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!


  1. Great to know about these lesser known places.

  2. Nice pics... and great info... :)

  3. A very revealing article. It has brought out the nicer side of the city which is more often talked for the wrong reasons. I was not aware that such great men lived in this city and such serene places are available even now in this city to sit and meditate amidst all its hustle and bustle. Thanks for publishing such a nice piece. [Kazhi Kannudaiya Vallal has been mentioned as the disciple of Guru Sambandar. I think it should be Guru Gnanasambandar].

    1. Thanks for the feedback. Guru Sambandar is different from Gnana Sambandar. Thanks Priya

    2. Thanks for the feedback. Guru Sambandar is different from Gnana Sambandar. Thanks Priya

  4. Thanks for bringing out the historical importance of spiritualism en-route cooum river bed (near chetpet/harrington road area). Hope the state government realizes it and restore the cooum river in to glorious holy river.

  5. To add more to this list of cooum associated temples,
    azhagiya manvalan temple and agneeswarar temple in vanagaram
    vaikundanatha perumal in periya nolambur
    another perumal temple opposite to thiruverkadu right turn on poonmalee highway

  6. Pandrmalai Swamigal's Ashram is in Nungambakkam , Pandrimalai , Tiruvannamalai.

  7. Pandrimalai Swamigal's Ashramk is in Nungambakkam, Pandrimalai and Tiruvannamalai.