Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thirumukkoodal Sri Appan Prasanna Venkatesa Perumaal

Thirumukkoodal is a village located about 20 kms from Kanchipuram on the road going towards Chengalpattu. While going from Chengalpattu, one can reach Pazhaya Seevaram, 5 kms before Walajabad. From Pazhaya Seevaram one has to take left and cross the bridge on the river Palar to reach Thirumukkudal.

Thirumukkoodal has an ancient temple for Lord Vishnu called ‘Sri Appan Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal’.
Thirumukkoodal got its name as three rivers Palar (Ksheera Nadhi), Vegavathi (Saraswathi) and Cheyyar (Bahu Nadhi) merge together at this place. This place is called Triveni Sangamam and is considered equivalent to Ganges. Taking bath here is considered as holy as bathing in Prayag. 
The temple is beautifully located on the banks of the river giving a scenic view. The compound of the temple is just on the shore of the river is a wonderful site to see. Sri Lakshmi Narasimhar temple is located in Pazhaya Seevaram (pic below) on one side of the river and Sri Appan Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal temple on the other bank of the river.
This temple is said to be 1200 years old, as the oldest inscription found in this temple belongs to 9th Century. This temple is said to have built by a king ruling Thondai Mandalam (with capital as Kanchipuram), by name Raja Thondaimaan Chakravarthy. 

According to the legend, the king Thondaimaan once started to Thirupathi to have dharshan of Lord Venkatesa Perumal. He then heard a divine voice telling him that it was not the time to visit Thirupathi as a king from a neighbouring country was nearing his kingdom to wage a war. The voice advised him to be with his son during war time to save the country and later to visit Thirupathi.

On hearing this Thondaiman prayed to Lord Venkatesa Perumal and the Lord blessed him to win the battle and gifted him with His Sanku (Conch) and Chakra (Wheel). Thondaiman successfully won the battle and on his way back both the weapons Sanku and Chakra vanished. Later, the Lord directed Sri Ramanujar to install Sanku & Chakra for Him at this place. That’s how the deity here had got Sanku & Chakra here.

Then the king Thondaiman surrendered to Perumal at Thirupathi seeking ‘Moksha’. The Lord directed him to come to Thirumukkudal to grant Moksha to him. The king visited here to have dharshan of the Lord. Till then, the Lord here was said to be in ‘Sayana Kolam’ (reclining posture like Ranganathar). When the king visited here the Lord is said to have changed his posture and gave him dharshan in standing posture.

The king Thondaiman, out of his excitement and bliss, embraced the Lord saying ‘Appaney Venkatesa’ (அப்பனே வெங்கடேசா), means ‘Oh My Father Venkatesa!’ and from then the Lord here came to be known as ‘Appan Venkatesa Perumal’. The king Thondaimaan is said to have built this temple initially for Lord Sri Venkatesa Perumal. The same king is said to have built the temple at Thirupathi (Thirumala) as well as Thirumalai Vaiyaavoor, which is called Southern Thiruppathi.
The main deity Sri Appan Venkatesa Perumaal is seen majestically in the standing posture. Brigu Maharishi, Sri Markandeyar and Sri Bhumadevi are seen worshipping him. 

The Lord here is said to have given dharshan to Brigu Maharishi, Markandeya and Bhumadevi (mother Earth).

There are 3 Sthala Virukshams (holy trees) for this temple, which are Devadhaari, Vanni and Sandhanam (Sandal).
Kanchipuram Sri Varadaraja Perumal’s Parvettai is a very popular festival here. Sri Varadharaja Perumal, Pazhaya Seevaram Sri Lakshmi Narasimhar & Appan Venkatesa Perumal give dharshan together here in this temple every year on the ‘Kaanum Pongal’ Day, which is said to be a delight to watch. Vaikunda Ekadasi is celebrated in a grand manner at this temple.

The Thaayaar (Goddess) here is Sri Alarmel Mangai Thaayaar for whom there is a separate shrine present at the temple.

Other deities like Sri Varadhar, Sri Aandaal and Sri Anjaneyar (Hanuman) have separate shrines in the temple.

Sri Anjaneyar is very special here. Whenever the Lord is carried out for procession, the first respects are paid to Sri Anjaneyar before the God is taken out.
Also Sri Anjaneyar is said to be very powerful here in reducing the burden of one’s debts. People worship Lord Anjaneyar here to come out of their heavy debts. Also peculiarly, Lord Anjaneyar is not offered ‘Vadai Malai’ here like other temples. Instead, he is offered the garland made of ‘Thenkuzhal’ (a kind of Murukku snack). People pray Lord Anjaneyar to come out of their debts and once their debts are settled, they come here and offer ‘Thenkuzhal Maalai’ to Him.

This temple is protected and maintained by ASI. Lots of stone inscriptions are found along all the walls of the temple. These epigraphs belong to various periods starting Raja Raja Chola 1, Rajendra Chola and others.  The inscriptions tell a lot about the grants made by various kings to the temple where the temple enjoyed huge popularity.

Also there are inscriptions belonging to the Veera Rajendra Chola (11th Century), mentioning about a Veda Patasala (Vedic School) which was existent at the temple premises.  According to the inscriptions, there has been a Vedic College run in the ‘Jananatha Mandapam’ of this temple. Eight subjects including Rig Veda, Yajur Veda and grammar were taught to various students here. 

Interestingly the inscriptions also reveal clearly in detail about the number of students enrolled in college, the number of teachers appointed for each subject and the remuneration paid to them. Also there has been a hostel for this college where the students stayed during their studies and the details of the servants and cooks appointed to take care of the inmates have been detailed in the inscriptions.

There has also been a medical centre (Athura Saalai) attached to this college at this place where the students, teachers and the temple staff were treated for various illnesses. This 15 bedded hospital was named after the king ‘Veera Chozhan’ and had ample manpower comprising a physician by name ‘Kodhandaraman Aswathaaman Bhattan’, a surgeon who performed operations, nurses to attend to patients and servants to bring herbs from places and even a barber. 

The information on the salaries paid to the employees of the hospital and the names of about 20 different types of medicines which were stored in the hospital are well detailed in the inscriptions.

There was also a provision made for the reciting of ‘Thiruvaimozhi’ at this temple during Chola period. 

According to the inscriptions, Thirumukkudal in ancient days was situated under a subdivision of a territory called Madhuranthaka Chathurvedhimangalam (today’s Madhuranthakam) which was part of Kalathur Kottam, a district of Jayamkonda Chola Mandalam. 

This temple stands a testimony for Indian heritage across centuries and explains about the glorious periods during the reign of Pallavas and Cholas where the kings not only showed interest in conquering places but also patronised education and health care along with religion to make a better society. 

The temple priest Sri Raghunaadhan (Tel: 94437 78352) takes care of this temple and also patiently explains the visitors about the temple in detail. Below is the video of his narration shot on the mobile (kindly bear the poor quality due to mobile recording and poor light inside the temple).  

The temple is open between 08.30 am to 11.30 am and 4 pm to 6 pm on weekdays. On Saturdays and Sundays the temple is open from 08.30 am till 1 pm and from 3 pm till 7 pm. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pazhaiya Seevaram Sri Lakshmi Narasimhar

Pazhaiya Seevaram is a small village located about 20 kms from Kanchipuram on the road going towards Chengalpattu. While going from Chengalpattu, one can reach Pazhaya Seevaram 5 kms before Walajabad.

Pazhaya Seevaram has an ancient temple for Sri Lakshmi Narasimhar, amidst picturesque location. This temple is located on a small hill on the banks of the river Palar. It is said that 3 rivers namely, Palar (Ksheera Nadhi), Cheyyar (Bahu Nadhi) and Vegavathi (Saraswathi) merge here to become one and it is called Triveni Sangamam. It is considered equally sacred as Ganges here.

The hill on which the temple is located is called Padmagiri. There is a motorable road to ascend the hill. The temple is not located on the hill top. While ascending the hill, one can find the temple in a few hundred metres itself on the midway.

From the temple one can see the scenic view of the river Palar and the surroundings.

According to the Sthala Puranam, once in Naimisaaranyam, a Rishi by name Vishnu Siththar enquired with the other Rishis about a best place where he can get the Dharshan of Lord Vishnu as result of the penance. 

Another Rishi called Mareecha Muni explained the him about the existence of such a place on the earth, where one’s penance (Thapas) will get fulfilled with the Dharshan of Lord Narayana and guided him to this place which was called Padmagiri. He also told the story of Athri Rishi, who got the Dharshan of the Lord in this place in the form of Sri Lakshmi Narasimhar, after his severe and dedicated penance. It is said that, Athri Rishi, after having Dharshan of the Lord, prayed the Lord to stay in this place and bless the people worshipping here. The Lord accepted his wish and stayed here in the same form to bless the mankind.

The temple is so good amidst wonderful natural setting and is maintained very well. The temple is facing towards the east with a grand Rajagopuram. A tall and beautiful Dwajasthambham (flag staff) on the outer praakaaram adds beauty to the temple.

The main deity, Lord Sri Lakshmi Narasimhar is having the Goddess Lakshmi seated on his lap and is cool and calm, hence also called as Shaanthamoorthy. Though the temple is facing east, the Lord in the sanctum is facing west towards Kanchipuram.

The Goddess here has a separate shrine on the southern side of the sanctum and is called Sri Ahobilavalli Thaayaar.

There is a beautiful and ancient stone mandapam on the northern side.

Sri Aandal shrine is located on the north western side facing east.

There is a beautiful 4 pillared stone mandapam at the eastern side of the praakaaram which is probably used for Urchavams.

There are shrines for Nammaazhvaar, Thirumangai Aazhwaar and Vishnu Chiththar together at the south eastern side of the Praakaaram.

According to the legend, there is a link between this temple and Kanchipuram Sri Varadaraja temple. Every year, during the Thamizh month of ‘Thai’, on Kaanum Pongal day, the Lord Sri Varadharaja Perumal from Kanchipuram is brought to this hill temple which is popularly called ‘Paarvaettai’ or ‘Malai Urchavam’ (hill festival). On that day, the Urchavar of Sri Varadharajar from Kanchi, is kept in a stone Mandapam on top of the hill, from where he gives dharshan to the people. This event is very popular here. There are steps to reach the top of the hill from the place where the temple is located. It is said that the stone Mandapam too is facing towards Kanchipuram on the west.

The temple has a beautiful pond, which can be viewed while climbing up the steps to reach the hill top.

A wonderful temple which should not be missed, not only for the speciality of its deity, but also for the location amidst scenic surroundings.

Another temple at the village called Thirumukkoodal for Sri Appan Prasanna Venkatesa Perumaal  on the other side of river Palar is again a wonderful temple not to be missed.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ponneri Sri Agatheeswarar

 Ponneri is a small town in Thiruvallur district, located about 38 kms north western side of Chennai. From Chennai, one has to drive past the Padi junction on Chennai - Kolkata highway to reach Thachur cross roads (koot road). From Thachur cross road junction, one has to take right turn and drive about 5 kms to reach Ponneri.

Ponneri has an ancient temple for Lord Shiva by which is said to be over 2500 years old. The main deity here is Sri Agastheeswarar and Goddess Sri Anandavalli.
According to the legend, the Lord here is said to have been worshipped by the ancient sage Sri Agasthiyar himself. The ancient name of this place is Kumbamuni Mangalam. Sage Agasthiar is also known as Kumbamuni, as he once collected the whole of river Cauvery into his holy pot (Kamandalam) to bring down the force of the river.

It is said that Sage Agasthiar had stayed in this place for years while he was travelling in the Southern part of India. Sage Agasthiyar was caught with severe stomach ache while he was passing this side and he found this temple, stayed here and worshipped the Lord to get relieved of his pain. The Lord who was pleased with his prayers appeared to him and relieved him from his pains.

Since, sage Agasthiyar worshipped the Lord here; the God came to be known as Sri Agatheeswarar. One can see a lot of temples in this part of Tamilnadu in which the main deity Lord Shiva is called as Agastheeswarar. It is said that Sage Agasthya installed and worshipped about 108 Shiva Lingas in various places here and the 108th Shiva Linga being Sri Ashtotheeswarar (or Nootretteeswarar which means 108th Shiva) at Chinnakkaavanam near this town Ponneri.

The temple is built on a very vast land and is highly scenic and beautiful, which has stood strong across centuries. The temple is facing east and has a wonderful 3 tiered Rajagopuram which welcomes us into the temple.

There is a beautiful pond outside the temple which is called Agasthya Theertham which serves as the Theertham for the temple. 

There is a grand Dwajasthambham (flag post) at the outer praahaaram of the temple once we enter the temple.

There is an ancient Nandhi in a small mandapam just in front of the Dhwajasthambham facing the west towards the sanctum.

A wonderful stone mandapam with multiple pillars and meticulous carvings is present in front of the Nandhi, which takes us towards the sanctum.

The Lord Sri Agastheeswarar is present in the sanctum with divine silence and excellent vibrations. The sanctum is built in Gajabrishta shape (also called Thoongaanai Maadam), which is in the shape of the back of a sleeping elephant. This type of architecture is seen in many of the temples built by the Chozha kings.

Goddess Sri Anandavalli is seen adjacent to the sanctum with a motherly smile showing lots of grace and mercy to the worshippers. The Dwarapaalikaas statues are found guarding the Goddess’s shrine near the entrance on either side.

Lord Dhakshinamurthy (Guru) is seen facing south on the outer wall of the sanctum.

This temple has received many donations in form of lands and gold during the Chola period. There are sculptures of Raja Raja Chola 1 on the pillars.

Also there are images of Rajendra Chola and Mummudi Chola on the pillars, which have visited the temple during various periods and offered lots of grants to this temple for renovation and maintenance.

There is also an image of one of the later Vijayanagara Kings which is present on the pillars of the mandapam. This temple also has received various grants and patronage by Vijayanagara kings.

In one of the pillars, sage Agasthiar is also carved to mark his stay here and his penance towards Lord Sri Agastheeswarar.

The outer praahaaram is huge and peaceful with pleasing breeze. All the walls of the outer praahaaram are painted with lots of Thamizh hymns in praise of various Gods. The entire temple is very neat and maintained well, though it received very less visitors, unless auspicious days like Pradhosham, Sivarathri and Aarudhra.

There is a magnificent 16 pillared stone mandapam outside the temple, adjacent to the temple pond with lot of beautiful sculptures on it, providing shelter to cattle and few homeless people.

The temple is open till 12 pm and again opens at 4 pm till 8 pm.

Overall, Sri Agastheeswarar temple is just another masterpiece to our temple architecture and our heritage. A ‘must see’ place for temple lovers.