January 13, 2014

Kasibanathar Temple - Ambasamudram

Site Name: Kasibanathar Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Ambasamudram, near Tirunelveli city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: An important temple in Ambasamudram
Nearest Railway Station: Ambasamudram
Nearest Airport: Tirunelveli
How to reach: Well connected; can be reached to this temple from an auto rickshaw from the center of the twon
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 the most important temple of the town, Kasibanatha Swamy temple. It is an ancient temple located in a peaceful site on the banks of the river Tamrabharani. The places surrounding this temple and the road connecting this temple (Aathu Salai) are picturesque.

Highlights:
  • God Kasibanathar aka Kasinathar
  •  Goddess Maragathambikai
  • Teerth (Holy water) - Tamrabharani river
  • Sthala Vruksha (Holy tree) - Gooseberry tree
  • Shiva and Vishnu facing each other in different shrines
  • Vishnu standing on Aavudai (the lower part of Shiva Linga)
  • Nataraja idol made up of Punugu
Legend:

As per the legend, the sage Kashyapa performed a yagna and got darshan of Lord Shiva in this site. He installed a Shiva Linga which was originally called as Kashyapa Linga; the name in due course got changed to Kasibanathar.

There is a popular and interesting legend associated with this temple. There was a king from Kerala who fell ill. No one could cure his disease. A divine voice advised the king to donate a doll made up of seasame seeds. Accordingly, the king transferred his illness to the doll and donated the same to a Karnataka Brahmin youth. He had to offer him some valuable gems and diamonds to accept the doll. The doll told the youth that if he could offer it half of the benefit of chanting Gayatri mantra throughout his life, it would leave him. The youth agreed and got rid of illness.

The youth wanted to spend the wealth that he got from the king for some good cause. He went to Podhigai hills to seek the advice of the sage Agastya. Before leaving Ambasamudram, he left his valuables with the temple priest. After returning from Podhigai hills, the priest gave him only a Dal bag claiming that it was what left by the youth. The youth took the case to the king. The king asked the priest to depose before the Lord. Without any hesitation, the priest described the same untrue story in front of Lord Shiva in the temple. Lord Shiva got angry and immediately burnt the priest. The youth requested the Lord to restore the priest again. Lord Shiva accordingly forgave the priest and restored his life. The youth spent the wealth to dig a canal near the temple which is present even today and called as Kannadian canal (Kannadian meaning one who hails from Karnataka or who speaks Kannda language).

Even after this incident, Lord Shiva could not control his anger. His consort Parvati requested Lord Vishnu to cool down Shiva. As Lord Shiva burnt the priest, there is a Shiva Linga in this temple named as 'Erittatkondar' or 'Erichudayar' (meaning who burnt and then blessed in Tamil language). As Vishnu calmed down Shiva, he is also present in a shrine opposite to this Shiva Linga in this temple.

Temple Layout:

The east facing temple of Kasibanatha Swami is magnificent in size. It is located well on the banks of the river Tamrabharani. The location is very calm and scenic.

The main region of the temple is built in the maada kovil architectural style (raised platforms). The sanctum sanctorum of the God as well as the shrine of the Goddess are located atop the platform. The main shrine has moolasthana (sanctum), ardha mandapamaha mandapa and a front side pillared mandapa. There are two prakaras around the main shrine. The area connecting the temple and the main entrance is huge and is in the form of a pillared mandapa with its roof covered. There is no tower for this temple; it is being constructed now (at the time of writing this blog post – 2014 CE).

Main Shrine

The sanctum sanctorum is facing the east direction. It houses a small Shiva Linga named as Kasibanatha Swami. The entrance of ardha mandapa has an idol of Ganesha. In the maha mandapa, there is a beautiful painting of Sivakami and Natarja found. Nandi is installed in the Maha mandapa facing towards Lord Shiva. There are many pillars with sculptures in the maha mandapa. The entrance of maha mandapahas another idol of Ganesha called as ‘Anugnai Vinayaka’.

As this region of the temple is located on a raised platform (maada kovil), there is also a front side pillared mandapa. The steps that lead to this mandapa too have few beautiful sculptures. In this front sidemandapa the main shrine of the Goddess Maragadambigai is found; she is found in the standing posture with a flower on her right arm.

Inner Prakara

The first prakra has the following sub-shrines:
1)    Dakshinamurti
2)    Chandikeshwara
3)    Ganesha
4)    Subramanya-Valli-Devasena
5)    Punugu Sabhapati – big  idols of Nataraja and Sivakami along with the regular rishis – made up of Punugu – a kind of perfume
6)    Uma Maheswara along with Ganesha and Nandi
7)    Utsava idols (metal idols)

Apart from the above sub-shrines the following idols are also found here.

1)    Surya
2)    Chandra
3)    Shaneeswara
4)    Ganesha
5)    Agastya
6)    Yogeeswara
7)    Nalvar – the four important devotees of Shiva
8)    63 Nayanmars
9)    Suradeva
10) Veerabhadra
11) Sapta matas

Outer Prakara

The outer prakra is located in the open space with a lot of trees and plants. The following sub-shrines are located here.

1)    Vishwanatha – Vishalakshi
2)    Annamalai – Unnamalai
3)    Subramanya-Valli-Devasena
4)    Meenakshi – Chokkanatha

Special Shrines

The shrine of big Shiva Linga named as Erittatkondar which is associated with the legend of the site is located in the inner prakara. The Nandi idol is placed facing this shrine. In addition there is another shrine for Vishnu located opposite to this shrine. It is believed that he calmed down Lord Shiva. He is standing on "Aavudai". He has four arms holding conch and discus in his upper arms.

External Mandapa

There is a broad mandapa that connects the temple with the main entrance. The mandapa is full of pillars and its roof is covered. The big and tall flag staff, bali peetha and Nandi are located in this mandapa. It should be noted that the flag staff is located between Nandi and the main temple in Ambasamudram and the surrounding areas; usually, nothing is placed between Nandi and the Lord.

The following sub-shrine are found in this mandapa:

1)      Navagraha – the nine planets
2)      Shasta with his consorts Poorna and Pushkala

The entire temple complex is covered by the thick fortress walls.

It is an important temple in this region which cannot be missed. Visit this place when you get a chance to go to this town.

Happy travelling.

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