In May 2013, I got a call from Mr. Karthikeyan inviting me to visit the Suddha Ratneswara Temple at Oottathur, about 35 kms from Trichy. He had sent me data and pictures from the temple which kindled my interest to visit immediately.However, It almost took me one full month to find an appropriate date to visit the temple.
King Raja Raja Chola I: This temple, said to have been originally built in the 7th Century, has been rebuilt by Raja Raja during his rule. It has received further patronage from his son Rajendra Chola I and grandson, Rajadhiraja Chola. There are over fifty inscriptions in this temple from the times of Raja Raja, Rajendra and Rajadhiraja.
|Raja Raja Chola Valanaatu Oottathur Naatu Oottathur|
As they cut the bushes, one of the men found that his spade encountered an object below the ground. As it made contact, blood started gushing out from it. Startled, the men cleared the ground around. To their utmost surprise, they found a Shivalingam made of the purest form of ruby (Suddha manickam or Suddha Ratnam)with a deep cut on top from where blood was gushing out. The King rushed to the spot, found the priceless treasure, and decided to build a temple for this unique God. Further excavations revealed the intact remains of the old temple, which was renovated and extended to the form that exists today by Raja Raja.
Truly, this temple is unique in every single aspect.
27 Stars, 12 Sun Signs and 9 Planets: We entered the temple through the Rajagopuram and found that a marriage was in progress near the Dwajasthambam. The youngsters from the village who have formed a "Vazhipadu Committee" took us around the temple and explained the various unique features. On the ceiling, near the Dwajasthambam, can be seen the 27 stars along with the 12 sun signs facing the ground below and in a seperate panel nearby are the 9 planets. Any yagas or homams performed beneath these panels is said to yield complete results immediately. People born under any star can perform homams here.Because of this,the Oottathur Suddha Ratneswara Temple is popularly sought after for conducting marriages.
|The 27 stars and 12 sun signs on the panel|
|The panel containing nine planets|
On his way up, Brahma encountered a Thazampoo (Ketaki Flower) that fell from Shiva's head. He asked the flower if it would stand witness if he were to declare that he had reached Shiva's head. The flower agreed. So Brahma proclaimed himself to be the greater of the two as he had been able to bring evidence from the top of Shiva's head. Vishnu humbly accepted defeat. Angered that Brahma had lied and used a false witness, Shiva cursed Brahma that he would not have a separate temple anywhere and that Ketaki flowers would not be used for Shiva's worship.
Brahma begged forgiveness and asked to be relieved of his curse. Lord Shiva told Brahma to worship him with water from all the holy rivers in the world. Brahma came to Oottathur and created a spring of water which came to be known as Brahma Theertham right in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum. To this spring, he added water from all the holy rivers in the world. The village came to be known after this spring (Ootru - Spring, Ootraththur which has now transformed to Oottathur).He performed poojas and abhishekam with the water of Brahma Theertham and was relieved of his curse.
|A view of the Brahma Theertham|
Ashok, one of the members of the youth group, mentioned that in Perambalur district it was difficult to find ground water anywhere above 25 feet. However, the water in the Brahma Theertham is perennial in source and remains at the same level (around 10-12 feet) throughout the year. It is indeed unique that a spring is found right in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum. There is an underground tunnel connecting the Suddha Ratneswara Temple and the Perumal Temple opposite to it through which water from the Brahma Theertham used to be carried for the Abhishekam of the Perumal as well. This tunnel is now closed.
It is usual to see Nandi facing the Lord in the sanctum sanctorum. But as far as the Suddha Ratneswara temple is considered, the usual is unusual. Apart from the usual Nandi, there is another Nandi facing the East, on one side of the Artha Mandapa. The story behind this is really interesting.
Once there was an argument among the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswathi, Narmada, Sindu, Kaveri and Thungabadra as to who was the holiest among them. They brought this issue to Lord Suddha Ratneswara. He ordered Nandikeswara to drink up the waters of all seven rivers. The Nandi did as ordered and lay down facing the East. Only the Water from the Ganga flowed out of his mouth. This formed a river near the temple which is called Nandiaaru (Nandi River). This river flows into the Kollidam and from there joins the sea.
A local legend says that Raja Raja wanted to immerse the ashes of his father Sundara Chola in Varanasi. On his way, he stopped overnight near the Nandi River. To his surprise, he found that the bones and ashes had turned into sweet smelling flowers. When he went to Varanasi and opened the urn, they had turned back to ashes and bones. Not wanting to immerse the ashes there, he came back and immersed them at the Nandi River. There is a saying " Kaasikku Veesam Kooda" which means performing the last rites on the banks of the Nandi river is better than performing the same in Varanasi. Raja Raja is said to have built a Kasi Viswanatha Temple on the banks of the river which does not exist now. (historic facts of this story to be verified)
Suddha Ratneswara - The Lord Himself
If the temple itself has so many special features, can the Lord be less in magnificence?
Suddha Ratneswara as the name depicts - the purest of gems, the real ruby, stands magnificently in the Sanctum Sanctorum. It is indeed a scintillating experience, to watch the light of the Harathi reflect on and within the Baana of the Lingam. This is an experience I have never before encountered in any other temple. As the priest, Shri Ramanatha Gurukkal, moved the Harathi slowly and steadily near the Lingam, the light reflected on the surface. To me, it looked as if the Lord was manifesting in the form of light for those who sought him.
To the left of the Sanctum Santorum, is a seperate shrine for Nataraja and his consort Sivakama Sundari.
The Nataraja at Oothathur is made out of Panchanadhana Stone. This unique and beautiful idol stands majestically and is being worshipped ardently by those who suffer from kidney ailments. They garland this Nataraja with Vetiver and perform abhishekam with the water of Brahma Theertham. This water is then collected and given to the concerned person. On consuming the water for 45 days, the patients are relieved completely of their ailments. There are a number of testimonials available in the temple of those who have tried this remedy and found relief.
It is believed that Indra regained his lost power and position by worshipping this Nataraja and like him anyone who worships the Nataraja with sincere devotion will regain lost power. Several politicians and those with political aspirations frequent this shrine.
Sun' s rays fall on the idol of Suddha Ratneswara for three days in the tamil month of Maasi (12, 13, 14) and for three minutes on Vaikasi Visakham day.
Going around the temple, one feels as if every single idol here was meant to be different, was made with extra care and dedication.
|Goddess Durga with Fangs|
The Goddess Durga at the temple can be seen with fangs on either side of her mouth. Worshipping her with lemon garlands for 11 weeks grants the boon of marriage for those girls who seek good alliances.
In this temple, Lord Bhairava faces Gajalakshmi, which I have not seen in any other temple. Performing Sahasrama Archana for 11 weeks here, is said to cure children of irrational fears. This Bhairava is also worshipped to ensure livestock are not affected by the outbreak of an epidemic. Those suffering from chronic ailments, worship this Bhairava on Ashtami day and recite the Kalashta Mantram.This rids them of the fear of death and helps to improve their health condition.
The Veerabadra Swamy at the temple carries a Shiva Lingam over his forehead.
When Appar, one of the Nayanmars tried to visit Oottathur from the place now known as Paadalur, he was amazed to see the whole path to the temple covered with Shivalingams. Fearing he cannot put his feet at a place covered with lingams, Appar stood at Paadalur and sang about the Suddha Ratneswara temple. Since he sang from there, the place came to be known as Padalur (the place where the song originated) which has now been transformed to Paadaalur.
The shrine of Goddess Akilandeswari is found in the second praharam behind the temple.
So, what are you waiting for? This temple should be on every heritage lover's wishlist.
|The young volunteers and Shri Ramanatha Gurukkal with the trustees of Aalayam Kanden|
How to get here:
Oottathur is about 35 kms from Trichy and about 5 kms from Padalur. On the NH 45 when you are travelling towards Trichy after you cross Thanthai Hans Roever College and Sanjeeviraya Hanuman Temple on your left, you would find a board reading Padalur. Turn left and proceed for about five kms on the Oottathur Scenic Driveway. At one point, you will find that the road forks into two, and there is a huge stone crushing unit there. Take the right and you will reach the temple in a couple of hundred metres.
Morning - 5 am to 12.30 pm
Evening - 4 pm to 8.30 pm
Ramanatha Gurukkal and Nataraja Gurukkal
04328 - 267126 and 97880 62416
Karthikeyan - 8883852198/8015402683