Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Yoga Ramar Temple, Nedungunam

Rajagopuram of Nedungunam Yoga Ramar Temple
I received a call from my brother Mahi around December 2010. He spoke with excitement about a must-feature temple in Aalayam Kanden and wanted to take me there when I visited Tiruvannamalai next. I asked him for further details as usually I do not like to write about temples which are either not unique or have been extensively covered by other bloggers. What he described had me hooked. He also sent me a television footage and then there was no turning back. I had to visit here and document the same. So we set the date and the day dawned. I had reached Tiruvannamalai on friday evening from Vellore where I had gone for an official trip and we set out to Nedungunam early in the morning on Saturday.
Nedungunam is about 55 kms from Tiruvannamalai and about 24 kms from Arani. The Yoga Ramar temple is between Vandavasi and Chetpet and the temple falls on the bus route itself . The uniqueness about this temple is that here Rama is found sitting with eyes closed without any weapons ( his Kothandam) and his hand placed on his heart in Chin mudra as he listens to Hanuman reading out the scriptures to him.
The five tier Rajagopuram that has been painted with bright hues in the recent past with the words Rama Rama was very welcoming. I started walking a few paces ahead of the others in excitement. To the left of the Rajagopuram, was the temple tank. I peeped in and to my dismay found that it needed cleaning up. In fact it looked quite pathetic in comparison to the magnificiently painted Rajagopuram.
Sad plight of the temple tank
My disappointment quickly changed to surprise when I stepped into the Rajagopuram and found an equally magnificient gopuram inside which is called the " Kili Gopuram".
The beautiful Kili Gopuram with the Dwajasthamba in front

The story of the temple goes like this:
Sukabrahma Maharishi ( a sage with a parrot's head) had been meditating here, asking for the darshan of Sri Rama. Rama, pleased with his penance, came here on his return from Srilanka after killing Ravana, and spent one day with him on his request. Since Rama was returning after the war, he does not have any weapons with him. He is flanked by Lakshmana,( with bow to protect his brother and sister in law) and Sita while Hanuman is seen in front of Rama in a totally unusual posture with manuscript in hand reading out the "Brahma Sutra" and Rama is seen with eyes closed, hand held in chin mutra on the heart listening to Hanuman. The second gopuram is called Kili Gopuram in honour of Sukabrahma Maharishi (Kili means Parrot in tamil) who stands as a hill next to the temple. This hill is called Dheergachala (long hill) and looks like the head of a parrot from an angle. According to Badri Bhattar, the archaka at the temple, Sri Padham of Lord Rama along with Sanku Chakram ( Conch and Discus) are found on the top of the hill, bearing testimony to the fact that Lord Rama had given darshan to Sukabrahma Maharishi.
The Dheergachala Hill - Can you see the Parrot shape?
I stepped further into the kiligopuram and the sight I saw was a feast to my eyes. It was as if I was standing in a mini Hampi. Every panel of the gopuram had beautiful scenes from Ramayana and Dasavathara on it. There were two mandapams(Halls) facing one another with intricate craftsmenship and architectural excellence.
Dasavatharam on the wall panel
We went further into the temple and paid our respects to Garudalwar. The bhattar was inside the main shrine cleaning it and the hall in front of the sanctum sanctorum was being moped. So we decided to go around and look at all the other sannadhis while the screen opened after cleaning.

The magnificient Dwarapalakas flanking the Yoga Ramar Sannadhi

There are several beautiful sannadhis around the main shrine, namely the Chakrathazhwar Sannadhi, Kalyana Venkatesa perumal Sannadhi, Sanjeevihanuman sannadhi, alwars etc. One of the most striking features is the seperate sannadhi for Vykanasachaaryar who originated the Vykaanasa Agama.
Beautiful Chakrathaazhwar



Kalyanavenkatesa Perumal

Sanjeevi Hanuman Can you see the
Two hanumans one over another?

Vaikanasacharyaar 
By now the main shrine was open and we stepped in. The sight of Sri Yoga Rama looking splendid and magnificient caught our attention spellbound. The whole room vibrates with energy. We prayed with complete concentration. The statue of Rama looks so real - the aristocratic nose, the long eyes, and the Chinmudra held by him look too perfect to be man-made.
The Yoga Rama with Lakshmana and Sita Devi
(Photo Courtesy: Mahendran Karmayogi)

Bhadri Bhattar mentioned that Sri Krishnapremi Swamiji of Paranur, popularly known as Paranur Anna, had visited the shrine a few years ago while it was dilapidated and had mentioned that the main idols were infact swayambu and the temple could have been renovated during the times of Sri Krishnadevaraya. The Bhattar further pointed out that while the sanctum Sanctorum and the hall in front of it were small, the area outside it was large with several mandapams, which could probably mean that it was initially a small shrine which was developed subsequently by kings like Krishnadevaraya.

I cropped the previous picture to show a closeup picture of
Yoga Rama just to show how magnificient he looks!
I had by then introduced myself and the purpose of my visit and he was kind enough to allow us to step in one by one and look at Hanuman who is not visible from the front as he sits opposite to Sri Rama reading out the Brahma Sutra.We were able to see Hanuman from the side in an unusual posture as described above.
Hanuman as seen through a mirror (Photo Courtesy: Mahendran Karmayogi)
Yet another significant feature of the temple is that the circumambulatory path is below the sanctum sanctorium. One has to step down a few feet into a chamber and then perform a circumambulation. The architecture here exhibits the ancientness of this temple.
The circumambulatory path

By this time, some more people started come into the temple to witness the aradhanam. Two ladies, Mrs. Kanaga Devi and Mrs. Renuka Devi, sisters and natives of the village started chatting with us. They were kind enough to take us around the temple and show us various things and narrated several incidents about the temple.
Mrs. Renuka took us to the Dwarapalakas and narrated an incident she had heard when she was a small girl. A little girl had been accidently left behind in the temple and the doors had been shut for the day. According to temple tradition, the doors once closed can only be opened at the appropriate time the next morning. The parents and relatives of the child were extremely worried about the child. While this happened, the child who was alone in the temple in darkness and hunger, did not know what to do. It toddled up to the Dwarapalaka and started suckling on the big toe. The next morning, when the doors were opened the anxious relatives ran in to find the state of the child. The child was sleeping safely below the feet of the Dwarapalakas.She showed
us the chewed up portion of the big toe of the Dwarapalaka.While the autheticity of this story is to be established, it was extremely amazing to actually find only the toes of the huge statue damaged!
Chewed up portion of the Dwarapalaka's big toe!
Mrs. Kanaka took us to the two mandapams that we had seen on either side while entering the temple. One of them is called Kili Mandapam ( Parrot Hall). This is called Kili Mandapam again in honour of Sage Sukabrahma Maharishi. The roof of the mandapam has a beautiful structure to depict its name.
I have turned the picture around so that the parrot is clearly visible!


The Square structure represents a pond, the lotus is in full bloom within the pond, and a parrot can be seen sitting on the lotus. All this has been carved from below. It is a hanging lotus flower from the top with the inverted parrot sitting on it! Beautiful indeed! She also pointed out that it was only in this mandap that a miniature prototype of the Yoga Rama was available.
A prototype of the Moolavar in the Kili Mandapam
She then took us to the Panels of the Gopuram. As I had mentioned earlier, several scenes pertaining to Ramayana and Dasavathara are found in the panels. She showed us Vali and Sugreeva fighting on one side and right across that was Rama shooting through seven trees to kill Vali.
Vali and Sugreeva fighting
Rama shooting at Vali
Our next stop was at the Muthu Mandapam. This was so named after a Devadasi called Muthu, who was the daughter of Manickam. Once when Thirugnanasambandar had visited, he had been received with due respect and a performance was given by her in his honor in this hall. Appreciating her devotion and excellence in performance, the temple had given her three "Kuzhis" of land in Kolambadi which is now part of Chetpet and the workers were instructed not to receive any wages to work in her land. The hall was also called the Muthu Mandapam in her honor. I was really surprised that Thirugnanasambandar had visited a vaishnavite shrine. If he had, then it is an excellent example of the Saivaite-Vaishnavaite harmony in those days. Alternatively, there is a shiva temple right across the road called Dheergachaleswarar Temple. May be he would have come there and the reception could have happened here.....just guessing!
The beautiful Dance Hall
We then moved towards the Thaayar shrine. The goddess here is enshrined seperately and bears the name of Senkamalavalli Thaayar. That shrine is equally beautiful with lovely dwarapalakis in front. She is connected to the Utsavar, Sri Vijayaraghava Perumal.
Senkamalavalli Thaayar
In front of the Sanctum Sanctorum, is a hall with lovely architecture. Mrs. Kanaka pointed out Krishna leela in one of the pillars and also showed us Krishnadevaraya as he stands humbly with folded hands in reverence and humility.

Krishna stealing the clothes of the Gopikas

Krishnadevaraya
By now, the Aaradhanam had started and the ladies were ready to move into the shrine. We had to move on as we had plans of visiting other shrines before they closed up for the morning. Reluctantly, we thanked Badri Bhattar and the two ladies for all the patience and support and started moving towards our vehicle.
Ms. Kanaka and Renuka who were very helpful in
showing us around and telling us various tales
about the temple


We took one last look at Yoga Rama - his presence seemed to fill us with peace and serenity. A must visit place if you happen to be passing by this side. For further information, please visit www.nedungunamramar.com or contact Badhri Bhattar at 94452 15776

Lakshmana's Bow now visible

28 comments:

  1. awesome and beautiful coverage and description, good work

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  2. great - shall take up and visit in my next round.
    thanks
    mohan krishnan

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  3. Thanks so much to both of you glad u enjoyed reading about this awesome temple.

    Regards
    Priya

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  4. Very good style and great details and excellent photographs. Continue your good work. One small correction in the sanctum Lakshmana is seen with anjali hastham .

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  5. Dear Sir,

    Thank you for your valuable comment. Apart from Anjali Hastham Lakshmana also has a bow which is not visible in the picture due to the flowers, which you can see in the picture below the post that I have added now.Thanks for pointing it out.

    Regards
    Priya

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  6. You may also check out the temple's website at the link below which provides a better picture http://nedungunamramar.com/images/ramar3.jpg
    Thanks again

    Regards
    Priya

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  7. This is amazing! you are so lucky to be able to visit such interesting and unique temples... and I loved your series on the navabrindavanams... i have visited the one at anegundi and would love to visit the others sometime too..

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  8. Thanks Anu. My prayers for you to be able to visit soon!

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  9. it is really a himalayan task , no words to say about ur service, keep going... royal salute to u..

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  10. thanks so much for your feedback, Mr. Jayaram. Do check out the blog when you find time

    Regards
    Priya

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  11. you have done a great job. congrats. i'm native of nedungunam enjoyed your review. good job.

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  12. so well written, Bravo, we missed this on our recent trip to india; hoep we r lucky to do it next time;

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  13. Thank you so much. My prayers that you are able to do so the next time you are here!

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  14. is there some action taken to clean the temple tank; in fact many of our temple tanks are so dirty while the gopurams adjoing the tanksa re so magnificient. may be the new govt will do something. otherwise the local peole should make an effort.....

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  15. Dear Mr Ramanathan,

    What you mention here is so true...this is a common problem across temples...this temple has been recently renovated and I hope some action is taken soon to clean the temple tank

    Regards
    Priya

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  16. It is believed that Rama stayed at Nedungunam on his way back from lanka. Hence without any weapons.

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  17. Yes, I have mentioned it in the third paragraph line no.4..thanks for reiterating the same.

    Regards
    Priya

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  18. Hi Priya.. Great to see your article. Very nicely done. I'm from there, but looks like there are plenty of news to me. I really see, what I miss when far away from home.. !!!

    Just to mention.. that's my mom and her elder sister were the ones talking to you. Pleasent surprise to see their photos too..!

    Thanks,
    Jagan - jagandublin@gmail.com

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  19. Dear Mr. Jagan,

    I cannot say how delighted I am to receive this message from you. I was feeling very bad about not having been able to take your mom/periamma's number as the pooja had started by the time I left (it was your parent's wedding anniversary on that day :)) and I did not want to disturb them. I wanted to send them this article and also thank them for all their support. I sent the link to Badri Bhattar and asked him to pass it on to your periamma....but now when I heard from you I was so happy that my sincere prayer to Yoga Ramar has come true. Please convey my regards and gratitude to both of them. Your periamma mentioned that the original thalavaralaru of the temple was available only with her. Will it be possible for me to get a photocopy of it? I will be happy to bear all the costs involved with it. Can you help with finding out? Thanks so much Priya.

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  20. Dear Priyaji,
    I am so excited as I am native of Nedunguam.U chatted only with my sisters. After reading the article only I came to know so much about the temple. I am thankful to you to bring that temple and the small village to lime light.
    With Regards and blessings.

    G.Ekambaram,
    Asst General Maanager(Retired)
    Airports Authority of India,
    Chennai
    Air

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  21. This is so fantastic.Thank you so much Sir. Were you the one who ran over the parapet and fell into the well inside the temple and escaped unhurt? It is a pleasure to meet you virtually on the web. Do keep visiting the blog when you find time.

    Regards,Priya

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  22. Dear Priyaji,
    Fell into the well was my elder brother and asked me to drop the rope to climb. It was a miracle.
    Actually Nedungunam is between Vandavasi and Chetpet bus route. (Chennai-Vandavasi-Nedugunam(Chetpet)-Polur or TV Malai. This information may be noted by the devotees intend to visit.

    With regards, Ekambaram.G

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  23. It is indeed a miracle. In fact your entire family is totally blessed by Sri Yoga Ramar. The route details are indeed useful and will be incorporated in the post.

    Thanks so much. I am deeply indebted to your entire family for all the support in bringing this wonderful temple to light :)

    Regards Priya

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  24. Thank you for presenting Yoga Ramar.Excellent to watch. I will visit soon.

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  25. Hi Priya

    I had the fortune of visiting this temple on 27th May. The idol of Lord Rama sitting in yoga mudra posture is a sight to behold. It is a pretty big temple but painting needs to be done on the main gopuram ASAP. All the paintings have lost their sheen in due course of time.
    Along with this temple I also have plans to visit Lord Rama at Vengadampettai.
    Yoga Ramar at Nedungunam is a must visit temple

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