February 14, 2011

Ramagiri Vaaleeswarar Temple

I am going to introduce you to a small ancient and beautiful temple located at the base of a hill. This site named Ramagiri still remains unexplored. Ramagiri can be reached either from Chennai, the gateway to South India, or from the world famous Hindu pilgrim site of Tirupati. It is located on the Chennai - Tirupati route. If you travel from Chennai, you can reach this place after passing through Uttukkottai, Surruttapalli and Nagalapuram.

Near the temple
Ramagiri village has two temples - one Subramanya temple at the top of the hill, and another at the base of the hill. The Subramanya temple at the top of the hill is a new temple built in 1969. The temple located at the base of the hill is Vaaleeswarar temple, which has many legends associated with it. As per the legend, Lord Rama wanted to perform pooja to Lord Shiva in Rameswararm in the Southern Tamil Nadu. He ordered Lord Hanuman to bring an idol of Shiv Linga from Kasi in North India. When Hanuman was returning from Kasi via Ramagiri, Lord Bhairav used his power to make Hanuman sweat and get tired. Hanuman wanted to have water and saw a pond in this site. He handed over the Shiv Linga to a boy without knowing the fact that it was Bhairav. When he returned to take back the Shiv Linga after having water, he found the Shiv Linga installed on the ground. He tried his level best to lift the idol in vain. Ultimately, he cursed the pond to become a hill and went to Kasi to take another Shiv Linga. It is believed that the hill that was created due to curse of Hanuman is Ramagiri. As the Shiv Linga idol was pulled by the tail of Hanuman, it got the name "Vaaleeswarar". In Tamil language, "Vaal" means "tail". You can find the Shiv Linga idol slightly tilted even today.

Ramagiri Vaaleeswarar temple is believed to have been built in the 9th century CE. Ramagiri is a small village located in Andhra Pradesh state of South India near the border of Tamil Nadu state. Ramagiri is surrounded by a lot of green and fresh fields. It's a calm and serene site with no major buildings, shops, or houses nearby. You would  first find the pond full of pure water. The source of the water is not known to anybody. The water keeps coming out of the mouth of a Nandi idol for all 365 days a year. Near the Nandi idol, you can find a small Shiv Linga idol. There is also a shrine for Lord Ganesha. Behind the shrine of Ganesha, there are steps that take you to the hill top temple of Subramanya.

Even though it is believed that the original temple was built by the Pallavas, the current structure of the temple doesn't appear to be of Pallava architectural style.

There is no Raja Gopuram (tower) or flag post in the temple. The temple is basically divided into two divisions. The first division has Bhairav as the presiding deity whereas the second division has Shiv Linga named as Vaaleeswarar as the presiding deity.

You can find a lot of temples in North India with Bhairav as the presiding deity. However, in South India it is very rare to find a temple with Bhairav as the presiding deity. This is one such rare temple having a tall magnificent idol of Bhairav in the  sanctum . You can find the idol of dog in front of the sanctum, as dog is the vaahan for Bhairav. Adjacent to Bhairav shrine, there is a separate shrine for the Goddess Kalikambal. The corridor surrounding the Bhairav shrine has small niche images of Bhairav in various postures on the walls. The entrance of Bhairav shrine has two Shiv Lings and a Siddhi Vinayak idol with a different look of trunk.

The other part of the temple is dedicated Lord Shiva named as Vaaleeswarar. He is in form of a Shiv Ling slightly slanted. Facing him are the small Nandi idol and Hanuman idol. You can find Hanuman in front of Rama, but not in front of Shiva. Hence, this also becomes a rare feature of the temple. There is also another big artistically beautiful Nandi idol found outside. The entrance of the sanctum has two big idols of Dwarapalaks. Ganesha and Chandramouleeswarar (Shiv Linga).

The corridor surrounding the shrine of Vaaleeswarar has a lot of idols on the platforms and walls similar to any other South Indian Shiva temples. But the beauty of this temple is that each and every idol is carved in artistically beautiful way. These idols are definitely not something commonly found in the other temples. Each and every idol has its unique beauty with fine details. The idols of Brahma, Vishnu, Shanmukha, Veerabhadra, Durga, Surya, Chandikeswarar, Sapta Mata, Dakshinamurti, Ayyappa, Anjaneya and Appar are found in the corridor. The idol of the saint Agastya is found in a different posture; his head is covered with a hat like covering. There is an idol for Ganesha named as Gajamukha which is a fantastic example for Pallava sculptural style. The idol of Veerabhadra in the sitting posture is a rare idol. The idol of Ganeshji near the entrance of main shrine is also looking different and very attractive.

There is a separate shrine for the Goddess of the temple Maragadambigai. The idol is big and attractive. In the wall, you can find a small carving depicting the scene of Hanuman pulling the Shiv Linga.

This temple is a calm and serene location where you will get the antique feeling and experience tranquillity.

Lord Shiva has five faces - Isaanam, Thathpurusham, Vaamadhevam, Sathyojaatham and Agoram. There are five Shiva temples (called Pancha Brahma Sthalams) near Chennai, representing each of these faces. Vaaleeswarar temple of Ramagiri represents the Isaana face of Shiva. Bhairav of this temple is also called as Santana Prapti Bhairav. It is believed that if the childless couple worship Bhairav of this temple, they will be blessed with child.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:
Site Name: Vaaleeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location: Ramagiri,on Chennai - Tirupati route, Andhra Pradesh state, India 
1) 9th century Pallava architecture; 
2) Bhairav in the main sanctum which is very rare; 
3) Shiv Linga idol brought by Lord Hanuman; 
4) Shiv Linga idol in the slanting posture;
5) The pond full of pure water sourcing from the mouth of Nandi idol for all 365 days a yearNearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India
Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable by road from Tirupati as well as Chennai
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai; A lot of luxury and budget hotels are available in Tirupati too
Restaurants: You should either go to Tirupati or Chennai

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