Tuesday, April 24, 2012

King Sibi and the pound of flesh!

King Sibi's sacrifice:

Many of us would know the story of King Sibi - a kind hearted and generous king. One day, Indra and Agni wanted to test him and appeared before him in the form of a vulture and dove. When the vulture chased down its prey to eat it, the dove sought refuge in the lap of King Sibi. 

Sibi requested the vulture to let go of the dove. The vulture refused as he was hungry and asked the King to let go of his rightful meal. The King asked the vulture if he would be satisfied with flesh equal to the weight of the dove to let go of it. The vulture accepted. The King asked for a pair of scales, and without hesitation,sliced a portion of his thigh and placed it on the scales to equal the weight of the dove. 

It is believed that Goddess Parvati (Satyambigai ) was pleased with King Sibi's sacrifice and righteousness and gave him  moksha at this palm grove ( panangadu in tamil ) which is why it was called " Puravar Panangatur" in ancient times. 

The later Cholas are said to be descendants of King Sibi which was why they assumed the title of "Sembian" and rightfully they have built a beautiful temple at the spot associated with King Sibi. That is not all.

Lord Surya's penance:

When Daksha, one of the Prajapatis, conducted a Yagna, he did not invite his son-in-law Lord Shiva. He also insulted his daughter Sati ( who was Parvati in a later birth) who attended the Yagna to seek justice. Angered at this, Lord Shiva sent Veerabadra to ruin the yagna. Veerabadra attacked all the Gods who had attended the Yagna and consumed the havirbagam (sacrificial offering). 

When he hit out hard at Lord Surya, (Sun God), his blow blinded him. The blinded Sun God sought the forgiveness of Lord Shiva. He came down to earth, and worshipped him at Panayapuram. The Lord restored his eyesight and is since called Netra Uttaraneshwara. Surya shows his gratitude till date by worshipping him with his light seven days in a year - starting from the first day of the tamil month of Chithirai (April 13th this year). 

I was lucky to visit the temple on that day. Banners inviting people to visit the temple to witness the "world wonder" were placed right from the NH 45. When we reached the temple, there was a moderate crowd. The temple is indeed a treasure trove. It has pleasing architecture, wonderful icons and powerful vibration. It clearly and easily found its way into my list of favorite temples.

Interesting Sculpture at the entrance
As we cross the gopuram, devoid of idols and enter the temple there is a beautiful "Polla Pillaiyar" (supposedly unsculpted Ganesha) that welcomes us, as if to say this is only a sample of what is in store.

The shrine of Lord Netra Utharaneshwara, also called Kannamarndha Nayanar, in the middle, is unique in its construction. We enter a raised hall, with a corridor around the main shrine and then enter the temple. The Lord sits there in all his magnificence. Goosebumps ran up my arm as Ganesh Gurukkal, the priest at the temple, performed Harathi. The vibration as I mentioned earlier, is extremely powerful and the atmosphere absolutely divine. After worshipping him to our heart's content, we moved around.

This temple is a Parihara Sthalam for people suffering from problems relating to eyesight. Sincere prayers have seen many a devotee have his/her eyesight improved or restored, even in recent times.

The circular corridor has idols of the 63 nayanmars, apart from the Saptamatrikas, Lord Vishnu, Ganesha and Iyyappa. Out of the idols, there was one particular idol of Thiruneelakandar and his wife that caught my attention.

The story of Thiruneelakandar which I will not elaborate here, as I intend to write a seperate post on this later, is a classic example of discipline arising out of true devotion and the idols here are absolutely lovely as you can see.

The Goshta Devathas - Bhikshadana, Dhakshinamoorthy, Brahma, Vishnu and Vishnu Durga speak volumes  of the ancient architectural abilities. I particularly loved the Chandikeshwara.

and the Kala Bhairava.

The Goddess Satyambigai or Puravambigai as she is also known, dwells in a separate shrine. The Goddess is said to be the witness of truth and in case of civil disputes, people come and testify before her. The rightful person in each case has his prayers answered. 

The shrine has a beautiful courtyard in front of it where maybe cultural performances had been held during the times of Rajendra Chola I who is said to have constructed the temple and his son Rajendra Chola II who further developed it. This place is also known as Paravaipuram in memory of Rajendra Chola I's beloved, Paravai Nachiyar. There are inscriptions in the temple which speak about idols of Rajendra Chola I and Paravai Nachiyar that existed in the temple and about the school, community canteen etc. that had been run by the temple in his times.

The Goddess looks benevelont ready to grant the wishes of those who seek her. Outside the shrine, we can see a beautiful Vallabha Ganapathi on one side and Bala Dhandayudhapani on the other- the two sons standing guard outside their mother's shrine.

There is also a separate Nandi outside the Goddess' shrine as she is seen here as Parashakthi. The Gurukkal   invited us to join him at the Sthala Vriksham - the Palm Tree, where the Lord has given darshan to Kanva Maharishi.

The sight that awaited us was absolutely unexpected. Three huge palm trees with a large Shivalingam with Nandis on all four sides, and a small statue of Kanva Maharishi (?) stands out in the open - something that has to be seen to be experienced. We could not capture the complete picture from any angle as the available space in front of it is very limited, but this was something that stayed in my eyes and mind a lot time after we left the temple. It is an absolutely awesome place where I spent several minutes praying.

The Gurukkal had by then attended to the people who had gathered at the Lord Muruga shrine near the Sthalavriksham. He narrated the Sthalapuranam (History) of the temple beautifully. This temple had been in the news recently, about the Highways Department issuing order to demolish part of the temple for road widening work. In fact, the arrow marks made by the Highways Department is still vividly visible on the walls. However, the Gurukkal shared with relief, that this attempt has been stalled and a stay obtained by the temple in a court of law with the support of the villagers and devotees. They have also made a representation to NHAI authorities who have promised that this temple, sung by Thirugnanasambandar would be protected.

It was time to take leave.We walked back to the main shrine where the sunlight was dancing on the Lord through wooden slots that had been specially created in the front mandapa for this purpose. I prayed that this temple should stay safe and protected and should not be demolished even in part, for any purpose.

On our way out, I saw a Ganapathi in one of the alcoves of the Gopuram with an attendant next to him.

On the whole, it was a wonderful experience and a morning well spent.

Location of the temple:
After the Vikravandi Tollgate(before Villupuram) on NH 45, while traveling from Chennai, take the first left. This is the road that goes towards Thanjavur and Kumbakonam. The temple is about 2 kms from the checkpost on the left.

Nearest Railway Station : Villupuram

Nearest Airport : Chennai

Temple Timings:
Morning - 6.30 am to 12 noon
Evening - 4 pm to 8 pm

Contact Details:
Ganesh Gurukkal - 94448 97861

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Hanuman like never before!

Ashtamsa Varada Anjaneya Swamy, in Raja Alankaram
There are several hundreds of temples for Hanuman all over India where the Ramadhootha is seen in different forms and sizes. Whatever be the location, size of the temple or the idol, Lord Hanuman remains a source of strength and a much sought after God for devotees around the world. 

Here is a temple where you can see Anjaneya like never before - with eight unique and distinctive features that set him apart from any other Hanuman, rightly called Sri Ashtamsa Varada Anjaneya Swamy! 

As I stood before him, he seemed to me like a young child in the family, that parents love to dress up,and dote upon, relatives and friends love to visit and adore, a child so special, that brings joy and happiness to everyone who comes to his doorstep!

Another form of Raja Alankara!
The temple is located off the busy Avinashi Road in Coimbatore. The infrastructure is very simple. There is a main shrine for the Ashtamsa Varada Anjaneya Swamy with a Pravachana Mandapam to the left of the temple. So how did this Anjaneya Swamy, the darling of thousands of devotees come to Coimbatore and what do his features signify?
Swaya Roopa Alankaram
His Holiness Swamy Haridoss Giri had given the Moola Sri Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Anjaneya Icons and Seetha Rama Shalagrama that were personally worshipped by him to Shri Rajamani Bhattar,of Tirunelveli, from the generation of Sri Vaikanasa, with instructions to worship them with care and devotion every day and when the time came true, to create a unique temple for Sri Hanuman and instal the idols and Shalagrama in the temple.

Butter alankaram
After searching for an ideal location for 22 years, the temple was finally built in Coimbatore and consecrated on 9th February 2004 and Lord Hanuman with these eight unique features came to bless the world. 

1. Right hand that gives boons (Varada Hastham): 

In most Hanuman temples, he can be seen with folded hands (Anjali Hastham). However, in this temple, the right hand is seen raised as if to tell his devotees not to fear when He is there to protect them. 

2. Left hand that holds a mace (Gathayudha):

The mace in his left hand symbolises that there is no defeat for those who surrender to the Lord. Moreover, the Gatha (mace) destroys the six evils of the mind, namely, Kama (lust), Krotha (anger), Lobha (Greed), Moha (attachment), Mada (pride) and Matsarya (Jealousy) collectively known as the Arishadvargas.

3. Countenance facing West :

The Western ghats are a part of the Sanjeevi Parvatha that Hanuman brought to revive Rama-Lakshmana during the Ramayana war. This mountain range is full of medicinal herbs that can cure any disease. The face of Sri Ashtamsa Varada Anjaneya Swamy is turned towards the West to symbolize worshiping him would cure all physical and mental ailments.

4. Feet facing South:

South is the direction of Yama, the lord of Death. The feet facing South protects devotees from untimely death, and grants them the boon of long, healthy and peaceful life.

Muthangi (coat of pearls) Alankaram

5. Tail facing North:

In the Ashtamsa Varada Anjaneya Swamy Temple Coimbatore, the tail of the Lord is fully visible to the devotees. The nine planets that are responsible for a person's happiness, misery, disease and prosperity are found in the tail and worshiping the tail rids one of all the problems connected with horoscope or planetary motion. Moreover, North is the direction of Kubera, the Lord of Wealth. Worshiping the tail, brings prosperity and material success to the devotees.

6.Rudramsam : 

Lord Shiva's powers known as Rudramsam are embodied within Sri Hanuman.In this temple, Lord Hanuman is found within the shape of a Shivalinga and so worshiping him is equivalent to worshiping Lord Shiva.

7. Lakshmi Kadaksham:

Goddess Lakshmi is found within the raised right hand of Sri Hanuman and is willingly waiting to grant all Aishwaryams (wealth) to the devotees.

8. Netra Deekshanyam (Speciality of the Eyes):

The eyes of Sri Hanuman in this temple are special. These beautiful life like compassionate eyes reflect the brightness of the Sun during day and the gentleness of the moon in the evenings. From whichever direction  one were to view the Lord, the eyes seem to be looking and providing comfort.

10,008 Vada Alankaram
Decorations of the Lord:

The special feature in this temple is the meticulous way in which the Lord is decorated every day and every occasion. As you would have witnessed through the pictures, the bhattachars, Sri Narayana Bhattachar and his brother Sri Muralidhara Bhattachar, sons of Sri Rajamani Bhattachar, take utmost care and decorate the Lord with love and devotion. Pictures of the various alankarams are uploaded every week in the temple's blog.

Thirumanjanam (Abhishekam) of Lord Hanuman is performed on the day of Moola Star every month. On all other days, thirumanjanam is restricted to the Seetha Rama Shalagrama, worshipped by Swamy Haridoss Giri, that has been placed in a silver cup over Sri Hanuman's head. 

The Moola Rama icons are placed in an alcove close to the Lord, and it is believed that Lord Hanuman himself performs Aradhanam (Poojas) to his Master every day.
Surya Kirana Alankaram

Severaldevotees throng this temple every day. " Over One lakh people visit during special events like Hanumath Jayanthi", says Sri Narayana Bhattachar. " "We started uploading the photos on the blog to satisfy the thousands of devotees around the world who long to have a look of their favorite Lord in a special alankaram", he continues. Devotees have to wait for as long as six months to perform Raja Alankaram, the most popular alankaram to the Lord that is performed on saturdays. The temple accepts plain sarees with borders on both sides to be used for the dhoti, angavastram and turban during Raja Alankaram and several people lovingly offer the same.

There are no words to describe the commitment and love with which the Bhattachars beautify and worship this Lord who answers all prayers. One such example is the Sugarcane Forest Decoration on Pongal Day.

Hanuman in a sugarcane forest
The Whole temple covered with Sugarcane

As you can see from the picture, not just the shrine is decorated, but the entire temple is decorated to provide the appropriate effect.

10,008 fruits on Vishu Day:

Tomorrow, Tamil New Year and Vishu Day (13.4.2012) is a special day at the Ashtamsa Varada Anjaneya Swamy Temple, Coimbatore. The Lord is decorated with 10,008 fruits on this day every year. If you happen to be in the vicinity, do make it a point to witness this glorious sight and obtain the blessings of the benevolent Lord.

10,008 fruits alankaram last year for Vishu

Address of the temple:
Sri Ashtamsa Sri Varada Anjaneya Swamy Temple,
Avanashi road, Opposite to Esso Petrol Pump,
Near Suguna Kalyana Mandapam, Peelamedu,
Coimbatore 641 004

Temple Timings:

Morning: 7.30 am to 12 pm
Evening:  5.30 pm to  9 pm

Contact Details:

Shri Narayana Bhattachar - 94874 84624
Shri Muralidhara Bhattachar - 94433 34624


My special thanks to Shri Narayana Bhattachar for sharing all the wonderful details about the temple despite his extremely busy schedule and for graciously allowing me to use the pictures of the temple from the temple's blog.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Guruvae Saranam!

The entrance of Sri Raghavendra Swamy Temple, Thirumullaivoyal
The month of March was extremely hectic, and much that I wanted to, it was difficult to travel out to the various temples I had on my plan. This made me feel quite low, and I was really happy when one of my friends invited me to join her for a trip to Thirumullaivoyal, on the outskirts of Chennai. The destination was Sri Raghavendra Swamy Temple, built by Actor -Director, Raghavendra Larrence, two years ago.

There are several places around the world, where Sri Raghavendra Swamy's Mrithika Brindavana can be worshipped but very few places where Guru Rayaru is worshipped in human form. The unique feature about this temple is the huge life-like Guru Raghavendra Swamy in a tastefully built temple cum meditation complex.

We reached Saraswathy Nagar around 3.45 pm. The temple was closed and the board outside announced that it would open at 4 pm. The temple is located in a developing area, and from the outside it looked like a modern farm house,with manicured lawns and swaying coconut palms.

Slowly, people tricked down the lane, and gathered near the wrought iron gates which opened a little after four. The people who had till then waited patiently despite the sun beating down on them, moved in quietly.

The curved driveway led to the spotlessly clean temple. "தலை வணங்கி உள்ளே வா கேட்டது கிடைக்கும்" (Come in with humility and your prayers will be answered), announced the golden letters at the entrance .
The temple complex

One noteworthy feature about this temple is the silence and order. There was pin-drop silence as people waited, queued up to go in, performed Harathi, circumambuled or meditated.

The chant "Om Sri Raghavendraya Namaha" emanating from the speakers and the waft of incense added to the tranquility of the temple.
An idol of Krishna stood in the middle of the meditation hall. There were also idols of Desa Muthumariamman, Shivalingam, Ganesha and Muruga behind the Sanctum Sanctorum.

What I loved most was the magnificient idol of Sri Raghavendra Swamy. The idol is almost life like, with eyes looking skyward. The added advantage here, is that the devotees are allowed to go up and close and perform Harathi to the Swamy. Apart from a backdrop of the Moola Brindavana, there are also idols of Hanuman, Kamadhenu, and a granite statue of the Swamy.

Annadhanam is provided on special days in a separate hall constructed next to the temple. Devotees are encouraged to contribute towards this activity.

Address of the temple:
7th Street, Saraswathi Nagar, (Opp to Vivekananda School)
Thirumullaivoyal, Chennai - 601209

Contact Details:
Mobile number : 9791500866

Timings of the Temple:
6.30 am to 12.30 pm
4.00 pm  to 8.30 pm