Saturday, February 23, 2013

Yaganti Ne Kanti!

Yaganti Sri Uma Maheswara Swamy Temple
There are some temples that have a wonderful mythology attached. Some are rich in architectural splendour, others in the divinity and vibration that they generate. Very few have all these things intact even after several hundreds of years.  One such temple is the Yaganti Sri Uma Maheswara Swamy Sivalayam.

The story associated with the temple:

Sage Agasthya after completing his Uttara Desha Yatra was coming towards the South when he reached this site. Seeing the beauty and serenity of the location, he wanted to install an idol of Lord Venkateswara here. Once the idol got ready and when preparations were being made to install it, he found that the big toe of the idol was broken. Disheartened, he prayed to Lord Shiva seeking the reason. Lord Shiva appeared before him, and told him that this place was Dakshina Kailash and hence more suited to be an abode of Lord Shiva.

Swayambu Shiva Parvathi:

Happy on hearing that, Agasthya sought a boon from the Lord that he should ever remain there, along with his consort Parvathi, granting blessings to all those who prayed to him. Pleased with his devotion, Lord Shiva appeared along with Parvathi Devi in a single stone as a Swayambu.

Yaganti Sri Uma Maheswara Swamy
(Photo Courtesy: Yaganti Sri Uma Maheswara Swamy Temple)
It is indeed amazing to see the distinct roopas of both Lord Shiva and Parvathi Devi on the Swayambu moorthy in the Sanctum Sanctorum. The two distinct images are also smeared with Vibhooti (Sacred Ash) and Turmeric to distinguish Lord Shiva and Parvathi. When we reached the temple, it was around 6 pm in the evening. There were very few people in the temple at that time. It was absolutely an electrifying experience to stand before this magnificient Lord and pray.

Three caves in the hill adjacent to the temple:

One is the Agasthya Cave. This is the cave where Sage Agasthya did penance and Lord Shiva appeared before him. One has to climb 120 steep steps to reach the cave. As it was close to 6 pm when we reached the temple, we were not allowed to climb up to the caves. With a disappointed sigh, we had to return after taking pictures from below.
The way up to the caves. 
The second of the caves is the Lord Venkateswara Swamy Cave. The cave houses the Venkateswara Swamy that was created by Sage Agasthya but could not be installed because of a broken big toe. This idol is supposed to be older than the one at Tirumala. On Saturdays, several hundreds of devotees climb up the steps to this cave to have a darshan of the Lord.

The damaged toe nail of Venkateswara Swamy
Photo Courtesy: Sri Uma Maheswara Swamy Temple 
The third cave is the one where a renowned saint, Potuluri Sri Veera Brahmam had stayed for many years, and written portions of his renowned work, Kala Gnanam. The saint had predicted several instances in time, similar to Nostradamus, through this work. ( The height of the cave is really low and one has to stoop down in order to enter it.

The priest at the temple mentioned that there was a tunnel leading from this cave to Kandimallayapalle in Cuddapah District where he attained Jeeva Samadhi.

Another story of how this place came to be known as Yaganti :

There was a great devotee of Shiva named Chitteppa, who was praying in this lovely location. His love and devotion for his Lord was so great, that he saw Lord Shiva in everything. Once a tiger walked before him. Chitteppa saw it as Lord Shiva appearing before him in the form of a tiger. He jumped up in joy, shouting, Ne Kanti, Shiva Nu Ne Kanti! (In Telugu, meaning I saw Shiva, I saw!) Ne Kanti has over time, changed to Yaganti, says the priest at the temple.

Unique features of the temple:

When one walks into the temple complex, it is amazing to see a number of people from the village gathering in front of the temple and singing hymns in praise of Sri Uma Maheswara Swamy. It was indeed heartening to see the villagers not spending time in front of the television set as is the case in many villages now, but on a sunday evening, congregating at the temple and spending time in community bhajans.


The temple in its current form is said to have been built by King Harihara of the Sangama Dynasty in the 14th Century. One of the significant features of this temple is the Pushkarni (temple tank). Not only does the temple tank look so beautiful, and the water feel so refreshing cool, it is also really amazing how so much water gushes into the temple tank from the bottom of the hill through the small mouth of a Nandi.

The beautiful pushkarni at the temple. The water gushes from the mouth
of a nandi in the small dark enclave that you can see right across
A Close up view of the Nandi inside the alcove

Amazing growing Nandi:

The Nandi in this temple is perhaps the most amazing Nandi in the whole world. I, for one, could not take my eyes off it till the priest actually asked me to move because I was obstructing the way for people behind me.

Some say it was sculpted but keep growing, while others call it a Swayambu that appeared along with the Uma Maheswara Swamy. Whatever be the case, this is one awesome Nandi.

The awesome Nandi at the Temple
(Photo Courtesy: Sri Uma Maheswara Swamy Temple)
This Nandi does not sit on a pedastal of any kind, but is sprawled on the ground. The ASI has observed it growing at the rate of one inch in every 20 years and so he has moved from being directly in front of the sanctum sanctorum to its right. They have already removed one of the pillars of the mandapa since it was obstructing the Nandi's growth. The priest mentioned that very soon another pillar will have to be removed.

According to Sri Potuluri Veera Brahmam, the Nandi will come to life at the end of Kaliyuga and shout!

Just look at him, what an adorable creature he is!

Veerabadra swamy:

Veerabadraswamy at the temple
The Kshetrapalaka at this temple, as in many other temples in this part of India, is Veerabadraswamy. The gigantic Veerabadraswamy with his glittering sword protects the temple and safeguards its sanctity.

Akasha Deepam:

Just behind the Veerabadraswamy temple, on top of the hill, on a ledge which looks so steep and narrow, an Akasha Deepam is lit every evening. This lamp glows from 6 pm to 6 am every day. The priest mentioned that four litres of oil and two metres of wick is used every day to keep this lamp glowing for twelve hours.

It is indeed amazing how the lamp burns in the open air on top of a hill, amid the strong winds blowing. It is equally amazing how the priest is able to climb up every day, with barely any foothold, carrying all these materials to light the lamp, with practically just enough space only to put one of his feet. We all contributed towards the cost of oil and felt extremely satisfied about it.

No crows in Yaganti:

The priest also mentioned that while Sage Agasthya was performing penance here, Kakasura, an asura in the form of a crow, had been disturbing the sage's penance. Angered, the sage cursed him, saying that no crows should exist within Yaganti. Even today, they say that they have never seen a crow within the village. Moreover, since crow is the vahana (vehicle) of Shani Bagavan, they say that Shani does not bother anyone who is within the vicinity of the Uma Maheswara Swamy temple. People come and worship here to be rid of the dosha of Shani.

Mouth-watering Laddoos:

Last but not the least, I must mention that this temple has by far the most delicious laddus I have ever tasted. Although I lost one to a monkey, that jumped from above me and plucked it from my hand before I could bat an eyelid, I made sure I went into the counter, and tucked two more away in my handbag to eat them within the safe confines of the car. Hmmm....absolutely heavenly!

How to get here:

By Road:

Yaganti is in the Kurnool District of Andhra Pradesh. It is
14 kms from Banganapalli
53 kms from Nandyal
70 kms from Ahobilam
85 km from Kurnool
100 kms from Mantralayam

The landmark is an old Nizam's palace after a few kms from Banganapalli. There were several tourists who were looking around the Nizam's palace. But to me, it looked like a set from a recent special effects Telugu movie. So I did not step out to visit it.

Nearest Airport: Hyderabad
Nearest Railway Station : Nandyal

Contact Details: Main Priest Mr. K.U.S.D Sharma - 094403 34003

Temple Timings: 7 am to 11 am after which lunch is available free till 2.30 pm at the Annadana Hall
                         5 pm to  8 pm  again dinner available free till 9.30 pm


Friday, February 8, 2013

In Thambiran Thozhar's Land!

The Bhakthajaneswara Temple at Thirunavalur
The stories of Nayanars has always fascinated me - Their devotion, the ultimate and unimaginable sacrifices they made for the love of the Lord, their steadfastness and determination demonstrated during the most trying circumstances really move me.

Among the Nayanmars, my personal favourite has always been Sundaramurthy Nayanar. Merely for the relationship he shared with Lord Shiva." I give myself to you as a friend" said the Lord to Sundaramurthy Swamy. What better privilege could he have sought !

And the things Lord Shiva did for his friend, often make you smile, become awe-struck or even wonder, and  even make you feel jealous about this special bonding that Sundaramurthy Nayanar had with the Lord!

My in-laws stay very close to Tiruvennainalllur and hence the life and times of Sundaramurthy Nayanar, the incident during his marriage ceremony where the Lord appeared as an old man, and stopped the wedding to proclaim Sundarar as his slave, are very close to my heart. Whenever I visited the Kripapureeswarar temple at TV Nallur, where the Lord gave Sundarar the first syllable of his first song - " Piththa", the 100 pillared mandapa where the hearing of the case took place, the footwear that Lord Shiva wore when he appeared as an old man, preserved over all these years, made me experience the magic in Sundara's life. Yes, you read correctly indeed! God's own footwear! You can read all about it here on Aalayam Kanden.

There was this burning desire to visit Thirunavalur, the birth place of Sundara to see more of his life and times. The occasion just did not present itself. This Pongal, all of a sudden, my husband asked me if I would like to go to Thirunavalur. I dropped what I was doing and within a few minutes, we were on the road from Thiruvennainallur towards Thirunavalur.

When we got close to the Bhakthajaneswara temple, we could see a number of saffron clad devotees involved in reconstruction of a broken portion of the outer wall, some of them whitewashing portions of the wall already repaired, while others were busy in placing signages in the shrines. The women were making garlards of flowers, some of them brewing porridge for those who were working, and the others busy cleaning the temple. I was amazed at the number of people who were working. There were close to 300 people all working in silence, in the hot sun, not minding their discomfort one bit.

We walked into the temple and my eyes fell on one of the few remains of the Kalinari Eswara temple that once stood in the place of the Bhakthajaneswara Temple. As Shri K.A.Nilakanda Sastri mentions in his book The Cholas, several important heritage monuments have been razed down, in the name of modernization or improvement. Inscriptions have been broken down and used again as stones in the new constructions. One such temple was the Kalinareswara which was brought down and the Bhakthajaneswara temple, which exists in the form today, constructed by the Chola King, Rajaditya, son of King Paranthaka I and the hero of the Thakkolam War. The village was originally called Thirunamanallur. The temple was called Rajadityeswaram, after the king who built it and then Thiruthondeeswaram, after Sundaramurthy Nayanar who sang the Thiruthondarthogai.

On entering the Rajagopuram, we find a seperate shrine for Sri Sundarar along with his wives Paravaiyar and Sangiliyar. The Elephant Vahanam which symbolises the white elephant that took him to Kailasa is seen in front of the shrine.

Although this temple is said to have existed for a very long time before Sundara's time, the connection with him is seen in every aspect of the temple. This temple is said to have existed before the four Yugas. When Lord Shiva drank the poison that was generated during the churning of the Ocean, some of it spilled down and grew as Jamun (Jambu) trees. Shiva appeared in their midst as a Swayambu Linga, and was called Jambunatheswara. Jambu in Tamil is called Naval and hence, the village was called Thirunavalur and Sundarar called himself Navaluraan. (a person belonging to Navalur).

A glimpse of the Sanctum Sanctorum and Sri Bhakthajaneswara
This was the place where Lord Shiva was worshipped by Lord Vishnu in Kritha Yuga before taking the Narasimha Avatara

Linga worshipped by Vishnu during Kritha Yuga

Chandikeswara who was originally a potter called Sivapriyar, worshipped Shiva here during Thretha Yuga to achieve the position of Chandikeswara.

Linga worshipped by Chandikeswara during Thretha Yuga

During Dwapara Yuga, Lord Brahma worshipped Shiva here and during Kali Yuga, he was worshipped by Sundara. The Lingas worshipped by all these four people are found in the temple.

Linga worshipped by Lord Brahma during Dwapara Yuga
Linga worshipped by Sundarar in Kali Yuga
That's not all. Sukracharya, was worshipping Lord Shiva in Kasi (Varanasi) for a very long time. Pleased with his devotion, Lord Shiva taught the Sanjeevini Mantra to Sukracharya. The Mantra when chanted, had the power of bringing back the dead to life. Knowing about this, the Asuras accepted Sukracharya as their Guru. During the war between Devas and Asuras, every time the Asuras were killed, Sukracharya brought them back to life. Frustrated, the Devas complained to Lord Shiva, who swallowed Sukracharya.

Sukracharya spent many years in Shiva's stomach, meditating. Pleased, Shiva brought him out, and gave him a position among the Navagrahas, and granted him the boon of offering wealth to those who worshipped him. Sukracharya installed a Shivalinga to thank the Lord for his generosity, and worshipped him. The Bhargaveswara Linga installed by Sukracharya is also found at this temple and it serves as a Sukra Dosha Parihara Sthalam.
The Bhargaveswara Linga installed by Sukracharya
Those who seek Sukra Dosha Pariharam, worship this lingam on fridays, offering White silk vastram, White Chickpeas and White Lotuses to the Lord. They light lamps with white ghee as well to get relief from Sukra Dosha.

The Sun facing the West among the Navagrahas
The Navagrahas near the Sukralingam are also unique here. Usually, Surya among the Navagrahas is seen facing East. Here he is seen facing the Lord in the Sanctum Sanctorum, towards west. By this, he is said to be worshipping the Lord himself. The Sun's rays fall directly on the Lord from the 23rd to the 27th day of the tamil month of Panguni. My husband's brother-in-law and ex-Chairman of Thirunavalur, Mr. Sundaramurthy, explained how the sun rays bend from the main entrance and then fall upon the Lord, even though the architecture does not facilitate it to fall directly. Several hundreds of people throng the temple to witness this spectacular occurrence every year.

The Awesome Dhakshinamurthy at the temple
The extremely handsome Dhakshinamurthy at the temple needs special mention. Leaning on the Rishaba  Vahana, in a standing posture, with no Kallala Tree behind him, he looks absolutely stunning. Worshipping this Dhakshinamurthy is said to be special for those born under Pooradam star.

Shrine of Goddess Manonmani
In a temple so unique can the Goddess be an exception? Goddess Manonmani, is said to have done penance here in order to marry Lord Shiva. With her hair open and falling behind her, she is seen her in a meditative posture. Girls seeking good marriage alliances worship her to get a groom of their choice.

Since this is the shrine where Sivapriyar has worshipped Lord Shiva to acquire the position of Chandikeswara, there is a beautiful panel that describes the whole incident on the outer prakara.

Chandeswara Panel
The temple has several beautiful moorthis of both the Pallavas and the Chola Era period. There is no word to describe the beautiful Urchava Moorthis too in this temple, which have also featured in Shri Nilakanta Sastri's book on The Cholas.

Outside the temple one can see a beautiful stone staircase through which the deities were placed on the Ratha while being taken out on procession. This beautiful structure, though dilapidated now, shows the craftsmanship of yore.
Stone Structure to place deities on the Ratha during procession
Right next to the temple is the birthplace of Sri Sundaramurthy Nayanar. After his times, there was a small shrine there and over time, this became dilapidated. It was indeed painful and shocking to hear, that this temple for last many years, was a cowshed where cows were tethered and dung collected and dried.

The birthplace of Sundaramurthy Nayanar
After struggling for almost four years with property rights and building approval from the concerned authorities, the Thirunavalur Thambiran Thozhar Trust has finally been able to clear the premises and perform Bhoomi Puja on the 23rd of January 2013. Words fail me when I try to describe the tireless efforts that Mr. Muthukumaraswamy and Mr.Kalyanakumar as well as the other members of the trust have put in in order make this possible. Today, all efforts are on to build a small but beautiful temple, to the saint who showed the other Nayanmars to the World.

Idol of Sri Sundarar in Balalayam within the temple complex
It is indeed a rare opportunity and our duty to lend a helping hand to make sure that this temple of Sri Sundaramurthy Nayanar is raised in his birthplace . The total cost of construction is estimated at around Rs. 43 lakhs and every single rupee towards this objective will be greatly appreciated.

Please send in your generous contributions through Cheque/Demand Draft or Money Order to the Thirunavalur Thambiran Thozhar Trust, No.8/44, VOC Street, Ulundurpet, Villupuram - 606 107
Contact Numbers: 94424 24456/94427 78711. You may also send funds through bank transfer through Account No.31714920381, State Bank of India, Ulundurpet Branch. IFSC Code: SBIN0011071.

How to get here:

On NH 45, towards Ulundurpet, after crossing Parikkal Narasimha Swamy temple on your right, take the service lane to the left at the Gedilam Bridge. The temple is about 2 kms from the bridge.

Temple Timings: 6 am to 12 pm, 4 pm to 8 pm

Contact Details:

Mr. Sundaramurthy - Former Chairman - 94435 38279
Mr. Sambandam Gurukkal - 98461 50804