November 14th is celebrated as Children’s Day in India.
The world of children is a small but beautiful one. It is also fragile and exposed to all kinds of dangers.
We can –
Look out for children and do our best to protect them. Very often the worst dangers are from adults whose hearts have gone cold.
Reach out to brighten up a child’s life, even if it is only for a moment.
Children are amazingly resilient. They adapt and survive in all situations.
These children were playing under a tree in the vast open grounds of a temple in Mohanur in Tamilnadu. Their father was weaving big baskets from cane. All the belongings of the little family were kept under the tree or in bags that were hanging from the tree trunk. On the other side a meal had been cooked in an open hearth and was kept covered.
What it means to have no proper home, I can imagine, but I doubt I can fully understand unless it is experienced. In all probability the family kept moving. It’s a hard life, but children adapt so well!
A Time for Play
Climbing up an overturned coracle in a park in Hogenakkal, Tamilnadu, three children take a moment to pause at the top.
Must be fun to look down and the branches of the trees are much closer!
Minding the shop
This little girl was minding a shop of beads and trinkets for her mother in Mahadeshwara temple in M.M. Hills, Karnataka. She had a school notebook and was happily writing homework while she waited. She told me that she studied in class six.
Young danseuses perform in a Bharatanatyam dance competition in Kapaleeswarar Temple in Chennai, the cultural capital of Tamilnadu. More little dancers sit and watch while they wait to perform.
Bharatanatyam is a form of classical dance that originated in Tamilnadu. The period of training is five to seven years, and training very often starts when a child is five years old.
A Time for Family
Children sit on a stone elephant in a temple near Salem, and their parents look on.
Three weeks ago, the Kaveri flooded its banks in Hogenakkal, a village on the Tamilnadu – Karnataka border, famed for its spectacular waterfalls. People of two villages along the river banks were evacuated as unprecedented floods entered houses along its banks and the place was closed to tourists.
The quiet village of Hogenakkal is located in the forested Melagiri hills. The River Chinnar meets the Kaveri here and plunges several meters as the Hogenakal Falls, one of the most spectaclular waterfalls in India. It is a favorite of tourists from both the states of Karnataka and Tamilnadu, the river forming a natural boundary between the two states. People come to bathe in the healing waters infused with the goodness of medicinal herbs from the forests the river flows through. The hour- long coracle rides on the river which take visitors close to the rapids are very popular.
When we visited, coracle rides had been temporarily suspended as water levels remained dangerously high and bathing in the falls had been banned. The hanging bridge over the river, the bathing places, and barricades had either been damaged or were washed away in the floods.Hundreds of coracles were lying idle like giant mushrooms.
The Kaveri River in spate with its muddy flood waters was an impressive sight.
Not many know that this beautiful place with it wild alluring charm is also steeped in history. To know more about its past, both mythical and historical, we have to visit the Lord Siva temple in this village of the Smoking rock!
Smoking rock? Yes, it is what Hogenakkal means in Kannada. Hoge is smoke in the Kannada language and kallu is the Kannada word for stone or rock.
The Temple of Desa Nadheeswarar and Kaveri Amman
The ancient Siva temple of Desa Nadheeswara is located on the Kaveri river bank, in the middle of this tiny village beside the waterfalls. The two main shrines are that of Lord Desa Nadheeswara and Goddess Kaveri Amman.
My visit to Hogenakkal coincided with the last Friday of the Tamil month of Aadi. It was an auspicious day called Aadi Vellikizhamai in local parlance, a day dedicated to the worship of Amman (mother goddess) in all temples across Tamilnadu.
En route to Hogenakkal from Salem, we saw amman deities decorated with flowers being taken out in a procession even in the tiniest villages and hamlets. At many places road traffic slowed down as people waited for the processions to pass.
Reaching Hogenakkal around 1 p.m we went to the temple first, hoping it was open. It was and I was asked to visit the Kaveri Amman shrine first as it was closing time.
The shrine of goddess Kaveri Amman is located at the back of the temple. The idol of goddess Kaveri, the river goddess was beautifully decorated and I was pleasantly surprised when the priest gave me a pair of glass bangles along with prasad. In the month of Aadi, women offer glass bangles to Amman goddesses as a form of worship, the glass bangle being considered an object of auspiciousness. These are then given as prasad.
The elderly priest then opened the Siva temple which was partially closed. The beautifully decorated Sivalingam was a sight to behold as it shone in the light of oil and electric lamps.
The Lingam of Desa nadheeswara is a Suyambu or self-manifested lingam. And as the priest explained the history and significance of this sthala (holy place) and pointed out unique sculptures and idols, even a gold painted crocodile engraving on the ceiling, I was awed and spellbound. The temple is truly a jewel beside the Kavery River.
Desa Nadheeswara is an unusual and beautiful name of lord Siva. Desa is a Sanskrit word that means ‘place’, ‘space’ or ‘country’. When it means place, it can be a particular place, a holy place or a temple. Desa nadheeswara, therefore refers to Siva who is the Lord of this place. In a broader sense the name means the One who is the Lord of the country and the nation.
Myths and History
Lord Brahma’s Yagna
Lord Brahma is believed to be constantly worshipping Siva with homam and puja in this temple. It is believed that Brahma acts as the priest and takes our prayers to the Lord and that all pujas in the temple are done by him.
At the inner entrance to the sanctum is an idol of Lord Brahma. He is depicted as sitting in front of a homa kundam, holding a ladle in his right hand and performing yagna in the sacrificial fire. This sculptural depiction of Brahma and the endearing reason behind his presence is one that is unique to this temple.
True to this story, the 20m deep gorges into which the Kaveri falls is called Yagnakundam or Sacrificial pit.
There are many different stories in mythology about the birth of River Kaveri.
According to one version, the story goes that Vishnumaya or Lopamudra, was the beautiful daughter of Lord Brahma who gave her in adoption to sage Kavera Muni who was praying for a daughter in the Brahmagiri hills. She was called Kaveri and she engaged in penance and meditation so that she may become a river pouring blessings on the earth. As a result of her devotions Brahma granted that she may become a river. Kaveri asked that she may be blessed to wash away the sins of the people who bathed in her waters.
Sage Agasthya Maharishi saw the beautiful tapasvini and asked her to marry him. She agreed on the condition that she would leave if she was left alone. One day the sage went to perform his austerities. Before leaving he turned Kaveri into water in his kamandala, a holy vessel used to store water. Lord Ganesha turned into a crow and tipped the vessel. Out flowed the Kaveri, and became a river, joyous, turbulent and full of life.
Sage Agasthya requested her to come back, but Kaveri divided herself, one half remaining with the sage and the other flowing as a river. Agasthya then instructed the river half on the path she should take to the eastern sea. She blessed the earth and like a mother brought succour to people and the lands on her way. She is worshipped as the mother goddess Kaveri, holy as the Ganga and therefore called Ganga of the South.
Another story goes that Lord Siva gave holy water to Sage Agasthya which he stored in his kamandala. Lord Ganesha, turned into a crow and toppled the vessel in the absence of the rishi. The water that flowed out became a life- giving river that gave sustenance to the land and people and washed their sins away.
Agasthya Maharishi is believed to have worshipped lord Desa Nadheeswarar in this sthala. His image is carved on a pillar in the temple.
The Pandavas, soon after the Mahabharatha war, came here to get the holy theertha of this river which was capable of absolving one of all sins.
References in Tamil Literature
In Sangam Age the waterfalls was called Thalai neer and the regions around the falls were called thalaineer Naadu. This was part of the ancient Sangam Age kingdom of King Adhiyamaan Nedumaan Anji who ruled from Thagadur, which is present day Dharmapuri.
The old name of Hogenakkal was Ugu neer kal. Theru Koothu is a form of folk theatre that is enacted as dance-drama in the streets in Tamil nadu. It is an ancient folk tradition, almost 2000 years old belonging to the villages and towns in Tamilnadu, in which actors tell stories in a song and dance drama.Koothu taught the people about their culture and history. Even around 1940, in the theru koothu titled Saeman sandai(சேமன் சண்டை) enacted by the local people, a mendicant announces that he is going to bathe in the Holy Ganges and in the confluence of seas in Kumari, (present day Kanya kumari). To this the jester retorts by way of reply, ‘Why, can’t you just go to Uguneer kal which is nearby?’
Ugu neer kal in course of time became Hogenakkal. Untill the end of Tipu sultan’s rule over South India, tax-collectors and those in prominent positions were typically Kannada speaking people. As a result, names of places, mountains and rivers in and around Dharmapuri, were recorded as Kannada names in official taxation records, which was adopted by the British subsequently.
Perhaps the first ancient Shiva temple on the Kaveri banks in Tamilnadu is the temple of Desha nadheshwarar at Hogenakkal. The temple is thought to have been originally built by Chola kings. The present temple was built by a local king and is very beautiful.
I was fascinated by the many pillared halls and mandapas with beautiful and sculptures on the pillars, and spent almost an hour admiring the sculptures. There are sculptures of the 64 Nayanmar saints of Saivism on the outer mandapa of the sanctum. The same pillars also depict the ten avataras of Mahavishnu. The emphasis is that God is one whether He is worshipped as Siva or as Vishnu.
Worship at the temple
Prayers made at this temple concerning problems of childlessness are believed to be answered. This is also considered an important temple for warding off dosha of Pitru saabha. When the souls of ancestors in a family are not propitiated, it gives rise to discord in the family with family members constantly quarreling with one another. To remove this dosha, the priests conduct appropriate puja and devotees are asked to stay for five days in the temple.
The major festival is the festival of Aadi Pathinettu or Aadi Perukku in July, when thousands throng the Kaveri river banks, especially in Hogenakkal to offer prayers to the river goddess.
Special pujas are also conducted on full moon days. These are largely attended by the local people and people from the many villages in the surrounding areas of Dharmapuri and Pennagaram.
The Smoke on the Rocks
It was time to leave, when the priest asked ‘Did you go to the river? Did you see the smoke on the rocks?’ Smoke on the rocks? It sounded incredible. He said, “Go down the road to the river. You can see the smoke on the rocks in the midst of the Kaveri, behind and in line with the lingam of Desa Natheeswara.
When we went to the river, the entry to the falls was closed because of floods but far away, in the midst of the flowing Kaveri, we could indeed see smoke rising from the rocks!
The path of the Kaveri in Hogenakkal is across rocky terrain strewn with rocks and boulders. The river spreads out and forms a series of spectacular waterfalls as it cascades into deep gorges from a height of 20m. The fine spray that is thrown up looks like smoke, the smoke from the Yagnakunda of Brahma! Magical!
The view of the rocks from the temple is blocked by the many lodges but the phenomenon could be seen from the temple long ago. Hogenakkal – Smoke on the rocks -what a beautiful poetic name for this village beside the waterfalls!
The temple is very popular with the local people and also the people of several surrounding villages. It is clean and well maintained.
Hogenakkal is situated 47 kms from Dharmapuri and 16 km from Pennagaram.
It lies at a distance of 100 km from Salem, roughly two hours by road.
The ancient village of Pandamangalam near Namakkal in Tamilnadu has a history that connects it with the great Indian epic poem, Mahabharatha. It is believed that the Pandava brothers lived here for a brief period during their vanavaasam – their years in exile. In fact, many places in Tamil Nadu have local legends about one or all the five Pandavas visiting or living briefly there during their exile and tell of incidents that took place during their stay.
The legend of the Venkataramana swamy temple which is the most famous temple in Pandamangalam, says that when the Pandava brothers lived here, they were saved from a demon by Krishna. The demon was engaged by enemies to kill the brothers. Krishna in order to save them, made the waters of the Varaha Theertham near the temple, poisonous. The brothers fell dead when they drank the water. The demon was confused on seeing their lifeless bodies and in a fit of anger returned to destroy the persons who had sent it. Then Draupadi prayed that they may be revived and Venkataramana swamy appeared before her and brought the Pandavas back to life. There is a temple for Draupadi in the village.
Down the road from the Venkataramana swamy temple, is a small Siva temple that is known locally as the Pazhya Kasi Vishwanathar temple, or the old Kasi Vishwanathar temple. The prefix Pazhaya meaning old is used because there is another newer Kasi Vishwanathar temple in the village.
It is this tiny, Siva temple at the edge of the village that local people say, has a lingam which was worshipped by Arjuna, the third of the five Pandava brothers.
Surrounded by fields of sugarcane, betel vines and banana, the temple is not immediately obvious. There is no gopuram tower indicating the presence of a temple, just a gateway with an arch in a compound wall with a small board bearing the name of the temple.
A paved pathway amid tall trees leads to the temple. This is a very small temple, a Siva temple in miniature!
The temple is built of granite and burnt brick and is believed to be at least 800 years old and built by Pandya kings, and their insignia, the fish, is engraved on the temple doorstep.
The main sanctum has a lingam with the name Kasi Vishwanathar. The goddess is Kasi Visalakshi. A small Nandi is seen outside. Dakshinamurthy, Durga, lingothbavar are ensconced in tiny alcoves in the outer walls of the sanctum. There is a shrine for Chandikeswar. A shrine for Lord Sani and one for Lord Bhairava are built a little away from the sanctum.
An ancient stone pillar in front of the temple called as sthambam in Tamil, has an image of a warrior with a bow carved on it, which is believed to be the image of Arjuna.
The speciality in the temple is that the sanctum is built insuch a way that the early morning rays of the sun fall on the Sivalingam and the setting sun’s rays fall on the shrine of Saneeswara.
It is believed that sage Kapilar on his way to fetch water from the Cauvery for worship at the Murugan temple on Kabilar malai, stopped every day to worship at this temple. It is believed that great Siddhas have visited the temple. In recent times, when new temples are constructed, before consecration, idols of the deities are brought to Kasi Viswanathar temple and due pujas are performed.
The temple is located away from the village and the other bigger temples in it and surrounded by lush farmlands. It is not surprising that Arjuna chose this secluded peaceful place for worshipping his beloved Siva.
Trees and herbs in temple worship
The village people and devotees from neighboring villages have planted medicinal trees, herbs and shrubs around the temple, and they say that it is important to live in harmony with nature and protecting Nature and trees will give us abundant good health.
Medicinal herbs like siddha arandhai, thumbai, karunthulasi, karu oomathai, karu nocchi, keezha nelli, manjal karisilai, siva karandhai and trees like Jack, Betel palm, Neem, Mango, Guava, Nagalingam, Vilvam, Nelli, Coconut and Banana trees are grown and maintained.
Devotees take pride in the rituals for Pradosham, Pournami, and Tiruvathirai days every month. Abhishekam in this temple is done by using 96 varieties of sun-dried and powdered medicinal herbs dissolved in water. During the Pournami puja on full moon days, in addition to the above, 7 kinds of herbal oils are also included in the rituals.
It is heartening to see the community’s involvement in all the activities of the temple. It is only when the local community is involved that such ancient temples are preserved for future generations.
We sat for some time in the temple as it is customary to do so. On the far side the fields of sugarcane and banana stretch as far as one can see.
It is a very peaceful place and when the fragrant breeze blows from the surrounding farmlands, it is tempting to close my eyes and let myself become completely immersed in the peace. One day I would like to come before dawn to see the rising sun’s rays enter the sanctum.
The temple lies close to Venkataramana swamy temple and both can be visited together. All you have to do is walk down the road from the Venkataramana temple. The entrance to the Siva temple is on the left hand side of the road, past the Garuda sthampam.
On 1st April, 2019, the Aazhi Ther will roll along the four streets surrounding the Thyagarajaswamy temple in Tiruvarur, in an ancient ritual that has been followed since time immemorial. The largest Ther (rath or temple chariot) in Tamilnadu, and perhaps the biggest temple chariot in the world, for sheer size and beauty it has no comparison. Tamil religious poetry is full of praise for the massive beauty of the Aazhi Ther.
The Aazhi Ther when completed weighs a whopping 300 tons, with an impressive height of 96 feet (27m). The wooden base alone measures 31 feet across and the width of the decorated canopy is 60 feet. Each horse of the giant Ther measures 21 feet!
A few days ago, on a visit to the Thyagarajswamy temple in Tiruvarur, I was thrilled to see the construction of the Aazhi Ther and its accompanying chariots, on the road in front of the Thyagaraja temple.
What is the significance of the Ther festival?
It is an occasion when God comes out of the temple to see his devotees every year, travelling in the magnificent chariot, stopping at homes, accepting the puja and offerings, bestowing blessings and moving on. The festival was meant to ensure that even those who could not visit a temple, might have a darshan of God.
People of all castes and communities come together to take part in the festival making it an occasion of social integration and communal harmony. There are no differences. People believe that helping to pull the sacred chariots bestows countless blessings on one and that even watching the moving Ther absolves one of sins.
The Making of the Ther
Preparations for the making of the giant chariots begin a month before the festival. Specific artisans are involved in the various stages of making of the Ther.
The base of the chariot is a permanent structure and specific to the temple. Made of special wood and richly engraved with carvings of mythical incidents and deities, it is a work of art. Every year, for the festival a super-structure made of bamboo. wood and woven palm fronds is built over this base. Built to resemble a temple, this framework is decorated, and embellished with colorful festive cloth, thorans and flowers.
The massive wooden wheels have now been replaced with big steel wheels specially made by Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) and are equipped with a hydraulic brake system. While the wooden wheels of yore were suitable for the old mud roads, the steel wheels are more suited to modern paved roads.
The chariot has massive colorful horses in front and their reins are held by an idol of Brahma.
Days before the Therottam, the idol of Thyagarajaswamy is brought to the beautiful thousand pillared hall in the temple called as Devasiriya Mandapam, for the ten-day long Panguni Uthiram festivities which culminate in the Ther festival. This is followed by the float festival (Theppam) in the gigantic Kamalalayam tank opposite the temple. Two days before the Therottam (Ther festival), the idol of Lord Thigarajaswamy is installed on the altar of the chariot of the big Ther and special pujas are conducted. Devotees have darshan of the deities here. On the big day, at 7 in the morning, thousands of devotees join hands to pull the huge ropes of the massive sacred chariot to heartfelt cries of ‘Aaroora! Thyagesa!’, with chanting of Vedic prayers,and singing of Thevaram hymns to the accompaniment of traditional musical instruments.
The Great Aazhi Ther is followed by the four chariots for goddess Kamalambal, Ganesha, Subramanya and Chandikeswara respectively. These chariots are also large but built slightly smaller than the Aazhi Ther in keeping with the hierarchy of the deities.
Pulling the massive Ther requires thousands of people. It is pulled with a backup of bull-dozers which help push the chariot from behind. In the olden days, elephants were used to help turn the chariots on the four street corners.
Although I have not seen the Aazhi ther in person, it is said that it is indeed a heart- warming sight to see the massive Ther swaying and moving slowly as it is pulled by thousands of people through the wide Tiruvarur streets. An old Tamil saying says ‘Aazhi ther Azhagu’, meaning the Aazhi Ther is beautiful!
The Ther is pulled at intervals stopping often at pre-determined places and after a leisurely run returns to the base at seven in the evening.
Pulling the Aazhi ther and watching it is an experience of a lifetime. We get to see a glimpse of the Ther on the news on festival day but the residents of Tiruvarur and its surrounding regions are indeed blessed to take part in this divine event.
Pictures of the construction of the Aazhi Ther and smaller chariots.
A picture of Aazhi Ther during the chariot festival
Bhavani, a quiet town situated between the Kaveri and Bhavani rivers, is known for the beautiful hand-woven cotton carpets or floor linens called as Jamakkalam. However its main claim to fame is the ancient temple of Sri Sangameswarar and Vedhanayagi Ambal and the confluence at Kooduthurai – pilgrim destinations for more than two thousand years.
The towering Rajagopuram of Sangameswarar temple is a familiar landmark for commuters on the Salem-Coimbatore National highway NH 544, while crossing the Kavery river bridge at Bhavani near Erode in Tamilnadu. The entire temple complex built at the Kooduthurai confluence looks like an island between the Bhavani and Kaveri rivers.
MYTHS AND LEGENDS
THE STORY OF KUBERA
Kubera was the king of the Yakshas and ruler of Alakapuri, a place believed to lie close to Mt. Kailas in the Himalayas. He was the son of Sage Vaishrava and his half-brother was Ravana, king of Lanka and the Asuras. In Hindu as well as in Jain and Buddhist mythology, Yakshas were the deities of water bodies and treasurers of wealth. Kubera was also the deity of the northern direction.
An ardent devotee of Lord Siva, Kubera had a divine aircraft in which he visited temples of Siva. Once when he was flying over a particular place on the banks of the Kaveri, he saw yogis, rishis and gandharvas (divine beings) engaged in intense meditation (tapas) and spiritual practices. He also saw an Ilandhai tree on the river bank and nearby a tiger, deer, cow, elephant, lion, mouse and a snake were drinking water peacefully from the river with no enmity whatsoever. Kubera sensed the spiritual ambience of the place and wished to experience it himself. He heard a voice from the sky say that this was the place where the Vedas had originated and that he was to worship the Sivalingam beneath the Ilandhai tree. Kubera did so and was blessed with a darshan of Lord Siva.
We can still see the Ilandhai tree ( Ziziphus mauritiana). It is also known as Badari tree.This is the Sthala Vriksham of the Sangameswara temple and still bears fruit. Extremely old and gnarled it is a sight to behold! A few steps lead to the raised platform around the massive tree. Here is the ancient Lingam worshipped by Kubera and called Kubera lingam. Nearby is a colorful stucco depiction of the sthala purana.
THE STORY OF SAGE PARAASARA AND THE POT OF AMRIT
The churning of the ocean by the Devas and the Asuras ended with the pot containing ambrosia rising out of the ocean. Mahavishnu made sure that only Devas drank of the nectar of immortality by distracting the Asuras in the guise of the ravishing Mohini. He wanted the remaining nectar to be given to the great rishis and sages. Therefore he gave the pot containing the remaining amirtham to Garuda, the celestial kite, and asked him to take it to the great Sage Paraasara for safe-keeping. At that time the ashrama(hermitage) of Rishi Paraasara was on the banks of the Kaveri near its confluence with Bhavani. Receiving the pot of amrit, Sage Paraasara buried it at the confluence for safe-keeping. For a long time it remained hidden under the waters.
The army of Asuras not to be outdone, went in search of the pot containing the remaining nectar. After searching in many places they finally arrived at Bhavani Koodal. There were four chieftains of the Asura army who were the sons of Lavanasura. Their names were Dhandakasura, Veerasura,Vanjagasura and Vagrasura. They took up strategic positions on four sides of Koodal.
The hill named Vedhagiri lies to the north of Bhavani. Vakrasura camped here with his army. Dhandakasura and his army were positioned at Mangalagiri, the hill that lies to the south of the confluence. Vanjakasura and Veerasura took up position on the east and west respectively.
Sage Paraasara prayed for help to goddess Vedhanayagi from whose divine form came forth four powerful Sakthi goddesses who were divine manifestations of goddess Durga.
Ekaveerai destroyed Dhandakasura. She became the guardian deity of the eastern side of the city, at the behest of Goddess Vedhanayagi. Jayanthi killed Veerasura and became the guardian deity on the south. Next Vanjakasura was defeated by Mardhini who was made the guardian deity on the west. Lastly Sandakadhini vanquished Vakrasura and became the guardian deity on the north of the city.
Sage Paraasara then dug out the buried pot of Amirtham. A river sprang up and its waters merged with the waters of the Bhavani and Kaveri. It was called Amudha or Amirdha nadhi and the place came to be known as Triveni Sangamam, the confluence of three rivers.
The Amirtha Kalasa after being buried for so long resembled a Sivalingam. Paraasara consecrated the lingam near the confluence. This came to be known as the Amirthalingam. We shall read more about this lingam later.
REFERENCES TO BHAVANI IN ANCIENT TAMIL LITERATURE
There are references to Bhavani in Pathitruppathu, a classical anthology of poems belonging to Sangam literature which extolls the greatness of ancient Chera dynasty during the first two centuries of the Common Era.
In Sangam Era, the river Bhavani was called as Vaani. Because the Vaani joined the Kaveri here, the place was called as Vaani Koodal. Today we know it as Bhavani Koodal.
In ancient times the temple town also had the name Nanna. Nanna (நண்ணா) is an ancient Tamil word that can roughly be translated as unapproachable. It was believed that no evil could befall or come near anyone in this holy place and therefore it was called Nanna and Nannavoor and the Lord of Nannavur was Thiru Nanna Udayar.
With the passage of time Thiru Nanna came to be known as Thiru Nanaa (திருநணா).
Around the 7th century A.D. Saint Thiru Gnana Sambandhar visited the temple of Sangameswarar and rendered a Thevaram hymn on Lord Siva of Thirunanaa. In it, he says that for those who ask, the Lord of Thirunanaa destroys their bad karma thus paving the way to salvation – kaettar vinai kedukkum thiru nanaave (கேட்டார் வினை கெடுக்கும் திரு நணாவே!)
Thirunanaa is the name which is still used when referring to this Thevara Paadal Petra sthalam.
The Periyapuranam is an epic poem written in the 12th century by Sekkizhar (சேக்கிழார்) during the rule of Kulottunga Chola(1133-1150). It is a recorded history on the life histories of the 63 Nayanmar saints. In it, Sekkizhar says that Thirugnana Sambandhar came to Thiruchengode to worship Lord Ardhanareeswara. From there, he came to Thirunanaa and worshipped Thiru Nanaa Udayar (Sangameswarar) and returned to Thiruchengode.
Brahma Kaivartha Purana, one of the later puranas also talks Bhavani. Bhavani Koodal Puranam was written 200 years ago based on this Sanskrit text.
In the 14th century Saint Arunagirinathar composed a Thirupugazh hymn in praise Lord Murugan in Bhavani.
The temple is built on a sprawling 4 acres of land.
The architecture of such a huge temple complex is an amalgamation of architectural styles.
The temple has been renovated over a large period in time by Chola, Pandya and other kings who ruled over the Kongu region in Tamilnadu. It appears that many parts of the original structures were dismantled and rebuilt. This explains why we see so many temple pillars stacked at places round the temple complex.
Some parts of the built up area in the Sangameswarar temple are fairly recent. However, it is said that the garbagriha (sanctum sanctorum) of Sangameswarar is the oldest and untouched part of the temple.
The exemplary architecture and sculptures in Vedhanayagi Amman and AdiKesava Perumal temples belong to the 17th century. Marvels in granite, they were created under the patronage of Gatti Mudali Kings.
Gatti Mudalis were kings who ruled parts of Tamil nadu from the 13th century to the 17th century, mainly the region called Kongu Nadu which included Salem, Tiruchengode, Sankagiri and Tharamangalam. They ruled from Amarakundhi near Tharamangalam and the Tharamangalam Kailasanathar temple still stands as a shining example of their unsurpassed skill in building temples with intricate and delicate stone sculptures.
A more recent construction is the magnificent Rajagopuram with elaborate stucco sculptures and relief.
The five-tier Rajagopuram faces north because Kubera, the deity of the northern direction worshipped Lord Siva here.
The major shrines in the temple complex are the shrines of
Aadhi Kesava Perumal and Soundharavalli Thaayar.
Besides these there are a number of smaller separate shrines for
The shrines on the river banks include those of Amirthalingeswarar, Gayatri lingeswarar, and Sahasralingeswarar.
All the shrines face the Kaveri River and due east.
The sanctum sanctorum of Lord Sangameswarar is believed to be the oldest part of the temple. Standing before the Suyambulingam (a self- manifest lingam), the grace of Siva is all-pervading and a sense of timelessness envelopes one. It is believed that the grace of Lord Sangameswara liberates one from the birth – death cycle.
In the circumambulatory path around the garbagriha, the idol of Dakshinamurthy is one of great beauty with its amazing stone work.
The temple of goddess Vedhanayagi is adjacent to the temple of Sangameswarar. The idol of the goddess is beautiful with a smile on the lovely face. Around the sanctum is an enclosure for circumambulation with beautiful paintings of goddesses in famous temples of Tamilnadu. There is an exquisite idol of Siddhi Ganapathy in a wall niche and a small shrine for Chandikeswarai.
The small chamber leading off the Mahamandapa houses the ivory cradle that was given by the British Collector William Garrow in 1804. This chamber is the Sayana Arai and the significance of the gift is written on granite plaques in Tamil and English on both sides of the door.
There is a story associated with the gift made by Collector Garrow.
The East India Company annexed Coimbatore to the Madras presidency in 1799, after the defeat of Tipu Sultan in the Anglo-Mysore wars. William Garrow was the Collector of Coimbatore from July 6 1802 to January 20, 1815. A bungalow adjoining the Sangameswara temple was the residence cum office of the Collector. This is the present-day Traveller’s bungalow of the Highways Department.
The Collector was very popular with the people. One rainy night he was woken up by a little girl who urgently beckoned him to come out of the building. As the Collector went out after the little girl, the roof collapsed. The little girl had disappeared.
The next morning the temple priest told him that it was goddess Vedhanayagi who had saved his life. The temple authorities drilled three rectangular holes in the temple ramparts facing the Vedhanayagi shrine to enable him to have darshan of the goddess. In the light of the oil-lamps, the Collector saw the beautiful form of the goddess and confirmed that it was the little girl who had come to him in the middle of the night and saved his life.
As a mark of his respect he presented a cradle made of ivory to the temple on January 11, 1804, with his official signature engraved on it. This is kept intact in the sayana alayam and the three holes through which the Collector worshipped are seen still in the compound wall of the temple. This is the greatness of the goddess Vedhanayagi Ambal.
The Mandapa at the front of the shrine is a treasure house of exquisite sculptures – ornate pillars with mounted warriors on horses, intricately carved panels on the ceiling, latticework in stone, images of kings and queens. A stone inscription on the ceiling says that Chinnammai, the queen of King Immudi Gatti Mudhali, had the mandapa built in the year 1645.
Between the Sangameswarar and Vedhanayagi shrines is the shrine of Subramanyar.
This arrangement of shrines of Siva, Karthikeya and Parvati is known as Somaskanda.
Saint Arunagirinathar composed a Thirupugazh hymn on this Murugan. The words of the hymn are seen on a stone plaque in the front mandapa of the Murugan shrine.
கலை மேவும் ஞானப் பிரகாசக்
கடலாடி ஆசைக் கடலேறி
பல மாய வாயிற் பிறழாதே
பதிஞான வாழ்வைத் தருவாயே!
மலைமேவு மாயக் குறமாதின்
மனமேவு வாலக் குமரேசா
திருவாணி கூடற் பெருமாளே.
Kalai mevum gnaana prakaasa
kadalaadi aasai kadalaeri
Pala maaya vaayitr pirazhaadhe
pathi gnaana vaazhvai tharuvaaye!
Malai mevu maaya kuramaadhin
mana mevu vaala Kumaresa
Silai veda sevatr kodiyone
Thiruvaani koodal Perumaale.
ADI KESAVA PERUMAL and SOUNDARAVALLI THAYAR
The Adhi Kesava Perumal temple was originally in Kalingarayan pudur and in a dilapidated condition. Puliyur Gounder built a temple close to the Vedhanayagi shrine and installed the deities in it. He also built the shrine of Lakshmi Narasimhar. The Ranga mandapam has 24 pillars noted for sculptural work in the Tharamangalam style. On the northern side of the Ranga mandapam is a separate shrine for Venugopalaswamy with consorts Rukmini and Sathyabama. This shrine was built by the Wodeyar Kings of Mysore.
Among the smaller shrines the shrine of Jurahareswar is a unique shrine and one of the very few shrines dedicated to this unusual form of Lord Siva.
JvarabhagnaMurthy or Jvarahareswara is one of the 64 forms (manifestations) of Siva. In this form the Lord is depicted as having three faces, one body, three hands and three legs and in a dancing – (thandava) posture.
A beautiful explanation of this manifestation of Siva is written on a board near the shrine. Translated from Tamil it reads like this:
The SivaMahapurana says that Sri Jvarahareswarar is one of the 64 manifestations of Lord Siva. This form is associated with medicine and it was taken by the Lord for the benefit of mankind.It depicts the lord with three faces, three hands, three legs and holds Agni(fire) in his hand.
Siddha system of Medicine says that three types of nadi(pulse) are present in the human body. They are vaadha nadi, pitha nadi and Sileshma nadi. Illness occurs whenever there is an imbalance of vadham, pitham and kapam( wind, bile and phlegm) in the body. The iconography of Jvarahareswara represents the three nadis which are pivotal in siddha diagnosis of ailments. Fevers, skin diseases, and even psychological illnesses are cured by prayers to Jvarahareswarar and by offering Milagu Sadham, Milagu Rasam and Araikeerai Kootu (Pepper rice, Pepper rasam and Araikeerai kootu, a dish made with amaranth greens and lentils).Of course, the main ingredient is Faith!
Know more about the effects of vata, pitta and kapam in the bodyhere.
Sanskrit prayer for Jurahareswara
Raktha netraaya dhimahi
Thanno Jurahara Prachodhayaadh!
This shrine is near the confluence. Installed by Sage Paraasara, the legend of Amirthalingam is linked with the history of Bhavani Kooduthurai.
The speciality of this lingam is that it can be lifted from the Aavudai, the seat on which the lingam is placed. It is a custom at this shrine for childless couples to carry the lingam around the sanctum with prayers and due austerities as guided by the priest.
Rishi Viswamithra installed a Sivalingam on the banks of the Kaveri and worshipped it by chanting the Gayathri Mantra 72,000 times. This lingam is called the Gayathri Lingam.
This shrine is under renovation.The mandapa adjoining it is known as Gayatri mandapam. The Kaveri river bank near this mandapam has rocky outcrops, possibly the remnants of the hill known as Padumagiri, which used to be another name for Bhavani. One such outcrop has rock carvings on it.
Sahasram means thousand. This lingam has a 1000 small lingams carved on it. It is believed that Ravana king of Lanka worshipped this Lingam. Those who suffer from Ragu –Ketu Dosha in the birth chart find relief by praying in this shrine.
This sthala also has the name Padhuma Giri and it is located between four hills:
Naga giri – Thiruchengode
Vedha giri – Ooratchi kottai malai
Mangala giri, and
Bhavani – The goddess, the river and the town all have the same name.
This is a Thevara paadal petra sthalam. Of the 274 Thevara Paadal petra sthalams temples, Bhavani Sangameswarar temple is the 207th and the 3rd among the 7 Kongu naatu Thevara sthalams.
The Kshetra has both Siva and Vishnu temples in the same grounds.
An unusual feature is that Nandhi is seen outside, facing the towering Rajagopuram. The reason for this is that here the Rajagopuram itself is worshipped as a symbolic Sivalingam.
It is believed that there are innumerable Sivalingams under the ground and therefore the whole of Bhavani kshetram is very holy. Local people believe that there are 1008 Sivalingams underfoot, a Sivalingam for every square foot of holy ground.
This is a parikara kshetram for many problems in people’s life right from birth until death which manifest as doshas or affilictions in the birth chart. Infertility and childlessness, Ragu dosha, Maandhi dosha,Naaga dosha are some of the doshas for which remedial poojas are performed here.
It is said that when dead bodies are cremated here the skulls do not explode.
Bhavani is also called as Bhaskara kshetram because Surya, the Sun god worshipped here. An annual event that unfailingly takes place is when the sun’s rays fall on the deities of Sangameshwara, Vedhanayagi and Subramanya on the third day following Ratha sapthami in the Tamil month of Maasi. This is venerated as Surya puja, the puja offered by the sun god every year.
There is an enormous Peepal tree near the Amirthalingeswarar shrine and under it is installed a big Siva Lingam called as Koteeswarar.
Early in the morning you can see an old lady perform Abhishekam and puja to this lingam. Her name is Rajeswari Amma and she has been doing this seva for the past thirty years.
Bhavani is 16 kms from Erode, the nearest railhead.
Distance from Salem is 63.5 kms.
By road it is situated on NH 544 which is the Salem – Coimbatore National Highway. (Old No -NH 47)
5.30 am to 1 pm in the morning
4pm to 9 pm in the evening.
Sri Sangameswarar Temple,
Bhavani – 638 301
Temple Ph.No: (04256) 230192
Plan your visit
Visitors to Sangameswarar temple require a minimum of 2 hours for visiting all the shrines. Most visitors to Kooduthurai also come to the temple to have darshan of Sangameswarar. There can be queues at such times and also during festival days. A number of festivals are celebrated around the year. The temple is clean and well maintained.
Kooduthurai and Sangameswarar temple are best seen at a leisurely pace in order to fully appreciate the beauty of the temple architecture and its marvelous sculptures. You need more time if a dip at the confluence is on your agenda. This is definitely a very peaceful place where you can sit and meditate near the river bank, feel the wind blowing from the river, or just watch the world go by. With its beautiful location between the rivers you can have a picnic under the trees in the park outside which is maintained by the temple. Take care not to litter the ghats and the rivers.
Erode has excellent hotels to suit all budgets where you can stay.
Kooduthurai is the confluence of three rivers at Bhavani near Erode in Tamil Nadu, where the rivers Kaveri and Bhavani unite with the invisible Amudha nadhi which is also called river Amirtha. The Triveni Sangamam of South India, it is a place as holy as Prayag, Varanasi and Rameswaram, and has an almost identical ambience.
Children dive into the river looking for coins that pilgrims throw into the water.
River Kaveri. the largest river of Tamilnadu,
Known to devout Hindus as Daksina Ganga (“Ganges of the South”), the Kaveri River is celebrated for its scenery and sanctity in Tamil literature, and its entire course is considered holy ground.” -Encyclopaedia Britannica.
meets the Bhavani, the second largest river in the state here.Together they merge with the invisible Amudha nadhi giving rise to one of the holiest places in Tamilnadu. While the life giving waters of the two great rivers have sustained people who lived along their banks for thousands of years, the confluence itself has much spiritual significance.
In a country where rivers are worshipped, the places where the rivers meet are traditionally believed to be the holiest of places, capable of absolving one of all sins.For this reason, Bhavani Kooduthurai or Bhavani Koodal, as the confluence is known attracts pilgrims throughout the year. People come here to perform a plethora of ritualistic activities which the scriptures say are best performed on river banks and along seashores and which give the highest benefits when they are done at a confluence of three rivers as seen in Triveni Sangam at Prayag in Allahabad. In the South of India, in Tamilnadu, its equivalent is Bhavani Kooduthurai.
Koodu means to unite in Tamil and Thurai is the padi- thurai, the steps leading down to the river that are called as ghat in North India. Kooduthurai is thus the ghat at the holy confluence.
And what a place it is, spectacular, full of life and utterly magical.
There is a more solemn aspect to this place. Living in Salem ours was a large extended family and whenever there was a death in the family we all went to Bhavani on the day after the cremation to perform the relevant rites and then the ashes known as asthi were immersed in the holy river.
The confluence has always been a place where the soul would find salvation. No wonder the air is charged and tense. Solemn, serious faces are part of the crowds that are always seen here. This place is about the more serious things in life such as death, karma and the inevitability of fate. It is about purifying oneself in the holy waters. Here one is made aware of the thin line that lies between physical death and the transition to another subtle realm. It is both the land of the living and the land of subtle beings. It is the land of gods and the chosen land of rishis, the great teachers and seers. This is not just a meeting place or conflux of rivers; it is also a meeting place of life and the afterlife, a meeting place of sages and devout souls. And always….. the vast waters of the great rivers flow silently on either side – meeting, merging and flowing on, in a continuous never- ending journey.
The most important of the rituals done here are those done as part of the rites performed when a person dies. They are done by the surviving son, daughter or wife with the help of a purohit/priest who guides them through the vedic rituals.
The second important ritual is one that is performed for departed souls and ancestors on yearly anniversaries called as Thidhi .These rituals are also performed on new moon days (Amavasya) and include prayers for the departed loved ones and purifying baths in the river for the family. Eclipses and new moon days in the Tamil months of Thai and Aadi are considered very auspicious for performing these rites and for this reason, on these days huge crowds throng the Kooduthurai as in other sacred places along the rivers and seas in Tamil nadu.
Thirdly, there are rituals that are part of the pujas done at the time of consecration of temples, and during temple festivals. They are called Theertha vari or Theertha kudam eduthal , and refer to the fetching of the sacred waters in brass pots that are carried ceremoniously to the temple .
Then there are people who come to perform rituals to propitiate the nine planet gods, called Nava grahas, to obtain relief from a variety of doshas or afflictions in the birth chart.
Ritualistic bathing in the sacred waters and fetching pots of water from the river are an intrinsic part of these rites.
And finally there are the pilgrims who have come to take a bath in the purifying waters of the confluence before visiting the ancient Siva temple built at the confluence, the magnificent temple of Lord Sangameswarar.
A first glimpse of the confluence is from the Kaveri Bridge. You can see the Rajagopuram of the Sangameswarar temple, the River Bhavani flowing on one side of the temple complex and the River Kaveri on the other, the Kooduthurai ghats leading down to the rivers, coracles near the padi thurai completing the picture.
Kooduthurai and Sangameswarar Temple as seen from the Kaveri bridge. Beyond the temple, a bridge across River Bhavani is seen on the left and another bridge across River Kaveri is seen on the right.
Scenes at Kooduthurai
A coracle ride to the confluence
We took a coracle ride to the Koodal or Sangam. It is a short ride from the ghat and cost Rs.100. The boatman showed us the place where the rivers meet. At the confluence, you can collect the water in cans or bottles to take home with you. The water of River Kaveri is crystal clear and sweet while the water of River Bhavani is comparitively dark and polluted with chemical effulgents from the many dyeing units in this small town. The River Amudha is said to be andhar vauhini and not visible to the eye. However, local people say that when the water level of the rivers goes down one can see the River Amudha bubbling up like a spring from underneath.
Back at Kooduthurai, there is a large open mandapam where people can perform pujas or other rites. Purohits are appointed by the temple authorities. One can see boards warning people to beware of fake priests. There are also warning signs at specific places along the ghat where the river is deep and dangerous with eddies and whirlpools.
There is a small park where people can have a picnic lunch under the shady trees. As there are only small eateries near the temple, it is a good idea to take food, water and snacks with you.
The place is clean and well maintained. Open bins are kept for the clothes that are discarded after some rituals. Changing rooms are available for those pilgrims who bathe in the river.
Where it is located
Bhavani kooduthurai is located in Bhavani , a town that takes its name from the River Bhavani. It is located 15 kms from Erode and 55 kms from Salem. NH 544H passes through Bhavani.
Pictures from Kooduthurai
These pictures were taken over the past few months. Just like the weather… each visit to the confluence was different and unique.
Two of many small shrines near the river.
A rainy day at the confluence and a ceremonial fetching of holy water for a village temple festival
An old lady on her way home at mid- day after selling the food she has prepared near the ghats.
A traditional house is used as a mini mandapam for small events
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, 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 here from September 11 to September 27, 1893.
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.
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.