Monday, November 5, 2007

Kumbhakonam, Chidambaram, Thanjavur, Trichy, Navagraha Temples

As per Sri Mad-Bhagwat MahaPuran, it is said that the "Bhakti" or the prayer form of worship originated in "Dravid" land, which is modern day Tamilnadu.

Tamilnadu  is land of some of the most magnificent and famous temples. Since long I had the wish to visit the temple circuit of Thanjavur, Trichy and Kumbhakonam area. As 01st November was Holiday, I took 02nd Nov as leave and left for Kumbhakonam on 31st October Evening.

From Bangalore, We took Mailaduturai Express at around 7 PM. It reached Kumbhakonam at about 6 in the morning.

Friend Anil had arranged Taxi and Hotel at Kumbhakonam, so when we got down at Kumbhakonam Railway Station, Driver Vinod was waiting with his Chevrolet Tavera.

We reached Hotel Chela and after taking some rest, quickly discussed the plan again. The overall plan was to visit, Kumbhakonam, Chidambaram, Trichy, Thanjavur and Navagraha Temples.

There are Navagraha temples dedicated to each of the nine planet deities. There is a cluster of Navagraha Temples dating from the Chola dynasty near Kumbhakonam in Tamilnadu. Each temple is located in a different town.

Each of these temples is considered an abode of one of the Navagrahams. Basically in these temples the presiding diety is Lord Shiva. The Surya temple is the only one, where the presiding diety is the Graham  Lord Sun.

The Surya temple was built around the 11th or 12th century C.E. The other temples were built earlier, ranging back to 7th-9th century.

Below are the nine temples and as they are called in Tamil.

Surya Navagrahastalam -- Tirumangalakkudi
Chandra Navagrahasthalam -- Tingaloor
Mangal Vaitheeswaran Kovil -- Sevvai
Budha Navagrahasthalam -- Tiruvenkaadu
Guru Navagrahasthalam -- Aalangudi
Sukra Navagrahasthalam -- Kanjanoor
Shani Navagrahasthalam -- Tirunallaar
Raahu Navagrahasthalam -- Tirunageswaram
Ketu Navagrahasthalam -- Keezhperumpallam

We started our pilgrimage by visiting Mangal Temple.

The weather was cloudy with cool breeze. With an excellent breakfast, we hit the road to the first temple of our trip.

The temples in Tamilnadu are not just grand but also beautifully sculpted and many have mural paintings as well. These temples, where the prayer is continuing since over one thousand years, are very powerful place for meditation.

Soon we were at the Sevvai temple.

Mangal (Sevvai)

Mangal (Mars) has been attributed with martial qualities. It is generally depicted as blood-red in complexion, attired in red clothes and wearing a red garland. Mangal has four hands, two in the mudra of power and mercy and the other two holding a spear and a mace each.

Sevvai Temple
Mangal is specially worshipped on Tuesdays with offerings of red flowers.

This temple has the presiding deity of Shiva as Vaidyanatha Swamy. His consort is Thaiyal Nayaki. The name of the Goddess is probably derived from the word thailam which means medicinal oil. It is believed that she carried this oil from Kailash.

The temple has Bhairava in the East, Veerabhadra in the West, Kali in the North and Karpaga Vinayaka and Durga in the South.

Mural painting at Sevvai Temple
Shiva is known here as Vaidyanatha or Vaitheeswaran, the God of Healing. The devotee usually dissolves jaggery in the waters of the Siddhamrita tank. It is believed that as the jaggery dissolves in the tank, so do one´s illness.

The next ritual is an offering a mixture of salt and peppercorns.

There is a separate shrine dedicated to Mars at this temple. It is believed that the person who prays to Mars will be bestowed with strength, bravery and victory. A visit to this temple is said to remove obstacles, caused by Mangal Dosha, to marriage.

Vaitheeswaran Koil is one the main centres of Nadi Astrology or Palm Leaf Astrology.

The temple is open daily between 6 AM to 1 PM and then 4 PM to 9 PM.

Getting blessed, we proceeded to Chidambaram. Chidambaram is famous for Shiva Nataraj Temple. It is the place where Shiva is in famous "Tandav Nritya" pose.


Chidambaram Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva where he is worshipped in the form of the Cosmic Dancer or Nataraja. It is also one of the panchabhoota sthalams - representing five basic elements. This is the Akasa Sthalam representing 'Space' among the Pancha Bootha Sthalams. The others are - Tiruvannamalai (Tejo sthalam - Fire), Kanchipuram (Prithvi sthalam - Earth), Kalahasti (Vayu sthalam - Air), Tiruvanaikaval (Jambukeshwar,Trichy - Appu sthalam - Water).

The Chidambaram temple houses the Akasha Lingam of Shiva. Chidambaram hosts the most ancient set of the 108 Karana stone carvings, the key dance movements of Nataraja. The temple complex is spread over 40 acres (160,000 m2) in the heart of the city. Many thousands of devotees come to this auspicious temple to pay homage to the Dancing Siva.

The Temple houses the Shiva and Vishnu in the same complex,where a devotee can have darshan of Lord Shiva and Lord Govindaraja(Lord Vishnu) from a single place.

After visting Shiva Nataraja Temple, we proceeed to Poompuhar. Poompuhar is the place where River Kavery meets the Sea. It was early a capital city and famous for trade with Romans.

Poompuhar is a town in the Nagapattinam district in Tamil Nadu. It was once a flourishing ancient port city known as Kaveripattinam, which served as the capital of the early Chola kings. It is located near the mouth of the Kaveri river, aside the sea coast. Ancient pottery dating back to the 4th or 5th century AD have been discovered off shore around this town.

The ancient city of Puhar was destroyed by the sea around 1500 years ago. Scientists speculate that this could have been the effects of a Tsunami possibly around 535 AD. This tsunami is mentioned in the Tamil Budddhist poem Manimekhalai, which relates that the town Kaveripattinam or Puhar was swallowed up by the sea due to the Chola King not holding the annual Indra festival, causing the wrath of the sea goddess Manimekhalai.This event is supported by archeological finds of submerged ruins off the coast of modern Poompuhar.

Silappathikara Art Gallery
This is a beautiful building.Scenes from Sillappathikaram, the Epic of the land have been given lively shapes in stones on the walls of the Gallery. These sculptures carved by the sculptors of Mamallapuram Art College.

From Poompuhar we visited Ketu Temple and then Budh Temple. Then finally Shani Temple, before retiring for the day.

Ketu (Keezhperumpallam)
The temple for Kethu is located at Keezhperumpallam in the vicinity of Tiruvenkaadu near Mayiladuturai (near Chidambaram).

This is an ancient Saivite shrine where legend has it that Kethu, one of the 9 celestial bodies central to astrological beliefs worshipped Shiva.

Raahu and Ketu are associated with the legend of the churning of the milky ocean.

Budha (Tiruvenkaadu)
It is located at Tiruvenkadu near Mayiladuturai, Poompuhaar.

This is a temple dedicated to Aghoramurthy (Shiva) and to Budha. It is also known as Aadi Chidambaram.

Indra, Airavatam, Budhan, Surya and Chandra are said to have worshipped here. A sage by name Swetaketu is said to have been saved from the clutches of death by the grace of Shiva here , in a legend similar to that of Markandeya at Tirukkadavur. It is also believed that Shiva took the fierce Aghoramurthy form, to vanquish the demon Maruttuvan, to whom he had given his Shoolam, which he misused.

There are several shrines of significance here, including those to Durga and Kali. The image of Natarajar here is of great beauty. Worship to Aghoramurthy's fiery form is said to be of significance on Sunday nights.

The present structure of the temple as well as the beautiful bronze images in this temple are a contribution of the Great Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola I. Some of these bronzes were recovered in treasure troves unearthed here.

Shani (Tirunallar)
Darbaranyeswarar Temple at Tirunallar is the shrines of Shiva and Shanishwara (Saturn). It is situated near Karaikal and it falls under the Pondichery. This temple is known for its shrines to Shiva (Dharbaranyeswarar) and the grand shrine to Shanishwara.

A lot of people visit this place, when the planet Saturn makes a transit between zodiac signs, an event that happens once in two and a half years.

Tirunallar is best accessed, driving from Mayiladuturai or from Nagapattinam.

It is said that King Nala was under the influence of Shani, i.e. Saturn for an extended period of time in his life and went through several ordeals and obtained total relief only after worshipping Shiva at this shrine.

02nd November
We started with Chandra Temple, then to Guru and Rahu Temples. Then after lunch visited Surya and then Shukra temple. Thus completing our Navagraha Temple trip.

Chandra (Tingaloor)
The Kailasanathar temple known as the Navagrahastalam associated with Chandra the moon, is located in the hamlet of Tingaloor is located close to Tiruvaiyaru near Thanjavur in Tamilnadu.

The small temple here has a small shrine dedicated to Chandra.

This is an ancient Shiva shrine.

Legend has it that there lived a merchant Appoodi Adikal in the village of Tingaloor, who was a devotee of Shiva. Appoodi Adikal held saint Tirunavukkarasar in high regard and looked forward to the day when he would be able to host the saint poet. The day arrived, but his son got killed by a venomous snake bite while the saint was being hosted. The saint moved by Appoodi Adikal's devotion is said to have miraculously restored the lad to life.

Guru (Tiruvirumpoolai)
This is regarded as a 'Gurusthalam' where Dakshinamurthy is held in great reverence, attracting huge crowds when Jupiter transits between zodiac signs.

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. Viswamitra is believed to have worshipped Shiva here.

Raahu (Tirunageswaram)
This Shivasthalam is known for its shrine to Raahu.

Sekkizhaar, the author of Periyapuranam, named the temple that he built at Kunrattur after this temple.

Legend has it that the mythological serpents Aadi Seshan, Dakshan and Kaarkotakan worshipped Shiva here. Legend also has it that Nala worshipped Shiva here as in Tirunallaar. Gowtama muni, Paraasharar and Bhageeratha are also associated with legends related to this temple.

This temple was built by Gandaraditya Chola son of Parantaka Chola I. The inner mandapams and the outer mandapams were built by Sekkizhaar and Govinda Deekshitar.

There is a shrine to Raahu in one of the prikrams. The Piraiani Nudalaal Ambaal shrine is situated in the inner mandapam near the Naganathar shrine, while the Girikuchambika shrine is housed in a separate sanctum.

Suryanaar Koyil is located in the hamlet of Tirumangalakkudi near Kumbhakonam and Mayiladuturai near Thanjavur in Tamilnadu. This temple, dedicated to the Sun God, also houses shrines to each of the other eight celestial bodies, the Nava Graha.

This temple was built by the Chola kings. Inscriptions from the period of Kulottunga Chola I (1075-1120) refer to this temple as the Kulottunga Chola Martanda Alayam.

Inscriptions from the period of Krishna Deva Raya, speaking of endowments made to this temple are also seen here.

The Suryanar temple faces west. The presiding deity here is Suryanarayana in a chariot like vimaanam, representing the sun's chariot. There are also shrines to Kasi Viswanathar, Visalakshi and Brihaspati (Guru) in the sanctum. Shrines to the other celestial bodies are located outside of the sanctum.

The sanctum and the ardhamandapam are built of stone, while the rest of the shrines are brick structures. The Kol Theertha Vinayakar shrine is considered to be of importance here. An elaborate worship protocol involving circumambulating the entire temple nine times, is prescribed for devotees visiting the temple. Protocol requires that one visits the Tirumangalakkudi Shivasthalam before visiting Suryanaar Koyil. This Shiva Temple is located closeby.

Shukra (Kanjanoor)
This Shivasthalam is associated with Sukra, the plant Venus. It is located in a quiet hamlet near Kumbhakonam.

Bramha is said to have been blessed with a vision of Shiva's marriage with Parvati here. Agni is said to have worshipped Shiva here, hence the name Agneeswarar.

Stone images of Natarajar and Sivakami are seen in this temple in the Nataraja Sabha referred to as the Mukti Mandapam. The Shivatandavam here is referred to as Mukti Tandavam. Legend has it that Shiva blessed Paraashara muni with a vision of the cosmic dance - Mukti tandavam here.

Inscriptions from the Chola and Vijayanagar periods are seen in this temple.

In the Evening we visited following temples at Kumbhakonam:

1. Kumbheswarar Shiva Temple
2. Ramaswamy Temple
3. SharangPaani Temple
4. Nageswar Temple
5. Kashi Viswanathar Temple

Kumbakonam dates back to the Sangam period and it rose to be a prominent city between the 7th and 9th centuries AD, when it served as a capital of the Medieval Cholas.

Kumbakonam is known as the "temple town" due to the prevalence of a number of temples here.

The name "Kumbhakonam" is believed to be an allusion to the pot, which according to Hindu legend, contained the seed of all living beings on earth. The kumbha is believed to have been displaced by a pralaya or deluge and ultimately came to rest at the spot where the town of Kumbakonam now stands. This event is now commemorated in the Mahamaham festival held every 12 years.

03 November
We started for Thanjavur at about 9 in the morning and reached an hour later to Thanjavur.

Tanjavur is one of the oldest cities in India and has a long and varied history dating back to Sangam period. The city rose into prominence during the rule of the later Cholas when it served as the capital of the Chola empire.

We took a hotel and after taking some rest staretd our Tanjavur trip by visiting first to Brihadeswar Temple. It is also know as the "Big Temple" as it has the largest Shiva Lingam in the world. The other two are at GangaiKondaCholaPuram and Angkorwaat.

This ShivaLingam is 5 feet below earth and 13 feet above ground. Total circumference is 54 feet. The temple is classical example of Nagar and Dravidian style of architecture. It is UNESCO world Heritage Site.

The Brihadeeswarar Temple

The Brihadeeswarar Temple is the world's first complete granite temple. It is a tribute and a reflection of the power of its patron RajaRaja Chola I. It remains as one of the greatest glories of Indian architecture.

The temple stands amidst fortified walls that were probably added in the 16th century. There is a big statue of Nandi (sacred bull), carved out of a single rock, at the entrance measuring about 16 feet long and 13 feet high.

The temple was built by Rajaraja Chola, one of the greatest Tamil emperors to grace the throne of the Chola empire in compliance of a command given to him in his dream.

The temple complex sits on the banks of a river that was channeled to make a moat around the complex's outer walls, the walls being built like a fortress.

The massive size of the main sikhara is 63 meters in height.

The apex of the tower is the octagonal single stone granite piece of 81.25 tons. The main temple is in the center of the spacious quadrangle composed of a sanctuary, a Nandi, a pillared hall and an assembly hall (mandapas), and many sub-shrines. The most important part of the temple is the inner mandapa which is surrounded by massive walls that are divided into different levels by sharply cut sculptures and pilasters providing deep bays and recesses. Each side of the sanctuary has a bay emphasizing the principle cult icons.Inside is a huge stone linga. Only priests are allowed to enter this inner most chamber.

Brahadeeswar temple is one of the rare temples which has statues for "Ashta Dikpaal" (Lords of all Eight Directions - Indra, Varuna, Agni, Eesana, Vayu, Niruthi, Yama, Kubera)

The most important feature of the building is that it is believed, at no time of the day the shadow of the gopuram will fall on the ground.

Then we proceeded to Palace,that was expanded by the Maratha king Serfoji II. We saw the durbaar hall, Bell tower and the Palace tower.

Finally we went to samaadhi of saint Thyagaraja at Tiruvaiyaaru.

Then we retired for the day at Hotel Temple Tower.

My little daughter got hurt a little near her right eye. We parents got very concerned and immediately took her to main market to meet some good doctor. He had to wait for some time. Finally a physician attended to her and we got releived that everthing was right and also got satisfied that the physician was HOD, Surgery, Thanjavur Medical College.

04th November
This was our final day for trip. We started early for Trichy and reached there by 10 AM. We hired a taxi and first we went to Srirangam. Srirangam is famous for Lord Vishnu Temple. It is said that this Idol of Lord was given to Vibhishan by Lord Ram. But Vibhishan could not take it to Lanka and so it got established here.

Tiruchirapalli, along with Madurai, is one of the oldest inhabited cities in Tamil Nadu. Situated on the banks of Kaveri River, Tiruchirappalli, was the citadel of the Early Cholas. It is mentioned by Roman historian Ptolemy in the 2nd century BC.

Srirangam is bounded by the Kaveri River on one side, and the Kaveri distributary Kollidam (Coleroon) on the other side.

Srirangam is famous for its Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, a major pilgrimage destination for Hindus and one of the largest temple complexes in India.

Srirangam can be considered the biggest functioning Hindu temple, because Angkor Wat is the biggest but non-functioning Hindu temple in the world.

The Srirangam temple complex is composed of 7 concentric walled sections and 21 gopurams. The gopuram of the temple is called the Rajagopuram and is 236 feet (72 m) tall.

The three sacred Ranganatha temples on the banks of the Kaveri are:

Adi Ranga: The Ranganathaswamy temple at Srirangapattana
Madhya Ranga: The Ranganathaswamy temple at Shivanasamudra
Antya Ranga: The Ranganathaswamy temple at Srirangam

Our next stop was Jambukeshwar Shiva Temple.

Thiruvanaikal (Jambukeshwar)
The temple was built by Kocengannan (Kochenga Chola), one of the Early Cholas, around 1,800 years ago. It is adjacent to the Ranganathaswamy temple at Srirangam.

Thiruvanaikal is one of the five major Shiva Temples of Tamil Nadu (Panchabhoota Sthalams) representing the panch mahabhuta or five great elements; this temple represents the element of water.

The main deity of the temple is Jambukeswara, representing the element water. Jambukeswara is depicted sitting under a jambu tree, which grows over a small stream that engulfs the deity during the rainy season. The temple is also considered the abode of goddess Akilandeswari, one of the forms of the goddess Parvati.

The massive outer wall, known as the Vibudi Prakara, stretches over a mile long, and is two feet thick and over 25 feet in height. Legend maintains that the wall was built by Shiva working along with the labourers. The temple is one of the hosts for the annual Natyanjali, a festival of classical Indian dance.

The greatest of works related to this temple include Tiruvanaikaval and Kilvelur Akshyalingaswamy temple.

Long time ago the place was a jungle where an elephant and a spider was worshiping the Lord Shiva under the Jambu Tree. The elephant was cleaning the Shiva lingam with water and put some flower under him every day. At the same time the spider made a web over the Siva statue for shadow. The elephant always clean the spider's web because it thought it is dust. The spider was curious to know who ruined its web. One day the spider waited to see who is that. The elephant came and clean the web by showering the water on Lord Siva. The spider got angry and get into the elephant's trunk. Both died and went to the heaven. Over there Lord bestowed them with eternal bliss.

Goddess Akilandeshwari's Sannidhi (Sannathy)
Akilandeswari deity at ThiruvanaikoilThe Sannathy of the goddess Akilandeshwari and the Sannathy of Prasanna Vinayaka are in the shape of the pranava manthra called "Om". It is believed that people who go round the sannathy (which is in the shape of "Om") 12 times and for one full mandala (48 days) will get the blessings of the goddess Akilandeshwari and have a good, healthy and wealthy life. It is believed that the Amman in the temple was in deep anger hence during one of Adi Sankara's visit he installed the Prasanna Ganapathy Idol right opposite her Sannathy and there after her anger subsided.
Then we proceeded towards a small restaurent and took lunch.

Now we proceeded to Samaypur Mariyamman Shakti Temple.

Mariamman is a form of Shakti worshipped in Tamilnadu, and is associated with prosperity and health. Local beliefs associate this deity with cures for diseases.

Legend has it that Shiva created Kali, out of the poison that he had swallowed. Having originated from the Kaalakoota poison, she assumed the name Kaali.

Mariamman is believed to be a form of Kaali, and is also known as Mahamaayi or Seethala Gowri.

Dasaratha, father of Rama is said to have worshipped here. It is believed that the processional image of Mariamman was in the possession of the Vijayanagar monarchs and that as their empire neared destruction, this image was brought down to Tamilnadu in an ivory palanquin. It is believed that the palanquin
bearers placed image on the ground and paused for rest, and then found themselves to be unable to lift it off the ground. A temple was then established in the vicinity of Tiruchirappalli, which was later expanded by Vijayaranga Chokkanatha Nayak of Madurai of the 18th century.

Samayapuram was a local capital of the Vijayanagar rulers in the vicinity of Tiruchirappalli, and was known as Vikramapuram.

Then in the last we visited 7th century Rock Fort Temple. Rock Fort Temple is probably the most famous LandMark of Trichy. Besides Temple one can enjoy the view of entire City and the beautiful River Kaveri.

But you need to ascend about 400 steps to reach the top.

Rockfort or Ucchi Pillayar koil, is a combination of two famous 7th century temples, one dedicated to Lord Ganesh and the other dedicated to Lord Shiva, located a top of a huge rock. Geologically the 83m high rock is said to be one of the oldest in the world, dating over 3 billion years ago, and mythologically this rock is the place where Lord Ganesh ran from King Vibishana, after establishing the Ranganathaswamy deity in Srirangam.

Lord Rama had gifted Vibishana a vigraham (idol for worship) of Lord Ranganatha, a form of Vishnu. Devas wanted to stop this idea of an Asura taking Lord's supreme form to his Kingdom. They request the help of Lord Vinayaka and the Lord accepted the request.
Vibhishana, while on his back to his kingdom, goes through Trichi, and wanted to take his bath in the river Kaveri and do his daily rituals. However, he is perplexed as the deity, once kept in land, can never be removed and has to be in that place forever.

As a solution, Vibishana tried to find someone to hold the deity while he was taking bath. He finds the Lord Vianayaka under disguise of a cowherd boy. As per the plan, when Vibishana is fully into water, Vinayaka takes the deity and keeps it firmly in sand, in the banks of kaveri. On seeing this, the angry Vibhishana chases the boy, to punish him, and boy keeps running and climbs over the rock. Vibhishana finally reached the boy and hits him on the fore-head of little boy, who then reveals himself to be Vinayaka. Vibishana immediately apologized and the Lord gave him blessings and send him off to Lanka.

The place on which the Ranganathan deity was kept was later covered in deep forests, due to disuse and after a very long time, it is discovered when a Chola king chasing a parrot finds the deity accidentally. He then establishes the Ranganathaswamy temple, Srirangam as one of the largest temple complexes in the world. Meanwhile, the Pallavas built the Vinayaka temple and the Thayumanaswamy temple, in the rock which Vinayaka used to escape Vibishana.

This brings an end to our blissful trip to temple circuit in Tamilnadu.

The roads at Tamilnadu are good and food is also quite cheap and good.

Totally we visited 21 Temples in 4 days.

We took Myladuturai Mysore Express at 2015 Hrs to Bangalore.


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  3. Thanks for the informational post. When it comes to Thanjavur, his city is home to Brahadeeswara Temple, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, built in the 11th Century AD. If you are planning a visit to the historical city, there are hotels in Thanjavur that provide accommodation in budget.

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