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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Trichy Tours - Gunaseelam-Tiruvasi-Thirupaingili

14-1-08 :
We went for morning coffee at Murali's coffee stall. Timings : 0430 - 9.00 AM & 3.00 - 8.30 PM. Dispenses south Indian decoction coffee - really divine stuff at Rs.5/- Strongly recoomended for anyone visiting Srirangam. Location : Just outside Rajagopuram.
We then proceeded to Gunaseelam 16 kms away on Salem - Tiruchy highway. The presiding deity is Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal on the banks of the river Cauvery. This an Abhimana Sthalam. Prasanna Venkatachalapathy stands in the same posture as in Tirupathi.The Deity holds the sacred conch and the Holy Chakra in his hands. The scepter the lord holds in his right hand is used to cure the mentally afflicted. Mentally challenged people are taken and kept in the temple premises for 48 days.
Legend : Gunaseelar,a sishyan of Talpeeyar, once went to Tirumala to worship Lord Vankatachalapathy. He requested the Lord to come with him to Gunaseelam. The Lord tells him to go back & that he will soon make his appearance. Gunaseelar returns & tells this to Talpeeyar who advises him to do penance & the Lord will appear. So Gunaseelar does 'panch agni' penance.This had such a powerful effect that even Indra became worried that Gunaseelar may become powerful than Indra himself. Indra sent thunder & lightning to earth in an effort to disturb the penance but did not suceed. The Devas then approached Brahma for a solution. On Brahma's advise they approached Vishnu directly. Vishnu assured the Devas that he will make himself present to Gunaseelar & accordingly appeared in the ashram in the form of Venkatachalapathy. Gunaseelar then regularly worhipping the deity. After some time Gunaseelam left with his Guru to Badrinath with the Lord’s permission after appointing a young boy to look after the deity. The boy however ran away and subsequently an ant hill formed on deity. Many years later king Gnana Varman happened to discover it and built a temple over it. The Lord is said to be Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal. The temple has been built magnificently and many devotees throng the temple.
Tiruvasi :
Tiruppachlaasramam or Tiruvasi is on the northern bank of river Kollidam.There lies the temple 12 kms from Tiruchy on the road to Musiri and Salem. A tevaram sthalam - sung by Sambandhar & Sundarar. Deity is Maatrarivaradar or Sameevaneswarar or Brahmapureeswara. Ambal is Balambikai and is a tall idol. Sthala Vriksham is Vanni Tree & Tirtham is Brahma Tirtham.
Legends : The name 'Maatrarivaradar' comes from a dialogue between Shiva and Sundarar where Sundarar had compared the tamarind fruits that had turned to gold at Engoimalai, with the gold received here, and Shiva is said to have asked of him 'Maatru Kuraiavillaye'. Sambandar said to have cured a girl of her disease termed as muyalakan - which is abdominal pain - hence the Nataraja here has a serpent under his feet instead of Muyalakan.
There are sculptures of both these incidents displayed.
The moolavar is East facing with Natarajar just outside the sanctum. As you circumambulate the sanctum you have ambal sannithi facing west, then Nalwars followed by 63'ars on the South prakaram, shrines of Ganesha on SW corner, Shanmughar & Gajalakshmi on West, Navagrahas on NE corner. Koshtam images of Dakshinamurthy, Ardhanareeswarar and Durga adorn the sanctum wall.
Neellivaneswarar Temple - Thirupaingili : This is a tevara sthalam. Arulmigu Viswanathar temple, also called Neellivaneswarar temple lies 20 kms north-west of Tiruchirappalli. Appar has sung here & the tirtham is Appar thirtham. We entered through a large wooden door of a half finished but well sculpted Gopuram( sometimes called rayagopuram) into a large prakaram containing many minor shrines & a colorful gopuram for Neellivaneswara.The prakaram is enclosed all round by tall granite walls - the stones carry unique tiger stripe designs. The prakaram also contains a shrine for Sorudeswarar with a Vinayakar idol outside & an underground cave shrine for Yama on the South side with a tirtham adjacent to it. Athikara vallavar ( somaskander ) in the cave shrine, gave rebirth to yama ( god of death ). The exemplary rock sculptures of Shiva, Parvati & Muruga in cave shrine is credited to Mahendraverma Pallava during 640 AD. On the West side is the Sthala Vriksham - Vazha Thottam with a small shrine for bhoga sakti amman. When unmarried persons carry out parikara poojai here their marriages get fixed soon. The 'vazhai pazham' is used only as offerring for the deity & then discarded. Humans should not consume these. There are two ambal sannithis on the North side - Visalakshi & Neelnedum kannammal - one facing south & another facing East. (the original ambal was hidden during an invasion by Mughals. Later the ambal could not be traced so a second ambal was installed. Subsequently the original ambal was located)
Inside the main sanctum, the conventional navagrahas shrine does not exist- the steps leading down to the main shrine are said to represent navagrahas. Chinnandavar & Periyandavar, rural guardian deities are also located inside. In front of the nandhi, devotees pray to navagrahas by lighting oil lamps on cavern holes in the granite floor.
Legend of Yama :
Maharshi Mrigandu and Maruthuvathi were sad as they were childless. The Lord, in recognition of Mrigandu's penance granted them a boon. He asked the sage if he wanted a child full of wisdom but with a short life or one with a long life but full of wickedness. The sage preferred the former. The boy was born and named Markandeya. When he was 16 he understood the truth of his longevity and visited many Shiva temples until he reached Thirukadayur. It was the last day of his life. He saw Yama coming to take his life, so Markandeya tightly embraced the Shivalinga. When the Yama spread his death rope, it also covered the Lord Shiva. Angered by Yama’s action, the Lord kicked & killed Yama(Samharam). After this no death occurred & the burden of Mother earth became heavy. At her request, the Lord again restored Yama back to life. This happened at Tirupainjilee.

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