Friday, January 25, 2013

27 Star Vedhalams!

Sri Kandaswamy Temple, Cheyyur

Sometimes you just stumble upon awesome temples, without really preparing to visit them. One such jewel is the Sri Kandaswamiyar Temple at Cheyyur which I had visited a couple of weeks ago as part of a REACH Foundation heritage trip.

We set out at 5.00 am in the morning and after a lot of climbing,walking, photographing etc. by the time we reached the Kandaswamy temple, we were quite exhausted. But all our fatigue vanished once we were inside this temple which is unique in more than one way.

The ancient temple has no gopuram at the entrance. Road construction over the years has resulted in swallowing parts of the idols in the multiple pillars that stand in front of the temple.

Partially buried pillars in front of the temple

The temple faces South while the main sanctum sanctorum faces East. Inside the main shrine, one can see Sri Kandaswamy with his consorts Valli and Deivaanai. Sri Kandaswamy is flanked by the Dwarapalakas, Suveeran and Sujanan on either side.

On entering the temple, one can find the Sri Somanathar, Meenakshiammai Shrine to the left of the front Mandapa. Here Brahma and Vishnu flank either side of the shrine and Nandi is found in front of the shrine.

The Somanathar - Meenakshiammai Shrine at the temple
There are two entrances to the temple. One is through the South facing main entrance . To the East of the outer Prakaram, one can see the ancient stone Dwajasthamba and Kodimaram facing the Main shrine. There is an entrance through the East through which also one can reach the inner prakaram and the Artha Mandapa.

An unique feature of this temple is that all Goshta Devathas are different forms of Sri Subramanya. Usually in Saivaite temples one can see Vinayaka, Dakshinamoorthy, Lingothbhavar or Vishnu, Brahma, Chandikeshwara, Durga, Bhairava, and Surya are seen as Goshta Devathas. But in this temple, one can see that there is Nrittaskanda instead of Vinayaka, Brahmasastha instead of Dakshinamoorthy,  Balaskanda instead of Vishnu, Sivagurunatha instead of Brahma and Pulindhar (Lord Muruga in the form of a hunter) instead of Durga.

The beautiful Nrittaskanda
Moreover, Chandikeshwara and Bhairava who are normally found in Shiva temples are found here in their usual places. The Surya in this temple is called Guha Surya. Apart from these forms of Muruga, there is also an Arumughaswamy facing the Southern entrance.

Brahmasastha in place of Dakshinamoorthy

On the outer prahara, as we circumambulate, we can find Ganesha shrine and a Nandavanam to the North of the Sanctum Sanctorum.  The Sthala Vrikshams of this temple are Vanni and Karungali.

To the North of the Dwajasthamba, is the Amman shrine and there is a Sarva Vadya Mandapam in front of it. Till the year 1947, all kinds of musical instruments were played and dance recitals conducted during festivals in this mandapam.  Behind the Dwajasthamba, there is a separate Shrine for Navagrahas.
Pulindhar - Murugan with bow and arrow
The most unique feature of this temple is something that cannot be found in any other temple in the world. There are 27 Star Vethalams (Bethals) one for each star. We may recall reading about Vethalams in King Vikramaditya’s story.  The Vethalas found here are those Sivaganas that had served on Lord Muruga’s army and helped to fight demons like Soorapadman and others.

The 27 Star Vethalams 
These Vethalas obey the instructions of Bhairava. Which is why we find Bhairava here alongside the Vethalas. On the Ashtami that falls after Full moon day (Theipirai Ashtami) devotees worship the Vethala that belongs to their star and pray before it to find their wishes being fulfilled.  Every month several devotees are benefitted through this worship.

On the Ashtami after full moon day, the Vethala Puja starts with Vinayaka Sankalpa. Then at 5 pm, the Vethalas are worshipped with Red Arali flowers, and then at 7 pm, abhishekham is performed to Lord Muruga. This is followed by Archana to Lord Bhairava with eight different types of flowers.

List of the 27 star Vethalams:

Name of the VethalamStar
Nagayudhapani Bootha Vethalam
Vajradhaari Bootha Vethalam
Vairagya Bootha Vethalam
Katkadhari Bootha Vethalam
Gnana Bootha Vethalam
Thomara Bootha Vethalam
Vakradantha Bootha Vethalam
Visaala Nethra Bootha Vethalam
Anandha Bhairava Bhaktha Bootha Vethalam
Gnanaskandha Baktha Bootha Vethalam
Tharpagara Bootha Vethalam
Veerabahu Sevaka Bootha Vethalam
Soorapadma Dwamsa Bootha Vethalam
Thaarakaasura Imsa Bootha Vethalam
Anadha Guha Bhaktha Bootha Vethalam
Sooranipuna Bootha Vethalam
Chandakoba Bootha Vethalam
Singamukhasura Imsa Bootha Vethalam
Paraakrama Bootha Vethalam
Mahodhara Bootha Vethalam
Oorthuva Shikhabandha Bootha Vethalam
Gadhapani Bootha Vethalam
Chakrapani Bootha Vethalam
Perunda Bootha Vethalam
Goraroopa Bootha Vethalam
Ruru Bhairava Sevaka Bootha Vethalam
Kurodhana Bhairava Bhaktha Bootha Vethalam

Periyandavar Puja is also performed here
Periyandavar Puja is also observed at this temple. Outside the temple, on the Navasandhis,  there are nine Vinayakas said to have been worshipped by the Navagrahas. These also add to the uniqueness of the temple. To the West of the temple, is a tank called Chettikulam. Chetty is one of the names by which Lord Muruga is known. This tank belongs to the temple.

Festivals celebrated at the Kandaswamy Temple

Sri Kandaswamy with his consorts inside the Santum Sanctorum

Aadi Krithigai, Kandha Sashti, Soorasamhaaram, Karthigai Deepam, Thai Poosam, Panguni Uthiram and Vaikasi Visakam days are celebrated at the temple amidst a huge crowd of devotees. During Kadha Sashthi, the Vel Vaangum Vizha is celebrated behind the Mahodhara Bootha Vethalam belonging to Pooradam star.

Literary works on the Cheyyur Kandaswamy Temple

There are several works on Sri Kandaswamy at Cheyyur. Andhaka kavi Veeraraghava Mudaliyar has composed the Cheyyur Murugan Pillaithamizh and Cheyyur Kalambakam. Cherai Kaviraja Pillai has composed Cheyyur Murugan Ula , Sri Murugadas Swamigal, Cheyyur Murugan Pathigam and Sivaprakasa Swamigal, Nenju Vidu Thoodhu.

By far the most important aspect of this temple, is that it has verses sung on Sri Kandaswamy by Arunagirinathar and features in the Thiruppugazh. The verses of the Thirupugazh are found inscribed in the wall of the Artha mandapa and there is also a statue of Saint Arunagirinathar in the temple.

Arunagirinathar's verses inscribed in the temple
Whichever temple I happen to visit, I always ask for the Sthalapuranam which describes the history of the temple and all its unique features. When I did the same at this temple, I was given the photocopy of a sthalapuranam written in the year 1944 by Sri Muthiah Mudaliyar of Cheyyur. This gave me a perfect opportunity to ask if Aalayam Kanden could be involved in writing and printing the Sthalapuranam of the temple in Tamil and English. The villagers happily agreed.

Those of you who have been following the Aalayam Kanden blog and Facebook page for some time, will know that Aalayam Kanden Trust has been involved in writing, printing and distributing Sthalapuranams for ancient lesser known temples. This was one such opportunity. Using the extensive 70 year old book as reference , we have been able to write and produce a crisp booklet, suited with the times, that gives the history of the temple in Tamil and English.

The wrapper of the Sthalapuranam of Cheyyur Sri Kandaswamy Temple
To be released on 27th of January 2013 
The launch of this booklet is scheduled for Thai Poosam Day this year, which falls on the coming Sunday, 27th of January 2013 at 4 pm. All are welcome.

How to Reach:

Cheyyur is a taluk in Kanchipuram District of Tamilnadu. One can reach Cheyyur through two routes, one through Madurantakam and the other through the East Coast Road, that goes towards Puducherry. This town is about 29 kms from Madurantakam and 5 kms from the Ellaiamman Koil Bus Stop on East Coast Road (ECR).
The nearest airport is Chennai and railway station is Chengalpattu. 

Temple Timings

Morning 7 am to 11 am – Pooja at 9 am
Evening 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm (on Astami days after full moon from 5 pm to 9 pm)


Shri. Chandrasekara Gurukkal/ Shakthi Gurukkal  – 94447 29512

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Budumuladoddi and Basaladoddi

The Palike Devaru Temple at Budumuladoddi
Every New Year starts for us at Mantralayam in the holy presence of Sri Raghavendra Swamy and while we are there, we try and visit other temples close by. This year, we decided, instead of visiting the same places again (which we normally do if there are a number of newcomers) we would go somewhere we have not seen before.

Thanks to Thamby Raghavendra, at the Mantralaya Temple, we got to see two beautiful Hanuman temples, both of them on the way to Adoni, and quite close to Mantralaya. The similarity does not stop there.

Sri Vyasaraja, the previous Avatara of Sri Raghavendra Swamy was the Raja Guru of Sri Krishnadevaraya.
During his time on earth, he has created 729 Hanumans (some say 732) and installed them at various places. Aalayam Kanden has, in the past covered some of these temples. Both the temples that we went to had Hanuman idols created by Sri Vyasaraja.

The first temple was Budumuladoddi Sri Palike Devaru Temple at Surikeri Village. This temple is about 40 km to the South of Mantralayam. We drove on the road towards Adoni and turned right at the road that leads to Kosigi and further to Urukunda Narasimha Swamy temple. This very old temple belonging to 16th Century has been renovated in the year 1995.
Dasavathara Entrance at the Budumuladoddi Temple
The temple has been renovated without disturbing the main shrine which really merits appreciation. The temple complex is small with a front vahana mandapa, a dwajasthamba, a small shrine for Lord Shiva and the main sanctum sanctorum for Palike Devaru, apart from a long dining hall to the right of the temple complete with stone tables and benches where Annadhana (distribution of food) is done every day.

Madhva, Bheema, Hanuman panel on Dwajasthamba
We talk about the previous avataras of Sri Raghavendra Swamy as being Sanku Karna - Prahalada - Pahlika Raja - Vyasaraja. Similarly, the avataras of Hanuman are said to be Hanuman - Bheema - Madhvacharya.  This has been depicted in the Dwajasthamba with a Koorma Peeta in front of it.

But what is really unique about this temple, is the Hanuman himself. Why is he called Palike Devaru? The photograph below is one given by the temple. I apologise for the poor quality. The temple does not allow the main deity to be photographed. 

To go back to our question of why is he called Palike Devaru, do you see the leaves on either side of the Hanuman? Near the shoulder and over the raised hand on the left and similarly, near the left shoulder and below the tail? These leaves are placed on the idol by the Poojari every morning. Those devotees who wish to seek Agnya (Direction) from the Lord about their prayers, come to the temple and inform the Pujari who then sits down and starts talking to the Lord.

He asks Hanuman to let the devotee know if his appeal will be granted or not. Within a couple of minutes, the leaves on the idol start falling. The ones on the right fall if the prayer would be granted and the ones of the left fall if there is no likelihood of it happening. If the issue is to be delayed for long, then the leaves do not fall despite the Pujari talking to the Lord many times over. We followed the ritual and found that it does indeed work that way.

The Pujari told us that on Saturdays several people come from far and near to pray to the Lord and find out if their prayers would be answered. If they got a positive signal, the prayer would be fulfilled in about 48 days after which they come back to offer thanks. This has given the Hanuman the title of Palike Devaru (The God who talks).

The other temple we went to next is the Pairaiah temple at Basaladoddi. This temple is even closer to Mantralaya and is only about 25 kms south of the temple town.
Sri Pairaiah Swamy Temple, Basaladoddi
The Hanuman at Pairaiah Swamy temple is also installed by Sri Vyasaraja. This temple has a very interesting story attached to it. The priest Shri Chandrasekhar was also a very enterprising person. He made us all sit around and started narrating the story which goes like this:

Basaladoddi was primarily a place where cows were grazed. The Villagers wanted to install a Hanuman in their area and so started making an idol on a rock in a nearby hillock. While they were doing so, one day, the cows grazed by one Govindaiah tripped on an anthill. As they stumbled, their horns broke the anthill and the idol of Hanuman which had been installed by Sri Vyasaraja was discovered. Now, the villagers were in a fix. They were not sure as to whether they must start worshipping this Hanuman, whose existence they had not been aware of, or the other Hanuman who was in the making.
Sri Pairaiah Swamy installed by Sri Vyasaraja
One of the villagers who was a staunch devotee of Hanuman, had a dream that night, wherein Hanuman told him that the villagers must worship the idol installed by Vyasaraja and build a temple around it and the other Hanuman could be installed on the hillock where it was being made. The villagers followed the instructions, and did as suggested. Govindaiah, who had been instrumental in identifying the idol and his family took the lead in building the temple and till date his descendants worship at the temple.

Some years after the temple was built, Hanuman again appeared in the dream of the devotee, and said that he did not like the people eating and sleeping in the temple or consuming meat close by and that he would show the villagers a place where they could build their settlements and he would stay outside the village, where people could visit and worship and then go back.

He is said to have then taken the devotees several hundred metres away from the temple and then appeared there is a miniature form as Mukya Prana Devaru, where by people knew that that was where they had to build their settlements. Even today, the miniature form of the Lord can be worshipped at the Basaladoddi Village while the Pairaiah Temple (meaning the Lord outside) is close to the hillocks and away from the Village.

The Priest comes to the temple early in the morning and stays there till dusk so this temple could be visited at any time of the day.

Contact Information of the priest : 96529 79836/ 96038 62211

If you happen to visit Mantralaya, you can very easily visit these two temples as well. For transport facilitation, you may contact Mr Srinivas at 98850 27919/98859 72488. He has a good fleet of jeeps and cars and charges nominally. He is a very reliable transport operator in and around Mantralayam. He also helps with accommodation and food.