Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Three eyes and ten hands!

Hanuman with Deer Vahana at Ananthamangalam
Hanuman - the God of strength, valour, loyalty and devotion! We see him, mostly in Vishnu temples in a separate shrine as Siriya Tiruvadi and in Rama temples, alongside Rama, Sita and Lakshmana.
He is also found in different forms - with joined hands, holding a lotus flower and turning to one side, with five faces as Panchamukha Hanuman or in the huge Vishwaroopa form. At Ananthamangalam, we see Hanuman with three eyes and ten hands, holding weapons in each one of them as Trinethra Dasabuja Anjaneyar.

Legend of the temple:

After the war in Sri Lanka to retrieve Sita Devi, Rama was returning to Ayodhya with her, Lakshmana, and Hanuman. On his way back, he was warmly welcomed by Sage Bharadwaja to his ashram, and offered food and rest. While he was eating, Sage Narada came there to meet him. He had some news to share. Narada mentioned that although Ravana, and his army were killed in the war, there were still scions of the family who were planning revenge. Two asuras, by name Rakha Bindu and Raktha Rakshagan were meditating under the sea, to acquire special powers and they must be stopped immediately and only Rama could do it.

Rama understood the threat but was in a hurry to get back to Ayodhya, as his brother Bharata had vowed to enter the fire, if his brother did not return within a particular time. So he instructed Hanuman to slay the two Asuras and join him at Ayodhya. He gave Hanuman his bow and arrow to help him in his mission. The other Gods who were equally troubled by Raktha Bindu and Raktha Rakshagan, gave their weapons too to Hanuman. He acquired different weapons in his ten hands, that symbolised the power of the Gods - Conch and Discus of Lord Vishnu, Trident of Lord Rudra, Kapala of Lord Brahma, Vajrayutha of Lord Indra, Bow and arrow of Lord Rama, whip and butter ball of Lord Krishna, and axe and deer of Lord Shiva. Apart from this he also acquired Lord Shiva's third eye and the wings of Garuda.

Photo Courtesy :

The empowered Hanuman set out to kill the two asuras - Raktha Bindu and Raktha Rakshagan. He dragged them out of water, overpowered and killed them. On his way back, he rested in a pleasant grove, happy that he had accomplished the task assigned to him by his Lord. This place came to be known as Aanandhamangalam to denote his frame of mind. Over time, this has changed to Ananthamangalam.

Temple Description:

The moolavar is found in a seperate shrine opposite the Rajagopalaswami temple. He is seen with three eyes and four arms. The rear arms, holding the conch and discus and the front arms, holding the whip and the butter ball. His tail has the Navagrahas etched on them. Worshipping this Hanuman is said to rid one of all the evil effects of planetary movements in one's horoscope. It is a "Graha Dosha Nivarthi Prarthanai Sthalam".

Hanuman's deer vahana is found opposite to him. A brand new deer has been installed and the retired deer relegated to the outer prahara.


The Rajagopalaswami temple has Lord Vasudeva Perumal in the Sanctum Sanctorum, with Sridevi and Bhoodevi. The utsavar is Rajagopalaswami with Bhama and Rukmani. Sengamalavalli Thayar is found in a separate shrine.

Method of worship:

Those desirous of Graha Dosha Nivarthi, adorn Hanuman with flower garlands, Tulsi garlands and betel leaf garlands, go around the shrine five times, and perform archana to the deity. This can be done both to Moolavar or Utsavar, who is found in a shrine within the Rajagopalaswami temple across the road.

Festivals and Poojas:

Special Thirumanjanam and Aradhanai are performed to Hanuman on Hanumad Jayanthi, Tamil New Year, Purattasi 4th Saturday, Deepavali and Moola Nakshatram day every month.

On Saturdays and Amavasya (New Moon Days) annadhanam is provided to the devotees.

How to reach here:

The temple is found on the Chennai - Nagapattinam East Coast Road, between Thirukadaiyur and Tharangambadi about 3 kms from Thirukadaiyur . There is an arch on the main road that leads to the temple.

Temple Timings:

8 am - 1 pm, 4 pm - 8 pm. On new moon days, the temple is open from midnight the previous day till 10 pm.

Contact details: 

Moolavar - Sridhar Bhattar - 94431 91933
Utsavar - Madhavan Bhattar - 94438 85033

Monday, October 24, 2016

Venkata Subramaniam!

Venkatasubramania Swamy Temple, Valasaravakkam

Skanda Sashti refers to the six days of battle between Lord Muruga or Skanda with Soorapadma. It is usually commemorated in the Tamil month of Aipasi, and starts on Pradhamai Thithi, the day after New Moon. Deepavali normally falls on the New moon or the previous day in this month. So the Skanda Sashti Viratham is observed immediately after the festival of Deepavali.

Skanda is said to have fought with the demon Soorapadma for five days before killing him on the shores of Thiruchendur and accepting the split portions of his body as peacock (his vahana) and a cockerel on his flag. The Soora Samharam comes to an end with Thirukalyanam (marriage) of Lord Muruga on the sixth day and abhishekams performed to cool down the anger of Jayanthinathar. (the victorious Skanda).

During this time,  devotees fast by taking only one meal per day and worship Lord Muruga. There are several temples dedicated to Lord Muruga and we are now going to look at one such unique temple, amidst the hustle and bustle of busy Arcot Road in Valasaravakkam.

Today, Valasaravakkam is home to several commercial establishments, high rise apartments, schools and such. But prior to the 1950s all it had was extensive groves, which were slowly being converted into layouts for construction. When one such plot of land was being dug up for laying cornerstones, an idol of Lord Muruga was unearthed.

The idol was not only large and beautiful, but also very unique in nature. The Lord Muruga was seen as Brahma Sastha, holding a Gendi or Kamandalam in his left hand and a Aksharamalai in his right hand. There was a Vishnu chakram behind his head and surprisingly, his right foot had six fingers! The owner of the land vowed to construct a temple for the Muruga if he was successful in selling his plots of land. Soon he was successful in doing so and the temple came up nicely, to house the Lord, who had been a long-term resident of the land.

When Thirumuruga Kripananda Variar Swamigal heard about this Murugan, he visited the temple and named him Venkatasubramaniam, as he had the Vishnu chakram behind his head. He also revealed the special significance of this Lord. Anyone worshiping Venkata Subramania Swamy for eleven weeks with devotion, will be granted any genuine wishes that he/she might have.      

Lord Venkatasubramania Swamy
(Photo Courtesy: Mr Venkata Subramanian)
The procedure for performing this eleven week ritual is as follows:
The person placing the wish before the Lord must visit the temple for eleven weeks and offer two lemons along with items for archanai. A sankalpam with the wish will be performed by the priest and after the archanai, one lemon will be returned to the devotee who must take it home, and drink the juice of that lemon.

The wish is normally fulfilled before the end of the eleven week period. Once fulfilled, the devotee performs abhishekam to the Lord to offer his gratitude. I have seen several people do this ritual with devotion and be benefitted.

On the Sashti day of every month, abhishekams are performed to the Lord's spear and special Tirisadhis are chanted.  Moreover, on Panguni Uthiram, Ekadhina Laksharchanai is performed and festivals such as Thaipoosam and Skanda Sashti are celebrated with great pomp and glory.

Hanuman at Sri Venkatasubramania Swamy Temple
(Photo Courtesy: Mr Venkata Subramaniam)
Apart from this very benevolent Venkatasubramania Swamy, this temple also has a benevolent Hanuman. Devotees tie coconuts with their shell on to rods around the Hanuman shrine and pray for seven weeks. Within this time, their wishes are fulfilled. Once done, the coconut is removed and de-shelled and offered to the Lord along with Tulsi garlands and garlands of Vada.

The temple also has a seperate shrine for Santhoshi Mata. On full moon days, abhishekam is performed here and on Avittam star every month, Lalitha Tirisadhi recitals are done.

Apart from these shrines, there are also shrines for Ganesha, Shiva and Navagraha.

Do visit this very beneficial Venkatasubramanya, during the Skanda Sashti this year, and be blessed!

How to get here:

The Venkata Subramania Swamy temple is in Venkatasubramania Nagar, in Virugambakkam on the lane opposite the Corporation office on Arcot Road.

Temple Timings:

The temple is open from 6.30 am to 10.30 am in the morning and from 5.30 pm to 8.30 pm in the evening. On Tuesdays, Fridays and Krithigai days, the temple would be open up to noon in the mornings and up to 9 pm in the evenings.

Contact details:
91762 37273, 97898 87058

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Nara Simham!

The Malluru Narasimha Swamy Temple Entrance
It was over two years ago, that a devout follower of Aalayam Kanden called me to speak about the Malluru Narasimhaswamy Temple. The way she went about describing it, I was hooked. I got in touch quite immediately with my colleague and friend in Hyderabad to explore possibilities of visiting. However, as with everything else, this desire too had to wait for the will of God, which only came true last week. And the same friend to whom I had first spoken excitedly about the temple was able to accompany us too!

I am not surprised any of this happened. Ever since Aalayam Kanden began, six years ago, I have come to clearly understand that whatever I write here, is purely dependent on His will, and so be it!!
So we set off, all excited at 4 am in the morning towards Malluru from Hyderabad. After crossing Warangal and Hanamakonda cities, we entered the dense reserve forests through which we drove for about five kms to reach the foothills of the Hemachala hill on top of which the temple is located.

The way to the temple through the dense Hemachala forest
It is believed that the Narasimhaswamy manifested as an Ugra moorthy in a cave on top of the Hemachala hill and was brought to light by Sage Agasthya. In order to pacify the Ugra Moorthy and calm him down, Agasthya installed Goddess Lakshmi in his chest and Lord Hanuman as the Kshetrapalaka.

We crossed the arch and the newly constructed shrines for Venugopalaswamy and Uma Maheswara and took the 74 steep steps that lead to the shrine of the now Yogananda Narasimha swamy. The sight of the magnificent lord is awe-inspiring. He is over 9.2 feet tall and the only swayambu Narasimha in standing posture. He is found with a crown and four arms carrying the conch, discus, mace and lotus flower.

Steps leading up to the temple
The Narasimha avatar, a combination of man and lion, was taken by Lord Vishnu, to answer the prayers of his devotee Prahalada. At Malluru, the Lord is said to be depicting the human form.

Over weekends and special occasions, the abhishekam is performed at 12 noon. The abhishekam comprises of smearing oil all over the body of the Lord who has emerged on the wall of the cave. Several devotees bring bottles of oil for this purpose. The priest pours the oil into a vessel and passes it around to the devotees who in turn drop coins into the oil, and make their wishes. It is believed that these wishes definitely come true.

The priest takes a Tulsi leaf and presses it lightly into the chest of the Lord and to the wonder of everyone watching, the leaf goes into the chest and disappears. When the priest removes his hand, the dent is no longer there! It is believed that Narasimha is found here in the human form, with flesh and muscle! Even the garlands are placed on either side of the shoulder and gently pressed and they cling to the body of the Lord!

Not just that, there is a secretion of sandal from his navel. No one really knows how this secretion happened on certain days of the month. The priest mentions that sometimes the secretion turns red or white. This, according to them, is the wound that Narasimha suffered while fighting Hiranyakasipu.

The paste that secretes from the navel is given to those couples who seek childbirth, or to those suffering from chevva, rahu or kethu dosham. The persons concerned have to come in person and perform some rites, before the sandal paste is given to them. Consuming the sandal paste grants couples bonny babies and they then come back with the new born to perform abhishekam and offer prayers.

There is a stream running near by called the Chintamani theertham. The name, Chintamani is said to have been given by Queen Rudramadevi. No one really knows the source of this stream, but the water is crystal clear and sweet to taste. It is an elixir for all chronic ailments and the stories of those who have been miraculously cured after consuming the water from this stream are plenty. Devotees bathe in this stream and carry water from here in containers and consume the same over days.

Photo courtesy : Google
The water does not get bad over time, unlike water from other rivers. The temple is said to date back to 4000 years to the time of the Satavahana king, Dilipakarana. The Kakatiya rulers, Rudramadevi and her grandson Pratapa Rudra have given several grants of land and money to the temple. The hill on which the temple is situated is crescent shaped and was called Hemachala in the past. Now it is known as Malluru.

The Chintamani Theertham that cures diseases
Every year in the month of Vaikasi, on Suddha Chaturdasi day both Kalyana Utsavam and Brammotsavam are performed in this temple with great pomp and glory.

How to get here: The temple is 70 kms from Bhadrachalam, and 127 kms from Warangal city. There are buses from Hanamakonda and also all buses that ply to Eturnagaram stop at Malluru.

Temple Timings: The temple is open from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm with a lunch break between 1-2.30

Contact info: 9440634985, 9666887393

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bappanadu - A symbol of communal harmony

Durga Parameswari Temple at Bappanadu

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, increased devotion, sacrifice and sharing with the less fortunate brethren. There are a number of temples in India which stand as an example of communal harmony wherein members of one community participate wholeheartedly in the rituals or worship of another.

One such example is the Durgaparameswari temple at Bappanadu in Dakshina Kannada. Bappanadu was originally called Moolikapura as the place was full of herbal and medicinal plants which could cure event the rarest of diseases. There was a temple near the river in Moolikapura and the Goddess had manifested in the form of five lingas. Since the goddess was found near the river, she was called Jaladurgaparameswari. King Dharmapala of Chandravamsa who ruled this area in the 4th Century, worshipped this goddess with great devotion and built a temple for her.

Mythology however says, that Bappa Byari, a Kerala Muslim trader, who lived in the 14th Century, almost a thousand years after the temple was originally built, was returning home from a voyage with all his goods and his companion, Usman, when there was a sudden flood in the Mulki river. It rained heavily and the rains made the waters swell and lash across the land. Bappa Byari's ship was tossed here and there and the trader was extremely worried for his safety and that of the goods he was carrying. He could not see anything in the dark. The lights from the Durga Parameswari temple near the shore that normally guided the sailors was nowhere to be seen.

He had heard of the temple and the Hindu Goddess who was worshipped in the form of five lingas but had never had an opportunity to visit the temple. But now, when his life was at stake, he prayed to the supreme power common to all to save his life and the goods that he had procured with great effort. Within minutes, he could hearing a crashing noise. His ship hit something and stopped. He knew he was close to the shore but had no idea where he was. The good news was that the ship was not rocking anymore and the floods were receding. Bappa Byari sat there, praying all night. When it dawned, he was in for a surprise.

The old temple that had once stood on the shore, had been razed to the ground by the gory storm. Debris lay everywhere. The ship had hit the shore, and was stopped by the goddess herself, present in the form of the five lingas. Bappa was so happy that he was alive and his goods were safe. As a token of gratitude, he built back the temple of Goddess Durga Parameswari.

The place to this day, is known as Bappanadu after him and the descendants of Bappa Byari are still given prasad first when the deity is taken out on a procession during festivals. The family offers flowers and fruits as a token of respect to the deity, and this act symbolises the deep communal harmony that exist between not just these two communities, but numerous others in this part of the world. Whenever there is a ceremony in this temple, people of all castes and religions come together to perform several rituals that are part of the ceremony.

The temple has a large Rajagopuram and a spacious circumambulatory path inside. The sanctum sanctorum houses the five lingas that are termed - Moola Durga, Agni Durga, Jala Durga, Vana Durga and Agra Durga on a common pedastal. The five durgas can only be seen during abhishekam to the deity. At all other times, they are covered by Alankaram and only the deity of Durga Parameswari placed before the Swayambu deities can be witnessed.

Apart from the main deity, there are also shrines for Ganesha, Narasimha, Naga Devatha and Kshetra Paala. Navarathri is the biggest festival that is celebrated in Bappanadu. There are Chandi Homams performed on all nine days in the morning, and annadhanam is provided to the devotees. In the Malayalam month of Meenam which starts on 15th of March and ends on 14th of April, the Rathotsava is celebrated with great pomp and glory. Devotees beat drums and sing hymns in praise of the Goddess as five rathas for the five deities are taken out in procession.

Although no epigraphical evidence has been found to prove that Bappa Byari rebuilt the temple, there have been several legends associated with him, including Yakshagana performances that have been passed down generations. Apart from that, there is adequate public documentation to show the involvement of Muslims in the construction of the temple. Not just Muslims, even to this day, several Christians sell Jasmine flowers grown in their gardens in the temple, although there is a demand available for the flowers outside as well. Members of other religions often perform Parvathi Swayamvaram at the temple for fulfilling prayers of marriage for their children.

How to get here: Bappanadu is on the Kochi - Panvel Highway, about 12 kms from the Durga Parameswari Temple in Kateel, and about 30 km from Mangalore.

Google map coordinates: 13.094961, 74.785659

Temple Timings:

5:30 AM to 2:00 PM. 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM

During Friday, Navarathri and Jathra Time:
5:30 AM to 10:00 PM

Contact Details : 0824 -2290585

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Temples of Karuvazhakarai!

Shahuji I, popularly known as Shaji was the Maratha ruler of Thanjavur during the period 1684-1712. During his reign, there were several unrests and threat to his Kingdom from the Sethupathis of Ramnad and Rani Mangammal, who ruled over Madurai with Trichy as her capital. Shahuji, was constantly strategizing to save his empire from his neighbours who were waiting with drawn swords.
It reached a point when he felt that only divine intervention can strengthen his arm, as the game plan kept changing day after day without a result in his favour.

He consulted with his minister, Lakshmana Pandit, on a solution to reinforce his hold over Thanjavur. Lakshmana Pandit consulted with several astrologers and learned men, and they all came up with a uniform solution - to construct temples for Shiva and Vishnu on the banks of the holy Cauvery river. 

Lakshmana Pandit shared this solution with King Shahuji who immediately tasked him with finding the right location to get the temples constructed. So Lakshmana Pandit set out along the banks of the Cauvery, visiting several temples on its banks and seeking divine intervention in showing him the right place for the construction of the temples. 

He travelled across Kumbakonam, Swamimalai, Thiruvidaimarudhur, Dharmapuram, and Mayiladuthurai and set off on the northern bank of the river towards Poompuhar. It was getting to be dark and Lakshmana Pandit decided to spend a night in a grove of Marudham trees (Arjuna trees) on the outskirts of Poompuhar.

The grove had almost all trees and flowering plants that would be used to worship Lord Shiva and Vishnu and Lakshmana Pandit felt an unusual sense of serenity and calmness when he rested there. By morning, his mind was made. It was there the temples were going to come up.

He felt down on the floor and thanked the Gods for showing him the ideal location and went back to Thanjavur with news for Shahuji. Very soon, the construction of the temples began - Lord Shiva sat right in the middle of the grove and came to be known as Raja Rajeswara and Lord Vishnu in the form of Lakshmi Narayana was installed towards the end of the grove. The place where the Lakshmi Narayana temple was built came to be called Lakshmi Narayana Puram and the village came to be known as Marudhur or Karuvazhakarai.

Six Maratha Brahmins, a Yajur Veda family from Senkalipuram and a Sama Veda family from nearby Kanja nagaram who were experts in the Vedas were brought to the village to take care of the temple, Very soon, the King was able to overcome the problems from his neighbours and was also able to defeat the Moghuls and acquire lands upto Varanasi.

Over time, the land between the temples became habitations and soon were taken over by individuals. The temples lost their glory and became dilapidated. The Shiva temple was granted to a family for maintenance about 200 years ago, through a court deed and the descendants of the family maintain it to date. It is a delight to see a well maintained, albeit poorly patronised temple, right in the middle of a grove, with practically every single tree, fruit or flower that is used to worship Shiva.

Lord Rajarajeswara sits majestically in the sanctum sanctorum while Goddess Devanayaki is waiting patiently in her humble abode for the odd devotee to visit. There is also a Bhairava from the Maratha period in the temple. Another noteworthy feature is the huge Nataraja and Sivakami that is under worship. Shiva looks extremely splendid and regal that you cannot take your eyes off him. His Holiness Maha Periya has visited this temple twice during his life time, and spent several hours in meditation before this Nataraja.

The remains of the Lakshmi Narayana Temple that was once worshipped for victory, beauty and prosperity is today being reconstructed through the efforts of Shri Anandhanarayanan, who is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring the temple is reconstructed. But for the main deity, Sri Lakshmi Narayana, and a few other idols, most of the structure and idols belonging to the original temple have been lost and are now being recreated in Mamallapuram.

The consecration is being planned in July 2016 and every single rupee contributed in completing the work will bestow upon the donor, victory in their endeavor, beauty and prosperity. If you happen to be in this locality, please stop by to visit both the temples at Karuvazhakarai, now popularly known as Marudhur.

You may kindly send your contributions to Sree Lakshmi Narayana Perumal Tirupani Committee, State Bank of India Pallavaram CI, SB Account No. 33737211400

How to get here:

Marudhur is found on the road from Mayiladuthurai to Poompuhar at about 9 kms from Mayiladuthurai. 

For Lakshmi Narayana Temple - Mr Anandhanarayanan - 94440 79673
For Rajarajeswara Temple - Mr Swaminathan - 95974 37157

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Keesaragutta - A hill strewn with Shivalingams!

Sri Ramalingeswara Temple at Keesaragutta

India has a number of temples associated with the Ramayana legend. Sometimes we even find similar legends associated with temples across states. All these legends glorify the life of Rama, and the devotion Hanuman had for him.
One such temple that is associated with Ramayana is Keesaragutta. After the killing of Ravana, Rama was returning home. During his journey back, he installed Shivalingams at different places, not just to be rid of the Brahma Hathi Dosham he acquired due to the killing of Ravana, but also to give peace to all those who lost their lives in the war, and to thank Lord Shiva for helping him reach and rescue Sita Devi safely.

On his way back, he saw a beautiful hill side and lush green valley, a perfect location to stop by, and worship Lord Shiva. So he alighted there and requested Hanuman to get him a Shivalingam for worship. Hanuman immediately assumed Viswaroopa and set off to Kashi to bring back a suitable lingam for Rama's worship. 

On reaching Kashi, he was not able to decide which lingam would be suitable as each one of them presented with a unique feature. Not wanting to make the wrong decision, he picked up 101 lingams in both his hands and started on his way back. 

In the meantime, since it was getting closer to dusk, Rama wanted to complete his pooja. As there was no sight of Hanuman, he prayed to Shiva to help him. Lord Shiva manifested before Rama in the form of a swayambu lingam. Rama started worshipping Shiva. Half way through the pooja, Hanuman came, carrying the 101 lingams. 

He was shocked to see Rama already performing poojas. Dejected, he threw away all the lingams he had brought from Kashi. Rama noticed Hanuman's disappointment, and pacified him. He also installed one of the lingams brought by Hanuman and assured him that the first pooja will always be performed to the Hanumad Lingam. Moreover, he said that the name of the hill would be known as Kesarigiri, after Hanuman, the son of Kesari. Over time, Kesarigiri has come to be known as Keesaragutta.

Maruthi Kashi Lingeswara Temple
Even today, over sixty lingams of different shapes and sizes are found strewn all over the hill, in and around the temple. Ramalingeswara, is found in the sanctum sanctorum and the Maruthi Kashi Lingeswara in a seperate shrine across the temple. A huge Viswaroopa Hanuman is found right next to the shrine. Just like the other temples in this area, devotees are allowed to directly perform abhishekams for Ramalingeswara from 6 am to 12 pm every day.

After crossing the huge temple arch on the main road, one comes across the Nagadevatha shrine, where a beautiful Goddess with entwining snakes all over is found. Devotees stop here first and offer prayers, sprinkle turmeric and Kumkum powder on the Goddess and then proceed towards the Keesaragutta temple.

Apart from the main deity, there are seperate shrines for Goddess Parvathi, known here as Bhavani Matha, Ganesha, Subramanya, Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Mahalakshmi, Makaali, Mahasaraswathi, and Sivapanchayadhana Moorthy. This temple is known as Ubhaya Rameshwaram.

Another unique feature of this temple is Lord Lakshmi Narasimha in a seperate shrine. This Narasimha is a Varaprasadhi, bringing harmony among married couples and helping cure dreadful diseases. The Narasimha has been installed by the Akkana and Madanna brothers, who were viziers of the Golconda Sultanate. There is also a Vedapadashala at the temple that is run by the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams. 

Vishwaroopa Hanuman
On one side of the temple, there is a lotus pond and Goddess Sita Devi is found in a cave nearby. Remnants of the Golconda style of architecture can also be seen all around the temple.

King Madhava Varma II of the Vishnukundina dynasty is said to have patronized this temple largely and also performed an Ashwamedha Yagna here in the 5th Century. During his reign, Keesaragutta was the location of the military base. The antiquity of this temple has been established through several archaeological excavations that have taken place here. The findings have revealed the strong existence of Buddhist and Jain culture in these areas .  

Twelve Jain Thirthankara statues have been found at about one feet.  The remnants of the original temple built during the Vishnukundina period,  built of brick, with rectangular structures having five shrines with circumambulatory path, and square garbagriha,remains of a fort, along with antiquities such as shell bangles, coins, stucco figures, huge statues of Mother Goddess (Laja Gauri), lingas of crystal, Vishnukundin coins, pottery circles, red ware, black ware and grey ware.

A very interesting object exposed during excavations was a Garbhapatra made of clay and decorated with seven snakes, all encircling the body with five female figures and a male figure on the lid squatting on a lotus pedestal. This patra was intended to keep precious materials at the time of consecrating of temples and was a feature in Jaina tradition. All objects found during excavations are found in a museum close to the temple complex.
Every day, Rudrabhishekam, Panchamrutha Abhishekam and Sathyanarayana Vratham are conducted at the temple. Shivarathri festival is celebrated with great pomp and festivity for seven days. During these days, special poojas and abhishekams are performed to Ramalingeshwara and Bhavani Matha. Thousands of devotees throng here during this time. During Devi Navarathri, on Arudhra Nakshathra Somavaaram (Mondays), special poojas are performed.

How to get here: Keesaragutta is in Rangareddy District, about 35 kms from Hyderabad city. It is about 18 kms from ECIL X road. 
Temple Timings:  6 am - 1 pm, 3 pm to 7.30 pm
Contact Details:  08418-202200

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sankara Narayana!

Recently, we undertook a four day visit to temples in UK and DK.....puzzled? Well, it is just Uttara Kannada and Dakshin Kannada! Usually, I would be the one meticulously planning itinerary to lesser known yet unique places, but this time I was swamped at work and had to rely on the travel operator.

Even that was a random choice, based on a search on the internet. Karnataka vacations, based out of Bangalore. All that we had was an exchange of a few emails. I was quite happy with the quality of planning by Mahesh Temkar. At no point, did I reveal to him that I was a blogger, but was pleasantly and embarrassingly surprised when on arrival, he mentioned that he had been a visitor to the blog and had instructed our driver, Srikanth to take us to as many old, and unique temples as time would permit. This was a true treat, and Srikanth, was a very pleasant and knowledgeable driver.

We saw a number of beautiful and unique places, still not prominent on tourist maps. Sadly none of the literature or even name-boards had any English or Hindi in them. Aalayam Kanden has been working on overcoming the language barrier in such sites by translating the sthalapuranams into English for better benefit of the tourists and one such case was the Trikkur Mahadeva Kshetram in Kerala. You can read about it here.

One such place was the Sankara Narayana Temple at Sankara Narayana. Yes the place itself is named after the temple. When Parashurama wanted to donate land to Brahmins, he is said to have thrown his axe into the ocean, and received the land extending from Gokarna to Kanyakumari from God Varuna. This landscape came to be known as Kerala. Parashurama divided this land into 64 villages and donated it to the Brahmins. Not just that, he created 108 temples here which are to this day known as Parashurama Kshetrams.

Seven out of these 108 temples are currently found in Karnataka. They are Subramanya, Udupi, Kumbakashi, Kodeswara, Sankaranarayana, Kollur and Gokarna. These are known as Saptha Parashurama Kshetrams and are said to be equivalent to Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya, Kashi, Kanchi, Avanthika and Puri.

Out of the seven Parashurama Kshetrams, Sankaranarayana is very significant. This is the location where both Shiva and Vishnu have manifested in the form of Swayambu lingas. These lingas are found about one feet below ground immersed under water in the sanctum sanctorum. A perennial spring washes over the lingams and flows out of the sanctum through the Gomukham. This spring is called Suddhamrutha Theertham.

Sankaranarayana Photo Courtesy: Sankaranarayana temple

The Sankara lingam is found on the left for the devotees and is round in shape, whereas the Narayana Lingam found on the right, is flat and the hoof marks of a cow are seen on it. It is believed that the Kamadhenu stood over the lingams and expressed her milk over them and while doing so, her hoof mark got embossed on the Vishnu lingam. In the past, the priest used to show the lingams with the help of a mirror to the devotees. However, now this practice has been discontinued and silver Kavachams have been adorned over the lingams so that they are visible for the devotees to worship.

On entering the temple complex which has been recently renovated, one can see the Koti Theertham. The greenery around the temple tank and the clear water make it a very pleasant experience to bathe in its cool waters. Devotees atleast sprinkle the holy water on their heads, before entering the temple. A huge mural in typical Kerala style welcomes you. On either side of the entrance, there are huge wooden images of Nandi and Garuda depicting the vahanas of the two Lords found in union inside.

In the sanctum sanctorum, there is a huge deity of Sankaranarayana, the left portion depicting Sankara and the right portion depicting Narayana. Apart from the main deity, there is also a silver icon on the north eastern side of the sanctum. The foyer has various forms of Shiva and Vishnu on either side. Although the temple has been recently renovated, the inscriptions from the ancient temple have been preserved and are installed on the circumambulatory path.

The Lord is also called Kroda Sankaranarayana. There were two Asuras, namely Karasura and Rakthasura who were tormented human beings on Earth. On seeing this, Kroda Maharishi appealed to Lord Shiva and Vishnu to take the form of Sankaranarayana and destroy these two asuras. The Lords agreed to do so and destroyed the two asuras at Sankaranarayana. Then, based on Kroda Maharishi's request, they manifested as Swayambu lingams so that devotees could continue to worship them there.

A hill next to Sankaranarayana is called Krodagiri and it is here that Kroda Maharishi is believed to have done penance to invoke Lord Shiva and Vishnu. Even today, idols of Sankaranarayana, Gowri and Lakshmi are found inside the cave where Kroda Maharishi is said to have meditated.

Apart from the main deity, there are also shrines for Mahaganapathy who is worshipped before Sankaranarayana, Gopalakrishna, Panchamukha Anjaneya, and a small lingam called Partheswara. Just like Sankara and Narayana are found in a single form, Gowri and Lakshmi are found next to each other in a single shrine. This is not something that we commonly find in other temples.

Every year, a grand Jathra festival is celebrated on the second day after Sankaranthi. Thousands of pilgrims visit here during this time and participate in the car festival too.

So if you are in this area, do take time out to visit this unique temple!

How to get here: Sankaranarayana is about 35 kms from Udupi on the Udupi Mangalore route. Nearest railway station is Kundapur.

Temple Timings: The temple is open from 7.30 am to 1.30 pm in the morning and from 3.30 pm to 8.30 pm in the evening.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Do you want a job abroad?

The temple tank of Sri Sundareswara Temple, Periya Kothur

Sometimes, the will of God is beyond our comprehension....well, why sometimes, most of the time! It was in the year 2014, that Arun Kumar, a young man, wrote to me after seeing my interview on television. He mentioned that his brother Balamurugan, employed in New Zealand, along their his father Mr Mohandas was attempting to reconstruct the Sundareswarar temple in his native village Periya Kothur, in Tiruvarur district and wanted me to write an article to raise awareness on the temple. I promised to help, but the opportunity to visit did not present itself till June 2015.

The original vimana and structure of the Sundareswara Temple at Periya Kothur
Even after that, despite a miracle happening right in front of our eyes, for some reason, this temple did not get featured either here or in the series I write in Deepam called Arputha Aalayangal. A few days ago, a lady from the US wrote to me about this temple. That is when I thought that the time has finally come true to feature this magnificent temple here.

Renovation happening now
The Sundareswara temple, true to its name, was once beautiful, it slowly started falling prey to vegetation. The original name of the temple was Thiruvidaikadudaiya Mahadevar temple. The brick vimana covered with lime plaster was the first to get eaten away. The rows and rows of inscriptions on the exterior walls prompted the villagers to ensure that the stones were removed and reused in the construction. Unfortunately, they could not save the vimana and it is a pity that it is now being redone in concrete. But considering the costs involved and valuing the primary objective of the villagers - to make sure the temple exists instead of crumbling to dust, one has to learn to put up with modern methods of construction.

Inscriptions from the time of Kulothunga III and Rajaraja III 
What really moved me were the deities that were stored in a nearby school shed right next to the temple pond. With the highest number of cases of idol smuggling (of course most of them have been bronze) but a stone icon of the 12th century is definitely a valuable piece)reported in Tiruvarur district, it really is very important that they are moved to some place safe at the earliest.

Temporary abode of Gods
An inscription at the temple states that the temple complex for Thiruvidaikadudaiyar was constructed by a merchant group called the Kulothunga Chola Perilamaiyaar, through the instructions of the King Kulothunga III in the 12th century CE. A very interesting inscription of a total of 97 lines belonging to the time of King Rajaraja III (1227 CE) speaks about the people of the village of Urangudi who have joined hands with the enemies. The inscriptions says that the village council had appealed to the revenue officer not to allow them to come back and also not to collect the taxes that were due from them for temple festivals and based on his acceptance the order was being inscribed on the temple wall.

According to an inscription from Kulothunga III period (1183 CE)A person called Thirunavukkarasu son of Kandhamangalamudaiyan Putridangondan has gone around collecting alms for installing the idols of the Devaram authors, Saints Appar, Sundarar and Gnanasambandar in a seperate shrine in the temple. He has also donated lands for the daily offerings to the lord. Today only the idols of Gnanasambandar and Sundarar are found. Appar is nowhere to be seen.

Another inscriptions reconfirms this information and mentions the name of the sculptor of this temple as Sokkakootha Sirpasari. A couple of inscriptions speaks about village resolutions on the methods of harvesting the temple lands and handing over the produce collectively by the villagers are also recorded.

Gnanasambandar at the temple
The idols belonging to the temple are all exquisite. Right from the beautiful Nandi found in a seperate mandapa outside the temple, to the Narthana Ganapathy, the Pancha Ganapathy, Dakshinamurthy, Bhairava, Subramanya and Chandikeswara each a specimen of the rich sculptural beauty of the Cholas.

Lord Sundareswara is found in the sanctum sanctorum which has been more or less left intact. The Goddess Soundaranayaki is still awaiting installation. The construction work is progressing slowly as it is majorly funded by Mr Balamurugan. Other help is trickling in occasionally.

Pancha Ganapathy
When we visited the temple we were told that Lord Sundareswara grants prayers of those who wish to go abroad for employment. Several youth and their parents come to the temple, where worship is currently happening even though construction is going on in some parts, on Thursday and worship the Lord with Bilwa leaves to see their prayers granted. A couple of friends had accompanied me. The son of one of them had been given soft notice by his company due to technical layoff, and he was under stress to find an alternative job before expiry of his contract and visa.

Lord Thiruvidaikadudaiya Nayanar aka Sundareswarar
On the day we were visiting, he had already given seven rounds of interview in a reputed travel firm, and was awaiting personal interview. The mother prayed to Lord Sundareswara that her son should somehow get the job. He had called earlier to say that he had not done the last round very well and felt that he only stood a 50% chance.

However, as we collected the Vibhuti prasadam and stepped out of the temple, the mother got a call from her son, saying he had been selected. He said that in the last few minutes of the interview, he had become blank and did not remember what he had answered. We were really amazed. Today, the young man has joined the company and is doing very well for himself and his mother is full of gratitude for Lord Sundareswara!

That was our personal experience and Mr Mohandas, who has been taking great care of the temple narrates a number of such instances where young people have benefitted from worshipping the Lord! So if you want a good career abroad, this is the place to go!

How to get here: Periya Kothur is in Tiruvarur district, near Vadapathimangalam Sugar mill. One can come by auto from Kamalapuram also. Please contact the number below for detailed travel instructions.

If you wish to lend a helping hand to the construction of the temple, please contribute generously to this account number.

Shri Arulmigu Sundareswarar Alayam, Tiruppanikkulu, SB A/c No. 30854146423,
State Bank of India, Vadapathimangalam Branch, IFSC Code: SBIN0001897

Contact details: Mr Mohandas 04367-0295674, 9629271212

Thank you Blog Adda for choosing this post as Tuesday Tangy Post! 1.3.16