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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Mariamman - Bangaru Kamakshi - Nisumbasudini

5-3-2008 : (cont'd)
Punnai Nallur :
The Maratta rulers used to worship Mariamman. Once a Maratta ruler went to pilgrimage to Samayapuram Mariamman near Thiruchirappalli. After he returned to Thanjavur, Mariamman appeared on his dream and mentioned that She is residing at the Punnai forest 5 km East of Thanjavur. The King went and saw a white-ant hill (Putru) and started building a temple around it. The Maratta rulers Thulaja, Serfoji also worshipped and constructed the temple. The Great saint Sadhasiva Brammendra swamy shaped the ant hill into the form of Mariamman and also installed a powerful Chakra. For more details log on to : http://www.kumbakonam.info/punnai/punnai6.htm
Bangaru Kamakshi : Bangaru Kamakshi Temple is one of the popular religious sites in Thanjavur. The temple enshrines Goddess Kamakshi Amman as the presiding deity.
The idol of Bangaru Kamakshi is made of pure gold- covered with a 'Gold Kavacham' except the face. The ‘Kavacham’, made with Panchaloha, is removed for eleven days in a year for ‘Abishekam’ which is the main festival in the temple. Panchaloha is an alloy of five metals - gold, silver, copper, brass and iron. It is widely used for making idols and statues The face of the goddess is covered with 'punugu', which is black in color and so the idol looks as though made of stone. It is believed that Bangaru Kamakshi came from Kanchi Kamakshi's third eye.
Vadabhatrakali Temple : This one of the several Devasthanams belonging to the Thanjavur Palace. Located at East Gate, Thanjavur. The Goddess is Nisumbasudani. Saivite Bronze of Nisumbasudani is displayed at Chennai Museum. Height 75cm. 10th Centuary AD. The Goddess is destroying the demon Nisumbha. She is represented in an eight-armed figure. The "Image is portraying considerable vigour"- Raudra-cum-Saumya expression. The Devi's left hand is in Kataka mudra, holding the trident. The other hands hold-cobra, sword, shield, bow, bell, dagger and skull cup. The right ear-ring is a human form, while the left ear carries an owl.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Big Temple, Thanjavur

5 March'2008 : We left Coimbatore early morning, crossed Air Force Base Sulur & Palladam & reached Karur around 9.00 am & stopped at Anandha Bhavan for breakfast. Our next halt was Mukkombu, a tourist get away spot around 18 Kms before Trichy. Here the Cauvery is the widest and is known as "Akhanda Cauvery". We then cross Trichy, and the magnificent Rock Fort temple came into glorious view in clear weather & I could not resist the temptation to stop and shoot. We then get onto the Thanjavur road,cross the sprawling BHEL campus on one side & their huge residential Colony - Kailasam Colony, drive past the National Institute of Technology (previously known as REC, Trichy), cross Tiruverumbur temple ( a thevara sthalam where Lord Erumbeswarar is situated atop a hill & visible from the road) & travel North 5 Kms, reach Thuvakkudi & turn left and travel around 4 Kms on a kuccha road to reach Tirunedungalam, a Thevara Sthalam.
The deity here - Nityasundareswarar or Nedungalanathar is East facing & Ambal Oppilanayaki is south facing. The two holy tirthams are - Agastya Tirtham & Sundara Tirtham. Vilvam is the Sthala Vriksham. Sambandhar has sung here. The"Panaka Neivedyam" ( Jaggery dissolved in water flavoured with cardamom & dry ginger plus a dash of lime) offerred to Karuppannaswamy at the Sundara Tirtham is believed to have curative powers. A unique feature is a bronze horse near the sanctum. An Oral (stone mortar) from Chozha times - is used for pounding turmeric paste for applying to Varahi. Another distinctive feature is that Surya has two wives here & all Navagrahas are facing Suryan & his consorts. Dakshina murthy is also in unique Yogic pose.
We reach Thanjavur around 1.30 pm & drive to the Circuit House where we check in to the cool comfort of an A/c suite. We hungrily wolf down molakapady laced idlies & thair satham with mor molagai & pickles.
Big Temple : Around 3.30 pm we visit the most important objective of our trip - the Brihadeeswara Temple also known as Peria Koil or Big Temple. The temple is surrounded by a strong fort wall with a moat on the outside. The majestic Vimanam is distinctly visible from a distance. Entry to the temple is through an imposing gateway on the east, on either side of which stand two small shrines dedicated to Ganapathi and Mururgan.We pass through another Gopuram 90 feet high which leads to the outer prakaram . Here we see the temple elephant Perianayaki feeding & the mahout besides her. A second and more magnificent Gopuram leads into the inner prakaram.You have suddenly entered into an amazing, awe inspiring & surreal world of immense indescribable beauty. You are transported back a thousand years into a bygone era when Raja Raja Chozhan ruled South India. The main sanctum where Iswara is installed is a tall & imposing edifice carrying a grand Vimanam which is perhaps one of the most magnificent works of art & architecture that man has ever created. To me it is a wonder of the world . The inner prakaram is a sprawling campus and there is a paved walkway around the temple measuring 250 ft wide & 500 ft long. As you enter through the gopuram you first see the great Big Nandi installed in a huge mandapam on a raised platform & a tall copper covered majestic dwaja sthamban in front of the temple. A flight of steps takes you into the sanctum of Brihadeeswara - a tall Shivalingam or Peruvudaiyar - set in a two storeyed sanctum. This is the greatest, biggest, tallest Shivalingam I have ever seen & perhaps the biggest in existence. You exit the sanctum from the South & immediately climb up a flight of stairs to pray at the shrine of Dakshinamurthy. As you circumambulate you see shrines of Vinayaka, Karuravar, Subrahmanya, Chandikeswarar and finally that of goddess Peria Nayaki or Brihannayaki. The skill & beauty of the architecture & sculptures at each shrine keeps you spellbound & wondrous. You pinch yourself to make sure you are on earth - you could well be in Indralogam. The perimeter of the inner prakaram houses long pillared corridors, which abound in murals, Shiva Lingams and Nandis. To the South of the Nandi Mandapam is a raised stone platform which is used for dance & music performances. In fact we have landed on a Sivaratri day - and abhishekam was being performed on the Grand Nandi. A good crowd had gathered to witness the same on the occasion of Pradosam. People sat and watched in a disciplined manner. There was no pushing or jostling for space. It was a grand & captivating spectacle & we were very fortunate to be present for this festive occasion.
We then left to tour some other local temples but returned again after dinner - to a well lit Vimanam & Nandi. Weather was cool,pleasant & breezy. A Natya Vizha was in progress - to last week long beginning Sivaratri. We located a bench & sat opposite the softly illuminated Vimanam - it looked magical & mystical. We gazed silently - completely hypnotised & mesmerised. The experience was simply awesome. Wow ! For picture gallery go to web album :http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/BigTemple
For more technical information, legends, historical facts & descriptions log onto :
http://www.thanjavur.com/bragathe.htm

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thanjavur Temple Tour

We undertook the our first temple tour to Trichy during January'2008 which has been documented with photographs in my Blog.(See archives Jan'08). We decided to take a second trip this month - 5-9 March'08. This time we travelled to Thanjavur, Tiruvarur,Nagapattinam & Pondicherry Districts which abounds in Tevara Sthalams & Divya Desams. In 5 days of hectic road travel we covered 31 temples & one Church (Velankanni). This included six out of seven Vidanga Sthalams. We halted two nights each at Thanjavur & Tiruvarur. At both places we stayed at the Circuit House where we had made prior reservations through the respective Collectorates.
The primary objective of this trip was to see the Big Temple (Siva) at Thanjavur, Tiruvaiyar Panch Nadeeswarar, Tiruvarur Thiagarajar & then try and see as many temples as possible in the Thanjavur/Tiruvarur belt. The Big temple is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating monuments I have seen & an architectural marvel. Big Temple was holding a dance & music festival for one week starting sivaratri day - reputed dancers like Padma Subramaniam were amongst the performers. Tirunallar Saneeswar was not in our original plan but we made it on the penultimate day. At Tiruvaiyar we went to the Thiagarajar Samadhi and received an unexpected treat - a group of reputed Carnatic musicians (singers, mridangists, flutists) had gathered to sing 'pancharatam' on occasion of Sivaratri.
The travel was overall comfortable - Mornings & evenings were cool but afternoons had become considerably warmer as compared to our January trip.
The most unique feature of this trip was the abundance of large water tanks (tirthams) in all the temples & the innumerable lotus & lily ponds we sighted throughout our journey in Thanjavur & Tiruvarur belt. Incredibly there was a pond at intervals of every 100 meters (no I am not exaggerating). This can probably be entered into the Guinness Book of Records ! And added to that miles & miles of irrigated rice fields - after all Thanjavur was once considered the Rice Bowl of India. Virtually all temples were carrying large quanties of grains received from temple lands - for want of storage space these grains were temporarily stocked in the swami & ambal sannithis
We also stopped by briefly at Mukkombu on the Karur Trichy Route (18 kms before Trichy) - where the mighty Cauvery branches in two - Cauvery & Kollidam (or Coleroon). The Upper Anicut,which facilitates this,was built by Karikala Cholan around 2000 years ago. These two rivers encompass Srirangam turning it into an island before they meet again at Kallanai or Grand Anicut. This is an immensely beautiful place & serves as a sanctuary for a weekend getaway.
We were keen to visit Vedaranyam Wild Life Sanctuary but could not make it due to time constraints. Temple by Temple details will follow in subsequent blogs. Meanwhile readers can view some of the select & fascinating photographs taken during the trip at : http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/ThanjavurTemplesTour