|A view of the Nattatreeswara Temple from the banks of River Cauvery|
Sage Agasthya was summoned by Lord Shiva. The Occasion - the celestial wedding of Shiva with Parvathi in Kailash, to which all Gods and Rishis were invited. Lord Shiva was concerned that the South may go down because of this unexpected movement of visitors to the North and hence requested Agasthya to maintain the balance by stationing himself down South. Agasthya was disappointed. "What have I done that I do not get to witness the celestial wedding?" he asked sadly. Lord Shiva promised him that only he could provide this balance and hence was being commissioned on the task and the Celestial wedding will be shown to him wherever he was.
Happy with this, Sage Agasthya agreed to move to South India. Lord Shiva gave him five tasks to accomplish:
1. To provide a Jeevanadhi (a perennial water source) to South India
2. To put an end to Illvalan and Vatapi, the rulers of the city of Manimathi, who were cruel to Brahmins and subjects
3. To support Rama in vanquishing Ravana
4. To create a Sangam for Tamil literature
5. To enhance medicine through the age old secrets of the Rishis
There are two versions of how River Cauvery came into existence. The first version is that Sage Agasthya carried the water of seven holy rivers in his Kamandalu, and when he was meditating, Lord Ganesha came in the form of a crow, and toppled the Kamandalu, thus facilitating the creation of River Cauvery.
The other version is that Cauvery(Kaveri) was Vishnumaaya born as the daughter of Kavera Maharishi and Sage Agasthya took her as his second wife after Lopamudra, the daughter of the Vidharbha King. Vishnumaaya agreed to marry Agasthya with the condition that she would run as a perennial river in order to help her father attain Moksha. Agasthya agreed to the condition and took her in his Kamandalu and the rest is as above.
Once River Cauvery came into existence, Sage Agasthya proceeded with the killing of Illvalan and Vatapi. They were the sons of Sage Durvasa and Ajamukhi, the sister of Shurapadma. In order to rid himself from the Brahmahathi Dosha, Sage Agasthya created a lingam right in the middle of the river Cauvery with sand and started meditating before the same. Since this Ishwara was in the middle of the river (நடு + ஆறு ) he came to be known as "Nattatreeswara".(நட்டாற்றீஸ்வரர் )
|Sri Nattatreeswara - the sand lingam installed by Sage Agasthya|
It was the first day in the Tamil month of Chithirai (April 14th usually) when Sage Agasthya came out of meditation, having been rid of Brahma Hathi Dosha. When he tried to dissolve the lingam made of sand, he found that it had hardened and he was unable to move it from where he had installed it. At this point, he heard Lord Shiva instruct him to leave the Lingam where it was, for the Lord had decided to stay there in the middle of the river, to rid all those who worshipped him on the first day of Chithirai from all the Doshas that they have been afflicted with.
Sage Agasthya happily left the Lingam where it was. Since it had been installed on a small hillock in the middle of the river, all that he could offer to the Lord was porridge made of Bajra and yoghurt. (கம்பங்கூழ் ). Till date, this ritual is being followed. Mr Gandhi, the Secretary of the temple trust, tells us that on the first day of Chithirai, a minimum of one lakh people gather at the Nattatreeswarar Temple for worshipping the Lord and relieving themselves of all doshas. He says they grind around 15 bags of Bajra brought all the way from Tiruvannamalai and prepare about 150 drums of porridge. This is then mixed with 5000 litres of curd brought specially for this purpose from Erode and offered as prasadam to all the devotees who visit on the first day of Chithirai.
How does one reach the temple?
|The Coracles waiting to take visitors to the Nattatreeswara Temple|
During the months when the river is in full flow, the only means of reaching the temple is by coracles (பரிசல் ). The boatman charges Rs.10 per person for two way transportation. But during the month of April, the flow of water is reduced, the dam is closed and people can either walk across the river or drive down.
Mr. Gandhi, further mentioned that efforts are on to construct a bridge at a cost of Rs. 2.25 crores across the river to the temple, with the support of the Electricity Department and approvals from Water Resource Organisation. He narrated how they were able to establish that the temple was exactly in the middle of the river not just length wise but also breadthwise. The river is 760 kms long out of which this temple is located at 380 kms from either side thereby making it the exact central location.
Not just this, there are several other interesting features in the temple.
Sthala Vriksham : The sthala vriksham at this temple is the Athi Maram (Fig Tree). It is indeed a wonder how this tree grows on a rock in the hillock. It is also equally amazing that no new branches have sprouted in this tree for several decades. There is a Ganesha installed under the Sthala Vriksham facing the Cauvery, and is called "Kaveri Kanda Vinayagar".
|Sthala Vriksham at Sri Nattatreeswara Temple, Erode|
Lord Muruga is found here in a walking posture with a parrot in his hand. It is believed that when Lord Agasthya came here to worship Lord Shiva, Lord Muruga went forward to receive him and hence is found in this posture. The Parrot in Muruga's hand is believed to be Saint Arunagirinathar.
|Lord Muruga in a walking posture with parrot in hand|
|See the right foot being ahead of the left!|
The Goddess is known as Nallanayaki and is found in a seperate shrine. Adi Pooram is celebrated in her shrine with great festivity when 108 Sankabishekam is performed.
Clean Cauvery Yatra:
Mr. Gandhi further mentioned that about 350 ascetics from different mutts have been proceeding on an annual Clean Cauvery Yatra for three years now, with a mission to spread awareness about cleaning the river Cauvery. They start their yatra from Talacauvery and go up to Kaveripoompattinam, visiting and worshipping at various shrines along the way. They perform special prayers and poojas at the Nattatreeswara Temple, as it makes up the midpoint.
|With Mr Gandhi, the Secretary of the Temple Trust, and other officials of the temple.|
To my right is Ms Kasturi Prakash,, a close friend and our hostess for the trip
How to get here:
Nearest Railway Station: Erode
By Road: From Erode, proceed towards the Kodumudi - Karur Road. After about 13 kms, you will reach Chavadipalayam Pudur. At the four road junction there, proceed east for about 2 kms to reach the banks of the Cauvery from where you have to take the coracle to the temple. There is a board at Chavadipalayam pudur junction.
6.30 am - 12.30 pm
3.30 pm - 6 pm
On the first day of Chithirai, the temple is open through the day.
Mr. Gandhi, Secretary - 98420 22017
|A view of the River Cauvery from the Nattatreeswara Temple|