February 16, 2011

Tiruchengode Ardhanareeswarar Temple

God is portrayed as male in some religions, or as female in some other religions. There are religions who worship nature as the God. According to some religions, the God has no shape and name. As per Hinduism, God doesn't have shape, God has shape, God is in the form of self, animal, bird, male and female. To explain this, I might have to write hundreds of blog posts. Keeping that aside, there is a temple in South India where God is portrayed as half-man and half-woman. That rare temple is located in a place called Tiruchengode (Thiruchengodu) in Tamil Nadu state of South India.

Lord Shiva is one of the main Gods of Hinduism. Ardhanareeswar, one of 64 manifestations of Lord Shiva, has half-man and half-female to represent the unity of Shakti and Shiva. Even though Ardhanareeswara is a well known manifestation of Shiva, you cannot find a temple or shrine for Ardhanareeswara. As far as I know, the only temple dedicated for Ardhanareeswara in the form of half man and half woman is located only in Tiruchengode. (There are temples for Ardhanareeswara where the idol is in the form of Shiv Linga). Thus, Tiruchengode Ardhanareeswarar temple is considered as a rare temple.

Tiruchengode is a small town located near Erode. The hill top temple of Ardhanareeswarar is the famous temple of Tiruchengode. Tiruchengode is supposed to be very ancient city. You can find the reference of Tiruchengode in ancient Tamil literature such as 'Silappadikaram'. In those days, the city was named as 'Kodimada Chenkunrur'. The temple is located at a height of 1900 feet from the sea level. You can reach the temple either by motorable road or by climbing up 1200 steps. You can find various mandaps and small shrines if you use the steps to reach the temple atop hill. When you climb the steps you can also notice the images of snakes and five hooded serpents carved on either side of the pathway. As per the legend, there was a deadly combat between Vayu and Adi Sesha, the serpent couch of Lord Vishnu. Sesha was defeated and overthrown on this hill with bleeding wounds. As Sesha's blood fell on this hill, it got the name 'Chengodu' (Chen refers the red color in Tamil language). Due to its association with the serpent God Adi Sesha, the place is also called as Naga Giri.

Once you reach the hilltop, you can enjoy the sight of aerial view of Tiruchengode city before entering into the temple that has the gigantic five tiered north facing tower. Even though the temple tower faces the north direction, the sanctum  of Ardhanareeswarare faces the western direction. Once you enter inside the temple, you will reach the 'Chengottu Velavar' shrine. Chengottu Velavar is the name of Murugan in this temple. Chengottu Velavar is as popular as Ardhanareeswarar. Arunagirinathar and others have sung hymns on Chengottu Velavar. Velavar carries swear (vel) on right hand and cock on his left hand. The image is very short (hardly 31/2 feet high), but very attractive. This shrine is exactly located at the back side of the sanctum.

In front of the shrine of Velavar, there is a mandap full of beautiful life size sculptures of various Gods, Goddesses and saints such as Rathi, Manmada, Nandi in different postures, a king with three wives, Veerabhadra and Kali. There is a small idol of Selva Vinayaka also located in this mandap.

The sanctum  has the idol of Ardhanareeswarar made of 'Navapaashanam'. The right side of the idol is male and the left side is female. It's a combination of Shiva and Parvati. The great saints such as Manikavasagar and Sambandhar have sung on Ardhanareeswarar. Tiruchengode Ardhanareeswarar temple is one of 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams (275 important temples of Lord Shiva). As per the legend, the sage Bringi, a great devotee of Shiva avoided worshiping other deities including Parvati. Hence, the God appeared as half-Shiva and half-Parvati for Bringi. You can find the idol of Bringi saint with three legs in the main shrine. The highlight of the shrine is that you can find water always springing up perennial at the foot of the Lord.

There is a separate shrine enshrining the processional (utsav/metal) idol of Ardhanareeswarar. The temple also houses other shrines and idols such as Mallikarjun, Sahasra Linga, Ilupai Viswanath and Visalakshi, Nataraj with Sivakami, Vinayak, Adi Sesha, Sangameswar Vedanayaki, Bhairav, Surya, Arunagiri, Siddhi Vinayak, Kumaresar, Navagraha and Lingodbhava.

Adi Sesha shrine is also found which is rare to find in Shiva temple. There are more beautiful sculptures in the temple such as Nataraj and dancing Kali, Kuravan and Kurati, etc. There is a separate shrine for Adi Kesava (Vishnu). Kedara Gowri, Nallesar, Mukkodu Vinayakar, Nalvar, Chandikeswarar, 63 nayanmars, Kubera Lingam, Lakshmi, Nageswarar and various other Shiv Linga idols are also found in this sculpture-rich temple.

This temple was constructed and renovated by various kings including the Cholas and the Vijayanagara Kings.

A artistically beautiful temple with full of extraordinary sculptures located at top of the hill - A must visit.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:

Site Name: Ardhanareeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Highlight: God is in the form of half-man and half-woman
Location: 20 kms from Erode; 55 kms from Salem city, Tamil Nadu state, India; around 370 kms from Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Nearest Railway Station: Salem
Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable by road from Salem/Erode
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Salem; Many resorts and hotels are available in Yercaud
Restaurants: Only few good restaurants are available in Tiruchengoe; You need to travel either to Salem or Erode for good restaurants

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1 comment:

  1. Wonderful and informative.
    Ardhanareeswarar is made of Venpasanam, not Navapasanam.