Sunday, October 21, 2018

Ayyangarkulam Sri Sanjeevirayar

Aerial view. PC: Praveen Quak Photography

 Ayyangarkulam is an ancient village located in Kanchipuram district, just 9 kms south of Kanchipuram town. While driving from Kanchipuram past the Collector office towards Vandavasi, after crossing Palar bridge, one can see a board mentioning ‘Ayyangarkulam Koot Road’. Take right from the koot road to reach Ayyangarkulam in 5 minutes from there.

Ayyangarkulam is a scenic village with rich heritage, accessible by good motorable roads and also easy to locate. This village has an ancient temple for Sri Anjaneyar who is known here as Sri Sanjeevirayar.

This temple’s legend has its connection with Ramayana period. It is said that while Sri Hanuman was carrying the Sanjeevi Parvatha (Sanjeevi Hill) to Sri Lanka few fragments of the hill fell at this place. Hence, Sri Anjaneyar here got His name as Sri Sanjeevirayar.

There’s also an interesting history behind the name of this village. This temple was built by Sri Lakshmi Kumara Thathachariar who lived during 1456 – 1543. Sri Thathachariar was a great vaishnavite scholar and was a very famous personality in the Vijayanagara Empire. Also called as Thatha Desikan, he was the descendant of Sri Nathamuni lineage, with a rich Vaishnavite legacy.  He was also the only person who was serving twin positions as ‘Chief Minister’ and also as the ‘Raja Guru’ for the Vijayanagara Kings, Venkatapathy Rayas I and II (also called Sriranga Rayas).

He enjoyed very high respects and position by the kings and he also was appointed as ‘Sri Karya Thurantharar’ to take care of all the Divya Desams that existed within the empire, which include Kanchipuram, Sriperumbudur, Kumbakonam and many others. He restored the regular worship and rituals in many temples those days according to the philosophies and principles of Sri Ramanujacharya. He also made many grants to various temples.

Due to his knowledge and devotion, Thatha Desikan was celebrated as ‘Aacharya Mahanubhava’. He created many Anna Chatrams and established Desandhiri Kattalai in many temples to feed the visiting travelers. He also was sponsoring many weddings for the poor and needy in his kingdom and was fondly called as ‘Koti Kanyadhaana Lakshmi Kumara Thathaachariar’. Thus was his fame and name during that period.

He constructed the 100 pillared Mandapam in Sri Varadarajar Temple in Kanchipuram and also had renovated many of the shrines within the temple. Many inscriptions are found along the praakaarams of Sri Varadarajar temple about his contributions. He also had done the Gold plating for the Thirumala Thirupathi temple and also undertook renovations partially in Srirangam temple.

Once Sri Thatha Desikan was traveling to Kanchipuram from his capital city, Chandragiri, along with his disciples carrying lot of wealth he earned to offer to the Lord Sri Varadarajaperumal. As it was night time when he was crossing this village, he had to rest in a place with all his men, planning to continue his journey the next morning. He found a place under a tree in this village where he kept all his belongings and rested with the group. As it was a tedious journey, all of them slept so deeply, as they were not even aware that there were a group of thieves who arrived there and tried to steal all the wealth he carried for the Lord.

 As the thieves took everything and tried to move away, there came a monkey with a big group of several monkeys who beat and threatened the thieves mob and make them run for their lives. The head monkey along with the group sat near the valuables and started guarding them till Thatha Desikan and his men woke up. At the same time, Thatha Desikan saw the happenings in his dream and also got Dharshan of Lord Hanuman in the dream.

Thatha Desikan, an ardent devotee of Lord Rama woke up to see this miracle where the monkey and it’s group were safeguarding the entire wealth and also few of the thieves lying injured. Thatha Desikan was awestruck and felt that it was none other than Sri Hanuman who saved his wealth which was meant for God. He thankfully prayed Sri Anjaneyar and built a marvelous temple for Him at the same place. 

He also built a huge temple tank measuring 150 acres for this temple which is called ‘Lakshmi Saras’.  As this temple and the tank were built by Thatha Desikan, the tank and the village came to be known as ‘Thatha Samudram’ and also as ‘Thiruvadi Rayapuram’ which later became ‘Ayyangarkulam’ in the present days. The Lord here came to be known as Sri Sanjeevirayar. This is the biggest temple for Sri Anjaneyar in this part of the country. 

Sri Thatha Desikan also composed ‘Sri Hanumath Vimsathi’ in praise of Sri Sanjeevirayar here, which are inscribed on the walls of this temple’s Praakaram.

The entrance to the temple is on the southern side. While entering from the main road, once has to enter through the entrance facing South, which has a very tall 4 pillared mandapam welcoming the pilgrims. All these 4 pillars are made of a single stone.

After crossing the mandapam, the temple doorway invites us inside the temple leading to the western Praakaaram.

Once entered, one can see a small hall on the right hand side which has a beautiful Mutram which is open to sky. The entire temple is built using stones.

On the south west and north west corners of the Praakaaram, there are 2 small mandapams like Urchava Mandapam. 

There is a beautiful 24 pillared stone mandapam in front of the sanctum. There is Sri Mahalakshmi Thaayaar located in this mandapam facing east.

 Sri Sanjeevirayar is seen in the standing posture facing north towards the temple pond.  The sanctum is so peaceful with divine vibrations. There is a small inner praakaram around the sanctum.

Sri Rama & Sita and Sri Lakshmana are seen just outside the sanctum facing south, placed in a small shelf like space on the wall.

The outer praakaram is vast and so beautiful. There is a large Madappalli at the eastern praakaram, where there is a Kal Uruli kept for preparing Prasadams.

On the eastern praakaram, Sri. Garudaazhwar is seen in the standing posture facing north. Sri Garudaazhwar is about 5 feet tall with a smiling face, with His wings open, standing at the open to sky praakaram.

There is a Tulasi Maadam adjacent to Sri Garudaazhwar placed amidst 2 stone slabs fixed vertically.

On the northern side after the Ardha Mandapam, there’s another entrance to the temple which leads to another mandapam where there are lot of pillars with different Hanumans are sculptured. It is said that there are about 85 Anjaneyars present in these pillars.

On the wall of the rear side of the temple, there are warning signs written asking people not to consume alcohol at this place. Shocking to see the sad state of this heritage temple.

From here there are steps which lead us down to the vast temple pond which is said to be about 135 to 150 acres in size. This gives a very scenic view at the rear side of the temple.

There is also a temple at the other end of the temple tank dedicated to Sri Mahalakshmi.

From the other side of the pond, one can see the beauty of the temple. Now, there is a road being laid around the temple tank so that one can drive around the tank where lots of trees planted on either sides.

The uniqueness of Ayyangarkulam doesn’t end here.

In this same village just about 1 km from the temple, there is an architectural marvel called ‘Nadavaavi Kinaru’, a beautiful well that brings Sri Varadaraja Perumaal himself from Kanchipuram to visit this village.


Unlike other wells, this one has a huge arch with wonderful carvings and Sri Gajalakshmi on top, welcoming the pilgrims.

A stairway starts from this place leading down to a stone pillared Mandapam underneath. In the middle of the Mandapam there is the water surface of the well. 

The whole structure is beautifully planned and created in such a way that even if the excess water has to be taken out, it is possible through the Yetram built there.

Every year, on Chithra Pournami day, Sri Varadaraja Perumaal visits this village where the holy Thirumanjanam is done for Him. And he visits this Nadavaavi, gets down to the stone mandapam underneath and goes around the mandapam where the Vasanthothsavam is performed. The Lord returns back after the rituals.

Ayyangarkulam, filled with such great history and rich heritage is a treasure trove for the temple lovers and heritage buffs. Just sit on the steps near the temple tank and just think of how Thatha Desikan would have built this 150-acre pond and this wonderful temple; you’ll forget the whole world and travel back in time.

I acknowledge Mr. Praveen, a travel photographer of Praveen Quak Photography who has done some stunning shots of this temple in aerial views. I was astonished to see his visuals on Ayyangarkulam and I thank him for sharing the aerial view pic of the temple to use it here. This is the first time in this blog, I am using a pic that was not shot by me.

It so happened that when I wanted to write this blog and bring it back live, coincidentally I happened to visit this temple a few times repeatedly, got to know Praveen, without any of my efforts came across many information about Thatha Desikan and his descendants (including Agnihothram Ramanunam Thathachariar) and evefrything fell in place with Sri Sanjeevirayars blessings to continue this blog again and here I started with Ayyangarkulam.

Sri Raama Dhootham Sirasaa Namaami!!

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.