Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dakshina Ahobilam, Avaniyapuram

Ever since I read about Avaniyapuram Navanarasimhar temple in Shri Raju's blog "Raju's Temple Visits", I had been very eager to visit the shrine. An opportunity presented itself during my last trip to Tiruvannamalai - Along with visits to Nedungunam Yoga Ramar Temple, I thought we could also have the opportunity of worshipping nine Narasimhars in one shrine too.
Climbing up the stairs to reach the main shrine
Avaniyapuram is about 75 kms from Tiruvannamalai.(Coordinates : 12°35'5.7152''N 79°23'10.5464''E).
The temple is in two levels - on the first level there is the Narasimha shrine and on the second level there is Lord Venkateshwara shrine. The most unique feature here - probably something that cannot be found anywhere else in the world is that not only does Lord Narasimha have the lion face, also the thaayar and Garudalwar are found here with lion face. The event when the Goddess prayed to Lord Narasimha to grant her his face, and obtained it through his blessings is celebrated once in 60 years (the tamil calendar has a 60 year cycle) during Sarvadhari Varusham Aani Maasam. This Avataara Utsavam has been performed last in September 2009.
Steps leading to the Narasimha shrine
We were very excited as we climbed up the first level of steps which were not too many or steep and reached the shrine. The temple is open from 6 to 12 am in the morning and 3 to 8 pm in the afternoon. On Saturdays it is open from 6 to 1 pm and 3 to 11 pm in the night. Once we went into the shrine, we found that there was no electricity. The grabagraham was quite dark and we were unable to see what we had come so enthusiastically to witness. We requested the bhattar to go inside and show us the face of the Lord and the Goddess in the light of the Harathi,but he refused saying that after the Utsavar had been placed, he cannot go inside and that even if he did we would not be able to actually identify the lion face in the goddess as the idol was very ancient and the features were no longer clearly evident.
Stopping by to pray to Anjaneya on the way up
We were extremely disappointed. There was hardly anyone inside the temple as they probably knew that there would be no electricity between 10.30 a.m to 12 p.m in the morning. We could see that the shrine across the sanctum sanctorum was that of Garudalwar, and there were shrines for Alarmalmangai thaayar, and five narasimhas to the left of Lord Narasimha but nothing was clearly visible. We decided to move up to the next level to take darshan of Lord Venkateshwara while we waited for the power to be resumed. We started climbing and the sight we saw was extremely spectacular.
Natural rock with lion face and raised paw

There was a huge rock formation in the form of a lion with face, eyes, nose, mane and a raised right paw....It was something that we could not take our eyes off.....indeed one has to see it to believe it!

We moved up the 100 odd steps and reached the next level....fortunately there was some light in the Venkateshwara shrine enabling us to see him clearly, and pray. The legend of the temple says that Lord Narasimha had given darshan to Brigu Maharishi in the form of five Divya desa deities...Tirupathi Balaji, Sholingur Narasimhar, Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal, Srirangam Ranganathar, and the Ahobilam Nava Narasimhars in the lower level.
Sri Venkateshwara at the upper level
Behind the Venkateshwara shrine, in a cave like structure the three shrines of Narasimha, Varadarajar and Ranganathar are found in a row. Here it was absolutely dark and the only way we could have darshan was with the use of the flash in our cameras.
Ranganathar in an unusual pose of facing the devotees
Varadharaja Perumal and Thaayar
From the pictures, you can imagine how dark it would have been. We just aimed in the dark and managed to shoot what we could. In fact the pictures of Narasimhar at this level and thaayar were too dark that I am unable to share them here.
We started moving down with the hope that power would  by then have been restored. But it was not to be. By this time, there were some more people who had come in to offer prayers. I tried my luck with the Bhattar again, asking him to show us the nine narasimhars in the shrine. He was not very friendly and merely said that the Moolavar, Utsavar, Another small Narasimhar in the sanctum sanctorum which was not visible from where we were, the Narasimha on the first level and the five Narasimhas to the left of the Sanctum Sanctorum,  it was nava narasimhars.
The Sanctum Sanctorum where the Moolavar and Utsavar
are partly visible. Over the shrine, you can see Lakshmi
with the lion face

We decided to use the same technique as we had in the first level. With our camera aimed at the general direction of the shrine, we shot pictures of the sanctum sanctorum, the Pancha Narasimhars and the Alarmelmangai thaayar. By the time we could actually shoot the Garudalwar, more people walked in and the bhattar shooed us away.
Alarmelmangai Thaayar

Just like in Tirupathi, where Lord Venkateshwara is in Tirumala and Alarmelmangai Thaayar is at Tiruchanur, here also Lord Venkateshwara is in the first level, while the thaayar is found at the lower level. 
One can stay all day long in front of her and still not have the heart to leave. The Goddess here is so beautiful and magnificient, that one feels so light and joyous just looking at her.
Five Narasimhas in the same shrine
We worshipped the Narasimhars and came out. The sun was shining brightly. I was a little disappointed that I could not get a lot of interesting information about the temple through the Bhattar but,nonetheless this temple is unique in all aspects and definitely deserves a mention.My sincere thanks to Shri.Raju for his very descriptive narration that was useful for us to identify the various unique aspects of this temple.

Thulabharam is a famous prathanai here. We could see some people offering sugar, jaggery and coins equal to the weight of their babies. It is believed that if childless couples pray to offer thulabharam once their prayers were answered, their wish of childbirth is granted, and they come back with the child to offer gratitude.
A view from the top
Some words of caution for those visiting this temple:
1. There is no electricity for best part of the morning so it is better to visit early in the day or in the afternoon.
2. The Bhattar is not very friendly and therefore, may not give a lot of information about the temple.
3. There are not many hotels or eateries around here, therefore, you may want to carry food, snacks, and water.
4. There are several monkeys on the way, who are so sophisticated that even if you have a handbag and a snackbag together in your hand, they would just pull out the snackbag and walk away.
5. There are a large number of beggars who can be quite aggressive.
A monkey having a GOOD DAY at our expense :)
However, these are small challenges compared to the gloriousness of this temple.
The five Divya Desa deities and Nava Narasimhars at one place, a natural rock lion with a raised paw, Lakshmi and Garudalwar with lion faces received in blessing from the Lord and a most enchanting Alarmelmangai thaayar, stay in your eyes and heart as you move away.
Do visit if you happen to be around this part of the world!

20 comments:

  1. Nice writing Padmapriya!
    It is disappointing to note that there is not an inch of development from the time I visited last (more than an year). The bhattar has not changed his angry face (possibly the younger bhattar, might be more courteous); they have not arranged for any invertor or generator. Anyway, as you mentioned, in spite of all these, for the sake of divine and the beauty of the location, it is worth all the difficulties.

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  2. That Lion rock is amazing, no wonder the spot became a Narasimha shrine!

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  3. Dear Raju Sir,

    Thank you for taking time out to offer feedback.I was feeling the same way too. In fact I was telling my brother on our way that things should have improved since I read the blog. Unfortunately, nothing had changed. We could also not meet the younger Bhattar. They say that Manibala Swamigal is doing a lot of developmental work at the temple. Wish he would be able to source some support for regulating the power supply.

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  4. Dear Injamaven,

    You are right! It is indeed awesome....!

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  5. Please be more elaborative on how to reach the temple

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  6. Dear Mr. Suresh, There are several routes to reach this place. It might be more helpful to guide you if I know from where you are likely to travel. From Chennai you could go via Chingleput-Uthramerur-Vandavasi or go directly to Arani by bus and then reach Avaniyapuram which is about 20 km from there. The route I took was from Tiruvannamalai and so we went through Polur, Arani to Avaniyapuram. The geographical coordinates are available on the post and you may find the most convenient route using the same. Hope this information is helpful.
    Regards,Priya

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  7. Dear Priya,

    Hope you are doing good.. Glad to meet you after long while.

    Thanks for your elaborate details about Aaavaniyapuram Sri Narasimhar temple. Me and my one of my friend had nice darshan by yesterday (09-Oct-2011). On reading through various comments on this post, I just want to share more details about temple & Route. This info is specially for fellow bus commuters like us !

    1> Temple timing : 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. & 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Monday to Friday & Sunday)

    On Saturdays only : 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. & 4 p.m. To 8 p.m.

    2> Temple Location : It is located in Between Vandavasi & Arani.. so bus commuters can take bus from any of those destinations.

    Best route(s)

    From Chennai: Chennai to Vandavasi & then get bus from Vandavasi to Arani. (If anyone interested to see more, make sure to get down at Uthiramerur and have nice darshan of Sri Sundara Varadharaja Perumal temple which has three forms of Vishnu. This vishnu deities are placed in three different levels like we have in our besant nagar Ashtalakshmi Temple.

    From Kancheepuram : Get bus from Kancheepuram to Arani & from Arani get any bus towards Vandavasi ( It's about 14 Km from Arani).

    3> The buses won't go near by temple. We have to get down at Main-road and have to walk about 1 km to reach temple.

    4> Make sure to reach temple before 11 a.m. or after 5 p.m. on hot sunny days. There is no shelter on hill foot path. (about 50 - 75 steps to go). The path will definitely roast your bare foot.. :(

    5> Make sure to carry your pooja articles from your home. or Buy it from Arani or Vandavasi. There are not enough shops to buy and Avaniyapuram is very small village which doesn't have eateries too.

    6> Devotees standing area inside temple is so congested and it doesn't have proper ventilation. So please take some enough rest before entering in to sanctum. This is specifically for age old people & those who have Breathing difficulty.

    An appeal :

    If anybody wish to contribute, please make sure to contribute it for shelter (or roof) in hill foot path which is a must need at this moment.

    Hope the above information is so helpful.

    Regards,
    Venkadesh. N

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  8. Dear Venkadesh,

    Thanks so much for sharing this very useful information which is clearly a value addition for the post!

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  9. Priya and Raju Sir.....we are always blaming and finding fault with others about improvisation of temple. I am no way connected with this temple yet or havent seen this temple yet. Lets all be ready to contribute, and let some of us initiate for the shelters through the temple authorities??? Why I write this, because I use to be impressed by Raju Sir's blog of temple visits and he is an inspiration to me...

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  10. Mr. or Ms.Anonymous :)
    I do not think anybody was complaining here about anything. In fact what both Raju Sir and I have written about is lots needs to be done to make visiting this glorious shrine more visitor friendly...It is good that you want to support this temple, please do keep us informed.

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  11. Ms.Priya Thank u for your excellent write up rather exposition.As someone fond of obscure Temples your article was fascinating.We are quite eager to visit this temple.But would u know something about Avaneeswarar temple.Kindly enlighten if any info is available.tks.

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  12. Dear Sir, The Avaneeswarar temple is at the base of the Nava Narasimhar Shrine. I did not know about the temple at the time of visiting here, so did not have the good fortune of worshipping the Maragatha lingam there. There was an article a few months ago on Kumudam Jothidam written by Sri. AMRajagopalan on this shrine. Let me know your email. I will try to find that article and send it to you.I am also planning to visit during my next visit to Arni and god willing it will feature in AK too!

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  13. Ms.Priya Let me continue to be in Anonymous Id for sometime though my name is Ram :)
    Yesterday I visited all these temple though I missed Avaniyapuram. Most of these temples are in very good shape and well maintained. Everyone was appreciating Raju Sir for his service in the Internet! I am ready to extend my help/service to Raju Sir and you. Whatever it may be(financial or service), to my strength. Let us provide some help of whatever mean it could be. Thanks
    Ram - email.ramki@gmail.com

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  14. Ms Priya
    Am sorry if that sounded offending, though I didnt mean it. But I could see there are lot of expenditures to maintain these temples. Few temples were maintained by big Corporate house. Few temples were maintained through the contribution given through people like you and me. What I meant was that we are the ones who has interests in visiting these temple frequently and want others to go.we all should initiate with the temple authorities and do something rather saying "nothing had changed!".

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  15. Maam thank you for your response.my email id is yennar63@gmail.com.kindly pass on as much info u could gather about sri Avanieeswarar temple.My very pious wife,equally pious daughter and i visited Marudamalai and Masaniamman temple near udumalpet recently.Masaniamman temple is nestled at the tip of aanaimalai forest.Goddess Parvathi is in lying down form.U can almost feel like lying near her protective form.She is quite huge in form.The astotrams are done using small bells.One visit and u do feel like going again and again.Infact u feel like living there.In yet another recent trip we visited Sri pallikondeswarar temple near Sriperumbudur.A very fascinating temple.Lord Shiva in reclining form and Goddess Parvathi on whose lap Lord Shiva has kept his head are awe inspiring.Thought i would just share this info.Your write up on appa paithiyaswamy was excellent.keep up the good work.May god bless u.Tks.Ravi Shankar.

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  16. Aarthi Rajesh KhannaOctober 22, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    Hi Priya

    The posting about the Avaniyapuram temple was Gud along with pictures of moolavars taken which is not generally allowed. I would like to write and due to timelessness, I am happy by seeing your posts.
    We visted this temple by 2010 and the pictures show atleast they have been painted now to give a bright outlook to the temple.
    During our visit, we were told that at the first level of Anjaneyar sannidhi, the opposite side , there is a huge rock that fell down and expected to form Shri Narasimha carving as told. Was there any sign of such stories told which we were not very sure.?
    We were also told to visit three narasimhars temples on the same day. Avaniyapuram, Narasimhar (possible the Sakkarathalwar) at Nedunganam Yogaramar Temple and Injimedu. The Injimedu temple also known as Narasingapuram was really awesome. The Idols in the temples speaks and especially Narasimhar and bala hanuman. It was renovated when we went there and does not have a sign of look of Old temple where as the vigrahams over there were very very old ones.The Bhattacharyar Balaji ( based in Nanganallur, Chennai) gives a good explanation about the vigrahams.
    I also like to write about all my temple visits, but in vain due to lack to timelessness and other commitments. I envy you... Keep going with your journey....
    Thanks
    Aarthi

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  17. Good information about the Ahobilam Temple...There is Ahobilam in Andhra Pradesh, which is famous for Nice Incarnations of Narasimha Swamy.

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  18. please visit salem kanjamalai siddeswar temple and you get very experience and put it your blog thanks

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