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 River Amudha. The Triveni Sangamam of South India, it is a place as holy as Prayag, Varanasi and Rameswaram, and has an almost identical ambiance.
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.
Sendhamangalam is much like Rasipuram in many ways. It has ancient narrow streets with closely built houses and a scattering of tiny street-end shrines painted brightly with the traditional ochre and white stripes.
Although comparatively quiet today when compared to Rasipuram, it was an important town and administrative headquarters of the kings who ruled over the region even in ancient times.
A brief account of its history from the 13th century A.D. to the 17th century A.D can be found in Wikipedia.
The most famous temple in Sendhamangalam is the Datthagiri Murugan temple.
The 17th centuryLakshmi Narayanan temple is popular among the local people and in the surrounding villages. Built by King Govindappa Nayak and located in the centre of the town, it has a towering Raja Gopuram and is an amazing example of the uniqueness and beauty of Nayak architecture.
The Someswarar temple is a lesser known Siva temple and the oldest of the three temples in Sendhamangalam.
Legend of Someswarar Temple
Almost as old as the Rasipuram Kailasanathar temple, the sthala purana (literally the history of a sthala or holy place) of the Someswarar temple says that it was built by Somapuri Raja and that Sendhamangalam was known by different names in different yugas. In the Kritha yugam it was called as Somapuram. In the Thretha yuga its name was Chandrapattanam. In the Dwapara yuga it was called Krishnapuram and in the present Kali yuga as Sendhamangalam.
It is believed that Hanuman worshipped the lingam in this temple before going to Lanka.
For this reason, Sri Rama and Sita while returning to Ayodhya after successfully vanquishing Ravana, stopped here to worship lord Someswara with whose blessings Hanuman was successful in his mission to Lanka and which later led to the rescue of Sita.
It is believed that Serndha-mangalam later became Sendhamangalam, The Tamil word Serndha means that which is joined or united and alludes to the story that Rama and Sita came to the temple as a reunited couple.
Although it is not mentioned in the sthala purana, it is a local legend that this was one of the temples whichthe king of Kolli malai, Valvil Ori regularly visited and that the great king has done thirupani (renovation) in his time (2nd century A.D).
The Someswara temple is situated about ½ a km from SH 95 which is also the main road in this small town. With no signboards showing the way to the temple, it is the local people who guide you to the ‘Sivan Kovil’. There are houses and farmlands all around. From the outside it looks like any other village temple, but after many temple visits I have learnt that there are unique features and surprises in every temple. So it was in this unassuming village temple which had beautiful architecture and the shrines though small were exceptional.
The temple faces east and all the shrines face due east barring a few like the Dakshinamurthy and Kaala Bhairavar shrines which always are south facing ones.
Past the Kodimaram and the Nandi mandapam, the Someswarar shrine has a pillared mahamandapam, an arthamandapam and garba griham.
After praying before Lord Someswarar, to the left of the garbagriham, in the artha mandapam, we see the idols of Lord Chandra, and Lord Surya with Lord Sani seated between them. They are beautiful deities depicted as being seated together on a raised peedam. The idol of Sani is small in size when compared to that of Chandra and Surya deva, almost like a small boy sitting between the two devas. As in Thirunallaru, a temple famous for the worship of Lord Sani, the Sani Bagawan here faces east. Since Saneeswara is seen with Chandra and Surya it is believed that those who suffer from planetary afflictions will find relief if they worship here.
Opposite these deities is the navagraha peedam with the nine planet gods. Lord Saneeswara deities in both the navagraha peedam and in the raised peedam with Chandra and Surya, are facing each other, an arrangement of deities seen only in this temple. Therefore it is believed that worshipping here gives relief from the adverse effects of Sani dosha and Navagraha dosha.
In the pradakshina path, the Dakshinamurthy shrine is large and has its own open pillared mandapam, very much like the one in Rasipuram Kailasanathar temple. He is depicted as Yoga Dakshinamurthi.
Kanni moola Mahaganapathi is the sthala Vinayakar, The Subramanya shrine is more elaborate with a pillared outer mandapam. Here, within the same shrine are two beautiful depictions of Lord Murugan – one as Sri Bala Dhandayudhapaani and the other as Sri Subramanya with Valli and Devyani.
The name of Ambal is Soundharavalli ambal. The separate temple of the goddess is next to the shrine of Lord Someswarar.
Another unique feature of the temple is the Arubathu moovar sannidhi. It is in very few temples that we can see the 63 nayanmar saints of South Indian Shaivism together with the 9 Thogai adiyaargal who are also revered in southern Shaiva siddhantha.
This temple is a must visit temple when you are in Namakkal as Sendhamangalam is barely 11 kms from Namakkal. It is a very popular venue for weddings for the people living in Sendhamangalam and also in nearby villages. There is a modern marriage hall adjoining the temple.
A temple where Lord Rama worshipped Lord Siva
A temple where Hanuman performed puja to the lingam
Goddess Soundharavalli bestows people with all prosperity.
Goddess Swarna Durgai removes obstacles and gives victory. People pray to her for success in studies, in business, for marriages for the unmarried, and for the boon of children for the childless.
Lord Murugan blesses devotees as Sri Bala Dhandayadhapani and also as Sri Subhramanya with Valli and Devyani, in the same shrine.
As in Thirunallaru, in this temple Sani Bhagawan faces east. Another Sani Bhagawan is seen facing the first idol. Besides, Sani takes his place with Surya and Chandra to remove Sani dosha and Nava graha dosha .
In this temple, the Nayanmars are 72 in number. This includes the 63 nayanmars and the 9 Thogai Adiyaargal.
The Theppakulam which is in a very dilapidated condition is located a short distance from the temple. You can just make out the padi thurai – the steps built at a strategic place on the outer perimeter of the tank and the fallen remnants of the Neerazhi mandapam in the middle of the now barren holy tank. The tank was built with a view of the Kolli hills in the background and one can’t help thinking what a lovely sight it would be if the tank was restored and filled with water!
How to reach Sendhamangalam
Sendhamangalam is 11 km from Namakkal, the district headquarters. It can be reached by taking SH 95 which is the Mohanur- Namakkal- Sendhamangalam- Rasipuram highway. It is on the way to Kalappanaickenpatti, where you take the road leading to the Kolli Hills.
From Rasipuram it is at a distance of 26km on SH 95.
Both Namakkal and Rasipuram have good hotels where you can stay and visit nearby temples.
9.30 a.m to 12.30p.m
Timings are extended on special days and festivals.
Close to the village of Belukurichi, famous for its ancient temple and weekly market, is Kalkurichi, a picturesque village near the Kolli hills.
The Karpoora natheswarar temple is the small ancient Siva temple located in this peaceful village. There are neat farmlands all around. The village road passes by the temple and it faces the beautiful Kolli Malai hills.
The importance of the temple lies mainly in the fact that this was one of the temples patronized by legendary King Valvil Ori of the Kolli hills, who ruled from Kolli malai around the 2nd century A.D. The temple we see today was built much later.
The history of the temple is based on oral tradition. In the absence of Sthala purana or other historical records, oral tradition and local beliefs are valuable and reliable sources of information because they have been handed down from generation to generation in the families which have always lived there.
A small temple with one pradakshina path enclosed by an outer wall, there is nothing pretentious about it.The open mandapa in front is a concrete structure and has a Nandi facing the sanctum and goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswathi on either side of the entrance where normally Dwarabalakas are seen. This placement of the goddesses is rather unique to this temple.The archagar Sendhilkumar remembers that many years ago,the temple used to have a Nandi mandapa and a mandapa over the idols of goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati. These were so dilapidated that the pillared structures were replaced with a large concrete roof. He had come from Koovaimali Palaniappar temple to open the temple for us.
Inside the sanctum sanctorum in the light of the oil lamp Lord Karpooranatheswara has a powerful presence that can be felt when one stands before the Sivalingam. The shrine of goddess Karunai Kadaatchi is a small shrine to the right of the Karpooranatheswarar shrine. The entrance to this shrine is through the enclosed mahamandapam which is common to both shrines. When Deeparadhanai is performed, in the light of the ghee lamp, one can see the beautiful eyes of the goddess, eyes that are filled with compassion, true to her name. The word karunai means compassion and Karunai Kadatchi means one whose glance is full of compassion.
The pradhakshina paadhai or circumambulatory path has smaller shrines that are typical of a Siva temple.
The vimana or roofs of these shrines have beautiful architecture. The Ganapathi shrine has its own small open mandapam.
Behind the Ganapathi shrine is a small shrine for Mahavishnu. Almost an alcove in the corner on the far left, it has idols of Vishnu holding a conch and chakra and Sridevi and Bhudevi on either side. There is even a tiny Garudalwar inside. The villagers have installed a Hanuman idol facing the alcove and like to worship the deity as Ramachandra murthy, a name for Lord Rama!
The goshtam are shrines in alcoves in the outer wall of the main shrine and have some unusual deities. There is Narthana Ganapathy (a form of Ganesha in dancing posture), Lingothbavar ,Dakshinamurthi and goddess Durga and a small shrine for Chandikeswarar. There is a separate shrine for lord Sani near the Kala bhairavar shrine.
The Murugan shrine is more elaborate with a bigger open pillared mandapa and a peacock idol, the peacock being the vahana of Karthikeya.
The Navagraha shrine is an ancient one while the Arubathumoovar shrine is new.
There is a Kal Vettu in the temple. It is a vertical granite slab 3 ft high with inscriptions in Grantha script, according to the archagar. Epigraphists have visited the temple but could not decipher the writing mostly because it is covered in lime and mortar. This is one for the experts. When the lime has been removed what interesting information is recorded remains to be seen.
The temple has been renovated by the local villagers and is well maintained. Pradosham and Ashtami pujas are held regularly.
The archagar Sendhil Kumar in charge of this temple is also in charge of the famous Koovaimalai Palaniappar temple near BeluKurichi a few kilometres from here. He opens the KalKurichi temple once every day for puja.
Both the temples can be visited together and the archagar is happy to open the Kalkurichi temple for visitors if they desire to see it. Besides, the archagar’s house is on Koovaimalai and you can call on him and ask him to take you to Kalkurichi temple which is what we did.
The historic Palaniappar temple in Koovaimalai near Belukurichi is currently closed for renovation. The renovation work has been undertaken by the Arulmighu Palaniappar Kolli Hills Charitable Trust. The trust has come out with an invitation to all to take part in the renovation.
While the temple is closed to visitors, all the deities are kept in Paalaalayam in a temporary shelter opposite the temple. Visitors can worship here and the archagar lives nearby and can be called on for puja. The midnight pournami (full moon night) puja which has been a unique puja at this temple continues to be done with the utsava moorthi and still attracts big crowds. The same holds true for sashti and krithigai day pujas which are special rituals for lord Murugan.
Although visitors will miss going around this charming hill temple, they can still visit the hill to see the work being done, to enjoy the panoramic views of the Kolli Hills and surrounding places. Most importantly they can enjoy the quiet peacefulness and refreshing breeze that blows down from the mountains full of the fragrance and goodness of the mountain herbs. The drive to koovaimalai is a beautiful drive along excellent roads with all the charm of the countryside underlying these lush mountains.
Contact numbers of the Charitable Trust:
95666 56956, 98427 34187
Pictures from Koovaimalai:
PS: Make sure you have snacks, fruit and/or food in hand when you visit because this is an isolated place. There are no hotels in Belukurichi, but you can take packed meals from Rasipuram which has good hotels.