Saturday, September 29, 2012

Young Again!

The Gopuram and the Gurukkal of Elamai Aakinar Temple, Chidambaram

Thiruneelakanda Kuyavanaar was a resident of the temple town of Chidambaram. No one really knew what his real name was. This potter was well known for his deed of giving away a bowl of alms (Thiruvodu) free to a Sivanadiyaar ( devotee of Lord Shiva) before selling his other wares. His lips chanted "Thiruneelakandam" all the time that he came to be called "Thiruneelakandar".

His wife, Ratnachalai, was an equally pious woman and she supported her husband ably in all his activities. Thiruneelakandar's youthful feelings happened to lead him to solicit another woman. When his wife came to know of this, she was shattered. When Thiruneelakandar tried to touch her, she forbade him, swearing in the name of Thiruneelakandam that the hand that touched another woman should never touch her.

Thiruneelakandar was shocked, but repentant. Since that day, he never made an attempt to touch his wife or any other woman. They stayed together, and performed all other tasks as a married couple. Time went on, and both Thiruneelakandar and his wife grew old. But their noble task of making and giving away bowls of alms to devotees of Lord Shiva continued. They spent every moment of their lives in prayer and thoughts of the golden feet of the Lord.

Painting depicting the various events that took place in the life of Thiruneelakanda Nayanar

No one knew about this vow and the issues with them. As days passed, Lord Shiva had a desire to test the strength of devotion of Thiruneelakandar. He appeared before him in the guise of a Sivayogi. Thiruneelakandar welcomed him with happiness. The Sivayogi gave him a "Thiruvodu" and asked him to keep it safely till he returned from pilgrimage. The potter took it and placed it safely in his house. 

The Yogi returned after a few days and sought the bowl he had left behind. Despite searching high and low, Thiruneelakandar was unable to find it. He told the Sivayogi that he was not able to find the bowl, but would give him a bigger and better bowl instead.

The Yogi was angry. He refused the offer of a new bowl and insisted that his own special bowl be returned, failing which he would make a complaint to the 3000 Dikshidhars of Thillai (Chidambaram) that Thiruneelakandar had stolen his bowl.

The potter was aghast. He told the Yogi that even in his thoughts he had not dreamt of stealing the vessel and he sincerely did not understand how it had gone missing. If that was the case, the Yogi asked him to hold his son's hand and swear that he had not stolen the bowl.

Thiruneelakandar and his wife Ratnachalai

Thiruneelakandar told him that he did not have a son. So the Yogi asked him to hold his wife's hand instead. Thiruneelakandar said he could not do that either. So the Yogi took the case to the Thillai Dikshidhars who ruled that Thiruneelakandar had to hold his wife's hand and dip in the tank of the Thirupuleeswarar temple in order to prove his innocence.

Without knowing what to do, Thiruneelakandar and his wife dipped into the tank, both holding either side of a bamboo stick. When they came out of the water, they found that their youth had been restored and the Lord appeared before them with Devi Parvathy and praised their sincere devotion, due to which they had spent their entire youth in celibacy just to upkeep the vow that had been taken in the name of Thiruneelakandam.

The Thirupuleeswaram temple was called so because Sage Vyagrapathar had installed the Thirupuleeswarar and Goddess Tripurasundari at the temple and worshipped them. From the time, Thiruneelakandar and his wife regained their youth, the temple has come to be known as Elamai Aakinaar Koil and the Lord and Goddess are called Yavaneshwarar and Yavanambigai.  The temple tank is called the Elamai theertham.

The Elamai Theertham where Lord Shiva turned Thiruneelakandar and his wife young again

It is indeed heartening to see the tank clean and well maintained, with the gates displaying notice from the Police Department that using the tank to bathe or wash clothes is punishable. The temple is large and empty. 
We went around the empty praharam, while I was busy visualing how the temple would have looked during Thiruneelakandar's times. The praharam had idols of Thiruneelakandar and his wife, standing apart, as well as the "Naalvar". 

A large Nandi that was probably placed in the Sanctum Sanctorum once upon a time, lay discarded, now being used as a stand for the water hose.

Abandoned Nandi

Another noteworthy feature of this temple is that it is not just associated with the life and times of Thiruneelakanda Nayanar but is also associated with Kanampulla Nayanar.

The story of Kanampulla Nayanar is heartwarming. He was from the village of Irukkuvelur, near Salem. He was a rich man, whose passion was to light lamps in temples of Shiva and worship him. Desirous of worshipping the Lord in Chidambaram, he came to the Thirupuleeswarar Temple, and continued his service of lighting lamps.

Lord Shiva wanted to test his devotion as well. His wealth started depleting and he was compelled to sell his household articles one by one, in order to buy oil for the lamps. This did no deter him from continuing his service. Very soon, he did not have any article to sell. He then started cutting straw from the riverside (Kanampul) and selling it. With the money he got, he purchased oil for the lamps. 

One day he could not sell any straw. Disappointed and not knowing how he could light the lamps at the temple, he came to Thirupuleeswaram and tried to light the lamps with the straws that were unsold. But the straws burnt out immediately. Determined to continue his service at any cost, he burnt his hair in order for the lamp to continue burning. 

Pleased with his devotion, the Lord appeared before him, and took him into his abode.

Kanampulla Nayanar who burnt his hair in order to keep the temple lamp burning

There is an idol of Kanampulla Nayanar in the outer praharam in memory of the events that took place in this very temple. After worshiping Lord Yavaneswarar and Yavanambigai, we moved out of the temple. Worshipping them, is said to keep one, young and healthy and couples who have misunderstandings or lack of harmony among them, are believed to become united again after worshiping the Lord and Goddess.

Another notable feature of this temple was the huge granary that it had. The temple is clean and well maintained by the Nagarathar community. It would be wonderful if the tourists who visit the Nataraja temple, also make an effort to visit this very significant temple not very far away from it.

The Ancient Granary


During your next visit to Chidambaram, please do make an effort to visit this wonderful shrine!

Contact information:

Elamai Aakinaar Temple,
Kasu Kadai Street,
Near Bazaar,
Chidambaram.

Gurukkal Mobile: 94426 12650. The Gurukkal is available from 8 am to 9 am for daily pujas and then again in the evening. You may also contact Sri Rathnathandava Deekshidhar of the Sabanayagar temple on 94438 94098 for guidance.

Temple Timings: 8 am to 12 pm - 5 pm to 8 pm





17 comments:

  1. Good narrative in a simple language written cogently. Photographs tell us what to expect when one visits this temple. I have missed this Temple when I visited Chidambaram earlier. I am going to visit and pray in this Temple shortly. May be you can think of bringing out a small book-let of the various temples in and around the various towns incorporating the logistical information also. Let God Bless you. R, Ramanisundaram*

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    1. Thanks so much Sir. Raju Sir of Raju's Temple Visits is already on that mission and has been making directories of various districts with complete logistical information. The idea is that he is quite selflessly linking up blogs written by other bloggers also,to the Directory so that a traveler has comprehensive information without browsing through many websites.

      I am of the idea of bringing out a coffee table book, on lesser known temples. Still working on the theme and format of the same.

      Warm regards,
      Priya

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  2. Madam, I have been following your aayam Kanden, Face book, Blog.. Google plus. Your work is noble. I shall contribute what I can. When ever I visit some small, remote Temples, which are un noticed, not maintained , I felt that some think should be done to expose the importance of such Temples.I have been up loading such photos, videos in you tube, face book,and google plus. My sincere support and Best wishes .
    Thank you.
    p soundararajan

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Sir..Do share information on lesser known temples..It is our duty to create awareness and thereby ensure their sustenance.

      Warm regards,
      Priya

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  3. Both these stories were new to me.. and i really enjoyed reading them... the temple looks really interesting too.. its been years and years since i visited chidambaram, but the next time i go, i will surely visit this temple!

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    1. Thanks Anu..I am sure you will enjoy the visit to the temple:)

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  4. Very informative post. It would be helpful if you could also provided references of the story - which book, wiki page if it is there etc. Thanks for this information.

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    Replies
    1. This is part of the Periya Puranam - the compilation of the stories of the 63 nayanmars, the chosen devotees of Lord Shiva.

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  5. Thanks for reminding a few history of nayanmars... I have some nostalgia when i was in school i was asked to read and narrate the story of Kanampulla Nayanar in a temple during a Sivarathri... btw nice at line up.

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  6. I really enjoyed both of these stories and I do hope to visit this temple one day. Thank you for all the work you are doing - I always feel enriched after reading each post!

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  7. Priya you have been doing a wonderful job and a noble cause. Many temples which are very historical , but unknown where many are not aware is now Known. Your are in a way right, it is our duty to spread the awareness.
    In case you happen to travel in between Mayavaram and Thiruvar Road - There is a place called Peralam Junction , one km away from this Peralam is a small village called Thirumeeyachur. the deity is Lalithambal and Meganthana swami. This is where Lalitha saharasa Namam was born and first recited , Apart from this there are various historical references - Please visit this temple - and you have two more temples nearby in the same route , one is Thiru Veezhi mizhalai ( Padi kasu kuddutha idam ) & koothanur ( only saraswathi temple in Tamilnadu ). I will also contribute to you with photographs on Thirumeeyachur.

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    1. Dear Mr Venkateshan,

      Thanks so much for your reply. The temples you are mentioned are quite popular and do enjoy a lot of patronage. My focus is on lesser known temples and I only write about those temples that I personally visit.

      Thanks once again for your offer,

      Warm regards,
      Priya

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  8. Priya something is wrong,the page keeps dancing up & down--------v.difficult to read.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Indu,

      The page is fine. Please check if it is something to do with your internet connection.

      Regards
      Priya

      Delete
    2. நேற்று அவிட்ட nashatra கோவில் பற்றி படித்துவிட்டு பதில் போட்டேன்.காஞ்சி முக்தீஸ்வரர் கோவில் பற்றி படித்தபோது,"அடடா..மேடம் வருவது பற்றி தெரியவில்லையே..காஞ்சியில் இருப்பதால்..பார்த்து இருக்கலாமே என" நினைத்தேன்.நேற்று JAYAPLUS டிவி-ல் திருநீலகண்டர் படம் போட்டார்கள்...ஆடியோ சரியில்லை...குளத்தில் மூழ்கி எழுவது எந்த ஊர்?..என் மனைவியிடம் கேட்டேன்.."திருபுலிவனமொ..என்றாள்.."sivam.org"அடித்து பார்த்தேன்...இடையில் powercut...இப்போது எதேச்சையாக "ஆலயம் கண்டேன்"பார்க்கும் போது"young again"...இறைவனின் பதிலா???எதேச்சையாக நடந்ததா???பெரம்பலூர் அருகே ஒரு கோவில் ஏற்கனவே பெண்டிங்...இதையும் சேர்த்து கொள்கிறேன்...60%--40%

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