Thursday, November 21, 2019

Chinna Mandali - The place where Nataraja Pathu was born

With the team of volunteers at Chinna Mandali
Usually, articles in the Aalayam Kanden blogs describe an ancient/unique temple. But for the first time, here is an article on an entire village - Chinna Mandali! In fact, not just one, but two! So, you can well imagine the significance of this village.

Chinna Mandali is situated on the banks of the river Koovam. This predominantly agricultural village has been known as Sezhumanavai, Sirumanavai, Sirumanavur and Sirimavur during different times. The village has six temples in close vicinity to each another - Niranjeeswarar, Adhi Kesava Perumal, Ishta Siddhi Vinayakar, Aruramman, Selliamman, and Periyapalayathamman. The Nallathur Amman temple is found on the border between Chinna Mandali and the next village. Although the village and its temples enjoy very little external patronage, it is indeed a delight to find these temples extremely clean, well maintained and efficiently managed, the credit for which goes to the enthusiastic villagers.

Niranjeeswarar Temple: 

Niranjeeswarar Temple, Chinna Mandali
This seems to be the oldest based on the antiquities still found in the temple. This temple had been in a dilapidated condition for a very long time and was renovated in the year 2000 CE. The main deity, Niranjeeswara is huge and is found with two mild impressions on the top portion. They say the moorthy is Swayambu. Goddess Maragathavalli is found in a seperate shrine.

Lord Niranjeeswara (originally Kachaleeswara) of Chinna Mandali
There are shrines for Ganesha, Dakshinamoorthy, Durgai, Chandikeswarar and Murugan, apart from Hanuman and the Naalvar found in alcoves. Mr Selvaraj Mudaliar, who had been instrumental in the renovation of this temple, was an ardent devotee of Ramalinga Adigalar, and hence, he too, features in an alcove. A Nataraja of recent times is found in a shrine covered by a rolling shutter, only to be opened on Arudhra Darishanam day. The temple has a huge temple tank, extending close to 3 acres, in need to repair and maintenance.

The huge temple tank that is in need for restoration and maintenance
On first look, the temple looks non-descript. However, some stones have been preserved from the older version of the temple and these have a story to tell. A Kotravai with a deer vahana, referred to as "Paai Kalai Paavai" in Sangam literature, is found on one of the stones. This Kotravai belonging to the 6th Century CE as estimated by the experts, is seen wearing a crown of flames and has weapons such as dagger, trident, spear and bow in crudely carved six arms, She is also seen holding a parrot in one of her arms. Her right forearm is placed on the hip and she is found in Samabhanga form. At her feet, is a soldier on the verse of performing Navakandam - a practice of cutting one's body in nine places, and offering the flesh to the Goddess and then finally cutting his head himself, so that his King is able to win in the war.
6th Century Kotravai in the Niranjeeswarar temple Chinna Mandali
There is another stone plastered to the ground. This stone has sun and moon symbols on the outer side, depicting a grant made to the temple. The other side is too close to the wall and hence cannot be read. A Hero stone depicting a man with folded arms and his wife is seen next to this stone.  An "Aazhikkal" with the Chanku - Chakra - Namam symbols depicting a grant made to a Vishnu temple is also seen. There are three stones that have been fused to form a stone bench. These stones have inscriptions in them as well. It is difficult to inteprete whether these stones originally belonged to the temple or were brought from other locations in the village. The villagers say that since this was a Telugu speaking area in the past, a number of Telugu inscriptions were found at the base of the temple, which have all been plastered in while raising the pathway at the time of renovation!!

Hero stone in Chinna Mandali Niranjeeswarar temple
Inscriptions in the Niranjeeswarar Temple:

Three inscriptions have been published in the Annual Report on Epigraphy 1944. 
1. 170/1944 - This inscription found on the North and West walls of the erstwhile central shrine of the temple mentions the 5th Day of the Tamil month of Adi, in Virodhi year,  refers to the diety as Sirumanavur Kachalaai Eswara and records a gift of land by Panchi Tiruvanada Nayaka, the amaram officer of Tupakula Krishnappa Nayaka. From this, we come to know that the deity had been earlier referred to as Kachaleeswara and is now called Niranjeeswara. 

2. 171/1944 - This inscription from Saka year 1690 (1768 CE), Tamil Year Sarvadhari, 21st Day of the month of Chithirai, Friday, Throyadasi Thithi, Hastham star had been found on the east wall of the Vinayakar Mandapa in the old temple. Now there is no such mandapa and hence this inscription has become part of the slabs forming the stone bench. It states that the image of Ishta Siddhi Vinayaka was set up by Kandappan, son of Nagappa Mudali, who was the Muddirai Karta of Raghavanayan Muttu Veera Bhadra Nayaka of Tondaimandalam.

Ishta Siddhi Vinayaka of Chinna Mandali
This Ishta Siddhi Vinayaka is now found in a seperate temple. The Ishta Siddhi Vinayakar Temple also has a number of Telugu inscriptions in fragments, covered by a heavy coat of oil paint, making it impossible to decipher.

3. 172/1944 - A seperate slab inscription that had been set up on the east side of the temple, this refers again to the same Kandappa Mudali, son of Nagappa Mudali, who had set up a well for this temple. The villagers recall this large well quite vividly and they say it had been closed a few decades ago, as it had dried up. This inscription is also part of the stone bench now.

The Kachaleeswara temple, came to be known as the Niranjeeswara temple over the years, also had a beautiful bronze Nataraja. However, this seems to be have been stolen/removed from the temple, while it had remained dilapidated and unpatronised for several years. No one has any records or information when this actually happened, but when the temple was being renovated, they have made another Nataraja in its place.It is this Nataraja that motivated Sirumanavur Munisawmy Mudaliar to sing the Nataraja Paththu in praise of him. The Nataraja Paththu is a very popular hymn, set to a catchy tune that is recited by a large number of devotees of Lord Shiva, especially during Arudhra Darisanam.

Sirumanavur Munisawmy Mudaliar, the author of Nataraja Paththu
(Photo Courtesy: Mr D Moorthi, Chinna Mandali)
The phrase Eesane, Sivakami Nesane, Enaiyalum Thillai Natarajane is repeated at the end of each hymn making it easy to memorize. While some say the hymn had been inspired by the Nataraja of Thiruvalangadu, not far from here, others think it was the Nataraja at Nallur that had inspired Munisamy Mudaliar. The villagers are categoric in their opinion that Munisawmy Mudaliar had spent several years in his native village, especially in the shrines of Niranjeeswara and Aruramma, and therefore, the Nataraja Paththu had indeed been born here. During Arudhra Darisanam, hundreds of devotees throng the Niranjeeswara Temple to sing the Nataraja Paththu and worship Lord Nataraja. Munisawmy Mudaliar had also sung the Aruramman Thothiram in praise of the powerful Aruramma in this village.

                                     Listen to the Nataraja Patthu by clicking on the play button
                                                                  (Courtesy: You Tube)

To know in detail about the super talented polymath Sirumanavur Munisawmy Mudaliar, please clink the link to access the article I wrote in my other blog, Thresholds of History.

Aruramma Temple 
Among the three female deities of Chinna Mandali, Aruramma is the most patronized. The bust of Aruramma is found in stone in the sanctum with a larger idol of the goddess made of lime mortar (sudhai) for the devotees to worship from a distance, . The Aruramma Jathra is a very famous and popular festival in Chinna Mandali. Celebrated during the months of May - June (during the fourteen hottest days of the year known as Kaththiri) the festival aims to please the Goddess so that the heat comes down, there is no outbreak of epidemic and the rains begin for the next agricultural season.

Watch the Aruramma Jathra by clicking the play button above
Courtesy: You Tube and Captain TV

The first eight days (starting and ending with Sundays) of the Jathra are dedicated to Goddess Aruramma. On the first day, the whole village comes together to offer Pongal to the deity and the tying of "Kaapu" - a sacred thread denotes the commencement of the festival period. During these days, a Karagam decorated as Aruramma is carried out through the village. This deity is placed under a neem tree and is worshipped for the entire duration of the festival. On the eighth day, a unique ritual is carried out at 6 pm in the evening. Men and women roll coconuts on the ground around the temple. Every time they roll the coconut, they fall on the ground to prostrate. They then get up, collect their coconut, roll it again and continue the process until they have gone round the temple.

Aruramman Chinna Mandali
Women complete their offerings in neem sarees while men smear turmeric paste on their torsos, wear garlands across their chest, and sport big bindis on their foreheads and cheeks. They line up for yet another unique ritual called " Pakka Vaar Kuthuthal" (piercing their sides with a needle). A priest pierces the skin under the ribs on the sides, with a needle and thread and this is said to relieve people from physical and mental ailments. There are cultural programmes, and singing through the night and the next morning, the makeshift amman is carried in a procession through the village and left at the end of the village.

Selliamman Temple
Selliamman temples are often Sapthamathrika shrines found near water bodies. However, in Chinna Mandali, Selliamman is found as a single deity and the Nallathuramman temple at the end of the village, is where we find sapthamatrikas.

Goddess Selliamman
A day after the Aruramma Jathra ends, the Selliamman Jathra commences. The deity from Nallathuramman temple is brought to the Selliamman temple and is placed within the sanctum. The Selliamman is then brought outside under the Neem tree and the Kalyana Utsavam is performed. The whole of that night, puffed rice is sprinkled on the deity. On the Wednesday, in the afternoon, Selliamman is taken on a procession to the "Padayal Seer" ritual. During this ritual, the villagers offer various produce from their fields to the Goddess. Plates of fruits, vegetables, different types of variety rice are all offered by the devotees as Seer. That night, Selliamman is placed in the Aruramma temple, where cultural programmes are conducted. The next morning, Selliamman returns to her temples and Nallathuramman goes back.

The village also has a Adhikesava Perumal Temple next to the Ishta Siddhi Vinayakar Temple as well as a Periyapalayathamman temple, to cater to the needs of those families for whom Bhavaniamman of Periyapalayam is the family deity. Despite being away from the tourist map, with very little patronage from outside, the villagers take utmost care in ensuring the temples are clean, well-maintained and all festivals are carried out in a proper manner.

Adhikesava Perumal in Chinna Mandali with Thayar and Andal as Dwarapalikas
The temples are in need of both financial and non-financial support. The financial support would go a long way in maintaining the temples in the village, while the villagers are also looking for volunteers who can help them in gathering more information about the village.

To send your donations, please use the bank information below:

Account Name:    A/M Maragathavalli Sametha Shri Niranjeeswarar Trust
Bank:                    Indian Overseas Bank
Branch:                 Perambakkam
IFSC Code:           IOBA0003438
Account Number  343801000006728
Pan No                  AAGTA4842C

If you wish to contribute in kind, please get in touch with Mr Moorthi in the number mentioned below. Om Namah Shivaya!

How to get here: While proceeding from Chennai, turn right after Saveetha University at Empee Distilleries. On the Arakkonam - Perambakkam - Thakkolam highway , proceed through Irulanjeri and Sahayathottam - Don Bosco college of Agriculture to reach Chinna Mandali.

Timing: The priest at the Niranjeeswarar temple is available only between 4.30 to 6 pm. At other times, the deities may still be worshipped through support from the villagers.

Contact Person: Mr D Moorthi 99659 36221, 70947 91520, 93610 52748