Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mudumalai Safari

Bhavana, Rohit & Mira were in Coimbatore for a week in June'08 for the final phase of their annual vacation to India. I had planned a trip to Mudumalai for a stay in the Forest Lodge and go on a jungle Safari. Accordingly we left Coimbatore on 28th morning via Mettupalayam towards Coonoor & Ooty. Before we started the climb we stopped over at the foothills for breakfast of yummy sandwiches . Mira was joyous at seeing the large crowd of monkeys enroute perched on the trees, sitting on the parapet walls and dashing around the roadside. We briefly stopped to enjoy the breathtaking view of Law Falls adjoining which are the Glendale Estates as well as the Tantea plantations. At Coonoor we took a drive through the restricted Wellington, HQ of the Madras Regimental Centre. The old Boys Bridge had been demolished and a new bridge is under construction.Then we continued on towards Ooty past Aravangadu Cordite Factory, Ketty & Valley View & finally reached Ooty. We stopped briefly at Preeti Classic Hotel for rest and coffee and to stretch our limbs. Mira had youghurt & milk and gleefully pranced around the spacious restaurant.
Next we went to the office of the Wild Life Warden Ooty to reconfirm our accomodation at Masinagudi. We met an officer Mr.Venkatesan who immediately rang up and spoke the Reception Office at Theppakadu informing them about our arrival and to extend full assisteance to us.
We had lunch at Dhaba Express or more popularly known as Sachin's Dhaba ( no relation to Tendulkar !) The setting was elegant and simple, ambience was good, it had a clean kitchen and the food was delicious. The menu for the day - Egg Bhurji, Dal Makhani, Dal Tadka Fry, Chicken Biryani, Chicken Tangdi Kabab, Palak Paneer, Tandoori Rotis & stuffed Kulchas.
The quantities very very generous. After lunch we left straightaway towards Mudumalai. We decided to take the Kalhatty ghat route comprising 36 steep hair pin bends. The car was driven mostly in 2nd gear in view of the steep incline. Ramesh, our driver negotiated the gradient well. The view was breathtaking and enroute we crossed a Holiday Camp, the Mystique Manor Guest House, Kalhatty Falls, Bison point before we reached the base of the ghat. We reached Masinagudi in about an hour and a half from Ooty. We checked into the Forest Lodge which had three sparsely furnished rooms and as we had booked all the rooms we had the entire cottage to ourselves. The Khansama was called Ismail. We unloaded our baggage, relaxed a bit, had tea and then left for Theppakadu which was reached after an eight kilometre drive through the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Enroute we spotted peacocks, wild hog & deer. We crossed a bridge over the Moyar River to reach Theppakadu. We spent some time at the Sylvan Lodge which is located on the banks of the Moyar River. We sighted a large herd of deer which ran past the lodge into the forest. At the Range Reception Office we met one Mr.Moorthy who informed us that the elephant ride had been cancelled that day due to rain. He then guided us to the elephant camp.
At 5.30 pm we went to the elephant camp in Theppakadu to watch the elephant feeding. Here there are about 20 elephants of which 15 elephants are used for elephant rides for tourists and the balance elephants are used by the department for forest clearance and other miscellaneous works.
There were around 50 tourist who had gathered to witness the elephant feeding. There is a separate enclosed bay provided for mixing the food. The various items of food for each elephant are measured and placed separately on a table with a placard bearing the elephant's name placed besides for identification. The menu comprises various proportions of ragi, horse gram, jaggery, a full coconut, rice,salt, sugar cane. The elephant keepers enter the bay and after thoroughly mixing the various ingredients into a large ball take the same to the respective elephants for feeding.
We also saw a baby elephant calf which forest officials had recently found abandoned in the forest. The entire elephant feeding operation, which lasted close to an hour,was thrilling to watch and very educative.
We then returned to base at Masinagudi. The Khansama Ismail had prepared chapatis and vegetable curry. Then we watched a bit of TV before retiring for the night- breaking news was that the PDP had withdrawn from the coalition in J & K. Fortunately we had carried liquid mosquito repellants which saved us from the menace of the deadly mosquitoes. Next morning we left early for Theppakadu for the forest Safari Tour by camouflaged van which took us on a guided tour deep into the tiger reserve.The tour lasted 45 minutes but we could not spot any animals barring Deer & Nilgiri langurs. After our return we went on an elephant ride atop "Ganesh" into the jungle. This was really very exciting and adventurous and lasted close to an hour. But alas all we could see were peacocks and the flying squirrel. The charge per person for the van tour was Rs.35/- and the elphant ride Rs.400/- for 4 persons.
On return to camp at Theppakadu Reception Centre we found a large family of Nilgiri Langurs sitting atop the reception center and congregating on a nearby trees. This was indeed a very rare sight I had the opportunity of shooting some good pictures at close quarters.
The reception centre has a small canteen serving snacks & beverages, which is run by the Tribal Welfare Association. The profit generated is utilised for development and upliftment of the local tribals.
We returned to Masinagudi for breakfast. Enroute we saw another family of langurs feeding by the road side. Ismail served us all idlis, dosa,pongal and generous quantities of chutney & sambhar. We then packed up and departed. We reached Ooty by around 12.00 noon and drove straight to Ooty Lake for boating. But as luck would have it we were compelled to drop the idea due to persistent drizzle. We went next to Charing Cross Road where we stopped over to buy Ooty's famous home made chocolates at King Star. We lunched at at vegetarian restaurant. Rohit had a Gujaratai Thali while Bhavana, Guhan & I had Aloo & Methi parathas.
After lunch we headed straight back to Coimbatore. We returned to the Den around 4.30 evening. For picture gallery log on to:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Weekend in Bangalore

Was in Bangalore on 20-21 June'08. Main purpose of the visit was to attend a wedding. But there was plenty of spare time & decided to drive to Devanahalli around 35 Kms from Bangalore city. Enroute, around mid-way to Devanahalli,we stopped over at a road side dhaba 'Ambience" for lunch. Excellent stuff - we had tandoori rotis, paneer butter masala, yellow dal & channa (we had carried fruit juice cartons and plenty of Kingfisher cans with us to prevent dehydration). A real treat, good ambience & modest rates. Weather was great - typical cool & pleasant Banguluru climate with light drizzle. We continued our journey towards Devanahalli - excellent multi lane road, comparable with the best highways in the world, which allowed us to cruise at a steady 100 Kmph. Significant landmarks that we crossed included the Larsen & Toubro factory, Air Force Station Yelahanka, Delhi Public School & ITC factory. We continued past the flyover leading to the newly opened Devanahalli Airport & travelled another seven Kms to reach Devanahalli Fort.
We first stopped at the small monument, a four pillared arched structure, erected on a square platform, at the spot where Tipu Sultan was born. Another 150 M ahead lay the Devanahalli Fort. Devanahalli is a prehistoric fort town from the past. It has under the rule of Rastra Kutas, Nolambas, Cholas, Hoysalas & the Vijayanagara rulers. During the Vijayanagara rule one Malla Baire Gowda, a feudatory, constructed the fort in 1501 AD with the consent of Devaraya of Devanadoddi - the erstwhile name of Devanahalli. Subsequently in 1747 AD the fort passed on to the hands of the Wodeyars of Mysore. Later it was captured by Hyder Ali & Tipu Sultan. It was the favorite hunting place of Tipu Sultan.The roughly oval east oriented fortification veneered with dressed masonry has as many as twelve semi circular bastions at regular intervals. The bastions are provided with gun points built in brick and lime.
This fort has been identified as a monument of National importance but from the looks of it little is being done to protect this monument of such a historical significance. Free movement of people and vehicles is allowed into the fort and there is no security of any sort. There are some nice Hindu Temples inside the fort. One of these which we visited is the Venugopla temple said to be over 500 years old but appears to have been recently renovated. The striking features of the temple are the magnificent dwaja sthambham and the nicely carved pillared entrance portico. The temple is very charming and the deity inspiring.
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sri Lanka Visit

I was on a three day visit to Sri Lanka for a Bosch Business meeting. On 13 May'2008 I emplaned from the lovely Nedumbasseri International Airport near Angamali. This is probably one of the best airports in India at present. The building architecture is traditional Kerala style & there is so much space all around the Airport, that there is no question of a traffic congestion ever occurring.
We had reached Angamali the previous night, visited Kalady, the birth place of Adi Sankara, and after worshipping there we spent the night at Hotel Abad Airport.
The carrier was Sri Lankan and the flight duration from Nedumbasseri to Bandaranaike Airport was approximately 55 minutes. The plane touched down around 10.30 IST. There is no time difference between IST & Sri Lankan time. The airport is in Katunayake around 25 Kms north of Colombo. It is a spanking new airport built to international standards & comparable to the best airports in the world like Singapore & Bangkok. We were received by a coach & driven straight to Colombo ( one hours drive) for lunch at the Taj Samudra. Colombo city appeared to be old, dusty, underdeveloped & war torn - in fact it presented the sight of an ancient city right out of the distant past. Sri Lanka is about 70 percent Buddhist with large concentrations of Christians, Hindus and Muslims as well. The destructive path of the tsunami in Sri Lanka killed over 30,000 people and left hotels, homes, and buildings in complete shambles. No Buddha statues were reported as being broken, cracked or destroyed during the onslaught of the massive tidal wave.
Post lunch we resumed the coach journey southward on the Colombo-Galle highway along the coast line & after nearly 2 1/2 hours drive reached Bentota & checked into the lovely & scenic Taj Bentota hotel. Enroute we crossed the towns of Dehiwala, Moratuwa, Panatura, Kalutara & Aluthgama. The coast line was splendid, has retained its natural beauty and generally unencumbered by needless construction.
Taj Bentota is an exotic hotel right on the South Western Coast of Sri Lanka. Rooms are neat & well furnished with a sea facing balcony. On 13th evening there was a gala cocktails & dinner accompanied by entertainment by Sri Lankan folk dancers. On 14 th morning we went on a coach tour to a turtle conservation hatchery followed by a visit to Kandi Vihara which has a large Buddhist Temple & a smaller Vishnu shrine adjacent. The Buddha statue here, that was built around two hundred years ago, is the highest in Sri Lanka.
We had a business session in the afternoon lasting around 4 hours and that was followed by more entertainment - fire dance, fire works on the beach, turkish belly dances amidst constant flow of alcohol & snacks.
Next day (15 March'08) we checked out early after a quick breakfast. Reached Colombo for a spot of shopping followed by lunch in a vegetarian restaurant run by Sri Lankan Tamils & finally reached Bandarnaike Airport to catch the late evening flight back to Nedumbassery.
The trip was indeed memorable with several nice moments.
Mahinda son of Asoka an ardent follower of Buddhism, led the mission to Sri Lanka in 246 BC where he converted the King of Sri Lanka to Buddhism. From then on, the royal families patronized and encouraged the spread of Buddhism, aiding Buddhist missionaries and building monasteries & Viharas. Sanghamitra, daughter of Ashoka, brought a shoot of the Bodhi Tree from Bodh Gaya to Sri Lanka and established the Order of Nuns. Around 200 BC, Buddhism became the official religion of Sri Lanka. The Relic of the tooth of Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka in 4th century AD by Prince Danta and Princess Hemamla.
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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Vilamar-Tiru Alangudi

9 March'2008 - This was the final leg of our trip. The previous four days were exciting but exhausting. we decided to keep the last day easy & our primary objective was to return to Coimbatore. Enroute we visited teo Tevara Sthalams described under. As we crossed Thanjavur the Big Temple again came to focus. We stopped over on the flyover adajacent to the temple & took some great shots. We went into the temple for some more shots. The results were magnificent. See picture gallery at:
Tiru Vilamar: This Shivastalam is a small temple 3 km to the south west of the grand Tiruvarur temple. Vilamar is regarded as the 90th in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola region south of the river Kaveri. The presiding deity is Shiva or Patanjali Manoharar and the Ambal is Yaazhinum men mozhiammai, Madhura Bhashini. Theertham is Agni Theertham hymns have been sung by Sambandar.
The Agni Theertham tank is in front of the temple. Patanjali and Vyagrapadar, for whom Shiva provided a vision of the cosmic dance at Chidambaram are said to have worshipped here. The east facing temple has a south facing Ambal shrine and a south facing shrine for Bhairavar. There are also shrines to Saneeswaran, Surya, Chandra, Ganesha and Gajalakshmi. The mandapam in front of the main shrine enshrines images of Patanjali and Vyagrapadar.
Tiru Alangudi: Also known as Tiruvirumpoolai Aabatsakayar. This is regarded as a 'Gurustalam' where Dakshinamurthy is held in great reverence, attracting huge crowds when Jupiter transits between zodiac signs. The festival image here is that of Dakshinamurthy & this stalam is considered to be one of the 9 Navagrahastalams of the Chola region. This shrine is regarded as the 98th in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola Region south of the river Kaveri. The presiding deity is Shiva or Aabatsakaayar & Ambal: Elavaar kuzhaliammai, Elaalakaambaal. Theertham: Amrita Pushkarini & Patikam : Sambandar
Legends: Dakshinamurthy is said to have preached to the Devas who had swooned under the impact of the poison that came out of the churning of the milky ocean. Parvati is said to have been reborn on the banks of Amrita Pushkarini and later on reunited with Shiva. Viswamitrar is believed to have worshipped Shiva here.
The Temple: There are as many as 15 theerthams in this temple which occupies an area of about 1.25 acres, surrounded by lofty walls. One of the theerthams is a well located inside the temple and it is referred to as the Jnana koopam. East of the temple is the Poolaivala river, whose waters are used in abhishekam ceremonies in the Tamil month of Aippasi.
There are shrines to Surya, Gurumoksheswarar, Somanathar, Saptarishi nathar,Someswarar, Vishnunathar and Bhrameesar, Kaasi Viswanathar and Visalakshi.
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Tirukannapuram Divya Desam

8 March'2008:
Thirukannapuram, near Thirupugalur, which lies between Nagapatinam, Nannilam and Kumbakonam, is one of the 108 Divya Desams The moolavar is Neelamegha Perumal and the utsavar is Savuriraja Perumal.The idol appears in an unusual posture here in this temple. Instead of blessing the devotees, he appears to be in a receiving posture, meaning that he is accepting the sorrows and difficulties of the devotees.
The utsavar is known as Savuriraja Perumal as he appears with ‘savuri’ (hair) on his head. Legend: It was the practice of the The temple priest to present a garland that had adorned the deity, to the Chola king who visited the temple. But the priest had actually given away the garland to a temple dancer.When the king arrived, the priest sent for the garland he had given to the dancer. The king received the garland but noticed a strand of hair in it and became furious. To escape from his wrath, the priest told the king that the Lord had a tuft of hair and that strand of hair was from the tuft. To save the priest, the Lord too appeared with a black ‘savuri’ in front of the king. From that day on, He has been known as ‘Savuriraja Perumal’.
Apart from this, one can see a scar on the utsavar’s right brow. Thirukannapurathu Araiyar was in anguish when the temple walls were demolished by foreigners. In a fit of sorrow, he threw the plate and it struck the idol on the brow and left a scar on the deity.
Thirukannapuram is famous for ‘muniyodharan pongal’. There is a story behind this too. Collecting the tributes and handing it over to the Chola king was the job of Muniyodharar. Once, instead of giving the money to the king, Muniyodharar spent it on some temple work.
This made the king angry and Muniyodharar was imprisoned. The temple dancer was grief stricken and she approached the Lord. The Lord appeared in the king’s dream and ordered him to release Muniyodharar. The king did so. Later, Muniyodhara offered pongal to God and then ate the delicacy.The next day, the temple priests were surprised to see pongal rolling down with ghee on the body of the Lord. From that day, it has become a tradition to offer ‘pongal’ to the lord every night at 9.00 pm.
There is no ‘Swarga Vasal’ for this temple as they say that one can reach ‘Vaikunta’ if they just step on this soil. It is believed that there is a ‘pulling power’ in the sanctum santorum of this temple and even to this day, one can feel and experience this effect.
The devotees offer 'savuri' to the lord when their wishes are fulfilled.
Thaayaar - Kannapuranayagi (Sridevi, Boodevi, Aandaal, Padmini). Theertham - Nithyapushkarini.
Mangalasasanam: Andal, Kulasekarazhwar, Thirumangaiazhwar, Nammazhwar.
We stayed on in the Temple till the 'muniyodara pongal sevai' was complete & we got to eat the divine pongal.
It had been a long day but well spent and many temples visited. We had visited and prayed at an amazing 17 shrines that day and Thirukannapuram was a fitting finale. As per original plan we were to spend the night at Tirukannapuram Temple guest house. But as the rooms were substandard we decided to drive back to Tiruvarur. Fortunately rooms were available at the Circuit House & we checked in tired but with great satisfaction.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Tirumarugal - Tiruchankattangudi

8 March'2008:
Tirumarugal: This is a Tevara sthalam is one of the 78 maadakkovils ( it is impossible for an elephant to come near the Sivalingam) built at an elevation by Ko Chenkann Cholan, known by the name Manikkagiri. It is considered to be the 80th in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola kingdom located south of the river Kaveri.
The preding deity is Shiva also known as Manikkavannar, Ratnagireeswarar and the Ambal is Vanduvaarkuzhaliammai, Amotalanayaki. Sthal Vriksham is Vaazhai , the Theertham is Siva Ganga & hymns have been sung by Sambandar, Appar.
Legend has it that Lakshmi got reunited with Vishnu upon worshipping Shiva, hence the name Tirumarugal.The name marugal also comes from the stala vruksham - Vaazhai. Vinayakar here is known by the name Visham Theertha Vinayakar.
According to the legend, when Sambandar visited this temple, he found a young woman crying in front of the temple. When Sambandar went near her to know the reason for her crying, he found a young man lying dead. He came to know from the woman that she and the young man had decided to marry against the wishes of their parents and came to the temple to marry in front of Lord Shiva and spent the previous night inside th e temple. But unfortunately before they could get married, the bridegroom died due to a snake bite. Deeply hurt by the pathetic condition of the young woman, Sambandar composed a Pathigam to Lord Shiva.To the surpirse and joy of all, the dead young man awakened. The couple got married at this this place with god Shiva as a witness.
The Temple: The entrance to this temple with 2 prakarams is crowned with a 5 tiered Rajagopuram.The tank in front of the temple is known as Lakshmi Theertham. The madakkoyil is reached through a flight of stairs on the side. Murals depicting legends associated with this temple are seen in the Amman shrine. One of the tanks here is named Seerala Theertham, after the son of Siruthonda Nayanar.
Tiruchankattankudi : The presiding deity is Shiva also known as Uttarapathiyar, Ganapateeswarar and Ambal is Tirugukuzhal Nayaki. Theertham: Surya Theertham & hymns were sung by : Sambandar, Appar.
This Shivastalam is located near Tirupugalur and the Vaishnava Divya Desam Tirukkannapuram and is also known as Ganapateeswaram. There are several features of interest and several colorful legends here. Shiva's dance here is referred to as Ubayapaadanarthanam. Sirutonda Nayanar is associated with this shrine. It is considered to be the 79th in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola kingdom located south of the river Kaveri.
Tiruchenkaattankudi is the site of one of the nine Nava - tandavams of Shiva Tiruvalangadu-Oordvatandavam, Kailasam-Veda Tandavam, Tiruvenkadu-Rahasyatandavam, Chidambaram-Ananda Tandavam, Madurai-Kaal Maari Aadiyadu, Kumbhakonam-Aadalvallar Tandavam, Vazhuvur-Dharukavana Tandavam, Atikai - Tripura Tandavam, and Tiruchenkaattankudi - Ubayapaadanartanam.
Legends: Ganapati is said to have prayed to Shiva here to seek atonement for the sin of having killed Gajamukhasuran, hence the name Ganapateeswaram. The demon's blood flowed to create the reddened land, Chenkaadu. Shiva Bhairava is said to have killed Raktabheejan & other demons here.
A five tiered rajaopuram adorns the entrance. The Vaataapi Ganapati temple (in commemoration of the expedition to Vaaataapi the Chalukyan capital) was raised by Sirutonda Nayanar and the then Pallava Emperor. Utharapateeswarar represents the Bhikshandakar manifestation of Shiva. There is an image of Vinayaka with a human face here in this temple.
This Shivastalam is known primarily for the manifestation of Shiva as Chandrasekharar. There are 3 different shrines referred to as Vardhamaneswaram, Bhuteswaram, Bhavishyeswaram. Tiruppugalur is considered to be the 74th in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola kingdom located south of the river Kaveri .
The presiding deity is Shiva also known as Konappiraan, Agneeswarar & Ambal is Karuntaazhkuzhali, Chootikambal. Vriksham: Vanni Tree & Theertham: Agni Theertham Patikam : Sambandar, Appar, Sundarar.
Appar is said to have spent his last years here, dedicating his life to the upkeep of this temple, and the Appar Peruvizha which lasts for a period of 10 days, celebrates these events. Shiva is also said to have blessed Sundarar with material wealth to enable him to conduct the Pankuni Uthiram festival at Tiruvarur.
Legends: Agni is said to have worshipped Shiva here; and was blessed with a vision of Chandrasekharar. The demon Banasuran is said to have attempted to carry away the Shivalingam from here. Shiva is said to have blessed Bhumidevi & Satyashada rishi with a vision of the Cosmic Dance.
The Temple: This large temple with a 5 tiered Rajagopuram & 2 prakarams is surrounded by a moat. The 100 pillared hall here deserves mention. Inscriptions from Kulottungan's time are seen here. The festival image that adorns this shrine is an interesting one with 3 feet and seven arms. The 100 pillared hall serves as the Appar Mandapam.
There is a stone image of Chandrasekharar in in a mandapam near the Agni Theertham, The festival image of Chandrasekharar occupies the position reserved for Somaskandar. The image of Agni in front of Chandrasekharar is of great beauty.There are several shrines within this temple and several legends associated with each. Vishnu is believed to have manifested himself as the Vanni maram here.


8 March'2008:
Sikkal: After Soundararaja Perumal we rushed to Sikkal, a tiny village around 10 Km from Nagapattinam. Devotees throng the Singaravelar temple at Sikkal because it is believed that all diseases will be cured and all troubles melt like butter here. It was here that Lord Subrahmanya got the Vel (lance) from His Mother Goddess Parvati to kill Surapadman, the demon king. The monster was slain at Tiruchendur on Skanda Sashti.
This Tevara Sthalam is a maadakkovil built at an elevation The presiding deity is Lord Navaneetheswarar with His consort Vel Nedum Kanni Amman. It is considered to be the 83rd in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola kingdom located south of the river Kaveri. . There is a Tyagaraja Shrine here, although it is not one of the Saptavitanka Stalams
Legends: Sage Vasishta had visited the place and moulded a Lingam from the butter churned from the milk of Kamadhenu (the divine cow) and offered prayers to help Kamadhenu regain her form. And Lord Siva appeared before Sage Vasishta and fulfilled his prayers. Therefore, the presiding deity is known as Vennainathar.
Kamadhenu had consumed meat & cursed by Siva with a Tiger face. Lord Siva told Kamadhenu that she would regain her form after taking a bath in the holy tank of the Sikkal temple after filling it with her divine milk. The temple tank is therefore called Ksheera Pushkarani.
Vasishta tried to remove the Lingam (made of butter), he could not succeed as it got stuck to the place firmly. Hence the name Sikkal. According to Puranas, Lord Vishnu came as a child and took away some butter from the Lingam worshipped by Vasishta. When Vasishta became angry the child appeared as Lord Vishnu (Vennai Peruman) and gave darshan to Vasishta. Hence, both Siva and Vishnu shrines are situated in the same temple.
Lord Subrahmanya at Sikkal is named Singaravelar because of His beautiful form. The beautiful panchaloka Singaravelar idol, with consorts Valli and Deivanai, on the peacock with gold kavacham at Sikkal temple has unique divine powers.
During the Skanda Sashti festival ( a week after Deepavali), every year, the idol of Singaravelar is taken in procession, first to His Mother Goddess Vel Nedum Kanni Amman for receiving the Vel and then to the shirine of Somaskandar on the hillock. During the journey the idol of Singaravelar breaks out into sweat on the face.
The King of Ayodhya, Musukunda Chakravarthy is said to have built the temple for Navaneetheswarar at Sikkal several centuries ago. It was renovated during the fourth century by the Chola King Kochenkannan.
About the Temple: The 7 tiered Rajagopuram that adorns the entrance to this temple is about 80 feet in height. Inscriptions from the Imperial Chola period and from the Vijayanagar period abound in this temple. The Kartikai Mandapam in the forefront exhibits a number of paintings depicting legends related to Subramanya
Tirunallar Saneeswarar: After Sikkal we returned to Nagapattinam for lunch & then proceeded via Karaikal towards Tirunallar where we reached around 2.30 afternoon. This Thevara Sthalam is a vast temple shrine of great significance, especially in light of Saneeswarar's sannidhi here, which attracts thousands when the planet Saturn transits between zodiac signs. Tirunallar is one of the 7 Saptavitanka stalams of Tyagaraja connected with the Mucukunda Chola legend and housing Nagavitankar (Unmatta Natanam).
The presiding deity is Shiva: Darbaranyatyagar, Darbaranyeswarar & Ambal: Bogamaatha Poonmulaiyaal, Pranamba. Patikam : Sambandar, Appar, Sundarar.
HISTORY OF THE TEMPLE: This is an ancient Siva temple probably constructed in 7th Century A.D. Dharbarenyeswarar is the main deity and Lord Saturn, Sri Pranambigai, Sri Thiagarajar and Sri Vinayagar are other deit ies.
As per legend King Nala of Puranic fame was relieved of the affliction of Lord Saturn or Lord Saneeswaran after worshipping the Lord consecrated in this temple. Whoever visits this temple and prays before Lord Saneeswaran is believed to have been relieved of all the curses and sufferings and get the blessings of Lord for a happy and prosperous life.
DIVINESS OF THE TEMPLE:The moolavar of Dharbarenyeswarar is Swayambu Lingam . The place was originally a forest of Dharba grass and it is stated that the Lingam even now has impressions left by the Dharba weeds within which it was situated. The Lord here is also known as "Adhimoorthy or Nallarar" . The great Saivite saints Thirugnanasambhandar, Sundaramurthy Swamigal, Thirunavukkarasar and Arunagirinadhar have worshipped at this shrine and sung about the glory of the Lord. "PachaI Padhigam" sung by the great saint Thirugnanasambhandar is very famous one.
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Friday, June 6, 2008

Velankanni - Nagapattinam

8 March'2008:
Velankanni: After Tiruvaimur we continued on our way towards Nagapattinam. The countryside was drab, dry & barren. We had entered Nagapattinam district which had been severely devastated by Tsunami. Suddenly & quite unexpectedly we saw a board indicating Velankanni lay about 13 Kms off the highway to the right. We took an impulsive decision to visit Velankanni shrine though this was not in the original plan.
Our lady of Good Health, popularly called "Our Lady of Vailankanni" is in the small town of Vailankanni (5000 residents) located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal- 150 miles south of Chennai and 5 miles south of Nagapattinam. Our lady chose this place to dispense her miracles to mankind. A strong oral tradition attests to Our Lady’s apparitions at Vailankanni, built around the following three significant events:
Sometime during the sixteenth century, Our Lady with her infant son appeared to a Hindu boy carrying milk to a customer’s home. The boy gave her milk for the infant.
Some years later Our Lady appeared again to a crippled boy who was selling buttermilk near a public square on the outskirts of the same village of Vailankanni. She asked him for buttermilk for her infant Son and the boy compiled.
A few years later, Our Merciful Mother rescued a few Portuguese merchant sailors from a violent storm, which wrecked their ship.To give thanks and pay tribute to Our Lady, they built a small permanent chapel on their return trip.
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We spent less than an hour at Velankanni & briefly visited the shrine & prayed. We departed for Nagapattinam. Enroute we saw the memorial built for Tsunami victims.
We soon reached Nagapattinam & drove straight to the Neelayadakshi Kovil, one of the 7 Sapta Vitanka Stalams sacred to Tyagarajar, housing Sundara Vitankar (Paravara Taranga Natanam). This temple is regarded as one of the 64 Shakti Peethams of India. Nagappattinam is considered to be the 82nd in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola kingdom located south of the river Kaveri. Lttle of its past glory remains in this vast temple. The Gometaka Lingam representing Sundara Vitankar was stolen in the recent past.
Shiva: Kayarohaneswarar & Ambal: Karuntadankanni, Neelayadakshi. Vriksham: Maamaram & Theertham: Pundarika Theertham. Patikam : Sambandar, Appar, Sundarar
Legends: Pundarika Munivar ascended to divinity with his mortal body, hence Kaya Aarohanam. The name Nagappattinam is believed to have been derived from the legend of Adiseshan worshipping Shiva there. Adiseshan's daughter is believed to have married Saaleeswaran, a devotee of Shiva.
The Temple: As with the other 7 Saptavitanka shrines, there are separate shrines for the Moolavar, Tyagarajar and Ambal. There is a shriine to Sundaramoorthy Nayanar and Paravai Nachiyar across the hall from Tyagar, very much along the lines of Tiruvarur. Nagabharana Vinayakar and Maavadi Vinayakar are the names of Vinayakar here.
The Deva Theertham is to the South of the temple while the Pundarika Theertham is to the west. Neelayadakshi's shrine here is of great significance. The bronze image of Panchamukha Vinayakar is worth mention (as in Tiruvarur and in Vedaranyam). There are several inscriptions relating to the period of Dutch rule at Nagappattinam, in this temple.
Nagai SoundarajaPerumal Temple:
The Soundaryaraja Perumal Temple in Nagapattinam has an interesting history and a fascinating legend behind it. Thirumangai Azhwar in his "Periya Thirumozhi", hails the Lord enshrined in the temple in the port city of Nagapattinam as Naagai Azhagiyar. He describes the Lord's body as gold coloured, wearing an ornament studded with emerald and He is the embodiment of the Vedas. According to Brahmanda Puranam, the temple existed in all the four yugas — in the Kritha Yuga, the serpent king Adisesha, did penance in Soundaranyam (erstwhile name for Nagai), praying to the Lord to grant him the boon of being with Him forever. The Lord fulfilled his wish and he became the Lord's couch. The place also came to be known as Nagapattinam. The idols of Adisesha and His Consorts are found in the temple. In the same Yuga, Dhruva, son of King Uthanapada did penance here, praying to the Lord to enable him to become the ruler of the entire world. But when the Lord appeared before him. Dhruva fogot all about becoming the ruler of the world and requested the Lord to stay here as Soundaryarajan and bless the devotees.
In the Thretha Yuga, Bhooma Devi did penance here and in the Dwapara Yuga it was Sage Markandeya. In the Kali Yuga, Salisugan, a Chozha king, fell in love with a Naga Princess. He prayed to the Lord to unite them in wedlock & his wish was granted. After getting a son through him she wanted to return to the Naga world. The Lord appeared and showed the way to her.
The temple has a 70-feet Rajagopuram, a four-pillared mandapam at the entrance, a Dwajasthambam and a Garuda Mandapam. On the left are shrines of Azhwars & the Vasantha Mandapam and on the right is Soundarya Pushkarani. The Sara Pushkarani, created by Adisesha is to the north of the temple.To the south of the Soundarya Pushkarani is the Vaikunta Nathar or Veetrirunda Perumal shrine.
At the entrance of the sanctum sanctorum is the Jaggulu Naicker Mandapam, named after an official of the Dutch rulers when they were in possession of the Nagapattinam area. He was an ardent devotee of the Lord and both built and renovated many portions of the temple.
The images of the official and his wife have been carved on the floor at the entrance of the mandapam - in a lying posture offering their obeisance to the Lord.
There is also a beautiful icon of Ashtabhuja Narasimhar with the Lord blessing Prahlada with His right lower hand while His right and left upper hands carry the Sudarsana and the Panchajanya. The Lord, with Hiranya on His lap, slays him with His other hands.
The Moolavar of the temple is "Azhagiyar". He is also known as Neelamega Perumal. The Utsavar is Soundaryaraja Perumal. The shrine of the Goddess, known as Soundaryavalli, is to the right of the main shrine.
The vimanam over the sanctum sanctorum is known as the Soundarya or Bhadrakoti Vimanam. The Sthala Vriksham is the mango tree.
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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ettukudi - Tiruvaimur

8 March'2008:
Ettukudi: This ancient Subramaniar temple is located 40 km south west of Nagapattinam and is easily accessed from Tiruvaru. It has been revered by the hymns of Arunagirinathar. The name Ettukudi is derived from the Etti trees which dominated this area. The name Ettukudi is derived from the fact that this shrine is surrounded by Shivastalams in all eight directions.This temple is linked closely with Sikkal and Enkann through the legend that the images of Skanda in all three of these shrines were made by the same sculptor. This shrine is closley tied to the legend of Ardhanareeswarar, and Parvati's performance of Kedara Gowri Vratam, to become a part of Shiva. No Tevara Patikams exist for this shrine though. Valmiki is said to have worshipped here.
The sanctum enshrines an imposing image of Shanmukhar with 6 faces, seated on a peackock mount. There are also shrines to Sundareswarar and Anandavalli here. Other shrines here include those to Mahalakshmi, MahaVishnu (Venkatachalapati), Natarajar, and Valmiki Munivar.This image of Skanda in the sanctum is an exquisite one. The entire image is supported only by the 2 legs of the peacock mount.
The theertham here is Saravana Poikai and the stala vriksham is the vanni tree.
Tiruvaimur is located at a distance of 24 km south east of Tiruvarur. This shrine is regarded as the 124th in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola Region south of the river Kaveri.
Shiva: Vaimurnathar, Ambal: Paalinum nan mozhiammai, Ksheeropavachani, Vriksham: Palaamaram, Theertham: Surya Theertham, Patikam : Sambandar, Appar. This Tevara sthalam is one of the 7 Saptavitanka shrines of Tyagaraja associated with the Mucukunda legend of Tiruvarur - Neelavitankar, Kamala Natanam.
Legends: Surya is said to have worshipped Shiva here.
The Temple: This temple occupies an area of about 2 acres and it has a single prakaram and a beautiful 3 tiered Rajagopuram. Across from the temple is the Surya Theertham. The Navagrahams are in a single file as in Tiruvarur. Nataraja's tandavam here, is known as Madhya Tandavam. The sun's rays illuminate the sanctum on the 12th & the 13th days of the Tamil
month of Pankuni. The Rishabha Dakshinamurthy shrine here is of significance
The Vedaranyeswarar and Tyagarajar shrines are located to the North and to the south of the sanctum. The bronze image of Karaikkal Ammaiyar is of great workmanship. Legend has it that Tirunavukkarasar was directed by Shiva in one of his visions to visit this shrine, Sambandar is believed to have visited this shrine with him.
The original brick and mortar temple was reconstructed of stone during the reign of Vikrama Chola, just prior to 1130. Inscriptions from the period of Rajadiraja II, Kulottunga III and Rajaraja III speaking of grants made to the temple are seen here.
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Tirukaravasal - Tirukuvalai

8 March'2008:
Tirukaraivasal: We checked out of Tiruvarur Circuit House early morning and drove of towards Tirukkaraivasal or Tirukarayil around 13 Kms away. The deity is Shiva also known as Kannayira Natheswarar, Tyagarajar (Aadi Vitankar). Ambal is Kailaya Nayaki. Theertham: Indra Theertham & Patikam : Sambandar. This Tevara Sthalam is regarded as of the 7 SaptaVitanka sthalams, housing shrines to Tyagaraja - Somaskandar associated with the Muchukunda Chola legend of Tiruvarur .This shrine is regarded as the 119th in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola Region south of the river Kaveri.
Legends: Indra is said to have worshipped Shiva on a full moon night in the month of Virgo. It is believed that Kadukkai Pillaiyar here, transformed a trader's cargo of nutmeg into Kadukkaai and then back to Nutmeg.
The Temple: Tyagarajar here is known as Aadi Vitankar and is associated with the Kukkuta Natanam dance. The temple covers an area of about an acre. The Indra Theertham is located to the North of the temple.
Tirukkuvalai: Our next stop was at Tirukkuvalai. Shiva: Sundareswarar, Brahmapureeswarar, Kolilinathar & Tyagarajar & Ambal: Meenakshi, Vandamar Poonkuzhili, Brhmara Kuchalambikai. Theertham: Bhrama Theertham & Patikam : Sambandar, Appar, Sundarar.
Tirukkolili is one of the Saptavitanka shrines of Tyagarajar, enshrining Avanivitankar; the natanam here is Bhringa Natanam. This shrine is regarded as the 123rd in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola Region south of the river Kaveri.
Legends: Tyagaraja here is associated with the Muchukunda Chola legend of Tiruvarur. Brahma is said to have worshipped here prior to commencing the act of creation, hence Brahma Tapovanam, Brahmapureeswarar. Since the sins of the 9 celestial bodies (Kol) were forgiven here, the name Tirukkolili came into being. The Navagrahas are enshrined in a straight row here as in Tiruvarur.
Bhima is said to have prayed for forgiveness for having slain Bakaasuran or redemption from Brahmahati Dosham. Sundarar was blessed with rice grains here and this vast supply of grains was miraculously transported by boothaghanas to Tiruvarur. This is commemorated in the Maasi Magam festival. An aged devotee from Kundaiyur intent upon travelling to Madurai was blessed with a vision of Meenakshi and Sundareswarar here.
The Temple: This temple covering an area of under 2 acres has two prakarams the temple entrance is crowned with an imposing Rajagopuram. The Brahma Theertham is situated in front of the temple. The Shivalingam is a Prithvi Lingam (of fine white sand) as in Tiruvarur. It is covered by a Kovilai or Bronze Kavacham.
There are inscriptions here from the period of the Imperial Cholas and Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan. Sundaramoorthy Nayanar and Paravai Nachiyar face Tyagarajar as in Tiruvarur. The Brahmapureeswarar, Tyagarajar and the Ambal shrines face east. Agasthyar is said to have worshipped Shiva here, and this lingam is enshrined in a separate temple in the complex.
Images of Ardhanareeswarar, Mahavishnu, Natarajar, Nartana Vinayakar and those of the stalapuranam, depicting Brahma worshipping Shiva - on the temple walls are of great beauty. Also of great beauty are the bronze images here.
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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Enkann & Tirukannamangai

7 March'2008:
Enkann is located near Thanjavur and houses the Subramaniyaswamy Temple . The deity is seen on his 'vahana' the peacock, flanked by his wives Valli and Deivane.
The legend has it that once Lord Brahma undertook severe penance and offered pooja to Lord Shiva with all his eight eyes. Since this was done at this spot the temple is also known as ‘Ashtanethrapuram’. The presiding deity here is Bhramapureeswarar (Shiva) although the Arumugaswamy shrine is of greater significance as in Sikkal and Ettukkudi and has been glorified by the Tiruppugazh hymns of Arunagirinathar.
There is another interesting legend associated with this shrine. The sculptor who made the Subramanyar image of Sikkal was awe struck by its quality that he vowed that no other such image should be made, and cut off his right thumb.
He was then prompted by Subramanyar in a dream, to fashion another image for the shrine at Ettukkudi. He followed the instructions in his dream, and when the image was complete, blinded himself so that he could not create images any more.
Another dream prompted him to create a third image of Skanda mounted on a peacock with the aid of kartikai pengal.When his chisel inflicted injury upon her; the blood that gushed forth & splashed over his eyes, and he recovered his eyesight miraculously, and sang praises of Skanda. The first phrase that he uttered upon recovering his eyesight was 'En Kann' - hence the name of the temple.
The sancta to Bhramapureeswarar and Bhramanayaki are east facing. The Shanmukhanathar Deva Sabha is located behind these, facing south. There are also shrines to Dakshinamurthy, Natarajar Sivakami, Kasi Viswanathar, Bhairavar, Arunachaleswarar and other deities here.
The annual Bhramotsavam is celebrated in the month of Thai. Skanda Sashti is celebrated in the tamil month of Aippasi. Other festivals here include Kartikai Deepam, Arudra Darisanam, Maasi Magam VAikasi Vishakam and Aadi Pooram.
The temple is keeping a deer in captivity as a pet. This is indeed sad. The upkeep & maintenance of the temple left much to be desired & plants were seen sprouting out of the Vimanams - a very sad commentary on how our great Hindu Culture is preserved.

Thiru Kannamangai Bhaktavatsalam Divya Desam is located on the Kumbakonam-Thiruvarur road between two rivers – OdamPokki in the South and Virutha Cauvery in the North. Godess Mahalakshmi performed penance in the "Shree Mandapan" of this temple and after having a bath in the pushkarani she gave her hand to Bhaktavatsala Perumal. Hence she is called as "Abishegavalli" and this place is also called as "Lakshmi Vanam. It is believed that Thirupaarkadal Lord called in his security Vishwakshena and asked him to suggest a good day for their wedding. Legend has it that all the Devas congregated here to witness the wedding. They were so overwhelmed on seeing the Lord and Goddess Lakshmi together that they took the form of bees and decided to stay here ever after. To this day, one can find the bees in the Thaayar Sannidhi - a unique feature of this Divya Desam.
As Lakshmi’s wedding took place here at Thiru Kannamangai, this place is called Krishna Mangala Kshetram. Special sculpture of Vaikuntanathan and ‘Vishnu on top of Garuda’ is a feature here. Lord Shiva is said to be protecting the place from all sides. Belief is that one who stays here for a night will attain Moksham. Chandran is said to have been relieved of his curse (by Devas) after his prayers to the Lord here.The Nayak kings are said to have renovated the temple in the 17th century.
Moolavar: The Moolavar of this kshetram is Bhaktavatsala Perumal. He is also known as Bhaktaraavi perumal. The Moolavar is giving his seva in standing posture facing the east. Thayaar: The Thayaar is Abishegavalli.
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