April 19, 2010

Avudayar Koil Temple, Aranthangi, India

Avudayar Koil temple is one of the oldest temples in Tamil Nadu state, South India. It is located in a small town, Avudayaurkoil, which is situated at a distance of around 14 kms from Aranthangi city of Pudhukkottai district in Tamil Nadu state, India. The town was called as Tiiruperunthurai in the ancient times. The temple is the only attraction of the town and it attracts hundreds of devotees and tourists daily. Avudayar Koil temple (the word "Koil" means "temple" in Tamil language) is attractive not only due to spiritual reasons, but also due to its architecture and sculptures. It is because of this temple, the entire Avudayarkoil town has been declared as a 'heritage town' by the Government.

Even though the temple is popularly referred as Avudayar Koil, the name of the temple is Atmanatha Swamy Temple. The original temple is believed to have been built by Manickavasagar in the 8th century CE. It is evident that the temple has been extended in the later years. Manickavasagar was one of the four important Tamil saints of Shaivism  out of 63 Nayanmars (63 important saints of Shiva). You can find the idols of all 63 saints in most of the Shaivite temples in South India. You can find four saints among 63 saints in separate shrines or in a higher platform in some temples. Manickavasagar is one of those four important Nayanmars. Avudayar Koil temple legend is connected to the history of saint Manickavasagar.

The King Arimardhana Pandian asked his minister Tiruvadhavoorar to buy horses and gave him money for the same. The minister came to a place named Perunthurai to buy horses. However, he was impressed by a Ved "paatshaala". Ultimately, he attained "Gnana" (the ultimate knowledge) here, and he used the money to build this temple. Initially, only a platform was built and offering of rice was kept on the platform. The steam was considered as God (Shiva) for him. It is the same platform which is still present inside the shrine and the same rituals are still followed. In the later years, Pandya kings extended the temple with beautiful sculptures and pillars. The minister Tiruvadhavoorar thus became a great devotee of Lord Shiva and got the name Manickavasagar. He wrote the famous "Tiruvasagam" in Avudayaur Koil temple.

The presiding deity of the temple, Atmanatha Swamy (a name of Lord Shiva) doesn't have any image or figure. There is just a platform in the sanctum. This is a unique feature of this temple.

Another unique feature of this temple is that you cannot find Nandi, flag staff and Chandikeswarar, which are commonly found in all South Indian ancient Shiva temples.

The Goddess of the temple, Yogambal, is found in a separate shrine. Again, there is no idol for the Goddess. You can only find Paadam (foot print) in the shrine. There is a small idol of Goddess located outside the main shrine.

As you enter the main temple, you can find small Pillayar (Ganesha) idol to your left. Next to that, there is a big shrine for the saint Manickavasagar. There are ancient paintings found around this shrine. Also, there are very beautiful sculptures of Narasimha, Kaali, Ganesha, Subramanya and others. There are also big life sized sculptures such as Veerabhadra, Yaksha, Daksha and others. All these sculptures are very beautiful and have uniqueness. Once you enter into the temple, there is a small mandap full of sculptures. There are sculptures that are associated with the temple such as God making foxes as horses when the King was asking the minister for horses, and making the horses back to foxes. You can also find the idols of Arimardhana Pandian, Manickavasagar, and others.

If you enter further into the temple, there is another Manickavasagar shrine surrouded by olden period paintings. There are many pillars with beautiful sculptures. On the ceiling, you can find Pancha Bhootas. The corridor (prakara) surrounding the main shrine has the idols of Chokka Vinayaka, Manikavasagar, Nataraj, Bhikshatana, Kali, Veerabhadra, etc.

There is a tree (Kurutha tree - Sthala vruksham) where the idols of Shiva teaching Manickavasagar is found. There is a small shrine for Nataraj with Shivakami and another shrine for Lord Murugan. The outer prakara has the idols of Lord Ganesha in all the corners. You can also find the temple tank in the outer corridor. The idols of Muthu Vinayaka and Muneeswaran are also found there.

All over the temple, you can find a lot of beautiful sculptures. There is no separate shrine or idols for Navagrahas (nine planets) similar to other temples. They are found only in the pillars. The 27 stars are also present in the form of sculptures in this temple. There is a sapta swara pillar (musical pillar). The stone chain is a famous sculpture in this temple. There are a lot to explore in this temple, which cannot be explained in detail in this post. Visit the temple to get your own experience.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:

Site Name: Atmanathaswamy Temple aka Avudayarkoil Temple
Site Type: Ancient temple, architecture, sculpture
1) One of the oldest temples in Tamil Nadu state, India; built in 8th century CE; 1200 years old
2) The main deities do not have image/shape
3) Built by the famous saint Manikavasagar
4) Life sized beautiful sculptures
Location: Avudayar Koil, 14 kms from Aranthangi, Pudhukottai district, Tamil Nadu state, India
Nearest Railway Station: Aranthangi
Nearest Airport: Trichy (around 100 kms)
How to reach: Take a bus or taxi from Aranthangi
Hotel: Only budget hotels are available that too in the nearby town Aranthangi
Restaurants: It's difficult to find good restaurants

View Larger Map

No comments:

Post a Comment