Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The place where Tripura Samhara began!

The entrance to Adhipureeswarar Temple at Eithaloor
Very unique and lesser known temples have a way of revealing themselves. You get an opportunity to visit them not knowing anything about them, and once you do, the full power of what is being revealed to you hits you and you are elated, delighted and excited, all at the same time.

Recently, I had the privilege of writing and publishing the Sthalapuranam of Kailasanatha Temple at Nellikuppam near Cuddalore. More details about this temple can be found here on Aalayam Kanden. A young gentleman came forward to help with the publishing. When we went to Cuddalore for the event, he told me about Eiyaloor (also called Nesalur) a small village near EID Parry on the outskirts of Nellikuppam and urged me to visit it.

Once we went there, we found that the temple had been recently consecrated without compromising the divinity. Once we stepped it, we had actually entered a treasure trove. The temple had multiple unique features.

First of all, the temple has the privilege of having a complete puranam called Adhipurathalapuranam . This thalapuranam is an extract from the Brahmaanda Puranam - Uttara Bhagam - Kshetra Vaibhava Kandam - 68th Chapter which explains the significance of this temple.

Tripura Samhara:

Why is Adhipuram so significant? When Lord Shiva set out for the Tripura Samhara, with the Devas as his army, the Earth as his chariot, the four Vedas as the horses pulling the chariot, Lord Brahma as the charioteer, Mount Meru as the bow, the snake Vasuki as the string and Lord Vishnu as the arrow, he is said to have started from this place. Hence it came to be known as Adhipuri. The actual samhara is said to have taken place in Thiruvadhigai which was called Adhigaapuri. Adhipuri hence assumes equal significance as Adhigapuri. Over time, Adhipuri came to be known as Eithanoor because it was here that the Lord strung his bow and aimed the arrow for Tripura Samhara.

Inside the Eithaloor temple
Vali and Ravana:

Every day the monkey king Vali had the habit of bathing in the four oceans, going up to Kailash and worshiping Nandi Deva, Goddess Parvathi and Lord Shiva before starting his duties of the day. One day when Vali was bathing in the Southern Ocean, Ravana slipped his hands through Vali's armpits while he was praying with an intention to catch him unawares from behind. Vali lowered his arms locking Ravana's hands in them and tied him up with his tail.

He then completed his bath in the other oceans in the same position and reached Kailash with Ravana tucked behind him. When he worshipped Nandi Deva and sought permission to worship the Lord, Nandi informed him that Lord Shiva was currently in Adhipuram preparing for Tripura Samhara and that Ravana knew the way to the place. So Vali demanded Ravana to guide him to Adhipuram as a price for his freedom. Ravana requested Vali to release him first but Vali refused.

Unable to bear the pain, Ravana showed him the way to Adhipuram. Vali reached Adhipuram and bathed in the Brahma Theertham in the East, Padma Theertham in the South West, Gnana Theertham in the West, Soma Theertham in the North, Surya Theertham in the South East, Chakri Theertham in the North West, Irudi theertham in the North East, and Vani Theertham in the shrine of Goddess Padmathala Nayaki. He also created a theertham in the South named after him as Vali Theertham.

Vali holding Ravana by the tail and worshipping Adipureeswarar at Eithanoor
He then worshipped Lord Shiva in the form of Tripuranthaka and requested him to stay for ever at Adipuram and bestow his blessings upon those who worshipped him there. He also asked him to release the Ganga into the Pinakini river (Gedilam river as it is called today) created by Lord Vishnu, so that anyone bathing there was removed of all their sins. Lord Shiva was pleased with his devotion and released the Ganga into the Pinakini river. Vali then appointed Sangukarna ( a  previous birth of Guru Raghavendra Swamy) to perform the poojas to Lord Shiva as per the agamas at Adhipuram.

Birth place of Enadhi Nadha Nayanar:


Eithanoor is the birth place of Enadhi Nadha Nayanar
Enadhi Natha Nayanar, one of the 63 Nayanmars, was born in Eithaloor. He was a skilled swordsman and trained the princes in warfare. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and treated anyone who wore the Sacred Ash on their forehead as Lord Shiva's incarnation.  His competitor, jealous of his craft and fame, wanted to put an end to him and challenged him to a sword fight. Both men met in a bitter combat with their forces. In the ensuing combat, the competitor lost his men and weapons and had to retreat.

Wanting to win by hook or crook, the next day the competitor smeared the sacred ash on his forehead, covered it with his turban and challenged Enadhi Natha Nayanar to a duel. When Enadhi Nadha raised his sword to attack the competitor, he revealed the sacred ash on his forehead. When Enadhi Nadha saw the sacred ash, he dropped his weapons and stood motionless. Taking advantage, the competitor raised his sword to kill Enadhi Nadha. Pleased with his devotion, Lord Shiva appeared before him and gave him mukthi. The episode of Enadhi Nadha Nayanar's life is performed every year during his Guru puja.

Brahma Sarma Moksham:

A devout Brahmin by name of Brahma Sarma lived in Eithanoor. He spent all his time, on the banks of the river Pinakini, meditating on Lord Shiva seeking his vision. On one Sankaranthi day, Lord Shiva, pleased with his devotion, appeared before him and asked him what boon he sought. Brahma Sarma sought to find eternal rest in the golden feet of the Lord. Lord Shiva asked Brahma Sarma to witness the ceremony being conducted by Vali. On the fifth day, during the Pancha Moorthi procession, Brahma Sarma sang a verse on Lord Shiva called "Dwadasa Manjari". As he finished the verse, a dazzling light emerged from the Lord and from Brahma Sarma. Both merged into the Lord. Till date there is an image of Brahma Sarma at the location where he merged with the Lord.

An image of Brahma Sarma at the Eithaloor Temple
Brahma Lingam, Surya Lingam and Vishnu Lingam:

Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Surya have all installed lingams and worshipped Adhipureeswarar here to be rid of various curses. Hence it is believed that Lord Adipureeswara will rid anyone worshipping him of curses known and unknown.

Surya Lingam and Vishnu Lingam at Eithanoor temple
Which is greater - Knowledge or Wealth?

Once there lived two women Roopavathi who was very rich and Vidyavathi who was blessed with knowledge in Eithanoor. Roopavathi argued that Wealth was greater and Vidyavathi knowledge. Both sought the intervention of Goddess Padmathalanayaki. Based on her instructions, Kubera ruled that knowledge was greater. Enraged, Roopavathi cursed Vidyavathi to become a ghost. Vidyavathi sought the help of Goddess Vani (Saraswathi) to be rid of her ghost form. Goddess Vani created a theertham near the Padma Thala Nayaki shrine and asked Vidyavathi to bathe in it and regain her lost beauty. Vidyavathi did as instructed and regained her original form. Even today the theertham is found as a well inside the temple and those worshipping Goddess Padma Thala Nayaki are said to be blessed with eternal knowledge. Vidyavathi is seen worshipping at the feet of Dhakshinamurthy in this temple.


The Vani theertham or well of knowledge at Eithanoor
Other unique features:


  • The Saptha Rishis - Athiri, Bringi, Vishista, Gautama, Pulaththiya, Kashyapa and Aangeerasa are said to have worshipped Lord Shiva at Eithaloor and hence are seen on the vimana of Lord Adhipureeswara shrine. This is something that is not found in any other temple. Since these rishis are the ancestors of the Nava Grahas, the Nava Grahas are not found seperately in this temple and it is believed that the Nava Grahas come to Adhipuram to worship the Rishis. Worshipping here rids one of Navagraha Dosha. 
The Saptharishis found on the Vimana of Eithaloor temple
  • Lord Brahma unlike the standing posture in the Goshta, is seen in a meditative posture on the Vimana.

Lord Brahma found in a meditative posture in the Vimana
  • Goddess Durga is found with Prayoga Chakra leaning on a lion and standing on the head of a bison. She is found in Tribhanga posture with four arms, her face resembling a middle aged woman.

Goddess Durga at Eithanoor

  • Lord Vishnu is also seen with Prayoga Chakra.
  • There are some inscriptions in the temple which speak about grants given by Rajasekara Pandiyan and Kulothunga III.
  • Saint Thirugnanasambandar is said to have stayed here for some time.
  • From the flagpost one can worship both Goddess Padma thala nayaki and Lord Adhipureeswara at the same time.



How to get here:

At the Nellikuppam EID parry Road, turn left at Melpathi Varasiddhi Vinayakar Temple to reach Eithanoor.
Coordinates: 11.7561965, 79.684052

Contact Details:

Kandan - 98947 53549
Senthil  -   96557 91636

Temple Timings:

At the moment, the temple does not reach a large patronage, so please check with the Gurukkal about their availability before visiting.



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Trikkur Mahadeva Kshetram - Come and be rid of breathing difficulties!

The 7th Century rock cut Trikkur Mahadeva Temple
I first heard about the Trikkur Mahadeva Kshetram through a follower of the Aalayam Kanden Trust facebook page. I had plans of travelling to Guruvayur and Trichur in the following week and hence wrote back to him asking for further details like temple timings, contact details etc but did not hear back from him. Google searches yielded minimal information, but what I got added to the excitement. We did not know the exact location and timings, route or nothing further other than the fact that this was one among the oldest and very few rock cut Shiva temples of Kerala.

As usual, our taxi driver gave us a blank look when we mentioned Trikkur to him. He thought we were mispronouncing Trichur. When we tried to take help on the way, the passersby also gave the distinctive Kerala style shrug and shake of the head to say they did not know.

When we finally found the location and started the climb up the small hillock, we found the priest walking down after locking the temple. We were totally disappointed that all our efforts since morning had failed. The priest however, seeing us slow down, stopped to inform us that the "Chechimaar"were still at the temple and we could go in.

The entrance to the Trikkur Mahadeva Kshetram
The temple is in multiple layers. At the entrance is a multi pillared hall painted in bright colours right in front of the Dwajasthamba. The main temple complex is at a higher level with steps leading to it. There are also another set of crude steps leading to the Ganapathy, Sapthamatrika and other shrines on top of the hillock. There are other shrines around the circumambulatory path and below the main temple complex.

The sanctum sanctorum is within a cave on a hillock. Extensions have been made to include an Artha Mandapa and a Nada with steps leading to the main shrine. Apart from this, the rocks also hold the office block and other shrines. This temple is an ASI protected monument. 

I have not heard of many rock cut Shiva temples in Kerala. Not just that, this temple also had several other unique features.

History of Thrikkur Mahadeva Kshetram:


Trikkur is situated on the shores of the Manali River, around ten kilometers north-east of Thrichur. The Trikkur Mahadeva Kshetram is located about 200m above the sea level. In this temple, Lord Shiva resides as a Syambhoo. The majestically beautiful deity, is over six feet tall and is over two feet wide. 

The Sanctum Sanctorum is located within a cave that is twelve feet long and eight feet wide. The cave opens out towards the north.  In front of the sanctum sanctorum is a Mugha mandapa, that is carved fully out of rock. Even though the deity  faces the east , during the Darshan, the devotees get to see only the right side of the Linga. ( ‘Parshwa Darshan”.)

The stone carved Mukha Mandapam insdie the Trikkur Mahadeva Temple

The temple is believed to be created by the Lord of fire, Lord Agni. It is also believed that Agni eternally resides alongside Lord Shiva. Due to this, the Ezhunnellath ( the ushering of the deity outside the temple) is never done on rainy days or on the days when the atmosphere is cloudy. 

Goddess Parvathi too, perpetually resides alongside the Lord Shiva, personifying knowledge. Towards the West side of the sanctum, Lord Ganapathi is engraved on the wall of the cave. On the East side are two Dwarapalakas and on the Mugha Mandapa, resides a Saalagrama, which is said to have immense Vaishnava Chaithanya .

The floor, laden with rock, and the Namasakara Mandapa, which is constructed from sixteen rock pillars have a large number of beautiful carvings on them. Towards the North of the temple is a hall where Saraswati Pooja and Chakyar Koothu are conducted during Navraatri and Utsavas respectively.

It is also believed that this temple was first found by a person, belonging to a class considered untouchable in those days. He had been searching for his cow that had gone grazing, when he chanced upon this cave. He found the cow in the cave along with the magnificent form of Lord Shiva. He immediately ran and reported this to his master, a Namboodiri.


The Namboodiri, seeing the magnificent form of the Lord manifested in the cave, performed poojas to him. A floor has been erected in front of the temple, in memory of the man who had first sighted this temple. In the Utsava times, it is on this floor, that Kurathiyattam is performed. Since it was here that the temple was sighted – the village was named Dhrukpuram. (Dhrushti – sight) . Over time, the word Dhrukpuram shortened to Trikkur, goes the myth.

Cure for breathing difficulties:

There are numerous temples around the country that offer solace and relief to different problems. The uniqueness about the Trikkur Mahadeva Kshetram is that it gives relief to those who are suffering from breathing difficulties like Asthma, and breathlessness. The method of worship used to be rid of these ailments is also unique.

Kayar Vazhipaadu(The Rope Offering)

Yards of rope are offered at the feet of the Lord, or in the form of  Rope Thulabhara ( offering rope equivalent to one's weight) . This Kayar Vazhipadu is said to have divine powers to heal Asthma  and people belonging to different religions and castes come to this temple to offer Kayar Vazhipaadu to the Lord and cure themselves of respiratory illnesses. This method of cure is termed as ‘Daiva Vyaapaashraya Chikitsa’ in Ayurveda. The Chechimaar at the temple also mentioned that if one paid Rs.500 for this offering, then the Kayar Vazhipaadu would be done on their behalf for twelve years. 

A look at the yards of rope in the temple one could well imagine the number of people who offered such rope to be rid of breathing difficulties.

Yards of rope offered as Thulabara to Trikkur Mahadeva
Apart from the Rope Thulabhara which is the most popular form of offering, devotees also offer Dhara (Abhishekam) of 108 and 1008 pots of water at noon, once they have been cured .

Lord Shiva is fond of Vilvam (Bilwa/Koovaram). Offering Pushpanjali with fifty one Vilva leaves is also another way of expressing gratitude after being cured. For children who are suffering from breathing difficulties, Karuka Homam or lighting of Pin Vilaku (lamp behind the Lord) is also done apart from the Kayar Vazhibadu.

The Dwajasthambam at Trikkur Mahadeva Kshetram
The sacrificial stones (balikallu) and the flag pole (Kodimaram) are situated to the right of the temple. Ganapathi, Sastha, Antimahakalan , Kaali, Bhagavathi and Chaamundi are all found at different spots on the hillock.  The Saptamatrikas are housed in what is called a Matrusaala. This concept and architecture of Maatrusala is found very rarely in Kerala. In the south west corner, the Naga deities are also housed.

The Saptamatrikas on top of the hillock

At the top of the rock, there exists a miniature well, which has a constant, natural supply of water. It is known as the Theertha Well , though hardly anyone ever uses the water in this well. Even in the hottest of summers, this well, miraculously, never runs dry.

One of the shrines on top of the hillock.

There are  numerous rock engravings  found in this temple, closely associated with Jain religion. It is said that many Jain saints have undergone their penance on this hillock prior to it becoming a Saivaite temple.

Procedure for praying at the Trikkur Mahadeva Temple:

All devotees must start their worship by first bowing to the Dhwajasthamba. Above the Dwajasthamba, is a Ganapathi who is worshipped next, either from below or if one has the ability, by going up the rocktop.

Ganapathi on top of the hillock at Trikkur Mahadeva Kshetram

Then they must pray to the Sapthamatrikas and continue to circumambulate to the south west corner and prays to the Nagayakshi and the Nagaraja. After this, they must circumambulate through the North Nada and pray to Ganapathi/Sastha/Anthimahakalan/Bhadrakali/Bhagavathi/Chamundi all found next to each other on the North east part of the temple.

The circumambulatory path around the hillock

 Proceeding to the main shrine , the devotees must pray to Lord Shiva, circumambulate the Mandapa,  say a silent prayer to Lord Ganesha, come back to the main shrine and seek blessings of Lord Shiva again.

A number of festivals like Thiruvathira, Mahashivaratri, Navaratri, and Pradosha Puja are celebrated with great pomp and glory at this temple and people from different parts of the world arrive at this small village to partake in the celebrations and obtain the blessings of Lord Thrikkurappan.



The beautiful pillared hall before the Dwajasthamba

How to reach here:

Trikkur is about ten kilometres from Trichur in Kerala. Google map link here.

Temple timings:

The sanctum sanctorum  is open from 7 am to 10 am in the morning and again from 5 pm to 8 pm in the evening. All other parts of the temple are open through the day.

Contact Details:

Phone Number: 0487- 2359500
Email: trikkurmahadevan@gmail.com

Acknowledgement:

My sincere thanks to Rahul Kochuparambil for helping with the translation of documents received from the temple in order to give complete information in this article.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Harihara Kshetra of Urukunda!

The Lakshmi Narasimha Veeranna Swamy Temple at Urukunda
Aalayam Kanden has been fortunate in bringing to its readers several lesser known and unique temples near Mantralayam in the past. Check out this link to read about all the other posts about temples near Mantralayam. Yet another to this wonderful list is the very unique Lakshmi Narasimha Veeranna Swamy temple at Urukunda, about 30 kms from Mantralayam.

So what is so special and unique about this temple?

The Sanctum Sanctorum in this temple comprises of a Peepal tree under which are the idols of Veerabadra Swamy and Lakshmi Narasimha and both are worshipped as per Veera Saiva Tradition! The Peepal tree is considered to be the main deity and there is no roof to the temple. Surprised? Let us go back into how this all came into being.

The Sanctum Sanctorum at the Lakshmi Narasimha Veeranna Swamy temple Urukunda
Photo Courtesy: Adoni Places
History of the temple: There was a sage named Hiranya (popularly called as Eranna or Veeranna in these areas) who did penance for many years under a Peepal tree in Urukunda village. All the cows that grazed in the village used to flock around him and he spent a lot of time pampering and talking to them. The villagers brought fruits and food to him and sought his blessings. Sage Eranna helped to cure chronic diseases and ailments of these kind villagers.

One day, Sage Veeranna disappeared from his usual place under the Peepal tree. At about the same time, an idol of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha appeared below the tree. The villagers believed that the sage had appeared before them again as Narasimha Swamy. They placed the idol of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha under the Peepal Tree and started worshipping him.

They also wanted to place an idol of Sage Veeranna alongside the Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy for worship. Since Sage Veeranna had been like a guardian angel of the village, (Kshetrapalaka), they made a silver idol of him represented as  Sri Veerabadra Swamy and installed it next to the idol of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha.

There is also another version of the story, that Sage Eranna used to advocate a lot for Saiva-Vaishnava unity, and after he disappeared two idols of Veerabadra and Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy were found below the Peepal tree and the villagers started worshipping them together within the same Sanctum Sanctorum.

Both Veerabadraswamy and Lakshmi Narasimha are worshipped as per the Veera Saiva tradition to date.

Sri Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy at the Sanctum Santorum of Urukunda temple
Photo Courtesy: Adoni places
Poojas and abhishekam are done to the holy Peepal tree. There is no roof to the Sanctum Sanctorum and one can worship the holy tree from the sides of the temple even if the main temple is closed. The temple draws several thousands of devotees through the year, who come to be rid of mental ailments and physical diseases.

Guru Raghavendra Swamy's visit: Once when Guru Raghavendra Swamy was travelling along the banks of the Tungabadra river, he is said to have told his disciples about the Urukunda temple and brought them there to worship Lord Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy and Veerabadraswamy.

Worshipping at the temple: As mentioned earlier, pilgrims throng the temple on Mondays, Thursdays and New Moon (Amavashya) days. The Telugu month of Sravana is very very special at this temple.

About ten to fifteen lakh pilgrims visit the temple during this time every year. On the third Monday of the month, the devotees make sweet rice on makeshift stoves outside the temple and offer it to Eranna Swamy and the devotees. Every year on this day, it rains very heavily in this area. However, devotees are able to cook the rice on the wet grounds using wet firewood which is considered to be a miracle of Sage Eranna.

On the last Monday of the month, there is a Pallaki Seva wherein the deities are carried to the river Tungabadra, for Abhishekam. During this month, people offer blocks of Vibhuti (holy ash) to Eranna Swamy and take it back to their homes. This vibhuti is then applied to the forehead of the person who is suffering from any ailment and is also taken orally and with the blessings of Eranna Swamy, the patient is cured.

People who stay in and around Adoni, take it upon themselves to visit Urukunda atleast once a year, especially during the month of Sravana, and offer rice, dal and jaggery which is used in the preparation of Prasadam. It is estimated that the temple provides food to a cost of around one crore rupees with the help of these donations during this month.

The Holy Peepal Tree at Urukunda under which Sage Eranna meditated
Marriage ceremonies in these areas usually begin with prayers to Eranna Swamy and once the rituals are completed, the groom and bride are brought back to the temple to seek blessings for a happy married life. They come back again after childbirth to offer the birth hair (tonsure) of the child to the Lord as token of gratitude.

The temple has been recently renovated and there is a large waiting area with shops outside the temple. This area would also serve as a place for people to stay and rest during the Sravana festival. Food is available at the Anna dhana chatra during the day for pilgrims who travel from long distances to visit the temple.

Shrine outside the Urukunda Temple
How to get here:

Urukunda is accessible by road and train from both Adoni and Mantralayam. It is about ten kilometres from Kupgal railway station and 27 kms from Adoni. Local jeep drivers at Mantralayam can help in taking pilgrims to Adoni, Basaladoddi and Budumuladoddi Hanuman temples and Urukunda which can all be visited in about half a day's time if one starts early from Mantralayam. (Articles about all these temples can be found in Aalayam Kanden here.) or one can take any local train and get down at Kupgal or Kosigi stations and take a share auto from there. Nearest place of stay would be Mantralayam or Adoni although there are a few modest cottages that belong to the temple.

Temple timings:

The temple is open throughout the day from 5 am in the morning till 8 pm at night.

Temple Address:

Urukunda Sri  Lakshmi Narasimha Veeranna Swamy Temple,
Urukunda, Kauthalam Mandal,
Kurnool District,
Andhra Pradesh - 518344
Phone: 9491000738 , 9966390671

For jeep/taxi services from Mantralayam to the temple, you can contact Mr Srinivas at 098850 27919/ 098859 72488

The waiting hall outside the Urukunda temple




Sunday, November 2, 2014

A treasure trove by the river!

The make shift temple at Marangiyur

Marangiyur is a non-descript village in Villupuram district on the banks of the river Thenpennai. Right at the edge of the village on the banks of the river, is the Parvathavardhini Samedha Sri Ramalingeswarar Temple.

Over the years, I have made a number of trips to Marangiyur, as my husband's grandmother lived there."Aaru Thirunaal"(the festival of worshipping the river on the sixth day of Pongal ) happens at Marangiyur every year and it is a delight to watch the village fair there. Despite visiting several times, I was not fortunate to see this temple earlier.

A few months ago, when I heard about the mythology of this temple and the beautiful icons found there from Shri Kannan of Sankara Matam, I became determined to make all efforts to visit at the earliest.

A temple associated with Ramayana:

When Lord Rama was going down South in search of Goddess Sita, he is said to have reached Marangiyur on a new moon day. This is the day that "Tharpanam"(rites for deceased ancestors) is performed, so he stopped by the banks of the Pennai river perform the same for his father King Dasaratha. As there was no temple nearby, he installed a Shivalinga and performed the rites before it. The lingam installed by Rama came to be known as Ramalingeswara.

Pitru Sthalam:

Over the centuries, those unable to go to Rameswaram to perform the rites of their forefathers, came to Marangiyur, worshipped Lord Ramalingeswara and performed the rites on the banks of the Pennai river. Since King Dasaratha is said to have been pleased with the offerings made by his son at Marangiyur, devotees believe that performing the annual rites or Tharpanam on Amavashya days at Marangiyur will earn the satisfaction and blessings of ancestors.

Sri Ramalingeswara at Marangiyur
History of the temple:

There are a number of idols in and around the temple belonging to the Pallava period and before. However, there is no concrete evidence of when this temple was first built. A total of 27 inscriptions from this temple have been recorded in the Annual Epigraphy Report 1935-36. From these inscriptions, we come to know that the Lord Ramalingeswara was also known as Thiruvirameswarar and the village was called Rajendrasinganallur in Kudal-Iladappadi of Rajaraja Valanadu.

An inscription from the second year of Kulōttuṅga-Chōḷa says that the Goddess Parvatha Vardhini was installed by Periyuḍaiyān Attimalan alias Vikrama-śōḷa-Vāṇakularayan, the Malaiyamān chief of Kiḷiyūr. The Goddess was called Tirupaḷḷiyarai-Āḷuḍai-yāḷ or Kamakota Nachiyar in the inscription. 
Goddess Parvathavardhini at Marangiyur
An inscription from the fourth year of Rāja-mahēndradēva, registers a gift of 500 kuli of samudāya  (common) land for the sacred bath, light and offerings by the Mahāsabhā of Nelvāyppākkam  alias Rājēndraśiṅga-chaturvēdimaṅgalam, a brahmandēya in vaḷanāḍu, as an expiation for some damage caused to the image of the deity on the occasion of a hunting festival on the north bank of the river in their village.

Ganesha at Marangiyur temple
One of the Kulothunga inscriptions mentions a liquid measure named Arulmozhidevan. It is interesting to note that an inscription from the time of Saluva Narasimha mentions that as several shrines in the  dēvadāna  villages of the temple of Tiruvirāmīśvaram-Uḍaiyār had fallen into disuse owing to the Oḍḍiyan-galabhai and as the temple itself had fallen into disrepair and the dēvadānas had become neglected, certain taxes like jōdi etc, were remitted on these lands and worship was thereby revived in the temple by Annamarasa, the agent of the king.

There are a number of inscriptions of Konerinmaikondan, out of which one from his 21st year, states grant of 12 maa of devadana land conducting repairs at the temple. Marangiyur is referred to be part of Idaiyaru parru in Thirumunaipadi nadu. An inscription from his 22nd year states that the construction of the Nandi maṇḍapa was done by Tirumāgāḷamuḍaiyār and Sūryadēvar, sons of Mārīṅgulān.

Chandikeswara at Marangiyur
An inscription from the 6th year of Vira Rajendra deva states that Māḍālvi, daughter of Kōlaṅgoṇḍāḷ, a dēvarai-yār of the temple, constructed the tirumāigai and tiruvāśal and the bali-pīha was set up by Aramuḍaiyāl, daughter of Mulaiyelundāl Periyāṇḍai.

Apart from the above, the temple had inscriptions from the time of the following rulers - Rajanarayana Sambuvaraya, Rajadhirajadeva,Jatavarman Sundarapandyan, Vikrama Chola, Māravarman Parākrama Pāṇḍyadēva, Achutya Maharaya and Vira Bhupathi Udayar of Vijayanagara.

Well, if you are not astonished by the number and level of detailing in the inscriptions, the idols strewn all over the place give you goosebumps. For example, take a look at this deity that can be found on the roadside near the temple. The villagers call this idol Sanga Kaala Kotravai.  Look at the knife (Kattari) in her hand.

Tribal looking deity - Period - to be determined by experts - Marangiyur
Yet another absolutely awesome beauty, is the Kotravai from around 7th Century CE. This beautiful maiden with six packs again is found on the road near the temple waiting for care and attention.
Pallava Kotravai at Marangiyur
Mhoodevi (Jyeshta Devi) sitting on a lotus is rather uncommon and she is again found in a make shift shelter that the construction workers have made.  This is also from the Pallava period. They say that worshipping this Jyeshta Devi on Thursdays brings harmony to the family. Now with the worship of Jyeshta Devi picking up in these parts of Tamilnadu, the trustees say that the eldest born in the family from the nearby villages brings offerings to Jyeshta Devi on Thursdays.

Jyeshta Devi at Marangiyur
Well,one could go on and on. While a number of broken idols are strewn around near the temple, some have also been moved to nearby new temples for safekeeping.
Beauty broken by two...the sad state at Marangiyur
Out of the idols found in nearby temples, three are really magnificent  and catch your attention. The first is a huge idol of Lord Vishnu recovered from the river.

Lord Vishnu excavated at Marangiyur
Similarly a very unique Subrahmanya with twelve hands seated on an Asura Mayil devoid of Valli, Devasena is also a beauty to behold. A Vishnu Durga from the temple is also kept here for safekeeping.
Lord Subrahmanya at Marangiyur
The situation today:
Over the years, the temple got damaged and eroded, and although it was repaired during the Chola and Vijayanagara periods, this temple got totally dilapidated and fell a few decades ago. An ambitious effort is being made by the villagers to rebuild it  The God and Goddess are placed within a makeshift shed. All the unbroken stones removed from the original temple are numbered and are being used to reconstruct the temple. To make sure the temple does not get eroded like before (although there is no water in Thenpennai currently) efforts have been made to raise the level of the ground much higher than the river level and then start the construction over it.


The project requires close to a crore of rupees to complete and the eighty year old trustee Sri Marimuthu, former  VAO of the village, is making all efforts within his means to raise funds. He says if a proper archaeological excavation is carried out in the Thenpennai river  near the temple, chances of finding inscriptions or idols are high.

Every rupee that is contributed towards this noble cause will go a long way in ensuring these beauties are protected and preserved and a temple with such mythology and religious faith will remain useful for our future generations.

All contributions may be sent in favor of Sri Ramalingeswarar Arakkatalai, Account No. 6184761697, Indian Bank, T. Pudhupalayam Branch. IFSC Code : IDIB000T134

How to reach here:

From Villupuram, one can take a bus to Kalpattu and Marangiyur is about one km from there.
Or From Villupuram when one is proceeding towards Thirukovilur, via Enadhimangalam, Marangiyur is found between Thiruvennainallur and Enadhimangalam.(Coordinates: 11.917137, 79.370320)

Contact Details:

Mr. Marimuthu - Trustee - 97519 66768
Mr. Soundar - Trustee - 98433 56682




Monday, October 20, 2014

A temple for Mohini near Guruvayur!

The entrance to Hari Kanyaka Bhagavathy Temple
Every trip hides within itself several gems and treasures that are revealed to those who seek for it with patience, determination and passion! Our recent trip to Kerala had several such gems that were revealed to us which I will share in the forthcoming articles. Please note that the number of pictures would be few considering that temples in Kerala strictly do not allow photography inside its premises.

The Guruvayurappan Temple in Guruvayur is one that draws several hundreds of visitors each day from 3 am to 9.30 pm from different parts of the world. There are a number of interesting temples around the Guruvayurappan temple and it was good to see many of them listed in the brochures that are available in the hotels. However, the one we were looking for was not part of the list (as usual!)

After a soul-refreshing Nirmalya Darishanam of Lord Guruvayurappa at 3 am in the morning, we set out to explore the place we were looking for. Our driver too, did not know the place nor had he heard of it. Soon, in broken Malayalam, we were making inquiries. It might have helped if we had known the actual name of the temple, all we knew was that it was a temple devoted to Mohini Avatara and it was near Guruvayur.

After about five-six failed attempts, an auto-rickshaw driver came to our rescue - go to Ariyannoor and ask for Hari Kanyaka Bhagavathy temple, he said.

Thanks to Google maps, we were off to Ariyannoor soon. It is five kms away from Guruvayur and the map led us into small lanes among fields. With some guidance from the locals, we were soon in front of the temple. We subsequently found that we had taken a round about route and it was just one straight road to the temple. (See route below).

A view into the Hari Kanyaka Bhagavathy temple
The temple was up a slope and as we walked up to find very few people in it. The architecture is typically that of Kerala with the sloping roofs and a liberal usage of wood and brick in the construction. This is one of the temples constructed by Perunthachchan, the greatest architect Kerala has produced and dates back to the Seventh Century.

We crossed the threshold and went into the temple. However, we found that there is no entrance further. Surprised, we went around the temple, trying to see if there were entrances at the sides, but again could not find any. As we came to the other side of the temple, we found a lady enter the temple and go towards the left of the entrance. We almost ran to catch up with her to see how she was entering.

Trying to find the entrance to Hari Kanyaka Bhagavathy temple :)
We felt quite foolish when she effortlessly stepped over a short wall on the side of the temple to enter it. It was really interesting to see that there are no direct doors either in front or the sides. One has to enter a courtyard with a huge Bali Peetam by crossing a relatively low stone wall on either side. Was this a distinctive design of the times, or something that was done with a specific purpose or something that came up subsequently to protect the temple during invasions....only experts will be able to say.

Once we crossed the courtyard, we came to a long passage with platforms on either side. Inside this was a Naalambalam - an open courtyard with corridors running along all four sides. Right in the middle stands the Sanctum Sanctorum in which the Goddess whom we came looking for stood.

The ceiling was a treasure trove of sculptures depicting the Churning of the Ocean - the cause for Mohini Avatara. The brick structure of the sanctum sanctorum is visible through the peeling plaster which shows the remains of wonderful murals that had once decorated it.

One stands in awe till you are gestured aside, to give way to the priest bringing the deity in after Seeveli. (procession around the temple).

A beautiful portrait of Hari Kanyaka Bhagavathy adorns the Courtyard
We turned our attention to the Goddess - Vishnu in the magnificient form of Hari Kanyaka or Mohini. This is the form that Lord Vishnu took when the Devas and Asuras churned the ocean to find nectar. When both started fighting over it, Lord Vishnu took the form of a very beautiful maiden, and was able to take the pot of nectar away from the Asuras and share it with the Devas. Lord Ayyappa, is said to be the son of Lord Shiva and Mohini.

In this temple, Lord Vishnu is found in the virgin form of Mohini - Hari Kanyaka. With the symbolic Conch and Discus (Sanku and Chakra) on the two upper arms, she holds a pot of nectar (Amrutha Kailasam) in her lower right hand with the other hand placed elegantly on her slender waist.The beauty of the deity holds your attention. Truly a Mohini indeed!

Typical of Kerala temples, there is a Ganesha at the end of the corridor to the right of the Sanctum Sanctorum.  Murals and elephants adorn the walls and corridors all around .

The lady who showed us the entrance, told us that this temple is worshiped by those who seek good marriage alliances. They pray to Harikanyaka Bhagavathy for a good marriage proposal and then come back after marriage to show their gratitude. There is a fifteen day festival that happens in the month of March-April, wherein the Bhagavathy is taken on procession atop a female elephant around the temple.The temple is an ASI protected monument. Truly an architectural delight and a souvenir of the craftsmanship of Perunthachchan. His large chisels still adorn the temple as testimony to his architecture.

                                                                                                               
How to reach here:

The temple is about five kms away from the Guruvayur temple and there are a number of autos that ply to and fro. The name of the village is Hari Kanniyoor (which has now become Ariyannoor). Today a non-descript village, with two ancient temples (there is a Shiva temple too near the Hari Kanyaka Bagavathi Temple), this place used to be larger and more prominent than Guruvayur in the past and was the head of 32 deshams. (villages).

From the East Nada where the temple is located, one has to head East towards Guruvayur- Choondal Road, and the temple can be found on the right side in about five kilometres.The Google map link can be found here.

Temple Timings:

The temple is open between 5.30 am and 9.30 am in the morning and 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm in the evenings.

If you happen to visit Guruvayur, please take some time to visit this ancient and unique temple too!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Goddess in the middle of the forest!

A view of a stream running through the woods in the Srisailam Forest

Ishtakameswari Devi - The Goddess who fulfills all our desires! Who does not want their desires fulfilled? However, in order to achieve that, one needs patience, faith and endurance. The Ishtakameswari Devi temple is located underground in the middle of the Srisailam Tiger Reserve - A dense forest with no proper roads, access only through authorized jeeps, and the strength to bear with the one and half hour journey which threatens to juggle your bones and intestines!

During the last two trips to Srisailam, much that we desired, we were not able to visit Ishtakameswari Devi. There are a limited number of jeeps, that are allowed to ply into the forest and the booking must be made in advance (the previous night). This time around, we were very keen that we somehow visit the temple and our prayers paid off. We were able to book two jeeps the previous evening and were all set to go - armed with water, biscuits and pooja items, as nothing is available inside the forest.

Jeeps all set to go into the forest towards Ishtakameswari Devi temple
The jeeps are allowed to enter only at 9.30 am so we had to wait for a while outside the tiger reserve where there are shops for people to buy supplies, drink tea/ lime soda, considering the jerky ride. Soon, we were at the forest  check post, where the entrance fee is collected, the number of passengers in each vehicle checked, and approvals verified. Each jeep is allowed to carry only five people, to make sure the vehicle is able to climb the uneven terrain comfortably.

One has to but wonder at the prowess of the young jeep drivers who maneuver the jeeps effortlessly through the dirt tracks inside the forest. Soon, we were moving into the forest, on one hand admiring the glory of nature as it spread before us, untouched and raw, and on the other hand, clinging to the side rods and the holders above, for dear life, making sure we did not fall out, as the jeeps juggled their way into the forest.

It was as if we were all put into a mixer to be churned up. Minutes grew longer as the 11 km stretch from the forest check post took close to an hour to cover.  We then reached a landing, beyond which the jeeps could not go. From here, we had to walk through the forest, making our way over slippery rocks, and small pools of water.

Walking through the jungle towards Ishtakameswari Devi Temple
One has to be very careful while walking. It is better to wear shoes or sandals with a good grip so that one is able to walk comfortably through the wilderness. Avoid high heels or flimsy footwear. We could see a couple of people slipping during the hop, skip and jump through the stones.

Chenju children practicing their trade inside the Srisailam forest
Soon we came across a clearing where we could see the inmates of the forest - the Chenjus (hunters). These people stay within the forest and hunt animals. The women sell forest products like honey and fruits near the temple. The children are found practicing with their bows and arrows. Look at the little boy shooting at the target and the even smaller ones, sitting down and waiting for their turn!

A few hundred meters further we could see the first glimpse of the hunters settlement. Right in the middle of it, underground, is the Ishtakameswari Temple. Before visiting her, one has to go down steep rocks to the perennial stream that runs all around her temple, to wash their hands and feet.

The perennial stream that runs around the Ishtakameswari Temple
Senior citizens will definitely need help going down and coming up. We were lucky to be in the first few jeeps that went to the forest, so the temple was almost empty. One has to go to the entrance of a small cave like structure and then crawl inside towards the Goddess. Once inside the cave, there is space for the person to sit cross-legged.

The priest sits towards the right of the Goddess and it is amazing how he is able to sit in the restricted space, with very little circulation of air and light, throughout the day. The only light that comes in, is through the opening of the cave and at a time, only three to four people are allowed inside.

A sneak peek into the Ishtakameswari Devi Temple
Photography is strictly prohibited inside the cave. Once in, the priest allows the people to sit around the Goddess and meditate for a few minutes. He then asks each one to put Kumkum on the forehead of the Goddess while making their wishes. One can definitely feel a quiver running down the spine while doing this. The skin on the forehead is almost akin to human skin and the pressure of the thumb against it brings an indescribable feeling and you automatically feel tears welling up.

The picture of Ishtakameswari Devi (Courtesy: Ishtakameswari Devi Devalayam)
The priest then gives Kumkum and bangles and one has to crawl their way back into the opening of the cave and then carefully step out. By the time we came out, we found a long queue of people waiting for their turn to worship the Goddess. Many of them carry flowers, fruits, and sarees to adorn the Goddess. Once their genuine desire is fulfilled, they always come back to thank their Goddess and demonstrate their gratitude through their offerings.

A number of people waiting to go into the Ishtakameswari Devi Temple
Other than the main Goddess, there are a row of very old idols placed inside the thatched roof that constitutes the Artha Mandapa. The temple is estimated to be in existence from the 8th Century and has been popular even in those times.

Ganesha and other deities placed in the Ishtakameswari Temple
The Chenju women sell honey and photographs of the Goddess under a huge tree. Each bottle of forest honey is sold at Rs.500 for 500 gms and there are a number of takers. They also use the jeeps coming in and out of the forest for their commute into Srisailam and back for procuring anything that is not available in the forest.
Buying honey from the Chenju women at Ishtakameswari Devi Temple
Once darshan is complete, the people are requested to move back, in order to allow for the next set of jeeps to come in. So, soon we were on our way back, jumping up and down in our seats as the vehicle made its way through the rocky terrain. But there were no two thoughts in agreeing that this was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
One of the smoothest areas during the drive :)
How to get here:

  • The temple is about 21 kms from Srisailam out of which 11 kms are through the forest. It takes about an hour and a half to reach the temple. So one has to plan at least four hours to visit Ishtakameswari Devi Temple.
  • The only mode of transport is jeep. Only ten jeeps are allowed per day, so jeeps have to be booked the previous evening itself, if it is in a weekend. On weekdays, it would be wise to book the jeeps as early as possible, to avoid disappointment.
  • The jeeps charge Rs.800 per person which includes the fee paid to the forest department at entry point.
  • The jeep ride is rough. Although the drivers are extremely skilled, and there are safeguards like holders and crossbars, it is important that children and senior citizens are placed in the middle. To get a better idea about the terrain, you could watch this video by Naveen Konam here:  http://youtu.be/wiWDjmo4ft0
  • People with back problems are advised to wear appropriate gear during the trip.
  • Please do not litter. The forest is extremely clean and free from any garbage which is a remarkable thing. Let us try to preserve the environment too.
Temple Timings:

The first set of jeeps is allowed inside the forest at 9.30 am and a maximum of ten jeeps are allowed per day. There are times of the year when permission is not granted so it is better to check in advance before planning a trip.

If you happen to be in this part of the world, you must definitely not miss visiting the Ishtakameswari Devi Temple!