June 30, 2013

Thirupachur

Site Name: Vacheeswaran Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Thirupachur, adjacent to Tiruvallur, near Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams (the most important temples of Lord Shiva)
Nearest Railway Station: Chennai
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road from Chennai; Local train facility is available till Tiruvallur
Hotel: Go to Chennai where there are lot of options 
Restaurants: Go to Chennai where there are lot of options

Thirupachur is a small village located adjacent to Tiruvallur near Chennai city in South India. The village has an important Shiva temple called as Vacheeswaran Temple. It is considered as the 16th among the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams (274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in Tondai region. 

Highlights:
  • Sambandhar and Appar have revered the temple in their verses in Devaram.
  • Ramalinga Vallalar has also revered the temple in his verses.
  • It is believed that Karikala Chola built this temple.
  • Eleven idols of Ganesha are found in one place - Ekadasa Vinayaka.
  • 'Paasu' means bamboo; the place is named after the sthala vruksha and called as 'Pasoor'; later it became 'Thiru Pachur'.
  • God - Vacheeswarar aka Pasupateeswarar aka Pasoornathar 
  • Goddess Than Kadhali aka Mohanambal aka Pasupati Nayaki
  • Teerth (Holy water) - Soma Teerth aka Mangala Teerth
  • Sthala Vruksham (Holy tree) - Bamboo

Legend:

As per the legend, the Chola king Karikala was fighting Kurumbars (the local tribals); the Jains used their magical power and created a snake to attack the Chola king. Lord Shiva helped the king by killing the snake.

There is another legend which states that Kali helped the Kurumbars. Upon the request from Karikala, Lord Shiva enticed her with a golden necklace. There is a shrine for Swarna Kali located near the flag post in this temple.

There are two versions related to the origin of this temple. As per one version, a cow was regularly showering milk in a particular place. On digging the place, a Shiva Linga idol was found; the king Karikala built the temple for this idol. The another version states that Shiva killed the snake to help the king; when his men was digging to bury the snake, they hit the head of Shiva Linga idol. As the axe hit, he got the name 'Vacheeswara' (Vachee means 'axe' in Tamil language.)

Temple Layout:

The temple has the south facing main entrance with a tower. There is another entrance and tower facing the eastern direction.

Facing the main shrine, the flag post, bali peetha and Nandi idol are located. Also, the sub-shrine of Swarna Kali is also located here. The legend related to her is already discussed in the previous section.

The entrance to the main shrine is unusual in this temple. Usually, the entrance to the main portion of the temple would be either in the eastern direction opposite to flag post or in the southern direction. However, in this temple, one can reach the main shrine only after passing the long passage and few sub-shrines and idols; the entrance of this passage is located right opposite to the main entrance of the temple, facing southern direction.

The sanctum sanctorum has the big Shiv Linga idol named as 'Vacheeswarar' with the mark of axe on his head. The bas-relief of Somaskanda panel is found on the wall. 'Sree Chakra' which is believed to be installed by Adi Shankara is found in the Ardha Mandapa; it is usually found only in the Goddess temples. The Dwarapala idols are found to be large. A small Nandi idol is found facing the main shrine. The vimana is in Gajaprshtha style; the idol  is 'Theenda Tirumeni' - who should not be touched even by the priest.

The inner prakara around the sanctum sanctorum has the idol of Chidambareswarar (big Shiv Linga), Surya, Nava Kanyas, Shiv Linga, Naga, Bhairava, Veerabhadra with eight arms, Ayyappa and Pancha Lingas.

The wall around the sanctorum has the following koshta idols - Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Annamalaiyar (Lingodbhava), Brahma and Durga. Chandikeshwara is found near Durga. All these niche idols except Durga and Chandikeshwara are very attractive.

In the maha mandapam, there is a sub-shrine for Nataraja and Sivakami; the idols are large. Adjacent to that, the utsava idols of Shiva and Amman are located; both of them are very beautiful.

To the right side of the sanctorum, the eleven idols of Ganesha called as Ekadasa Vinayaka and a big Shiv Linga named as 'Perumal Vinai Theertha Lingam'. It is believed that Lord Vishnu worshiped 11 Vinayakas and Shiv Linga to get rid of his sin in killing two Asuras, Madhu and Kaidabha; another legend states that he pleaded to Shiva and Ganesha to retain his wealth as he lost most of his wealth to Kubera.

To the right side of Ekadasa Vinayaka, the sub shrines of Subramanya-Valli-Devasena and Navagraha are located.

Next comes the shrine of the Goddess which is unusually found to the right side of the presiding deity facing the east direction. The name of the Goddess is 'Than Kadhali' a beautiful Tamil name.

There is a big outer prakara that surrounds all these sections of the temple.

Happy travelling.









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June 29, 2013

Mahendravadi Cave Temple

Site Name: Mahendravadi Cave Temple
Site Type: A Pallava period rock-cut temple
Location:  Mahendravadi, near Arakonam, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A rock cut temple constructed during the period of Mahendravarma Pallava I
Nearest Railway Station: Arakonam
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road from Chennai/Arakonam
Hotel: Go to Kanchipuram or Chennai where there are lot of options 
Restaurants: Go to Kanchipuram or Chennai where there are lot of options

Mahendravadi is a small village located close to Arakonam near Chennai city in South India. The  village has a Pallava period cave temple.

Mahendravadi could have been an important city during the Pallava period. There was a huge tank and fort in this village in the olden days.

The cave temple in this village is an important one as it is the only cave temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu which was constructed by Mahendravarman I (600-630 CE). This cave is excavated on a free standing boulder. The front facade of the east facing cave temple is supported on two pillars and two pilasters. The pillars are cubical on top and bottom with an octagonal intermediate portion. This cave shrine has two rows of pillars and pilasters.

The shrine is carved at the back wall of the cave. The entrance of the shrine has two Dwarapalaks as bas-relief images. The postures of these Dwarapalaks appear as if they are in motion and they are facing away from each other. The idol of Yoga Narasimha is placed inside the shrine; it is obviously a later addition. The original idol or stucco image is missing. 

The inscription found in this temple calls this place Mahendra Vishnu Graha

Happy travelling.





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June 28, 2013

Govindavadi Dakshinamurti

Site Name: Dakshinamurti Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Govindavadi, near Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: An important Guru Sthalam; one of few temples dedicated to Dakshinamurti; the site where Lord Shiva gave darshan to Govinda (Vishnu)
Nearest Railway Station: Kanchipuram
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road from Chennai/Kanchipuram
Hotel: Go to Kanchipuram where there are lot of options 
Restaurants: Go to Kanchipuram where there are lot of options

Govindavadi is a small village located close to Kanchipuram near Chennai city in South India. The  village has an ancient temple dedicated to Kailasanathar. Dakshinamurti in this temple is more popular than the presiding deity; hence, the site is considered as the Guru Sthalam and everyone calls this temple as Dakshinamurti temple. This is one of few important temples of Dakshinamurti.

Highlights:
  • An important temple of Lord Dakshinamurti; an important Guru sthalam
  • God Kailasanathar and Dakshinamurti
  • Goddess - Akhilandeswari
  • Sthala Vruksham (Holy tree) - Banyan

Legend:

As per the legend, Lord Vishnu lost his discus. He offered pooja to Lord Shiva and got back his discus. This story is related to the nearby site Tirumalpur. It is believed that Lord Shiva appeared before Vishnu in the form of Guru in this village. Hence, the site is called as 'Govindavadi' (Govinda=Vishnu).

Temple Layout:

The ancient and popular temple in Govindavadi is facing the eastern direction. The main shrine also faces the same direction. The main deity is a huge Shiva Linga named as Kailasanathar. In maha mandapa, the Goddess Akhilandeswari is found in a separate shrine which faces the southern direction. There is another pair of Goddess and Shiv Linga located in the maha mandapa.

As usual the Nandi idol, flag post and bali peetha are located facing the main shrine. 

Diagonally opposite to the main shrine, the sub-shrine of Govindaraja with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi is located.

The wall surrounding the main shrine has the idols of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga as the koshta idols. Out of them, Dakshinamurti idol is given prominence. A big shrine is constructed around this idol. As this idol is considered as the highlight of the temple, a separate entrance has been constructed facing this shrine. The devotees wait in long queue to get the darshan of Dakshinamurti whereas hardly anyone visit the main deity of this temple.

Lord Dakshinamurti is seated on a peetha held by a tortoise, eight elephants, five serpents, a lion and the deities representing eight directions. Instead of the usual banyan tree,  a mandapa representing Mount Kailash is found. The usual Muyalakan at the feet of the Lord is also missing.

The small temple has a single prakara where the sub-shrines of Ganesha, Murugan-Valli-Devasena, Adi Shankara, Shanmukha (Skanda with six faces) along with his two consorts, Bhairava, Naga devta, Chandikeshwara and Navagraha are found.

Happy travelling.


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June 27, 2013

Tirumalpur

Site Name: Manikandeswara Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Tirumalpur, 12 kms from Kanchipuram, near Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams (the most important temples of Lord Shiva)
Nearest Railway Station: Kanchipuram
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road from Chennai/Kanchipuram; Local train facility is available from Chennai
Hotel: Go to Kanchipuram where there are lot of options 
Restaurants: Go to Kanchipuram where there are lot of options

Tirumalpur is a small town located close to Kanchipuram near Chennai city in South India. The town which was originally called as Tirumar Peru has an important Shiva temple called as Manikandeswara Temple. It is considered as the 11th among the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams (274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in Tondai region. 

Highlights:
  • Sambandhar and Appar have revered the temple in their verses in Devaram.
  • The idol of Lord Vishnu is found facing the sanctum santorum - usually only Nandi idol would be found.
  • As Lord Vishnu got his discus back after worshipping Lord Shiva in this site, this place is called as 'Tirumar Peru' or 'Harichakrapuram'.
  • God Manikandeswara aka Dayanidheeswarar aka Pavalamalaiyar aka Maal Vanangeechar
  • Goddess Anjanatchi aka Karunambikai
  • It is believed that Parantaka Chola built this temple.
  • Teerth (Holy water) - Chakra Teerth
  • Sthala Vruksham (Holy tree) - Vilvam

Legend:

As per the legend, a king called Kuban did not like the seer Tuteesee. As per his request, Lord Vishnu threw his discus to kill the saint. However, the weapon could not kill him; instead, its edges got damaged. Also, Vishnu lost his discus. He came to this site and worshiped Lord Shiva. He used to perform pooja daily with one thousand lotus flowers. One day, he lost one flower. He plucked his own eye and used that as the flower to offer to Lord Shiva. Shiva appeared and blessed him with his discus. As Vishnu sacrificed his eyes, he is called as 'Chentamarai Kannaperumal'.

As per another legend, once Lord Shiva told his consort Parvati that the entire universe was operating due to him. Parvati wanted to test that and she suddenly closed the eyes of Shiva. The entire universe stopped operating for a moment. Parvati realized her mistake; in order to get rid of her sin, she came to this site and made Shiv Linga out of sand. She used to worship the idol daily. She was so immersed in her poojas that she did not notice even when the Lord appeared. The Lord got angry due to this; he released the river Kaveri (not Ganga?) from his head to destroy his own sand idol. The river once started flowing in this region was called as 'Palaru'. Parvati sought help of Lord Vishnu to protect the idol; Vishnu lied down across the river as a bridge and protected the idol. As the idol is made up of sand, even today, the priests do not touch the idol - it is called as 'Theenda Tirumeni' (the Lord who cannot be touched).

Temple Layout:

Manikandeswarar temple is huge in area; it has a Raja Gopuram (tower) facing the eastern direction. The flag post and bali peetha are found facing the main shrine as usual.

The sanctum sanctorum has the Shiv Linga made up of sand; he is named as Manikandeswarar. In Maha mandapa, in addition to the idol of Nandi that usually faces the Lord, there is an idol of Lord Vishnu with folded hands in Anjali Mudra facing the main shrine.

The bronze utsava idol of Lord Vishnu holding his eye in one hand and lotus flower in another hand is a highlight of the temple.

The inner prakara of the temple has a lot of idols that include Nalvar, Choleswarar Linga (to denote that it was built by the Chola king), Surya, Chandra, Bhadra, Sapta matas and 63 Nayanmars. 

Bala Ganapati and Uchchishta Ganapati - the twin Ganapati idols are also located in the inner prakara. The sub-shrines of Gaja Lakshmi, Chidambareswarar Linga and Subramanya-Valli-Devasena are also found over here.

At the entrance of the main shrine, the idols of Vallabha Ganapati with his consort and Subramanya with his two consorts are found in addition to Dwarapalaks.

The wall surrounding the main shrine has the relief images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga as the koshta idols. Chandikeshwara is found near Durga. 

Adhikara Nandi idol (Nandi in the standing posture) is also found in this temple. At the exterior side of the main portion of the temple, the idols of Bhairava, Ganesha and Subramanya-Valli-Devasena are located.

The sub shrine of the Goddess Anjanatchi is found separately facing the south direction.  A big Shiv Linga, Navagraha idols and Sthala Vruksha are all located near by.

Although the temple is ancient, the maintenance is not good; the heritage feeling is missing as it is completely renovated.

Happy travelling.



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June 26, 2013

Kooram

Site Name: Adi Kesava Perumal Temple aka Kooraththalwar Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Kooram village, near Kanchipuram town, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: The birthplace of Kooraththalwar, an important Vaishnaivite Guru
Nearest Railway Station: Kanchipuram
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road from Kanchipuram/Chennai
Hotel: A lot of options in Kanchipuram 
Restaurants: Go to Kanchipuram for restaurants

Kooram is a small village located at a distance of around 10 kms from Kanchipuram town in Tamil Nadu state of South India. It is the birthplace of Kooraththalwar, an important Vaishnaivite Guru.

Highlights:
  • The birth place of Kooraththalwar.
  • God - Adi Kesava Perumal
  • Goddess - Pankajambal

History:

Kooraththalwar was born in 1010 CE in Kooram village. He was the chief disciple of Sri Ramanuja. He helped his Guru in almost all endeavors. When the Chola king wanted to arrest Ramanuja, he dressed up like his Guru and appeared before the king; he had to sacrifice his both eyes in this event. It is said without him, Ramanuja could not have written Bhasyam. He was known for his knowledge, devotion and memory power.

The temple dedicated to Kooraththalwar was the place where his residence was located around 1000 years ago.

Temple Layout:

The temple has two parts - one dedicated to Adi Kesava Perumal and the second part dedicated to Kooraththalwar.

The first part of the temple is the main portion; it faces the eastern direction. The sanctum sanctorum has the idols of Adi Kesava Perumal with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi. All are found in the standing posture. As usual, the sub-shrine of Garuda, flag post and bali peetha are located facing the sanctum.

The sanctum has just one prakara (corridor). The prakara has the sub-shrines of the Goddess Pankajambal, Andal, Chakrathalwar with Narasimha on his back and Hanuman.

The sub-shrine of Desikan is found separately at the exterior side of the temple. A small idol of Hanuman is also located here.

The second part of the temple belongs to Kooraththalwar. The sanctum sanctorum has the idol of Kooraththalwar in the sitting posture. The prakara surrounding the sanctum has a lot of paintings depicting his life.

The bronze utsava idols of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman, which are believed to be around 1000 years old and were worshiped by the parents of Kooraththalwar are also placed along with his idol in the sanctum sanctorum. It is believed that the room where he was born was converted into his shrine.

This portion of the temple has many sub-shrines such as Pillai Lokacharya, Manavala Mamunigal, Ramanujar, Parasara Pattar, Senai Mudali, Nammalvar and Tirumangai Alwar.

Although the temple is supposed to be ancient, it is entirely renovated and it is hard to find any heritage sign.

Happy travelling.



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