November 23, 2014

Navagraha along with their wives in Chennai

Site Name: Bala Murugan Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Thendral Colony, West Anna Nagar, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A rare temple where Navagrahas are found along with their consorts
Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India

Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable by road as this is centrally located in the city
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city

Chennai is considered as the gateway to South India. The capital city of Tamil Nadu state of India has hundreds of tourist sites which include museum, British period monuments, temples, beach, etc. Let us explore a little known temple called Bala Murugan temple located in Chennai.

Temple Layout:

Bala Murugan temple is located near Anna Nagar railway station in West Anna Nagar area in Chennai city. Although it is popular in this locality, it remains unknown to the people from the other parts of Chennai. The highlight of the temple is Navagrahas are found along with their consorts. It is unique and it is one among very few temples having Navagrahs along with their wives.

The south facing temple has a small tower. All the mains shrines face the east direction. The sanctum sanctorum has the beautiful idol of Bala Murugan. To the right side of this shrine, there is an equally big shrine dedicated to Lord Ganesha. The wall around the main shrine of Murugan has the niche images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Vishnu Durga. A small Chandikeshwara sub-shrine is also found in this prakara. It should be noted that all these niche idols are usually found only for Lord Shiva. It is rare to find all these deities as Koshta (niche) deities around the shrine of Subramanya.

The left side of the main shrine has four small sub-shrines dedicated to Ayyappa, Vishwanatha (Shiva Linga), Vishalakshi and Nataraja. The Ayyappa idol is stone idol which is not usually found in other temples. 

There is a big shrine dedicated to Lakshmi Narayana.

The temple also enshrines Lakshmi Hayagreeva, Kubera Bhairava with his consort, Nagavalli Amman found in front of an anthole, the bust idol of Nagavalli Amman, Danvantiri, the utsava deities of Murugan and other Gods, Sudarshana with Narsimha on his back and importantly Navagrahas (nine planets) along with their respective consorts. 

The highlight of the temple is Navagrahas, the nine planets. Surya is found with his two consorts. All other eight planets are found along with their respective consorts. It is very rare to find planets with their wives.

The details of planets and their consorts are given below.

Surya - Usha and Chaya
Chandra - Rohini
Mangal (Sevvai) - Shakti
Budha - Ila
Guru - Tara
Shukra - Sukirti
Shani - Neela
Rahu - Simhi
Ketu - Chitralekha

Happy travelling.

Little known Nimishamba Temple of Chennai

Site Name: Nimishamba Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Kasi Chetty Street, Sowcarpet, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A rare temple of Nimishamba in Chennai city
Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India

Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable by road as this is centrally located in the city
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city

Chennai is considered as the gateway to South India. The capital city of Tamil Nadu state of India has hundreds of tourist sites which include museum, British period monuments, temples, beach, etc. Let us explore a little known temple called Nimishamba temple located in Chennai.

Nimishamba is another name of Goddess Parvati. It is believed that the Goddess would remove the troubles of her devotees within a minute and hence she is named as Nimishamba (nimisha means 'minute'). As per the legend, the Somavanshi Mutharasa King Muktharaja was blessed with the boon that Nimishamba would come to his aid in his fight against the demons in a minute. There is a temple dedicated to Nimishamba built during the reign of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar in the 17th century CE. The temple is found near Srirangapatna. There are few temples of Nimishamba built in many places in Karnataka state later. One such temple was built probably in the 18th century CE in Chennai city in Tamil Nadu state. The temple is situated in the congested Kasi Chetty Street in Sowcarpet area in Chennai.

Sowcarpet is a highly crowded area. It is difficult even to walk in the streets. This temple is located along with other shops and hardly anyone visits this temple. In fact, only few would know about the existence of this old temple in such a busy area. 

The temple has a small tower and the entire structure is recently renovated. The main shrine has Nimishamba in standing posture. There are sub-shrines of Mukteeshwara (Shiva Linga), Ganesha, Subramanya, Vishnu-Sri Devi-Bhoo Devi, Hanumana and Navagraha. The niche idols of Ichcha Shakti, Kriya Shakti and Gnana Shakti are found on the walls of the main shrine.

Happy travelling.


November 16, 2014

Thanjapureeswarar Temple

Site Name: Thanjapureeswarar Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Outskirts of Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: The city Tanjore is named after the main deity of this temple; supposed to be the original temple of Tanjore
Nearest Railway Station: Tanjore
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road and rail
Hotel: A lot of options across the entire Tanjore city
Restaurants: A lot of options across the entire Tanjore city

Those who know about Thanjavur (Tanjore) city is South India know mainly about the great Brahadeeswarar Temple built by Raja Raja Chola around 1000 years back. However, there are many rare and interesting sites found across the entire city. Let us explore about Thanjapureeswarar temple, which is supposed to be the original temple of this city. It is believed that the city was named after the main deity of this temple. Also, it is believed that the temple must have existed even before the Brahadeeswarar temple was constructed.

Highlights:
  • Supposed to be the original temple of Tanjore. The city Thanjavur was probably named after the main deity of the temple, Thanjapureeswarar.
  • God - Thanjapureeswarar aka Kuberapureeswarar
  • Goddess - Anandavalli
  • Sthala Vruksha (holy tree) - Vanni tree
  • It is believed that this temple is older than the temple of Brahadeeswara.

Legend:

As per the legend, Kubera lost his kingdom and treasure to his half brother Raavan. Kubera started visiting various Shiva temples to get back his glory. He visited this temple which was a small temple then. It is said he did not have to visit anymore temple after this. As Kubera surrendered to Lord Shiva here, Shiva is called as 'Thanjapureeswarar'. The town was also named after the deity as Thanjavur.

Temple Layout:

Although it is believed that the temple must be older than Brahadeeswara temple, there is no visible evidence. The structure appears to be comparatively new. 

The temple has west facing entrance with a small tower. The west facing sanctum sanctorum enshrines a big Shiva Linga named as Kuberapureeswarar aka Thanjapureeswarar. At the entrance there are idols of Ganesha and Subramanaya apart from the big attractive idols of Dwarapalas. As usual, the bali peetha, Nandi mandapa and flag staff are located facing towards the sanctum.

There is a separate south facing shrine for the Goddess Anandavalli. At the entrance of this shrine, there is a Ganesha idol and two big and beautiful idols of Dwarapalikas (females). Nandi is found facing towards her shrine.

At the entrance of temple below the tower, the idols of Ganesha, Subramanya and Ayyappa are located. 

The wall around the sanctum sanctorum enshrines the niche images of Dakshinamurti, Nataraja, Brahma and Durga. It is rare to find Nataraja as a niche (koshta) idol. There is a small sub-shrine of Chandikeshwara located. 

In the outer prakara, there are many ancient idols which were discovered nearby are kept. The idols such as Saraswati, Ganesha, Brahma, Dakshinamurti and Shiva Lingas are beautiful.

The sub-shrines of Nataraja-Sivakami and Navagraha are also located in this temple.

On the way to the Goddess shrine, the idols of Lakshmi and Kubera performing pooja to Shiva LInga are found. It is very unique.

Happy travelling.


November 6, 2014

Mamani Koil Temples

Site Name: Mamni Koil Temples
Site Type: Hindu Temples
Location:  Mamani Koil, near Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of the most important Vaishnaivite temples; one of 108 Divya Desam temples; Group of three temples considered as a single Divya Desham
Nearest Railway Station: Tanjore
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Tanjore and Tiruvaiyaru; public transport is not dependable
Hotel: No good hotels nearby; better to stay in Tanjore
Restaurants: No good restaurants nearby; it is better to go to Tanjore

Mamani Koil is a village located at the outskirts of Tanjore town in South India. The village has three prominent temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Unusually, all these three temples together are considered as a single Divya Desam. It is considered as the 20th Divya Desam located in the Chola region.

Highlights:
  • Group of three temples is considered as a single Divya Desam. Except for Irattai Tirupati where two temples are considered as one Divya Desam, this is the only other group that is considered as one Divya Desam. All other Divya Desams are single temples.
  • Mamani Koil, Manikundram and Thanjaiyali Nagar are the three temples; together, they are being referred as Mamani Koil and even the village is called as Mamani Koil. 
  • Mamani Koil: God - Neelamega Perumal; Goddess - Senkamala Valli; Teerth - Kannika Pushkarani; Vimana - Soundarya Vimana
  • Manikundram: God - Manikundra Perumal; Goddess - Ambuja Valli; Teerth - Srirama Teerth; Vimana - Manikkoota Vimana
  • Thanjaiyali Nagar: God - Veera Narasimha; Goddess - Thanjai Nayaki; Teerth - Surya Pushkarani; Vimana - Vedasundara Vimana
  • Tirumangai Alwar has sung about Mamani Koil in his verses.
  • Nammalwar and Tirumangai Alwar have sung about Manikundram in his verses.
  • Bhoothathalwar has sung about Thanjaiyali Nagar in his verses.
  • It is considered as the 20th Divya Desam temple. It is located in Chola region.
  • In all these temples, the utsava deity is called as Narayana Murti


Legend:

As per the legend, Parasarar Rishi has worshiped Mamanikoil temple, Markandeya Rishi has worshiped Manikundram temple and Thajai Yali Nagar temple.

In Satya Yuga, there were three demons named Thanjakan, Thandakan and Gajamukhan. They did penance towards Lord Shiva. When Lord Shiva appeared before them, they demanded the boon of immortality. Shiva told them that they could not be killed by anyone other than Lord Vishnu.

After getting the boon, the demons started troubling the Devas and Rishis. At that time, there was a severe famine and drought all over the world. However, Sage Parasara's abode alone had enough food and water. By knowing this, the Asuras came to his abode and started assaulting the sage. The sage sought Vishnu's help. Lord Vishnu threw his discus and killed the army of Asuras. He appeared and beheaded Thanjakan. Before dying he realized his mistake; as per his request, the town was called after his name as Thanjakan Oor aka Thanjavur (Tanjore).

The second demon Gajamukha took the form of elephant. Lord Vishnu took the form of Narasimha and killed him. It is the site where the Thanjai Yali temple is located now.

The third demon Thandakan went under the earth. Vishnu took the form of boar (Varaha) and chased the demon. This demon was also killed.

As per another version, the three demons were called as Thanjakan, Thandakan and Tarakan. Thanjakan took the form of elephant and was killed by Narasimha. Tarakan was killed by Kalika Devi; Vishnu appreciated her. As the place which was selected by Parasara for forming his abode was troublesome due to these demons, Vishnu helped the rishi to get rid of them.

Temple Layout:

All the three temples are located around 200 meters apart.

Mamani Koil:

The first of the three temples is the Maamani Koil. The entrance is facing the east direction and the temple has a small tower. The presiding deity is Neelamega Perumal. The deity who is found along with his two consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi is found in the sitting posture. He has four arms. All the three idols and also the idol of Garuda which is facing the main deity are all big in size. Parasura rishi's idols is also found within the sanctum sanctorum.

The temple is completely renovated and the antique feel is lost due to this.

In the prakara, the Goddess Senkamalavalli is present in a separate shrine. Her idol is very attractive. She is in the sitting posture. 

In the maha mandapa, a rare sculpture of Narasimha having Lakshmi on his right lap, the sculpture of Varaha with two arms in the standing posture, sculptures of Andal, Vishwaksena, and Ulagalantha Perumal with his leg lifted upwards are found. 

The temple also has the shrines of Alwars, Desikar and Lakshmi Hayagreeva.

Manikundram:

The second of the three temples is the Manikundram. The entrance is facing the east direction and the temple does not have a  tower. The presiding deity is Manikundra Perumal. The deity who is found along with his two consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi is found in the sitting posture. He has four arms. All the three idols  are all big in size. A small Garuda idol is found facing towards the main deity.

In the prakara, the Goddess Ambujavalli is found in a separate shrine.

The temple tank is found near the entrance.

Thanjai Yali Nagar:

The third of the three temples is the Thanjai Yali Nagar. The entrance is facing the east direction and the temple does not have tower. The presiding deity is Veera Narasimha Perumal. The deity who is found along with his two consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi is found in the sitting posture. He has four arms. All the three idols  are all big in size. It is very rare to find Narasimha with two consorts. It should be noted that there is no Garuda facing towards the main deity.

In the prakara, the Goddess Thanjai Nayaki and Andal are found in a separate shrines. 

The idols of Ranganath, Varadaraja, Yoga Narasimha, Prahalada, Vishwaksena, Manavala Mamuni and Ramanuja are also found in this temple. There is a bas relief image of Garuda. A separate shrine for Tirumangai Alwar is situated in the prakara.

Happy travelling.

November 5, 2014

Thenkudi Thittai

Site Name: Vasishteshwarar temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Thenkudi Thittai, near Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams (the most important temples of Lord Shiva)
Nearest Railway Station: Tanjore
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Tanjore 
Hotel: No good hotels nearby; better to stay in Tanjore
Restaurants: Very few options; it is better to go to Tanjore

Thenkudi Thittai is a village near Tanjore town in South India. The village has a prominent temple called as Vasishteshwarar temple. It is considered as the 15th among the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams (274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in the Chola region north of Cauvery river.

Highlights:
  • Sambandhar has revered the temple in his verses in Devaram.
  • God Vasishteshwarar 
  • Goddess Ulaganayaki
  • Other names of God - Pasupateeshwarar, Pasupatinathar, Therurnathar, Dhenupureeswarar, Swayambhutheswarar, Anateshwarar, Nageshwarar, Rathapureeswarar
  • Other names of Goddess - Mangalambikai, Mangaleshwari, Sukundhakundalambikai
  • Teerth (Holy water) - Chakra Teerth
  • Sthala Vruksha (Holy tree) - Champak
  • It is considered as one of 274 Paadal Petral Sthalams
  • It is a Guru Sthalam
  • Suryakantha and Chandrakantha stones on top of the sanctum sanctorum in the vimana; water drops naturally fall on Shiva Linga for every 25 minutes
  • The sun rays fall on the main deity for three days in the month of Mar-Apr and again for three days in the month of Aug-Sep every year.
  • There are five Shiva Lingas in this temple and hence it is called as Pancha Linga Kshetra
  • Guru (Jupiter) is found in a separate shrine.
  • The entire structure of the temple is built in stone.

Legend:

It is believed that the saint Vasishta worshiped Lord Shiva in this temple and hence he is named as Vasishteshwarar. Apart from Vasishta, it is believed that Bhairava, Brahma, Subramanya, Adi Sesha and Kamadhenu also worshiped Lord Shiva in this temple.

The word "Thittu" means mound in Tamil language. As the place is located between the two tributaries of the river Cauvery, Vennaaru and Vettaaru, the place is called as 'Thittai'. 

It is believed that during Pralaya (the Great Dissolution), it was the only place in the entire world, which did not get submerged under the water. A self manifested (swayambhu) Shiva Linga appeared on this mount and it is the main deity of the current temple. Hence, he is also called as Swayambhutheswara. It is believed that all deities came to this place for shelter and hence it is also called as 'Kudi Thittai'.

As Renuka worshiped Lord Shiva in this village, the village is also called as Renukapuri. As Kamadhenu, the divine cow worshiped Lord Shiva, he is also called as Dhenupureeswarar. 

A devotee named Sugantha Kuntala got her deceased husband back to life after worshiping Goddess Ulaga Nayaki. Hence, the Goddess is also called as Sugantha Kuntalambikai. 

It is believed that Lord Vishnu created the holy tank 'Chakra Teerth' by throwing his discus (chakra).

Temple Layout:

The temple of Vasishteshwarar in Thenkudi Thittai is considered as a Guru Parihara Sthalam (the most famous Guru Sthalam is in Alangudi). The temple has a simple tower and it faces the east direction. Opposite to the temple, the holy tank 'Chakra Teerth' is found.

The sanctum sanctorum enshrines the main deity Vasishteshwarar who is in the form of a Shiva Linga. On top of this shrine, there are two unique stones, Suryakantha and Chandrakantha, found in the vimana. They absorb the moisture from air and let it drip as water drops on Shiva Linga for every 25 minutes. It is very unique architectural feature of this temple. 

The flag staff, bali peetha and Nandi mandapa are found facing towards the main shrine.

The Goddess Ulaga Nayaki is found in a separate shrine. There is a stone with all zodiac signs on the ceiling in front of this shrine.

Guru Bhagavan is found in a separate shrine between the shrines of God and Goddess.

At the entrance of the main shrine, there is a Ganesha idol. The entrance of Ulagammai shrine has the idols of Ganesha and Subramanya.

The inner prakara has the sub shrines of Siddhi Vinayaka and Subramanya with his two consorts. The idols of Gaja Lakshmi, Bhairava, Shiva Linga, Surya, Chandra, Maha Linga with his consort and Ganesha and Navagraha. The Navagraha is unique with Surya in the middle and all other eight planets facing towards Surya.

The walls around the sanctum sanctorum has Dakshinamurti, Lingodbhava, Brahma and Durga as the Koshta (niche) idols. Chandikeshwara sub-shrine is also found as usual. Dakshinamurti is big and looks attractive. 

From the structure of the temple, it is very evident that it has been renovated in the recent past.

Happy travelling. 





November 1, 2014

Tirukkarugavur Garbharakshambikai Temple

Site Name: Garbharakshambikai Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Tirukkarugavur, near Tanjore city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams (the most important temples of Lord Shiva); Womb is protected by the Goddess
Nearest Railway Station: Tanjore
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Tanjore 
Hotel: No good hotels nearby; better to stay in Tanjore
Restaurants: Very few options; it is better to go to Tanjore

Tirukkarugavur is a village near Tanjore town in South India. The village has a prominent temple called as Garbharakshambikai temple. It is considered as the 18th among the Devara Paadal Petra Sthalams (274 most important temples of Lord Shiva) located in the Chola region north of Cauvery river.

Highlights:
  • Sambandhar and Appar have revered the temple in their verses in Devaram.
  • God Garbhapureeswarar aka Mullaivananathar aka Madavivaneswarar
  • Goddess Garbharakshambikai aka Karu Kaththa Nayaki
  • Teerth (Holy water) - Brahma Teerth, Ksheera Kund
  • Sthala Vruksha (Holy tree) - Jasmine
  • It is believed that the childless couple are blessed with child and fetus of the pregnant women are protected in this site.
  • It is one of five Aranya Sthalams located at south of Cauvery river. (Karugavur - Mullai vanam; Avalivanallur - Padiri vanam; Aradaipperumpazhi - Vanni vanam; Irumpoolai - Poolai vanam; Kollampudhur - Vilva vanam).

Legend:

It is believed that Brahma, Gautama Rishi and Chandra worshiped Lord Shiva in this temple.

Gautama and Gargeya were doing penance in this site which was a jasmine forest (Mullai Vanam in Tamil) in those days. A couple by name Nidhruva and Vedikai were rendering service to these sages in their ashram. The childless couple were advised by the sages to worship Garbharakshambikai. Their prayers were answered by the Goddess. Vedikai got conceived.

During Vedikai's later stage of pregnancy and while Nidhruva was not at home, Urdhuvapada rishi came to her abode and asked for alms. She felt weak and did not acknowledge the presence of the sage. The sage got angered due to this and cursed her. Due to the curse, her fetus got disintegrated. She prayed to Goddess Garbharakshambikai to protect her fetus. The Goddess appeared and preserved the fetus in a sacred pot until it developed into a male child. The parents named him as Naidhuruvan.

Vedikai requested the Goddess to stay at this site. Thus the Goddess stayed in this village and started protecting the fetus of the pregnant women. Hence, she was named as 'Garbharakshambikai' meaning 'the Goddess who protects fetus'. The place was also called as Tirukkarugavur which means the place which protects the fetus.

Later when Vedikai did not have mother's milk to feed her child, the Goddess sent the divine cow Kamadhenu. The cow scratched the ground in front of the temple with her hoof and milk oozed out from the ground thus forming a 'Milk Tank' called as 'Ksheera Kund'.

Temple Layout:

The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. However, as devotees give more importance to the Goddess of the temple than Shiva, people started calling this temple as Garbharakshambikai temple instead of Mullaivananathar temple.

The east facing temple has a five-tiered tower (Raja Gopuram). The sacred tank 'Ksheera Kund' is located opposite to the tower. There is another entrance at the southern side and one more tower is also found.

The sancum sanctorum has Lord Shiva called as Mullaivananathar in the form of Shiva Linga. He is Swayambhu (self manifested) idol and is believed to be made up of ant hole mud. Hence, abhishek is not performed to this deity. As there was a jasmine creeper around the deity in those days when it was a jasmine forest, there is a scar seen even today on the deity.  

Inside the east facing sanctum sanctorum the idols of Swayambhu Ganesha and another Ganesha are also located. In addition, the utsava (processional) idols are also found withing the sanctum sanctorum. 

The Nataraja-Sivakami shrine is located in the maha mandapa. 

Nandi which is facing Lord Shiva is also a swayambhu idol. There is another Nandi idol near the bali peetha and flag staff.

The southern side of the temple has a garden. The northern side has Vasanta mandapa.

In the prakara of the gigantic temple, there are many sub-shrines and idols which include Nirudi Ganapati, Subramanya-Valli-Devasena, Somaskanda, Navagraha, 63 Nayanmars and Nalvar. Navagraha is unique with all the eight planets facing towards Surya who is in the middle.

The shrine of the Goddess Garbharakshambikai is located adjacent to the main shrine and it also faces the east direction. It is equally big in size and more number of devotees can be seen in this shrine. 

Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Ardhanareeswarar, Brahma and Durga are found as the Koshta (niche) idols on the walls around the sanctum sanctorum. There is a small sub-shrine of Chandikeshwara also found in the prakara.

A mandapa in the form of a chariot with a Shiva Linga on it is found in this temple. It was worshiped by Nidhruva (refer the legend section above).

The temple is believed to be built by the Cholas and it has inscriptions of Rajaraja Chola, Rajendra Chola, Kulotunga Chola and Madurai Konda Kopparakesarivarman.

Brahma Teerth is another sacred tank located outside the temple complex.

The sacred tree is located between the sanctum sanctorum and the shrine of Chandikeshwara. 

Belief:

It is believed that the Goddess of the site, Garbharakshambikai, blesses the childless couple with child and she also protects the fetus of women. Thousands of childless couples and pregnant women throng to this temple mainly for these reasons.

Happy travelling.