March 22, 2014

Brahmadesham Temple

Site Name: Brahmadesham Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Brahmadesam village, near Ambasamudram, near Tirunelveli city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A 1000 years old massive temple with a number of sculptural and architectural marvels 
Nearest Railway Station: Ambasamudram
Nearest Airport: Tirunelveli
How to reach: Well connected by road from Ambasamudram; public transportation is not dependable
Hotel: Few options in Ambasamduram and no option in this village; more options in the nearby city Tirunelveli
Restaurants: Only few options in the nearby Ambasamudram town

Ambasamudram is a picturesque town located on the banks of the beautiful Tamrabharani river and on the foothills of the Western Ghats. The nearest city of Ambasamudram is Tirunelveli. It is located in Tamil Nadu state in South India.The town has a lot of scenic spots and temples. Brahmadesham is a small village located at a distance of around 4 kms from Ambasamudram. The village has a majestic temple with innumerable sculptures and stunning tower. Let us explore this temple in detail.

Unfortunately the magnificent temple is in neglected state today. If you are either spiritual or art lover, you will never forget this beautiful temple for your entire life if you visit this just once. This is definitely one of the best temples and architectural marvels in South India, which remains unknown.

Highlights:
  • It is considered as one of Tevara Vaippu Stalam temples.
  • The temple was built by Cholas, Cheras, Pandyas and Nayakkar kings.
  • A unique Kankalanathar idol along with a lot of deities and seers which cannot be found anywhere else
  • Big entrance wooden gates with intricate carvings
  • Hanging bell along with the chain - made up of single stone
  • Big idol of Nandi with intricate carvings - made up of single stone
  • The temple has three towers and seven vimanas
  • Somavara mandapa with so many beautiful sculptures of epic characters
  • It is the first site among Adi Nava Kailayam temples; it is a Surya stalam
  • Tiruvadirai mandapa with many beautiful sculptures and pillar carvings
  • Nataraja made up of Punugu
  • The birthplace of Sri Sarvangna Atmendra Saraswati Swamigal, the second Acharya of Kanchi Sankara Mutt
  • There are five shrines of Lord Shiva - Kailasanathar, Ilandai Adinathar aka Badari Vaneeswarar, Chokkanathar, Annamalai and Vishwanathar
  • Dakshinamurti with different posture
  • God Kailasanathar 
  • Goddess Periyanayaki aka Brahannayaki
  • Stala Vruksham (holy tree) - Ilandai
  • Teerth (holy water) - Tamrabharani and Ghatna rivers


Legend/History:

Brahma and his grand son Romasa Rishi worshiped Lord Shiva in this site. Due to this, the village is called as Brahmadesham.

During the period of Raja Raja Chola, the village was gifted to Brahmins for chanting four Vedas. Hence, the place is called as Chadurvedi Mangalam or Brahmadeyam.

As per Ghatana Nadi Mahatmiam, the Swayambu Shiva Lingas of Shivasailam, Tiruvaleeswaram and Brahmadesham emerged at the same time.

The temple was originally built probably during the reign of Raja Raja Chola (10th century CE). The temple structure is a combination of various royal dynasties. The main shrine was constructed by the Chola kings; the beautiful mandapas were built by the Pandya kings; the attractive wooden decors on the roof were the works of the Chera kings; the gigantic temple towers at the front side and back side were constructed by the Nayaka king Vishwanatha Nayaka. The huge compound walls were also built by him. Even the Hoysala kiings made some additions to the temple.

Temple Layout:

No travel site or travel guide talks about this temple. It is not the fault of the temple but it is the fault of those sites and guides which do not cover such a magnificent master piece. It is definitely one of the best places in South India. It is not fair that such a majestic temple is getting neglected.

As this village was gifted by the Chola king to Brahmins for chanting all the four vedas, it is also called as Chadurvedi Mangalam. 

Entrance:

The east facing temple has a gigantic seven tiered tower (Rajagopuram). The sight of the tower is stunningly beautiful. A big lotus pond is found outside the temple tower. The majestic wooden doors at the entrance are carved with the beautiful images of various deities. Undoubtedly, the combination of the above three things increase the ambience of the site in the beginning itself.

Front side Mandapa:

The area between the tower and the entrance to the main temple is completely covered on top. Although it looks like a typical Kerala type roof made up of roof, it is actually made of stone. The stone bell along with the chain can be seen in this roof. It is also made up of single stone which itself is a sculptural marvel.

The bali peeth is unusually big in size. The huge Nandi idol is made up of single stone and very impressive carvings are found on its body. The Nandi mandapa (the platform where Nandi is placed) has some beautiful sculptures of divas. The flag staff (dwajasthambha) is thick and tall and it is unusually placed on top of a carved platform.

The entire area is full of wide pillars with sculptures. A unique feature of these pillars is that there are six pillars placed together to form a single pillar; there are two such combination of six pillars found in this mandapa.

The either side of the entrance of the main temple has two big shrines dedicated to Ganesha and Subramanya respectively. Both these shrines are built as per maada kovil architectural style.

Main Shrine:

The main shrine has four sections sanctum, ardha mandapa, maha mandapa and the exterior mandapa.

The east facing sanctum sanctorum has big Shiva Linga named as Kailasanathar. He is the presiding deity of the temple.

The entrance of ardha mandapa has a Ganesha idol. The sculptures of Dwarapalas are big and attractive. 

The Maha mandapa is very long. The sub-shrine of utsava (metal) Nataraja and Sivakami is located in this mandapa. A small Nandi idol facing Lord Kailasanathar is also located here. The hall is full of pillars that rest on lion sculptures.

There is an exterior mandapa which has an interesting wooden entrance with intricate sculptures of four divas. This wooden structure appears to be hardly 200-300 years old.

The entire main temple is built as "maada kovil" with raised platforms.

Goddess Shrine:

The presiding Goddess of the temple is Periya Nayaki aka Brahannayaki. Her sculpture is big in size and extremely beautiful. She is in the standing posture and carries a lotus flower on her right arm. Her shrine looks like a separate temple with separate vimana, prakara, bali peeth, flag staff and Nandi. Her shrine is located to the left side of the main shrine. The Goddess shrine is usually found outside the main shrine, adjacent to the main shrine or in the prakara. However, in this temple the Goddess shrine is located in a faraway place from the main shrine. Instead, it is located adjacent to the shrine of the original deity of the temple.

The front side mandapa of the shrine has pillars with impressive carvings. 

The entrance of the shrine has the idol of Ganesha. The prakara surrounding the shrine has the sub-shrines of Saraswati, Arumugam with Valli and Devasena, Chandikeshwari, Siddhi Vinayaka, Saneeswara carrying lotus on his right arm (unique style) and Nalayiraththamman (a powerful village deity).

The Original Deity:

Although the current presiding deity of the temple is Kailasanathar, it is believed that the original deity of the temple is Ilandai Adinathar. The shrine of Ilandai Adinathar is found adjacent to the shrine of the Goddess. As per the legend, Lord Brahma and his grand son Romasa Rishi worshiped the deity. The stala vruksha (holy tree) of the site, Ilandai tree is found on the back side of the shrine. The God is probably named after the holy tree. The Shiva Linga is small in size. It is believed to be a Swayambu deity. A small Nandi is found facing the shrine. The shrine has a separate vimana. The dwarapala images at the entrance of the site are very attractive.

Somavara Mandapa:

The wide hall in front of Ilandai Adinathar and the Goddess shrines is called as Somavara Mandapa. It has full of pillars with so many beautiful sculptures and carvings. Some of the important sculptures include Bheema, Purushamrigam, Arjuna, Karna, Vali, Sugreeva, Rati and Manmadan. Some of them have the sculptures of Yazhi, the mythological animal.

Tiruvadirai Mandapa:

Tiruvadarai Mandapa is an important place within this temple compound. This long mandapa has a shrine dedicated to the stone images of Nataraja and Sivakami. The hall is full of beautiful sculptures and intricate carvings in the pillars. The sculptures and carvings depict various Gods, Goddesses, seers, epic characters, mythological animals such as yazhis, elephants, dance, music, battle and even erotic. 

Kankalanathar Shrine:

Near Ilandai Adinathar shrine, an important shrine facing the southern direction is location. It belongs to KankalanatharKankalanathar, like Bhikshatana, is a form of Lord Shiva who seeks alms; however, it is iconographically different from that of Bhikshatana. Although Kankalanathar image is found in many temples, it is very rare to find him along with so many deities and seers. It is really an awesome sight to find so many sculptures and bas-relief stucco images in just one shrine.

Kankalanathar and the six Bhuta ganas alone are stone sculptures in this shrine. Kankalanathar has jata makuta (hair dresses like a crown) and big ear rings. He has four arms. His lower left arm carries a drum (called as Dhakka) and lower right arm beats that drum using a stick (called as Bana). His upper right arm is stretched downwards in Kataka posture. (Generally an antelope or deer leaps near his arm, which is missing here.) His upper left arm has kankala danda, a staff that carries the bone of the arms and legs of the slain person. The staff is resting on his left shoulder. (As per few legends, it is the corpse of Vishvakshena, the chief guardian of Vishnu, which is carried by Kankalanathar.)

The six bhuta ganas are very small in size when compared to Kankalanathar. They surround him in his either sides. Each one of them carry different materials such as Chalarai (a kind of musical instrument), mridangam, conch, chamaram and flute.

The wall behind has so many bas relief stucco images. The images that are found:
  • Surya and Chandra on top
  • Kubera on horse, Brahma on Annam (Hamsa), Vishnu on Garuda and Indira on elephant below them
  • Kinnara, Kimpurusha and Agastya rishi carrying veenas and other musical instruments; two divas (wives of rishis) 
  • Ganesha on Mooshika, Kartikeya on peacock, Vayu on deer, Varuna on magara, Ishanan on Rishaba (bull), Agni on Mesha (goat), etc.
There are stucco images of beautiful divas (apsaras) in various different postures such as sitting, standing, viewing mirror, sleeping, etc.

Other Important Shrines:

Behind the holy tree, there is a big shrine dedicated to Chokkanathar. Chokkanathar is found in the form of Shiva Linga. His consort Meenakshi is also found in a separate sub-shrine. This shrine looks like a separate temple with a separate vimana on top and Nandi in-front. The front side mandapa has many pillars with intricate carvings.

In the outer prakara, there is a separate shrine dedicated to Subramanya and his consorts Valli and Devasena. This shrine too has a separate vimana.

The outer prakara also houses the shrine of Vishwanatha and Vishalakshi. It is also a big shrine with a separate vimana.

Another important shrine found in the outer prakara belongs to Annamalaiyar and his consort Unnamulai. This is again a big shrine almost in the size of small temple. However, this main shrine strangely does not have a separate vimana.

There is a separate shrine for Punugu Sabhapati. Here the idols of Natarja and Sivakami along with the rishis are made up of Punugu, a kind of perfume. Also, he is found in Chin Mudra.

The Dakshinamurti idol found in the inner prakara is in unique posture of chin mudra; it is said that he is self preaching.


The idols of twin Ganeshas called as "Irattai Vinayaka" along with Vishnu and Brahma are unique; they are located in the outer prakara.

From a particular point at the backside of the prakara, we could get the sight of all the seven vimanas and three towers together.

Other Deities:

The idol of Bhairava is found near Kankalanatha shrine. 

The inner prakara around the main shrine has the idols or sub-shrines of Nalvar, 63 nayanmars, Jura Deva, Sastha, Sapta Matas, Ganesha, Vishnu Durga, Mahisasuramardhini, Surya, Chandra, Subramanya, Chandikeshwara and Gaja Lakshmi.


There are no koshta deities in the prakara. However, there are some interesting stone carvings depicting elephants, yazhis and other animals in the outside wall of main shrine.

There are few mural paintings which are almost destroyed in the walls of outer prakara.

This place is definitely a heaven for those who love temple art and architecture. Do not miss this temple; when you travel down to south Tamil Nadu, please ensure that it is included in your travel itinerary. 

Happy travelling.

March 19, 2014

Kallidaikurichi Agasteeswarar Temple

Site Name: Agasteeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Kallidaikurichi, near Ambasamudram, near Tirunelveli city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A rare temple dedicated to the sage Agastya
Nearest Railway Station: Ambasamudram
Nearest Airport: Tirunelveli
How to reach: Well connected as the temple is located within the center of the village
Hotel: Few options within the town; more options in the nearby city Tirunelveli
Restaurants: Only few options within the town

Ambasamudram is a picturesque town located on the banks of the beautiful Tamrabharani river and on the foothills of the Western Ghats. Kallidaikurichi is another picturesque village located on the other side of the river. The nearest city of Ambasamudram is Tirunelveli. It is located in Tamil Nadu state in South India. Kallidaikurichi and Ambasamudram have a lot of scenic spots and temples. Let us explore a rare temple in Kallidaikurichi, which is dedicated to a seer, Agastya Rishi, in this article.

Highlights:
  • A big temple having Agastya as the main deity
  • God Agasteeswarar
  • Goddess Lopamudra

Legend:

As per the legend, when Lord Shiva married Parvati in the Himalayas, all the deities, Devas, seers and the others gathered there. Due to this, the earth lost its balance and tilted. Lord Shiva ordered Agastya to go towards south to balance the level of the earth. On his way to Podhigai hills in the south, Agastya visited many sites and installed a lot of Shiva Lingas. We can see so many Agasteeswarar temples in South India. It is believed that all of them were installed by the sage. 

In Kallidaikurichi village, the sage was taking rest under a tamarind tree. A devotee met the saint and invited him to have lunch in his home. However, the sage requested the devotee to bring the food there itself. As the devotee did not return on time, the sage started moving towards Podhigai hills. The devotee apparently realized that the sage left the place already. He vowed that he would not return home till the seer accept his offer. Moved by his devotion, the sage gave darshan to him in Ambasamudram (may be the place where the devotee was living) and had food offered by him. 

There are two temples dedicated to the sage in both these sites - Kallidaikurichi and Ambasamudram. 

Temple Layout:

Agasteeswarar temple is located at the heart of Kallidaikurichi village. Unlike the other Agasteeswarar temple in Ambasamudram, it is very small temple.

Although the temple is supposed to be very old as per the legend, the current structure cannot be dated more than half a century. Perhaps it could have been renovated multiple times.

There are many temples named as 'Agasteeswarar temples' in Tamil Nadu state of India. However, they all are dedicated to Lord Shiva Lingas installed by the sage Agastya. However, in Ambasamudram and Kallidaikurichi, the name Agasteeswarar denotes to the sage Agastya himself. This temple in Kallidaikurichi is dedicated to him. He is the main deity who is present in the sitting posture and his sanctum sanctorum faces the east direction.

A separate north facing shrine of the Goddess Lopamudra is located. She resembles the posture of any typical Uma/Parvati/Amman in Shiva temples; she is in the standing posture and holding a flower in her right arm.

There is a small prakara around the main shrine where the small idols of Ganesha, Uma & Maheswara (Shiva Linga) and Pazhani Andi (Kartikeya) are located.

There is an outer prakara which has the sub-shrines of Ganesha, Subramanya-Valli-Devasena and Navagraha.

The outer wall of the main shrine has the Koshta idols of Dakshinamurti and Vishnu Durga.

A small sub-shrine with the metal (utsava) idols of Agastya with his wife is also located within this temple.

The temple does not have a tower; however flag staff and bali peetha are found.

When you go to this beautiful village, do not miss to visit this rare temple.

Happy travelling.

February 23, 2014

Ambasamudram Tirukkoshtiyappar Temple

Site Name: Tirukkoshtiyappar Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Oorkkaadu area in Ambasamudram, near Tirunelveli city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: Literally an unknown temple; an architectural marvel with the contributions from Chera, Chola and Pandya
Nearest Railway Station: Ambasamudram
Nearest Airport: Tirunelveli
How to reach: Well connected; can be reached to this temple from an auto rickshaw from the center of the twon
Hotel: Few options within the town; more options in the nearby city Tirunelveli
Restaurants: Only few options within the town


Ambasamudram is a picturesque town located on the banks of the beautiful Tamrabharani river and on the foothills of the Western Ghats. The nearest city of Ambasamudram is Tirunelveli. It is located in Tamil Nadu state in South India.The town has a lot of scenic spots and temples. Let us explore one of the oldest temple of the town, Tirukkoshtiyappar temple. It is an ancient temple located in a remote location called Oorkkaadu. It is a little known temple; even the people from this town visit this temple not frequently. The temple is an architectural marvel.


Highlights:
  • God Tirukkoshtiyappar
  •  Goddess – Ulagammai
  • Believed to be 7th century period temple
  • Originally a Pandya temple; contributions done by Chera and Chola kings too; Pandya period inscriptions are found
  • The main deity is made up of sand which is covered permanently by a copper shield
  • Saneeswara and Bhairava with unique features

Legend:

As per the legend, the sage was once passing through this place. He used to pray six times a day but he did not have the habit of carrying any idols with him. In the place where the temple is currently located, the river Tamrabharani was flowing in those days. The sage made the idol of Lord Shiva Linga with sand. As the river was nearby, the idol was about to get washed away by the water. The sage playfully asked the Lord "Are you a Kotti (Kotti means mad in Tamil language). Hence, Lord Shiva in this site is called as Tirukkottiyappar.

There is another legend which records the event of all the Devas and sages visiting the site in group. In Tamil language, "Koshti" means group. Hence, Lord Shiva in this site is also called as Tirukkoshtiyappar.

History:

As per the inscriptions found in this temple, the farmers of Rajaraja Chadurvedi Mangalam lived in this village and hence it was named as 'Oorkkaadu'.

 It is believed that this temple was originally built by a Pandya King named Jadavarma Pandya in the 7th century CE. (I personally do not know if there are any inscriptions or records to proove this; also, I am unable to relate any Pandya king by this name who ruled in this period). The temple has the inscriptions of Pandya kings such as Sadaiyavarman Kulasekaran (1190-1218 CE) and Maravarman Sundara Pandyan. period inscriptions . Although it was originally built by a Pandya king, there were many contributions from the Chera and Chola kings too.

As per the inscriptions in this temple, during the reign of Maravarman Sundara Pandyan I (1216 - 1238 CE), the temple was reconstructed by a person named Arikara Devar of a place called Pallichchai of Chera country. 

Temple Layout:

The east facing temple is huge in size.The entrance of the temple has a steep and pointed pyramidal style of roof (similar to Kerala temple architectural style) as it was built by a Chera king. The highlight is that it was not made up of wood but of stone. (In Kerala, the temple roofs which follow similar style are usually made up of wood.)



Shiva Linga made up of sand

The east facing sanctum sanctorum houses the huge Shiva Linga called as Tirukkoshtiyappar. It is made up of sand. However, the entire idol is covered with copper shield permanently. It is believed that it was covered many centuries ago by a king.

At the entrance of sanctum sanctorum, the idols of Ganesha and the sage Agastya are found.

The maha mandapa houses a separate shrine for Nataraja and Sivakami.

Ulagammai

The Goddess Ulagammai is found in the north facing shrine in the mandapa ouside the main shrine. As the temple cannot have only the God, this shrine was built later. The sand was brought from Chidambaram to make the sculpture of the Goddess.
Other Shrines

The prakara (corridor surrounding the main shrine) has the following idols:
  • 63 Nayanmars
  • Togai Adiyargal
  • Sapta Matas
  • Ganesha
  • Dakshinamurti
  • Surya
  • Chandra
  • Adhikara Nandi
The following sub-shrines are also located in the corridor.
  • Ganesha
  • Chandikeshwara
  • Navagraha
Speciality and Uniqueness

The Kala Swarna Bhairava idol located in the prakara is unique. Bhairava is standing on the lotus petal with lion as his mount instead of dog. It is unique.

Saneeswara is also unique in this temple. He is carrying lotus flower on his left arm. He is usually found as carrying crow in his right arm.

The Subramanya sub-shrine is also unique. It is believed that the sculptor who made this idol was from the family of the sculptor who made the famous idol of Skanda in Tiruchendur. 

Outside the temple, there are some permanent pillars constructed around 50-60 years ago so that pandal can be put easily.

A huge shrine of Chokkanatha and Meenakshi is located near the temple tank. It looks like a separate temple. The idol of Chokkanatha is not found nowadays.

Near the tank, there is a big statue; the front side of the statue is a man but the back side is of a woman. The sage Agastya created a soldier to fight with a demon woman in this area. This idol represents this soldier and that rakshasi, it seems. A small idol of Ganehsa is found near by. Both these idols are placed below a holy tree.

Jyeshta Devi idol is found outside the temple complex.

Other Parts

The temple has flag staff, Nandi and bali peetha similar to other Shiva temples. Nandi mandapa is also called as Mani Mandapa as a big bell is hanging above.

There are many pillars across the temple with fascinating images.

The temple needs proper maintenance and it currently has no income.

When you get a chance to go to South India, if possible, make a visit to this unknown architectural marvel. It is not fair that such a magnificent temple with so many unique features remains unknown.

Happy travelling.


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