January 7, 2014

Ambasamudram Agasteeswarar Temple

Site Name: Agasteeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Ambasamudram, near Tirunelveli city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A rare temple dedicated to the sage Agastya
Nearest Railway Station: Ambasamudram
Nearest Airport: Tirunelveli
How to reach: Well connected as the temple is located within the center of the town
Hotel: Few options within the town; more options in the nearby city Tirunelveli
Restaurants: Only few options within the town

Ambasamudram is a picturesque town located on the banks of the beautiful Tamrabharani river and on the foothills of the Western Ghats. The nearest city of Ambasamudram is Tirunelveli. It is located in Tamil Nadu state in South India.The town has a lot of scenic spots and temples. Let us explore a rare temple in this town, which is dedicated to a seer, Agastya Rishi, in this article.

Highlights:
  • A big temple having Agastya as the main deity
  • The mount (vaahan) of Lord Shiva, Nandi - the holy bull, is the mount for the seer in this temple
  • God Agasteeswarar
  • Goddess Lopamudra

Legend:

As per the legend, when Lord Shiva married Parvati in the Himalayas, all the deities, Devas, seers and the others gathered there. Due to this, the earth lost its balance and tilted. Lord Shiva ordered Agastya to go towards south to balance the level of the earth. On his way to Podhigai hills in the south, Agastya visited many sites and installed a lot of Shiva Lingas. We can see so many Agasteeswarar temples in South India. It is believed that all of them were installed by the sage. 

In Kallidaikurichi village, the sage was taking rest under a tamarind tree. A devotee met the saint and invited him to have lunch in his home. However, the sage requested the devotee to bring the food there itself. As the devotee did not return on time, the sage started moving towards Podhigai hills. The devotee apparently realized that the sage left the place already. He vowed that he would not return home till the seer accept his offer. Moved by his devotion, the sage gave darshan to him in Ambasamudram (may be the place where the devotee was living) and had food offered by him. 

There are two temples dedicated to the sage in both these sites - Kallidaikurichi and Ambasamudram. The Ambasamudram is the site where the sage gave darshan to the devotee.

Temple Layout:

Agasteeswarar temple is located at the heart of Ambasamudram town. It is slightly a bigger temple with two entrances facing east and north directions. Both the entrances have small and simple towers. Although the eastern entrance is supposed to be the main one, the norther entrance is largely used by people today as it is located on the main road.

Although the temple is supposed to be very old as per the legend, the current structure cannot be dated more than half a century. Perhaps it could have been renovated multiple times.

Main Shrines:

There are many temples named as 'Agasteeswarar temples' in Tamil Nadu state of India. However, they all are dedicated to Lord Shiva Lingas installed by the sage Agastya. However, in Ambasamudram and Kallidaikurichi, the name Agasteeswarar denotes to the sage Agastya himself. This temple in Ambasamudram is dedicated to him. He is the main deity who is present in the standing posture and his sanctum sanctorum faces the east direction.

The main shrine is built in the "maada kovil" architecture style (the main shrines of God and Goddess are located on a raised platform). Outside the sanctum, the shrine of the Goddess Lopamudra is located. She resembles the posture of any typical Uma/Parvati/Amman in Shiva temples; she is in the standing posture and holding a flower in her right arm.

The flag staff, bali peetha and Nandi are placed facing the Agastya shrine. It should be noted that the mount of Shiva, Nandi, is found here as the mount of the sage.

Other Shrines:

The temple has only one prakara. The exterior wall of the sanctum sanctorum has the sub-shrines of Dakshinamurti and Chandikeshwara.

There is a big sub-shrine where the big metal idols of Nataraja and Sivakami are found.

The following sub-shrines are also found in the prakara:

  • Kanni Vinayaka
  • Subramanya-Valli-Devasena
  • Subramanya-Valli-Devasena - utsava (processional) idols
  • Nalvar
  • Nalvar - utsava (processional) idols
  • Shaneeswara
  • Bhairava
  • Beautiful utsava idols of Ganesha, Subramanya, Shankaralinga and Gomati in the sitting posture, Shankara Narayana (a combination of Shiva and Vishnu) and Gomati in the standing posture
Special Shrines:

There is a north facing sub-shrine where a big and beautiful mural painting of Agastya, Lopamudra and the other seers is found. 

Another east facing sub-shrine named as 'Anna Mandapa' is also located in this temple, where a small attractive metal idol of Agastya is placed. Every year during the 28th day of Panguni month of Tamil calendar, cooked rice is placed inside the shrine through the window located at the back side wall. People could notice the footsteps of Agastya and also the mark of Kamandalu (an oblong water pot) in that room on the very next day morning.

There is one more sub-shrine where two attractive metal (utsava) idols of Agastya and Lopamudra are found.

When you go to this beautiful town of Ambasamudram, do not miss to visit this rare temple.

Happy travelling.


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