April 3, 2016

Karaikal Ammaiyar Temple

Site Name: Karaikal Ammaiyar Temple
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location:  Karaikal, Puduchery state, India
Highlights: An unusual temple where the devotee is worshiped as the deity
Nearest Railway Station: Karaikal
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road 
Hotel: Good options are available
Restaurants: Good options are there

Karaikal is a major town in Puduchery Union Territory of India. Let me introduce an unusual temple of the town, which is dedicated not to a deity but to a devotee of Lord Shiva, in this article.

Legend:

Karaikal Ammaiyar was one of 63 Nayanmars (the ardent devotees of Lord Shiva in South India). You could find the idols of all 63 Nayanmars in the big and old Shiva temples in South India. Karaikal town is associated with the life of female Nayanmar Karaikal Ammaiyar.

In Karaikal, hundreds of years ago, Punitavati was born to a Chettiar couple Dhanaduttan and Dharmavati. She was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva since her childhood. She got married to a trader named Paramadutta. 

Once, Lord Shiva sent two mangoes to Paramadutta through a devotee. Paramadutta had sent them to his home. Lord Shiva came in disguise and asked for alms to Punitavati. She offered one of the two mangoes to him. When Paramadutta came home to have food, she served him the remaining fruit. It was extremely sweet and Paramadutta asked for the second Mangao. Punitavati did not want to disappoint her husband. She prayed to Lord Shiva and a mango fell into her arms. She served this mango to her husband. This was more delicious than the first one. When Paramadutta asked for the details, she revealed the entire truth.

Paramadutta probably could not believe his wife till such time that he saw a mango falling into the arms of her once again. He realized that she was divine and decided not to live with her anymore. He went to some other city and married another girl. He got a daughter and named her Punitavati.

After many years, when Punitavati came to know about her husband, she requested him to come back. However, he refused to return citing that her divinity as the reason.

Punitavati prayed to Lord Shiva and lost her youthfulness and beauty. She heard on asariri voice and based on that she started travelling towards Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva. When she reached Kailash, she did not want to place her feet on the holy mountain. Hence, she climbed up the mountain with her bod upside down on her head. 

Lord Shiva greeted her and called her 'Ammaiye' meaning mother. She requested for salvation. Shiva granted that boon to her.

It is believed that the site of the current temple is where Karaikal Ammaiyar was living in those days. 

History:

Karaikal Ammaiyar temple was built by Malaiperumal Pillai in 1929 CE.

Temple Layout:

Karaikal Ammaiyar temple is located at Bharatiar street at the heart of Karaikal town. Near this temple, the other two temples of Karaikal are located. The temple tank which is very well maintained along with the park around the tank enhances the serenity of this locality.

The east facing temple has three tiered Raja Gopuram. The temple has two entrances, one for Karaikal Ammaiyar and another for Lord Shiva's shrine.

The sanctum enshrines Karaikal Ammaiyar. She is found in the standing posture holding serving ladle. The walls of her shrine has paintings depicting her life.

There is a separate shrine for Ganesha near Karaikal Ammaiyar shrine.

Although this temple is called as Karaikal Ammaiyar temple, the main section of the temple enshrines Lord Shiva. The east facing sanctum enshrines Shiv Linga called as Somanathar. In the Maha mandap, the south facing shrine for the Goddess Soma Nayaki is found. The flag staff, bali peeth and Nandi mandap are situated facing towards the shrine of Lord Shiva.

The wall around the shrine of Shiva has the niche images of Ganesha, Dakshinamurti, Lingodbhava, Brahma and Durga.

The sub-shrines and idols of Nataraj-Shivakami, Ganesha, Subramanya-Valli-Devasena, Bhariav, Gaja Lakshmi, Surya, Chandra, Chandikeshwara, Aadipura Amman and Shaneeswara are also found in the temple.

Festival:

The annual Mangani Thirunal festival (mango festival) is very popular in this temple.

Happy travelling. 

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