Navrathri Kolu at Sri Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Salem
Navarathri means nine nights in Sanskrit, and is the name of the festival dedicated to the worship of goddess Durga Devi. It refers to the nine nights of darkness and of battle against evil and the tenth day of victory and of light.
This year, at the Ramakrishna Mutt temple in Salem, there were five sections in the Navarathri Kolu.
The first section had the most beautiful rangoli of Durga devi, Lakshmi and Saraswati.
During this nine day festival nine different manifestations of the goddess Durga are worshipped. The nine goddesses are Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skanda Mata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Maha Gowri, and Siddhidatri.
The message of Navarathri is the innate strength of woman. We only need to remind ourselves of this tremendous strength within us. Goddess Durga shows us that we are capable of standing up to evil, to conceit, to atrocity. She shows us that we too can stand up and battle the demons in our life. That we can say no firmly to weakness, to fear, to wickedness, to tears, to feeling helpless. Just tell yourself, ‘I am strong’, ‘I can face any hardship that comes my way and triumph’.
The second and fourth sections were the Bommai Kolu – the traditional display of painted clay dolls on specially put up golden steps.
Each step had groups of dolls of different kinds, like,the Chettiar and his wife selling provisions, dolls depicting Dasavatharam, the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu, dolls of Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati and of Ardhaneshwara, Ganesha and Muruga.
The central section had an idol of Goddess Durga as Mahisha Mardhini, the slayer of the buffalo faced demon, Mahishasura. To her right and left are goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati. Ganesha and Subramanya are seen below on either side of the vanquished demon Mahishasura.
The last section was dedicated to the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekanadha’s famous Chicago addresses. It showed Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and a miniature of the Art Institute in Chicago,USA, the venue of the World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893.
The Parliament of Religions was held from September 11 to September 27.
It was within its halls,that 125 years ago, on September 11th 1893, Swami Vivekananda delivered his famous, trail blazing Chicago address.It was here that his words swayed a gathering of 4000 and went on to sway the heart of a nation, where people had no true idea of India and of the Hindu religion.
He addressed the audience first on September 11. More lectures were to follow in further sessions and he went on to become one of the most popular speakers at the Parliament. His address at the final session was delivered on September 27. in the days to come.
Parts of his speech and lectures were exhibited at the Kolu, both in Tamil and in English.
The impact of reading his memorable words is as strong today, as it was for those who heard them delivered more than a century ago. For those who were fortunate to hear his words on that day, half way across the globe, the impact was huge and decisive. It permanently changed the way the world looked at India and its understanding of the Hindu religion.
Sendhamangalam is much like Rasipuram in many ways. It has ancient narrow streets with closely built houses and a scattering of tiny street-end shrines painted brightly with the traditional ochre and white stripes.
Although comparatively quiet today when compared to Rasipuram, it was an important town and administrative headquarters of the kings who ruled over the region even in ancient times.
A brief account of its history from the 13th century A.D. to the 17th century A.D can be found in Wikipedia.
The most famous temple in Sendhamangalam is the Datthagiri Murugan temple.
The 17th centuryLakshmi Narayanan temple is popular among the local people and in the surrounding villages. Built by King Govindappa Nayak and located in the centre of the town, it has a towering Raja Gopuram and is an amazing example of the uniqueness and beauty of Nayak architecture.
The Someswarar temple is a lesser known Siva temple and the oldest of the three temples in Sendhamangalam.
Legend of Someswarar Temple
Almost as old as the Rasipuram Kailasanathar temple, the sthala purana (literally the history of a sthala or holy place) of the Someswarar temple says that it was built by Somapuri Raja and that Sendhamangalam was known by different names in different yugas. In the Kritha yugam it was called as Somapuram. In the Thretha yuga its name was Chandrapattanam. In the Dwapara yuga it was called Krishnapuram and in the present Kali yuga as Sendhamangalam.
It is believed that Hanuman worshipped the lingam in this temple before going to Lanka.
For this reason, Sri Rama and Sita while returning to Ayodhya after successfully vanquishing Ravana, stopped here to worship lord Someswara with whose blessings Hanuman was successful in his mission to Lanka and which later led to the rescue of Sita.
It is believed that Serndha-mangalam later became Sendhamangalam, The Tamil word Serndha means that which is joined or united and alludes to the story that Rama and Sita came to the temple as a reunited couple.
Although it is not mentioned in the sthala purana, it is a local legend that this was one of the temples whichthe king of Kolli malai, Valvil Ori regularly visited and that the great king has done thirupani (renovation) in his time (2nd century A.D).
The Someswara temple is situated about ½ a km from SH 95 which is also the main road in this small town. With no signboards showing the way to the temple, it is the local people who guide you to the ‘Sivan Kovil’. There are houses and farmlands all around. From the outside it looks like any other village temple, but after many temple visits I have learnt that there are unique features and surprises in every temple. So it was in this unassuming village temple which had beautiful architecture and the shrines though small were exceptional.
The temple faces east and all the shrines face due east barring a few like the Dakshinamurthy and Kaala Bhairavar shrines which always are south facing ones.
Past the Kodimaram and the Nandi mandapam, the Someswarar shrine has a pillared mahamandapam, an arthamandapam and garba griham.
After praying before Lord Someswarar, to the left of the garbagriham, in the artha mandapam, we see the idols of Lord Chandra, and Lord Surya with Lord Sani seated between them. They are beautiful deities depicted as being seated together on a raised peedam. The idol of Sani is small in size when compared to that of Chandra and Surya deva, almost like a small boy sitting between the two devas. As in Thirunallaru, a temple famous for the worship of Lord Sani, the Sani Bagawan here faces east. Since Saneeswara is seen with Chandra and Surya it is believed that those who suffer from planetary afflictions will find relief if they worship here.
Opposite these deities is the navagraha peedam with the nine planet gods. Lord Saneeswara deities in both the navagraha peedam and in the raised peedam with Chandra and Surya, are facing each other, an arrangement of deities seen only in this temple. Therefore it is believed that worshipping here gives relief from the adverse effects of Sani dosha and Navagraha dosha.
In the pradakshina path, the Dakshinamurthy shrine is large and has its own open pillared mandapam, very much like the one in Rasipuram Kailasanathar temple. He is depicted as Yoga Dakshinamurthi.
Kanni moola Mahaganapathi is the sthala Vinayakar, The Subramanya shrine is more elaborate with a pillared outer mandapam. Here, within the same shrine are two beautiful depictions of Lord Murugan – one as Sri Bala Dhandayudhapaani and the other as Sri Subramanya with Valli and Devyani.
The name of Ambal is Soundharavalli ambal. The separate temple of the goddess is next to the shrine of Lord Someswarar.
Another unique feature of the temple is the Arubathu moovar sannidhi. It is in very few temples that we can see the 63 nayanmar saints of South Indian Shaivism together with the 9 Thogai adiyaargal who are also revered in southern Shaiva siddhantha.
This temple is a must visit temple when you are in Namakkal as Sendhamangalam is barely 11 kms from Namakkal. It is a very popular venue for weddings for the people living in Sendhamangalam and also in nearby villages. There is a modern marriage hall adjoining the temple.
A temple where Lord Rama worshipped Lord Siva
A temple where Hanuman performed puja to the lingam
Goddess Soundharavalli bestows people with all prosperity.
Goddess Swarna Durgai removes obstacles and gives victory. People pray to her for success in studies, in business, for marriages for the unmarried, and for the boon of children for the childless.
Lord Murugan blesses devotees as Sri Bala Dhandayadhapani and also as Sri Subhramanya with Valli and Devyani, in the same shrine.
As in Thirunallaru, in this temple Sani Bhagawan faces east. Another Sani Bhagawan is seen facing the first idol. Besides, Sani takes his place with Surya and Chandra to remove Sani dosha and Nava graha dosha .
In this temple, the Nayanmars are 72 in number. This includes the 63 nayanmars and the 9 Thogai Adiyaargal.
The Theppakulam which is in a very dilapidated condition is located a short distance from the temple. You can just make out the padi thurai – the steps built at a strategic place on the outer perimeter of the tank and the fallen remnants of the Neerazhi mandapam in the middle of the now barren holy tank. The tank was built with a view of the Kolli hills in the background and one can’t help thinking what a lovely sight it would be if the tank was restored and filled with water!
How to reach Sendhamangalam
Sendhamangalam is 11 km from Namakkal, the district headquarters. It can be reached by taking SH 95 which is the Mohanur- Namakkal- Sendhamangalam- Rasipuram highway. It is on the way to Kalappanaickenpatti, where you take the road leading to the Kolli Hills.
From Rasipuram it is at a distance of 26km on SH 95.
Both Namakkal and Rasipuram have good hotels where you can stay and visit nearby temples.
9.30 a.m to 12.30p.m
Timings are extended on special days and festivals.
Close to the village of Belukurichi, famous for its ancient temple and weekly market is Kalkurichi, a picturesque village near the Kolli hills.
The Karpoora natheswarar temple is the small ancient Siva temple located in this peaceful village. There are neat farmlands all around. The village road passes by the temple and it faces the beautiful Kolli Malai hills.
The importance of the temple lies mainly in the fact that this was one of the temples patronized by legendary King Valvil Ori of the Kolli hills, who ruled from Kolli malai around the 2nd century A.D. The temple we see today was built much later.
The history of the temple is based on oral tradition. In the absence of Sthala purana or other historical records, oral tradition and local beliefs are valuable and reliable sources of information because they have been handed down from generation to generation in the families which have always lived there.
A small temple with one pradakshina path enclosed by an outer wall, there is nothing pretentious about it.The open mandapa in front is a concrete structure and has a Nandi facing the sanctum and goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswathi on either side of the entrance where normally Dwarabalakas are seen. This placement of the goddesses is rather unique to this temple.The archagar Sendhilkumar remembers that many years ago,the temple used to have a Nandi mandapa and a mandapa over the idols of goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati. These were so dilapidated that the pillared structures were replaced with a large concrete roof. He had come from Koovaimali Palaniappar temple to open the temple for us.
Inside the sanctum sanctorum in the light of the oil lamp Lord Karpooranatheswara has a powerful presence that can be felt when one stands before the Sivalingam. The shrine of goddess Karunai Kadaatchi is a small shrine to the right of the Karpooranatheswarar shrine. The entrance to this shrine is through the enclosed mahamandapam which is common to both shrines. When Deeparadhanai is performed, in the light of the ghee lamp, one can see the beautiful eyes of the goddess, eyes that are filled with compassion, true to her name. The word karunai means compassion and Karunai Kadatchi means one whose glance is full of compassion.
The pradhakshina paadhai or circumambulatory path has smaller shrines that are typical of a Siva temple.
The vimana or roofs of these shrines have beautiful architecture. The Ganapathi shrine has its own small open mandapam.
Behind the Ganapathi shrine is a small shrine for Mahavishnu. Almost an alcove in the corner on the far left, it has idols of Vishnu holding a conch and chakra and Sridevi and Bhudevi on either side. There is even a tiny Garudalwar inside. The villagers have installed a Hanuman idol facing the alcove and like to worship the deity as Ramachandra murthy, a name for Lord Rama!
The goshtam are shrines in alcoves in the outer wall of the main shrine and have some unusual deities. There is Narthana Ganapathy (a form of Ganesha in dancing posture), Lingothbavar ,Dakshinamurthi and goddess Durga and a small shrine for Chandikeswarar. There is a separate shrine for lord Sani near the Kala bhairavar shrine.
The Murugan shrine is more elaborate with a bigger open pillared mandapa and a peacock idol, the peacock being the vahana of Karthikeya.
The Navagraha shrine is an ancient one while the Arubathumoovar shrine is new.
There is a Kal Vettu in the temple. It is a vertical granite slab 3 ft high with inscriptions in Grantha script, according to the archagar. Epigraphists have visited the temple but could not decipher the writing mostly because it is covered in lime and mortar. This is one for the experts. When the lime has been removed what interesting information is recorded remains to be seen.
The temple has been renovated by the local villagers and is well maintained. Pradosham and Ashtami pujas are held regularly.
The archagar Sendhil Kumar in charge of this temple is also in charge of the famous Koovaimalai Palaniappar temple near BeluKurichi a few kilometres from here. He opens the KalKurichi temple once every day for puja.
Both the temples can be visited together and the archagar is happy to open the Kalkurichi temple for visitors if they desire to see it. Besides, the archagar’s house is on Koovaimalai and you can call on him and ask him to take you to Kalkurichi temple which is what we did.
The historic Palaniappar temple in Koovaimalai near Belukurichi is currently closed for renovation. The renovation work has been undertaken by the Arulmighu Palaniappar Kolli Hills Charitable Trust. The trust has come out with an invitation to all to take part in the renovation.
While the temple is closed to visitors, all the deities are kept in Paalaalayam in a temporary shelter opposite the temple. Visitors can worship here and the archagar lives nearby and can be called on for puja. The midnight pournami (full moon night) puja which has been a unique puja at this temple continues to be done with the utsava moorthi and still attracts big crowds. The same holds true for sashti and krithigai day pujas which are special rituals for lord Murugan.
Although visitors will miss going around this charming hill temple, they can still visit the hill to see the work being done, to enjoy the panoramic views of the Kolli Hills and surrounding places. Most importantly they can enjoy the quiet peacefulness and refreshing breeze that blows down from the mountains full of the fragrance and goodness of the mountain herbs. The drive to koovaimalai is a beautiful drive along excellent roads with all the charm of the countryside underlying these lush mountains.
Contact numbers of the Charitable Trust:
95666 56956, 98427 34187
Pictures from Koovaimalai:
PS: Make sure you have snacks, fruit and/or food in hand when you visit because this is an isolated place. There are no hotels in Belukurichi, but you can take packed meals from Rasipuram which has good hotels.
Close to Rasipuram in Namakkal district of Tamil Nadu is the village of Singalandhapuram, one of many beautiful villages beneath the Kolli hills. The people here are mostly engaged in weaving and farming.
The village is believed to be named after Chola Emperor Rajaraja who ruled between 985 and 1015 C.E. Singalandhagan was a honorific title given to Rajaraja after his subjugation of the northern part of Sri Lanka.
Thiruveswarar Temple – A temple in the land of Valvil Ori
The Thiruveswarar temple is the Siva temple in this village. It is easy to locate as the Rasipuram – Sendhamangalam- Namakkal road passes beside the temple.
The temple is ancient and is believed to have existed during the Sangam Age 2000 years ago. It is one of the six temples in the region where legendary King Valvil Ori worshipped Lord Siva. A granite statue of the king is seen in front of the mandapam of Nandi emperumaan (Nandi).There is another stone plaque next to it that depicts King Ori and his queen. A similar plaque is seen in the Palaniappar temple in Belukkurichi, a few kilometres from here.
The temple has a high madhil or outer wall and there is no entrance gopuram tower. The entrance is a simple building with a tiled roof and a thinnai much like the entrance to traditional village homes seen in Tamilnadu.
Inside the temple there is a vast spacious open courtyard with the main shrine in the centre and smaller shrines built around the courtyard. Surya and Chandra are seen on either side inside the entrance. The Surya idol is ancient.
Past the Deepasthamban and Balipeetam is the small, charming Nandi Mandapam with a beautiful nandi. Across the courtyard is the temple of Thiruveswarar. The name of the lord Siva is Veerataanam Udaya Naayanaarwhich is the name inscribed in the kal vettu – stone inscription on the outer prakaram of the Sivan sannidhi. The present name of Thiruveswarar is probably derived from it.
The shrine of goddess Pankajavalli Thaayaris a separate temple next to the shrine of Thiruveswarar. A small nandi is seen in front of the goddess.
Adjacent to the shrine of Pankajavalli Thaayar is the shrine of lord Murugan as Subramanyaswami.He is depicted seated on a peacock with Valli and Deivanai standing on either side. Both the Pankajavalli Thaayar shrine and the Murugan shrine share a common mandapam. The construction of this mandapam is recorded in the epigraphic details of the inscription seen on the outer wall of Thiruveswarar shrine.
The temple of Bhadrakali
To the left of the Nandi mandapam, in the temple courtyard cum circumambulatory path, the first shrine is a separate temple of goddess Bhadrakali. A temple for Bhadrakali within a Siva temple is very unusual and therefore unique. It has an exceptionally beautiful idol of goddess Bhadrakali. The goddess faces due north and is believed to be extremely powerful.
The people of Naadar community in the village have a separate temple for Bhadrakali amman a short distance from the Thiruveswarar temple. The rituals for Bhadrakali worship include Kundam and thee midhi rituals as well as sacrificial rites. These rituals are unique to Bhadrakali and Mariamman temples and differ from the rituals followed in Siva temples. Therefore, during festivals the people of the village come to the Tiruveswarar temple, offer prayers at the Bhadrakali shrine and having obtained the blessings of the goddess, observe the rituals in the other temple.
The other shrines are ones that are usually seen in Siva temples.
The Ayyappan shrine is a relatively new addition along with the Arubathu moovar sannidhi. The shrine of Veerabadrar, is again an ancient structure and has a beautifully carved idol of the deity.There is a Vinayaka shrine which is a raised open mandapam. Dakshinamurthy, Lingothbavar and Durgai are seen in alcoves in the goshtam- outer wall of Thiruveswarar shrine. There is a small shrine for Chandikeswarar, and individual shrines for Jyeshta devi and Kalabairavar.
Rare Features of the temple
The Murugan shrine faces due south which is very rarely seen in temples. Villagers say that this is a powerful deity. It is a popular venue for marriages in the village. Most importantly villagers vouch for the fact that weddings conducted before this Murugan never end in divorce. There may be minor differences of opinion between married couples but these are always resolved. Most families here prefer to have marriage ceremonies solemnized in the Thiruveswarar temple and book a mandapam (wedding hall) for the marriage reception afterwards.
The north facing Bhadrakali shrine is also something that is rarely seen in Siva temples.
There is one stone inscription in the prakaram, on the outer wall of Thiruveswarar sannidhi.
Visit to the temple
Our visit to the temple was on a Friday evening in May. It was raining intermittently with the onset of an early south-west monsoon. An unexpected abhishekam for goddess Pankajavalli was under way. A middle aged woman and her son had asked for the abhishekam as a vaendudhal (request to the goddess) for divine grace to secure a good job for the son. The evening abhishekam happened because the archagar had been engaged for other ceremonies in the village that morning, it being a shuba muhurtham day (auspicious day), which turned out to our advantage. After the abhishekam and puja we had darshan in the Thiruveswarar shrine.
The temple has the ambience and beauty of very old places of worship and the people of the village have taken pride in maintaining its antiquity. It is a very popular temple for marriages.The pradosha puja in this temple is attended by a large number of people from nearby villages. At this time food is prepared for hundreds pf people and served on plantain leaves.
The temple is open from 5.30 to 7.30 a.m. in the morning and from 5 to 7.30 or 8 p.m. in the evening. The archagar’s house is next to the temple and outstation visitors may contact him over phone.
Archagar Singalandhapuram Maadhu
Mobile no: 94883 20080
Sri Karpoora Narayana Perumal Temple, Singalandhapuram
At the Thiruveswarar temple we learnt from the archagar that there was a Perumal (Vishnu) temple close to the Siva temple and that both temples were constructed in the same time period.
We visited the temple on a Saturday as the aged Bhattar kept the temple open only on Saturdays and on Tiruvonam days when the village folk would be sure to visit. It was an arrangement that was convenient for both considering the fact that the Bhattar lived a good 5 kms away.
The temple is close to the Thiruveswarar temple further up the highway. But houses obscure the view from the road and it’s easy to miss the small lane that leads to the temple.
The temple looks impressive from the outside with a big ground in front with a massive peepal tree and a neem tree and beneath them the ubiquitous Arasamarathu Pillayar, as old as the temple itself. If these holy vrikshas could speak, the tales of a thousand of years would be told, as they stand silent witnesses to happenings over eons.
This is the temple of Sridevi Bhudevi samedha Karpoora Narayana Perumal. Like the Tiruveswarar temple it is an ancient temple believed to be 2000 yrs old. There is a garuda sthambam with a small mandapam before the temple gopuram (gateway tower).A madhil encloses the temple on all sides. On entering we find that a large part of the temple is modern construction taken up with the blessings of His Holiness, Srirangam Jeer Swamigal. The deities in the garbagriha, Sridevi,Bhudevi and Karpoora Narayana Perumal are very beautiful. There are inscriptions in Tamil-Brahmi on the base of the outer walls of the Garbagriham. The Bhattar says that it refers to a Chola king with the title of Thirubhuvana Chakravarthi. Perumal faces south which is something that is rare in Vishnu temples. The power of Karpoora Narayanan is tremendous and all prayers are answered.
A modern concrete hall has taken the place of the mahamandapa. The dwara-palakas and idols of Anjaneya and Vishvaksena are kept here.
The Saturaday puja in this small village temple was something to remember. There was a small gathering of people from the village who waited while the Bhattar made preparations for the neivedyam and pooja. There was a recital of Divya Prabhandam and Thirupaavai by two young women and a priest. The girls strung together strings of jasmine and thulasi after the recital. The heartfelt puja was very nice. The Bhattar stood in front of the garba griha and handed out the prasadam of sarkarai pongal as the gathering formed a line and received the prasad from him in small paper cups. The piping hot sweet pongal was the tastiest prasad I have ever had.
The temple is open on Saturdays from 7 am until noon.
Archagar Gunaseela Iyengar
Mobile no: 94429 66983
Singalandhapuram is a large village in Rasipuram taluk of Namakkal district It is 8.5 kms from Rasipuram on SH 95 (Rasipuram- Sendhamangalam- Namakkal – Mohanur road) and 5 kms from Belukkurichi.
Note: Singalandhapuram is also the name of another village in Thuraiyur near Tiruchi and this village too is believed to be named after Rajaraja Chola.
This summer, after a spell of scorching heat and dry weather we had our first summer rains in mid- April. A few more showers later, we even had a hailstorm; now with intermittent rains the days are actually cloudy and pleasant with cool nights!
I love the rains that come in summer for two reasons –
Summer rains are mostly late afternoon rains.
They are very dramatic (read loud and noisy!) with lots of lightning and loud claps of thunder overhead.
I love listening to the combined sounds of pouring rain and thunder and to feel the hot air change slowly to cool.
And in Salem, in summer when it rains, we know that it has rained in the hills as well.
Karadiyur View Point -Yercaud
Yercaud has many view-points and views are spectacular at all times of the year. Some of them like Lady’s Seat, Pagoda Pointand the view-point near Servarayan temple are very popular with tourists. There are view-points that are not so well-known but located in beautiful locations in the hills.
Karadiyur view point is one such vantage point located off Nagalur road at a distance of roughly 8 kms from Yercaud Lake. There is enough signage along the way to guide you. It is a vertical cliff overlooking a valley and it is promoted as part of eco-tourism in the hills by the Forest department which has erected a watch tower. This is also where the trekking route from Karadiyur view-point to Ull-gombai begins. The trekking route is a distance of 4.8 km.
Karadiyur, incidentally takes its name from karadi or bear as bears were once plentiful in the region.
Walk to the watch tower
To reach the watch tower you have to walk for a kilometer from the main road through the village and the forest. It is an easy walk and well worth the effort. The path is a delight as it passes through beautiful forest. I met very few people along the way.
Vehicles with good ground clearance can ply part of the way on the mud road, but the last 5oo metres have to be covered on foot. You can park your vehicle as we did near the sign on the main road which says, ‘Eco Tourism – way to Karadiyur View Point’.
The path looked like this.
Slushy from the rains
From the watch tower the ground seems to literally fall away beneath your feet as a thickly forested valley and hills is spread out below and around you. It is a remarkable experience. Beyond the valley we could see lakes glistening in the distance.
The view-point is desolate and not frequented by tourists mainly because there are no roads leading right up to the view-point like the other view-points here. What is appealing about this place is that it is isolated and litter free.
Be sure to carry water and if accompanied by children, taking snacks with you is a good idea as there are no shops in the area. Also make sure that you are wearing suitable footwear.
This is the best place to visit for everyone who likes to enjoy quiet moments with nature.
Yercaud is my place to go in the hills when I need to get away. A cozy hill town, it is nestled in the Shevaroy hills amidst coffee plantations and forest and overlooks my hometown, Salem.
Every season in Yercaud is unique- colors of spring, mists and thunderstorms of summer, winter’s clear star-studded skies and always, the cool, pure mountain air. Over the years and over innumerable visits the charm of Yercaud never wanes and a couple of hours in the hills are all I need to feel refreshed.