February 14, 2011

Velachery Dandeeswarar Temple

Fast Facts:
Site Name: Dandeeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location: Velachery, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India 
Highlights: 11th century Chola architecture
Nearest 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 the other parts of the city
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city


Till few years ago, Velachery was just a remote neighborhood of Chennai city in South India. Today, it has become an integral part of Chennai city and has already become one of the most happening places, thanks to the IT industry boom. Looking at the proximity of Velachery to the IT companies and its hi-style multi storied apartments and shopping malls, it is difficult to believe that there are three ancient temples located here. Let us explore about one of those temples, Dandeeswarar temple, a thousand years old temple, in this article.

Legend:

As per the legend, during Treta Yug, an Asura Somukhasur by name stole all the four Vedas from Brahma. Vishnu took the Matsya Avatar, fought with the Asura and gave back the Vedas to Brahma. However, as the Vedas were under the custody of the Asura for sometime, they all were affected by Asura dosha. All the four Vedas wanted to cleanse themselves. They took the physical form, came to this village and prayed to Shiva. As Shiva of this site was worshiped by the Vedas, the village is called as Vedasreni, which got diluted to Velachery.

As per another version, a lot of yagnas were conducted in this village. Yagna is called as Velvi in Tamil language. The place was called as Velvichery, which later became Velachery.

There is one more legend that connects this site. Yama threw his staff (called as danda) over Markandeya, the deovotee of Lord Shiva. They saintly boy hugged Shiv Linga tightly. Shiva appeared out of Linga; he took away danda from Yama. Later, as per the advice from Narad Rishi, Yama came to this site. He created the temple tank and worshiped Shiva regularly in this site. He ultimately got back his weapon. Hence, Shiva in this temple is called as Dandeeswarar.

History:

The oldest inscription that is found in this temple belongs to the period of Gandaraditya Chola. Based on this, we can assume that this temple could have been built by the Cholas in the 10th century CE. We also find the inscriptions of Raja Raja Chola I, Rajendra Chola and Kulotunga Chola III in this temple.

Temple Layout:

Entrance:

The temple has three entrances in the east, north and west directions. Although the sanctum is facing the east direction, the north facing tower with five tiers is the main entrance. The other two towers are not that attractive. All the towers are plain without any stucco idols.

At the north gate, the sub-shrines of Kalai Sandhi Vinayak and Subramanya are located.

Dandeeswarar:

The east facing sanctum enshrines moderately sized Shiv Linga called as Dandeeswarar. In Maha Mandap, there is a Nandi found facing towards Linga.

The Chola period Dwarapalas at the entrance of the Ardha Mandap are notable.

The entrance of Ardha Mandap also has the idols of Ganesh and Kartikeya-Valli-Devasena on either sides.

At the entrance of the super structure where the sanctum and the shrine of Karunambikai are located, there is another pair of Ganesh and Subramanya.




Karunambika:

In Maha Mandap, there is a separate south facing shrine enshrining the Goddess Karunambikai. She is found in the standing posture. She has four arms. The entrance of her shrine has a relief image of Ganesh.

Koshta Murtis:

The Koshta Murtis are beautiful Chola sculptures. Ganesh, Yoga Dakshinamurti in unique posture, Lingodbhava, Brahma and Durga are found as the niche icons. Lingodbhava has deer in his right arm and mazhu in his left arm, which is not usual.

Chandikeshwara is also a beautiful Chola period sculpture.

Inner Prakara:

The east facing sub-shrines of Ganesh and Subramanya which are usually found in the back side of prakara of the ancient South Indian Shiva temples are not found here. Instead, the sub-shrines of Somaskanda (utsava), Chandrashekhara-Uma (utsav), Saraswati and Lakshmi are located.

Subramanya-Valli-Devasena (utsav deities)  and Chandikeshwara and Gnana Sambandhar (utsav) are found in the south facing sub-shrines.

A big and attractive Natarja-Sivakami and another small idol of Nataraja are found in a separate sub-shrine.

The old icon of Bhairav, the Chola period sculpture of Sambu Surya and the idol of Vishnu in the place of Chandra are also located in this prakara.

Outer Prakara:

The idols of 63 Nayanmars, Nalvar, Sekkizhar, Ganesh, Veerabhadra and Shaneeswara are found in the outer prakara. This prakara is a very recent addition.

The other sub-shrines that are located in the outer prakara include:

  • Vishwanatha-Vishalakshi with small icons of Ganesha and Skanda at the entrance
  • Vaidheeswara Linga along with Nandi
  • Big Chokkanatha Linga, Meenakshi along with Nandi
  • Navagraha
  • Veda Vinayak with a front side mandap 

Veera Bhadra icon that is found here does not look like him. For me, it appears that an ancient sculpture that was discovered during some excavation has been named as Bhadra wrongly by the temple authorities.

Nandi Mandap, flag staff and bali peetha are found in this area facing towards the sanctum.

The temple tank, which is called Yama Teerth, is located outside the temple complex.

Happy travelling.






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