Monday, June 4, 2018

Thiruvananthapuram of Tamil Nadu!

Inside the Aavarani Anantha Narayana Temple
Thousands throng the temple of Lord Ananthapadmanabha Swamy, at Thiruvananthapuram, despite strict security and dress regulations to worship the 18 feet Lord, reclining on a five headed Anantha (Adhisesha) witnessed through three entrances, whereby his Thirumukam (face), Thiruvudal (Body) and Thirupadam (feet) are visible.

Come to lesser known Aavarani, in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu, where Lord Vishnu is seen as Anantha Narayana, also known as Aabharanadhari, his gigantic 21 feet form reclining on a seven- headed Anantha. This Lord, even larger than Ananthapadmanabhaswamy can also only be viewed through three entrances through which his Thirumukham, Nabhi (navel with Brahma rising from it) and Thirupaadham are visible. The only difference here, is that this temple is relatively unknown and one can spend minutes or even hours before the Lord, without any disruption.


The Lord Aabharanadhari reclining on the seven hooded Adisesha

The village Aavarani, was originally named Aabharanadhari after the Lord. It is an extension of Thirukkannangudi, one of the 108 Divya Desams. It is believed that Lord Rama on his return to Ayodhya from Sri Lanka, passed through here and on the request of Brigu Maharishi and Veda Vyasa rested here in the form of Mahavishnu. 

The legend of this temple is associated with the life and times of Thirumangai Alwar. According to the Sthala Puranam,  the Alwar, desirous of raising resources for the Srirangam temple, came to Nagapattinam to steal the Golden idol of Buddha at the Vihara . He collected some banana stems from a place called Vazhakarai, stole the Golden idol, hid it among the banana stems during the day, and travelled over night towards Srirangam. The place where he hid the statue during day has come to be known as Porulvaithacheri (now called Poravacheri near Sikkal). He then visited Aavarani and worshipped the gigantic Ananthanarayana Perumal. Seeing the huge Lord, he adorned his body with Tulsi garlands which are said to have turned into different jewels. He then called him "Aabharanadhari Narayana". Because of this, the place came to be known as Aabharanadhari. 

From here, he went to the Thirukannangudi Damodhara Narayana Perumal temple and worshipped the Ninraan and Irundhaan (Veetrirundha Perumal) forms of the Lord.  In his mangalasasanam of the Thirukkanangudi temple, the stanza beginning with "Vangama munneer", according to Vaishnavaite scholars, describes the Ananthanarayana Perumal of Aavarani who is reclined on the Anantha ("sangamaarangai thadamalarundhi samameniyen") and hence it is inferred that this sthalam must have been part of the Thirukkannangudi Divya desam originally. Government records also mention Aavarani village as Thirukkannangudi Agaram which reemphasises the fact that Aavarani was a Brahmadeyam (tax free land provided to Brahmin scholars) of Thirukkanangudi.

The Lord

Lord Ananthanarayana at Aavarani
The gigantic form of Lord Ananthanarayana Perumal completely fills the sanctum. Reclining on  seven hooded Adisesha, with a Marakkal (measuring utensil) as headrest,  his head is placed in the Southern direction and feet towards North. He has a right hand supporting his head, and a left hand extended upto his knee.  He wears a number of ornaments on his body true to the name of Aabharanadhari. On his head, he wears a crown, kundalams in his ears, katakas on his arms, a beautiful Nalankilar Haram on his broad chest, sacred thread, and anklets on his feet. Brahma raising from his navel, and Sridevi and Bhudevi found by his side, are also wearing ornaments. Apart from them, Sage Bhrigu and Veda Vyasa are found at the head and foot of the Lord respectively as he gave vision to them at this site. 

Other Deities
Goddess Alankaravalli
On entering the temple, one can see the Pakshiraja Garudalwar facing the Lord. He is seen with snakes as ornaments on his body. He is flanked by a beautiful Hanuman, known as Padma Hanuman. Goddess Alankaravalli is found in a separate shrine . The temple well is very special as the water is said to be extremely sweet. The temple tank is called Ananthapushkarani and bathing here and chanting Achutha, Anantha, Govindha thrice, rids one of all problems and turns them towards liberation.


The beautiful well at the Aavarani Temple
A total of eleven inscriptions have been read at this temple. Out of which nine are from the Chola period, one from the Pandya period and another from the Vijayanagara Period. The oldest among them is from the time of Raja Raja Chola II from 1150 AD. This inscription calls Aavarani as Aabharanadari Chaturvedimangalam. The inscription also mentions a Siva temple known as Thiruvirameswaram which probably existed in Aavarani.

There are six inscriptions belonging to the period of Kulothunga Chola III, and one of Jatavarman Kulasekhara Pandyan.  A 1474 AD inscription of Thippayya Devamaharaya refers to the village as Aabharanadhari yaana Uttaranandapuram and the Lord as Pallikonda Perumal.

The rest of the inscriptions talk about temples nearby. One of the inscriptions refer to Simmavishnu Chaturvedimangalam and a deity called Parvatheeswara mudaiyar and about grants given to the temple. This inscription also mentions the villagers of Ranajaya Chaturvedi mangalam giving grants to Parvatheeswara mudaiyar. This probably was another temple near Aavarani.  Another inscription mentions Chitralekha Perumpalli which probably was a Buddha Vihara nearby. There have been exchange of land between the Parvatheeswara mudaiyar temple and the Chitralekha Perumpalli.

Other significance:

Padma Anjaneya at the Aavarani Temple
This temple is one of the Pancha Narayana Kshetrams referred to in the Garuda Puranam as Pancha Badra. The others being the Damodara Narayana Perumal in Thirukannangudi, Yadava Narayana Perumal in Keevalur, Deva Narayana Perumal in Devur and  Varada Narayana Perumal in North Alandhur.

How to reach here:

This temple is found on the Nagapattinam - Thiruvarur route, about four kilometres from the famous Sikkal Murugan temple.  GPS Coordinates : (10.74561792, 79.77533913)

Contact: S Kumar Bhattar - 97885 17247

Temple Timings: 9-11 am, 5-7 pm

Updated on 04 June 2018:

Inspired by the Lord Anantha Narayana, Poet Diwakara Tanujaha (Mr Sudharshanam) has composed a beautiful verse on him which he has also rendered as an audio file for our listening pleasure:

ஆவரணி ஆபரணம்

(எண்சீர் விருத்தம் – விளம் காய் மும்முறை இரட்டித்தது)

இடதுகை நீளவல(து) எழுதலை வாங்கக்கைக்
...கடகமும் குண்டலமும் கால்களில் தண்டையுமாய்ப்
படியணைந் தாவரணி படுத்துளான் பார்க்கிலனே!
...பணிலமா ரம்பொலிதோள் பொன்முகம் ஒருவாசல்
படைமல ரன்முகிழ்கொப் பூழ்நலங் கிளராரம்
...பாதுகம் இருவாசல் முப்படக் கிடக்குமணி
நெடுவடி மூவேழாய் நீண்டநல் ஆபரணம்
...நிறைமலர் நகையாக்கி நெகிழ்ந்தவன் காணாமோ?

(கடகம் – கையில் கட்டும் கங்கணம்; படி – தானியங்களை அளக்கும் மரக்கால்; பணிலம் – சங்கு; ஆரம் – சக்கரம்; படைமலரன் – படைக்கும், மலரில் இருக்கும் பிரமன்; கொப்பூழ் – தொப்புள்; நலங்கிளர் ஆரம் – பெருமான் அணிந்திருக்கும் நலங்கிளர் எனப்படும் ஆரம்; பாதுகம் – கால்கள்; நிறைமலர் – நிறைந்த மலர், இங்கு துளசி இதழ்)

இடது கையை நீட்டி வைத்து, வலது கையை, உயர்த்திய தலைக்கு முட்டுக் கொடுத்து, கையில் கங்கணமும், காதில் குண்டலமும், கால்களில் தண்டையும் அணிந்துகொண்டு, தானியங்கள் அளக்கும் படியைத் தலைக்கு அணை கொடுத்து, ஆவரணி என்னும் ஊரில் படுத்துக் கொண்டிருப்பவனை நான் இன்னும் பார்க்கவில்லையே!

சங்கும் சக்கரமும் தாங்கிய பொலிகின்ற தோளும், பொன்போல் ஒளிர்கின்ற திருமுகமும் ஒரு வாசல் வழியே, நாம் காணுமாறும், நலங்கிளர் என்னும் ஆரத்தைத் தாங்கும் மார்பையும், படைக்கும் தொழிலைச் செய்கின்ற பிரமன் முளைத்த நாபியையும் நமக்கு இன்னொரு வாசலில் காட்டியபடியும், மூன்றால் வாசலில் தனது பாதங்களைக் காட்டியும், முப்பகுதியாகக் கிடக்கும் மணி அவன்;

நிறைவு பெற்ற மலரான துளசியை, தனக்கு இட்டவரின் பக்தியில் நெகிழ்ந்தவனாய், நீண்ட உருவமாய், இருபத்தொரு அடி நீளத்தில், ஆபரணமாகவே விளங்குகின்ற அவனை நாம் காண வேண்டாமா?

(திருமங்கை ஆழ்வார் இட்ட துளசி மாலை, அவனுக்கு மணிகளாக மாறி அலங்க்கரித்ததால், அவனை ஆபரணதாரி என்றே அழைக்கிறார்கள். மேல் விவரங்களுக்கு வலைப்பூவைப் படிக்கவும்.)

Audio Link to the verse

Monday, May 28, 2018

Dattagiri Guhalayam

Dattagiri Murugan Temple
Kongu region in Tamil Nadu is well known for its Murugan temples. As the Tamil porverb goes " Kunrirukkum Idamellam Kumaran Iruppan", every hillock in this region has temples where Lord Muruga is found in all his glory. One among them is the temple at Dattagiri.

The hillock found on the Namakkal - Sendhamangalam road known as Sanyasikundru, has come to be known as Dattagiri. There are two temples found on this hillock - one is a temple for Lord Muruga, known as Guhalayam and the other, a temple for Dattatreya, giving the hillock its new name. Both temples are being maintained by the Sri Shantananda Swamigal Sathsangam.

The Dattagiri Guhalayam seen on top of the Hillock
The Guhalayam is most sought after by those longing for the gift of child birth. Gone are the days when having a child was a routine occurence. Today, technology, poor lifestyle and delayed marriages are causing fertility issues in a number of couples, who seek divine intervention along with modern medicines to bring forth a baby into their lives. The Dattagiri Guhalayam has couples from different parts of world coming here with prayers of child birth. 

Procedure for worship:

Procedure for worship at the Vijayaraja Vinayaka and Kasi Viswanathar shrines
Those couples praying for child birth carry water in their own hands and perform abhishekam to Vijayaraja Vinayaka and Kasi Viswanatha found midway while climbing the hillock. They can also perform abhishekam with milk or sandal paste. Worship is permitted in these shrines from sunrise to sunset only (6 am - 6 pm). Not more than five minutes is permitted per couple to ensure everyone who has travelled far gets a fair and equal chance to perform pooja here. The couple chant Sivaya Nama 108 times while performing the abhishekam. They then begin the ascent towards the Guhalayam. Right from the foothills till such time the prayers are completed, they are expected to maintain silence, focusing on the supreme power and sincere prayers for their desire to be fulfilled.

Shri Swayamprakasa Brahmendra Saraswatavadootha Mahaswami
After climbing fifty steps, they first worship at the Dattatreya shrine. This shrine is found in two levels, the shrine for Dattatreya, son of Sage Athri and his wife Anusuya on the higher level, with the samathi of his long term devotee and disciple, Shri Swayamprakasa Brahmendra Saraswatavadootha Mahaswami on the lower level below the idol of Lord Dattatreya.

Afer praying here, they reach the Guhalayam and perform milk abhishegam to the beautiful deity. Then then come down from the shrine, and worship Heramba Panchamukha Ganapathy, Panchamukha Hanuman, Dakshinamurthy, Vanadurga and Veerabadra Swamy. Post which they descend the hillock and perform a circumambulation of the hillock and offer their salutations.

Dattagiri Murugan
The Vibhuti (sacred ash) provided at the end of the abhishekam is taken back with them and worn daily with reverence by the couple, to find their prayers answered soon. They then come back with their little one to offer thanks and perform abhishekam to the Lord again. 

Panchamukha Hanuman

As this temple is of recent origin, I had not originally been interested in it. However, after hearing so many instances from friends and family about prayers of child birth being answered here, I decided to visit in order to share the benefits with a larger audience.

Although the temple is new, the serenity and cleanliness of the environment and the very pleasant ambience facilitate divinity. One can see several couples visiting with their little ones, offering words of encouragement and support to those who have come here to pray. Overall, it is a very positive environment, worth visiting.

Heramba Panchamukha Ganapathy

How to reach here: Sanyasikunru or Dattagiri hill as it is called today, is found on the Namakkal- Rasipuram State Highway, about 12 kms from Namakkal.

Temple Timings: Morning - 6 am to 12 pm Evening 5 pm to 7.30 pm

Contact: 91504 11378, 99448 48962

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Manavur Karkadeswara

The Karkadeswarar Temple at Manavur
While I was involved in the mapping of temples along the river Cooum, the Koova Puranam served as the main source of reference about sites along the Cooum river. This puranam mentions Koovam was made up of 18 kottams and 24 cheris. Since the river has shrunk over time, and the areas along the coasts have got habitated, some of the kottams and cheris are no longer close to the river. Also, temples have been converted to other buildings or places of worship in some places. Hence the temples from these places did not get featured in the director " The Gods of the Holy Koovam" which was released in February 2017. 

However, that does not make these temples less significant. I have always been wanting to write about them in Aalayam Kanden, but as I have mentioned several times before in earlier posts, which post gets written has always depends on divine will and only now has the time come true to write about Manavur Karkadeswara.

Manavur is on the Chennai - Arakkonam rail route. It has a number of temples out of which the most popular and well known temple is the Thirunandhiswarar Temple, where Lord Shiva is said to have given a vision to Sage Agasthya and Nandhi in Kalyana Kolam after his visit to Tiruvalangadu. Very close to the Thirunandhiswara temple is the equally ancient Karkadeswara Temple. 

The sad plight of the Karkadeswara temple

The Legend

Jayantha, the son of Indra was notorious for his annoying deeds. Several puranas quote instances of curses he incurred because of this.  On one occasion, Jayantha met Sage Athri on his way. Rather than pay his respects or even greet him, he mocked that the sage was walking like a crab. Angered by his arrogance, the Sage cursed him to become one. 

Mortified, Jayantha sought pardon and remedy for his curse. Sage Athri asked him to go down to Thiruvalangadu, where Lord Nataraja showed his divine dance to Karaikal Ammaiyar. After worshipping him, he asked Jayantha to reach Manavur and worship Thirunandheeswara in order to regain his form. 

Jayantha did as suggested. He came to Manavur and worshipped Thirunandhiswara in his crab form. He dug a tank near his temple, called Karkada Theertham. He meditated on the Lord on its banks. 
Days and months passed. One day, as he was praying, there was a flash of light and the Lord appeared before him as a Swayambu Linga. The crab was overwhelmed with his mercy, and prayed to him and as he did he regained his real form. 

Swayambu Karkadeswara at Manavur
Jayantha performed abhishekam and pujas to the deity before leaving to his abode. A temple was subsequently raised by the Kings of Thondaimandalam, out of which Manavur was a Kottam. Shrines were added for Poi Sollaa Pillayar and Goddess Kamakshi. Those born under Kataka Rasi or the Sun Sign of Cancer came here to worship Lord Karkadeswara. It is also believed that those suffering from cancer get solace by performing abhishekam to the Lord with milk, and consuming jaggery offering to him. 

Situation Today

Goddess Kamakshi
Over time, this temple became less patronised and started getting dilapidated. The temple tank dried up and the festivities stopped. There is a priest who is performing one time puja now at the temple. 
A few months ago, a devotee of Lord Shiva from Gudiyatham, has come forward to perform repairs and renovate the Swami and Ambal shrines and Mahamandapa. Balalayam has been performed and the cleaning and construction work has begun. However, there is still a lot to be done. The Chandikeswara shrine and the beautiful Poi Sollaa Pillayar shrines are to be renovated. A compound wall needs to be constructed to ensure there are no encroachments, as already a water tank has been built by the Panchayat, precariously close to the heritage structure.

Water tank precariously close to the heritage structure
The Ganesha here is found in a separate shrine which is at some distance from the Karkadeswarar shrine. This Ganesha is called Poi Sollaa Pillayar. He has been treated as a judge for deciding disputes in the village. When there is a dispute between two parties, they are brought before the Ganesha and asked to swear that they are speaking the truth. If anyone still lies, then they have unpleasant occurences in their lives and therefore, they normally confess or agree and the dispute is amicably resolved. Therefore, the Ganesha has come to be called Poi Sollaa Pillayar.

Poi Solla Pillayar Shrine
The Nandi here is equally unique. He looks more like a calf and is found in a seperate mandapa that also needs immediate repairs.

Nandi at the Karkadeswara Temple
Likewise, the huge Kataka Theertham tank has to be restored and fortified, before it turns into a "Chennaikku Miga Arugil" site. The priest and volunteers at the village are eagerly looking for patronage. When the Chola inscriptions were read at the Thirunandheeswarar and Kandaswamy temples at Manavur, the priest says the inscriptions at this temple were also read and recorded. However, he does not have access to the same. The inscriptions are no longer found in the temple, so any help with the inscriptions of this temple would greatly help the villagers to document history and period of the temple. Similarly, the priest says that there are local tales that Adishankara had visited and worshipped at this temple. However, there are no documented evidences regarding this.

Poi Sollaa Pillayar
I have a personal experience of getting jaggery from this temple, for the benefit of my friend's uncle who was suffering from cancer. Although the doctors had given him only a few months to live at the time I sent the prasadam, his belief and the grace of Lord Karkadeswara, prolonged his lifespan to over a year and a half and he was able to have a peaceful Mukthi as well.

Construction work has commenced in the Karkadeswarar temple
Patronage and resources are eagerly sought for this temple. You may contact the numbers provided below to directly support the temple or may send your donations to Aalayam Kanden Trust for onward transmission to the cause through Account No. 6028000100005596, Punjab National Bank, West Mambalam, IFSC Code: PUNB0602800. All donations enjoy Sec 80G exemption as per the provisions of the Income Tax Act. If you prefer to send a cheque or demand draft, please do so to Aalayam Kanden Trust, Flat A Nutech Saradambal Apartments, No 36 Kripasankari Street, West Mambalam, Chennai 600 033

How to reach here: 

This temple is about 300 metres from the Thirunandheeswara Temple in Manavur. The nearest suburban train station is Manavur from where share autos are available to the temple. GPS Coordinates: 13.102158, 79.805257

Kataka Theertham tank today
Contact :

For worship, please contact priest Mr Srinivasan at 80987 95873 prior to visiting so that he is available to open the temple. For donation and information, please contact the Arulmigu Kamakshi Samedha Karkadeswarar Aalaya Thiruppani Kuzhu at 8012247358, 9444799854, 9444060815, 9841060503, 9941927877

The Thirunandheeswarar Temple as seen from the Karkadeswarar temple
To read more about the Cooum temples, check out this link in Aalayam Kanden :

To purchase an e-version of the book "The Gods of the Holy Koovam" on Amazon, please click here:
All proceeds from the sale go towards supporting the Tamil section of the Madras Literary Society Library, one of the oldest libraries in Chennai and a Cooum heritage landmark.