January 29, 2013

Siruvachur Madura Kaliamman Temple

Site Name: Madura Kaliamman Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Siruvachur, near Trichy, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: An important Kali temple
Nearest Railway Station: Trichy
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Trichy 
Hotel: Go to Trichy where there are a lot of options 
Restaurants: Go to Trichy where there are a lot of options

Madura Kaliamman Temple is an important temple for mother Goddess in Trichy and Perambalur regions in South India. The temple is open only on every Mondays and Thursdays. It is said to be the Kula Devta (family deity) of Chankarendra Saraswati Swamigal - famously called as Kanchi Periyavar or Kanchi Shankaracharya.

The temple is small with a main shrine and one prakara. A small tower and a pond outside the temple are found. Madura Kaliamman is in the sitting posture with four hands. There are few village deities found in this small temple.

There are many legends associated with this temple. It is believed that the temple is very old (though not the current structure) and it was even renovated by Kulothunga Chola.

As per one legend, Kannagi of Silappadikaram calmed herself in this site after burning Madurai city. As per another legend, Chelli Amman was the original deity of the place. However, she was controlled by a tantric. Madura Kaliamman destroyed the tantric and rescued Chelli Amman. Chelli Amman offered this site to Kali and moved to a nearby hill.

It is believed that the saint Sadasiva Brahmendra constructed the temple. As per another belief, Adi Shankaracharya felt thirsty when he visited the place; the Goddess offered him water in the form of a spring; later she gave darshan to him and appeared in the form of Madra Kaliamman idol.

Happy travelling.


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January 27, 2013

Tiruvasi Mattrurai Varadeeswarar Temple

Site Name: Mattrurai Varadeeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Tiruvasi, near Trichy, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams (the most important temples of Lord Shiva)
Nearest Railway Station: Trichy
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Trichy 
Hotel: Go to Trichy where there are a lot of options 
Restaurants: Go to Trichy where there are a lot of options

Tiruvasi is a village located near Trichy in Tamil Nadu of South India. It has an important Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple is considered as the 62nd site among the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams (274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in Chola country north of Kaveri river. 

Highlights:
  • Tiruvasi's original name is Tiruppachilasramam
  • The region was once a part of Mazhanadu and was ruled by a prince named Kolli Mazhavan. His daughter was suffering from a severe disease and stomach pain which no one could cure. The saint Sambandhar sang the hymns in the praise of Nataraja. Nataraja transformed the disease into an Asura named 'Muyalakan' and cured it. Hence, the shrine in this temple has Natarja with a serpent instead of Muyalakan under his feet. It is a unique posture.
  • The site was sung by Sambandhar and Sundarar.
  • The original temple might have been built by the Cholas. Rajaraja Chola, Kulothunga Chola I, Sundara Pandian, Krishnadeva Raya, Hoysala and Nayak kings have renovated the temple during their respective period and provided grants.
  • A big temple in 2 acres area.
  • Worshipped to get child boon, marriage boon and to get rid of some specific diseases and stomach ache.
  • God - Mattrurai Varadeeswarar, Sameevaneswarar, Brahmapureeswarar
  • Goddess - Balambika, Bala Soundari
  • Holy tree of the site (Sthala Vruksha) - Vanni
  • Teerth - Chilambaru

Legend:

The legend related to Kolli Mazhavan's daughter is given in the previous section already. Apart from this, there is another legend related to this site. The saint Sundarar used to get gold coins from Lord Shiva and distribute the same to his followers. Once he came to Tiruvasi and started singing the hymns of the Lord. As the God did not give gold coins as usual, he got angry and started singing with different lyrics complaining the Lord. Now, the Lord appeared and gave a bag full of gold. The saint was somehow suspicious about the purity of gold. Two men appeared and they confirmed the purity of gold after evaluating the same. The saint felt guilty and decided to sacrifice his life through fasting. The Lord appeared and explained him that the two men were none but himself and Lord Vishnu. As the Lord came in the form of goldsmith he is called as Mattrurai Varadar (maatru means purity of gold in Tamil language).

As per another legend, the Goddess Balambika was born as the daughter of a merchant named Kamalan. She performed penance under the Vanni tree to marry the Lord.


Temple Layout:

The temple has a big tower (Raja Gopuram) as well as an internal tower. In the area between both the towers, there is a big mandapa called as Avudaiyappillai Mandapa.

The sanctum sanctorum has a slightly bigger Shiv Linga named as Mattrurai Varadeeswarar. The maha mandapa outside the sanctum has a sub shrine where all the copper utsava idols are kept. There is another mandapa outside the maha mandapa where the idols of Ganesha and Bhairava are found; the highlight of the mandapa is the sub-shrine of Nataraja; Nataraja generally has free hair; however, here he has his hair tied. Also, instead of the Asura Muyalakan there is a serpent found at his footsteps. Hence, he is called as 'Sarpa Nataraja'. A small Nandi idol is found facing the main shrine. The entire enclosure including all these sub shrines are located on a raised platform (maada koil architectural style).

The prakara surrounding the main shrine is long and broad with a lot of sub-shrines and idols located on a raised platform with pillars (thinnai). Some of the idols found in the prakara include Polla Pillaiyar, Ayyanar, Pechchi Amman, Sapta Matas, 63 nayanmars, 4-5 Shiv Lingas with Goddesses, two Bhairavars and three Ganeshas. Some of the sub-shrines in the prakara - Kodi Vinayaka, Siva Subramanya seated on peacock along with his consorts and Gaja Lakshmi.

The Koshta idols found on the wall surrounding the main shrine include Nardana vinayaka, Dakshinamurti, Ardha Nareeswarar, Brahma and Durga. Chandikeshwara idol is found near Durga.

In Avudaiyappillai Mandapa, there is Navagraha shirne - here Surya alone is found with his consorts; all the remaining 8 Navagrahas are placed towards the direction of Surya. This form of Navagraha is generally found only in this region (Chola kingdom) and not anywhere else.

The west facing Balambika (Goddess) is located in a separate shrine in the outer prakara. The outer prakara is surrounded by big and thick walls. The entire prakara is full of trees and plants. There is a big Ganesha idol called Selva Vinayakar found in this prakra. Also, a separate shrine for Sahasra Linga is found here.

The Avudaiyappillai Mandapa also has the Nandi idol, bali peetha and dhwajastambha.

Happy travelling.



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January 25, 2013

Tiruppainjeeli Neelivaneswarar Temple - Temple of Yama

Site Name: Neelivaneswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Tiruppainjeeli, near Trichy, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams (the most important temples of Lord Shiva); a rare temple for Yama; Pallava period cave temple
Nearest Railway Station: Trichy
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Trichy 
Hotel: Go to Trichy where there are a lot of options 
Restaurants: Go to Trichy where there are a lot of options

Tiruppainjeeli (pronounced as Tiruppainneeli) is a village located near Trichy in Tamil Nadu of South India. It has an important Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple is considered as the 61st site among the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams (274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in Chola country north of Kaveri river. 

Highlights:
  • The temple complex contains a cave shrine built by Mahendravarma Pallava in 7th century CE. It is considered as the temple of Yama.
  • Plantain tree is being worshiped here. Even people from the other religions (non-Hindus) participate in the pooja which is popular in this locality.
  • There is no Navagraha in this temple. The steps leading to the main shrine are considered as Navagrahas.
  • The site was sung by Appar, Sambandhar and Sundarar.
  • The site is named after a kind of plantain tree called Neeli.
  • God - Neelakantheswar, Neelivananathar, Kathalivasanthar, Aadavidangar
  • Goddess - Vishalakshi
  • Holy tree of the site (Sthala Vruksha) - Neeli Valai (Plantain tree)
  • Teerth - Appar Teerth
Legend:

The sage Vashisth got the darshan of Lord Nataraja (Shiva in the dancing posture) in this site. As per another legend, Parvati performed penance towards Shiva in this temple; she turned Sapta Matas as Neeli plantain trees. It is believed that Neeli kind of plantain trees are found only in this site; if any human eats them, he/she will not suffer from disease or fever.


Temple Layout:

The architecturally beautiful unfinished tower is the highlight of the temple. The dwarapalas' statues in the tower entrance are also very attractive. The area behind the tower is an open space with a small four-pillared mandapa and a small shrine of Lord Shiva. The Shiv Linga and the adjoining Nandi idol are located slightly underground. Shiva is named as Chottrudai Eswarar in this shrine. As per the legend, the saint Tirunavukkarasar suffered with hunger; Shiva took the form of a Brahmin and fed him in this place.

There is another three tiered tower with a small shrine for Ganesha in the entrance. The tower is named as 'Ravanan Gopuram'. Outside the tower on the right side, there is a cave temple, which is said to be constructed by the Pallavas (possibly during Mahendravarma Pallava's period in the 7th century CE). There, we can find a beautiful and rare bas-relief image of Somaskanda form. Shiva and Parvati are found in the sitting posture; especially Parvati is sitting stylishly with her left leg hanging down and right leg folded; Lord Skanda as an infant is found between them. Yama - the God of death, is found in the form of infant at the feet of Lord Shiva. People call this as Yama temple as it is rare to find a separate shrine for Yama. Most of the scholars do not agree that this could be Pallava's work. According to them, it must be a later work. I too agree with their views.

As per the legend, Lord Shiva killed Yama in order to protect his devotee Markandeya. Based on the request from the Devas, Shiva gave him re-birth in this site and hence he is found in the form of a infant. 

The temple does not have Navagrahas (nine planets). Instead, the small holes near the Nandi statue and the nine steps at the Ravanan tower represent the nine planets.

The sanctum sanctorum has a very small idol of Shiv Linga named as Neelivananathar. The wall around the sanctum sanctorum has Dakshinamurti, Ardha Nareeswarar and Bhikshatana idols as the koshta idols. Chandikeshwara idol is also found as usual in the first prakara. 

The second prakara has the bas-relief images of Sapta Matas, Ganesha idol and shrine of Shanmukha with his consorts. There are two Goddess shrines in this temple; both are located in the second prakara and both are named as Vishalakshi. The east facing shrine has very tall idol. The other shrine is facing the southern direction. There is also a separate shrine for Viswanathar-Vishalakshi near the tower.

Separate bali peetha, flag post and Nandi idols are found in front of Shiva shrine as well as Goddess shrine.

The site where Nataraja appeared to Vashistha is called as Ratna Sabha which is found inside the main shrine.

An ideal place for art lovers as well as for devotees.

Happy travelling.



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January 20, 2013

Tiruvellarai Pundarikakshan Temple

Site Name: Pundarikakshan Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Tiruvellarai, near Trichy, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of 108 Divya Desam temples (the most important temples of Lord Vishnu)
Nearest Railway Station: Trichy
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Trichy 
Hotel: Go to Trichy where there are a lot of options 
Restaurants: Go to Trichy where there are a lot of options

Tiruvellarai is a village located near Trichy in Tamil Nadu state of South India. It has an important Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This temple is considered as the fourth among the Divya Desam temples (108 most important temples of Lord Vishnu) located in Chola country.  



Highlights:
  • Called as Swetagiri in Sanskrit. Vellarai and Swetagiri mean hillock of white rock.
  • It is believed to be older than even the popular Sri Rangam temple.
  • The main shrine has two entrances - "Uttarayana Vayil" and "Dakshinayana Vaayil". As implied by their names, the Uttarayana Vaayil is opened from the Tamil months of Thai to Aadi; post that the other entrance alone remains opened.
  • There is another entrance referred as the "Naazhi Kettan Vayil". It is believed that Lord Vishnu was interpreted and questioned by his consort Lakshmi upon his returning home late.
  • Periyalwar and Tirumangai Alwar had sung the hymns of the site.
  • This is the birth place of Vaishnavite saint Uyyakondan and Ramanuja's student Engal Alwan.
  • God: Pundarikakshan
  • Goddess: Shenbagavalli; the procession (utsava) idol is named as Pankajavalli
  • Teerth: Divya Pushkarani
  • Vimana: Vimalakriti Vimana
Legend:

As per the legend, the mythological king Sibi chased a white boar which hid inside an anthill. When he inquired about this to the saint Markandeya who was performing penance here, the saint advised him to pour milk on the anthill. The king did so and discovered the idol of Lord Vishnu. The Lord appeared and ordered him to build the temple. The king brought 3700 families of Vaishnavite Brahmins from the banks of Yamuna and Ganges and settled them here before building this temple as per the advice of sage Markandeya. When one of the Brahmins passed away, Lord Vishnu took the form of Brahmin and helped the king.

As per another legend, Goddess Lakshmi did penance here for her union with the Lord. The Lord appeared as Krishna from a well named as 'Ponkinaru'. It hapenned even before he took the incarnation of Lord Krishna.

Another legend claims that the saint Markandeya, as per the advice of Lord Shiva, worshiped Lord Pundarikakshan in this temple and got moksha (the salvation).

Temple Layout:

The grandeur north facing unfinished tower, probably of Hoysala style architecture, is the best highlight of this temple.

The temple complex is huge (around 10 acres) and surrounded by thick and tall walls. There is an inner tower which leads us inside the temple. The devotees have to pass 18 steps representing the 18 chapter of Bhagavad Gita and then 4 steps representing the four Vedas first. Then comes the unusually huge bali peetha where there are another five steps representing the Pancha Bhootas. In this temple, abhisheka is performed only to the bali peetha and not to the presiding deity. The flag post is also found near the bali peetha. There are two entrances to the main shrine - Uttarayana Vayil and Dakshinayana Vaayil. These entrances are on the true right side of the shrine and not on the front side. The front side entrance is called as the Nazhi Kettan Vaayil. The main shrine is built in mada kovil (raised platform) architectural style.

The sanctum santorum has 18 feet tall gigantic wooden idol of Lord Pundarikaksha. His Tamil name is very beautiful - Chentamarai Kannan. He is in the standing posture holding chakra and sankha. The chakra is in the form of Pryoga chakra; it appears as if the Lord is ready to throw that to destroy his enemies. Surya and Chandra are seen waving chamaras on his either sides. On his feet the sage Markandeya and Bhooma Devi are seen worshiping the Lord. Adi Sesha and Garda are found on his either sides in the form of devotees. The sanctum santorum is facing the east direction.

The wall around the sanctum santorum has huge stucco (suthai) images of Pundarikaksha, Surya, Chandra, Indira, Garuda, Gayatri, Saraswati and Savitri. Near the twin entrances also five big stucco statues are found - Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna and another Shiva.

There is a huge open space prakara around the main shrine. The Goddess Chenkamalavalli Thayar is found in a separate shrine. The Goodess is also called as Shenbagavalli. The processional idol is named as Kamalavalli. The mandapa in front of the shrine has a lot of sub-shrines for various Alwars, Uyyakondan, Ramanuja, etc.

There is a separate shrine for the huge idol of Chakrathalwar with 16 hands; the utsava (procession) idol is found with 8 arms; Narasimha is found behind Chakrathalwar. A small shrine of Lord Krishna is found in the main shrine area. The shrines of Andal, Hanuman, Nammalvar and Garuda (facing the main shrine) are also present in this temple.

The swastika shaped tank on the northern side of the temple is another highlight. It was built by the Pallava kings. There are totally seven teerths in this temple.

The temple is a must visit for devotees as well as those who love art and architecture.

Happy travelling.

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January 13, 2013

Thirupparaithurai Temple

Site Name: Thirupparaithurai Shiva Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Thirupparaithurai, near Trichy and Karur, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams (the most important temples of Lord Shiva)
Nearest Railway Station: Elamanur
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Trichy and Karur
Hotel: Go to Trichy or Karur where there are a lot of options 
Restaurants: Go to Trichy or Karur where there are a lot of options

Thirupparaithurai is a village located near Trichy and Karur cities in Tamil Nadu state of South India. It has an important Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple is considered as the third among the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams (274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in the Chola country south of Kaveri river. 

Highlights:
  • The site is also called as Daruka vanam in Sanskrit language. During the period of Raja Raja Chola II, it was called as Rajagambhiranallur.
  • It is located on the banks of the river Akanda Kaveri (the widest point in the course of the river Cauvery)
  • It is one of the seven Sapta Sthanam temples in this region.
  • The sun's rays illuminate the sanctum on the 18th day of the Tamil month of Purattasi.
  • Appar and Sambandhar have sung Devaram hymns about the presiding deity.
  • Arunagirinathar has sung hymns on Subramanya of this temple.
  • As the site had the forest full of Parai (Daruka) trees, it got the name Paraithurai or Darukavanam.
  • It is believed that the temple was rebuilt during the reign of Parantaka Chola I in the 10th century CE .
  • God : Paraithurai Nathar or Darukavananathar
  • Goddess : Pasumpon Mayilambikai or  Hema Varnambika
  • Sthala Vrukhsa (the divine tree of the temple): Parai (Daruka tree)
Legend:

As per the legend, the sages of Darukavanam became extremely proud. Lord Shiva felt that the sages should not became proud. He wanted to teach a lesson to them. He took the form of Bhikshatana. The wives of those sages fell in love with him and started following him. 

On seeing their own wives following another male, the sages turned furious. They performed a yagna and produced an elephant, a tiger, serpent, deer and a dwarf. They ordered all of them to attack Shiva. Shiva overpowered all of them. He killed the tiger and wore tiger's skin. He held deer in his arm and started dancing on top of the dwarf. Ultimately, the sages realized their mistakes and sought his blessing. 

As per the legend, this village is the original Darukavanam, where the above mentioned incident took place. This story of Darukavanam and Bhikshatana are found as part of various Puranas and various Sthala Puranas, each has its own variation.


History:


The original temple must have been a brick temple. In the 10th century CE, Parantaka Chola I rebuilt the temple as a stone temple.

Temple Layout:

Entrance:

Paraithurai Nathar temple is huge surrounding an area of around five acres. The east facing temple has two towers. The outer tower has seven tiers and the inner tower has five tiers.

In the vast space before entering into the outer tower, the temple tank is located in the true right side of the tower. On the true left side of the tower, the hundred pillared mandap and Vasanta Mandap are located. A school is functioning in the Vasanta Mandap nowadays. An idol of Ganesh in the standing posture is found at the entrance of the outer tower.

In the area located between the two towers, the flag staff, bali peeth and Nandi Mandap are located and they face towards the inner tower. The sculptures of Appar, Sambandhar, Manickavasagar and the Chettiar who renovated the temple are found in the pillars of Nandi Mandap.

Paraithurai Nathar and Pasumpon Mayilambikai:

The east facing sanctum enshrines small Shiv Linga called as Paraithurai Nathar.

At the entrance of the sanctum, two big and beautiful images of Dwarapalas are found. The Dwarapala on the true right side of the sanctum has his index finger of right arm raised upwards and leaned toward his head, as if he is saluting. The other Dwarapala has all the five fingers of his left arm spread apart. A small Ganesh idol is also located at this entrance.

In the Ardha Mandap, an extremely beautiful bronze idol of Bhikshatana is located. In the Maha Mandap, there is sub-shrine that enshrines Nataraja-Sivakami and nd a collection of various bronze idols.

Nandi is found in Maha Mandap and it faces the sanctum.

Outside the Maha Mandap area, the south facing shrine enshrines the Goddess. She is found in the standing posture. She has a beautiful name, Pasumpon Mayilambikai. Nandi faces the Goddess in this shrine.

Both the shrines are located on a high raised platform (Mada Koil architecture).

Inner Prakara:

The inner prakara has raised pillared platform (thinnai) on either sides. There are number of idols and sub-shrines located in this prakara.

The idols of Valampuri Vinayak, Pidari, Sapta Matas, Nagas, Nalvar, Vigneshwara, 63 Nayanmars, Ayyanar, two idols of Ganesh, Dakshinamurti, Nardana Ganapati, Shiv Linga and Amman, Sona Linga, Appu Lingam, Vayu Lingam, Teyu Lingam, Subramanya with his consorts, Vishnu, Maha Lakshmi, Durga Lakshmi, Kankalanathar, Bhairav, Surya and Chandra.

Among the above mentioned idols, Sapta Matas are outstandingly beautiful sculptures. Vishnu, Lakshmi and Durga Lakshmi idols appear to be of Chola period. Durga Lakshmi is found with her head leaned slightly towards her shoulder. I am not sure why this Goddess is named as Durga Lakshmi. Vishnu is found holding a pot in his arms.

Kankalanathar is also a very beautiful sculpture. It too appears to be of Chola period. The iconography of Bhikshatana and Kankalanathar are different. If there is any doubt on this, please visit this temple where both these Murtis are found.

The sub-shrines of Ganesh, Somaskanda, Gaja Lakshmi, Shanmukha, Navagraha, Durga and Chandikeshwara are also located in this prakara. Shanmukha has six heads and twelve arms. His idol is very attractive. He holds bow and arrow in two of his arms, which is not very usual. His consorts are found on his either sides. Durga in the shrine is also an ancient sculpture. Among Navagraha, only Shaneeswara is found along with his vahan.

Koshta Deities:

Ganesh, Dakshinamurti, Ardhanareeswar, Brahma and Durga are found as Koshta deities.

Dakshinamurti is found in a beautiful ornamental mandap which is guarded by two lions. Ardhanareeswar is an extraordinary sculpture. Durga and Brahma appear to be of later period sculptures. 

Outer Prakara:

The outer prakara is an open space with a lot of trees. Two shrines are found here - Kanni Vinayak and Dandayudhapani. The holy tree of the temple is also found here with a small Shiv Linga idol. It is believed that this tree cures cancer disease. 

Happy travelling.






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