess Elangili Amman, and Achu Muri Vinayagar is said to bring power and position to the worshipper.

The temple also has the shrine of Lord Srinivasa on an avudaiyaar. The walls around the shrine of Aatcheeswara have beautiful murals around them that depict various scenes.

Hiranyakasipu Vatham
Lord Shiva reaching out to stop Kannappa Nayanar from digging out his second eye

Karaikal Ammaiyaar walking on her head to Mount Kailash

An elephant and snake worshipping Lord Shiva

Chandesa Nayanar cutting off his father's leg for having stamped
upon the shivalingam made of sand
These are just a few of the wonderful murals. There are several others which one can witness if they go around in leisure.

Temple timings:

The temple is open from 7 am to 12 pm and then from 4 pm to 9 pm.

Contact Details:

Mr. Srinivasan, Trustee of the Nadu Palani Murugan Temple was very useful during the temple visit. He can be contacted on 94431 93933.

The Gurukkal at the temple - Karuna 99945 41154 and his elder brother Shankar - 98423 09534

If you happen to be travelling from Chennai towards Trichy or Vice Versa, do stop by to visit Aatcheeswara - the Lord who will then rule your hearts! 

Sara Narayana Perumal Temple, Thiruvadhigai

                                                 Saranarayana Perumal Koil in Thiruvadhigai.

Thiruvadhigai or Thiripuravadhigai as it was originally known is a village between Panruti and Cuddalore. It is believed that Lord Vishnu became the Saram (arrow) for Lord Shiva to burn down the Tiripurandhakas and hence is called Saranarayana Perumal.This is the place where Shiva worshipped him after burning down the Tiripurandakas and hence the place is called Tiripuravadhigai. 

Saranarayana perumal is found in Kalyana Thirukkolam with Sridevi thaayar (no Boodevi) as he married the daughter of Margandeya maharishi here . The goddess is called Hemambujavalli and the Utsavar is called Govinda Vinnagarappan.

Sri Sayana Narasimhar 

The most unique feature of Saranarayana Perumal Koil is that it is only here that we find Lord Narasimha in a sleeping posture as Sayana Narasimha with Goddess Lakshmi at his feet.Lord Mahavishnu is found as Ranganathar in several temples and we also find Lord Shiva in a sleeping posture in Suruttapalli but nowhere else can we see Lord Narasimha in a sleeping posture. 

How to reach here:
The temple is on the Panruti - Cuddalore road, about 3 kms away from the Panruti Bus Stand. There is some road development work going on so you might have to take a little roundabout route near the temple.

Temple Timings:
Morning: 7 am to 10 am
Evening: 5.30 pm to 8.15 pm

Contact Details of the Bhattacharyar: 94437 87186

Kasturi Ranganatha Perumal Temple, Erode

Entrance of the Kasthuri Rangantha Perumal temple
The Kasturi Ranganatha Perumal temple overlooks the Arudra Kapaleeswara Temple inside the fort area of Erode. It is said to have been built around the 10th century based on the inscriptions found here. It is interesting to note that the Swamy vimana in this temple, is shaped like a gopuram.


The legend of the temple says that Durvasa Maharishi, once went to Vaikunta to have darshan of Lord Vishnu. He was delayed and reached beyond time. So the Dwarapalakas Jaya and Vijaya did not allow him to visit the Lord. Angered at being halted, Durvasa cursed them to be born in Earth. The two Dwarapalakas were frightened and sought a recourse to the curse. Durvasa said they could either be born as friends of the Lord for seven births or as enemies for three births before returning to Vaikunta. Jaya and Vijaya chose to be born as enemies for three births. So they took birth as Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakasipu, Ravana and Kumbakarna, Kamsa and Sishupala and were killed by the Lord in each birth. Here they are seen at his feet, inside of at the gate, after being rid of their curse. Lord Ranganatha is seen placing his right hand over the head of Sage Durvasa, asking him to stay calm and be rid of anger. He is holding Lord Brahma in his left hand.

Legend has it that pregnant women offered Kasthuri (a herbal medicine) to the Lord and prayed for safe deliveries and hence he came to be known as Kasturi Ranganatha Perumal. However, this ritual does not seem to continue any longer.

Kamalavalli Thayar at the Kasturi Ranganatha Perumal Temple
Deities at the temple:

The Moolavar Kasturi Ranganatha Perumal is found reclining on the Adisesha with Sridevi and Bhoodevi by his side. His right hand is extended to be placed over the head of Sage Durvasa who is found seated by the side and can only be seen while peeping into the sanctum. With his left hand, he is holding up Brahma, who is not seen rising from the navel of the Lord as is normally depicted.  Utsavar Kaliyuga Varadhar. 

The Goddess here is called Kamalavalli Thaayar. She looks so serene and welcoming. Devotees worship her with lotus flowers to have prayers of marriage and childbirth answered. There are  shrines for Andal, Chakkrathazhwar, Srinivasa Perumal and Venugopala Swamy with consorts. Hanuman in this temple is one among the 729 Hanumans that have been installed by Sri Vyasaraja, the previous incarnation of Guru Raghavendra Swamy. The stone on which he has been installed, is in the form of a linga and hence the Hanuman is popularly known as Linga Parai Anjaneya Swamy. Vilvam, which is normally the Sthalavriksham in Shiva temples is the Sthalavriksham here.


Inscriptions at the Kasturi Ranganatha Perumal Temple
There are a number of inscriptions in this temple. They talk about various grants that were provided to the temple at different periods in time. A.R.16 of 1891 from the period of Tribuvanachakravarthigal Veerapandyadevar talks about Vaishnavakani granted to the temple of Pallikonda Nayanar of Moovendrachola Chaturvedimangalam.Another inscription talks about Erode as Poonthurai Nattu Kanchithundaththu Erode and the deity as Pallikondaruliya Perumal.

Inscription mentioning the paving of pathway by EVR Periyar's mother
Another inscription talks about mandapas in the temple having been renovated by Chinna Murari Naicker, son of Kondamalli Vengayya Naicker and Lakkapuram Muthukumara Goundar. The inscription in the picture above mentions the paving of the circumambulatory pathway with Cuddapah stones, by Chinnathayammal, wife of Mandi E. Venkata Naicker, son of Thamma Naicker and her aunt Chennammal. Chinnathayammal, incidentally is the mother of EV Ramasamy Naicker, popularly known as EeVeRa Periyar.  His father has made the crown and feet of the Lord in Silver ( they are really huge).He himself has also served as the administrative trustee of the temple.

A wonderful temple worth visiting if you are in the vicinity!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Aarudhra Kabaaleeswara Temple, Erode

This is one of the twin temples situated in the busy Fort area of Erode. The reason why the city got its name lies in the Thala Puranam ( உண்மையிலேயே தலை புராணம் தான் ) of this temple!!!

The story goes like this:

King Lakshmi Kanthan, ruled over the Kongu nadu from his palace at a place called Soorapatti. He was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva and took extreme care in growing beautiful flowers in his garden to worship the Lord. His Goshala was at Pallipalayam. Everyday, a cowherd would carry pots of milk from there for the King's pooja, and while he did so one pot would fall down and break over a particular spot and all the milk would spill on the ground.

The cowherd did not know the reason why. He would be very careful while crossing that spot, but in spite of that, the pot would break and the milk would spill. When he took the remaining pots to the palace, he would get scolded for bringing  less milk. To save himself, he narrated the story to the Queen who thought he was selling the milk outside and lying about it. So she asked the King to send his men to check on the cowherd. The King's men found that the cowherd was not lying and reported back to the King.

Surprised, the King asked his men to dig the place where the milk spilt everyday to see what was causing the incident. When the men dug, they found nothing. The king then took the chisel himself, and started digging. When the chisel hit the ground, the ground broke, and the head portion of the lingam broke into four, and fell in four different directions. The place where the big portion of the head fell is called "Perode"( பேரோடு), where the small portion fell is called "Sithode"(சித்தோடு), where the white portion (brain ) fell is called " Vellode", (வெள்ளோடு) and the place where the broken baana (பாணம்) along with the wet bloody scalp of the Lord remained came to be known as "Erode" (ஈர ஓடு or ஈரோடு) . The lingam still bears a wound on its portion as is said to be wet at all time which is why the Lord is called Arudhra Kabaleeswara ( Eswara with the wet skull). The temple is ancient, and the praharams are wide, housing several other sannathis. It is believed that Goddess Parvathi worshipped Shiva here as a peacock. She is called Varani Ambal and is found in a separate shrine. 
A Beautiful Rudhrakoteeswara ( lingam with a thousand and eight lingams engraved on it) can be found on the praharam. It is believed that the Sun worshipped Lord Ardhra Kabaaleswara here. To this day, the Sun's rays fall on the lingam on the 26, 27, and 28th day of the Tamil month of Masi and Surya is found with his consorts Sandhya and Chhaya in the outer praharam.
Shiva Kudumbam under the Peepal Tree
One other unique feature is that of a statue of Ambal and Shiva along with Ganesha found under the Sthala Vriksham. 

The Ardhra Kabaaleeswara is worshipped mainly by weavers who desire to succeed in their craft. A very interesting tale is associated with this practice. Once upon a time, there was a very poor weaver called Thandavan who lived here. He was a very staunch devotee of Lord Ardhra Kabaaleswara and spent all his life and the very meagre resources he had in serving the Lord through his devotees. Lord Shiva, pleased with his devotion, wanted to showcase it to the world. 

So he approached his wife when Thandavan was away. Pleased to receive the aged devotee of Shiva, the lady welcomed him warmly and asked him how she could help. The old man said that he had come looking for a towel. The lady responded that her husband had only one towel and had gone out wearing it, but if the old man could tell her where he was staying , her husband would make sure he received a towel. 

The old man smiled and said he could be found outside the Ardhra Kabaleeswara temple and left. Once Thandavan returned, his wife narrated everything that had happened. Thandavan was overjoyed that the old devotee had sought him for help. He ran to his boss, and requested him to give him a towel on credit. The boss was surprised. Thandavan had been working as a weaver with him for many years, but had never asked for any help. He always received his meagre wages with gratitude and went about his work without a complaint. So he agreed to give him a towel on credit.

Thandavan ran with the new towel to the temple. He was quick to spot the old man, sitting near the entrance of the temple and gave the towel to him. The old man received it with a divine smile and blessed Thandavan. 

Next morning, the priest was in for a surprise when he opened the temple. The silk parivattam (towel) which had adorned the Lord the previous night was missing and in its place was a humble cotton towel. The priest was unable to comprehend how this had happened and raised an alarm. At that time, Thandavan's boss came to the temple for his daily worship. He saw the towel and identified it as the one he had given on credit to Thandavan.

The priests decided that Thandavan had stolen the silk towel belonging to the Lord. He was dragged to the temple, tied to a pillar and the people starting beating him up. Thandavan pleaded innocence and appealed to the Lord for help. Wanting to reveal the truth, the Lord spoke through the Village Officer's son, that he had performed that incident to show to the world the depth of Thandavan's devotion. Even though he did not have anything to call his own, he had happily strived to serve the devotees of Lord Shiva and through his service, had pleased the Lord himself.

In recognition of his service, the Lord proclaimed that from that day on, he would be known as Thondeeswarar. Thandavan was overjoyed. He spent the rest of his life serving the Lord and was attained salvation.

To this day, weavers and those involved in the weaving craft, worship Lord Ardhra Kabaleeswara in order for their business to succeed. 

How to reach here: The temple is found in the fort area within the city of Erode, opposite to the Kasthuri Ranganatha Perumal temple.

Temple Timings: 6 am - 11 am, 4 pm - 8 pm

Contact details: 0424-2267578

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Marvel called Parvati Ganesha at Hampi!

The beautiful pond at Hampi
Hampi- the pride of Vijayanagar empire, the treasure trove of craftsmanship and the standing evidence to the cruelty of the invaders is a must see for every Indian. It would take 3-4 days at least for a complete tour of the wonderful city that bears testimony to the rich and varied cultural heritage of India.

There are 84 sites recommended by the Archaeological Department and many many more by the locals. It is indeed a pity to see the foreign tourists greatly outnumbering the localities.

During my trip to Hampi, I was able to spent only one day and could see only 18 places. A real pity and a reason for me to go back soon!

There are two huge Ganeshas in Hampi - One a 32 feet ganesha with his truck mutilated by the invaders and the other this 16 feet Ganesha called Parvathi Ganesha.
32 feet Ganesha
Most of the temples do not have any poojas performed as the main idols have been damaged. When our guide Manju took us to this temple, and told us the size and the name of the Ganesha we were rarely impressed.

The front view of Parvati Ganesha
So what? All the idols in Hampi are huge and this is one of those! But when he urged us to go around and look at the back of the idol, the sight we saw brought a smile to all our faces....it was really charming and adorable! To know what lies behind this ganesha, move down to the next picture! LOL!

The oversized Ganesha sitting on Mother Parvati's lap!
Do check out this delightful Ganesha while you are at Hampi!

Ennai Petra Thaayar!

Bhakthavatsala Perumal Temple, Thiruninravur

Bhakthavatsala Perumal Temple at Thiruninravur, near Chennai is one of the 108 Divya Desams. Here the Goddess has a unique name" Ennai Petra Thaayar" (mother who gave birth to me)! How did she get that name?

Lord Samudrarajan (King of the Ocean) was longing for a child and his deep desire was that Goddess Mahalakshmi should be born as his daughter. He prayed to her for many years after which the Goddess appeared before him and granted his wish.

On one fine day, he found a beautiful girl child in the middle of a lotus flower in the ocean. Ecstatic he exclaimed " Ennai Petra Thaaye" (Mother who gave birth to me!). The child was named Ennai Petra Thaayar by which she is known till date.

The place itself derives its name from Goddess Mahalakshmi - Thiru means Lakshmi and Ninravur is the place where she stays forever.

The little girl grew up into a beautiful young lady and it was time to get her married. But Samudrarajan was not willing to part with his daughter whom he had got after praying for so many years and so when Sriman Narayana came asking for her hand in marriage, he laid a condition that he should become "Veetoda Mappillai" (Ghar Jamaai) and stay in the in-laws house for which the Lord agreed. As it is her house, the Goddess gets all the pooja and Saathupadi first, after which it is the Lord's turn.

The seven feet Bhaktavatsala perumal is a delight to watch. In Kalyana Thirukolam (wedding attire), and with the words " Maam Ekam Charanam Vraja" (Take refuge in me alone) written on his right hand (Incidentally the only other lord who has this inscription on his hand is Lord Uppiliappan in Kumbakonam), and a welcoming smile, you can keep looking at him all day long.

The Divya Desams are those where the Azhwars visited and sung hymns in praise of the Lord. When Tirumangaiazhwar came to Tiruninravur he did not sing any paasuram about Bhakthavatsala perumal. He then went to Tirukkadalmallai (Mamallapuram) to worship Sthalasayana Perumal.

Bhakthavatsala, anxious for his devotee to sing about him, appeared to the Azhwar in Tirukkadalmallai as Bhakthavatsala Perumal and it is there that the pasuram about Tiruninravur was sung! Such was the relationship between the Lord and his beloved devotee !!

Coming to the picture above, this is a unique feature of the Tiruninravur temple. As the name suggests, this is the temple for wealth, prosperity and all the Aishwaryams in the world. There is a matrix drawn in front of the Ennai Petra Thaayar Sannathi as you see in the picture, which has specific numbers. By drawing this matrix in your pooja room and placing one rupee coins on each of the squares, and praying for nine days, your wishes are granted.

Procedure for Pooja:

The Yantra is drawn in the pooja room on a flat surface using Kolam Powder. Stickers are also available in the temple if one wishes to use it. Pooja is done for nine days by placing one rupee coins in each of the boxes, applying sandal paste and Kumkum on them, and flowers as well. The coins of the previous day are then removed and stored safely and new one rupee coins are used the next day. Once the nine days of pooja
is complete, (it is preferable to start the pooja on a friday or new moon day) the 81 coins along with Thambulam for nine sumangalis is taken to the temple. The battar places the coins at the Thaayaar's feet and performs archana. The first Thambulam is then give to the Goddess. After that, he gives the coins back to the devotee who then deposits the coins in the Hundi outside the shrine. The remaining thambulams are given to other women in the temple.

I have tried it myself and it really works:)

Anthili - A tale of Garuda's devotion!

Anthili Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple

Anthili is a non-descript village about five kilometres from Tirukoilur and about 3 kms from Arakandanallur in Villupuram District in Tamilnadu. As we turn right at the Arakandanallur Police Station and take the dirt track that leads us to this temple on a small hillock, little do we expect what is in store for us. But once we are led to the temple, by a few young boys playing near the fields, the awesomeness of the whole place strikes us. So what is so unique about Anthili?

History of the temple:

King Hiranyakasipu, asks his young son Prahalada in anger "You keep chanting Narayana's name all the time, If you think he is God, then show me where he is". The little boy replies " He is omnipresent. He can be in a pillar or in a piece of grass ( அவர் தூணிலும் இருப்பார், துரும்பிலும் இருப்பார்). Blinded with rage, Hiranyakasipu strikes the pillar nearby, and Lo! the pillar breaks open, and Lord Vishnu in the form of Nara-simha appears and destroys Hiranyakasipu.

The Lord was in a hurry to take the avatar to honour the conviction of his little devotee and to put an end to Hiranyakasipu in a manner he had sought to be killed. Therefore, he appeared from the pillar when Prahalada told his father that he could be seen there. He did not wait to take his vehicle Garudalwar with him since the situation was so demanding.

However, this action hurt Garudalwar very much. He felt that he had failed in his devotion because of which the Lord had not taken him along in such an important avatar. He was angry with himself and thought that he would do penance to redeem himself of this shortfall in devotion.He came down to find a suitable place to start his penance. And what better place than the banks of the River Krishna Bhadra also called Dakshina Pinakini (Then Pennai River). 

When Lord Vishnu took the Vamana Avatara he measured the earth with one foot, and the skies with the second. While he did so, Lord Brahma washed the foot measuring the heavens, with water from his Kamandalu. This water is believed to flow as the Dakshina Pinakini and since it is the water that washed the foot of Mahavishnu it is believed to be as holy as the Ganges. Incidentally, the third foot was placed on the head of King Mahabali, who was none other than the grandson of Prahalada!

Garuda chose a spot on the banks of the river and started meditating. Days and weeks passed and the mighty bird who had flown as soon as he was born with two elephants caught under each foot, grew weak and lean, so much that he could barely move. But his concentration was undaunted. The heat from his chanting spread all over the three lokas. 

Unable to bear this, Brahma and the Devas approached Lord Vishnu to appear before his devotee and grant his boon. Lord Vishnu came down to the banks of Krishna Bhadra where Garuda was meditating, and appeared before him. Pleased with his devotion, he offered to grant him a boon.

What could Garuda ask for? Overjoyed that his Lord accepted and appreciated his devotion, he asked Him to appear in the form of Narasimha and requested to carry him on his back. The Lord obliged and an extremely delighted Garuda carried his Lord in the form of Narasimha on his back around the place. He also requested that they should bless devotees in the same form so that they are freed of all their worries and were granted the boons they desired and the Lord happily agreed.

The hillock shaped like Garuda carrying Lord Narasimha on his back
Now look closely at the picture. You will be able to see the hillock shaped like the mighty bird with wings spread out ready for take off! The small temple atop it houses Sri Lakshmi Narasimha in the same form and size as he appeared before Garudalwar! Isn't this amazing!

It is also interesting that the back of the hillock looks like a sleeping lion. The two sides give two insights to this story.

Visit of Sri Vyasaraja:

Being aware of the importance of this place, Sri Vyasaraja Theertharu ( Sri Raghavendra Swamy in his previous birth) visited this place and spent some time here. To mark his visit, he has installed an idol of Sri Anjaneya Swamy. Sri Vyasaraja has installed over 729 hanumans at  places he visited. At all these place, he drew the image of Hanuman on a stone using Angaram and the impression became a sculpture. 

Hanuman installed by Sri Vyasaraja Theetharu
Sri Narasimha Achar:

The history of Anthili does not just speak of the devotion of Garudalwar but also of another  devotee, Sri Narasimha Achar.

Narasimha Achar lived in the lane across the temple. He was a vedic scholar and an ardent devotee of the temple. After bathing at the Krishna Bhadra near the temple, he performed his poojas here and walked all the way upto Manampoondi, to worship at the Moola Brindavana of Sri Raghoothama Theertharu every day. 

Sri Raghothama Theertharu's life and times are as magnificient as Sri Raghavendra Swamy's. What I write here is just a glimpse of the grace that he bestows on many of his devotees till date. We will discuss this in detail in another post.

Not a day passed in Narasimha achar's life without worshipping his guru Raghothama Theertharu. Such was his love and devotion for his guru. Years passed and Narasimha achar grew old. He became weaker and weaker and at one stage, it became extremely difficult for him to think of walking from Anthili to Manampoondi.

He could not bear to live a day without worshipping his Guru. Therefore, he prayed to him to end his life. Raghothama Swamy appeared in his dream and consoled him. He said what if you cannot come to see me, I will turn towards you in my brindavanam. He appeared in the dream of the Bhattars , and instructed them to start performing the daily poojas to the eastern side of the brindavanam.

 If you happen to visit this magnificient brindavanam in Manampoondi, you will see that the brindavanam faces the West, while poojas are being performed in the East. Just like Sri Krishna turned in Udipi for the benefit of Kanakadasa, Sri Raghotama swamy had turned for the benefit of Narasimha Achar's desire !!

A small thulasi maadam has been constructed on the huge rock on which Narasimha Achar sat and prayed and probably taught his students. I was not sure if it was his brindavanam, since usually brindavanams are constructed for sanyasis and Sri Narasimhachar was not one.

Srikanth Bhattar of the temple, confirms that it is only a thulasi madam probably signifying the spot where Narasimha achar performed his daily poojas.

The huge rock and the thulasi madam at the bank of the river
This temple is about 1600 years old. It is one of the Nava Narasimha Kshetrams of Tamilnadu and is easily accessible.

How to get here:

By Air : Nearest airport is Chennai.

By train: Nearest station - Villupuram Junction and then take a taxi or bus to reach here. There are frequent buses from Villupuram to Tirukoilur and several share autos available from Tirukoilur to Anthili.

By road: Tirukoilur is about 194 kms from Chennai and about 40 km from Villupuram and 33 kms from Tiruvannamalai. Arakandanallur is about 2 kms from Tirukoilur. At the Arakandanallur Police station, turn right and proceed for about 3 kms among fields to reach the temple.

Temple timings and contact details:

As it is a village temple, please check near by for availability of the bhattar and keys to the temple.

Visit to Tirukoilur temples:
One can visit several places of importance and interest while visiting tirukoilur:
1. Sri Trivikramaswamy Temple, Tirukoilur ( One of the 108 Divya Desams and the birthplace of the naalayira divyaprabandham)
2. Sri Veerataneswarar temple, Tirukoilur (One of the Ashta Veerata Sthalams, Samadhi of Meikandaar Nayanar)
3. Kabilar Kundru ( A monument built at the place where Kabilar fasted to death)
4. Sri Raghotama Swamy Moola Brindavanam, Manampoondi
5. Sri Gnanananda Thabovanam ( Tirukoilur)
6. Sri Krishna Premi Swamiji Ashram (Paranur)
7. Sri Athulyanadeswara Temple, Arakandanallur (Athulya Nadheswara Temple on Aalayam Kanden)
8. Sri Lakshmi Narasimhar Temple, Anthili
9. Sri Lakshmi Narayana Temple, Veeracholapuram

I have just mentioned a few important places here. If one plans well, the bliss of visiting these and several other temples can be had. 

If you happen to be in this part of the world, do make it a point to visit this magnificient temple!