Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sri Sangameshwarar Temple, Erode



The tamil month of Aadi has several special features to it. "Aadi pattam thedi vidhai" is a famous tamil saying. Aadi is the month when farmers sow new crops in their fields. It is the time when fresh water rises in the river and special prayers are offered to Mother Cauvery to yield enough water for a prosperous harvest. This festival is called Aadi Padhinettu (18th day in the month of Aadi) or Aadi Perukku. Bathing in holy waters is said to bring enhanced blessings in the month of Aadi. "Aadi Sevvai Thedi Kuli, Araitha Manjalai Poosi Kuli" is a famous saying. If bathing in a holy river is considered auspicious, how about bathing in a place which is a Triveni Sangam (confluence of three rivers).

Just like the Triveni Sangam in Allahabad wherein Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi merge together, the Triveni Sangam of South India is in Erode where  three holy rivers, Cauvery, Bhavani and Amudha merge together. This place is popularly known as Bhavani Kooduthurai and several thousands of people gather here during Aadi Amavashya to offer prayers for their ancestors . It is believed that if final rites are performed here for those whose death has been untimely , their souls will rest in peace. Also when bodies are cremated here, the skull of the deceased does not burst which is of unique significance. Thousands of devotees gather here during Aadi perukku to take a holy dip in the river and float flowers, lamps and germinated seeds as offerings to the holy rivers.



The Sangameshwara temple stands close to the confluence of these three rivers. The temple is unique in very many different ways. The whole temple is considered to be a Shiva lingam and therefore the Nandi is found outside the temple near the car park in a seperate mandapam facing the temple.

As we enter the temple, the sthala puranam or history of the temple is clearly written (only in tamil though) so that the devotees can have a complete understanding about the significance of the temple before moving through the various shrines. The temple is very well maintained with small gardens and resting places. An interesting and thankfully useful feature is that devotees are allowed to take pictures after depositing Rs.25/- in the counter.

The Adikesava Perumal and Soundaravalli thaayar shrines along with the Narasimha shrine in between are found in the beginning of the temple. Again this temple is one where Shiva and Vishnu shrines are found next to each other within the same campus. 

We walked right down the temple complex to the river bank where a large group of people had gathered. Drums were being beaten and several women were in an exhilarated state. They were carrying pots of water with turmeric mixed in them and neem leaves in their hands. The air was reverbrating with the chants and sounds of the women moving rhythmically to the sound of the drums being beaten.



We stood enthralled, watching them for a while and then went down the steps to take a dip at the point of confluence. It is indeed unfortunate that such a holy spot is being maintained very poorly by the users. Several garments left behind by those who had performed rites for their ancestors lay strewn around the murky waters. Various ingredients used for performing rites are also found in several stages of decay. We had to move quite a bit along the bank to find a clean spot to take a holy dip. It would be good if both the temple authorities and the visiting public are more environment conscious and treat the place with respect and concern.


After our dip, we moved to the Amirthalingeswarar Shrine.  After the churning of the ocean, Sage Parasara is believed to have filled the pit containing the remaining nectar with the waters of all the holy rivers and made a Shivalinga with it. This he called Amirthalingeswara. Lord Shiva appeared in the Linga and promised to remove the sins of those who worshipped him in that form and grant their genuine desires. Those seeking child birth, come to the Amirthalingeswara shrine, and perform abhishekam. Then with wet clothes, the woman carries the Amirthalingam around the shrine thrice and offers sweet pongal to the Lord. It is believed that childbirth is definitely granted.


We then moved towards the Sahasralingeswara Shrine. This sahasralingam (one shivalingam containing 1008 small lingams) is said to have been worshipped by Ravana, the Lord of Lanka. Performing abhishekam to the Sahasralingam is said to rid one of Rahu - Kethu Dosha.


Apart from this, near the banks of the river, we can also worship Gayathri Linga, installed by Saint Vishwamithra. Sage Vishwamithra is said to have installed a Shivalingam here and chanted the Gayathri Mantra and worshipped him which is why it is called Gayathri Lingam.


We then moved towards the Sanctum Sanctorum of Sri Sangameshwara. The huge shrine has several sculptures and beautiful stone carvings on the pillars. One notable feature was the "Kolu" like display of the nayanmars in bronze. Thirumuruga Kripananda Vaariyaar Swamy also finds his place as the 64th nayanmar ,which was a sweet surprise. One can also see Somaskanda - Lord Subrahmanya   flanked by his parents to the right of the Sanctum Sanctorum.




After having a divine darshan of the magnificient Lord, and spending a few minutes praying to him to grant all happiness to everyone, we went around the shrine. The circumambulatory path contains the "Pancha Bhootha" Lingams behind the Sanctum Sanctorum. Similarly the Dhakshinamoorthy found on the circumambulatory path has a very short "Kallala" Tree behind him which looks more like a tuft of a turban.



We then moved towards the Sthala Vriksham Ilandhai Maram. (Jujuba Tree). It is under this tree that Lord Shiva appeared before Kubera as a Swayambu Lingam. It is surprising to find that the tree is still bearing a lot of fruit. The Lingam seems extremely ancient. The story goes like this:
Once Kubera was flying over sacred shrines in his Akasa Vimana when he found a Deer, Cow, Tiger, Elephant, Lion, Snake and Rat drinking water peacefully together in the river here. Knowing that this definitely must be a very sacred place, he came and meditated here to have a vision of Lord Shiva. Pleased by his devotion, Lord Shiva appeared as a Swayambu Lingam under the Jujuba Tree. Kubera worshipped him to his heart's content.

Kubera Lingam

There are seperate shrines for Shani Bhagavan and Dattatreya near the Kubera Lingam.

One other unique feature of this temple is a seperate shrine for Jurahareshwara (Lord of Fever). Jurahareshwara with three heads, three arms and three legs is found only in a few temples in Tamilnadu. He is found here in a seperate shrine and interestingly the dwarapalakas in this shrine also have three heads, arms and legs. Offering Rice, Pepper Rasam, and Araikeerai Kootu (Greens with Dhal) to the Lord is said to relieve people of fever and other ailments.
 Chanting of
"Bhasmayudhaaya Vidhmahe
Raktha Netraaya Dheemahi
Thanno Jurahara Prachodhayaath" 
and worshipping him with Bilva leaves, while offering pepper and cummin seeds is said to relieve people of chronic gastric ailments.



We then moved to the Goddess Vedanayaki Shrine. This shrine again has a mandapam in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum and it was interesting to note that there was a huge book shop there selling various devotional literature. One of the unique features of this mandapam is that there are two identical statues on the pillars on either side facing the sanctum sanctorum. When water is poured over them one of the idols has a smiling expression while the other takes on a crying expression.  This is a classic example of the sculptural excellence of the craftsmen of yore.

Goddess Vedhanayaki, also known as Bhavani and Sangameshwari has been worshipped by the four Vedas themselves which is why she bears that name. She looks divine and welcoming as if waiting for us to visit her. In a moment our hearts become light and we feel her welcoming eyes enveloping us with compassion. To the left of the Sanctum Sanctorum here, there is a special chamber that houses the Golden Cot given to the temple by a British Collector, William Garrow in 1804. 



Garrow, who was then the Collector of Coimbatore had visited Bhavani and was staying in the Traveller's Bungalow. One night, a young girl came to the bungalow as he slept and asked him to come out. As he came out, lightning struck the building and it collapsed. When he turned around to thank the little girl, she had disappeared. Believing that the girl who had come to save him was Goddess Vedanayaki, the Collector wanted to worship her. Since entry to foreigners was restricted at that time, he asked for three holes to be made in the outer wall of the temple facing the Goddess's shrine through which he worshipped the Goddess. As a token of gratitude, he has presented a Golden Cot to the Goddess on 11.1.1804. A stone inscription bearing this information is available outside the chamber wherein the Golden cot is placed.

This temple is open between 5.30 am to 1 pm in the morning and 4 pm to 9 pm in the evening. It serves as an excellent "Parihara Sthalam" from child birth to death.  Contact Details : 04256 - 230192.
The third day from Rathasapthami in the tamil month of Maasi (later half of February - first half of March) is a special day here as the sun's rays fall over Sangameshwarar and Goddess Vedanayaki. 

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