May 12, 2017

Tiruchendurai Chandrashekhara Temple

Site Name: Chandrashekhara temple
Site Type: Hindu temple
Location:  Tiruchendurai (a.k.a. Jeeyapuram), 19 kms from Trichy, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: Nataraja in unique style called Urdhvajanu; Some stucco images of the tower are unique; Goddess holds deer in her arm
Nearest Railway Station: Trichy
Nearest Airport: Trichy
How to reach: Well connected by road from Lalgudi and Trichy; public transport is not dependable
Hotel: No good hotels nearby; better to stay in Trichy or Lalgudi
Restaurants: No good restaurants nearby; it is better to go to Lalgudi

Tiruchendurai, which is known as Jeeyapuram nowadays, is a small village located at a distance of around 19 kms from Trichy in Tamil Nadu state of India. It is located in Trichy - Lalgudi route. This village has an ancient and beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The name of the temple is Chandrashekhara Swami. Let me discuss about this temple in this article.


Highlights:


  • God - Chandrashekhara a.k.a. Mrityunjayeswara Murti
  • Goddess Maanendiya Valli a.k.a. Mrigadharambika
  • Sthala Vruksha (Holy tree) - Jack fruit tree
  • Nataraja in unique posture called Urdhvajanu
  • Two Trishul signs of Linga
  • Devi is found with deer in her arm
  • Unique sculptures on the tower
  • Goddess in Ardha nari form
  • Goddess holds deer in her arm

Legend:

I could not come across any Puranic legend connected to this temple. However, there is a legend that connects a Chola King with this temple.

Parantaka Chola wanted to destroy the bandits who were residing in this region, which was a forest full of jack trees in those days. He camped along with his army here. However, he could not find any bandit here. But, he found a lot deer in the forest. The King desired to hunt the deer. When he was chasing a deer, it went inside a deep pit. The king released arrow towards the pit and blood oozed out of the pit. He also heard an asariri voice which informed him that there was a Shiv Linga idol inside the pit. The King wanted to lift Linga out of that land and construct a temple. However, he could not do this in his lifetime. He had mentioned about this incident in a copper inscription. In the future, his daughter in law, Kundavai, excavated Shiv Linga and constructed this temple.

History:

The temple is a Chola period temple. There are about 50 stone inscriptions found in this temple. The inscriptions belong to the period of various Kings which include Parantaka Chola, Rajendra Chola, Kulotunga Chola I, Rajadhiraja Chola, Vikrama Chola, Rajaraja Chola II, Koneri Devaraya and Sri Ranga Deva Maharaya of Vijayanagara.

The temple must have been built using mortar or brick by Aditya Chola I in the 9th century CE. It was later rebuilt as the stone temple by Kundavai in the beginning of the 10th century CE.

Parantaka Chola I was aided in his battles against the Pandyas by the Velir Chiefs of Kodumbalur. His son Arikulakesari (Arinjaya Chola) married to Pudi Adicha Pidariyar, the daughter of Tennavan Ilangovelar of Kodumbalur Velir lineage. Tennavan was also called as Bhuti Vikramakesari or Maravan Pudi. Pudi Adicha Pidari was also called as Kundavai. She constructed this temple in Tiruchendurai.

Later, the temple was renovated by Kings of various dynasties, which include Vijaya Nagaras and Nayakas.

Temple Layout:

Entrance:

The east facing temple has five tiered tower. The tower has a lot of stucco figures. Some of them are unique and interesting, which are listed below. It is unfortunate that all of them are painted badly in the name of renovation.


  • Devi with four heads; her right head is of elephant and her left head is of lion. She has ten arms and an Asura or Rakshasa is found below her feet. Female attendants are seen on her either sides. (As per the researcher Dr. Ira. Kalai Kovan, this deity is called as Shakti Chatuska, the combined form of Lakshmi, Kirti, Jaya and Maya).
  • Narasimha with four heads and ten arms (I doubt if he has only four heads or five heads with one head behind). This is something which cannot be seen anywhere else.
  • Urdhva Tandava - Shiva with ten arms with his leg raised towards the sky
  • Kali in dancing posture
  • Trivikrama with twenty arms

There is a vast area between the tower and the superstructure of the temple. It is dotted with a lot of trees. Nandi Mandap and bali peetha are located here and they face towards the sanctum. There is no flag staff in this temple. 

Chandrashekhara:

The east facing sanctum with a beautiful vimana enshrines a big Shiv Linga, which is named as Chandrashekhara. It is a self manifested Linga. The shape of the Linga is not polished and is very rough like a jackfruit. There are two small Trishul signs in Ishana direction and Agni direction on this Linga. 

The Vimana has two tiers and it is fully made of stone.

In the entrance of Ardha Mandap, two big and beautiful Chola period Dwarapalas are found.

In Maha Mandap, Nandi is found facing towards the sanctum.

Maanendiya Valli:

The Goddess of the temple has a very beautiful Tamil name, Maanendiya Valli. In Sanskrit, she is called as Mrigadharambika. (The word Maan in Tamil means deer). Her shrine is facing the southern direction. It is said that she is the only Goddess in the entire world, who holds deer in her arms. (There are Koshta deities who hold deer, which cannot be considered in this list).

It is said that she is in the form of Ardhanari. She holds Mazhu in her right arm and has Surya Prabhai behind the right side of her head. Her right leg is thick like a male. She also wears Upanayana. She holds deer in her left arm and has Chandra Prabhai behind the left side of her head. Compared to her right leg, her left leg is thin and feminine. 

There are five female deities as the niche idols around the shrine of Maanendiya Valli. All of them are found seated and interestingly they all hold Mazhu and Deer in their arms. 

Nandi is found facing towards her shrine. 

Nataraja:

The bronze idol of Nataraja in this temple is in unique style called as Urdhvajanu. It is one of the rare forms of Nataraja with his knee raised upwards. (I visited this temple after multiple attempts. It remained closed throughout the day; I had to literally travel few times to this village, wait for the priest in his house to get this temple opened. I could not get a chance to see Nataraja though. The shrine was closed.)

Niche Idols:

The west facing outer wall of the sanctum has the beautiful niche idol of Vrushabhantika Murti. He is found leaning over Nandi, with his right arm held between the horns of Nandi. His head is also slightly tilted. 

The other two niches do not have the original Murtis. The not-so-beautiful stucco idols of Ardhanareeswarar and Durga are found in those two niches. Durga also holds deer and mazhu in her arms.

Other Deities:

The original Chola period Chandikeshwara is found.

The sub-shrines of Ganesh, Vishwanatha and Subramanya-Valli-Devasena are located in the prakara. It is said that Gaja Lakshmi shrine was also there, which is not found nowadays.

Navagraha is found, where Surya alone is found along with his consorts.

The idols of Surya and Bhairav are found facing towards the sanctum. They appear to be of original period.

Dakshinamurti's sub-shrine is located near Vrushabhantika Murti. It appears to be a new unnecessary addition. 

Happy travelling.









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