Sunday, April 26, 2015

A temple for heat related problems!

The Thengangapureeswara Temple at Chinnanarimedu
Ten skin tension! claims a soap commercial. Come summer, there are a range of problems that arise due to sudden increase in temperature, like rashes, prickly heat, chicken pox, dehydration and so on. Just like there are temples for various types of ailments, there is a temple that helps soothe heat related problems.

When I first heard about this temple from Mr Kaushik, one of the donors of Aalayam Kanden, I was extremely intrigued by what he told me. So when Aalayam Kanden published and released the Sthalapuranam of the Kailasanatha temple at Nellikuppam, we decided to visit the temple. Mr Kaushik and his friend had brought along some rice and dhal, as well as a new dhoti.

And off, we set on the Cuddalore - Thiruvandipuram Main Road (Thiruvaheendrapuram). At one point, there was nothing but wilderness around us. Kaushik explained that the place had come to be known as Narimedu because at one point in time, the entire dwellings around this area, had been destroyed during an invasion, and there were only foxes that roamed around here to feast on the human and animal remains. Even today there are only about eighty households in Chinna Narimedu and about 120 households in Periya Narimedu.

Our vehicle turned into a narrow lane among the bushes and the first thing that struck us was a huge, really huge temple tank. It is difficult to describe it as a tank, it was more like the remains of a stream. Today, it is like the environment in which it existed, totally wasted, with vegetation and litter.

A view of the Chinnanarimedu Temple tank
The vehicle was unable to go beyond a slight slope. So we got off and start walking. What used to be a large temple complex, is today dilapidated and uncared for. There is a yellow board, that looks recently painted,and out of place among the crumbling single shrine structure.

Kaushik and his friend led the way into the temple, calling out to the sole occupant. As we followed them, we found that in the darkness of the Artha Mandapa, there were two dogs and an old man in a loin cloth, lying close to each other.

The old man struggled to get up, while the dogs gazed at us cautiously. Kaushik and his friend helped the old man, whose vision was almost fully blocked by thick cataracts, up, and clothed him in the new dhoti. The old man stepped out into the midday sun, raising his hand to shield his eyes from the glare, and looked at us.

The way to the Thengangapureeswarar Temple, Chinna Narimedu
He was Kannan Swamigal, a man who gave up his family over fifty years ago, to care for Lord Shiva in Chinna Narimedu. He stays alone in the temple, eats when someone brings him something, cares for the Lord and the two dogs equally.

By now, Kannan Swamigal was refreshed after a drink of cold water that we had carried with us. He called me closer and says "Amma, go, go inside! See your Father! Light the lamp before him!"

My hands trembled as I cross the two dogs, still lying down in the Artha Mandapa, and stepped into the Sanctum Sanctorum. The gigantic Linga decorated with withered flowers and a very simple red dhoti sat there. Plastic carry bags with different things lay strewn along the sides. I rummaged through them, found wicks and a match box and lit a lamp that had turned sooty.
Lord Shiva in his humble dwelling with the Thengangapureeswarar Temple
After a few minutes in silent prayer, I stepped out. By then, Kaushik had offered the Puliyodharai and Curd rice we had received as prasadam from the Nellikuppam Kailasanatha Temple to Kannan Swamigal. He opened the box and emptied the Puliyodharai into a bowl and called his two dogs who obediently came out and started eating. "Curd Rice will not suit them", he says. "So I will eat it later".

I was amazed to see such a person, living all by himself, in a temple hardly visited by anyone, giving first priority to his dogs when someone offered food. This is how the Sivanadiyars of yore must have lived!!

On the wall hung a picture of him in better times, next to an inscription with a Trishul in it. Curious, I asked Kaushik about it and he told me that this temple had originally been constructed during the Pallava period, and this inscription had been the only one (14th Century - Abhimana Thunga Pallavarayar a.k.a Manril Kunikkum Peruman) that had been recovered intact from the ruins of the large temple complex and put away safely.

Kannan Swamigal with the Trishula Inscription
Clearly, a great temple at one time. So let us look back at the Sthalapuranam of Aranthanginallur - the original name of Narimedu.

After the Tripura Samhara at Trivadhigai, Lord Parvathi wanted Lord Shiva to calm his anger. She chose the Gedilam River that runs close to Thiruvadhigai to for them to bathe and relax. While doing so, Shiva released Ganga from his locks, and the stream that she flowed out as came to be called Thenganga. Several herbs that release heat, and cool the body grew on the banks of Thenganga. Goddess Parvathi worshipped Shiva here in the form of a Linga and soothed him with the pack of herbs and the cool waters of Thenganga.

Over time, the herbs encircled and covered the linga. Several centuries later, a ruler of Nadu Naadu was suffering from severe heat related boils and blisters. Any medication provided by his doctors did not cure him fully. His old minister told him about the herbs of Aranthanginallur. The king came with his doctors to look for them. When the king's men uprooted a bush of herbs, they found the Lord under it. 
The Pracheena Aavudaiyaar 

The delighted king built a temple for the Lord and worshipped him. He also dug a canal to bring the Thenganga water to the temple and called the Lord Thengangapureeswarar.Soon he was cured of his ailments. Hearing about this, several hundreds of people visited the Thengangapureeswarar, bathed in the holy waters of Thenganga, and were cured of their heat related ailments.

This place came to be known as Sanyasipettai as several rishis and saints came here to worship Thengangapureeswarar and stayed there to perform pujas and yagnas.

As mentioned earlier, the whole village seems to have been ruined during an invasion leaving very little of the past behind.  The temple still has a Ganapathy, and Nandi. A volunteer have come forward to build a small dwelling for Kannan Swamigal and a few good hearted people of the Namachivayamoorthigal Aalaya Thirupani Kuzhu are taking all efforts to restore the temple to its last glory. After our visit, renovation initiatives have begun.

With a heavy heart, we reluctantly bid goodbye to Kannan Swamigal. At that point, he did something unexpected. He removed the new dhoti and thrust it in Kaushik's hand, saying "Take it away! People take away anything that is left behind here. I dont need this, I am happy with my loin cloth". 

Shocked, I got into the car. Kannan Swamigal's voice continued to ring in my ears! "Amma, naan irukaradhukkula saamikku veedu kattidanum"(I want to build the house of the Lord before I die).

Kannan Swamigal bidding us goodbye

How to reach here:

Chinnna Narimedu is about 15 kms from Cuddalore and about 7 kms from Panruti. On the Cuddalore - Thiruvandhipuram Road, take a left at Palur. There is a bus stop and Murugan temple just before the turning. 

Google Coordinates: 11.7760195, 79.6003888

Temple timings:

Kannan Swamigal stays here and one can visit at any time. Do remember to carry some eatables for him and the Bhairavas.

Contact Details: 

Seervalarseer Namachivayamoorthigal Aalaya Thirupani Kuzhu, Puduchery
Mr Sekar, Puduchery - 98947 03148
Ms. Amudha Sarveswaran, Erode - 96009 20767

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A temple for everlasting beauty!

The Deivanayakeswarar Temple at Elumiyankottur
There are temples to fulfill every kind of prayer - good health, marriage, childbirth, education, dosha nivarthi one can go on and on. Likewise, did you know there is a temple where prayers for everlasting beauty are fulfilled, and that too along the river Cooum?

Surprised? Well, that is a mandatory element with all temples along the Cooum!

History of the temple: 

When Lord Ganesha broke the axle of Lord Shiva's chariot, for not having worshipped him before starting out on Tripura Samhara (Read the article about the Tripurantakeswara Temple at Cooum here to know the full story), he lost balance and fell from the chariot and stood up with the support of his bow. While doing so, a garland of golden shower flowers (Konrai Maalai) fell some distance away and turned into a swayambu lingam. As the Lord had set out to save the Devas from the three Asuras - Tarakaksha, Kamalaksha and Vidyunmali, the deity came to be known as Deivanayakeswara.

At this time, the three apsaras,  Rambha, Menaka and Urvashi, celestial dancers at the court of Indra, were worried about their fading beauty. Known to be the epitome of beauty, the apsaras were worried about this and wanted to regain their youth and splendor. They approached Deva Guru Brihaspati, who advised them to go to the Earth and worship Lord Deivanayakeswara.

Entrance of the Deivanayakeswara Swamy Temple

So a total of eight apsaras, led by Rambha, came to the banks of the river Cooum to find Lord Deiva Nayakeswara. Rambha created a tank in front of him, the apsaras bathed in it and worshipped him with lotus and Jasmine flowers. They also installed another Shivalingam close by with sixteen stripes on the Baana to symbolise their visit. After their prayers, they found themselves feeling younger, radiant and more beautiful. They were delighted and after offering their gratitude, returned to their celestial abode. The tank created by Rambha stands to this day, and is called Rambha Theertham. The other names are Malligai Theertham Thamarai Theertham, Chandra Theertham, Boothagana Theertham, and Naga Theertham.

The Shiva lingam installed by Rambha came to be known as Arambeswarar and the place came to be called Arambayankottur. Over time, this changed to Ilambayankottur and today it is called Elumiyankottur.

Gnanasambandar and Lord Deivanayakeswarar:

Saint Gnanasambandar has sung a thevaram hymn in praise of Lord Tripurantakeswara at Koovam. When he was passing through Elumiyankottur, Lord Shiva wanted him to sing about him there as well. So he appeared before him as an old man, and a child requesting him to sing Lord Deivanayakeswara. However, Gnanasambandar could not find the location of the Lord through the forest of Jasmine trees, and finally the Lord appeared as a wild bull driving him into the temple. Gnanasambandar in his hymn at the Deivanayakeswara Temple, says worshipping him would make people eternally beautiful and enable them to attain mukthi without any further births.

About the temple:

The Veda Pada Sala inside the temple

There is no gopuram at the entrance. In fact the small wicket gate close to the Vedha Pada Salai is used for entry and exit. There is a vedha pada salai here where there are a number of youth who are learning the vedas. Other than the deities, there is no signs to show that the temple is many thousands of years old. This temple has been mentioned in the Koova Puranam.

Lord Deivanayakeswarar similar to Lord Tripurantakeswara is considered "Theenda Thirumeni". The priests do not touch him or perform abhishekam. Flowers are adorned using a small stick.
In the year 1983, there is said to have been heavy rains where lightning struck on the village. The Lord took it upon himself and other than his vimana, nothing else was damaged in the village. The villagers say, but for the grace of the Lord, major damage would have been caused by the magnitude of the lightning.

Sun's rays fall directly on the Lord who appears like a golden shower flower from 2-7 April and 5-11 September each year.

The Goddess is called Kanakagujambigai and Kodendhumulaiyammai. She faces South. A Srichakram installed by Kanchi Mahaperiyava sits at her golden feet.

Goddess Kanakagujambigai at Elumiyankottur

Yoga Dakshinamurthy:

Another speciality of the temple is the Yoga Dakshinamurthy found at the Goshtam. With his eyes closed and right hands forming the Chin Mudra, and placed on the Brahma knot of the Yagnopaveetham, holding a Trishul and Akka Maalai in the top hands, he is found in a very unique posture. On special days, like Guru Peyarchi, several hundreds of devotees come here to pray to Yoga Dakshinamurthy.

Yoga Dakshinamurthy at Elumiyankottur
The Arambeshwara with his sixteen sides is found to the South East of the temple, waiting to grant the sixteen boons of prosperity to his devotees.

Inscriptions at the temple:

An inscription belonging to the time of chola king Rajadhiraja II - 1175 AD mentions that this temple was converted from a brick temple to a stone temple by Pandari Sivacharanaalayan alias Sivapadhasekara Muvendavelan.

An inscription from the time of Kulothunga III refers to Ilambayankottur as Cholavichchadira Chaturvedi Mangalam in Kanrur Nadu.

An inscription of Vijayagandagopaladeva states that he gave the village of Kaliyanallur in Tiruvelurnadu, as gift to the temple.

There are also inscriptions of the pandya king Konerinmaikondan about grants given to the temple. These inscriptions have been recorded but unfortunately are not found in the modernized temple today.

However modern, it might have have become, the temple is still charming and has a very good vibration. Those visiting the temple at Koovam, can take a little bit of effort to visit Elumiyankottur as well. Please remember to call the Gurukkal before you do, so that you are not disappointed to find a closed temple.

How to get here: 

If going from Chennai turn right at the Empee Distilleries after Sriperumbudur. Take the Arakonam road upto Koovam. Elumiyankottur is about four kms from there. Google Coordinates: 13.0018681, 79.67114881

Temple Timings:

The temple is open only in the mornings around 10 am. One has to call the Gurukkal in advance to ensure his availability.

Contact Details:

Sivam Gurukkal - 96000 43000

Monday, April 6, 2015

The temple at Koovam!

The Tripurantakeswara Swamy Temple, Thiruvirkoovam

The name Cooum to any Chennai dweller would be synonymous with a nauseating cesspool through which all the wastes of the city are carried into the Bay of Bengal. However, Cooum many hundreds, well, even thousand years ago, was a holy river, probably more holy, that the river Ganges itself !

It might come as a surprise to you that the river Cooum is said to have sprung forth from the bow of Lord Shiva himself, and has an entire Puranam dedicated to it. The Koova Puranam is found in the Skanda Purana under the Sanathkumara Samhita within Kalika Kand. This Purana has been translated into Tamil by Thuraimangalam Sri Sivaprakasa Swamigal.

Tripura Samhara: There are several tales related to the Tripura Samhara and temples associated with it . Tarakaksha, Kamalaksha and Vidyunmali, were three Asuras who, through the boon received from Lord Brahma, moved about in their aerial cities made of precious metals and tortured the humans and Devas alike. The Devas appealed to Lord Shiva who set out to strike them down with a single arrow. With the earth as chariot, and the Sun and Moon as wheels, Lord Brahma as the charioteer, Mount Meru as the bow, the serpent Vasuki as the string, and Lord Vishnu as the arrow, the Lord set out for the Samhara.

In his haste, he forgot to worship Lord Ganesha. It is a requirement to worship Lord Ganesha before the beginning of any act and Lord Shiva cannot be exempted because he was Ganesha's father!! If Gods do not follow the rules, who will? In order to establish the protocol, Lord Ganesha looked up and this broke the bearing of the chariot. The place where this is said to have happened is called Achu (Bearing)+Iru (break) pakkam - Achirupakkam. You can read the articles related to Tripura Samhara at  Achirupakkam  and Eithanoor on Aalayam Kanden by clicking on the link embedded.

Once the bearing was broken, the chariot lost control and the axle fell at Koovam. Lord Shiva is said to have stood up and gained his balance by placing his bow on the ground. Water sprang from the point where the bow hit the ground, and flowed to anoint the holy feet of Lord Shiva. This water then gushed forth as a river and came to be known as Koovam (which is an adaptation of the word Koovaram which means axle and/or Koobam which means water source.

A temple was made at the place where the Lord stood, very close to the source of the river Koovam, and the Lord came to be called Thiruvirkolanathar (The Lord who stood with the bow) and the place came to be known as Thiruvirkolam. Today it is generally referred to as Koovam.

The crystal clear temple tank at Thiruvirkoovam

The expanse of Koovam: According to Koovapurana, Koovam was a large city that had seventeen villages annexed to it. They were Manavur, Pagasala, Pazhayanur, Kondagacheri, Kumaracheri, Irulanjeri, Pillayarkuppam, Thozhudhavur, Pudhumavilangai, Pinjivakkam, Mappedu, Sivankudal, Thirupasur, Thandalam, Irukovai, Selai and Pungathur. Other than Irukovai, all other villages are still found around Koovam with the same name and have ancient temples located in them.

Nandi at Thiruvirkoovam temple
The tale of Dharmaseelan:  In Koovam, there lived a brahmin called Dharmaseelan. He and his wife were staunch devotees of Lord Thripurantaka and took immense pleasure in feeding the Sivacharyas who came to their doorstep. Over time, Dharmaseelan had spent all his earnings, feeding the Sivacharyas and had to resort to selling all that he had in order to continue to do so. At one point, he sold even his wife's mangalsutra when he had nothing else worth selling. Once the money received out of the sale was spent, Dharmaseelan and his wife had absolutely nothing, to even feed themselves.

For eight days, they did not have a morsel of food to eat. They still walked weakly to the temple to worship Lord Thripurantaka and looked out for Sivacharyas. On the nineth day, a Sivacharya walked up to the doorstep of Dharmaseelan, asking for food. Dharmaseelan did not know what to do. He ran through the streets of Koovam, seeking alms and was able to get two measures of rice. He ran back home, asking his wife to make porridge with the rice.

The Sivacharya drank the porridge to his heart's content. After he left, Dharmaseelan and his wife sat down to drink the remaining porridge. At that moment, there was another Sivacharya at the door. Dharmaseelan stood up to receive the mendicant, but due to hunger and fatigue, fell down. His wife cried at his plight. Dharmaseelan soon dragged himself up, and gave the remaining porridge to the visitor. At that moment, Lord Thripuranthaka appeared before them, and told them that every day a pot full of rice will appear in his shrine for use by Dharmaseelan for his noble deeds.

A telugu inscription near the temple tank

Inscriptions:  A number of rulers have left their inscriptions at the temple. During the rule of the Cholas, Koovam was known as Madurantakanallur and subsequently as Tyagasamudranallur. An inscription of Rajendra II, 1057 AD, speaks about sale of land for developing a feeder canal to the Koovam tank, which had then been called Tribhuvanamadevi Pereri. An inscription of Kulothunga I - 1112 AD speaks about the lifting of fishing and paddy taxes to fund the repair of the Tribhuvanamadevi Pereri. There have been grants provided by Rajaraja II, Vijayaganda Gopala Deva and Konerinmaikondan for conducting festivals at the temple.

About the temple: The temple is one of the Devara Padal Petra Sthalams having been sung by Thirugnanasambandar in the 7th century.

Theenda Thirumeni: Lord Tripurantakeswara is not touched by anyone, even the priests during daily worship. A small stick is used to adorn the Lord with flowers that are brought from the Nandavanams at Pinjivakkam. Only the flowers from the Nandavanams are used for adorning the Lord and flowers brought from outside are not used on him. The Linga is a Swayambu and the exterior becomes white to denote abundant rains and red to warn people of failed rains in a year. Water for abhishekam of the avudaiyaar is brought from a tank two kilometres away from the temple called Abhisheka Kuzhi.

The Lord appears as Thiruvirkolanathar holding a bow during the annual Brahmotsavam in the tamil month of Chithirai.

Thiruvirkolanathar with Tharakaksha and Vidyunmali as Dwarapalakas
The Lord is said to have performed the Raksha Thandav here to pacify Goddess Kali after the Urthuva Thandav at Thiruvalangadu. There is a seperate shrine for Kali a few metres away from the temple where she is called Tharka Matha.

The Lord performing the Raksha Thandav.
Achirutha Vinayagar:

The Ganesha who broke the axle of Lord Shiva's chariot is found in a separate shrine in the temple. The temple tank is called Achirutha Keni. Since the water rose and washed the feet of the Lord there are no frogs or fish ever in this temple tank. Worshipping the Achirutha Vinayagar before starting any new venture, is supposed to bring all success.

Achirutha Vinayagar
Goddess Tripurantha Nayaki:

Goddess Tripurantha Nayaki is found in a separate shrine to the right of the Lord. Her shrine has a vimana which is shaped like a mini gopuram. Her position is said to be that of Kalyana Kolam and she grants prayers of suitable marriage alliances.

Goddess Tripurantaka Nayaki with the Srichakram installed in front of her
The temple has been renovated and is maintained well. Mr Manivasagam, President of the Naalvar Narpani Manram is eager to receive visitors and goes out of the way to make their pilgrimage fruitful. The oduthuvamurthigal at the temple, an engineer by profession renders the Gnanasambandar Thevaram so soulfully.

With Mr Manivasagam and the Odhuvamurthigal
How to reach here: 

If proceeding from Chennai, take the right at Empee Distilleries near Sriperumbudur. This road is Arakkonam Road. The road is not very well maintained and hence vehicles can only progress slowly.

Google Map Coordinates : 13.021152, 79.826926

Temple Timings:

6-12 noon, 5-7 pm

Contact Details:

Sri. Manivasagam - 94432 53325