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Friday, May 30, 2008

Tiruvarur Temple

7 March'2008:
Sri Thyagarajar Temple, is situated at Thiruvarur, a town which comes under thanjavur district of Tamilnadu. Tiruvarur is regarded as the 87th in the series of Tevara Stalams in Chola Nadu south of the river Kaveri. The origin of the shrine at Tiruvarur is steeped in antiquity. Of the two major shrines dedicated to Vanmikanathar and Tyagarajar, the Vanmikanathar shrine is the older one. It enshrines a Shivalingam - prithvi lingam made of earth. Two of the major legends surrounding the temple are associated with Manu Needi Cholan and Muchukunda Cholan respectively.Anecdotes referring to the lives of these legendary rulers are referred to in ancient Tamil literature such as Manimekalai and Silappadikaram.
Legend has it that Vishnu worshipped Shiva in the form of Somaskanthar, associated with the Ajapa Dance. Shiva is also said to have appeared in an anthill and restored Vishnu to life.
The image of Tyagarajar is the foremost of the 7 from which Indra is believed to have asked Muchukunda Cholan to pick the original image of Somaskandar worshipped by Mahavishnu. . Muchukunda Cholan picked the right one (the image at Tiruvarur) , and Indra rewarded him with all of the 7 images, which the latter installed at 7 different places within his territory, and it is these 7 temples which constitute the 7 Vitankastalams.
The image of Tyagaraja is housed in a separate sanctum with its own vimanam. An interesting feature of the image is that the bulk of it is covered with decorative cloth, flowers and jewelry, with only the faces of Shiva and Parvati being visible. Their feet are uncovered only on the occasion of the Paada Darisanam festival. The image of Tyagaraja in a special vimanam, presents an awe inspiring site. This image is taken out in procession during special occasions such as the chariot festival during the annual Bhrammotsavam. The Ajapa dance is enacted every time, the image of Tyagarajar is taken out in procession.
Ambal here is Kamalambika and the Tirtham is Kamalalayam. Sambandar,Appar, Sundarar have sung hyms here. Other shrines of importance here include those to Aingalakkaasu Ganapati, Vaatapi Ganapati, the Navagrahams aligned in a row. The Aingalakkaasu Ganapati is said to have been installed by Cheraman Perumaal Naayanaar who collected 5 measures of copper coins and fashioned this image. Vaatapi Ganapati represents the Stala Vinayakar of this shrine, enshrined in the southwest corner of the inner prakaram. Enshrined in the 2nd prakaram is a shrine to Rudra Durga.
Vithankar Abhishekam: We had the good fotune to be present in the temple to witness the Vithankar Abhishekam which started around 12 noon and lasted nearly 30 minutes.
History: This is a temple vibrant with the musical and dance traditions of the centuries. Tiruvarur was a great cultural center for the Cholas who extended great patronage here; mention must be made of especially of Raja Raja Chola I. Sundaramoorthy Naayanar is known for his close association with Tiruvarur. His shrine faces that of Tyagarajar.
Muthuswamy Deekshithar, Tyagarajar and Syama Sastri the trinity of Carnatic Music were born in Tiruvarur. Deekshithar in particular, while in residence at Tiruvarur composed several suites of Kritis addressed to Tyagarajar, Kamalambika and several other deities in this temple.
Architecture: The imposing towers of the temple can be seen from a distance. The vast prakarams feature several shrines to Shiva and his parivara devatas. The vast Kamalalayam tank is situated to the West of the temple complex; the tank and the temple, together command an awe inspiring spectacle. The Achaleswarar Temple (Tiruvarur Araneri) in the prakaram is another of the Tevara sthalams sung by the Nayanmars. Aarurparavaiyumantali is yet another Tevara sthalam located in the vicinity of this grand temple at Tiruvarur.
For more detailed information about the temple log on to : http://www.indiantemples.com/Tamilnadu/Tiruvarur/tiruvarur.html
And view the photo gallery at: http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/TiruvarurTempleTour

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tirumazhapadi-Thanjai Mamani

6 Mar'2008: Tirumazhapadi: After Tirupazanam & Tirukandiyur we headed back to Thanjavur for lunch at Gnanam. After an enjoyable South Indian Thali meal in cool airconditioned comfort we headed back to the IB to take some much needed rest. Late afternoon we headed towards Tirumazhapadi via Kandiyur. After crossing the bridge across the magnificent Cauvery we travelled along the banks of the same river & reached Mazapadi. While on the bridge I stopped over to take some splendid photographs of the revered Cauvery. While doing so some young school girls on cycles passed by and on request posed delightedly for photographs.

Mazhapadi is situated right on the Banks of the Cauvery. Some huge banyan trees greeted us at the entrance. The tall multi tiered Gopuram at the entrance is majestic. The Temple chariot is parked outside to be used only during festivals. As you enter you see a tall dwaja sthambam and a big nandi in front. Then you eneter through the inner gopuram and to your left there are sub shrines for suryan, chandran, aghora veera bhadrar,vinayakar & subramaniar. Then you enter a portico where you see two nandis one behind the other. This is a very rare feature. Around the garbha griha are sculptures of sapta matas & sapta kanyas. In the outer prakaram there is a long pillared pavilion containing statues of 63 nayanmars. There is colorful plaster cast of the nandikeswara wedding next to the dwarpal. There are also delectable sculpted figures of agastyar, mazhvadeswarar, nalwars outside the sanctum. On the West side gostham is Annamalaiyar and a small pillared portico has been constructed there. A very unique feature is four splendid nandis on a raised platform outside the brahma goshtam on the Northern side. The Vimanam is colorful & majestic. The ambal sannithi is an independent shrine located on the Northern side East facing. It seems to be a later addition. The entrance is through a colorfully painted pillared mandapam. It is surrounded by a coconut grove and the lakshmi tirtham lies on the East side. Tirumazhapadi is considered to be the 54th in the series of Thevara Stalams in the Chola kingdom located north of the river Kaveri. Tirumazhapadi is closely linked to Tiruvaiyaru through one of the annual festivals. Moolavar is Mazhuvaadeesar or Vajrastampeswarar. Ambal is Azhagammai.Theertham: Kollidam. Patikam :Sambandar, Appar,Sundarar. Legends: Several colorful legends abound in this shrine, known primarily for Shiva's Taandavam with the Mazhu vayudam (hence Mazhapadi) for Markandeyar. (Parasu Nartanapuram in Sanskrit). Purushamriga Munivar is said to have established a shrine for Shiva, and Bhrama in his inability to remove it referred to it as Vajrastamba Moorthy. Somaskandar is in the form of a monolithic stone image here & there are 2 shrines to Dakshinamurthy. Sundarar is said to have been reminded of this shrine in a dream. King Sibi is said to have been rid of his afflictions here, there are no Navagrahams, only 3 pits in front of the sanctum. The temple is a vast one with a seven tiered Raja gopuram. There are two shrines to Ambal here. The 100 pillared hall, the Somaskanda mandapam and the murals in the Natarajar shrine are of interest. The Cholas have contributed immensely to this shrine, as testified in the many inscriptions seen here. There are inscriptions from the time of the Pandyas, Hoysalas and the Vijayanagar emperors. Festivals: Bhramotsavam in the month of Masi. Nandi's marriage with Suyahambikai is celebrated in the month of Pankuni when Aiyarappar of Tiruvaiyaru crosses the Kollidam and arrives at Tirumazhapadi and conducts the wedding, in a grand ceremony. For photo album log onto:http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/Tirumazhapadi

Thanjai Mamani Koils: On our return from Mazhapadi darkness had fallen, however we decided to visit the Thanjai Mamani Temples which were enroute. These are a group of three temples considered to be one Divya Desam. The three deities are Veera Narasimhar, Manikundra Perumal & Neelamegha Perumal In all the three temple, Uthsavar is Sriman Narayanan. Lord Narasimha in sitting posture facing East with Thayar Thanjai Nayagi. Both were prathyaksham to Markandeyar. Manikundra Perumal in sitting posture facing east. Ambujavalli Thayar, prathyaksham to Markandeyar. Neelamegap PerumaL sitting posture facing east. Sengamalavalli Thayar both prathyaksham to Parasaramuni.
These temples are seperated by 200 meters from each other. The Lord presented Himself in the form of Narasimha to Dhatchagan (Thanjagan in Tamizh). Hence the name Thanjai. The Lord in Thanjai Mamani Kovil faces Thanjavur and called Thanjai Kaththalum Deivam (God who protects Thanjavur). At this place, Sri Nayinachariar (Son of Swami Desikan) established that Desika Prabandham is to be recited in all Divvyadesams during Anathanyana period (Periods when Divya Prabandham is not recited).
This place is situated in green and fertile landscape in the banks of Vennar River about 4 Kilometers from heart of Thanjavur in Thanjavur-Kumbakonam highway. Garuda Mahotsavam is held annually wherein Perumals of 22 Vaishnavite Tempels including the three Thanjai Mamani Temples give darshan on Garuda Vahanas to devotees in the four Raja Veedhis of Thanjavur. The 22 Garuda Vahanas go in a procession headed by Thiru Mangai Azhwar in Anna Vahanam.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Thirukandiyur - Tirupazanam

6 Mar'08
Divya Desam :
There are not many temples where the Great Trinity — Lords Narayana , Siva and Brahma — are worshipped in the same premises. In the Chozha country there are two holy places sanctified by Azhwars' hymns where there are temples for all the three Gods — in Uthamarkoil or Bhikshandarkoil, near Srirangam and in Thirukandiyur, near Thanjavur. Both these places are interlinked as Lord Siva was cured of a curse(Brahmahati Dosham) partially when He visited Uttamarkoil and fully when He visited Thirukandiyur. Lord Siva, pleased by the turn of events, built a temple for Lord Narayana and also built a temple for Himself, near it. Brahma was also housed in a separate temple nearby, but the temple got dilapidated in course of time and the idols of Brahma and Saraswati are kept in the Siva Temple. All the three temples are so situated that one can go round them at the same time. The place is known as Kandiyur or Kandana Kshetram as those who visit it and worship Lord Narayana and the Goddess there would be rid of all their sins including Brahmahathi Dosham. It is also known as Pancha Kamala Kshetram.
The temple, situated on a one-acre site between Kudamurutti and Vennar rivers, has two prakarams. It has a three-tier Rajagopuram facing east. After passing through Garudamandapam and Mahamandapam, one can worship Harasapavimochana Perumal in standing posture. The Utsavar is Kamalanathan. The holy water source of Kapala Moksha Pushkarani is on the western side of the temple. Just opposite to it is the Padma Theertham or Mahabali Theertham. There are shrines for Narasimha, Sudarsana, Andal, Azhwars and Desikar in the outer prakaram. The Goddess, Kamalavalli or Kamala Nachiyar, is housed in a separate shrine.
Thevara Sthalam: Sambandhar, Appar & Arunagirimathar have sung hymns here.Lord Siva's temple here is one of the Ashta Veeratta Sthalas and the fifth of the Sapta Sthanams. The Lord is known as Brahma Sirakandeeswarar, Veeratteswarar and Adhi Vilwavananathar. The Goddess is known as Mangala Nayaki. The holy tree is vilvam and the holy water source is Brahma Theertham.
On the 13th, 14th and 15th days of the Tamil month of Masi, the Sun's rays fall on the Sivalingam in the sanctum sanctorum. There are shrines for Bhairavar, Suryan, Vinayaka, Skanda, Ardhanareeswara and Vishnu Durgai. The goddess is housed in a separate shrine facing south. The temple belongs to the Chozha period. The same is the case with the Brahma Temple nearby, which is in a dilapidated condition.
Thirupazhanam: This is one of the Saptasthanams also known as Kadali vanam. Chandran(Moon) worshipped here. Moolavar is Abatsahayar & Ambal Perianayaki. Sthala Vriksham is Kathali Vazhai. Hymns were sung by Appar & Sambandhar. Temple nadai was closed when we visited hence we could not worship the deities. The entrance gopuram looked brightly painted possibly tirupani had been carried out in the recent past.
For photo album log on to:http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/TirupazanamTirukandiyur/photo#s5205437893246351714

Thiagaraja Samadhi & Thingalur

6 March'2008:
From Tiruvaiyaru temple we proceeded to Thiagaraja Memorial also in Tiruvaiyaru. Tiruvaiyaru is the birth place of Thyagaraja. Saint Thyagaraja was an extraordinary Carnatic Music composer and ardent devotee of Sri Rama. He is known as one of the Trinity of Carnatic Music the other two being Muthuswami Dikshitar & Syama Sastri. He composed several Kritis in various raghas. For Thiagaraja's biography log on to : http://www.bharatadesam.com/people/biographies/poets_composers/tyagaraja.php
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyagaraja
The Thiagaraja Aradhanai is held annually during January. During the festival, Pancharatna kritis of Saint Thiagaraja are sung by the musicians and the audience enthusiastically partake along with the musicians in rendering the kritis. Carnatic music finds prominence during the festival. It is believed that young musicians will be blessed with a melodious voice if they sing Thyagaraja's songs at his memorial.
We were extremely fortunate that at the time of our unplanned & unscheduled visit that day a small group of prominent musicians had gathered to sing Pancharatna Kriti on the occasion of Sivaratri led by P.S.Narayanaswamy, O.S.Arun and others along with a group of violinists & mridangists. After offerring worship to Saint Thyagaraja the performance began and we understand the program to go on through the day & the whole night. We stayed for a short while and left. For some delectable pictures taken on this occasion log onto : http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/ThiagarajaMemorial
Our next visit was to Chandrabhagavan Temple, Thingalur on the way from Thiruvaiyaru to Kumbakonam. around 25 Kms away from Thanjavur.
As chandran (moon) was very much handsome and legible, Daksha Prajapathi gave all his 27 daughters (Stars) in marriage to him. Instead of treating all of them alike, he neglected 26 wives and spent most of his time with the 27th wife Rohini . Daksha Prajapathi advised Chandran to treat all his 27 wives equally. But Chandran ignored him. Daksha Prajapathi got offended and cursed Chandran that he should suffer from a wasting disease. Chandran prayed to Lord Siva in Thingalur to save him from the curse. Saving him God ordered that Chandran should remain in the temple in Thingalur and should give relief to those, suffering from the ill effects of Chandran’s adverse placement in their horoscopes and offering prayers to him. So, such people who are affected by the adverse positions of Chandran in their horoscopes offer prayers to Lord Kailasanathar, Goddess Sri Periyanayaki and Chandra Bagavan (moon God), by offering prayers.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tiruvaiyaru

6 Mar'08:
History: During the 1st Century BC, while Karikala Cholan was returning after his victory over Himachal, his Chariot got stuck at Tiruvaiyuru. He felt a powerful force. He cleared the forest area and dug into the earth on that spot and discovered a Siva Lingam, idols of Sakti Vinayakar, Muruga, Sapta Matas, Chandikeswarar, Suryan. He also found that a Yogi Appai Sittar had been doing penance. On the Yogi's advice he built a Temple on that spot. He also informed Karikala Cholan that the required funds could be found below the hoofs of Nandi.
The Yogi's hair had spread all around his head in a semi circle and because of this in this temple devotees are not allowed to circumambulate the Garbha Griha. 825-850 AD before the time of Nandivarman Pallava, tirupani was done and the temple arrangement was modified to Pallava Architecture.
985-1014 wife of Raja Raja I built the Ulagamagadeviswaram Temple ( Uttara or Vada Kailasam) and in 1014-1042 wife of Rajendra Chola I built the Dakshina or Ten Kailasam.
Krishna Raja Wodeyar is said to have constructed the outer prakaram walls. The marble pillars in the temple are of Chalukyan Architecture. The 3rd & 4th Prakaram walls and East Gopuram were built during Vikrama Chola period. Construction of a 100 pillar Mandapam was started in the North East but work stopped at basementr level. This was taken up again and completed by Acutappa Naicker and Murugan sannithi was installed. In 1937 Amman Koil tirupani was completed & several sculptured pillars around the garbha griha and a separate pillared mandapam were constructed by Deva Kottai Meyappa Chettiar. It is believed he went bankrupt after the kumbhabhishekam was completed in 1937. Another kumbhabhishekam was done at Tiruvaiyaru in 1971.
About the Temple: This temple is a Thevara Sthalam of great significance since Appar, Sambandar & Sundarar have all sung praises of the Lord. The Deity is called Ayyarappar or Panchanadeeswarar and the Ambal is Dharma Samvardini. This is also a Sapta Sthalam. As you enter through the main gopuram you see nandi and a double ganesa. Further inside just outside the Garbha Griha, you see a large image of Ganesha on the left & Subramania on the right at the entrance and also the two dwarpals - all images constructed from plaster.
In the first prakaram you find a pillared portico on the South side with spledid frescoes from Siva Puranas. On the West there is another pillared portico containing a series of Siva lingas & some other deities including an 'Avudai Vinayagar' apart from sub shrines for Ganesha, Subramania, Gajalakshmi. There is also a small portico on the South side called the Dhyana Mandapam which contained Panchabootha ligams representing agni, vayu, appu, akash & prithvi. Also a Chandrasekara Sannithi, Adi Vinayakar. It also contained the nava grahas. The Sivayoga Dakshinamurthy is of great significance here.
There is another larger outer prakaram popularly called the nada brahmam prakaram. To denote the primordial nature of Sound - Nada Bhrammam, there are spots in this temple designed to produce multiple echos. Other spots of significance are the shrines of Murugan , jorahareswarar, Agappei Sittar,Ambal Sannithi, Uttara Kailasam, Dakshina Kailasam, Surya Tirtham & Appar Kulam. Appar Kulam is a little distance from the temple.
We were extremely fortunate to witness the Puja of the 'maragatha lingam' which is normalyy kept locked in a steel safe & take out by the archakar just before the Puja.
Enjoy the photo gallery at : http://picasaweb.google.com/ramakrishnan49/Tiruvaiyaru & for more details about the temple like legends, festivals & other trivia log onto :
http://www.indiantemples.com/Tamilnadu/s050.html