Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Vayalanallur Kandaswamy!

Kandasamy Murugan at Vayalanallur
This post is two years late. Although I had visited this temple first in 2015, and then several times since, even taking people on heritage trips, I never got around to writing about the Lord who had become one of my favourites. As I have always seen in Aalayam Kanden, everything happens with His will and he has willed that this post be written on the account of Kanda Sashti in 2017 and so here it is. 

Two years of documenting the temples along the Cooum threw open several rare heritage treasures. One such priceless treasure is the Murugan temple at Vayalanallur. The Topographical List of Inscriptions of Madras Presidency Volume 8 by T V Mahalingam was one of my guiding documents for my study and it spoke about three temples in Vayalanallur, one of which was a Kandaswamy Murugan temple, the second a Durga temple and the third, the Shakthimutreswarar temple.

The current status of the Kandasamy Murugan Temple with the Aditya I inscription luckily intact
Our search of the temples led us first to the Komaleeswaranpet temple, at Kolappanchery. We met Nagahariharan, the priest at Kolappanchery who incidentally mentioned that he was the priest at the Vayalanallur Murugan temple and offered to take us there. He has been conducting the poojas as a volunteer for some years now, purely because his Kuladeivam (family deity) is Murugan.

We were touched by his commitment and followed his two-wheeler into a narrow lane. What would have once been a huge temple, has now been reduced to a single shrine. " Nobody comes to the temple, except on important festival days such as Panguni Uthiram or Thai Poosam where we somehow collect enough money to offer food and prasadams to attract a decent gathering,"said Hari as he opened the door of the temple.

We were awestruck by what we saw. By far, the most magnificent of the Brahma Sasthas that we have seen in that region, stood before us on the floor. Over seven feet tall, with an Akshara Mala in his hind right arm and a Gendi on the left, he stood with a smile turning up the corner of his lips.  There was no pedestal below his feet, no garlands around his neck nor any adornments. Just a humble vastram was all that he had.

The magnificent Murugan at Vayalanallur
Hari offered the prasadam he had carried from his house and performed Harathi. We were moved. All that remained of the antiquity of the temple, was the inscription from the time of Aditya I  (895 AD) about a gift of land made to the temple by Gunakirti Nambadugan, the Kilan of Ayandampakkam for Sribali and other services at the temple which is still found on the footsteps of the temple.

The Shakthimutreswara temple next to the huge temple tank had been lost to time. A look at the gigantic deity gave us an idea of how large the temple would have been in yore. The three inscriptions of this temple, two from the time of Parthivendravarman and one from Rajaraja I have disappeared along with the original temple and several deities that stood there. 

The Shakthimutreswara when we saw him first in 2015
When we enquired with Hari about the Durga temple he did not know much as to where it once stood. However, he remembers villagers saying a huge goddess was lowered into a well because it had become damaged! 

Several deities have been found while excavating around the original site of the Shakthimutreswara temple out of which a Bhairavar has been installed in the Vishnu temple and the Surya placed next to the Shakthimutreswara.

With the grace of the Almighty and generous patronage from the loyal supporters of Aalayam Kanden, we have been successfully supporting the Thai poosam festivities at the Kandaswamy Murugan temple over the last two years. 

Supporting the Thai Poosam festivities through the Aalayam Kanden Trust
The Shakthimutreswara temple has since been rebuilt in a small way, and the deity has found a secure place inside the sanctum.

The Kandaswamy Murugan has since became a member of the Aalayam Kanden family and he was gracious enough to bless the first copy of "The Gods of the Holy Koovam" which was the compendium of ancient sites along the Koovam. 

The Kandaswamy Murugan with the first copy of The Gods of the Holy Koovam
The temple still has very little support or patronage. As we celebrate the victory of good over evil on this Kanda Sashti, let us do our bit to protect and patronise the rare heritage treasures still left among our midst!
Kandasamy Murugan in all his glory after Thai Poosam alankaram
How to reach here: The temple is about 2 kms from Kolappanchery. From Kolappanchery head North. Pass Chokkanallur bus stand and turn right. The temple is on the left. Bus route 54C from Poonamallee to Thandarai is available once an hour. GPS Coordinates : 13.08565622, 80.06954102

Temple Timings: Please inform the Gurukkal before going and he will ensure the temple is opened.

Contact Information: Naagahariharan 90031 54640

Friday, October 20, 2017

Koonthalur Kumara!

Koonthalur Jambukaranyeswara Temple 
Roma Rishi -  he was so called because of the hair that covered his body, his flowing mane and long beard. This Rishi stayed on the banks of Arisilaaru and worshipped Lord Jambukaranyeswara who was called so because he resided within a grove of Guava trees. A hair would drop from his body with the passing on of one Brahma and it would take 35 million Brahmas to pass on from him to leave his mortal confines.

Roma Rishi due to his yogic powers, was able to bring gold coins out of his beard, to help those in need. Over time, this made him conceited. One day, as he sat on the banks of the river, Lord Brahma, wanting to teach him a lesson, took the guise of a barber and passed him by. Romarishi called out to him to shave his beard. As the hair dropped from his face, it turned into gold coins and Brahma quickly gathered them in his towel, thanked the Rishi and went away. The Rishi's beard grew back quite immediately. But something else also happened. The next time he tried to bring gold coins from his beard, he was unable to do so.

Roma Rishi
Enraged at being outwitted, he marched angrily towards the shrine of Jambukaranyeswara. He was livid that the Lord whom he worshipped every day, had let him down. Lord Shiva, sent his sons, Ganesha and Muruga to pacify the sage. The two boys met him mid-way and paid their respects. The Sage was moved. Muruga also created a Theertham for the Rishi to refresh himself.

The pleased sage requested Ganesha and Muruga to stay with him at Jambukaranyam forever. They readily consented. While Ganesha took his abode in the South East (Agni Moolai). Romarishi invited Muruga to take his abode in the most sacred of locations, namely the North East (Easanya Moolai). Here he is seen in a shrine raised much higher than that of the Lord.

Koonthalur Kumara Gurupara
Right across him, Shatru Samhara Shani Bhagavan can be seen. This kind of an arrangement is extremely rare and quite unique. Because of this arrangement, those who are affected because of the planetary movement of Mars and Saturn in their horoscope, or who have both Mars and Saturn in the same house, and as a result of which, undergo poor health, delay and hurdles in life, marriage or child birth, find relief by worshipping both Murugan and Shani Bhagavan here.

Shatru Samhara Shani Bhagavan across Kumaragurupara at Koothalur
Murugan in his role as pacifier, and Shani in his role of destroyer of evil, combine to help people rid themselves of problems that are beyond their means to resolve. Roma Rishi is found in a seperate shrine. He is worshipped to be rid from depression, indecisiveness, and mood swings.

Lord Jambukaranyeswara is seen in a small shrine found lower than that of Muruga. The original Pallava fluted Lingam and Muruga in the form of Gnana Sastha are found in separate shrines behind the sanctum. Similarly, the original Goddess Anandhavalli is installed in the Artha Mandapa, while the later version is found in a shrine to the left of the sanctum.

Jambukaranyeswara and Anandhavalli at Koonthalur
Numerous other damaged idols are found in the temple premises. One among them is that of Kulothunga Chola III, who has given a number of grants to the temple. The current version of the temple seems to be that of the Vijayanagara times. Two inscriptions have been recorded in this temple - one from the period of Veerapratapa Krishnadeva Maharaya (1519 AD) which speaks about grants given for conducting poojas at the temple. This inscription refers to Koothalur as Sozha Mandalathu Kulothunga Chola Valanaatu Thirunaraiyur Patru Keezh Koonthalur. The other inscription is about 400 years old which talks about one Vinaitheertha Mudaliar giving land on all four streets that surround the temple as grants based on the request of Easwara Aiyer.

A damaged icon of Kulothunga Chola III
The temple has two tanks - One the Kumara Theertham, installed by Muruga for Roma Rishi, and the other, Sita Theertham, created by Sita, to take bath when Ravana was carrying her away to Lanka. It is believed that she left some pieces of ornaments and locks of hair near the pond, with a hope that Rama would identify them. As her hair fell there, and also because of Roma Rishi, the place came to be known as Koonthalur.

A view from the sanctum of Koonthalur temple
The Lord been sung by Thirunavukkarasar (Appar) and the Lord Muruga has been sung by Arunagirinathar. The latter refers to Muruga as Kumaragurupara and describes him as the nephew of Rama who defeated Ravana with ten heads and twenty arms. The specific reference to Rama here seems to be due to the connection the shrine has with Ramayana. 

The temple is well maintained. The trustee lives close by and is happy to open the temple for visitors on request. There is a good Nandavanam and a small function hall attached to the temple. This hall is also opened up for pilgrims to rest or stay overnight at a nominal cost.

The Jambukaranyeswara Temple at Koonthalur

How to reach here: This temple is on the route from Kumbakonam to Poonthottam. All buses that ply via Eravancheri and Poonthottam stop here.

Temple Timings: Can be worshipped at any time during the day.

Contact Numbers : 96886 77538 / 94435 24737