Kolli Malai Arapaleeswarar Temple

Arapaleeswarar temple kolli malai

Arapaleeswarar temple is an ancient Siva temple on the banks of the Aiyaru or Panchanadhi river in the village of Periya koviloor in Valapur nadu of the Kolli hills. Since ancient times it has been an important pilgrimage site of Tamil Nadu. The temple was built during the reign of King Kulothunga Cholan 1400 years ago, but its history dates back to a much earlier period more than 2000 years ago.

periya kovilur
The village of Periya kovilur in the Kolli Hills

History of the Temple

Long ago, a part of the Kolli hills was known by the name Araipalli or Arapalli. Lord Siva who was worshipped in this region of Araipalli was called Araipally Iswarar or Arapaleeswarar. He was also known as Araipally Mahadevan and Araipally Udayar. The name of Parvati is Aram valarthanayagi also called as Thayammai.

It is said that the place where the temple is built was once farmland. When the land was ploughed the plough hit something and blood gushed out. The people dug around the spot to find a suyambu sivalingam and began to worship it. The scar made by the plough can be seen on the lingam even today.

Arapaleeswarar was worshipped by Valvil Ori, the Mazhavar king who ruled the Kolli hills  It is believed that a secret path exists from the Arapaleeswarar temple to the Kailasanathar temple in Rasipuram which was also a part of the kingdom of Ori.

After Valvil Ori, the kingdom came under the Chera and Chola kings.

Vaippu Sthalam

The temple is a Thevara vaippu sthalam. The 7thcentury Thevaram hymns of Tirunavukarasar and Tirugnanasambandar speak of this temple. In the hymns Appar speaks of this sthalam as Kolli kulir araipalli and as kallal kamazh Kolli araipalli. Tirugnanasambandar refers to Araipalli in his Tiruthala kovai pathigam.

The Temple

DSC01851

A medium sized temple it is built in very beautiful natural surroundings of the Kolli hills. Hills and valleys stretch into the distance all around. There is no gopuram at the entrance. The top of the outer madhil (high surrounding wall) has the images of siddars at intervals.

InscriptionsInscriptions

The outer stone walls of the garba-graham (sanctum santorum) are covered with inscriptions detailing various grants and endowments. Sembian Mahadevi, the dowager queen of Sivagnana Kandaraditya Chola devar and great-aunt of King Rajaraja Chola has visited the Arapaleeswarar temple.She rebuilt and restored many temples in the Chola kingdom and was actively involved in the maintenance of Siva temples. In the Arapaleeswarar temple there is an inscription that speaks of 100 “kalanju” gold donated by her. It is also said that she donated many jewels to the temple. Interestingly Sembian Mahadevi was a Mazhava princess, the daughter of Mazhavarayar.

Land grants were made by other Chola kings.

That they have made the arduous journey when the region was virtually inaccessible speaks a lot about the greatness of this temple.

Nandi

Nandi the divine bull of lord Siva is seen seated in front of the kodi maram (flag staff) and bali peetam and facing the Lingam inside the garpagriha in all Siva temples. In the Arapaleeswarar temple the image of Nandi has only three legs. The right hind leg is mutilated and the culprits are two men whose images are seen facing the temple, across the road outside the main entrance.

The Story of Nandi

The story is told that Nandi, the divine bull grazed on the farmland belonging to the two men, who, not knowing that that it was Nandi devar, tried to drive it away. But the bull continued to wreak havoc in their fields. Enraged, they chased the bull with a sword. To save itself the bull entered the Arapaleeswarar temple and sought refuge in lord Siva even as one of the men flung his sword on the bull from outside the temple. The right hind leg was severed and Nandi has remained there ever since with a missing leg while the men have remained outside.

Nandi

Arapaleeswarar temple

These two men have stood outside the temple doors of lord Siva in the kolli hills for ages .The wrong they did was to harm another living creature.

Arapaleeswarar

The lingam of Arapaleeswarar in the garbagriha is medium sized. Standing before it, time becomes irrelevant. The present could easily be a moment in time thousands of years ago. Nothing seems to matter anymore as the peace and grace of God surround you. Words do not fully describe the feeling. It must be experienced by devotees at least once in this lifetime.

Vinayagar, Arapaleeswarar, Thayammai and Murugan can be worshipped together from the same spot inside the temple.

Arapaleeswarar temple kollimalai

Sri Chakra

Probably not seen elsewhere in India is the very rare and beautifully carved Sri Chakra on the stone ceiling outside the shrine of Aramvalartha nayagi. There are intricate sculptures of Ashta Lakshmis all around it. Prayers offered to Thayammai or meditating while sitting directly beneath the Sri chakra are said to give powerful benefits.

Murugan
Shrine of subramanyar

The first shrine in the outer courtyard is that of Subramanya as Aarumuga peruman. The idol is extremely beautiful with intricate carvings. Valli and Deivanai stand on either side.Saint Arunagirinadhar who lived in the 15th century has sung a Thiruppugazh hymn on Kolli malai Murugan. There are separate shrines on the pradakshina path for Vinayaka, Kasi Visvanadhar, Kasi Visalakshi, Mahalakshmi,Saraswati, Durga, Chandikeswarar, and Aram Valarthanayagi and nava graha.

The shrines of Murugan and Ambigai are built in a way that they are facing each other. It is as if the divine mother is gazing fondly on her beloved son.

Theertham

Aiyaru kolli hills

panchanadhi
Aiyaru or Panchanadhi river in Kolli hills

The theertham of Arapaleeswarar temple is the Panchanadhi aka Aiyaru river.As the name indicates it is five rivers flowing as one. A hundred steps lead down to the river. Where they end is a beautiful Vinayaga shrine.

vinayagar

The Panchanadhi does not dry up even in summer when the water flow is less. It forms small water falls on its way. One small waterfall is near the temple. Further on its course it plunges into a gorge from a height of 300 feet to form the spectacular Agaya Gangai falls, a major tourist attraction in the Kolli hills. The base of the falls can be reached by climbing down 1025 steps. The steps begin near the Arapaleeswarar temple.

A temple where Fishes are sacred

The fishes in the Aiyaru river are sacred. They are believed to be the manifestations of Lord Siva. A story is told about this tradition.

The story of the sacred fishes

Once, some devotees caught fish in the Aiyaru, cut them up and made a curry on the banks of the river. While the curry was boiling they went up to the Arapaleeswarar temple to have darshan. On returning from the temple they were stunned to see the cut fish jump whole and alive from the boiling curry into the river. The miracle was a subtle message that lord Siva lived in all forms of life in the mountain. So no one catches fish in the Aiyaru river.Based on this story,it is said that the name Arapaleeswarar is derived from Arutha meenai poruthiya Iswarar,meaning -Lord Siva who joined together the cut fish. The people believe that it is Arapaleeswarar who resides as the fish in the river. Pilgrims and devotees feed the fishes when they visit the temple.

Unusual Rituals

There is an old and unusual ritual at this temple related to the fish in the Aiyaru. The indigenous people believe that it is lord Siva who has taken the form of the fishes in the river. They make a vow to offer a tiny mookuthi nose-ring to the fish when prayers are answered. On fulfillment of vows, a large fish in the river is caught, a tiny mookuthi is fixed on the snout and released  back into the river. An indigenous fruitseller explained it like this:” Let’s say I go to buy a farmland. I pray to Arapaleeswarar, ‘If the deal goes in my favour I vow to give a gold or silver nose-ring to you’. After a satisfactory farm deal, I put a tiny mookuthi on the snout of a fish in the Aiyaru. It is the offering I promised to Arapaleeswarar who has helped me clinch the deal”. This ritual is not followed so much now as it was in the old days.

Mahakumbabishekkam

The Mahakumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar Temple took place last week on May 7, 2017.I could not go to see the actual kumbabishekam but I was fortunate to visit the night before.

But that is the subject of another post on the temple on the eve of MahaKumbabishekam!

The Thevaram hymns of Appar and Sambandar which refer to this Siva temple are given below:

தில்லைசிற் றம்பலமும் செம்பொன் பள்ளி

தேனன்குடி சீராப்பள்ளி தெங்கூர்

கொல்லி குளிர் அறைப்பள்ளி கோவல்

வீரட்டம் கோகரணம் கோடி காவும்

முல்லைப் பறவம் முருகன் பூண்டி

முழையூர் பழையாறை சக்திமுற்றங்

கல்லல் திகழ்சீரார் காளத்தியும்

கயிலாய நாதனையே காணலாமே

 

பொருப்பள்ளி வரைவில்லாப் புரம்மூன்று

எய்து புலந்தழியச் சலந்தரனைப் பிளந்தான்

பொற்சக் கரப்பள்ளி திருக்காட்டுப்பள்ளி கள்ளார்

கமழ்கொல்லி அறைப்பள்ளி கலவஞ்சாரற்

சீராப்பள்ளி சிவப்பள்ளி செம்பொன் பள்ளி

கெழுநனி பள்ளி தவப் பள்ளி சீரார்

பரப்பள்ளி என்றென்று பகர்வோர் எல்லாம்

பரலோகத்து இனிதாகப் பாலிப் பாரே.

                    -திருநாவுக்கரசர்

 

அறைப்பள்ளி அகத்தியான் பள்ளி

வெள்ளைப் பொடி பூசி ஆறணிவான் அமர்

காட்டுப்பள்ளி சிறப்பள்ளி சீராப்பள்ளி

செம்பொன் பள்ளி திருநனி பள்ளி

சீர்மகேந்திரத்துப் பிறப்பில்லவன் பள்ளி

வெள்ளைச் சடையான் விரும்பும் இடைப்பள்ளி

வண் சக்கரம் மால் உறைப்பால் அடிபோற்றக்

கொடுத்த பள்ளி உணராய் மட நெஞ்சமே

உன்னி நின்றே.

                = திருஞானசம்பந்தர்

                   திருத்தலக் கோவை பதிகம்

 

 

External link:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/renunciate-chola-king-found-his-resting-place-in-kolli-hills/article18413321.ece

Kolli Hills – Pristine and Pure

KOLLI HILLS

Kolli Hills is a beautiful mountain range located in Namakkal district of Tamil Nadu in South India. Its altitude ranges from 1000 to 1300 meters above mean sea level and enjoys a pleasant, healthful climate round the year. The hills are spread over an area of 440 sq. kilometers. When viewed from National Highway 44 on the Rasipuram-Namakkal stretch, it appears as a flat-topped mountain range.

Remote, untouched by commercialization and retaining its historical charm Kolli Malai as it is called locally seems frozen in time.

History

  • Kolli Malai is said to be the exquisite Madhuvanam (the forest of honey) zealously maintained by vaanara king Sugreeva that is mentioned in the Sundara kandam of the Ramayana. The Madhuvanam was a protected grove where there was plenty of honey. Even today, this is a land of tropical fruits, honey and medicinal herbs just as it would have been in the Ramayana period.
  • It was a land favoured by siddars, the ancient medicine men of Tamil Nadu.

Kolli hills in the songs of the bards

In a distant past dating more than 2000 years ago, there lived wandering bards who travelled across ancient Tamil Nadu and were much respected by kings. They had the freedom to visit any kingdom and write songs on all they saw and observed. Tamil Sangam literature hence comes across as a treatise of gross truth told in a style that is at once blunt and poetical. The Kolli hills have been eulogized and glorified by many of these poets. It has a rich history as the kingdom of Mazhavar and Chera kings, It was a coveted kingdom and wars were fought and kings died trying to defend the kingdom.

Kolli hills are mentioned in these books of sangam literature:

  1. Purananooru
  2. Agananooru
  3. Natrinai
  4. Kurunthogai
  5. Pathitrupathu

Beautiful And Magical                  

Named after Kolli Paavai, the maiden goddess who guards these hills, Kolli hills still casts its spell on visitors. Much of the area is relatively unexplored and inaccessible, Myths abound and stories are told that are bizarre and spooky. Yes, it is true that a Kolli hills has a reputation. It is the favored destination of astrologers and practitioners of witchcraft and tantric practices. Scattered over the hills are small shrines where the priests will promise to remove all obstacles in your life and solve all your problems for a fee!

But there is much in the Kolli hills that is sacred and beautiful. The people who live here are tribals and are called as Malayalees – people of the mountains. They are a hard-working self- sufficient community with a unique culture that is their own. Aadi Padhinettu in July is the most important festival in the Kolli hills when people from the 16 naadus and from other places come together for week long celebrations.

A Holiday in Kolli Hills

Kolli hills is the place to go for a quiet peaceful holiday sans crowds of tourists.

On visiting the hills you realize that you have just stepped into an amazing world and first visits are always memorable. This is hill country like no other. Thick forests are interspersed with pastoral landscapes, and cosy mountain villages. The altitude and the rivers Aiyaru and Varattaru flowing across the hills, massive jackfruit trees everywhere you go, terraced fields, yes, Kolli hills is beautiful.

How to reach

Kolli hills is accessible from Salem (64 kms) and from Namakkal(24 kms) both major cities on National Highway 44(NH44). Buses ply from Salem, Namakkal and Rasipuram to important villages in the Kolli hills. It is a better idea to rent a car because many of the places to visit in the hills are not on the regular bus routes.

Hill road - Kolli malai

The drive to the hills is lovely, the roads are good. If you are travelling from Salem it is a  11/2 hour drive through a very scenic route.

Route from Salem

Take the NH 44 from Salem. Near Rasipuram, turn left onto the Rasipuram bye-pass which will take you to State Highway SH 95. Turn right on to SH 95 and drive through beautiful farming villages along the Kolli range. Turn left once more at Kaalappa-naickenpatti to go to the kolli foothills village of Karavalli. The 28 kms Ghat Road begins at Karavalli. and the most amazing drive up the mountains with  stunning views and 70 sharp hair-pin bends, a real challenge for drivers and biking enthusiasts. Enjoy the paintings of the Sendhamangalam Highways department along the way depicting stories of famous kings of ancient Tamil Nadu.

A hair pin bend in Kolli hills
A hair-pin bend in the Kolli Hills

Kolli Hills

Solakadu is your first stop and also one of the highest points in the hills. Stop for a steaming cup of the locally grown Arapalli coffee. The tribal shandy is right by the roadside and is a must visit place for buying exotic fruits and spices and other mountain produce. Just opposite the shandy, within the premises of the Highways Bungalow is a viewpoint with breathtaking views.

At Solakadu you can choose the places you want to visit from the prominently placed signpost. There are a lot of places to visit in the Kolli hills.

A word of caution – Once you exit Solakadu, there are very few signposts along the way so ask the locals for directions when in doubt to avoid going around in circles! Many roads seem the same on the hills and can get quite confusing.

Where to stay

There are very few resorts in the Kolli hills. The oldest is the Nallathambi resort. You can book cottages of the Kolli malai Panchayat in advance. These are located in Semmedu. Another place to stay is the youth hostel near the Arapaleeswarar temple.Alternately, you can stay in Salem or Namakkal and visit the hills.

Bring packed meals and snacks when you come because there are very few good hotels or eateries. If you plan to stay longer than a day the best thing would be to ask the locals to prepare food for you.

Gently Down The Lake In Yercaud

Dappled sunlight by the lake
Dappled sunlight by the lake, Yercaud

6th April 2017

Which Tamil Nadu hill-station gets its name from the lake at the centre of town? Yercaud, of course! This little hill town was called Eri-Kadu because of the forests around the lake. Eri-lake and kadu-forest. We locals still say Yerkadu when we speak of this laid- back hill town near Salem.

Yercaud Lake (2)

  • The lake is the first sight that greets you once you have negotiated 20 hair-pin bends on the lovely drive on the oh-so-beautiful hill roads and enter the hill town.
  • Once you have arrived in Yercaud, the lakeside is a good place to spend time.
  • Go boating on the lake, relax on the lawns by the lakeside, enjoy the cool breeze and the beautiful scenery, and try out the tasty street food in the many eateries near the boat-house.
  • TTDC run boat-house opens at  nine in the morning and closes at five- thirty in the evening. It is the most popular place for tourists coming to Yercaud and can be quite crowded in summer.
  • You have a choice of pedal-boats, motor- boats and row-boats.
Boat-house, Yercaud
Boat-house, Yercaud

Boat-house, Yercaud

Safety Rules for boating enthusiasts outside the boat-house in Yercaud
Safety Rules for boating enthusiasts outside the boat-house in Yercaud

Yercaud lake is the only natural lake where you can go boating among all the lakes found in hill-stations in Tamil Nadu.

Dappled sunlight by the lake in Yercaud
Morning sunlight brightens up a placid lake scene in Yercaud

Gently down the lake!

A word of caution- the lake is really deep, so just sit back in your boat and enjoy yourself (let life pass by, literally)!

The row- boats come with the mandatory boatman which is good from the safety perspective. Personally I prefer the row- boat even if there is some waiting for the allotted boat. There is something very therapeutic about the splash of oars striking water, trailing your hand in the cool lake , taking in the panoramic views as the boat moves down the lake and a chat with a friendly boatman!

Late in the evening, when the boat-house has closed and the crowds have left, take a walk on the road by the lake. It’s very peaceful and across the lake, big stars hang low in the black sky over the dark silhouette of a hill. See the stars reflected in the mirror-like water. Feel the cool pure mountain-air, breathe deeply and watch your cares fall away.

The healing beauty of nature is part of the magic that is Yercaud.

Maasi Magam Abishekam – Rituals to Cherish

March 2017

Maasi is the month (Feb-March) when the days are turning warmer after the pleasant cold weather of Margazhi and Thai. In temples all over Tamil Nadu, Maasi Magam  is a special day when the deities are given a holy ritualistic bath.In the temple of Lord Ardhanareeswara on Tiruchengode hill, this ritual is called the Maha-abhishekam, the ultimate abhishekam.

On Saturday, 11th March, 2017, our group of six members joined hundreds of participants of the maasi magam vizha as they congregated in the ancient Badrakali amman temple in Tiruchengode town. It is customary to begin the procession after prayers are offered to goddess Badrakali. The participants then walked along the very narrow and winding lanes of this historic town to the main ther veethi.

 At seven in the morning it was a scene of ethereal beauty as saffron clad devotees walked in silence, all bearing decorated pots of offerings of their choice for the abishekam. Folk dancers representing Siva and Parvati led the way.  At the main ther veedhi, the procession stopped briefly for a dance recital accompanied by music, and beautifully rendered by the folk dancers. As police-men made way for early morning traffic the procession moved slowly along the four ther veethis (chariot streets).

 The participants then went to the malai kovi (hill temple) of lord Ardhanareeswara for the maha-abhishekam.

ardhanareeswara temple on Tiruchengode hill 1
The temple on the hill

After darshan of Lord Ardhanareeswara, everyone waited for the abishekam to begin. This was no ordinary abishekam and the offering-pots contained a wide, interesting variety of sacred things. At the auspicious time the abishekam was first performed in the main sanctums of Senkotuvelavar(Murugan) and Ardhanareeswara. The beautiful utsava deities of Ardhanareeswara and Sengotuvelar were brought to the maha mandapam and placed on the central stone platform so that the rituals could be clearly viewed from all sides.The Maha abishekam commenced after the abishekam in the main shrines were completed.

A unique sight and an experience to cherish!

An awesome 1500 pots of milk, endless pots of vibhuti,honey,sandal paste, pomegranatepearls,grapes,choppedbananas,sugarcanejuice,riceflour,panchamitham,turmeric,kalkandu(sugarcandy),panangarkandu-candy made from palm-sugar were poured on the deities. Most of the offerings were collected and given back to the devotees as prasadam.

Faith And Blessing

Everyone present that day must have felt as I did, a divine peace and blessing fill the heart as the abishekam progressed. Seeing the abishekam was a purification of hearts and minds and   this cleansing deep inside gave strength of a divine kind, the courage to face the world with all its imperfections and trials. The divine blessing is a balm, a gentle reminder that on this hard journey of life God makes his presence felt in many, many ways. 

Pictures from the Masi Abishekam

Ardhanareeswarar
Utsavar of Lord Ardhanareeshwara is brought to the Maha Mandapam
masi magam in ardhanareeswara temple, Tiruchengode
The Utsavar of Lord Segottuvelar is placed alongside the deity of Lord Ardhanareeshwara
Preparing for abishekam in Tiruchengode temple
Preparing for the abishekam
Vibhuthi abishegam in Ardhanareeswarar temple, Tiruchengode
Abishekam with vibhuti- the holy ash sacred to Lord Siva
abishegam in Ardhanareeswarar temple, Tiruchengode
Water is poured on the deities after each abishekam
Palabishekam
Abishekam with milk
Abishekam
Abishekam is done with hundreds of pots of milk brought by devotees
Thaen abishegam in Ardhanareeswarar temple, Tiruchengode
You are the essence of sweetness – Abishekam with honey
Thaen Abishekam
Like honey, May our lives be filled with the sweetness of Your Prescence
Alangaram
                         Alangaram                                           We come to you with faith – May our lives become richer and more beautiful !

Read more posts on Maasi Magam  and Ardhanareeshwarar Temple by                 clicking on the links below

Tiruchengode – In Anticipation Of Maasi Magam

TIRUCHENGODE

In anticipation of this year’s Maasi Magam festival, Tiruchengode town and Sri Ardhanareeswarar temple wear a festive look, this being the most important festival of this temple town. Hundreds of devotees take a vow of austerities by wearing the holy maala for a prescribed number of days. Life becomes focused on only one thing and that is Lord Ardhanareeshwara, the divine Father and Mother of the universe.

For me, it is always a pleasure to visit the temple and taking the vow is just another excuse to visit Ardhanareeswara, Ammaiyappan.

This year, our small group went to the temple to commence the viraddam by wearing the maala blessed and given by the Sivachariya in front of lord Ardhanareeswara. It was a subh muhurtham day with dozens of marriages taking place in every available corner of the maha mandapam in the temple. Ardhanareeswara temple is the temple for marriages because unity of husband and wife is what lord Ardhanareeshwara is all about. Mango leaf thorans were strung everywhere between the ornate pillars and many homa kundams for the many marriages.

Carving on the rocky wall inside the temple of lord Ardhanareeshwara in Tiruchengode, Tn
Carving on the rocky wall inside the temple of lord Ardhanareeshwara in Tiruchengode, Tn

On every visit to the temple,there is always a surprise, some new sculpture to marvel at, that previously went unnoticed by me. The temple is too full of of detailed sculptures of all sizes to be covered on a single day and this time it was a carving of lord Ganesha on the rock near the shrine of Aadhi Seshan below the Raja gopuram.

adiseshan-sannidhi-ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-copy
Shrine of Adhi Seshan beneath the Rajagopuram. The Ganapati carving can be seen on the rock wall to the left of this shrine.

Carvings of two serpents can be seen on either side of Ganesha on the rock. as befits another name of this ancient Tiruchengode hill, which is Naagachala. No wonder that serpent carvings are seen everywhere on the hill either as Aadhi Seshan or as Naagars.

Spending time in the beautiful temple after darshan, it was amusing to watch the goings on! Slowly the big mandapam emptied as wedding groups left. The temple staff started cleaning up and a bunch of monkeys joined in! They were everywhere, even high up on the temple pillars, on the railings, the floor,   a couple of baby monkeys were sitting on the Maha Nandi! People were offering fruits and tidbits which they took absolutely unafraid.

An important reminder :

This year’s Maasi Magam is celebrated on Saturday,11th March, 2017.

Below are pictures taken inside the temple on this visit:

ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-7-2

CLEANING UP

ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-4
Mango leaf thorans are removed after the weddings.The light of the lamps on the homakund are reflected beautifully on the gleaming floor on which rice and flower petals are strewn and look ethereal
ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-2
A baby monkey! This little fella takes pleasure in sitting on Nandhi’s head!

More monkey photos..!

ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-3
A little girl looks on with her mother at this cute little fellow
ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-5
Two adult monkeys sit back to back on the railings with a snack
ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-6
Near the temple entrance, temple cows feast on the banana trees that were used for the weddings.Beyond , Tiruchengode town lays spread out beneath the hill  temple
ardhanareeswarar-templetgode-7
A bride leaves with her relatives as a temple bull stands near the entrance 

PALANIAPPAR TEMPLE-BELUKURICHI

The Palaniappar temple on Koovai malai, a hillock in the foothills of Kolli Malai, near Belukurichi near Rasipuram, in Tamil Nadu stands out against the beautiful green backdrop of Kolli hills.

LEGEND

The name Belukurichi is derived from the ancient Tamil words Velavan Kurinji.

Velavan, another name for Murugan is the patron deity of Kurinji which is one of the five different landscapes categorized by the ancient Tamil people. Kurinji is the mountainous and hilly regions of the land. It is inhabited by Veddar, Kuravar and Kanavar tribes who are hunters.

Koovai malai is also called Koogai Malai. Koogai is the ancient Tamil word for the Owl. The Kolli hills as viewed from this hillock does look like a giant bird with outspread wings.

The people of the Kolli hills were hunters in those ancient times and they worshipped Murugan as one of their own, a hunter like themselves.

In the popular legend of Murugan’s courtship of Valli and their subsequent marriage Murugan goes to meet Valli in the guise of a handsome young hunter, Valli being the   daughter of Nambirajan, chief of the Kuravar tribe which is also a hill tribe. It is this form of Murugan as the handsome hunter that we worship in the Palaniappar temple.It is said that Murugan set out from here to Valli malai where Valli lived.

Glimpse of Palaniappar temple in the kolli foothills
Glimpse of Palaniappar temple in the kolli foothills

ANTIQUITY

The temple is believed to have existed since more than 3000 years ago.

Saint Bhogar who lived 3000 years ago is believed to have visited this temple after which he went to Palani and created the idol of Palani Murugan.

Thus the name Palaniappar means Palanikku appar,’the one who came before Palani’.

The Tamil poetess – saint Avvaiyar is said to have worshipped here.

HISTORY

King Valvil Ori worshipped Palaniappar here before visiting three other temples in the region. While talking about the history of the temple, the archakar thiru. Sendilkumar said, “Come, I will show you the statue of Valvil Ori with his queen”, and led the way to a block of granite at the entrance to the temple with carvings of Valvil Ori with his queen. Valvil Ori is shown holding a bow in one hand.

King Valvil Ori with his queen, Palaniappar temple
King Valvil Ori with his queen, Palaniappar temple, Belukurichi

As I visited temples in the regions ruled by Valvil Ori in Sangam Age Tamilagam  I found that people still spoke proudly of this king who was celebrated as one of the kadai ezhu vallalgal. The power of folklore that kept alive the name of a famous king of 2000 years ago is amazing!

FOOTPATH TO KOLLI HILLS

 It is significant that the images of the king and queen face the ancient footpath/bridlepath down the mountains.

Coming down from the mountains on this ancient path which is 10 feet wide, the temple is the first stop in the foothills.  

Footpath to Othakadai in kollimalai
Footpath from Belukurichi to Othakadai in kollimalai  begins here

This path is still used by the Palangudi indigenous people of Kolli Malai. When we visited, the archagar’s wife, pointing up the hills asked me if I could see a man going up the mountain path. Looking where she pointed I could indeed see a moving white speck way up the mountain! It was a man on his way up and further up there was another climber! I asked her how long it took to reach the top. “It may take more than two to four hours for us,” she said, “but for them (the hill people) it is a climb of 30 minutes or 45 minutes at the most”. The Pazhangudi people use this path to bring mountain produce such as honey, spices, jackfruit, pineapple and so on to the Belukurichi sandhai ( weekly market), mostly as thalai sumai, meaning they carried their goods on their heads! A sturdy people they are too! The Belukurichi sandhai is very famous and is held on all Saturdays.

A forest ranger who joined in the conversation said that from Belukurichi village the distance to the temple is 3 kms. And the distance from the temple via the footpath to Othakadai village in the hills was 3.30 kms. Since the new Nariangadu- mullukurichi road was opened in the kolli hills, some of the hill people now chose to use this road after climbing down part way down the hills.

This footpath is also used by trekkers.

THE TEMPLE

Palaniappar temple is the only Murugan temple in the world where Murugan is worshipped in the form of a Veddan or hunter in the sanctum sanctorum.

The way to the  temple is up the flight of steps leading from the base of the hillock. This way is now closed for renovation. There is a stone- built mandapam at the foot of the hill that was probably used for resting and for utsavams and festivals. Behind this mandapam the old temple car is kept.

Steps leading to Palaniappar temple, Koovaimalai
Steps leading to Palaniappar temple, Koovaimalai
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Palaniappar temple,Koovai malai, Belukurichi
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Rock-cut steps, Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi
Rock-cut steps, Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi
Rock-cut steps, Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi
A natural spring on Koovaimalai in Belukurichi
A mandapam of the Palaniappar temple at the base of hill, in Belukurichi

YAANAI PAALI

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Yaanai paali, Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi
Yaanai Paali,Palaniappar temple Belukurichi,Tn
Yaanai Paali,Palaniappar temple Belukurichi,Tn

A short distance up the steps is the Yaanai Paali(யானை பாலி),a perennial spring on the hill. There is a colorful life- size image of an elephant and the entrance to the sunai   (spring) is between the feet of the elephant! The archagar said that the spring used to be called as Pillaiyaar Paali. Later when the elephant entrance was built it came to be known as Yaanai Paali. The spring never dries up even in summer and the waters have healing, medicinal properties that are used to treat skin ailments.

Further up the hill there is another spring. I asked the archagar about it and he answered, “That spring is for the Aadu, maadu, paravaigal ( the cattle,goats and birds) that come up here to drink from the spring and the yaanai paali is for the use of humans”. An amazing but lovely tradition that taught peaceful co-existence with all living creatures!

A natural spring on Koovaimalai in Belukurichi
A natural spring on Koovaimalai in Belukurichi

A good motorable road goes around the hill right up to the back entrance of the temple, which in the olden days was the front entrance. The other entrances came much later.

A short flight of white washed granite steps lead to the temple. A spacious courtyard/prakaram leads to the Deepastampam and there are some more steps to the pillared maha mandapam.

PALANIAPPAR

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PALANIAPPAR, BELUKURICHI

Lord Palaniappar in the garba graha is one of the most beautiful deities. Facing west, about 31/2 feet tall,  Murugan is in Veduvan kolam and a handsome young hunter he is! His hair is piled in a knot on the right side of his head in a hairstyle called as kondai. We can see a string of konrai (golden shower) flowers worn around the kondai. On the holy forehead can be seen the vibhuti (sacred ash) pattai and kumkum in the middle, symbols of Siva and Parvati. Malas or strings of beads, perhaps rudraakshas grace the chest.There are amulets  on the arms.The Vastra worn from the waist has strings of Vilva ( bael) leaves adorning it. We can see a pichua kathi(பிச்சுவா கத்தி), a small dagger worn at the waist as well as the dagger case! In his left hand Palaniappar holds a plump rooster(சேவல்)  while in his right hand He holds a long Eeti (ஈட்டி)or lance. Ornaments called thandai(தண்டை) adorn the ankles while footwear called paadha kuradu(பாதகுறடு) are worn on the beautiful holy feet. All these details are etched in stone, on this rare and beautiful idol. The beautiful face and the divine smile are enchanting.

Sri Palaniappar, Belukurichi,Tn
Sri Palaniappar, Belukurichi,Tn

On the ceiling of the Artha Mandapam an engraving of two serpents  swallowing the Sun and Moon can be seen.

The temple faces west, and on a good day the Tiruchengode Hill can be seen from the Maha mandapam.

Carving on temple pillar of lord murugan,Palaniappar temple
Carving on temple pillar of lord murugan,Palaniappar temple
Temple doorway,Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi
Temple doorway,Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi

There are small shrines for Vinayaka, Koogalingeswarar and Kumari Nayagi ambal. There is a separate shrine for Vishnu, with lord Krishna with his flute on one side and Aadhi Seshan on the other.  All these are later shrines consecrated in the last century. Koogalingeswarar and ambal were consecrated by the archagar’s maternal grandfather.

Sri Vinayakar, Palaniappar temple, Koovaimalai
Sri Vinayakar, Palaniappar temple, Koovaimalai
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Kumarinayagi ambal, Palaniappar temple
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Saneeswarar sannidhi, Belukurichi
A rooster in the temple
A rooster in the temple

 Pournami pooja  at midnight on full moon nights is a famous ritual of this temple attended by large crowds of people. The first pournami pooja was started on 28. 3. 1983 on a Monday in the month of Panguni of Thundhubi varusham (year) when the archagar’s maternal uncle served as temple priest. That same year, Sri Kripanandha Vaariaar, popularly called as Vaariaar Swamigal, visited and held a Sotrpozhivu or religious discourse at this temple.

Tirupugazh

Saint Arunagirinadhar composed two Tirupugazh hymns on lord Muruga of Kolli Malai. In the second hymn starting with the words Thollai tharu.., he says that Murugan went to court Valli who was guarding the millet field and that he took a gift of leaves  as was the custom in those days.

In the line,’Koydhu thazhaye kondu sellum mazhava’, Murugan is called as Mazhava, or member of the mazhavar tribe.History records the fact that the Mazhavar clan  ruled the Kolli and surrounding areas for many centuries. Valvil Ori was also a Mazhavar king.

கல்லுருகவே யின்கண் அல்லல்படுகோ வம்பு

   கல்வருக வேநின்று குழலூதுங்

கையன் மிசையேறும்பன்  நொய்யசடையோ  னெந்தை

   கைதொழமெய் ஞானஞ்சொல் கதிர்வேலா

கொல்லைமிசை வாழ்கின்ற வள்ளிபுனமே சென்று

   கொள்ளைகொளு மாரன்கையலராலே

கொய்து தழையேகொண்டு செல்லும் மழவா கந்த

   கொல்லிமலை மேநின்ற பெருமாளே

Song 607 – Thollaimudhal (kollimalai)

…………

kalluruga veyinkan allalpadu go am pu

    galvaruga venindru kuzhaloodhum

kaiyanmisai yerumban noyyasadai yonnendhai

    Kaithozha mei nyaanam sol kadhirvela

kollaimisai vaazhginra valli puname sendru

   kollaikollu maaran kai alaraale

koydhu thazhye kondu sellum mazhava..kandha

   kollimalai menindra perumale

These lines allude to the legend of Murugan meeting Valli as a young hunter and it is believed that they refer to Vedduva Murugan in this temple.

WINDS OF CHANGE

Renovation work is being done. The temple will wear a new look when it is completed. The peaceful isolation may become a thing of the past. When the breeze blows from the mountain in the evenings bringing the healing fragrance of the hundreds of herbs which Kolli malai is famous for, there is apprehension that all this may be lost to change. But the grace of Palaniappar will be bestowed on all who seek him.

Sunset at Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi
Sunset at Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi
Vinayaka shrine on the hill,Belukurichi, Tn
Vinayaka shrine on the hill,Belukurichi, Tn

TIMINGS

The temple is open continuously from 7 a.m to 5.30 p.m.

Since it is 3 kms from the village there are no crowds except on special days like the full moon day and weekends. There are no houses or even shops near the temple. Offerings for pooja like flower garlands, coconuts, bananas, betel leaves and areca-nut can be bought in Belukurichi.

The temple in idyllic surroundings is the perfect place for a picnic or to spend some quiet time away from it the bustle of the city.

LOCATION

Koovai malai is part of Bail nadu in Kolli Hills Taluk.

Located in Reserve forest area of the kolli range, the temple can be reached by road from Belukurichi, a fairly large village right below the kolli hills, 13.6 km from Rasipuram and 13.8 km from Sendhamangalam.

Belukurichi is accessible from Salem, Rasipuram or Namakkal which have good hotels. The temple is an hour’s drive from Salem.

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Take a right turn here - Belukurichi village
Take a right turn here – Belukurichi village

 CONTACT

R.Sendhilkumar

Sri Palaniappar Aalaya archakar

Koovai malai, Bail nadu

Kollimalai vattam, Namakkal district, Tamil Nadu

Mobile nos:     95244 49931,   96980 18876

RED BERRIES, POINSETTIAS AND more…

20th December,2016

Making B(m)erry!

Nature’s palette this December in Yercaud is light and dark shades of green and vivid splashes of red and orange.

This is a busy time in the coffee plantations in Yercaud. The coffee plants are full of red berries. Plantation workers pick the ripe berries by hand leaving the green unripe ones on the plants.

Ruby red coffee berries
Ruby red coffee berries

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The coffee berries are a beautiful shade of red and shine like rubies amidst the shiny dark green leaves of the coffee plant. Myself, I love coffee and can’t do without my morning cuppa and another in the evening. Filter coffee is always a treat, and Kumbakonam degree kaapi makes one drool. But it all starts here in the hills from the coffee berries that ripen in December. In Salem, we are proud of our very own Narasu’s coffee..who can forget the famous ad?!!

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Marigolds and red coffee berries add beauty to the fencing
Marigolds and red coffee berries add beauty to the fencing

Plantation yards are a hive of activity, as the picked berries are weighed, the seeds separated from the berries in machines and then sun-dried. For many days, as the berries ripen slowly on the plants this process continues. From berry to brew is a lengthy process which starts with the picking.

Workers in a plantation,Yercaud
Workers in a plantation,Yercaud
Weighing the berries, a December plantation scene, Yercaud
Weighing the berries, a December plantation scene, Yercaud
Weighing the coffee berries in Yercaud
Weighing the coffee berries in Yercaud

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Coffee seed are sun-dried in heaps on a row

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Christmas Cheer

Elsewhere in the hills, bright red Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) bring Christmas cheer.

poinsettia

Cheery reds of Poinsettias in winter
Cheery reds of Poinsettias in winter
Red Poinsettias brighten up a grey cement wall
Red Poinsettias brighten up a grey cement wall

The little ‘crown of thorns’ plants are not to be outdone. They are full of little red flowers making lovely thorny borders on roadsides and estates.

Crown of thorns flowers
Crown of thorns flowers

a-border-of-crown-of-thorns-by-the-roadsideyercaud

A Merry Christmas to all my readers!