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