Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Kurungaleeswarar Temple, Koyambedu

Koyambedu is a house hold name for Chennaities due to the Central Bus Terminus and the Wholesale Market. Right in the middle of Koyambedu are the twin temples - Kurugaleeswarar Temple and Vaikundavasa Perumal Temple bearing testimony to the life and times of Lava and Kusha, sons of Rama.
It was around 4 pm on Sunday that I received a call from my friend asking if I could join her to visit these two temples and I jumped at the chance. It was a little after 5 pm when we reached there. The temple was extremely crowded as it was Raagu Kaalam on Sunday(4.30 to 6 pm) and the temple is famous for the Sarabeswara pooja and homam during this time.

This temple is about 1500 years old. The story behind the temple goes like this:
After Rama sent a pregnant Sita to the forest on hearing the accusations made by a washerman about him having accepted a woman who had stayed in an enemy's palace for several months, Sage Valmiki gave her shelter and brought her to his ashram at this very place. It was here that she gave birth to twin boys, Lava and Kucha. The young boys were trained by Sage Valmiki in archery and academics.

In the meantime, Rama was planning to hold an Aswamedha Yagna and as part of the protocol, sent the sacrificial horse around the country. When the horse entered the ashram of Sage Valmiki, the two boys arrested it by building a fence of arrows around it. This is why the place is called Ko (horse)+ Ambu (Arrow) + Pedu ( Fence). When Rama heard that two little boys had held the sacrificial horse captive and had also defeated the soldiers and Lakshmana who had come along with it, he came looking . The children, not knowing that it was their father, started shooting arrows at him. When Rama took out his Rama Baana to shoot the children, Sage Valmiki intervened, and introduced Rama to his children, which is how they came together.

To overcome the sin of fighting against their father (பித்ரு சாபம் ), the Sage asked the children to pray to Lord Shiva. The little boys made a shiva linga true to their size, and worshipped him. The Shiva so worshipped by the children is small in size, more like an overturned earthern lamp and is called Kurungaleeswarar or Kuchalavapureeswarar as he was worshipped by Lava and Kucha.The Shiva shrine faces north which is a unique aspect of this temple."வடக்கு பார்த்த சிவனும் இல்லை, மடக்கு போன்ற லிங்கமும் இல்லை" describes this unique aspect very aptly. 
A picture depicting Lava and Kusha praying to Kurungaleeswara
The temple is an architectural delight. The Sanctum Sanctorum and the circumambulatory path around it are a treasure trove. Around the main shrine there are idols of Lord Nataraja, a huge Shiva icon, 63 nayanmars, Lingothbhava, Chandikeshwara, Vishnudurga, Dhakshinamoorthy and Ganesha. Apart from this, there is also a seperate shrine for Ganesha.  This temple is said to have had the first pradosha pooja ever performed here and is hence called Adipradhoshapuri.
People sitting and writing Om namachivaya in the temple
Another notable feature was people sitting and writing Om Namasivaya everywhere in the temple. I was extremely delighted at the sights I saw and at the same time was feeling extremely frustrated as something went wrong with my camera. As you can see in the pictures, either the top portion or the right end of the pictures was coming out blurred and I could not figure out the reason why. The light was fading and I was getting extremely anxious to capture as much as possible on camera to treasure and share. I hope I am able to visit again some time and get better pictures for I still do not know what went wrong with my camera.
Painting of Sarabeshwara holding
Narasimha in the temple
Sarabeshwara pooja was going on in full swing in a seperate mandapam and there were several people witnessing it.There was also an elderly lady who was reciting songs from Thevaram and Tiruvasagam - a real delight to hear.

In this temple, the shrine of the Goddess, which is usually found to the left of the Lord, is found on the right side here. The Goddess is called Dharmasamvardhini or Aram Valartha Nayaki. The Goddess has her left foot forward as if coming down to answer the prayers of her devotees which is noteworthy.
Way to the Shrine of Dharmasamvardhini
Just outside the Ambal Shrine, we find the Navagrahas so unique, unlike in any other temple. Surya with his two wives is on a chariot drawn by seven horses and charioteered by Aruna, and below the chariot on a circular base the other grahas are placed. I do not recall having seen this type of structure for Navagrahas anywhere else. It was looking unique and extremely beautiful.

A poor picture of Surya on his chariot

To the left of the Kurungaleeswara shrine, is the shrine of Muruga with Valli and Deivanai.Saint Arunagirinathar has sung in praise of this Muruga calling him "Kosainagar Vaazh Muruga". There are beautiful paintings in each of the shrines in the temple needing maintenance. They add an additional aesthetic value to the ancientness of this temple.

Painting of Valli Deivanai Murugan at the temple

We came out of the Murugan shrine, by which time the Ragu Kaala pooja was getting over. I stopped by the beautiful Nandi - again absolutely unique. The Nandi has a rope (மூக்கணாங்கயிறு ) through its nostrils with a leg bent very prominently as if in a raising position.
The Beautiful Nandi at the temple
We joined the crowd that was queuing up for collecting tamarind rice being distributed as prasadam. After enjoying the delicious prasadam, we moved out of the temple towards the Vaikundavasa Perumal Temple. The Stala Vriksham ( temple tree) here is the பலா மரம்  ( Jackfruit Tree). Jackfruit was also being sold outside the shrine so the whole frontyard had the aroma of jackfruit wafting through the air which gave a very unique feeling.

There is a multi-pillared mandapam located between the two temples. The figure of Lord Sarabeswara is found in one of the pillars and a homam was being conducted there where several people had gathered. We were lucky to be there just at the time of Poorna-ahuti (the time when offerings are made to Agni and the Lord of the Homam to signify completion of the homam and to seek answering of prayers).

A picture of the Homam from across the road
We then moved into the Vaikundavasa Perumal temple. By this time, it had become completely dark and it was difficult for me to take pictures with my already non-cooperative camera. The Perumal temple was relatively quiet. There is a hanuman shrine to the right when you enter and a beautiful dwajastamba and Garuda shrine in the center.
As you join the queue to reach the main Sanctum Sanctorum, there is a shrine of Rama wearing "Maravuri "(costume made from tree bark used during his time in the forest ) and Sita like an ordinary woman with her hair tied up in a "Kodali Kondai"(normal hairstyle for housewives when they are doing domestic chores). Lakshmana who is usually found along with Rama and Sita is not to be seen here.

The Lord Vaikundavasa Perumal is seen as he gave darshan to Sage Valmiki along with Lava and Kucha.
He is seen in a standing posture here, which is unusual along with Sreedevi and Boodevi. Usually Vaikundavasa Perumal is found in a sitting posture.There is yet another unique feature here. Usually Perumal has his right hand as Abhaya Hasta and left hand as Varada Hasta. Here the Utsavar has a raised left hand as if he is inviting the devotees to come to him. Just outside the main shrine, on the right side, there are idols of Sage Valmiki, with Lava and Kucha on either side on the same stone, and a pregnant Sita as she was in Sage Valmiki's ashram.

Once we step out of the main shrine, to the right as we proceed to the Kanakavalli thaayar temple, we find two Bael Trees (வில்வ மரம்) with a Neem Tree (வேப்ப மரம் )in between that have grown together. This is said to symbolise the marriage of Meenakshi Sundareswara where Lord Shiva and Vishnu are found on either side of Meenakshi as Vishnu gives away her hand in marriage to Shiva. Several people come and pray here for getting a good marriage alliance.

Apart from the Thaayar shrine there is also a beautiful andal shrine in the temple.I hope I visit again soon to see Vaikundavasa Perumal and hopefully then my camera cooperates so that I get some good pictures to treasure.My sincere thanks to the bhattar at the Kanakavalli thaayar shrine who shared all the unique information about the temple despite the crowd there, and also for kindly inviting me to participate in the Dhavanothsavam starting on 4th of March 2011.

How to reach the temple:
Koyambedu is well connected from all parts of the city by bus. If you are coming from Tambaram side, you have to cross the CMBT Bus Terminus and take a left just opposite to the Nathella Sulochanamma Kalyana Mandapam. If you coming from the other side, the temple is on the first right turn opposite to the Kalyana Mandapam once you cross the flyover.


  1. Interesting post Priya. Though I knew the existence of these temples, I didn't know the facts that you gave.I sure will visit this temple soon. You should visit the Dhavanothsavam and cover it too. I am myself likely to participate in one on 4th, God willing..Will write about it then and let u know. Eager to see your post on Dhavanotsavam as well.. Thanks

  2. Let us hope I am able to do so.If I do, I will definitely write about it.

  3. This was really interesting and informative. I had heard of a temple at Koyambedu, but didnt know that it was such an interesting one. next time i am in chennai, i will certainly visit it!

  4. Hello,
    Namaskaram. It is very interesting facts on the Temple at Koyambedu. We will try to make it a point to visit this temple during our next visit to Chennai.

  5. Well ... interesting, nice posting...

  6. Thanks so much Anu, Messers Subbu & Bharat!

  7. very eager to visit the temple. I will definitely visit the temple next week.

  8. please also write about some other ancient temples near chennai (padal petra sthalam).ramani

  9. Dear Mr Ramani,

    I will definitely do so....god willing!

  10. Last last Saturday, being the only Sanipradosham falling in this year without any previous plan, me and my friend happened to visit this temple. Browsed to know further details of this temple, saw your blog Priya. Felt extremely happy.

    Good job.. Keep going...

    God Bless you..
    Chitra p m

  11. Happy it was useful to you, Chitra

  12. I work in koyambedu whoesale market and go over this temple almost regularly, but never went inside. Having read this I understand what I was passing by all these days.

    Henceforth will step in once a while and get the peace of mind


  13. Thank you very much, on reading this blog, i went to Koyakmbedu today and had a great darshan, both the temples are great, its a great feeling to realise that i am standing on the same place where Rama and Sita walked once,

  14. Thank you so much for sharing your sentiments, Mr. Chanakyan. I am deeply grateful.

    Regards, Priya

  15. Deeply grateful to you Priya! This temple is surely going to be on my agenda when I visit Chennai next. I liked the way you documented the history of the temple. Maybe, you could have probably incorporated some quotes by devotees or vadhyars. It's absolutely exhilarating to learn that Rama and Sita passed through Chennai. Awaiting more :)

  16. Hi Akshay, thanks for your inputs. I do not generally speak to the Vadhyars in a manner of conducting an interview. That makes them conscious, as they have to get approvals from Executive Officer etc. So I ask them about the history and uniqueness of the temple after introducing myself and the blog. But I make sure I share the proof with them before I publish to make sure I have the information correct.

  17. From agasthiya vijayam magazine (www.agasthiar.org).
    According to mahaguru agasthiar, this is the first temple in the earth where the pradhosham celebration has started and slowly became followed in the other temples. Attending 1 pradhosham in this temple is equivalent to attending 1000 pradhosham in once's life. Also this is the temple where nandi's ego was slashed by the help from the goddess. A siddhar called kodukuvaal kudumi siddhar is present in one of the pillars holds the power of entire cosmo in his tuft (kudumi) and another avadhoothu siddhar can be seen inside the sanctum sanctorum of lord shiva. Saraswathi inside the lord shiva sanctum sanctorum has been worshipped by one of the pandavas. Jureswarar present in the sanctum sanctorum of shiva can relieve one from the severe fever.

  18. I was of the impression that pradosham started at Suruttapalli. Can you tell us in which pillar the Kodukkuvaal siddhar can be found? Thanks Priya

  19. Yesterday only I visited the temple and its really nice to see.

  20. great article...I used to go often to this temple.... I have been visiting temple in chennai.... you may know....but I would like to share one more Sarabeshwar temple in madambakkam dhenupureeswarar temple near by tambaram.... please find the link below...
    it is very old historical temple...



  21. when i look for any temple details in web, always I am getting interesting facts at your blog about the temples.
    I am wondering.
    you're doing great service to this society.

    S Sridhar

  22. I do visit this temple regularly. I knew it was once the ashram of sage valmiki and birth place of lava and kusha. But i was not sure about the many facts that was given in this blog. After reading only, i can able to find out that there are many unique features in shiva temple. Next time i will try to take some pics and will share it.


  23. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

    Shared Homam

  24. Nice write up Priya. I happenned to visit these temples today. Pradosha kaala pooha was really noteworthy. Your narrative really helped understand the sangithyam of these two temples. Keep up the good work :)

  25. Nice write up Priya. I happenned to visit these temples today. Pradosha kaala pooha was really noteworthy. Your narrative really helped understand the sangithyam of these two temples. Keep up the good work :)

  26. I visited these temples today and it was a very memorable experience. Thank you for sharing details in such narrative fashion. I actually relived the whole trip and learnt about the saangithyam behind these temples. Keep up the good work :)

  27. Appreciate all the information. I grew up in Koyembedu and we knew that Lava,Kucha worshipped in this temple. other than that, all information are news.. great to hear...

  28. Appreciate all the information. I grew up in Koyembedu and we knew that Lava,Kucha worshipped in this temple. other than that, all information are news.. great to hear...

  29. Many thanks for your information. I am new blogger from Madurai much interested in spirituality. We have a nice sculpture of Sarabeshwarar at Madurai Meenakshi temple. we welcome you to Madurai Meenakshi temple and write more...

    please peep into my www.spiritualmadurai.blogspot.com

  30. I have heard about lots of temples in and around chennai. These temples i missed to visit. I have once gone to denubureeshwarar temple at Madampakkam village. Old Bharatwajeshwarar Temple at Choolaimedu and near Kodambakkam Power House area.