Thursday, December 26, 2013

Musical Ganeshas

Sri Kutchery Vinayagar Temple Cheyyur
Margazhi is the season for music when every auditorium is packed with Rasikas from morning to night eager to experience the best of music, dance and discourse. Aalayam Kanden takes pride in introducing to you two " Musical Ganeshas" not very far from Chennai.

Let us first visit the " Kutchery Vinayagar" temple at Cheyyur. Cheyyur, or Seyyur as it was originally known is not new to those who have been following Aalayam Kanden. The Kandaswamy Murugan Temple at Cheyyur (You can read the article here) is probably the only one in the world where there are Vedhalams for each one of the 27 stars.  The Vanmeeganathar Temple richly endowed with inscriptions of four Chola kings and a temple of worship for those born under the Uthiram star, and the remains of the Kailasanatha temple at Cheyyur which has a number of inscriptions from Rajendra Chola I's time are jewels in the crown of Cheyyur.

One of the unique features of the Kandaswamy Murugan temple are the Navasandhi Vinayagars. (Nine Ganeshas around the temple said to have been worshipped by the Navagrahas). The most prominent among those is the Kutchery Vinayagar. Now, why is he called the Kutchery Vinayagar? Let us go in and find out.

First View of the Kutchery Vinayagar
 During the Chola and Vijayanagara periods, there was a Sarva Vadhya Mandapam within the Kandaswamy Murugan  temple where all musical instuments were played and dancers performed at the time the Lord was taken out on procession. As the Lord moved into the Maada veedhis (streets surrounding the temple) musical performances were conducted at the Kutchery Vinayagar temple. All the leading musicians from the courts of the Kings right down to the famous devotional singers of this century such as K P Sundarambal have performed at the Kutchery Vinayagar temple. 

Kutchery Vinayagar 
Let us zoom in to take a closer look at the Kutchery Vinayagar. You would find that he is slightly tilted to the left. All the wonderful music that he has been hearing for centuries has made him sway!
There is an Elephant vahana in front of him instead of the Moonjuru which shows the ancient nature of the temple. 

Gnana Kutchery Vinayagar
Getting even closer, one can see the Aksamalai (string of prayer beads) and Angusam on the top two hands. Those who have a good voice and desire to excel in music visit this temple, sing before the Lord and perform abhishekam with tender coconut.  The Lord who loves good music and sways to it, grants them their wish.

Dussehra festival is celebrated in this temple with pomp and glory. On Tamil New year day, the Kutchery Vinayagar is taken out on proession through the streets of Cheyyur. Karthikeya Gurukkal who performs poojas at the temple says several reputed singers have visited the temple and taken the blessings of Kutchery Vinayagar.

Cheyyur is about 29 kms from Madhurantakam. On NH45, take the left just before the Melmaruvathur bridge and drive straight down for about 12 kms to reach the temple. One can also reach Cheyyur through the ECR.

The temple is close to the Cheyyur Bus Stand and is open between 9 and 10 am in the morning and 6 to 8 pm in the evening.  The Gurukkal can be contacted on 99943 16097.

Aanoor Astrapureeswara Temple
The next Ganesha we are going to see is at Aanoor, a small village about 13 kms from Chengalpattu. After crossing the Chengalpattu court, proceed towards Pon Vilaintha Kalathu. Aanoor is about 4 kms away from PVKalathur. If you brave the bad roads, a delight is in store.

Sangeetha Vinayagar
In an alcove on the dilapidated wall of the temple, is the "Sangeetha Vinayagar" said to date back to the 5th Century. The lower right hand is held in such a way that he looks as if he is putting Thalam (musical count). The Gurukkal at the temple mentioned that the Ganesha was a Varaprasadhi and worshipping him for seven days grants genuine wishes of devotees. For further information on the Asthrapureeswarar temple and the lovely murthis there, please read Raju Sir's article here.

Hope you visit these two Ganeshas in the musical month of Margazhi and be blessed!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Santhana Prapthi Kaalabhairava!

A portion of the Ramagiri Valeeswara Temple

At the end of the Ramayana war, Rama was affected by Brahmahathi Dosha (the curse of killing a brahmin) after killing Ravana. Ravana had a brahmin father,Vishrava and a Rakshasa mother Kaikesi. Killing a son born to a brahmin had resulted in Rama acquiring the Brahmahathi Dosha. Rama requested Hanuman to bring a Shiva Linga from Kashi so that he could worship the Lord and rid himself from the curse.

Hanuman dutifully obeyed Rama and brought a Shivalingam for Rama to worship at Rameswaram. On his way back, he was passing through a place called Thirukaarikarai. Kaala Bhairava was the Kshetra Palaka of this place. He saw Hanuman coming back with the sacred Shiva lingam. He was desirous of having Lord Shiva stay permanently at Thirukaarikarai. It was mid day and the sun was shining brightly. Kaala Bhairava sought Lord Surya (Sun God)'s co-operation in increasing the temperature further. The heat made Hanuman thristy and he got down and looked around for a water source.

Kaala Bhairava appeared before him in the guise of a young boy. Hanuman asked him if there was water nearby for him to bathe and drink. Kala Bhairava was able to make water run down the hill and collect in a pond nearby. He agreed to hold the Shivalingam till such time Hanuman returned. A happy Hanuman got down into the pond to bathe. The idyllic surroundings, and the cool,refreshing water made a weary Hanuman enjoy a long and thorough bath.

The Nandi theertham created by Kala Bhairava at Ramagiri
When he got out of the water, the little boy was nowhere in sight. He looked around to find the Shivalingam placed on the ground. In panic, he rushed to the spot and tried to lift the lingam and continue with his journey. But, despite several attempts, he was not able to even move it an inch from where it had been grounded. As a last ditch effort, he looped his tail over the Baana (top portion) of the lingam and tried to uproot it. All that he could do was to tilt it a bit, but the lingam would not budge. When Hanuman removed his tail from around the lingam, he saw the impression it had created on the Baana. He understood that it was divine will that the lingam was to stay there forever. So he worshipped it, and started back towards Kashi to get another lingam for Lord Rama.
Sthalapurana Mural of Sri Valeeswara Temple, Ramagiri

The place came to be known as Ramagiri as Hanuman had brought the Lingam for Rama and the Lord is known as Valeeswara as Hanuman tried to uproot him with his Vaal (Tail). Even today one can see the huge lingam slightly tilted to one side with tail marks on the baanam.

Although Lord Shiva is found here, this is one of the few temples where Kaala Bhairava is worshipped as the main deity. In this temple, he is worshipped as "Santhana Prapthi Kala Bhairava" - a Bhairava who grants boon of childbirth.

Several hundreds of devotees throng this temple through the year to offer prayers to Kaala Bhairava and be blessed with the boon of a child.

Stone Puppies offered at the Ramagiri Temple

Procedure for performing pooja for childbirth:

The Nandi Theertham created by Kaala Bhairava is perenially filled with cool water that flows from the hill and collects in the pond from the mouth of a Nandi. The water is said to bring with it the herbal goodness of the various medicinal plants that grow on the hill.

  • Couples desirous of performing poojas for child birth at Ramagiri, have to come to the temple, early in the morning on an empty stomach. 
  • They must both bathe in the Nandi Theertham and with wet clothes, go into the temple, light eight lamps in the specified place, and perform archana to Sri Kaala Bhairava. 
  • The priest then gives the couple a stone puppy which they both carry around the shrine and peform eight circumambulations.
  • They feed biscuits and food to the several dogs that are found within the temple complex. It is surprising to see the dogs not fighting with each other, or getting excited when people try to feed them. They do not eat anything that falls on the sand. When food is respectfully placed, they take turns to come and quietly eat the food.
  • Once their prayers are answered,they come back with the baby and perform abhishekam to Kaala Bhairava and place a stone puppy as a token of gratitude.

Several puppies offered by devotees are found in the Ramagiri temple
Special poojas and abhishekam are performed on Theipirai Ashtami (Eighth day after Full moon) every month between 9 am and 11.45 pm. It is better to arrive early in order to find seating space within the Artha Mandapa.

About the temple:

The temple is said to have been originally constructed by the Pallavas, and renovated over time by King Vira Rajendra Chola. From inscriptions, one can understand that a king called Sangama Kula Virupaksharaya tried to construct a Raja Gopura at the temple.
It is probably the only temple where Lord Hanuman can be seen in front of the Shivalingam in a worshipping state in the place of Nandi.
Thirukaarikarai  is a Devara Vaippu thalam sung by Sundaramurthy Nayanar.
There is a Murugan temple atop the hill and there are steps leading to it from near the pond.
Steps leading to the Murugan Temple on top of the hill
How to reach here:

Ramagiri is about 100 kms from Chennai on the Periyapalayam - Uthukottai - Suruttapalli - Nagalapuram route and about 3 kms from Nagalapuram.

Temple Timings:

Morning 8 am to 11.45 am
Afternoon 3 pm to 5.45 pm

Contact Details:
Shankarraj Gurukkal - 09490008887