July 20, 2013

Trichy Rock Fort

Site Name: Rock Fort; Uchchi Pillaiyar temple; Thayumanavar temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Trichy city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams (the most important temples of Lord Shiva); three temples located in a hill; one of the most famous temples of Lord Ganesha
Nearest Railway Station: Trichy
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road, rail and air
Hotel: A lot of options across the city; this is one of the important cities in South India 
Restaurants: All varieties of restaurants across the city

Trichy is the short name of Tiruchirappalli city; it is one of the main cities of Tamil Nadu state in South India. The Rock Fort is the most popular landmark in Trichy city. It is a hill fort constructed on 273 feet high hill. There are three Hindu temples located here. The Uchchi Pillayar temple located on top of the hill is an important temple of Ganesha in the entire country. Thayumanavar temple, located in the middle of the rock fort,  is considered as the 6th among the Paadal Petra Sthalams (274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in Chola region south of Cauvery river

Highlights:
  • Manickavasagar, Sambandhar and Appar have revered the temple in their verses in Devaram.
  • Thayumana Swamigal belonging to18th century CE has also revered the temple in his verses.
  • One of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams.
  • One of the most popular temples of Lord Ganesha.
  • Constructed on top of 273 feet high hill.
  • Three temples located on the hill.
  • Originally a military fortification by Vijayanagara kings and later by the British.
  • 417 steps to reach the hilltop temple.
  • God Thayumanavar aka Matrubhooteswarar aka Thayumaneswarar aka Chevvandi Nathar; Pillaiyar
  • Goddess Mattuvar Kuzhali  aka Sukantakundalambigai
  • Teerth (Holy water) - Cauvery, Shiva Ganga and Brahma Teerth
  • Sthala Vruksha (Holy tree) - Vilvam

Legend:

As per the legend, a demon named Tirisira worshipped Lord Shiva in this site; hence, the place was called as Tirisirapuram, which later became Tirichirappalli. It was also called as Dakshina Kailash in the olden days.

There was a fight between Aadi Sesha and Vaayu. Sesha encircled the Meru mountain and challenged Vaayu to take it off his clutches. Vaayu could not do that and admitted his defeat. However, three pieces of the mountain broke and flew down to three places. One site was Rock Fort in Trichy and the other two were Kalahasti and Triconamalee.

As per the popular legend associate with this temple, there was a woman named Ratnavati, who lived on the other side of the river Cauvery in the olden days; she was a great devotee of Lord Shiva of Rock Fort temple. She used to cross the river and visit the temple daily. She became pregnant but was still visiting the temple as usual. One day while returning back to home, the river Cauvery was flooded and she also got labor pain. She thought of her mother. All of a sudden, Lord Shiva appeared in the form of her mother and attended her; she delivered her baby safely. As the Lord appeared as the mother of a devotee, he got this name - Thaayumanavar which means the Lord who is also a mother.

As Sarama Rishi worshipped Lord Shiva with Chevandi flowers brought from Naga Lok, the Lord is also called as Chevvandi Nathar. 

The legend of Uchchi Pillaiyar is associated with that of Sri Rangam temple. Lord Rama presented the idol of Lord Ranganatha to Vibheesana. While passing through Sri Ranga on his way back to Sri Lanka, Vibheesana wanted to perform evening rituals. He handed over the idol to a shepherd boy requesting him not to keep down the idol. When he returned back, he found that his idol was placed on the ground and he could not lift the same. He stroke on he head of the shepherd; he later realized that he was none other than Lord Ganesha. It is believed that he is present as Uchchi Pillaiyar in this site.

Temple Layout:

The Rock Fort popularly called as 'Malai Kottai' in Tamil language has three main temples and multiple sub-shrines. At the foot hill, Manicka Vinayakar temple is located. This is the first main temple in this fort.

After taking few steps, you can find a shrine for Ganesha on your left side and Mouna Guru Swamy math on your right side. If you go further, you can find the 100 pillared mandapa full of sculptures. In the opposite direction of the mandapa, there is a shrine for Meenakshi and Sundareshwarar (Shiva Linga). After you take up further steps, you can reach the temple of Sahasra Lingam along with the sub-shrines of Ganesha and Kartikeya with his consorts.  Take few more steps to reach the Siddhi Vinayaka shrine which faces you.

Thayumanavar Temple

From Siddhi Vinayaka shrine if you take left and take few steps up, you will reach the large temple of Thayumanava Swamy. The sanctum sanctorum has a very large Shiva Linga (Thayumanavar). It is very rare to find such a huge Linga. The shrine has the golden vimana. At the entrance of the Ardha Mandapa as well as at the entrance of the inner prakara the Dwarapalaks are found. A small Nandi is found at the entrance of the Ardha Mandapa facing the sanctum sanctorum. There is a very big mandapa found before entering into the entrance of the inner prakara.

The wall around the sanctum sanctorum has the beautiful statues of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Bhikshatana, Brahma and Durga as the Koshta idols. Usually, such Koshta images are in the form of relief images; however, here they are in the form of complete statues.

The inner prakara which surrounds the sanctum has the sub shrines of Chevvandhi Vinayaka and Subramanya-Valli-Devasena. The idols of Surya, Chandra, Bhairava, Chandikeshwara and Nalvar are also located in this prakara. There are three sub-shrines where the big bronze idols of Nataraja-Sivakami, Chandrasekhar and his consort and Somaskanda murtis are placed. All 63 nayanmars in the form of bronze utsava idols are placed in this prakara. Sura Deva, the deity made up of sandal wood having three arms and three legs is a unique feature of this temple. Many more utsava idols are also found here. Pataala Ayyanar with his two consorts is located in an under ground sub-shrine.

The shrine of the Goddess Mattuvar Kuzhali is located in a corner almost near the main entrance of the temple. The Goddess' idol is very tall and attractive. There are five Amman relief images found in the form of Koshta images around the shrine. Chandikeshwari idol is also found in the prakara of this shrine. A separate flag staff, bali peetha and Nandi are located facing the Amman shrine.

In between the Amman shrine and the main shrine which can be reached by taking few steps, there is a separate shrine for Mahalakshmi.

The big Nandi idol and the long flag staff with the bali peetha are located at the main entrance. The sub-shrines of Shanmukha-Valli-Devasena, Jalakandeshwarar, Kambattu Vinayaka, Sapta Matas, Sundareshwarar, Navagraha and 63 Nayanmars are all found in the area near the Nandi Mandapa. Among the Navagraha idols, only Surya is found along with his consorts; all other eight planets are facing towards Surya.

It is believed that the original Thayumanavar temple was constructed by the Pallavas. Later it was converted into a Jain temple. It was Mahendravarma Pallava who reconstructed the Shiva temple here. I am not sure if there are any historical records to prove this.

The temple tank is located in the middle of the city and not on this hill.

Uchchi Pillaiyar Temple

Another 200 steps take you to the hilltop Uchchi Pillaiyar temple. On the way up to the temple, you can find the cave temple of Lalitankura which was constructed by Mahendravarma Pallava.

Uchchi Pillaiyar temple is a simple one with one deity and a single prakara around the shrine. From this shrine, you can get an aerial view of almost the entire city of Trichy.

Whether you like hills, heritage, sculpture or spiritual, you would definitely love the Rock Fort.

Happy travelling.



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