The tamil month of Aadi is devoted to the worship of "Shakthi" - Amman, Ambal, Devi, Ambigai, Thaayar, Eswari, Mariyatha, Kaaliyatha whatever be the name we call her by, she encompasses everyone in the warmth of her grace and compassion. The new moon day in the month of Aadi is even more special when ancestors are remembered and prayers and offerings made.
This year, Aadi Amavashya fell on a saturday and we decided to visit an "Amman" shrine and what better choice than the Vakrakaaliamman temple in Thiruvakkarai . Being sensitive to the fact that a large number of devotees may be expected, we left early and reached the temple around 8.30 am.
Once we got into the sanctum sanctorum and my eyes adjusted to the dim light inside, the first thing I saw was four women in odd sizes,with tonsured heads, in the place of Dwarapalaka(i)s. While we waited for the coconut to be broken by the designated person,I asked him about them.He said that those women had been milkmaids who sold milk and curds adulterated with water for high profit. When the King heard about this, he ordered their heads to be tonsured, and then chopped off. The women, realising their mistake, ran to the temple and cried at the feet of the Goddess seeking forgiveness. The Goddess appeared before them, forgave their sins and kept them as her Dwarapalakis. What an interesting incident to illustrate the benevolence of the Goddess!
Her head is surrounded by a halo of flames. She wears a skull crown, and the corpse of a new born in her right ear as "Kundalam". Her eight hands carry different weapons like lasso, discus, sword, dagger, damroo, shield, skull cup and her index finger in one left hand points downwards towards the ground. She wears a garland of skulls. She is supposed to have been a fierce Goddess, after destroying a Rakshashi called Dunmukhi. Saint Adi Shankara is said to have calmed her down by installing a "Sri Chakra"under her left foot. She now stands with her eyes looking downwards, her face calm and serene.
The empowered Asura, started harassing innocent people .Those affected by him sought asylum in Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva sought the assistance of Lord Vishnu to destroy the Asura. Lord Vishnu, took the form of Varadaraja Perumal, fought with the Asura and killed him with the use of the Chakrayudha.(Discus)
But that was not the end. Vakrasura had a sister called Dhunmukhi. Once her brother was killed,she wanted to take revenge and started tormenting innocent people. Lord Vishnu sought the help of his sister Parvati, to destroy Dhunmukhi. Parvati took the form of Kaali, and fought with Dhunmukhi who was pregnant at that time. As the killing of a child or pregnant woman is against Dharma, the Goddess tore open the stomach of Dhunmukhi, took the foetus out and wore it as an earring. She then killed Dhunmukhi and stood there as Vakrakaaliamman.
The Poojari brought lemon and kumkum as prasadam and we took them, prayed sincerely to the Goddess and moved out of the Sanctum Sanctorum. Just outside the main shrine there is a Shivalingam called Kandalingam. This is the Shivalingam that had been worshipped by Vakrasura. This lingam is said to be cool in summer and in the rainy season, droplets of water are found over it.
|Deepa Lakshmi Shrine|
A word of caution: Be sensitive to the transgenders who throng this area. They offer to remove the evil eye for Rs.21 per person. If you humour them, they start demanding money. While not being harsh with them, one can gently ward them away.
We moved around the Vakrakaliamman shrine where several people were lighting lamps and camphor cubes.The Goddess Vakrakaliamman is said to be the Adhidevatha for both Rahu and Kethu. Because of this, devotees circumambulate five times clockwise and four times anticlockwise around the Sanctum Sanctorum.
One of the significant features of this temple is the "Jothi Darisanam" at 12 noon on New Moon Day and 12 midnight on full moon days. A stone column stands to the left of the main entrance on which camphor cubes are lit at the set time on both days. Several people visit the temple to witness this Jothi Darisanam. We found that preparations had already started for this ritual being new moon day.
As we completed the circumambulation,we found a Nandi half buried in a small stone pit. Not sure why? There are also several inscriptions at this temple, which had been built during 907 - 957 AD by Raja Aditya Chola, son of Paranthaka Chola I and his brother Kandaradhitya Chola.
|The Nandi in front of the Atmalingam|
We then moved towards the Chandramouleeswarar temple. The Shiva temple is in a seperate complex with its own Nandi and Gopuram. We stood for a few minutes taking in the sight of the magnificient Nandi, towering above the two Ganeshas found on either side of it. The Nandi faces the entrance of the Chandramouleeswara shrine.
However, the Nandi is not in a straight line with the entrance, dwajasthambam and the Shiva shrine. Each one of them slightly away from the other (vakram) which is yet another unique feature of this temple.
|The Nandi in front of the Chandramouleeswara|
Although this is a site where Lord Varadaraja Perumal destroyed Vakrasura, and Goddess Vakrakaali destroyed Dhunmukhi, this place has come to be known popularly as the Chandramouleeswarar temple as it is one of the 275 Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams. Thirugnanasambandar, Thirunavukkarasar and Sekkizhar have sung hymns in praise of Sri Chandramouleeswara. We walk into the shrine not anticipating the delight that awaits us.
Usually Lord Shiva is found in the form of Lingam in temples dedicated to him. It is very rare to find Shiva or Lingam with a human face. There are Shivalingams with five faces in Nepal and Kalahasti. Thiruvakkarai is the only place in India and probably in the World where Lord Shiva is seen with three faces.
The huge lingam with the three faces for Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma respectively, holds you spellbound. The Shiva face is found in direct view. Wearing the Crescent Moon on his head and with Kundalams in his ears, Lord Shiva looks absolutely magnificient. The two faces on either side depicting Vishnu and Brahma respectively can be seen through the mirror while Harathi is performed. The Agora Mugham of Shiva facing the devotees has fangs on either side of the mouth that can be clearly witnessed during Milk Abhishekam.
To the right of Chandramouleeswara, one can find the Nataraja Shrine. This is also unique (vakram) since Nataraja has his right leg lifted up and left leg placed on the ground, contrary to the normal posture. Also his hair is tied up and not flowing, like in other temples.
The circumambulatory path around the Chandramouleeswara temple is a treasure trove of ancient sculptures. The Ganesha under a tree, and another Ganesha with a 2.5 feet Mooshikha in front of him (almost like a Nandi) are enchanting. The Vishnu Durgai found here is half Vishnu and half Durgai, something I have not seen anywhere else. To the left of the Chandramouleeswara shrine, Goddess Amirthambigai can be worshipped in a seperate shrine.
Kundalini Maharishi Samadhi:
The Samadhi of Kundalini Maharishi is found to the right of the Chandramouleeswara Shrine. A huge Shivalingam is found above the samadhi and there are several people in the forecourt of the shrine meditating. We too sat there and meditated for some time. The ease of concentration, and the inner peace felt due to the positive fibrations here are worth mentioning.
We then moved towards the Varadaraja Perumal Shrine which is behind the Chandramouleeswara shrine. One could not help, but notice, the difference in patronage and resources between the Vakrakaaliamman temple and the other two temples in the same complex. It was sad to find the Bhattar in the Perumal shrine instructing people to contribute liberally. The Lord was absolutely breathtaking. Over six feet tall, with a prayoga chakram in hand, he stands alone, without the company of Sridevi and Bhoodevi.
|Varadaraja Perumal with Prayoga Chakram|
This shrine has been built by Kochengat Cholan.
After worshipping Lord Varadaraja Perumal, we moved towards the Navagrahas. When every shrine in this temple speaks of something unique (Vakram) can the Navagrahas be far behind?
We see Shani Bhagavan with the crow is turned towards left, contrary to what we find in other shrines.
Thiruvakkarai is a "Graha Vakra Parihara Sthalam". Worshipping Vakrakaali, Vakralingam and Vakra shani on three consecutive full moon days is said to rid one of any problems arising due to retrograde movement of planets as per horoscope.
Thiruvakkarai is also famous for petrified wood and the Geological Survey of India has created the National Fossil Park here which attracts a large number of visitors to it. The locals believe that these fossils are the bones of Vakrasura that have turned into stone.
How to reach the temple:
Tiruvakkarai (79.65 N, 12.03 E) is about 137 kms from Chennai and about 16 kms from NH 45 (GST Road). While travelling from Chennai,about 2 kms from Tindivanam,there is an intersection at Kooteripattu. Take the left there. This road is called Mailam Road. You will find the Mailam Balasubramaniar Temple, 3 km down this road. Go further down the road. You will find the Vakrakaaliamman temple arch about 10 kms from the Mailam temple.Turn right at this arch. Keep driving and you will reach the temple in about 3 kms. If you are travelling by Bus, there are several special buses from different parts of Tamilnadu to Thiruvakkarai on New Moon and Full Moon Days. On other days, one can travel upto Tindivanam and then take another bus upto Perumbakkam. There are several share autos that ply from Perumbakkam to the temple and back.(7km one way) If one is coming from Villupuram side, they can come via Thirukkanur - Perumbakkam - Thiruvakkarai . Thiruvakkarai is about 30 kms from Pondicherry.
6.00 am to 12.30 pm - 6.00 pm to 8.30 pm. On full moon days the temple closes after midnight.
Arulmigu Vakrakaaliamman Temple, Thiruvakkarai - 604304
Vanur Taluk, Villupuram District, Tamilnadu
Phone : 0413 - 2688949, 2680870