Saturday, March 24, 2012

Where the short hands grew!

The first time I heard about Kilakurukkai was through an article in Sakthi Vikatan under the "Aalayam Theduvom" section. Little did I anticipate that I would actually have an opportunity to visit the temple within a couple of weeks of reading about it, along with the REACH Foundation team.

Sri Pushpambigai Samedha Sri Brahmapureeswarar Temple at Kilakurukkai is about 4 kms away from the Mahamaham Tank. Driving thorough the narrow lanes, and asking our way around, we arrived at the once majestic, now dilapidated temple with a thatch in front of the entrance, providing welcome relief against the scorching sun.

There was no gopuram at the main entrance - It probably existed till a few hundred years ago, when this temple had seven praharas and a large, majestic tank. The temple is empty, but for a few children playing hide and seek inside. The Archakar, Ravi Gurukkal, with whom we had already conversed over telephone, welcomes us warmly and takes us into the main shrine.

The Nandi Mandapam in this temple is unique. It has two Nandis side by side  facing the shrines of Lord Brahmapureeswara and Goddess Pushpambikai respectively.

There is an open mandapam which has exquisite icons. This temple is said to have been built during the times of Kulothunga Chola III according to the Gurukkal. There is an interesting story behind how this place came to be known as Kurukkai or Korukkai (as it was called earlier).

Korakka Siddhar, was once on his way to the Brahmapureeswarar temple to worship the Lord. Overwhelmed with fatigue, he rested in a choultry on the outskirts of the town. When he woke up, he found the loose end of the saree of a woman sleeping near him draped across his arm. The shocked Siddhar who had sworn to never touch or be touched by a woman, took the machete that he carried along to clear plants and weeds in temples, and chopped off his hand. Holding the machete under his leg, he chopped off his other hand too.

He then reached the Brahmapureeswara temple, and stayed here for many days, bathing daily at the Chandra Pushkarani and singing hymns in praise of the Lord and Goddess Pushpambigai, clapping his short hands. The Lord pleased with Korakkar's devotion, made his short hands grow back and that was how the place came to be known as KORAKKAI - KORAKKAR + KAI (HAND IN TAMIL) or KURUKKAI - KURUGU (SHORT IN TAMIL) + KAI (HAND).

There is an idol of Korakkar with folded hands in the open mandapa. The Gurukkal mentioned that it could also be an idol of Kulothunga Chola III and the identity is to be confirmed.

Near this idol one can also see idols of Adhikara Nandi and Saptha Swara Ganesha.

 On the other side, there is an idol of Lord Muruga with his consorts. This idol has been moved here from a shrine in the outer prahara that had collapsed earlier. This muruga idol is said to be a musical one as also the Ganesha present here. Tapping the idol from head to toe with a coin could produce saptha swaras! On an alcove behind this idol, one can see an exquisite Kradha Moorthy.

Close up of the Krada Moorthy partially hidden by the idols before him!

Once we cross this mandapa we enter the passage that leads to the Sanctum Sanctorum. Lord Brahmapureeswara who helped Lord Brahma regain his knowledge and wisdom, sits in simplicity, ready to bestow his grace and blessings to anyone who took the effort to visit him. There is only one dwarapalaka - the other one was stolen ! says the Gurukkal.

We close our eyes in prayer. The Gurukkal performs Harathi and describes how the Lord came to be known as Brahmapureeswara or Brahma Gnanapureeswara.

Brahma had once become vain that he was the creator of the universe. To make him realise his state, Lord Vishnu created two asuras - Madhu and Kaidaba from two drops of his sweat, who stole the vedas from Brahma and hid them under the ocean.

Realising his great folly, Lord Brahma sought the forgiveness of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu taking the form of Hayagriva killed the asuras and gave the Vedas back to Brahma. Despite regaining the Vedas, Lord Brahma still did not regain his memory about creation and the knowledge of the Vedas. To help him overcome this problem, Lord Vishnu asked him to come to Keelakurukkai, bathe in the Chandra Pushkarni, perform "Adi Pradhakshinam" and worship Lord Shiva here.

Lord Brahma along with Goddess Saraswathi, worshipped Lord Shiva as suggested. It is believed that on an Avittam (star)day in the tamil month of Avani, Lord Shiva restored the lost memory and knowledge to Lord Brahma, because of which he is called Brahma pureeswara or Brahmagnana Pureeshwara.

This shrine is a recommended place of worship for those born under the Avittam star. Also since it was here that Brahma and Saraswathi regained knowledge and wisdom, children who need improvement in memory and studies, worship at this shrine, on an Avittam star day to see a marked improvement in their academic performance.

The Goddess here is called Pushpambikai. It is believed that when Goddess Saraswathi and Lord Brahma worshipped Lord Shiva here, they also worshipped the Goddess with fresh fragrant flowers and pleased with their devotion, she appeared before them and granted their boon along with her Lord and hence she came to be known as Pushpambigai. 

The shrine totally is quite dilapidated and the Goddess inside, decorated in simple attire, is devoid of any flowers or ornaments. A single lamp glows in the darkness barely providing light to witness the Goddess' face. I had to use the flash on my camera and look at her. It was indeed painful to witness a temple, so rich in mythology, and originally large enough to hold seven praharas, reduced to this state of neglect.

The Goshta devathas around the main shrine are equally adorable. The Nardana Vinayaka (Dancing Ganesha) with the hanging belly is absolutely endearing.

The Dhakshinamoorthy who helped Lord Brahma to regain his knowledge and wisdom by preaching the Pranava Mantra to him at this temple, is also found in a majestic posture. The Peepal tree above his head seems significantly reduced.

Behind the sanctum sanctorum, one can see Ardhanareeswara - so distinguished and elegant at the same time.

Yet another unique feature of this temple is the presence of Vishnu Durga. Unmarried girls present garlands of turmeric sticks for attaining good marriage proposals. She looks magnificient holding Chakra (Discus) and Sanku (Conch)  in either hand.

Chandra is said to have worshipped Lord Brahmagnanapureeshwara here to protect himself from Rahu and Kethu. He is believed to have created the Chandra Pushkarani to perform abhishekam for the Lord. An idol of Chandra along with Bhairava and Chandikeshwara is seen near the outer wall of the temple.The Chandra Pushkarani that once cleansed Brahma, Saraswathi, Chandra and Korakkar is today seen as a common dump yard.

Significance of the temple:
  • It was on the day of Avittam Star in the tamil month of Aavani  that Lord Shiva gave back to Brahma the knowledge of the Vedas and the ability to continue with creation. Since it was the day of Brahmopadesham, it is also the day when new sacred threads are changed every year (Yagnopaveetham). Since the Brahmopadesham is said to have occured here, it is beneficial to conduct Upanayanam (Sacred thread ceremony for young Brahmin boys) at this temple.
  • Among the temples belonging to the 27 stars, this temple is for those born under Avittam Star.
  • This temple has two nandis in the same mandapam facing the shrines of Lord Brahmapureeswara and Goddess Pushpambigai respectively. Girls seeking good marriage proposals and couples who want better harmony in the family, offer a single garland of 4 handlengths made of groundnuts to both the Nandis during Pradhosha time. Groundnuts always grow in bunches and offering groundnuts symbolises prayers to keep couples and families together.
  • Students seeking good memory and knowledge offer garlands made of cashewnuts to the Lord and see tremendous improvement in their academic performance.Cashewnut is the only fruit that has its seeds outside of it. This signifies Gnana or knowledge and hence offering Cashewnuts is significant here.
  • For those born under Avittam Star there are special periods in their lives when they must worship at this temple to overcome challenges.

          Those under the Age of 7 undergong Chevvai Thasai in their horoscope are blessed with good health 

          Those from 5 to 23 years undergoing Rahu Thasai in their horoscope pursue higher education 
          Those between 18 and 40 for good marriage proposal, childbirth and improvement in career/business
          Those between 38 to 60 years for family harmony and spiritual knowledge.
  •  Performing Adi Pradhakshina (Step Circumambulation) around the Sanctum Sanctorum is said to stimulate those nerves connected with memory and knowledge in the brain and therefore, Adi Pradhakshina is a common form of worship here for those seeking higher or spiritual knowledge.
How to reach Kizhakkurukai:

The Sri Pushpambikai Samedha Sri Brahmagnanapureeshwar Temple at Kizhakurukkai is about 4 km from the Western bank of the Mahamaham Tank at Kumbakonam. One can also reach this temple by bus plying via Tharasuram, and Muzhaiyur to Marudhanallur. 

Temple Timings:

Morning 11 am to 1 pm Evening 5 pm to 6 pm

Contact Details:
Shri Ravi Gurukkal - 98658 04862

This wonderful temple is today in a dismal state and definitely needs patronage to restore it to its original glory. Do visit and lend a helping hand!