Monday, June 19, 2017

Tirumarugal!

There are a number of temples associated with the Nayanmars and the miracles performed by them in their journey of worship and promotion of Shaivism. Each one of them has unique rituals and commemorative festivals too. But Thirumarugal stands out with multiple specialities. One could go on and on about the various facets of this small, yet significant temple.

The Sthalapuranam of this shrine is said to have been rendered by Lord Shiva himself to Lord Brahma, when he sought a place to meditate to overcome the curse of the Rishis and regain creation.

The tale of Kusakethu Maharaja:

King Kusakethu was a fair and just king. One day when his men were clearing the dense banana groves, their spades would not move at a particular point. So the king got down and started digging. When his spade hit a solid object, blood started gushing out. Shocked, the king dug further to find a Swayambu Linga. Overjoyed, he cleared the land and made a temple for him. The Lord who sits on a square avudaiyar, still bears the cut from Kusakethu's spade on his shoulder.

Once there was a famine in his kingdom. The King did all that he could to help his subjects. He opened up his granary and coffers. He performed several yagnas for rains and donated food and gold. None of this brought rains. 

Men and cattle were dying of hunger. The King even meditated in the middle of fire. Nine years passed but yet there were no rains. The king felt there was no point in him living, when he could not help his subjects . So he hung himself on Vaikasi Visakam day. At that moment, the Lord appeared before him. Rains of precious gems and stones started for a ten mile radius around Thirumarugal and continued for several days. The Lord asked Kusakethu what he wanted for which he sought the Lord should ever stay in Tirumarugal and protect his subjects from famine and death. The Lord happily agreed. Since there were heaps of precious stones around the Lord, he came to be known as Rathnagiriswarar and Manickavannar. 

Brahma's penance:

Lord Brahma once told the Rishis that they too would be reborn. The rishis who had been performing penance with an aim of attaining mukthi were angered by this and they cursed him to forget the art of creation. Brahma panicked and sought the help of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva told him about Thirumarugal - one among the eighteen most holy places in the world and asked him to go there and worship him. Brahma did as suggested. and on Chithirai star in the month of Chithirai, the Lord appeared before him, and gave him back the knowledge of creation. A humbled Brahma performed a nine - day festival and drew the deity around the temple in a chariot, and offered food to Rishis in repentence of his folly.

Beginning of Varalakshmi Viratham:

Once, all Rishis got together on the banks of the Ganges and decided to perform a Yagna. They could not come to an agreement as to who would receive the offerings, since some were devotees of Shiva, others of Vishnu and few others of Brahma. So they decided to send Bhrigu Maharishi to find out who was the most deserving. Bhrigu went to Brahma and Shiva's abodes but they were too busy to notice him. Frustrated, he went to Vaikuntam. Vishnu too did not notice Sage Bhrigu first. Angered, Bhrigu kicked him on his chest. But instead of getting angry, Lord Vishnu held the Rishi's foot and pressed it saying it might have hurt while kicking.

This humbled Sage Bhrigu returned to the Rishis to say that Lord Vishnu was the most deserving. However, Goddess Mahalakshmi who resides in Vishnu's chest felt angered that her husband did not stop the Rishi from kicking her and instead pressed his feet and offered apologies. So she left him and came down to Bhooloka. She was drawn to Thirumarugal because of the divine aura it was emitting. She created a tank there called Lakshmi Theertham and started meditating on Lord Shiva. The Lord asked her to perform a Vratha by worshipping him with Bilwa and observing Mouna on Mondays, Fridays and Full Moon Days. She did so with devotion. A pleased Lord Shiva brought Lord Mahavishnu to her on a Friday in the Tamil month of Aavani and together they worshipped Lord Manickavannar. It is believed that Goddess Mahalakshmi asked her devotee Charumathi of Magadha Kingdom to perform the same Vratha for the wellbeing of her family, and that is how the Varalakshmi Vratham, originally advised by Lord Shiva to Goddess Lakshmi came to be observed. Even today, several devotees bathe in the Lakshmi theertham and worship the Lord on Fridays to be rid of debts, and to gain prosperity, family unity and happiness.

The Tale of Sage Parasara:

Once Sage Parasara wanted to cross the river Yamuna. So he approached a maiden named Machaganthi, and asked her to ferry him across. While she was, the sage was drawn towards her beauty and asked her to marry him. A hesitant Machaganthi agreed and soon Sage Vyasa was born.

Sage Parasara realised that he had actually married a girl much younger to him, of a lowly caste due to lust and hence wanted to perform penance to be rid of his sin. So he sought the help of Sage Narada, who advised him to go to Thirumarugal and worship Lord Manickavannar. The sage bathed in the Chandra Pushkarani every day and performed penance. The Lord appeared before him on Chitra Pournami. Sage Parasara repented for his sins and asked the Lord to help every devotee who has erred due to lust be rid of his sins by worshipping at Thirumarugal.

The Tale of the Chettiar Girl:

There was a merchant called Daman Chettiar in Vaippur. He had seven daughters. His nephew, who was poor, sought the hand of his daughter. However, the merchant not wanting his daughters to marry a poor man, gave one excuse after another, and got six out of seven married to other boys. The youngest daughter, knowing that her father was being unfair to her cousin, offered to marry him. The two eloped. As it was late at night by the time they reached Thirumarugal, they decided to stay in a choultry there. That night, the boy Vasanthan was bit by a snake and died. The girl did not know what to do as she had left her family and her only hope, had also died. 

Gnanasambandar who was camping in Thirumarugal came to know of her plight. He saw the heartbroken girl weeping and even in her misery, singing the praises of the Lord, and beseeching him to help her. This moved him and he invoked Lord Shiva to break the poison and save the Chettiar boy. The boy was brought back to life and Gnanasambandar, in the absence of their relatives, got them married with the well and the Vanni Tree (in picture) as evidences. Every year, during the ten day festival in the Tamil month of Chithirai, the wedding of the Chettiar girl is performed on the seventh day. 

The Temple:

The temple originally built by King Kusakethu was rebuilt by Kochengatchola Nayanar as a Madakoil (a temple that cannot be climbed by an elephant). To know more about Kochengatchola Nayanar, click here.

The Lord Manickavannar sits on his elevated shrine.  The Sthalavriksham of the temple is the Marugal Banana also known as Kalvaazhai. This banana does not grow anywhere outside the temple if planted.

No one dies of snake bite in and around Thirumarugal. Even if someone is bitten by a snake, they come to the temple and the priest sings Gnanasambandar's hymns and ties a "Kattu" which ensures that the person is not affected by the poison. The Ganesha in the temple is called "Vidantheerndha Vinayakar" and people worship him and are relieved of the effects of the poison. There is also another Ganesha who is called Surantheertha Vinayakar who is said to relieve fever. He too is worshipped by those suffering from fever for relief.

When Gnanasambandar was in Thirumarugal, Siruthondar Nayanar invited him to visit Thiruchenkattankudi. However, the Lord in Thirumarugal manifested as the Lord at Ganapatheeswaram (one of the two main deities at Thiruchenkattankudi) at Thirumarugal itself and Sambandar sang a hymn covering both shrines here. Seeralan, the child of Siruthondar was studying at a Matam at Thirumarugal and even today there is a pond named after him near the Matam where people bathe in and worship the Lord to beget children.

The Lord Muruga at the temple has been sung by Saint Arunagirinathar.

Goddess Amodhalanayaki :

Goddess Vanduvarkuzhalammai or Amodhalanayaki is found in a separate shrine. She is one of four sisters, the others being in Thirukannapuram, Thirupugalur and Thiruchenkattankudi. She is also known as Soolikambal and is worshipped for safe pregnancy and delivery.

Those who have hurdles in getting married come to this temple for pariharam. For boys, the Rudra Thirisadhi is performed to the Lord and for girls, Sahasranamam using turmeric is performed to the Goddess. The girls are asked to use this turmeric powder for bathing and by the time it gets over a good alliance is finalised.
Inscriptions: 

At the moment, there is only one inscription belonging to 1882 AD which takes about the King of Thanjavur giving grants of gold to the temple, which the then trustee, Thiravinai Theertha Mudaliar used for various poojas at the temple.

How to reach here: 

Thirumarugal is about 10 kms from Nannilam and close to Thirupugalur and Thiruchenkattankudi. It is accessible by bus from both Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam.

Temple Timings:

7 am - 12.15 pm, 4 - 8.30 pm

Contact details:

Sundaraganapathy Gurukkal - 97861 92196







Sunday, June 4, 2017

Appar Guru Poojai at Tirupugalur!




Appar - A Brief History

Appar also known as Tirunavukkarasar was born Marulneekiyar in an agriculturist family of Thiruvamur in Tirumunaipadi Nadu. He lost his parents in an early age and was brought up by his sister Thilakavathiyar. He grew up as a pious young man, with a seeking to know the best among religions. So he went to Pataliputra,where he was drawn towards Jainism. He was renamed Dharmasena, and became a Jain monk. In the meantime, his sister Thilakavathiyar, was beseeching Lord Shiva at Thiruvadhigai Veeratam, to make her brother see reason, and return to Saivism. The Lord, moved by her prayers, gave Dharmasena severe stomach pain. The Jains did all that they could to cure the pain, but all their actions only ended up aggravating it. When the pain became unbearable, Dharmasena decided to return home, to see his sister one last time, before giving up his life. 

When he came home, Thilakavathiyar took him to Thiruvadhigai Veeratam and asked him to sing a hymn in praise of the Lord. With His grace, Marulneekiyar was immediately relieved of pain. He was overjoyed, and took to Saivism. He went from place to place, carrying a sickle (termed Uzhavaram in Tamil) singing the praise of the Lord, and cleaning temples of vegetation. The Jains unable to see Dharmasena leave their fold, did all they could to put an end to his life. They influenced the Pallava King who was also a Jain at that point, to put him into a lime kiln, to give him poison and to throw him into the sea tied to a huge boulder. Each time, he was able to come out unscathed due to the grace of the Lord. The King was moved by his devotion, and he himself converted into a Shaivaite and built temples for Lord Shiva. With the grace of God, he went around spreading Shaivism, through hymns and performed several miracles. Due to the sweetness of his words, the Lord gave him the title Thirunavukkarasar.

On hearing about Saint Thirugnanasambandar, he desired to meet him. When Gnanasambandar came in his pearl palanquin, Thirunavukkarasar became one of the bearers. Gnanasambandar was equally eager to meet Thirunavukkarasar, jumped down from it, and fell at his feet calling him "Appare" (My father). As he grew older, Appar desired to visit Kailash. He walked up North, till such time he could walk no longer. He then started to crawl. His muscles got wasted and blood started to pour. His bones were getting ground and began to break. He would still not stop moving in the direction of Kailash. Moved by his devotion, Lord Shiva restored his health and asked him to go to Thiruvaiyaru where he showed him the vision of Kailash. 

Last days of Appar at Thirupugalur


After spending some time in Thiruvaiyaru, he reached Tirupugalur. The Agneeswara Temple at Thirupugalur has several specialities,

Lord Bhootheswara
  • It is a temple where the Lord is worshipped in three different forms - Bhootheswara for the Past, Varthamaneeswara for the present and Bhavishyeswara for the future.
  • It is the temple where Agni worshipped Lord Shiva also known as Sharanyeswara or Kona Piraan and gained a human form with two faces, seven flames, five arms and two legs.
Lord Agni
  • It is here that bricks were turned to gold for Sundaramurthy Nayanar, because of which, till date the temple is a popular Vasthu Sthalam, from where people take back three bricks and use them in the construction of their new house, to be rid of Vasthu Doshas.
  • The Goddess Karuthazh Kuzhali also known as Soolikambal, is one of four sisters who grants wishes of safe pregnancy and delivery.
  • The temple is surrounded by a moat said to have dug by Banasura. The Lord is called Kona Piran as he is supposed to have titled when Banasura tried to uproot him for his mother's worship.
The magnificent moat around the Tirupugalur temple
Appar is said to have come here and performed Uzhavara pani, namely clearing of vegetation using a sickle. The Lord wanting to test him, made precious gems and diamonds appear in the midst of rubble. Appar without a second look, dumped the gems along with the stones and pebbles he was clearing from the pathway. The Lord then sent the Apsaras - Ramba, Menaka and Urvashi to distract Appar and make him fall to worldly ways. But Appar was undettered by the glamorous maiden and their sensuous moves - he started singing hymns in praise of the Lord, on hearing which the maiden bowed before him and returned to their abode. 

Knowing that his end was near, Appar went around the temple, singing a hymn " Podhuginren Unnadike Poompugalur Meviya Punniyane" and entered the sanctum sanctorum on Chithirai Sadhayam wherein he merged with the holy consciousness of the Lord.

Appar Gurupoojai :

Every year, the commemoration of Appar attaining mukthi is celebrated on Sadhayam star in the Tamil month of Chithirai. Devotees from far and wide, gather at the temple to witness this spectacular event.  There are several events that take place as a fore-runner to the Gurupoojai.

The Tirupugalur temple decorated for the Gurupoojai
On the morning of the event, the 63 Nayanmars are taken in procession through the streets surrounding the temple. In the afternoon, an episode of Kattamudhu, where the Lord brought packed food for a hungry Appar is recreated at the Kattamudhu mandapam, by the side of the temple. The crowds start to swell as dusk approaches. The festivities of the evening, begin with a discourse on the life of Appar. Around 10 pm, a beautifully decorated Appar is brought around the temple Praharam. The devotees who are waiting patiently cheer in joy to see him approach. 



The Velakurichi Aadheenam, Srila Sri Sathya Gnana Mahadesika Paramacharya Swamigal, leads the procession. He then, proceeds to recreate the Uzhavara Pani of Appar where the Lord tested him by making precious gems and diamonds appear amidst pebbles and stones. This is done in a small pit, where sprouts are grown specifically for this purpose. Coins are thrown into the pit as the sprouts are cleared using the sickle while devotees sing Appar's hymns.




    Once all the coins are thrown away along with the weeds, the procession of Appar moves forward to where the Apsaras are waiting for him. Arambayar Natanam, as this event is called is a very interesting Jugalbandhi where the Apsaras dance gracefully to different songs which are interspersed with Appar's devaram recited by the Sivanadiyars. This continues till the early hours of the morning, when the Apsaras finally accept defeat and return to Devaloka.


    Appar then leaves on his final journey around the village of Tirupugalur. By now, the Nadaswaram has been silenced, the dancers have departed and a very solemn air hangs over the devotees who are singing the hymns of Appar as he is taken around in procession through the streets of Thirupugalar. The numbers that have been growing over the evening are now at its maximum. A frenzy of devotion seems to have caught on, as even those who were sitting silently through the dancing, are now seen singing. Some devotees are seen weeping as the procession goes around. 

    Appar going around in procession one last time
    It is around dawn when the procession approaches the temple. By now the maha mandapa, and the front passage into the temple are jam packed as people are jostling with each other to make sure they have obtained a vantage position to witness Appar merging with the divine consciousness. The Adheenam is waiting for the procession to enter.

    It seems like forever for the procession to enter the temple and reach the front mandapa. The Sivanadiyars are singing the final hymn of Appar " Podhuginren Un Adikke Poompugalur Meviya Punniyane". Many of them are visibly choking over their tears and the air is absolutely solemn. Slowly yet steadily, the idol of Appar is raised into the mandapa leading to the sanctum. Within minutes, he is taken over by the priests who lead him into the sanctum. The lights are dimmed and Appar is placed at the feet of Lord Agneeswara also called Saranyapureeswara, as Appar took his final refuge in him.

    When the Harathi is shown, a ray of light is seen emerging from Appar and merging with the Lord. The crowds that were waiting the whole night, for this moment, cry out loud. It is a moment of ecstasy for everyone present, to see the Lord's greatest devotee merge with him. 

    The priests step out and the doors are closed. Slowly the crowds trickle out, with a sense of fulfilment, of peace and joy of having experienced a once in a life time event. 


    About Mangala Rural Retreat:

    Tirupugalur is clearly out of the regular tourist circuit dotted with good hotels and restaurants and this divine experience was made possible thanks to Mangala Rural Retreat, an agraharam house converted into a home stay by Prakriti Foundation. It is a very well maintained property right behind the temple, with five well appointed airconditioned rooms, awesome traditional South Indian vegetarian food, delightful double swings, a courtyard and Thinnai to boot. And what's more - it also has modest Wifi!
    If you intend to be around here, do check out Mangala!

    A view of the rustic interiors of the Mangala Rural Retreat
    For more details look up  http://www.mangalaheritageretreat.in/ 









    Thursday, June 1, 2017

    Know your Nayanmars - Part IV - The Brahmins!

    Continuing on our series on Nayanmars, we now move on to look at the priests, who worshipped the Lord for their love of him, and not just because it was their profession! Their profound love, even during the most trying of circumstances, made them earn his compassion and find their place among the Nayanmars!

    Note: The numbers next to the names of the Nayanmars denote the order in which they appear in the Thiruthonda Thogai!


    Thillai Vaazh Andhanar:


    When Lord Shiva asked Sundaramurthy Nayanar to sing a hymn in praise of his devotees, he gave the first line himself as " Thillai Vaazh Andhanar tham adiyarkum adiyen". The 3000 Dikshidars of the Chidambaram temple, had the privilege of being named by the Lord himself, because when Lord Shiva manifested in the form of a linga in the middle of a Thillai forest at Chidambaram, these Dikshidars are said to have accompanied him for the purpose of carrying out rituals of his worship. 


    10. Kungiliya Kalaya Nayanar
    Birth - Thirukadaiyur   Mukthi - Thirukadaiyur  
    Guru poojai - Avani Moolam 
    Temple - Amirthakadeswarar Temple, Thirukadaiyur,
    Arunajadeswarar Temple, Thirupanandhal

    Kalayar was a Brahmin priest and a staunch devotee of Shiva. Every day his primary responsibility was to offer Benzoin (Kungiliyam) fragrance to the Lord at Thirukadaiyur. The Lord, in order to test his devotion, made him lose his livelihood and possessions. Still, Kalayar’s service continued, undeterred. 

    One day, when there was nothing in the house to feed the children, his wife gave her Thaali asking him to sell it to buy rice. When Kalayar went to the market, he found a man selling Kungiliyam, so instead of rice, he bought Kungiliyam and went to the temple, burnt it and sang the praises of the Lord. Hours passed, and his wife and children fainted with hunger. The Lord, moved by Kalayar’s devotion, filled the house with foodgrains, and riches. He appeared in the dream of Kalayar’s wife, letting her know that there was enough food for the children and she should prepare something for them to eat. 

    The lady woke up, saw the house full of provisions, and started preparing a tasty meal. Lord Shiva chided Kalayar for forgetting his duty, and urged him to go home and have a meal. Kalayar thanked the Lord and spent all the riches on feeding devotees. 

    In the meantime, the lingam at the Tirupanandhal temple had tilted, and the King tried all his might, using elephants and soldiers, in vain, to straighten it. Hearing about it, Kalayar rushed to the temple, put the noose on to his neck and pulled with all love and devotion. Within seconds, the lingam straightened up. The King fell at the feet of the devotee, and praised him. 

    15. Muruga Nayanar
    Birth- Tirupugalur  Mukthi - Aachalpuram
    Guru poojai – Vaikhasi Moolam 
    Temple – Agneeswarar Temple, Tirupugalur

    Muruga Nayanar was a Brahmin priest of Tirupugalur. He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Every morning, he collected flowers from plants and trees, creepers and ponds, in different baskets held above the navel, and made garlands for the Lord with the choicest flowers. His devotion was so pure and simple, that when Thirugnanasambandar came to hear about him, he offered his friendship. Sambandar and Appar stayed with Muruga Nayanar while visiting Tirupugalur. Muruga Nayanar was invited to attend the wedding of Gnanasambandar, wherein he attained mukthi along with Sambandar and other invitees.

    16. Uruthira Pasupathy Nayanar
    Birth & Mukthi – Thiruthalaiyur near Kollumangudi
    Guru poojai – Purattasi Aswini
    Temple: Pasupathinathar Temple, Thiruthalaiyur

    Pasupathy Nayanar was a very pious Brahmin who chanted the Vedas with austerity and devotion. Every morning, he would get into neck deep water in the lotus pond, with his hands held high above his head like a blooming lotus bud, and would chant the Rudram with utmost devotion. The Lord, pleased with his devotion, placed his lotus feet upon the raised hands of Pasupathy Nayanar and gave him mukthi. Because he recited the Rudram with utmost devotion, he came to be known as Uruthira Pasupathy Nayanar.

    25. Thiruneelanakka Nayanar
    Birth – Seeyathamangai  Mukthi – Aachaalpuram
    Guru poojai – Vaikasi Moolam
    Temple – Brahmapureeswarar  Temple, Seeyathamangai

    Thiruneela Nakkar was a Brahmin who lived in Thiruchathamangai  with his wife. Both of them loved to worship Ayavantheeswarar. One day, the wife saw a spider running up the baanam of the Lord. Without thinking, she blew on it, to chase it away. Thiruneela Nakkar was shocked that his wife would think of doing something so unholy. In a fit of rage, he told her that he was  disowning her. The distraught wife stayed back at the temple. That night, the Lord appeared in Thiruneela Nakkar’s dream and showed him his body. He had blisters everywhere, except where Nakkar’s wife had blown.  Nakkar  regretted his action, and brought his wife back in the morning. He soon heard about the glory of Gnanasambandar and wanted to meet him. When Sambandar came to Sathamangai, Thiruneelanakkar received him and gave him a place to stay. He was invited to perform the wedding of Gnanasambandar at Aachaalpuram, where he also attained mukthi along with Sambandar.
    For a detailed post on the Seeyathamangai temple and the tale of Thiruneelanakkar on Aalayam Kanden, click here.

    26.  Naminandi Adigal Nayanar
    Birth – Thiruneipper  Mukthi – Tiruvarur
    Guru poojai – Vaikasi Poosam
    Temple – Vanmeeganatha Swamy Temple, Thiruneipper

    Naminandi Adigal was a Brahmin who was very fond of going to Tiruvarur to worship Lord Vanmeeganatha. He had a desire to light innumerable lamps in the temple that would glow until dawn. One day, he approached a house near the temple and asked for some ghee. The inhabitants being Jains, told him they had no ghee and asked him to light the lamps with water. Naminandi Adigal was heartbroken. He went back to the temple, and wept. The Lord asked Naminandi to light the lamps from the water in the pond. Unquestioningly, Naminandi obeyed and the lamps burned bright until day. This continued for many days. One day, he accompanied the Lord on a procession and went home. When his wife asked him to come in and perform the pujas, he replied that he had been along with people of other communities and would like to cleanse himself before worship. It was as though by magic, that he fell asleep immediately. In his dream Lord Shiva told him that all those who are born in Tiruvarur were his Ganas. Naminandi woke up, regretting his mistake. Next morning, when he went to the temple, he saw everyone as Shiva Ganas. A repentant Naminandi sought forgiveness of the Lord and spent his life in performing service.

    32. Somasimara Nayanar
    Birth – Ambar   Mukthi – Tiruvarur
    Guru poojai – Vaikasi Aayilyam
    Temple – Brahmapureeswarar Temple, Ambar

    Somasimara Nayanar was an exponent of Samaveda. He was an ardent devotee of Shiva and believed in revering and serving his devotees as a path to attain salvation. He was greatly inspired by Sundaramurthy Nayanar. He went to Tiruvarur and recited the Samavedha. On hearing the rendition, Lord Shiva is said to have appeared before them. He spent his life in serving Sundaramurthy Nayanar before attaining Mukthi.

    34. Sirappuli Nayanar
    Birth & Mukthi – Thiruaakur
    Guru poojai – Karthigai Puradam
    Temple – Thanthonrinadhar temple, Thiruaakur

    Sirappuli Nayanar was a devotee of Lord Shiva and he took it as his prime responsibility to feed His devotees and give them what they sought. Pleased with the commitment and dedication with which he fed devotees, Lord Shiva himself came as one among thousand devotees fed by him. Hence he is called Ayirathil Oruvar (One in a thousand) in the Thiru Aakur temple. 

    37. Gananatha Nayanar
    Birth & Mukthi – Sirkazhi
    Guru poojai – Panguni Thiruvadhirai
    Temple – Thoniappar Temple, Sirkazhi

    Gananatha Nayanar was very devoted to the service of Lord Shiva. He felt the need to train several people to perform the services required by the Lord. So he identified and trained several young people to be devotees and maintain the temple groves, and collect flowers for worship, make garlands, bring clean water and fresh milk for bathing the Lord, cleaning the temple, removing the vegetation, lighting lamps and all other services that were needed in the temple. He was instrumental in disciplining the youth through service to God. He became the Head of the Ganas in the Lord’s abode.

    54. Pugazhthunai Nayanar
    Birth & Mukthi – Thiruarisirkaraiputhur (Azhagaputhur)
    Guru poojai – Avani Ayilyam
    Temple – Sornapureeswarar Temple, Azhaputhur


    In Seruvilliputhur there was a priest called Pugazhthunaiyar. He worshipped the Lord with true affection and devotion. Most people in the village starting leaving it due to famine. But Pugazhthunaiyar chose to stay, not wanting to leave the Lord alone and hungry. Even when there was no food available, he brought whatever fresh flower he could find, and bathed the Lord in cold water. One day, he felt giddy due to hunger and dropped the pot on the head of the Lord and became faint. In his dream, the Lord told him that every day he would keep a gold coin in his shrine till the famine was over. When Pugazhthunaiyar woke up, he found a gold coin at the feet of the Lord. With hunger being driven away, he continued his worship undisturbed and reached the lotus feet of the Lord.
    56. Pusalar Nayanar
    Birth & Mukthi – Thiruninravur
    Guru poojai – Aipasi Anusham
    Temple – Hridayaleeswarar Temple, Thiruninravur

    Pusalar Nayanar was a poor Brahmin who was desirous of building a temple for Lord Shiva. He asked several people to help but they thought he was crazy. A disappointed Pusalar decided to build a temple in his heart. He started with the foundation and constructed the temple little by little. Finally the temple rose in his heart. He set a date for the consecration and invited the Lord to come into the sanctum. At the same time, the Pallava King was also building a magnificent temple for Lord Shiva. He had set the consecration date as the same day as Pusalar. The previous night, the Lord appeared in his dream, and asked him to move the date to another day, as he had to fulfil Pusalar’s wish and enter his temple. The King was surprised that there could be a man in his kingdom who had built a temple that was greater than his. So he went to Tiruninravur and asked about the temple that Pusalar had built. No one knew where it was. So the king asked if he could see Pusalar. He went to the tree where Pusalar sat in meditation and saluted him. He humbly asked him about the temple he had built. Pusalar fell at the King’s feet, with tears running down his eyes. He could not believe that the Lord had actually considered the temple he had built in his heart to be more important than the one built by the King. When the King heard that Pusalar had actually built the temple in his heart, he circumambulated him and fell at his feet.
    For a detailed article on the life of Pusalar Nayanar and the Hridayaleeswara Temple on Aalayam Kanden, click here.

    61. Chadaiya Nayanar
    Birth & Mukthi – Thirunavalur
    Guru poojai – Markazhi Thiruvadhirai
    Temple – Bakthajaneswarar Temple, Thirunavalur

    Chadaiya Nayanar was the father of Sundaramurthy Nayanar. He came from a family that called themselves the slaves of the slaves of God. Sundaramurthy Nayanar’s excellent, blemishless love for the Lord was inherited from Chadaiya Nayanar and the grooming of his son towards the path of divinity.
    For a detailed article on Chadaiya Nayanar and the Tirunavalur temple on Aalayam Kanden, click here.

    Check out the other posts on the Nayanmars series too:

    Tuesday, April 25, 2017

    How irresponsible journalism by Dinamalar ruins good intentions

    I am really pained to write this post in Aalayam Kanden where I have refrained from writing anything other than information on lesser known temples. The readers and patrons have stood by me in every effort over the years, both in the blog as well as through the Aalayam Kanden Trust.

    As many of you may be aware, in July 2014, author Venkatesh Ramakrishnan, invited me to be part of the cultural mapping of the Cooum river. Over the next two years, I was able to do an extensive study of the heritage sites along the river with the able guidance of Mr Vaidyanathan Ramamurthy. I used the Koova Puranam and the Inscriptions of Madras Presidency Volume 8 by Mr T V Mahalingam, both of which I procured with great difficulty over many months as the source of my study. The complete details of the project have been documented here chronologically  https://www.facebook.com/groups/CooumCulturalMapping/ 

    At every step, I consulted with senior historians like Mr Sridharan K, Deputy Director Retired, State Archaeology Department, Ms Padmavathy Anaiappan, Senior Epigraphist, Dr Sankaranarayanan G, Asst. Professor of the Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Viswa Maha Vidyalaya of Kanchipuram on the inscriptions, and the findings. Through the study, we did not expect to find anything new, or claim that we did.

    One of the significant information we came across in the T V Mahalingam compilation was an inscription at Sitrambakkam on the Cooum trail that speaks about the earliest found inscription of a structural temple. It was also one of the early Pallava Inscriptions in Tamil.

    Excerpt from T V Mahalingam Volume 8 Page 543
    This was discussed at length with Prof. Sankaranarayanan, who said it had been published in Epigraphia Indica too as an article. The same was also collected.




    Mr Vaidyanathan and me, along with Mr Balaji, TTE, Tiruvallur,  visited Sitrambakkam on 1st October 2015 (the date stamp can clearly be seen in the pictures) to verify the existence of this stone.



    Further we also took a group of enthusiasts on a heritage trip to this location in October, through a publicly advertised facebook event, the details of which can be found here:
    https://www.facebook.com/events/1480933065563682/?active_tab=discussion

    Couple of heritage enthusiasts who accompanied us on the trip also wrote blog posts about this site, after the trip.

    http://indiancolumbus.blogspot.com/2016/04/chitrambakkam.html
    http://veludharan.blogspot.in/2015/10/the-cooum-cultural-mapping-on-day-trip_13.html

    I had included this site in my book The Gods of the Holy Koovam published on February 12, 2017 on Page 19 where clearly the source from where the inscription was read is mentioned.



    The book was released by Mr K Sridharan of the State Archaeological Department and all proceeds of the same were given to support the Madras Literary Society library. A number of print, digital and visual media covered the event and wrote about it. All the books have since been purchased and those who hold copies can also verify this information there.

    https://www.facebook.com/events/1116962951764923/

    Notably among that was Dinamalar which had written about the book launch and also mentioned the Sitrambakkam inscription in their coverage.


    The reporter Mr Sivakumar had requested for more information on the Cooum temples so that he can do his bit in conserving them. Therefore, I first sent an article on the Kesavaram temple which was correctly published by Dinamalar. It did bring a lot of attention from the ASI to the temple, which was heartening to see,

    Wanting to protect the Selliamman temple inscription too, that lay in the open, I wrote an article on it and sent it to Sivakumar, which I reproduce below.
    அன்புள்ள திரு சிவகுமார் அவர்களுக்கு,

    தங்களிடம் தொலைபேசியில் குறிப்பிட்டபடி சிற்றம்பக்கத்தில் உள்ள சிறப்பு வாய்ந்த முதல் கட்டப்பட்ட கோவிலின் கல்வெட்டை பற்றிய தகவல்களை கீழே கொடுத்துள்ளேன். உங்கள் முயற்சியின் மூலம் இக்கல்வெட்டு பாதுகாக்கப்பட்டால் மிகவும் சிறப்பாக இருக்கும்.

    தென்கரணை என்று அழைக்கப்பட்ட சிற்றம்பாக்கம் கிராமம் திருவள்ளூர் மாவட்டத்தில் அமைந்துள்ளது. இங்கு பல்லவர் காலத்தை சேர்ந்த கும்பேஸ்வரர் ஆலயம் சில ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முன் புதுப்பிக்கப்பட்டு உள்ளது. இதற்கு அருகே அமைந்த ஒரு சிறிய கோவில் தான் செல்லியம்மன் ஆலயம். 

    இக்கோவிலின் வாசலின் மலரின் இதழ்கள் வரையப்பட்ட ஒரு கல் கிடக்கிறது. இக்கல் அக்கோவிலின் வாசற்படியாகவும் ஆடுகளும் மனிதர்களும் அமர்ந்து ஓய்வெடுக்கும் சிறு மேடையாகவும் விளங்கும்  இந்த கல்லில் தான் இது வரையில் கண்டறியப்பட்ட முதல் கட்டப்பட்ட கோவிலின் தகவல்கள் உள்ளன.

    பல்லவர்கள் காலத்தில் பெரும்பாலும் குடைவரைகளே அமைக்கப்பட்டிருந்த நிலையில் முதல் முதலாக ஒரு கோவில் கட்டப்பட்ட செய்தியை தெரிவிக்கும் கல்வெட்டு இது. மேலும் பெரும்பாலான பல்லவர்கள் கல்வெட்டுகள் பல்லவ கிரந்தத்தில் சமஸ்க்ரிதத்தில் அமைந்திருந்த போது  வெகு சில கல்வெட்டுகள் தமிழில் காணப்படுகின்றன. வல்லம் குகையில் உள்ள முதலாம் மஹேந்திரவர்மன் கல்வெட்டு மற்றும் திருக்கழுக்குன்றத்தில் உள்ள முதலாம் நரசிம்மவர்மன் கல்வெட்டு போல இதுவும் தமிழில் காணப்படும் சிறப்பு பெற்றது. 

    முதலாம் பரமேஸ்வரவர்மனின் முதல் ஆட்சி ஆண்டை இக்கல்வெட்டு குறிப்பிடுகிறது. இது கி.பி.670 ஆம் ஆண்டாகும். இக்கல் 29 அங்குல நீளமும் 28.5 அங்குல அகலமும் உடையதாக விளங்குகிறது. மத்தியில் மலரின் இதழ்கள் போன்ற உருவம் செதுக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. இவ்விதழ்களை சுற்றி இரண்டு வட்டங்கள் ஒன்றின் உள்  ஒன்றாக செதுக்கப்பட்டுள்ளன.
    இந்த உருவத்தை சுற்றி எழுத்துக்கள் காணப்படுகின்றன. மொத்தம் ஆறு வரிகள் கொண்ட கல்வெட்டில் முதல் இரண்டு வரிகள் மேற்புறமும் அடுத்த இரண்டு வரிகள் வலப்புறமும் செதுக்கப்பட்டுள்ளன. ஐந்தாவது வரி கீழேயும் ஆறாவது இடப்புறமும் காணப்படுகின்றன.

    இக்கல்வெட்டு ஒரு காலத்தில் செல்லியம்மன் கோவில் பெரியதாக இருக்கும் பொழுது அதன் சுவற்றில் இருந்திருக்க வேண்டும். 

    இதன் வரிகள் 
    1. ஸ்ரீ மஹாராஜ பரமேஸ்வர வர்மர்க்கு யாண்டு தலைத்தா 
    2. வது துணங்கிலவருள் ஆலவாயில் சோமாசியா 
    3. ரு மருமகன் கும(ரன் )
    4, ..டுப்பித்த கோ (வில்)
    5,...........அழி (வு)ம் செ 
    6. ய்தார் தரும வேற்க 

    இதிலிருந்த ஆலவாயில் என்ற ஊரை சேர்ந்த சோமாசியார் (சோமாஜியார் ) மருமகன் குமரன் என்பவன் எடுப்பித்த கோவில் என்ற தகவலை நாம் அறியலாம். ஆலவாயில் என்பது பொதுவாக மதுரையைக்குறிக்கும். இங்கும் அது மதுரை என்று நாம் எடுத்துக்கொள்ளலாம். அல்லது ஒரு வேளை தென்கரணைக்கு ஆலவாயில் என்ற பெயரும் இருந்திருக்கக் கூடும். 

    இவ்வாறு இதுவரையில் கிடைத்த முதல் கட்டப்பட்ட கோவிலை குறித்த தகவல் கூறும் கல்வெட்டு இப்படி வெட்டவெளியில் பாதுகாப்பின்றி அசுத்தத்தில் கிட க்கவிடாமல் அரசும் தொல்லியல் துறையும் பாதுகாக்க வேண்டும்.

    இப்படிக்கு 

    பிரியா பாஸ்கரன் 

    I had also attached the Epigraphia Indica pages for him to get the complete information.

    Sadly the reporter had neither referred the references or my document properly and this was the report he produced, completely missing the appeal for conservation and protection of the inscription,and assuming it was a new discovery.


    I was shocked to see this and several people including Dr Sankaranarayanan and Mr KRA Narsiah contacted me to find out what had happened, as they had been involved in the process right from the beginning.

    I spoke to the reporter and pointed out his mistake and asked him to issue a corrigendum and apology. Not wanting to mess up the newspaper's reputation and probably his job, he further added to the problem by coming up with something like this:


    One Mr Vedham Vedhaprakash went one step higher, condemning me of seeking cheap publicity. He also used my personal images and details without permission to write a series of hate posts, in the name of heritage interest, without bothering to verify facts.

    https://indianhistoriographymethodology.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/researcher-should-acknowledge-the-sources-before-making-claims/

    After I spoke to him and clarified, he did make some edits to the content of his post, but has chosen to delete my comment on his post and has not taken it off. Obviously he is seeking publicity from a mistake that Dinamalar made because of which my credibilty has been questioned. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=443861985949195&id=100009761916382&comment_id=443886649280062&notif_t=like&notif_id=1493029909257430

    His post may be one I saw. There may be several I did not. This is a post to clarify the facts as they stand and pinpoint Dinamalar and the reporter for their folly. Such irresponsible reporting not just damages the reputation of enthusiasts but also puts them off such volunteer activity in the future.

    For three years, I slogged hard to document the heritage sites along the Cooum, brought out the book and gave all the proceeds to start a Tamil section in the MLS library which is one of the heritage landmarks along the Cooum. Despite my sincere efforts, this irresponsible act of Dinamalar has slung mud on all my hard work. I am documenting this for future records and reference of net experts who rely on what they lay their eyes on the internet, and make large comments without bothering to verify facts.