July 27, 2014

Tirukkurungudi Nambi Temples

Site Name: Nambi Temples
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Tirukkurungudi, near Nanguneri, near Tirunelveli city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: Five temples; Vishnu in five different postures in three different temples; one of Divya Desham temple
Nearest Railway Station: Tirunelveli
Nearest Airport: Tirunelveli
How to reach: Well connected by road from Tirunelveli
Hotel: Go to Tirunelveli
Restaurants: Go to Tirunelveli 

Tirunveliveli is a historical city located on the banks of the beautiful Tamrabharani river in the southern Tamil Nadu state of India. The city and its surroundings have a lot of scenic spots and temples. Tirukkurungudi is a small village located near Nanguneri, which in turn is located near Tirunelveli. The village has one architecturally beautiful temple, a temple on top of a hill, waterfalls and river on the hill and three other small temples. Let us explore the well known and unknown sites of Tirukkurungudi in detail in this article.

Highlights:

  •  God – Tirupparkadal Nambi, Azhagiya Nambi, Malaimel Nambi
  • Goddess – Tirukkurungudi Valli and Andal
  • Stala Vruksha (holy tree) - 
  • Teerth (holy water) - Tirupparkadal 
  • Vimana - Panja Kedhaka Vimana
  • 89th Divya Desham temple (out of 108 Divya Deshams)
  • Nammalvar, Periyalvar, Tirumangai Alwar and Tirumazhisai Alwar have sung hymns on this site
  • Lord Vishnu is found in five different postures
  • Hundreds of sculptures and wooden carvings
  • Totally five different temples
  • One temple atop hill - waterfalls and river nearby
  • Also called as Vamana Kshetra
  • Vishnu temple where Shiva related sculptures are also found
  • Hundreds of sculptures and carvings across the entire temple
  • The main temple spread across 18 acres
  • Andal is found with four arms which is rare
  • The utsava idol of Narasimha with eight arms which is unique
  • Most of the deities in the main temple are colorfully painted stucco images which are outstanding
  • Tirumangai Alwar attained samadi here
  • Bhairava, Nataraja and Shiva are found in this Vishnu temple
  • There is a shrine for Maha Bali which is rare
  • Pandya and Nayaka period sculptures

Legend:

There are so many legends associated with this holy site.

The story of Tirumangai Alwar:

The great devotee of Maha Vishnu, Tirumangai Alwar sought moksha. Lord Vishnu advised him to visit his southern home. Accordingly he went to Tirukkurungudi and composed verses on Lord Azhagiya Nambi. Ultimately he attained moksha in this village. 

The story of Nambaaduvan:

As per Kaisika Purana, a devotee named Nambaaduvan belonged to backward caste. In those days, people from his society were not allowed inside the temple. He used to stand outside the temple with a Veena in hand and sing in praise of Lord Nambi. 

One day he met a Brahma Rakshasha (demon) on his way to the temple. The demon wanted to eat him. The devotee promised the demon that he would go to the temple to sing praise of Lord Vishnu and then return to him. The flag staff moved away so that the devotee could see the main deity. The devotee enjoyed the sight of deity and sang songs on praise of him. Lord Nambi also delighted with his songs and called him with the tilte 'Nambaaduvan'.

As per his promise, the devotee was returning back. Now, Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of an old man and asked the devotee to escape from the demon. However, the devotee Nambaaduvan was keen in keeping his promise to the demon. Vishnu appeared in his own form and blessed his beloved devotee. The demon pleased by the devotee's behaviour did not want to kill him; he instead wanted to give the fruit of his song; the devotee gave him the same without any hesitation. The demon got rid of his sin due to this. He also got moksha along with Nabaaduvan. 

Based on the above legend, it is believed that those who observe fasting and sing and/or listen to Kaisika Purana on Kaisika Ekadesi day would attain moksha.

The story of Ramanuja:

The great Vaishnaivite saint Ramanuja was preaching the Vishistadwaitha philosophy in Tiruvanandapuram city. His disciple Vaduga Nambi was assisting him. Some locals did not like him; they sought black magicians help. With the help of black magic, they transported him along with his cot when he was asleep to Tirukkurungudi on the banks of the river Nambi. Without realizing this, he called him disciple in the morning. Lord Vishnu disguised himself as his disciple Vaduga and helped Guru on his daily rituals. He also accompanied him to the temple and then disappeared. Guru noticed certain signs of Vaduga on the deity. He realized that Lord Vishnu had appeared as his disciple. He sought his pardon; however Vishnu appeared with his divine form and insisted that he would teach him Maha Mantra. Thus, he appeared as a disciple again and learnt mantra from Ramanuja.Hence, Lord Vishnu is also called as 'Vaishnava Nambi'.

Araiyar Sevai:

Araiyar Sevai is a performing art form centered on the ritual singing and enactment of the hymns of Divya Prabandham. It originated in this village and was introduced by Nathamuni. As per a legend, Lord Nambi used to hide behind a wall in South Mada Street of this village and watch this performance for hours. Hence, Lord is also named as 'Gaana Priyan' in this site.

Lord Shiva:

Lord Shiva got Brahmahatti dosha ( a dangerous sin) by plucking the head of Brahma; he came to this site; as per the advise from Nindra Nambi (a form of Vishnu in this site), Shiva sought food from Kurungudi Valli (the Goddess of this site) and also learnt Sudharsana Japa from Vaamana (the incarnation of Vishnu) in this site to get rid of his sin.

Nammalwar:

As per another legend, it is believed that Nammalvar was born due to blessing of Lord Nambi in this temple.

Ramayana:

As per Ramayana, Lord Hanuman is believed to have leaped to Sri Lanka in search of Sita from Mahendragiri, the hill located in this village. Malaimel Nambi temple is found on the hill.

Temple Layout:

There are totally five temples that are located in Tirukkurungudi - Tiruvattapparai, Tirumangai Alwar Tiruvarasu, Azhagiya Nambi, Tirupparkadal Nambi and Malaimel Nambi.

Tiruvattapparai

This place is located at 3 kms from the main temple at the outskirts of the village. As per the legend, Lord Vishnu disguised himself as a student of Ramanuja. In this temple the relief image Ramanuja along with Vishnu seated in lower seat is found. It is a rare temple dedicated to Guru Ramanuja.

Tirumangai Alwar Tiruvarasu

This place is located at 3 kms from the main temple at the outskirts of the village. It is believed that Ramanuja attained samadi in this place. He is found with his hands folded, differently from his usual posture of carrying sword, in this temple.

Tirupparkadal Nambi

It is believed that Vishnu after taking the form of Trivikrama shrunk himself back into the form of Vamana (short man) in this site. Hence, this site is named as Kurunkudi (meaning the abode of short person in Tamil language). There is a small temple dedicated to Vamana in this village. It is the original temple and the village got its name based on this. 

The main deity of the temple is Vamana - a short idol found with four arms carrying conch and discus. Apart from the main deity the idols of Garuda facing him and Vishwaksena on the side and a bas-relief of Narasimha are found in this temple. It is located at a distance of about 1 kms from the main temple.

Azhagiya Nambi

This is the main temple of the village. This gigantic temple spread across 18 acres is located at the center of the village. The entire village is formed around this temple. This temple is an architectural marvel and there are a lot of beautiful sculptures and carvings found in this temple. Let us explore this temple in detail.

Temple Entrance

The east facing magnificent temple tower is although incomplete and without any tier, it raises over a flight of stairs. There are so many sculptures beautifully carved on the walls of the tower as well as on the fort-like entrance walls. I wonder how many more such beautiful sculpture we would have get to see had the tower been completed. The incomplete tower is definitely a loss. Nevertheless, the tower accompanied by so many sculptures looks extremely attractive.

The sculptures outside the temple kindles the interest of devotees and travellers to enter into the temple and explore further the hidden secret of this extraordinary site. This tower which is called as 'Chitra Gopuram' has many outstanding wooden sculptures too apart from the stone sculptures. One of the interesting aspects of the sculptures in this temple is that there are many sculptures related so Saivite section (Shiva related). It is rare to find such kinds of sculptures in a Vishnu temple.

The 30 feet tall entrance doors too have so many interesting intricate carvings. 

Azhagiya Nambi

The main deity of the temple is Sundara Paripuram aka Azhagiya Nambi aka Nindra Nambi. As per his name, the deity is extremely beautiful. He is tall with four arms carrying his usual weapons of discus, conch and mace. He has his consorts Sree Devi and Bhoo Devi on his either sides. All the deities are stucco images and are colorfully painted. Nambi and Bhoo Devi are painted in green color whereas Sri Devi is painted in golden yellow color. All the three images which are found in the standing posture are outstanding. The main deity is flanked by the stucco images of sages Markandeya and Bhrigu.

The metal utsava idol Vaishnava Nambi along with four Goddesses Sri Devi, Bhoo Devi, Kurunkudi Nachiar and Andal is also located in the moola sthan.

Other areas of main shrine

The ardha mandapa section of the main shrine has two large Dwarapalas. Also there is a sub-shrine with so many metal utsava idols such as Rama, Lakshman, Sita, Hanuman, Krishna-Rukmini-Bama, Vishnu-Sri Devi-Bhoo Devi, a rare image of Narasimha with eight arms and in the sitting posture and other idols.

The maha mandapa has a lot of carved pillars with lion faces on top. 

There is an exterior mandapa where Garuda (again a stucco image) is found facing towards the main deity. A big hanging bell is found on the top.

The entire main shrine is built as per the 'maada kovil' architectural style.

Kurungudi Nachiar and Andal

Kurungudi Nachiar is the Goddess of the temple. Her shrine is found on the right side of the main shrine in the first prakara. Her shrine is big and has a front side mandapa with pillars full of sculptures. She is found in the form of sitting posture with four arms.

Andal is the other Goddess. It is not usual to find her with four arms. In this temple, she is found with four arms similar to Lakshmi. Her shrine is located in the same prakara but to the left side of the main shrine.

First Prakara

The first prakara has thinnai like raised platforms and a lot of pillars with carvings. The back side wall of the main shrine has so many bas relief images. 

The following sub-shrines/idols are also located here:

  • Narasimha with Lakshmi on his lap
  • Dasavatar - 10 Avatars of Vishnu
  • Srinivasa -Sri Devi - Bhoo Devi
  • Lakshmi Varaha
  • Kanni Vinayakar (Ganesha)

Kidanda Nambi

There is a shrine dedicated to 'Pallikonda Nambi' aka 'Kindanda Nambi'. Here, Vishnu is found in the reclining posture. All the deities in this shrine are also colorful stucco images. Nambi and Bhoo Devi are in green color. Nambi is flanked by two sages Markandeya and Bhrigu. Both his consorts Bhoo Devi and Sri Devi are also present in this shrine. An additional deity found here is Brahma.

At the entrance of this shrine the red colored stucco image of Kala Bhairava which looks ferocious is found. It is very rare to find Bhairava in a Vishnu temple.

Irunda Nambi

There is a shrine dedicated to 'Veetrirunda Nambi' aka 'Vaikuntanatha'. Here, Vishnu aka Nambi is found in the sitting posture. He is again found here with his two consorts and two sages. All the deities are colorful stucco images.

Next to this shrine, there is a shrine for Maha Bali. Here, Bali is found in the form of a Peeta (symbol) and not in the form of usual figure. 

Lord Shiva

It is unusual to find Lord Shiva in a Vishu temple (although the reverse is not unusual). However, in this temple, Lord Shiva is found in the form of Shiva Linga called as 'Mahendra Girinathar' in a separate shrine. In the same shrine, the metal utsava idols of Shiva Linga, Ambal, Nataraja and Sivakami are all found.

Alwars Shrine

Towards the end of the inner prakara, there is a very big shrine found along with the front side mandapa and prakara. The mandapa is full of circular shaped pillars. Two mega sized stone sculptures of Hanuman and Garuda with folded hands are found in the mandapa. 

The shrine has the colorful stucco images of all the Alwars; Kulasekhara Alwar alone is found in green color; importantly he is not carrying any weapon but found with his hands folded. 

Manavala Mamunigal Shrine

Next to Alwars shrine, the Manavala Mamuni shrine is found. This section of the temple is a highlight of the temple. In the shrine the Alwar is found as a small stucco image. Outside the shrine, there are large sized beautiful Nayaka period sculptures.

The sculptures are so lively and one of best Nayaka works. Some of the sculptures found here:

  • 12 Yazhi pillars
  • Narsimha with eight arms fighting with the demon
  • Narasimha killing the demon by tearing of his demon
  • Hanuman and Garuda with folded hands
  • Vali and Sugreeva ready to fight with each other
  • Gypsy lady carrying a short man on her shoulder
  • Bheema and Purusha Mrigam ready to fight with each other
  • Gypsy kidnapping a lady
  • Few Yazhis in different postures
  • Gypsy and his wife carrying kids

Azhagiya Singar Mana Valar Shrine

Near the inner tower there is a shrine dedicated to Azhagiya Singar and Manavalar. This shrine has a long front side mandapa. Here, again there are so many beautiful large Nayaka period sculptures found.

Some of the sculptures found here iinclude:

  • Arjuna
  • Karna
  • Alli
  • Pavalakkodi
  • Manmada
  • Rati 

Yazhi Mandapa

Near the Azhagiya Singar shrine, there is a mandapa named 'Yazhi mandapa'. There are so many beautiful Yazhi (the mythological animal) pillars are found in this hall.

Bali Peetha Mandapa

The flag staff and bali peetha are all majestic in this temple. Near bali peetha, there are two mandapas. One is called as bali peetha mandapa and the another hall does not seem to have any specific name. Both the halls are long and have so many pillars in square or octagonal shapes. Each of the pillars have a lot of beautiful carvings and sculptures.

The second and third prakaras of the temple have so many pillars with intricate carvings, bas relief images and sculptures.

More than that wherever you turn your face, you would find some sort of sculptures in all the walls in this temple.

Festival

On the Shukla Paksha Ekadasi day of Kartikai month (around Nov) every year, the temple witnesses a dance drama which is very unique.

Malaimel Nambi

Two to two and half hours of trekking or 45 minutes of risk jeep ride would take you to the hilltop Malaimel Nambi temple. Beware of monkey while reaching the temple through the forest. The temple located on top of Mahendragiri hill has just one main shrine for Nambi who is found in the standing posture and with four arms. Garuda is found facing towards the main shrine. This is a cute small temple.

The temple is located near Nambi waterfalls and Nambi river. One should be fortunate to take bath in this river at least once in his/her lifetime. The water is crystal clear, clean and has herbal values. It is such a beautiful location that you can claim to have visited the heaven after visiting this place.

Happy travelling.


July 21, 2014

Kalakkad Satyavageeswarar Temple

Site Name: Satyavageeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Kalakkad, near Tirunelveli city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A gigantic temple with 9-tier tower containing hundreds of stucco idols; musical pillars; mega sized beautiful sculptures
Nearest Railway Station: Tirunelveli
Nearest Airport: Tirunelveli
How to reach: Well connected by road from Tirunelveli
Hotel: Go to Tirunelveli
Restaurants: Go to Tirunelveli 

Tirunveliveli is a historical city located on the banks of the beautiful Tamrabharani river in the southern Tamil Nadu state of India. The city and its surroundings have a lot of scenic spots and temples. Kalakkad is a small fertile village located at the foothills of Western Ghats near Tirunelveli. The village has an ancient magnificent temple, Satyavageeswarar temple. Anyone visiting this temple might wonder why this site with its wealth of sculptures, thousands of stucco images, architecture, 135 feet tower and musical pillar has never come under the spotlight. This should have become one of the popular tourist sites in the entire nation. It is unfortunate that this site remains little know. Let us explore this little known temple in detail.

Highlights:

  •  God – Satyavageeswarar aka Poyyamozhi
  • Goddess – Gomati aka Aavudai Nayaki
  • Stala Vruksha (holy tree) - Punnai
  • Teerth (holy water) - Satya Teerth, Pachai Aaru
  • Appar has recited songs in praise of the deity and hence it is a Vaippu Stalam
  • 12th century temple
  • 135 feet magnificent nine tiered tower
  • Around 200 mural paintings inside the walls of tower
  • Hundreds of stucco images on the tower
  • Beautiful mega sized stone sculptures 
  • Musical pillars
  • Sunlight falls on the main deity on 20, 21 and 22 of March and September every year

Legend/History:

As per the legend, Sita was kidnapped in the forest of Kalakkad and hence the place is also known as Chorakadavi. Rama and Lakshmana were searching for Sita; they prayed to Lord Shiva who was seated under a Punnai tree in this site. He assured them success. After successfully rescuing Sita, both the brothers returned here and they named Shiva as Satyavageeswarar which means Lord of Truth. 

As per another legend, Devas were defeated by Asuras; they sought Shiva's help; he advised them worship him in this site. Accordingly, they came to this site and prayed to the Lord. He along with Ganas accompanied Devas and won Asuras. Hence, the Devas named the Lord as Satyavageeswarar and the teerth as 'Satya teerth'.

The great saint Appar refer Lord as Puramerichchuvaramudaiviyya Nayanar in his songs. This site is considered as one of Tevara Vaippu Stalams.

King Veeramarthanda Varma renovated this ancient temple in the 12th century CE and the current structure was mainly his work.

Temple Layout:

Magnificent Temple Tower:
The east facing magnificent temple has a gigantic 135 feet nine tiered tower. The tower has around 1500 stucco images of various deities and saints. I am not sure if there is any other temple tower which contains such a large number of images made of lime. In addition to that there are about 200 ancient mural paintings adorn the inner walls of each of the nine tiers. The paintings resemble Vijayanagara and Nayaka schools of art and they belong to the 16th or 17th century CE. They depict scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharata, Tiruvilaiyadal Purana and life events of Saivaite saints. 

Apart from this beautiful tower, there is one more tower. The entrance of the tower has the idol of 'Gopura Vinayaka'. The area between these two towers have many pillars and the ceiling is covered.

The bali peeth, Nandi mandapa and flag staff are located in the mandapa that is found after the inner tower.

Musical Pillar Hall:
The main shrine is built as per the 'maada kovil' architectural style and hence it is located on an elevated platform. The front side mandapa reveals the exquisite workmanship of those days. The mandapa has many Yazhi pillars; the base of the mega sized Yazhis have different small sculptures such as elephant, soldier, girl, monkey, etc. are found. The stone sculpture of Bheema fighting with Purusha Mrugam is an highlight of this hall. There is a big sculpture of Cheraman Perumal with his friend Sundarar. The king Veera Marthanda Varma who built this temple is also found in the form of a beautiful sculpture in this hall. The main highlight of the hall is musical pillars which produce different musical sound (sapta swaras) on tapping them. 
Main Shrine:
The main shrine is divided into moolasthan, Ardha Mandapa, Maha Mandapa and the front side mandapa. The details about the front side mandapa is already given above.

The moderate sized Shiva Linga idol named Satyavageeswarar is located in the moolasthan (sanctum sancotrum). 

The entrance of Maha mandapa has Dwarapalas and Anugnai Vinayakar. It has a sub-shrine where so many metal utsava idols are placed which importantly includes Nataraja-Sivakami. The maha mandapa is also full of artistically beautiful pillars. 


Goddess Shrine:
The Goddess of the temple is Gomati. She is found in a separate east facing shrine located on the left side of the main shrine. She is tall and found with two arms. This shrine has its own pillared front side mandapa, flag staff, Nandi and bali peetha. At the entrance, the small idols of Ganesha and Kartikeya are located.

Inner Prakara:
The inner prakara which surrounds the main shrine has the below sub-shrines and idols.



Sub-shrines:
  • Nalvar
  • Shasta-Poorna-Pushkala
  • Chitraputrar
  • Punnaivana Nathar - Shiva, Amman, Ganesha and Nandi under a Punnai tree
  • Navaneetha Krishna - a big shrine with the beautiful front-side mandapa
  • Valampuri Vinayakar
  • Subramanya-Valli-Devasena
  • Gaja Lakshmi
  • A big Kankalanathar along with three Ganas
  • Tiruchitrambalam shrine - the old mural paintings of Nataraja and Kali are being worshiped here
  • Chandana Sabhapati - Nataraja and Sivakami made of sandalwood
  • Saneeswara
  • Bhairava
  • Stone sculptures of Nataraja with the Tamil letter 'Om' written in the background and Sivakami
  • Shankaralingam, Gomati, Shankara Narayana and Ganesha
  • Vishwanatha - Vishalakshi 
  • Annapoorani
  • Chandikeshwara
Idols:
  • Ganesha
  • Veerabhadra
  • Sapta Matas
  • 63 Nayanmars
  • Surya
  • Jwara Deva
  • Chandra
Sculptures and Other Sections:
Similar to the mega sized sculptures in the front side mandapa of the main shrine, there are few beautiful sculptures located near Nandi mandapa. The sculptures of Arjuna, Karna, Bheema and Purusha Mrugam are all very lively.

The pillars that are found across the temple have very interesting carvings and sculptures. Near the second temple tower, there is a mandapa named Chekkizhar mandapa which is full of pillars with beautiful sculptures. The temple tank is located near this mandapa.

Nandi mandapa itself is intricately sculpted and looks extremely attractive.

The outer prakara is an open area with full of trees and plants.

The temple also has a lot of ancient inscriptions.

Granary:
The temple has a big granary. Unlike other temples in this state where the granaries are made of wood, the granary in this temple is a masonry granary.
Other Names of Deity:
Satyavageeswarar, the main deity of the temple, is referred in different names such as:
  • Punnaivana Nathar
  • Brahma Nayakan
  • Parithi Nayakan
  • Sundara Lingam
  • Kalandai Lingam
  • Bhairava Lingam
  • Veeramarthanda Lingam
  • Tripura Haran
  • Vairava Nathan
  • Samala Maha Lingam
  • Soma Nayakar
  • Kulasai Nayakar

Pancha Aasana Stalams:

As per some of the old scripts, five important Shiva temples in Tirunelveli region were considered as Pancha Aasana Stalams. Satyavageeswarar temple in Kalakkad is one of those temples. The other four Pancha Aasana Stalams are:
  • Ervadi Tiruvazhundeesar Temple
  • Nanguneri Tirunageshwarar Temple
  • Vijayanarayanam Manonmaneesar Temple
  • Chenbagaramanallur Ramalingar Temple

According to me, no one can claim that he/she has visited India without visiting such unique and excellent sites.

Happy travelling.