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.