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.