October 8, 2011

Thirukkachur Temples

Thirukkachur is a small village located at a distance of around 3 kms from Singaperumal Koil near Chenglepet city in South India. This small village is one of the 275 "paadal petra sthalam" sites (one of the 275 important Shiva temples). There are three important and ancient Shiva temples located in this village.

Temple #1:

Oushadheeswarar Temple
This small village called Thirukkachur has a small hillock. It is referred as Oushadhagiri. At the foot hill, there is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of the temple, is called as Oushadheeswarar or Marundeeswarar. The south facing temple has no tower (rajagopuram). The deity is in the form of Shiv Linga and the main shrine is facing the west direction. Nandi, the flag staff and bali peeth are situated in front of the main shrine. The goddess of the temple is named as Andakara Nivarani or Irul Neekki Amman and she is found in a separate south facing shrine.

The temple has one big prakara (corridor). There are small shrines/idols for Ganesh, Bhairav, Chandikeswarar and Navagraha located within the prakara. The wall surrounding the temple has the bas relief images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurthi, Vishnu, Durga and Brahma.

Oushadh Teerth
Near the main entrance, there is a mandap with pillars full of beautiful carvings. Another highlight of the temple is Oushadha teerth, a deep well is located along with more than 60 steps to reach inside. It is believed the hillock as well as the well water have medicinal values.

As per the legend, Aswini devas was directed by Indra to come here to worship Shiva as well as find some rare herbs. It is also said that the sage Agastya worshipped Shiva both at Thiruvaanmiyur and Thirukkachur and enhanced his knowledge on herbal medicines.

The sthala vruksha (holy tree of the site) is Palaa maram (Jack tree). Giri valam is famous in this temple. During the full moon days, a lot of devotees perform giri valam. Sundaramurti Nayanaar, the famous nayanmar, composed two hymns in praise of Oushadheeswarar.

It is believed that this temple was built by the Chola king Kulotunga Chola.

Temple 2:

As per the legend associated with Thirukkachur, Sundarar (one of the 63 nayanmars, the great devotees of Lord Shiva) came to Thirukkachur to worship Shiva. He was very hungry and didn't have anything to eat. Lord Shiva took the form of an elderly Brahmin (the priest cast of Hinduism) and took alms from all the houses in this village. He fed Sundar with the food he got as alms. Hence, Lord Shiva got the names of Irandhiteeswarar (meaning one who took alms and fed) and Virundhiteeswar (one who gave feast).

Irandhiteeswarar Temple
There is a small temple for Irandhiteeswarar located in the middle of the village. It is located on the way between the hillock temple and Thyagaraja temple (third temple). It is very difficult to find this temple. Even the villagers do not know about this temple. The nearest landmark is a small shop run by a Muslim (they call it as "Bhai kadai" in Tamil).

The temple has only one idol - Irandhiteeswarar in the form of Shiv Linga. Even Nandi idol, which is found usually in Shiva temples, is not there in this temple.

Temple 3:

The third temple is Katchabeswarar aka Thyagarajar temple. This huge temple dedicated to Lord Shiva doesn't have tower (rajagopuram). There is a mandap facing the temple located on the road.

Vishnu in the form of tortoise worshipping Shiva
As per the legend, Lord Vishnu took the incarnation (avatar) of tortoise (Katchab) in order to protect the hills from sinking when the mighty ocean (parkadal) was churned out. He came to this site to pray to Shiva so that he would get strength to perform his duty. Hence, the Lord in this temple got the name Katchabeswarar and also the site is called as Thirukkachur.

Katchabeswarar is present in the form of a small Shiv Linga idol. Although the sanctum sanctorum where Katchabeswarar is located is facing the east direction, there is no entrance in that direction. The entrance of the shrine is on the south direction. In front of the main shrine, there is a ornamented stone window and also a small Nandi idol. The procession idols (utsav) are also present in the main shrine.

Thyagaraja Temple
Outside the main shrine, in the maha mandap, there is a separate shrine for the Goddess Anchanatchi, facing the south direction.

The main shrine has a small prakara (corridor). The idols of Surya and Nalvar are located in the small prakara. The relief images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga are found as the niche images on the walls surrounding the main shrine. As usual, the small shrine for Chandikeswarar is also found.

There are a lot of idols found in the small prakara such as Gnana Ganapathy, Choleeswara Linga, Kalateeswarar, Maheswari, Margasagaya Ishwara Linga, Naga Linga, Nagaraj, Ramalinga, Viswanath, Murugan along with Valli and Devasena and Nataraj with Sivakami (bronze idols). Ganesh and Murugan idols are found at the entrance of the main shrine.

Mandap outside the temple of Thyagarajar
Outside the shrines of Shiva and Anchanatchi, there is a separate shrine for Tyagaraja - the bronze idols of Shiva, Parvati and Murugan in Somaskanda form. This is due to this shrine the temple is also called as Tyagaraja temple. Outside this shrine, there is a mandap with pillars full of small sculptures. This mandap is named as Nakshatra Mandap.

There is a big prakara (corridor) without roof. Facing the main shrine, the flag staff, big Nandi idol and bali peeth are found. The small idols of Ganesha and Murugan are also found at the entrance.  In addition there is a big shrine for Maha Ganapathy and Subramanya with Valli-Devasena in the big prakara. Small shrines for Bhairav and Sundarar are also found in the big prakara.

Sundarar has sung hymns in praise of Katchabeswarar.

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:

Site Name: Thirukkachur
Site Type: Hindu temples
Location:  3 kms from Singaperumakoil, 13 kms from Chenglepet city, near Chennai, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of 275 paadal petra sthalam temples for Lord Shiva; three ancient temples in the same village; the site where Lord Shiva took alms to feed his devotee
Nearest Railway Station: Singaperumalkoil (for intracity trains); Chenglepet
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Reachable by road from Singaperumal Koil and Chenglepet
Hotel: Available only in the nearby cities - Chenglepet or Chennai
Restaurants: No restaurant; you need to come to Chenglepet for one

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