February 23, 2014

Ambasamudram Tirukkoshtiyappar Temple

Site Name: Tirukkoshtiyappar Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Oorkkaadu area in Ambasamudram, near Tirunelveli city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: Literally an unknown temple; an architectural marvel with the contributions from Chera, Chola and Pandya
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 one of the oldest temple of the town, Tirukkoshtiyappar temple. It is an ancient temple located in a remote location called Oorkkaadu. It is a little known temple; even the people from this town visit this temple not frequently. The temple is an architectural marvel.


Highlights:
  • God Tirukkoshtiyappar
  •  Goddess – Ulagammai
  • Believed to be 7th century period temple
  • Originally a Pandya temple; contributions done by Chera and Chola kings too; Pandya period inscriptions are found
  • The main deity is made up of sand which is covered permanently by a copper shield
  • Shaneeswara and Bhairava with unique features

Legend:

As per the legend, a sage was once passing through this place. He used to pray six times a day but he did not have the habit of carrying any idol with him. In the place where the temple is currently located, the river Tamrabharani was flowing in those days. The sage made the idol of Lord Shiva Linga with sand. As the river was nearby, the idol was about to get washed away by the water. The sage playfully asked the Lord "Are you a Kotti (Kotti means mad in Tamil language). Hence, Lord Shiva in this site is called as Tirukkottiyappar.

There is another legend which records the event of all the Devas and sages visiting the site in group. In Tamil language, "Koshti" means group. Hence, Lord Shiva in this site is also called as Tirukkoshtiyappar.

History:

As per the inscriptions found in this temple, the farmers of Rajaraja Chadurvedi Mangalam lived in this village and hence it was named as 'Oorkkaadu'.

 It is believed that this temple was originally built by a Pandya King named Jadavarma Pandya in the 7th century CE. (I personally do not know if there are any inscriptions or records to proove this; also, I am unable to relate any Pandya king by this name who ruled in this period). The temple has the inscriptions of Pandya kings such as Sadaiyavarman Kulasekaran (1190-1218 CE) and Maravarman Sundara Pandyan. period inscriptions . Although it was originally built by a Pandya king, there were many contributions from the Chera and Chola kings too.

As per the inscriptions in this temple, during the reign of Maravarman Sundara Pandyan I (1216 - 1238 CE), the temple was reconstructed by a person named Arikara Devar of a place called Pallichchai of Chera country. 

Temple Layout:

The east facing temple is huge in size.The entrance of the temple has a steep and pointed pyramidal style of roof (similar to Kerala temple architectural style) as it was built by a Chera king. The highlight is that it was not made up of wood but of stone. (In Kerala, the temple roofs which follow similar style are usually made up of wood.)



Shiva Linga made up of sand

The east facing sanctum sanctorum houses the huge Shiva Linga called as Tirukkoshtiyappar. It is made up of sand. However, the entire idol is covered with copper shield permanently. It is believed that it was covered many centuries ago by a king.

At the entrance of sanctum sanctorum, the idols of Ganesha and the sage Agastya are found.

The maha mandapa houses a separate shrine for Nataraja and Sivakami.

Ulagammai

The Goddess Ulagammai is found in the north facing shrine in the mandapa ouside the main shrine. As the temple cannot have only the God, this shrine was built later. The sand was brought from Chidambaram to make the sculpture of the Goddess.
Other Shrines

The prakara (corridor surrounding the main shrine) has the following idols:
  • 63 Nayanmars
  • Thogai Adiyargal
  • Sapta Matas
  • Ganesha
  • Dakshinamurti
  • Surya
  • Chandra
  • Adhikara Nandi
The following sub-shrines are also located in the corridor.
  • Ganesha
  • Chandikeshwara
  • Navagraha
Speciality and Uniqueness

The Kala Swarna Bhairava idol located in the prakara is unique. Bhairava is standing on the lotus petal with lion as his mount instead of dog. It is unique.

Shaneeswara is also unique in this temple. He is holding lotus flower on his left arm. He is usually found as holding crow in his right arm.

The Subramanya sub-shrine is also unique. It is believed that the sculptor who made this idol was from the family of the sculptor who made the famous idol of Skanda in Tiruchendur. 

Outside the temple, there are some permanent pillars constructed around 50-60 years ago so that pandal can be put easily.

A huge shrine of Chokkanatha and Meenakshi is located near the temple tank. It looks like a separate temple. The idol of Chokkanatha is not found nowadays.

Near the tank, there is a big statue; the front side of the statue is a man but the back side is of a woman. The sage Agastya created a soldier to fight with a demon woman in this area. This idol represents this soldier and that rakshasi, it seems. A small idol of Ganehsa is found near by. Both these idols are placed below a holy tree.

Jyeshta Devi idol is found outside the temple complex.

Other Parts

The temple has flag staff, Nandi and bali peetha similar to other Shiva temples. Nandi mandapa is also called as Mani Mandapa as a big bell is hanging above.

There are many pillars across the temple with fascinating images.

The temple needs proper maintenance and it currently has no income.

When you get a chance to go to South India, if possible, make a visit to this unknown architectural marvel. It is not fair that such a magnificent temple with so many unique features remains unknown.

Happy travelling.


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February 15, 2014

Ambasamudram Tirumoolanathar Temple

Site Name: Tirumoolanathar Temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Ambasamudram, near Tirunelveli city, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: The oldest temple of Ambasamudram; located amidst paddy fields in a secluded but scenic location
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 oldest temple of the town, Tirumoolanathar temple. It is an ancient temple located in a peaceful site amidst paddy fields on the northern banks of the river Tamrabharani. The location is picturesque. It is a little known temple; even the people from this town visit this temple not frequently.

Highlights:
  • God - Tirumoolanathar
  •  Goddess – Ulagammai
  • Teerth (Holy water) - Brahma Teerth and Saraswati Teerth
  • Brahma and Saraswati got boon from this site which resulted in the origination of this temple
  • The sage Agastya got the sight of the divine wedding of Shiva and Parvati in this site
  • The oldest and the original temple of this town; although the other temples are popular now, they were built much later
  • Located in a very beautiful location
  • Nearby temple Purusothama temple is equally unique and beautiful

Legend:

As per the legend, Lord Brahma wanted himself to get rid of birth and death cycle. When he approached Lord Shiva for help, he was advised to perform yagna on the banks of the river Tamrabharani. Accordingly, Brahma along with his consort Saraswati came to Aamalaka Vanam (Forest full of gooseberry trees) and created two ponds, which were later called as Brahma Teerth and Saraswati Teerth. Both of them took bath in those ponds and performed yagna towards Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva appeared in the form of Shiva Linga made of Vibhuti (sacred ash) along with his consort Ulagammai. Shiva fulfilled the wishes of Brahma and Saraswati.

After many years, in the same site, the sage Agastya got the sight of the divine wedding of Lord Shiva and Ulagammai.

Temple Layout:

The east facing temple is located in a scenic location amidst paddy fields. The temple ponds are located well in front of the main entrance of the temple. There is no temple tower. The temple which is arguably the oldest temple of Ambasamudram town is big in size. However, the other usual symbols such as flag staff, bali peetha and Nandi statue are all located facing the main entrance. The unique feature of the temples in this region is that the flag staff is located in the middle of main shrine and Nandi. It can be found in the same way in this temple too.

The sanctum sanctorum has a very big idol of Lord Shiva Linga named as Tirumoolanathar. In the maha mandapa, the Goddess Ulagammai is found in a separate south facing shrine.

The beautiful and big mural painting of Nataraja-Sivakami is found in the wall of Maha Mandapa.

At the entrance of the sanctum sanctorum, the idols of two Shiva Lingas and two Ganeshas are located. The Maha Mandapa also has a Nandi statue facing the Lord. The entrance of Maha mandapa has another idol of Ganesha. The corridor facing the maha mandapa has many pillars full of sculptures.

The prakara (corridor surrounding the sanctum) has the below-mentioned idols:
  • Nalvar - the four important devotees of Lord Shiva
  • Few saints and devotees
  • Bhairava
  • Shaneeswara
  • Surya
  • Chandra
  • Adhika Nandi (Nandi in the standing posture)
There is a separate big shrine for Meenakshi and Chokkanathar located within this corridor.

There is a subshrine where the tall idol of Lord Vishnu along with his two consorts are found. (The temple authorities have named it wrongly as Navaneeta Krishna).

Some of the other shrines found in this temple include Navagraha (nine planets), Ganesha, Subramanya with Valli and Devasena, Shasta with his two consorts and Annamalaiyar.

The Koshta idols are usually found in the form of bas-relief or relief images in the outer walls of sanctum sancotrum. However, in this temple the two Koshta deities Dakshinamurti and Vishnu Durga are found in the form of complete sculpture inside small sub-shrine. Chandikeshwara is also found as usual.

There is a nearby temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu named as Purushothama Perumal temple. It is a unique temple where Lord Vishnu with Lakshi on his left lap; both of them in the sitting posture with the seven hood Adi Sesha on their head; their legs resting on the arms of Garuda below; Garuda carries Vishnu with his right arm and Lakshmi with left arm; a lotus is found on his left arm and he is not directly touching the leg of the Goddess. Importantly, Lord Purushothama carries two conches and two discuses.

It is believed that both the temples were built by Parantaka Chola. Not sure if there are any records to proove this.

When you go to this part of India, ensure that you take time to visit this unique temple located in a picturesque site.

Happy travelling.



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February 1, 2014

Manimutharu

Site Name: Manimutharu
Site Type: Waterfalls, dam, hill
Location:  Manimutharu, near Ambasamudram town, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A pleasant place which is not yet commercialized
Nearest Railway Station: Ambasamudram
Nearest Airport: Tirunelveli
How to reach: Well connected by road from Tirunelveli, Tenkasi and Ambasamudram
Hotel: Few options within Ambasamudram; more options in the nearby city Tirunelveli
Restaurants: Only few options within Ambasamudram; for better options go to Tirunelveli or Tenkasi
  
Manimutharu is a picturesque site located near Ambasamudram in Tamil Nadu state of South India. The nearest city is Tirunelveli.

Those who hail from Tamil Nadu state would have visited Courtallam, the city of waterfalls, at least once in their lifetime. Of late, Courtallam has been commercialized and hardly tourists could enjoy the waterfalls thanks to long queues and uncontrollable crowd. Manimutharu is an alternate site for those who enjoy the waterfalls and hills. It is not commercialized yet and remains untouched by most of the travellers.

Manimutharu is located inside the reserved forest region. The region is named after the river Manimutharu which runs through this place; it is a great tributary of the river Tamrabharani. The first tourist attraction in this region is the beautiful and vast Manimutharu reservoir. It serves as a good picnic spot for the people who live nearby. The river with the hills at the backdrop looks amazing.

After travelling for few kilometers from Manimutharu dam, one can reach the picturesque Manimutharu waterfalls. The best time to visit the falls is between November and March; however, you can find water in this falls throughout the year. Even though the water is not falling from a great height,  it is surprisingly gushing with great force. The waterfalls looks massive thanks to its width. 

If you travel further for another few kms, you would reach Manjolai hills which is full of tea estates.

When you get a chance to visit the southern part of Tamil Nadu state, go and visit these beautiful sites which are part of Podhigai hills.

Happy travelling.

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