Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sri Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal and Ranganathar Temples, Tiruparkadal

A couple of weeks ago, I was going to Vellore on official work. Just before getting into the car, I remembered the bottle of ghee and oil that Sri.Rajendran (Raju's Temple Visits)had given me to hand over to a temple during our recent meeting and what better place to hand it over than Thirupparkadal near Kaveripakkam.

Thiruparkadal Temple - Then and Now!
I was also curious to find out how the temple looked now since my last visit. My previous visit was while the renovation work was going on because of which I could not have a comprehensive view of all the specialities of the temple.

Thirupparkadal is off the Chennai - Bangalore Highway, about three kms from Kaveripakkam. There is a board available on the Highway indicating the turning to the left as we proceed from Chennai. From the main road, to the twin temples of Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal and Athi Ranganatha Perumal there are adequate number of prominent signages enabling us to reach without any difficulty. 

The temple tank - water is filled through hose pipes as and when
The temple was freshly painted in bright colours and in contrast to how it was when I had last seen it. The prototype of the moolavar stood out brightly signifying the uniqueness of the temple. The temple tank had also been cleaned up and filled with minimum water - which in a way was way better than the Thiruputkuzhi temple a few kilometres away where the temple tank is so pathetically maintained, its steps are a potential triptrap for those who step in wanting to sprinkle the water of the Jatayu Theertham on their head.

So what is so special about Thirupparkadal and why is it called so? Here is the story for those who already do not know it!
Lord Venkatesa standing on the Avudaiyar
"Hariyum Shivanum Onnu ....Ariyaadhavan Vaayila Mannu" (Lord Vishnu and Shiva are one and the same)is a famous tamil proverb. This can be visually observed at Thirupparkadal where Lord Venkateswara stands on a Shivalinga. How did this come to happen?

Sage Pundareeka, a staunch Vishnu devotee, was in the habit of visiting "Thirupparkadal" to worship Lord Vishnu everyday. He was on his way one Vaikunda Ekadesi day when he got delayed. Therefore he decided to worship the Lord at the nearby village temple before the "Ekadesi naazhigai " was over. He saw a small temple and Pushkarni at this village which was then called Avani Narayana Chaturvedi Mangalam. After quickly bathing in the pond, he went into the temple only to find a Shivalinga (Dooseshwara) at the Sanctum Sanctorum. Disappointed that he had not got a glimpse of Lord Vishnu as he had expected, and worried that he would not be able to worship him before the auspicious time was over, he walked out of the temple.

An old man appeared before him and asked him why he was so sad. When Sage Pundareeka narrated what had happened, the old man told him that what he had seen was indeed Lord Vishnu's shrine and invited him to go along with him inside the temple. On reaching the Sanctum Sanctorum, the old man disappeared and Lord Vishnu gave darshan to the Sage as Venkatesa Perumal standing over the Shivalinga. From that day, the Lord is called Pundareeka Varadhan and the Pushkarni is called Pundareeka Pushkarni.

I took the Oil/Ghee bottle from the car and entered the temple, observing the brightly "tiled" thinnais on either side of the entrance where people sat. This temple had become like many others that had fallen prey to modernization - the marriage of the ancient sculptures on the pillars with the glazed tiles on the platform and walls was quite jarring to the eyes!
Glazed Tile Thinnai
We went into the temple and reached the Dwajasthambam. One of the several unique features of this temple apart from the Moolavar himself is the Garudalwar. Here the Garudalwar wears nine serpents as ornaments. This Nagabaranabhooshana Garudalwar when worshipped on Aadi Swathi (his birthday) is said to grant boon of childbirth.

After worshipping the Garudalwar, we walk over the wooden platform that has newly been installed to go into the Sanctum Sanctorum. The Lord Venkateswara stands in all his magnificence, a sight that cannot be witnessed in any other temple, on the "Avudaiyaar".

Moolavar picture courtesy: Wikipedia
The bhattar, Mr. Vengatrangan, is very cordial and devoted. He accepts the offering of ghee and oil which is special in this temple, and adds them to the lamps in the sanctum sanctorum. We stand in awe and gratitude, watching the Lord as the archanai is performed. Vengatrangan, also explains the significance of "Pradhosham" in this temple. As the Lord manifests himself with features of both Shiva and Vishnu, Pradhosha pooja is performed specially in this temple. Thirumanjanam (Abhishekam) is done to the feet of the Lord that stands on the base of the Shivalingam, and Archana is performed with both Tulasi and Bilwa leaves, something that is unique to this temple.

I observed two sets of utsavar idols in the sanctum sanctorum and enquired about them. Mr, Vengatrangan explained that one was the "Selvar" and that utsavar stayed inside the sanctum sanctorum accepting thirumanjanams on behalf of the moolavar as and when necessary while the other was the utsavar that was taken out in procession and on festival days.

We requested him to open the Kalinga Nardhana Krishna Shrine. He asked us to worship at the other shrines and come there by which time he would cater to the other devotees who were waiting. We thanked him and moved out towards the Alarmelmangai Thayar shrine. While doing so the Vimanam of the temple caught our attention. Recently painted in bright gold colour, the Vimanam is called Pundareeka Vimanam or Ananda Nilaya Vimanam. It has

1. Gajendra Varadhar ( Lord Vishnu sitting on an elephant) towards the east;
2. Sri Dhakshinamoorthy towards the South;
3. Sri Lakshmi Narasimha towards the west; and
4. Brahma towards the North.
The four faces of the Ananda Nilaya Vimanam
After worshipping the Vimanam, we proceeded towards the Alarmelmangai Thaayar Shrine. The Goddess, looked compassionate and welcoming with lotus flower in hand and a huge Srichakram installed at her feet. Girls seeking good alliance make garlands of turmeric sticks and offer to the Goddess on fridays.

Alarmelmangai Thaayar amidst the glittering tiles
After praying at the Thaayar shrine, we moved next to the Andal shrine. The Andal looks extremely regal in very simple attire and as usual is found to the left of the Perumal shrine.
Beautiful Andal
We next moved to the Nagaraja shrine. Here seven serpent statues are found on a pedestal and there is a statue of Lord Krishna dancing on Kalinga over them. This shrine is specially frequented by young girls seeking good alliance who light nine lamps with lemon peel on tuesday and make nine circumambulations around the shrine.
Nagaraja Shrine
By this time, the Navaneetha Krishnan shrine had been opened by Shri. Vengatrangan. We went in to see an extremely charming Navaneetha Krishna. With a ball of butter in one hand, and one leg raised to dance he was gloriously decorated in "Vennai Kaapu" (butter). Since we were visiting just after Krishna Jayanthi, we offered our special and sincere prayers to him and also partook the delicious butter that was offered as prasad.

After worshipping Lord Anjaneya who is found here in a seperate shrine we moved towards the Ranganatha Perumal Temple.
The Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal temple is open from 7.30 a.m to 12 noon 4.30 p.m to 7.30 p.m.
Contact Details: R.Vengatrangan - 94868 77896

The Ranganatha Perumal Temple is still under renovation. It is one of the temples that take an additional step in educating devotees on how to worship in a temple. As one enters the temple, there is a board which clearly states how one must go about worshipping at the temple.

As the Board mentioned, we went around the temple once. Our attention was drawn to the very powerful Sapthaka Vimanam. The Sarathsaaranga Bheejaksharam is said to reverberate very strongly in "Athi Maram" (Fig tree Board). Since the Moolavar in this shrine is a Swayambu Moorthy formed in Athi maram the Sapthaka Vimaanam is said to powerfully reverberate the Sarathsaaranga Bheejaksharam. This is said to have rescued seven rishis (Saptharishis) from a cyclone which is why the ancient name of Tiruparkadal was Thirukaraikanda Puram.

The temple is simple with just one one Artha Mandapam with 24 pillars, and one Mahamandapam which includes the Sanctum Sanctorum. We first stop at the Ranganayaki Thaayar Shrine. The Goddess looks very mature and motherly waiting to take care of all the prayers of those who worship at her feet. Girls seeking alliance perform abhishekham with honey and offer garland of 116 lemons to have their prayers fulfulled.

We then move to the Athi Ranganatha Perumal Shrine. The Lord is absolutely awesome. A swayambu moorthy of over nine feet long and 3 feet high manifested in "Athi Maram" he lies on Adhi Seshan with Sridevi and Bhoodevi at his feet, and Brahma arising out of his navel on a lotus. The measure(Marakkaal) under his head signifies that he is the one that feeds the Universe. Because he is a Swayambu Moorthy, there is no Thirumanjanam performed but only Thaila Kaapu.

Significance of the Athi Ranganathar:

Once Chitragupta, the accountant of Sins and Virtues became frustrated and depressed counting the Sins of innumerable people in Bhoolokha. He sought a solution from Brahma who asked him to worship the Athi Rangar at Thiruparkadal by performing a Homa with Athi (fig) tree sticks. When Chitragupta worshipped Athi Rangar and applied the Fig Oil (Athi Thailam) on his forehead he was cured of his stress and depression. Pleased that he was relieved of his ailment, Chitragupta agreed to reduce the burden of sins of those who worshipped Athi Ranganathar here.
The dilapidated Thulasi Madam at the Ranganatha Swamy Shrine

It is also believed that Maharaja Harischandra worshipped Athi Rangar to strengthen the determination to speak only the truth due to which this place is also called Satyavratham.

The Bhattar patiently explains the Sthala Puranam and offers Harathi, clearly showing the Pathathi Kesa darisanam of a Lord so exquisite. It was really nice to see that the Bhattar was spending time in educating the devotees on the right way to receive theertham and Sadaari, also telling them not to step on the main step to the temple (Vasapadi) and houses, as Mahalakshmi is said to reside there.

The Sthala Vriksham here is a combination of Vanni and Pinna Marams growing together. Going around the Sthala Vriksham seven times is said to protect one from evil spirits.

The temple is a private temple being renovated and therefore in need of funds.Contact Details: Shri. Nandakumar - 04177-254442/ 9442313789

Significance of the twin temples at Thiruparkadal:
1. The Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal Temple has both Shiva and Vishnu and the Ranganatha Swamy Temple has Vishnu and Brahma - therefore it is a Trimurthi Kshetram.
2. It is said to be equivalent to the 107th Divya Desam - Thirupparkadal which cannot be seen in the material world. Therefore, along with the Divya desams one could also worship at this shrine as an Abhimaana Kshetram.
3. Lord Vishnu gave darshan to Pundareeka Maharishi on the Aavudaiyaar on Thiruvona Nakshatram Vaikunda Ekadasi day. Therefore this is a thiruvona nakshatra shrine.
4. Pradhosham is special here when Thirumanjanam is performed to the feet of the Lord that stands on the Aavudaiyaar.
5. Donating ghee and oil mixed at this temple is said to reduce the burden of sins as per the promise of Chitragupta.
6. Athi Ranganathar is a naturally formed moorthi in fig wood. Worshipping him is possible only if it is destined so.
7. Both temples are Kalyana Parihara Sthalams.

If you happen to be travelling in this part of the world, do make it a point to visit these unique shrines!