Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Samadhis of Harrington Road!

Recently, I was invited by a friend to speak at a Story telling event, the topic of which was Stories in and around Harrington Road. I was trying to decide on what to speak about - should I talk about the Karukathamman and Semathamman temples on Harrington Road or should I speak about the School Road off McNichols Road, a small lane which houses four old temples in it? Then it struck me that I should speak about the unique feature of Harrington Road - the cluster of Saints' Samadhis/Ashrams on and around it.

Mahaan Gangadhara Navalar:

Mahaan Gangadhara Navalar Jeeva Samadhi
Mahaan Gangadhara Navalar was born in Teynampet in the year 1859. He developed spiritual seeking early in life, and through intense concentration and the grace of Lord Shiva, became self realised. He was a great poet who has sung innumerable hymns on Lord Kapaleeswara of Mylapore. The procession of the Lord would only move forward once the Navalar had completed his hymn and not before. This has been witnessed several times by devotees. 

Mahaan Gangadhara Navalar was also a great spiritual orator and made discourses in various locations. When he had to travel out of Chennai on one such instance, he did not have the money to purchase a ticket and boarded the train without it. When confronted by the ticket checker, he explained the importance of his being there in the event the next day and requested to be allowed to travel. However, the ticket checker would have nothing of it. He made sure that the Navalar was offloaded from the train in the next station. 
To his surprise, the train which was supposed to start in the next few minutes, would not do so. All efforts were made by the technicians to get the train moving, but it would not budge. 

A couple of travellers identified the saint and ran up to explain to the ticket checker who he was and offered to pay for his ticket. Once this was done, the Navalar was allowed to board the compartment from where he had been unceremoniously offloaded. As soon as he sat down, the train chugged along smoothly as if nothing had happened.

Mahaan Gangadhara Navalar installed the Jaya Vinayagar at the place where the samadhi now stands in the year 1890. He appealed to the British Government for permission to construct his Jeeva Samadhi in the year 1929. A person is said to enter Jeeva Samadhi we he decides during his life time, on the day and time when he wishes to enter Samadhi and then he sits in the pit in meditation, and his disciples cover the pit and build a samadhi over it. Only great saints have so far been capable of entering samadhi on a predetermined time and date, while still being alive. Mahaan Gangadhara Navalar was one such highly evolved soul who on 29th October 1929, entered Jeeva Samadhi at the Jaya Vinayakar temple complex.

The samadhi is found on 6th Avenue, Harrington Road, on the lane opposite MCC School It is open between 6.30 - 9 am, and 5 - 8 pm. It is a delight to watch the abhishekam to the Samadhi at 8 am in the morning. The priest does the abhishekam with the care and attention that one would give to their new born.
This is one of the Samadhis where devotees are allowed to sit right next to the Adhisthanam and meditate. The vibrations are really strong here and facilitate intense concentration.

Even when the samadhi is closed, it is possible to worship Jaya Vinayakar from the alcove on the wall and take a look at the portrait of Mahaan Gangadhara Navalar.

Acknowledgement: Aathman Awareness Centre for information on the life of Mahaan Gangadhara Navalar

Nathamuni Swamigal Maha Samadhi: The Nathamuni Swamigal Maha Samadhi is found on Harrington Road, a few buildings away from the Semathamman Temple. When you enter from Poonamallee High Road, on the lane right next to Pachaiyappa's college, it is the last building on the 4th right. If you were to enter from the other end of the road, through the Choolaimedu bridge, then it would fall on your first left.

The Kambahareswarar Temple which houses the Nathamuni Swamigal Samadhi 
Nothing much is known about the personal life of Nathamuni Swamigal, but for the fact that he had stayed in that spot probably a couple of hundred years ago, when it was just a grove of trees, worshipping Lord Shiva, whom he called Kambahareswara. Kamba refers to tremors or shivering. ( Bhookambam - tremors of the earth). Kambahareswara means the Lord who removes shivering. In Tamil, he is called Nadukkam Theertha Nathar.

A person is likely to shiver when he is excited, anxious, angry or unwell. Shivering is a response to emotions. The Lord, worshipped by Nathamuni Swamigal is said to aid one to overcome emotions. A truly liberated person, would be in a position to treat happiness and sorrow, excitement and disappointment alike, and the Lord is the one who facilitates a true seeker to reach that state of mind. The disciples of Nathamuni Swamigal have installed an idol of him in the Maha Samadhi complex.

Nathamuni Swamigal
The Maha Samadhi of Nathamuni Swamigal is found within the sanctum of Lord Kambahareswara, to the left. Apart from this and the idol of Nathamuni Swamigal, all other shrines in this temple are new and have been built over the last ten years. A shrine has also been added for Goddess Dharmasamvardhini apart from other shrines usually found in Shiva temples.

The Artha Mandapa is large, full of natural light and convenient to meditate. Here again, the vibrations are strong, and one can spend time in intense concentration, seeking spiritual development and sthitaprajna.

The temple is open between 7-10 am and 5.30-8.30 pm. Contact - Venkatesa Gurukkal - 87545 53578

Apart from these two saints, the Samadhi of Kazhi Siva Kannudaiya Vallal is also said to be in Chetpet although the exact location is yet to be revealed.

Kazhi Siva Kannudaya Vallal was a Saint who lived in the 15th Century (1380-1476 AD). He was a discipline of Guru Sambandar. He is believed to have been the first preceptor of the Suddha Sanmargam through his book Ozhuvil Odukkam. He was also the first person to have been referred to as Vallalar. Saint Ramalinga Adigal, popularly known as Vallalar, was inspired by the philosophies of Ozhuvil Odukkam and had the book published through his brother Sabapathy Mudaliar in 1851, the commentary for which was written by Chidambaram Swamigal, who installed Lord Muruga at Thiruporur temple.

Another noteworthy Saint whose Ashram is found in Chetpet is Pandrimalai Swamigal, a great devotee of Lord Muruga.

A cluster of Samadhis of great saints, is usually found on banks of holy rivers, the holy river in this case, being none other than our dear COOUM!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A temple for rain!

Singaandeeswara Temple at Thiruvur
Come summer, our hearts long for rains! Aalayam Kanden has the pleasure of bringing to you a Cooum riverside temple, rich in mythology and history, where Sage Rishyashringa has installed a Shivalinga for reducing drought and bringing rain and fertility to the area.

Sage Rishyashringa, (referred to as Kalaikottu Muni by Kambar in his Kamba Ramayana) the son of Sage Vibhandaka and Urvashi (there is another version which says that he was born out of a deer which had swallowed the semen of the sage released in water and hence had the face of a deer with horns) had mystical and magical powers. The place where he lived was blessed with abundant rainfall and fertility. Sage Vashista adviced King Dasaratha to perform the Putra Kameshti Yagna, through Sage Rishyashringa in order to be blessed with sons. On hearing this, the women of the assembly vowed to go and bring the Sage to Ayodhya. They met him at his hermitage and offered fruits and flowers and won his good will. After a few days, they invited him to go with them.

As the sage moved from the hermitage, the rain God followed him, showering good rains and pleasant weather as he went along. King Romapada, of Anga, whose kingdom was suffering from drought and famine, met the Rishi as he passed through his province, and invited him to stay there. He offered his daughter Shanta, (originally born to King Dasaratha and Kausalya and adopted by King Romapada, and his wife Vershini, who was the elder sister of Kausalya)'s hand in marriage to the Saint. The saint accepted the invitation and stayed at Anga Desa (today's Bihar and Jharkhand).

On hearing this, King Dasaratha went and met King Romapada and requested his help to bring Sage Rishyashringa to Ayodhya. The King agreed to help and with his humble request, Sage Rishyashringa proceeded to Ayodhya with his wife Shanta and performed the Putra Kameshti Yagna for twelve months, at the end of which a demon appeared with the Pinda which was shared between the three queens of Dasaratha, Kousalya, Kaikeyi and Sumithra, resulting in the birth of Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrugana.

An image of Sage Rishyashringa performing the Putra Kamesthi Yagna from the
miniature panels at Nageswara Temple Kumbakonam. 
For a complete article on Nageswara Temple miniatures on Aalayam Kanden, click here.

Sage Rishyashringa has installed Shiva lingas in different parts of the country, (Shringeri for example) for rains and fertility. It is sad to note, that one such temple, on the banks of the Cooum at Thiruvur remains lesser known.

The temple at Thiruvur, today known as Tirur, is said to have been built around the Shiva Linga installed by Sage Rishyashringa. Originally called Rishyashringeeswaram after the sage, today it is known as Uthpalambika samedha Sri Singaandeeswarar Temple. The temple has been recently renovated.

During the 13th Century, when the Chola Kingdom was on the decline, Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan I went all the way upto Tirumala, capturing territories previously under the Cholas. This temple was converted into a stone structure during his rule in 1261 AD by a chieftain named Annamalai Udaiyar, the ruler of Venpaiyur.

At the entrance of the temple, there are two Adhikara Nandis belonging to recent times, holding deer and axe, signifying the deer symbolism throughout the temple.

Adhikara Nandi as Dwarapalakas outside the Tiruvur temple
There are also two inscription stones belonging to the Vijayanagara Period found outside the temple. One of them belong to the period of Saluva Thimmaiya Deva who has given a grant of coconut groves to the temple in memory of his predecessor Thippaiya Deva.

The other inscription belongs to Immadi Tirumala Nayaka, a general of Krishnadeva Raya, and speaks about lands and gold given to the temple to build a Madavilagam.

Throughout the temple, are various images of Sage Rishyashringa, reiterating the fact that he had installed the main deity.
Image of Rishyashringa on the Ganga-Kauvery Panels on either side of the entrance
at Tiruvur Singaandeeswara Temple
The ceiling is covered by an exquisite Ashtadikpalaka panel, with an image of Shastha (Ayyanar/ Sathanar) flanked by two fishes, as well as an image of a fish fighting a monitor lizard. The Fish fighting the monitor lizard, probably is to symbolise the victory of the Pandyas over the Cholas.

Ashtadikpalaka Panel showing the fish fighting the monitor lizard at Tiruvur
Singaandeeswara Temple
The temple is very quiet and the Lord Sringeeswara, today known as Singaandeeswara sits in solitude. If only people knew more about the temple and the Lord being the benefactor of good rain, we can expect a greater patronage.

A lot of history has been lost during renovation. Mr Soundara Rajan, who is taking care of the temple, told us that a secret tunnel had been discovered within the sanctum at the time of renovation. Most of the Goshta devathas have been lost, and are today replaced by miniature modern versions.
Lord Singaandeeswara at Tiruvur
The walls are lined with inscriptions ( a total of 12 inscriptions have been recorded at this temple) which today have been sadly painted over.
Inscriptions at the Tiruvur Temple
One such inscription speaks about grants given to the Kariyamanicka Perumal temple, which is on the opposite lane. A beautiful temple, built out of laterite stones, is currently being renovated. This temple, is almost on the banks of the Cooum river.

The beautiful Kariya Manicka Perumal Temple at Thiruvur
The Cooum river that runs by the Kariya Manicka Perumal Temple at Thiruvur
Inscriptions also mention grants given to the Ganesha shrine to light lamps in the 14th Century by Anukki Purushotama Bhattar Varadan. This Ganesha is found in a seperate shrine behind the temple.
Attaga Pillaiyar also called Athimuga Pillayar
We tried to look for the third temple called Osuramma temple that was mentioned in the inscriptions. The villagers directed us to a huge overgrowth of vegetation, stating that the temple must be somewhere under it. We tried navigating but could not get very close. If this temple is recovered, before it is too late, it would also be another symbol of the glorious past.

If you are travelling towards Tiruvallur, do stop by at this wonderful temple, that is so full of heritage and history, and pray for good rains!

An image of Sage Rishyashringa installing the Shiva linga at Thiruvur

How to reach here: 

The temple is about 40 kms from Chennai. Google map Coordinates: 13.1028235, 79.9664227. I am unable to mark it as Google Map Maker has been unavailable for some time.

Temple Timings: 

The priest is available between 5-8.30 am and 6-10 pm. The temple remains open till 12 pm in the morning though.

Contact Details:

Mr P Soundara Rajan - 044- 2762 0157, 99524 14369
Preferably call his landline, as the mobile network is shaky around this area.