King Sibi's sacrifice:
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.
On the whole, it was a wonderful experience and a morning well spent.
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|
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.
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.
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
Morning - 6.30 am to 12 noon
Evening - 4 pm to 8 pm
Ganesh Gurukkal - 94448 97861