Punnainallur - the name has become synonymous with the Punnainallur Mariamman Temple. But Punnainallur is not just about that. It also has the wonderful and unique Saligrama Rama Temple. Having heard a lot about this temple, we decided to visit there during our recent Krishna Jayanthi trip.
It was 8.10 pm and our vehicle was moving through pitch darkness towards the temple. We were worried if the temple would remain open at that time of the night. So I called Venkatesa Bhattar, the priest of the temple. He mentioned that he was on a bus coming back from Coimbatore, and promised to check with his son if he was still at the temple and revert. We lost hope. The driver asked us if we should continue to proceed towards the temple or return to the hotel.
We decided to take a chance. We had nothing to gain by turning back about a kilometre away from the temple and if the temple was open we had everything to gain. Within a few minutes Shri. Venkatesa Bhattar called back confirming the availability of his son at the temple till 8.30 pm. This kind of customer service I have never seen in any other part of Tamilnadu at least. Not just here, we had another instance where a Gurukkal called back to let us know we could still reach in time to witness the Artha jama pooja, during this trip. About that....in the next article!
We were just a few feet away from the entrance,when we received the call. Happily we got down from our vehicle and climbed up the stairs. The Rajagopuram had been decorated with serial bulbs for the festival.
We stepped in and saw young Venkataramanan, Shri Venkatesa Bhattar's son waiting for us.
Saligrama Rama, Seetha, Lakshmana, Sugreeva:
Without any further delay, we rushed into the artha mandapa. The idols in the Grabagraha are indeed exquisite and unique. Saligramas are found in the Gandaki river and are usually found as single stones. Sometimes, the stones gather together to form a large mass. This is extremely rare. Four such stones were gifted to King Pratap Singh, the Maratha ruler of Tanjore by the King of Nepal. These have been sculpted into the four idols of Rama, Seetha, Lakshmana and Sugreeva. This is probably the only temple in the world where all the main deities have been carved out of Saligrama stone. Even the anklets on Mother Sita's feet and the bells on Rama's kothandam have been carved out so intricately.
Why Sugreeva instead of Hanuman?
It is common to find Hanuman with folded hands with Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. But here one can see King Sugreeva, complete with crown, Kundalams, moustache and sword standing to the right of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana with folded hands. It is believed that in return for the assistance King Sugreeva rendered in finding Sita, he was given this special place here.
|Photo Courtesy: Shri Venkataramana Bhattar, Punnainallur Ramar Temple|
I was itching to take photographs, but Venkataramanan gently pointed out that it would not be possible as part of the Moolavar would also get covered while doing so. Instead, he gave me a picture from his mobile phone that had been taken earlier during an Ekantha Seva.
For several minutes, we stood in wonder in front of Rama, not wanting to move from there. Realising it was almost closing time, reluctantly we moved from there.
There are pictures depicting scenes from the Ramayana on either side of the main shrine. The temple has recently been renovated and it has been done without use of jarring modern techniques. The environment in this temple is so peaceful and calm that we just wanted to stay there for ever.
History of the temple:
As mentioned earlier,this temple was built by Raja Pratap Singh in the 18th Century. Rani Emunambal Pahi Saheb has provided about 40 acres of fertile land in the villages of Ottakudi, Rishiyur, Kottaiyur, and Mahimalai for performing poojas at this temple.
Queen of the Maratha Emperor Shivaji Maharaj, Rani Kamakshiamba Pahi Saheb has contributed towards many activities of this temple in the year 1892.
Maha Sudharshana Moorthy:
Another unique feature of this temple is the Maha Sudharshana Moorthy found with sixteen hands mounted on the Chakra. Worshipping him and the Narasimha behind is said to rid one of enemies, give long and healthy life and wealth.
The Anjaneya Swamy Shrine in this temple is also unique in many ways.With a raised Varada Hastham, and a Lotus flower in his left hand, he faces South. In the mandapam outside the Sanctum Sanctorum, the twelve sun signs have been painted on the ceiling and there are boxes painted on the floor below it.
By standing on the box right under one's own sun sign and praying, it is believed that the wishes so asked come true.
One can find Hayagriva in a seperate shrine in the Rathamandapa. Special poojas are performed to him on Thiruvona Star every month.
The temple is well managed and maintained by Sri S.Babaji Raja Bhonsle, the current Maratha Prince of Thanjavur.
|Other facts about the temple|
Punnainallur is about 7 kms from Thanjavur.One can drive via State Highway 99A and Coimbatore Nagapattinam SH66 to reach here. The temple is very close to the Punnainallur Mariamman Temple.
Shri. C Venkatesa Bhattar : 97897 42778
Shri. V. Venkataramanan (Bhattar's son) : 90957 91383
7 am to 12.30 pm, 5 pm to 8.30 pm
The serene calmness and ethereal atmosphere of the temple has to be experienced by every bhaktha, so if you happen to be in the vicinity, do not miss the Punnainallur Saligrama Ramar Temple!