June 24, 2017

Sitalayana Matha

Mullayanagiri is the highest peak of Karnataka state in India. At the foothill of Mullayangiri, at about 2.5 kms from there, Sitalayana Matha is located.

Sitalayana Matha is a temple. However, the site is visited by all tourists who travel to Chikmagalur region, thanks to its scenic location which acts as an excellent hill viewpoint. Sometimes, the tourists are not allowed till Mullayanagiri peak. They have to satisfy themselves with the aerial view of the nearby villages only from Sitalayana Matha.

The temple enshrines a Shiv Linga called as Sitalayana Mallikarjuna. The sanctum also enshrines the metal images of Shiva and Uma. The shrines of Utsava Ganapati and Veerabhadra are also found in the temple. In the prakara, there is a Vishnu image which has two lions on either sides.

Happy travelling.












June 23, 2017

Mullayanagiri

Mullayanagiri is arguably the best place of interest in Chikmagalur region. With the height of 6316 feet above the sea level, Mullayanagiri is the highest peak of Karnataka state of India. This peak is located in the Chandra Drona Hill Ranges of the Western Ghats.

Chikmagalur is easily accessible by road and is located at a distance of around 20 kms from Chikmagalur town. This is considered as the trekker's paradise. The starting point for the 4 km trek is at a place called Sarpadhari. For those who do not trek, there is flight of steps which take them directly atop the hill.

On top of the hill as well as on the way to the hill, the view is breathtaking. It is one of the best places in Chikmagalur region to view sunset. The weather on the hill is mostly windy in all the seasons which makes this trekking as a wonderful experience.

Atop the hill, there is a small Shiv Linga temple. The temple also enshrines the idols of Uma, Ganesh and Hanuman.

It is said that a sage called Mullappa Swami used to perform penance inside a cave on this hill and the hill is named after him. The access to this cave is restricted nowadays.

A visit to Chikmagalur without climbing up this highest peak is incomplete.

Happy travelling.






June 21, 2017

Madras Progressive Union School

George Town or Black Town is one of the oldest settlements of Chennai city, which was established by the British. This congested and crowded area is dotted with a lot of historic buildings, streets and old temples. The Madras Progressive Union School is one of such structures that have heritage value.

The Madras Progressive Union Higher Secondary School is located in Audiappa Naicken Street. It was started in 1888 CE. It is one of the oldest surviving schools of Chennai city.

The two popular political parties of Tamil Nadu are named as Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam and Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. And, in Tamil language, this school is called as Chennai Munnetra Kazhagam School. :-)

Happy travelling.



June 20, 2017

Adipatta Vinayakar Temple - Chennai

This temple, which is literally not known to the outside world, is located at the junction of Mint Street and Audiappa Naicken Street in Sowcarpet locality of Chennai city in India. Looking at the style of Dwarapalas and vimanas, I believe the period of the temple must be 18th century or 19th century CE. Nothing much is known about this temple. Well, if you ask me the name of this temple, that is also not known. The local people call this as Adipatta Vinayakar temple. The word "adipatta" means "beaten up" in Tamil language. I could not gather more details about the reason why this deity is called so.

This temple is literally hidden behind the shops and hardly any passerby could notice. There are regular visitors to this temple. They visit the temple not to get darshan of the deity. But, they just come here to draw drinking water and to have chit-chat. This temple has become a regular meeting point for such people.

The east facing temple has no tower. The sanctum enshrines Ganesh and his two consorts Siddhi and Buddhi. There are two more shrines located adjacent to the sanctum, which enshrine Vishwanatha Linga-Vishalakshi and Subramanya-Valli-Devasena. There is a separate south facing shrine for Vishalkshi. Ayyanar is found near this shrine.

The vimanas of all the three shrines look very old. Without renovation and paintings, they really look original and beautiful.

All the three shrines have koshta images on their outer walls.

Skanda and Idumban (?) are found as the niche images on the wall of Subramanya shrine.

Ganesha in different forms including the one with five heads are found as the niche images in the shrine of Ganesh.

Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga are the niche deities found on the wall of the shrine of Vishwanatha.

Navagraha is also found in this temple. The Dwarapalas images are very interesting and look unique.

It's a peaceful, beautiful and small temple.

Happy travelling.







June 16, 2017

Vridhagireeswar Temple - Chennai

Unamancheri is a small village located near Tambaram in the outskirts of Chennai city of Tamil Nadu state in India. In this village, there is a beautiful Vijayanagara period temple of Kodanda Ram is located. Hardly at a distance of about 200-300 meters from this temple, there is another ancient temple of Lord Shiva is located. This article is to focus on that temple.

Vridhagireeswar is the name of Shiva in this temple. This east facing temple does not have tower or flag staff.

Vridhagireeswar is a big Shiv Linga found in the east facing sanctum. Vridhamika is the Goddess, who is found in the separate south facing shrine. Both the shrines and the small Maha Mandap are situated inside an enclosure. The pillars in the Maha Mandap have many interesting sculptures. At the entrance of this entrance, the idols of Ganesh and Subramanya-Valli-Devasena are found.

Nandi mandap and bali peetha are found facing towards the sanctum. But the entrance to the enclosure is at the south direction. Hence, there is a wall between the east facing Shiv Linga and Nandi.

Nardana Ganapati, Dakshinamurit, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga are found as the Koshta Murtis. All are new idols and they do not seem to belong to the original period.

The idol of Bhairav and Navagrahas along with their respective vaahans are also found in this temple.

I heard that the copper plate inscriptions that are found in Kodanda Ram temple have references about this temple. It is believed that this temple was also built during the period of Krishnadeva Raya of Vijayanagara.

Happy travelling.





June 15, 2017

Periyandavar Temple - Chennai

This article is about a lesser known temple of a lesser known deity located in a lesser known site. Unamancheriy is a small village located at a distance of around 13 kms from Tambaram in the outskirts of Chennai in Tamil Nadu state of India. Kodanda Ram temple in this village is a beautiful Vijayanagara period temple. Behind the temple of Ram, there is a tank and if we cross the tank, we could reach Periyandavar temple.

Who is Periyandavar? As I mentioned in few other articles earlier, we could probably count the Vedic deities of Hinduism, but it is not possible to count the village deities (Grama devta). There are innumerable village deities all over India. In Tamil Nadu, Madurai Veeran, Ayyanar and Muneeswaran are some of the famous village deities. Periyandavar is also a village deity of Tamil Nadu, but he is lesser known. He is found in few villages in Kanchipuram and Chenglepet localities. Periyandavar is considered as the incarnation or form of Lord Shiva. As per the legend, due to a curse by Uma, Shiva took the form of a human and wandered on the earth. This form of Shiva is called as Periyandavar.

In this village called Unamanchery, a small temple of Periyandavar is located. This is small temple which enshrines a big stone idol of Periyandavar and a much bigger stucco image of the same deity behind the stone idol. Periyandavar is found in the standing posture. He has four arms and holds whip and sword in his upper arms. He sports a big mustache.

The temple also enshrines the idols of Uma Maheswari, Ganesh and Subramanya-Valli-Devasena.

Below the stone idol of Periyandavar, a small Mukha Linga is found. It also represents Periyandavar. Adhikara Nandi with his palms folded is found facing towards the presiding deity.

This temple is situated in a proper village setup and is very peaceful. It is surrounded by paddy fields, trees and few hills at the backdrop.

The temples of Nagathamman and Gangai Amman are situated near this temple.

Happy travelling.


June 14, 2017

Two Headed Hanuman - Unamancheri Kodanda Ram Temple

Hanuman with five heads is common in the name Pancha Mukha Anjaneya. Have you ever seen Hanuman with two heads? I found one such lesser known temple in a small village called Unamancheri. It is located at a distance of around 13 kms from Tambaram in the outskirts of Chennai city of Tamil Nadu state in India. It is easily reachable via Vandalur-Kelambakkam Road.

As per the legend, a physically challenged king visited Ram temple of this village and he got rid of his limp with the blessing of the deity. Hence, the village is called as Unamancheri (the Tamil word Unam refers to limp here).

Kodanda Ram Temple of Unamancheri was built by Achyuta Raya, the brother of the famous Krishnadeva Raya of Vijayanagar Kingdom, in the 16th century CE.

The temple has beautiful vimana, which is painted in vibrant colors in the name of renovation. The curse of getting renovated badly in the modern days could not spoil the beauty of the temple completely. The sculptures on the pillars of Maha Mandap and Mukha Mandap still look interesting and beautiful.

The small east facing temple enshrines Ram and all his three brothers in the sanctum. Although it is not rare, it is not common to find all the four brothers together in single shrine. Ram is found in the form of Kodanda Ram. Ram has Sita on his right side and his brother Lakshman on his true left side. Bharat and Shatrughna are found in either corners with their hands folded and placed towards their chest (namaskar posture).

In the sanctum, Hanuman is also found. He is found at a corner and faces towards Ram. Interestingly, he has two heads. While his front-side head faces his deity, his backside head faces the devotees.

In the sanctum, two sets of bronze idols of Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman are found. One set is very small in size, somewhat similar to what we generally have in the pooja rooms of our homes. The other set of the bronze idols are bigger. They are very beautiful. In fact, I would say that this is the best bronze idol of Ram that I have ever seen in and around Chennai.

In Maha Mandap, the stone as well as bronze idols of Ramanuja, Desikar, Kulashekhara Alwar, Nammalvar and Vishvak Sena are found. In addition, the bronze idols of Srinivasa-Sri Devi-Bhoo Devi are also kept in this mandap. They were brought from Tirupati few years ago.

Garud is found facing towards the sanctum. There is no flag staff; instead, deepa stambh is found. The Mukha Mandap has few interesting images including the Vijayanagara symbol of standing sword and boar. Stone inscriptions are found on the exterior walls of the temple. I heard that the temple administration is in the possession of some copper plate inscriptions of Vijayanagara period.

A newly built south facing Hanuman shrine is found outside the main temple.

The village is a remote village and the temple is located in a very peaceful location. A big pond with full of water is situated on the back side. At one direction, the entire area is full of paddy fields with the distant hills at the backdrop. The location has scenic beauty for sure.

Happy travelling.




Gaja prshtha Vishnu Temple of Vandalur

This is a road less traveled; or on a lighter note, perhaps it's a road never traveled. I took around one hour to locate this rare and unique Gaja prshtha (apsidal) vimana temple of Vishnu. It is not rare to find Gaja prshtha Shiva temple in and around Chennai. However, to my little knowledge, this is the only Vishnu temple having apsidal vimana.

This Vishnu temple is located in a small lane called Perumal Koil Street in Vandalur area of Tambaram, near Chennai. This lane is located near Bhajanai Koil Street.  There is no specific name for Vishnu in this temple. As there are many small and old Vishnu (Perumal) temples in and around this area, it is very difficult to locate this particular temple.

The small temple has the east facing sanctum with a beautiful Gaja prshtha vimana. It enshrines Vishnu and his two consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi. In addition to that, the stone idols of Maha Lakshmi and Hanuman are also found in the sanctum. Lakshmi and Hanuman idols should have been kept in the sanctum only in the recent time.

A tall deepa stambha and a sub-shrine of Garud are found facing towards the sanctum. There is no flag staff. The niches on the outer wall of the sanctum are empty and there is no niche image found.

It should be noted that this is the only Vishnu temple with Gaja prshtha vimana not only in Chennai but all over the globe.

According to few scholars, the temple was originally a Shiva temple, but was converted into Vishnu temple. Although I agree that the idol of Vishnu appears not to be very old, I doubt if it would have been a Shiva temple earlier. The lamp post (deepa stambha) has the carvings of Hanuman, Garud, Shankha and Chakra related to Vaishnavism.

As per the scholar Dr. Gift Siromoney, the stone inscriptions that are found on the outer walls of the sanctum belong to the 17th or the 18th century CE. The inscriptions have reference about the Vijayanagara Chieftain Mahamandaleswaran Saluva Narasimha of  the 15th century CE and Nagama Naik of the 16th century CE.  The inscription refers the village as Vendalur.

It is generally said that the Cholas have constructed Gaja prshtha temples only for Lord Shiva in Tondai Mandalam area alone (Chennai, Kanchi and around). How far this statement is true? Let me analyze with whatever little knowledge I have.

  • Constructing Gaja prshtha vimana does not appear to be the original idea of the Cholas. Sahadeva Ratha in Mamallapuram and Tirupaaleeswarar temple in Vaayalur are Gaja prshtha temples built by the Pallavas. Hence, I believe that either the Cholas might have reconstructed the originally built brick Gaja prshtha temples of the Pallavas or they would have merely followed the architectural style of the Pallavas.
  • It is not true that the Gaja prshtha temples are found only in Tondai Mandalam region. Rather, I would say that most of the Gaja prshtha temples are found in this region but there are few Gaja prshtha temples found elsewhere. Tirumeeyachur temple near Mayiladuturai and Ezhuttarinatheswarar temple in Innambar are Gaja prshtha temples that are outside Tondai region. 
  • Aihole Dura temple built by the Chalukyas is an apsidal temple. Did the Pallavas get inspiration from this temple? Or else, both the Pallavas and the Chalukyas got inspired by the Buddhist Chaityas? Whatever it is, the idea of apsidal temple is much older than the period of the Cholas.
  • Even in Kerala, there are few Gaja prshtha temples. Triprangode Shiva temple in Malappuram region was constructed by the Chera King in the 10th century CE. It is an apsidal temple. So, it is not only the Cholas or the Pallavas, who had constructed such temples.
  • Is it true that only Shiva temples were built with Gaja prshtha vimanas? I don't think so. Chathakudam Sri Dharma Shasta temple near Thrissur and Madhur Ganesh temple near Kasaragod are not Shiva temples but have Gaja prshtha vimanas. Even Tiruparutikundram Jain temple in Kanchipuram has Gaja prshtha vimana.

Now, let us get back to the million dollar question. Who built the Vandalur Vishnu temple? As the inscriptions are hardly 300-400 years old, should we assume that it was built during the Vijayanagara period? It might be a difficult task to engrave inscription on the existing temple, but that is not an impossible task. The temple could have been built by the Cholas and only the inscriptions were engraved later, right?.

I am not supporting or denying any possibility. It is beyond my ability to conclude if it is a Chola period or later period temple and if it was originally a Shiva temple. Let the historians and researchers analyze the facts and conclude on the same.

Happy travelling.










June 11, 2017

Val Muneeswaran - Chennai

I have already covered about the biggest and the second biggest Muneeswaran of Chennai in my blog. This is about another such big idol of Muneeswaran.

Muneeswaran is a popular Grama devta (village deity). He is found all over Tamil Nadu and even in some parts of Karnataka. For the region around Chennai, the presiding male village deity is always Muneeswaran. There are many small and big Muneeswaran temples in and around Chennai, which remain unknown or lesser known. Let me discuss about one such lesser known Muneeswaran temple in this article.

Medavakkam is a well known locality of Chennai, which is very crowded and congested. But the region where this temple is located is very peaceful, although it is also part of Medavakkam. In fact, it is a proper village setup. It is like having a village inside the city.

The temple is named as Pachai Amman temple. Pachai Amman is form of Parvati, who is worshiped as a village deity. The temple also has the shrines of Vedapureeswarar Linga and Nagathamman. Nathamman idol is found along with a real snake-hole. Vedapureeswarar shrine is like a typical Shiva temple which has Amman and niche idols.

In the open space around the temple, the Sapta Matas are depicted as seven sacred bricks. Similarly, Sapta Munis, the seven forms of Muneeswara, are also depicted in the form of seven bricks.

The big stucco image of Val Muneeswaran also lies in the open space in front of the temple. He is found in the sitting posture with his left leg folded. He holds sickle and mace in his arms. He sports big moustache and has big eyes which depict his ferocious form. This image is the highlight of this temple.

Happy travelling.