Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sri Panchamukhi Temple, Ganadhal

Panchamukhi Cave Temple
Panchamukhi Hanuman Temple is found to the north of Mantralaya, the Jeeva Samadhi of Saint Sri Raghavendra across the river Tungabadhra. It is 2 km away from Ganadhal in Gillesugur Mandal. This temple is also very close to Bhikshalaya or Bichale as it is locally called.

Saint Sri Raghavendra Swamy did penance for 12 years in the cave inside the temple, wherein Lord Hanuman appeared to him as Panchamukhi and told him that he should attain samadhi at the place where Prahalada ( Sri Raghavendra in his former birth - Prahalada - Pahlikaraja- Vyasaraja- Raghavendra) had performed yagna. This was the reason why Sri Raghavendra chose Manchala Village for brindavana pravesa and asked Nawab Siddhi Masood Khan to donate it to him. The cave contains the naturally formed Panchamukha where the Lord appeared to Sri Raghavendra along with Lakshmi Venkateswara and Rudra. There is a brindavana placed inside the cave at the spot where Sri Raghavendra meditated for twelve years.

Inside the Panchamukhi Cave temple - the natural impression of the
five faces denoted by sandal paste

The legend of Panchamukhi is interesting and dates back to the Ramayana days. Lord Hanuman went into Pathala Lokha to kill Mahiravana who had kept Rama and Lakshmana as prisoners there. The only way to kill him was to swallow the five bees that held his life at the same time. To do this, Hanuman required five faces. The Lord granted his wish and each face was an amsam of Lord Vishnu, the faces being Garuda, Ugra Narasimha, Varaha, Hayagriva and his own face. When Mahiravana had taken Rama and Lakshmana to Pathalaloka, Hanuman did not know how to go there. Vibhishana told him that there were only two ways to get there - one through the palace of Ravana and the other through a cave in Dandakaranya guarded by a Goddess named Yerukalamba. Hanuman came to Dandakaranya and found the cave and asked the Goddess to help him to kill Mahiravana. The Goddess asked him to take the help of Chandrasena, who was an ardent devotee of Sri Rama and had been held captive by Mahiravana. It was Chandrasena who told Hanuman where Mahiravana's life source lay and how he could kill him. Once Rama and Lakshmana were saved from Pathalaloka, Hanuman thanked Yerukalamba and told her that the place would come to be known as Panchamukhi and she would continue to guard it.

Goddess Yerukalamba
Natural Aerial Vehicle
Natural Bed and Pillow of Hanuman
Hanuman's Gadhaayudha
It is a beautiful cave, serene and calm, surrounded by rocky terrain. There is a natural pushpakavimana said to have been used by Hanuman and a natural bed and pillow where the Lord used to sleep on. One unique feature in this temple, is the huge pair of slippers made for Hanuman. It is being done by the Bheemiah family of Kerebudur. It is believed that Hanuman himself gave the size for the slippers to be made by appearing in his dream and asking him to heap mud in a particular place. He did as instructed and found Hanuman's footprint in the wet mud the next day and made slippers to that size. For generations, his family has been making footwear for the Lord. Each pair lasts five years after which it is replaced. It is believed that every morning when the Poojari opens the shrine where they are kept, he finds grass, mud and abrasions on the slippers, evidence that Hanuman wears them over night and patrols around the temple. The Gadhayudha used by Hanuman is also kept here.

Hanuman's footwear placed in a seperate shrine

Goddess Yerukalamba shrine is also found behind the Panchamukhi temple. She is the guarding deity and people throng her shrine too offering bangles and flowers. If you are blessed to visit Mantralaya, do take the effort to visit Panchamukhi as well. It is an amazing temple!
Impression of Hanuman's feet on the wet mud

Friday, October 15, 2010

Poongavanathamman Temple, Putlur

The entrance of Poongavanathamman Temple
This is probably the only temple where the Goddess has manifest herself  in the natural form of an anthill complete with face, eyes, dainty eyebrows, parted lipts, hands, legs, and a pregnant belly. It gives you goosebumps as you circumambulate around her in the narrow and poorly lit space among the several hundreds of people who throng this temple everyday to seek her blessings.

Picture of Goddess Poongavanathamman
Lord Shiva and Parvathi were walking from Melmalayanur towards Ramapuram ( the place where this temple is located, which subsequently came to be known as Putlur because of the Goddess manifesting herself in the form of a Putru - an anthill). This place was a forest those days full of neem trees. Parvathi tired after the long walk, sat down and asked Lord Shiva to fetch her some water. Lord Shiva went searching for water but could not find any nearby. He had to go to the river Coovam ( looks like it had drinkable quality water then!) to bring the water. It started raining heavily and the river was getting flooded. So he had to wait a while for the rain to subside. Tired of waiting for the Lord, and exhausted with hunger and thrist, the Goddess lay down on the floor and an anthill (புற்று) grew over her. She became one and the same with the anthill.
Lord Shiva returned shortly after and found that Parvathi had permanabtly stayed there. So he too stood beside her and is called thandavarayan. Probably this is the only amman temple where you can find a nandi before the sanctum sactorium and this is because of the presence of Shiva behind the goddess.

Nandi in front of the Sanctum Sanctorium
The temple, as I said is always crowded. People come and pray here for childbirth and other wishes. They usually buy five lemon and bangles from the shops outside. One lemon is taken by one of the several old ladies who can be found outside the temple. It is believed that one has to remove all "drishti" (casting of evil eye) before entering the temple. So these women circle the lemon thrice around your head, and ask you to crush it under your left foot. This is supposed to remove all dristi from you. On entering the temple, there is a trident ( trishul) on which three of the remaining lemon are pressed on.

Offering lemon at the Trishul

Then you move to worship the nandi, and enter the mandapam to go towards the sanctum sanctorium. One can see that the ancient temple has been modernised over time by laying glazed tiles on the walls and floor. Actually it would have been better if the original architecture had been retained and well maintained.

Pair of Scales in front of Sanctum Sanctorium
We find a huge pair of scales here, where devotees who have been blessed with children offer sugar,banana etc. equivalent to the weight of the child. As the serpentine queue moves slowly towards the sanctum sanctorium you wait with bated breath. The main sannadhi is small, dark and crowded. There is a strong stainless steel railing affixed all around the goddess so that no one touches and damages the structure. It is difficult to see very clearly through this railing. Just behind the goddess, through a small window like structure, you can see thandavarayan looking a little sad that he could not quench his wife's thrist in time. As you circumambulate and move towards the front portion of the sanctum sanctorium, you hold your breath in awe. The goddess completely covered in turmeric paste looks magnificient. The eyes, eyebrows, the parted lips, the visibly pregnant belly all look so natural. The bangles and the last lemon are offered here. The poojari takes your bangles and gives you others as prasad. He rolls the lemon now smeared with kumkum from a stone near the goddess's feet, and the devotees collect it in the pallav of their saree. Lemon garlands are also offered and returned with her blessings and people keep them in their vehicles, shops, pooja rooms, or over their front door as a charm. On coming out, we find another huge anthill ( this does not have a human figure)to the right of the sanctum sanctorium under the stala Vriksham - Neem Tree. People who seek childbirth, tie miniature cradles near this anthill or pieces of pallav of their saree in anticipation of the fulfilment of their desire.

Cradles tied above the second natural anthill
and on the Sthala Vriksham
It is also very common for people to stay overnight here on full moon days. A special prayer is conducted at 5 am the next morning for these people who stay awake and pray through the night.
Location of the temple: This temple is near Tiruvallur.
How to get here: It is very easy to reach here by train. From Central one has to take a train, bound for Tiruvallur, Tiruthani or Arakkonam, and get down at Putlur station.  Make sure it is not an express which stops only at limited stations. From there the temple can be reached either by walk or share auto.
By road: On the tiruvallur road, after crossing Nemam, go straight. There will be a board on the right saying Putlur. Just a few feet away, there would also be an ambedkar statue on the left side of the road pointing to the right. Take the right turn here. A bridge is being constructed. Just before the bridge, there would be a small mudtrack to the left. Go down that track. Very soon, you will reach a railway gate. The temple is about half a km from this railway gate. There are several share autos available to take the visitors at Rs.5 per person. Tuesdays, Fridays, Sundays and full moon days are extremely crowded here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Brahmapureeswarar Temple, Tirupattur

Tirupattur is about 25 kms from Trichy on the Chennai - Trichy NH 45. While going from Chennai, you have to reach Siruganur and take a right there into the service lane. There is a big board to guide people travelling by road. After turning right, the temple is about 5 kms down the road. While coming from Trichy, Siruganur is about ten kms farther from Samayapuram, and one has to turn left at the Siruganur Service lane.

The Rajagopuram of Brahmapureeswarar Temple
The entrance has a Five Level colourful raja gopuram . When you go into the beautiful and cool Veda mandapam with the dwajasthabam you notice Nandiswara resting under an intricate Rudhraksha Pandal, a sight not found in any other temple.

Nandi under the Rudhraksha Pandal
 The next mandapam is called Nada Mandapam wherein the seven musical pillars are present. There are seven entrances to cross over to reach the sannadhi of Sri Brahmapureeswara. He is called so since he changed the destiny of Brahma. To the left of the Nadha Mandapam, is the Brahma Sannadhi. The idol is huge-  almost six feet and sitting on a lotus flower in Padmasana. Brahma is considered as the Adhidevatha of Guru Bhagavan, and therefore, here he is covered in turmeric paste. The turmeric is also given as prasadam. If you visit the temple around 7 am in the morning, you will be able to see both the Nirmalya Darshan as well as alankaram. Worshipping this Brahma, wil change the destiny of the worshipper for the beter. But not everyone will be lucky enough to come here. Only if their destiny allows can it happen. Which is why he is called " விதி இருப்பின் விதியை மாற்றும் பிரம்மா"

Brahma in turmeric alankaram
The story goes like this:
Brahma was very vain as he had five heads like Shiva and he was the creator of all beings. In order to curb his vanity, Shiva plucked out one of his heads whereby Brahma lost all his thejus or glory. Since he lost thejus he also lost the art of creation. In order to be relieved of the curse, Lord Brahma came to Tirupattur and installed 12 (Dwadasa) Lingams and prayed to them. Pleased with his devotion, Lord Shiva appeared before him with Goddess Parvati, who gave him back his lost thejus which is why she is called "Brahma Sampath Gowri" here. Shiva also gave another boon to Brahma. Just like how he had changed the destiny of the one who was responsible for writing everyone's destiny, Brahma would have the power of changing the destiny of all those who worshipped him here, for the better. Goddess Brahma Sampath Gowri can be worshipped in a seperate sannadhi outside the main temple.

 Usually in temples, the devotees stand on both sides of the main deity and worship. In this temple, it is important that the devotee falls within the direct deeksha of Lord Brahma. Therefore, they are asked to stand directly in front of him so that their destiny can be changed for the better.
Saint Padhanjali

Another very important feature of this temple is the Jeeva samadhis of Saints Padhanjali and Vyakrapadhar. While Shiva performs the Ananda Thandava between the horns of Nandi, there are two saints who witness it - Padhanjali and Vyakrapadha. Both their jeeva samadhis are found here. Padhanjali was the creator of Yoga Sutra. His jeeva samadhi can be found to the left of the Brahma Sannadhi. A covered enclosure has been made around it convenient for those who want to come here and meditate. The vibration is extremely powerful here.
Thala Vruksham - Maghizha Maram

The jeeva samadhi of Saint Vyagrapadhar is found about half a km away from the main temple.
The Stala Vruksham is Magizha maram which is about 150 years old and is found in the complex outside the temple which houses 7 out of the 12 lingams. It is believed that Sage Pathanjali often left his physical body and stayed in the astral form for many days in this magizha maram and performed penance.
There are four lingams in the main temple
1. Brahmapureeswarar - Main Deity
2. Pazhamalainathar - Opposite to the Jeeva samadhi of Saint Padhanjali
3. Padhala Eswarar - Every temple that has a Jeeva Samadhi will have a padhala lingam. Here it is present near Chadikeswara
4. Suttharathneswarar - near the navagrahas

One lingam in front of the Amman Sannadhi:
5. Thayumanavar
The other seven lingams are found in the adjacent campus:

List of lingams outside the lingam complex

Clockwise from left: Manduganathar, Ekambareshwarar, Arunachaleshwarar, Kailasanathar, Jambukeshwarar, Kalathinathar, Saptharisheeswarar and the huge nandhi in front of Kailasanathar shrine
There are Pancha Bhootha Sthalangal in Tamilnadu namely - Kanchipuram, Tiruvannamalai, Kalahasti, Thiruvaanaikaval and Chidambaram. But this temple has all lingams of all five elements and saptharishis in one place. Lord Brahma has installed them all at one place so that the devotees who come here get the benefit of having workshipped the pancha bhoothas and the saptharishis when they worship at this temple. Each one of the shrines are different in architecture and size and the avudaiyars are also different some have the komukham on the left and others on the right. The Kailasanathar shrine has a 16 pillared hall and a huge nandi before it.

There is also a tank here called the Brahma Theertham...which is supposed to have been created by Lord Brahma to perform puja to the Dwadasa Lingams but the current status in which it is maintained leaves a lot to be desired.
Brahma Theertham

Every year in the tamil month of Panguni (March-April) for three days, namely 14, 15 and 16th the Sun God is said to worship Brahmapureeswara. As I mentioned earlier, there are seven entrances to reach the main deity's sannadhi. It is a miracle that the sun's rays cross these seven entrances and fall directly on the lingam from 6.15 to 6.45 a.m.

The jeeva samadhi of Sage Vyakrapureeswara is situated in Kasi Viswanatha swamy temple attached to the Brahmapureeswarar temple about half a km away. He has installed the Kasi Vishwanatha Swamy in this temple. Once there was no water in Tirupattur for performing the daily pujas. Sage Vyakrapadha saw Airavatha, the white elephant of Lord Indra, carrying water for the puja of Lord Jambukeswara of Tiruvanaikaval. He asked Airavatha to give him some water for the puja. The elephant refused. The angry sage who had hands and feet of a tiger dug the ground with his claws till water gushed out. He used this water to perform the puja. The tank so created by him is called " Pulipal Theertham". Bathing here on full moon day cures one of all skin ailments. The Jeeva samadhi of Sage Vyakrapadha is found encased in glass.

Kasi Vishwanatha Temple where the jeeva samadhi
of Sage Vyakrapadha is found
 Both temples are open from 7 am to 12 pm in the morning and from 4 pm to 8 pm in the evening.
Contact details:
Baskara Gurukkal (Brahma Sannadhi)
0431-2650439 / 9443817385

On Thursdays, Full Moon Days, and Sadhaya nakshatram days the temple is extremely crowded.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Veera Anjaneyaswamy Temple, Kakkalur

Sri Anjaneya Swamy Temple, Kakkalur

Kakkalur is very close to Tiruvallur and those of you who are planning to visit the Vaidya Veera Raghava Perumal Temple or Putlur Angala Parameshwari temple can also visit this very unique and ancient temple.

Vyasarajar, the Raja Guru of Krishna Devaraya and the previous avatar of Sree Raghavendra had installed about 730 Anjaneya statues all around India. All of them are identical in the fact that they are turning towards north, with a lotus flower in one hand, and bell at the end of their tail.

This is one of the Anjaneya Swamy idols that had been installed by Sree Vyasarajar. The small temple was also home to Sree Raghavendra for 14 years while he stayed here and meditated and wrote several verses in praise of his favourite God, Sree Anjaneya Swamy. The temple has a big picture of Sree Raghavendra at the spot where he sat and meditated and also an inscription containing verses he wrote about Kakkalur Veera Anjaneya.

Verses written by Sri Raghavendra Swamy

The temple has yet another special characteristic. Just outside, we find that entwined Peepal and Neem trees growing together  People stand between the trees and the entrance of the temple, look at Anjaneya Swamy and make a wish and it is believed that from that position whatever wishes are made come true very soon.

Entwined Neem and Peepal Trees
Just across the road from the temple, is a Housing Board colony. Inside the colony, is a Pathala Lingam said to have been worshipped by Saint Agasthiyar. When we went there, the door was closed, but we were able to peep in and see the small, yet beautiful moorthy. It is very easy to visit Kakkalur Anjaneya who is waiting to bless us as the temple is just on the main road and no effort is required to go searching for it.

Maragatha Pathala Lingam

Temple Timings at Kakkalur:
Morning 6 am to 1 pm Evening 3 pm to 8 pm