Sangameswarar Temple, Bhavani – The Temple At The Confluence

BHAVANI

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.

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (16)
The Sangameswarar temple from the Kaveri bridge. The hill seen behind the temple is Vedhagiri

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

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Inscriptions in old Tamil letters around the figure of a lion.

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.

Sekkizhar

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.

ARCHITECTURE

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.

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (9)

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.

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (17)

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 TEMPLE

The five-tier Rajagopuram faces north because Kubera, the deity of the northern direction worshipped Lord Siva here.

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (11)
Rajagopuram – a view from inside the temple

The major shrines in the temple complex are the shrines of

Sri Sangameswarar

Vedhanayagi Amman

Subramanyar

Aadhi Kesava Perumal and Soundharavalli Thaayar.

Besides these there are a number of smaller separate shrines for

Saneeswarar

Jurahareswarar and

Lakshmi Narasimhar.

The shrines on the river banks include those of Amirthalingeswarar, Gayatri lingeswarar, and Sahasralingeswarar.

All the shrines face the Kaveri River and due east.

SANGAMESWARAR

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (28)
Temple of Sangameswarar

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.

VEDHANAYAGI AMMAN

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (26)
Temple of Vedhanayagi Ambal

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.

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (23)
Travellor’s Bungalow belonging to the highways department. This building was the official residence of the Collector during the regime the East India Company.Personally I feel such a beautiful building should be maintained well. I love the curved sweeping staircases on either side!

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.

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The rectangular holes in the ramparts through which Collector Garrow had darshan of Vedhanayagi.
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Details of the miracle in the Vedhanayagi temple

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.

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (4)

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (5)
Divine representations in stone on the ceiling! Note the parrots arranged around the central floral whorl.

SUBRAMANYAR

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.

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (27)

கலை மேவும் ஞானப் பிரகாசக்

கடலாடி ஆசைக் கடலேறி

பல மாய வாயிற் பிறழாதே

பதிஞான வாழ்வைத் தருவாயே!

மலைமேவு மாயக் குறமாதின்

மனமேவு வாலக் குமரேசா

சிலைவேட சேவற்கொடியோனே

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.

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Temples of Adi Kesava Perumal and Soundharavalli Thaayar

JURAHARESAWARAR

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.

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (25)
Jvarahareswarar

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 body here.

Sanskrit prayer for Jurahareswara

Bhasmayudhaaya vidhmahe

Raktha netraaya dhimahi

Thanno Jurahara Prachodhayaadh!

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (24)

AMIRTHALINGESWARAR

This shrine is near the confluence. Installed by Sage Paraasara, the legend of Amirthalingam is linked with the history of Bhavani Kooduthurai.

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (22)
Amirthalingeswarar

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.

GAYATRILINGESWARAR

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.

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (18)

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.

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (19)
Images of a Sivalingam, Ganesha and other carvings on the rock on the Kaveri river bank

 

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (20)
The ghats along the Kaveri near Gayatri mandapam

SAHASRALINGESWARAR

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.

Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (21)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 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

          Sankagiri.

  • 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.
Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (14)
Nandhi Mandapam is seen outside the temple
  • 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.
Sangameswarar Kovil Bhavani (30)
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.

LOCATION

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)

TEMPLE TIMINGS

5.30 am to 1 pm in the morning

4pm to 9 pm in the evening.

ADDRESS

Sri Sangameswarar Temple,

Bhavani Koodal,

Bhavani – 638 301

Erode District.

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. 

Also read related post  Kooduthurai- The confluence of Kaveri, Bhavani and Amudha rivers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ancient Towns and Continuing Rituals-Maasimagam In Tiruchengode

Maasimagam vizha is celebrated in the tamil month of Maasi (February-March) over a period of ten days with pujas and programmes at three ancient temples in Tiruchengode–Badrakaliamman temple, Kailasanathar temple and Ardhanareeswara temple.
One of the highlights of the colorful festival is the Paal-kudam procession.
The Paal Kudam Procession
Around 7a.m on 1st March, 2018, everyone taking part in the paalkudam (milk-pot) procession for Masimagam were gathered at the Badra Kali Amman temple in a narrow lane off the North Car Street in Tiruchengode town. There were familiar faces everywhere, faces that I saw only during the festival every year.

Siva and Parvati were already at the temple ready to lead the procession. A trained classical dancer and expert in folk dancing and Sivan-sakthi Thaandavam, Dr. Muthukumar was known to the local people as lord Siva, a role he took on year after year for Masimagam. Together, he and Parvati would lead the procession through the four ratha veedhis ( north, south, east and west car streets)around the ancient Kailasanathar temple in Tiruchengode.
Click on the link to know about Kalaimamani Muthukumar and the rich cultural tradition of Tamilnadu folk dances.
The participants prayed to Goddess Badrakali amman and received a small garland of flowers in front of the goddess in the sanctum. This was followed by the Sivan-Sakti Thandavam dance performed by folk dancers representing lord Siva and devi Parvati to the accompaniment of traditional musical instruments.

Pictures from the Badrakali amman temple on Maasimagam

Sivan and Parvati

masimagam (3)

masimagam pics
Visitors  enjoyed having their pictures taken with Sivan and Parvati 

The procession started from the temple and went along the four ratha veedhis moving slowly and stopping at intervals for the dance of Siva and Parvati. The ratha veedis are the four streets along which the temple chariots are pulled by the people at the time of the annual chariot festival, but today the milk pot procession would follow the same route for the Masimagam festival.

Prayers at the Badrakali amman temple

badrakaliamman temple entrance

T'gode (5)

masi magam
Decorated paal kudam pots are lined up around the shrine of goddess Badrakali

paal kudam

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Participants leaving the temple to take part in the procession. Tiruchengode hill can be  seen behind the temple.

maasimagam

Sivan-sakthi thandavam dance performance before the start of the procession.Besides pots of milk, devotees carry large baskets with fruit, coconut and flowers for puja in the Ardhanareeswara hill temple.

sivan

Thandavam

ardhanareeswarar
The beautiful temple mandapam

badrakaliamman temple

Badrakaliamman kovil

Worship of snakes is as old as civilization. Naagam or sarpam refers to snakes. Serpent idols and sculptures are found in many temples of Tiruchengode..a constant reminder of the mythical beginnings of the holy hill which was called Naagamalai and Naagachalam as Aadhisehan worshipped lord Siva  after he was thrown here, wounded and bleeding, in the battle of might with Vaayu. This fascinating wood sculpture of a five-hooded serpent is seen in the Badrakali amman temple!  

nagar

Pictures of the annual paal kudam procession

masimagam

paalkudam

T'gode (4)

Around the ratha veedhis,  colorful images of lord Ardhanareeswara and other deities can be seen on mandapams like the one above, a constant reminder that this is the city of Ardhanareeswara. Many mandapams have been rented to shopkeepers with minor alterations.

A closer view of the above pic.

T'gode

Destination-the temple on the hill

masimagam (2)Devotees walk with friends and family towards the temple on the hill.

masimagam vizhaThe hill temple of lord Ardhanareeswara  is visible from Tiruchengode town and foothills.

The Aarumugaswamy Temple

Participants reach the old stone steps near the Arumugasamy kovil, another ancient temple for lord Murugan at the foot of the Tiruchengodu hill. Most of the participants take the steps that go up the hill to the temple of Ardhanareeswara. A few, mainly the elderly and those with health issues who cannot climb the steps take the hill road to reach the temple.

t'godu

The arch indicates the way to the steps beside the Aarumuga swamy temple which lead up  the hill.

T'gode (3)

T'gode (2)

mandapamThe steps begin beyond this pillared mandapam. There are mandapams along the winding way up the hill.They were built to provide a place for people to take rest when they undertook the arduous climb to the temple of Ardhanareeswara.

Temple steps

Maha abhishekam
The main event in the Malai kovil (hill temple) is the Maha abhishekam.
The first abhishekam is for Sengotuvelar, the second for Ardhanareeswarar and finally the abhishekam of the utsava moorthies in the maha mandapam. The Abhishekam for lord Ardhanareeswara commences exactly at 12 noon and it was this abhishekam in the sanctum sanctorum that I was fortunate to see this year.
A big vessel was kept outside the sanctum to collect the offerings of milk. This was taken inside the sanctum and the Sivaachariar poured innumerable pots of milk from the vessel over the deity. It is when abhishekam is performed that you get to see the matchless beauty of the Moolavar deity which otherwise is covered in vastra (clothes) and flowers.
Another highlight of the day was when Siva and Parvati who led the Paal-kudam procession came to the sanctum to offer prayers to Lord Ardhanareeswara.

After Deeparadhana we went to see the abhishekam of the utsava moorthis in the pillared hall. This was an even grander ritual. There were three barrels full of milk alone brought by the hundreds of people who visited the temple that day. Besides milk there were pots of sandal, turmeric, honey, pancha-mirtham, tender coconut, vibhoothi, curd and so on. Every offering was accepted from the hundreds of visitors to the temple and it took a long time for the abhishekam to be complete. Visitors came from places as far as Coimbatore, Tiruppur, Erode, Chennai just to have darshan of this unified form of Siva and Parvati on this auspicious day.

 The temple of Ardhanareeswarar on Maasimagam

A monkey searches for tidbits

Annadhana for everyone
In the annadhana venue on the hill, annadhana commenced from 10 in the morning. Everyone was invited to have lunch at the annadhana hall and pandal. It consisted of a special kulambu made with seasonal veggies like mochai, yellow pumpkin, avarakkai, and drumstick, with rice, rasam, cabbage porial, and sweet pongal. Everyone who took the vow ended their long fasting with this special meal served on behalf of Lord Ardhanareeswara. After lunch everyone waited around the temple for the alangaram of the deities to be completed and then gathered to see the special elaborate deeparadhanai.

Waiting  in the majestic halls of the temple. After abhishegam, darshan is not complete until you have seen the Deeparadhanai.Alangaram of utsavar deities of Ardhanareeswarar and Sengottu Velar after Abhishekam 

With this the Maasimagam rituals ended in the hill temple with concluding pujas and annadhana in the evening at the Kailasanathar temple.

 

 

Tiruchengode Awaits Maasi Magam

Ardhanareeswara temple

It is that time of year again when in Tiruchengode the Maasi magam festival is just days away. The town wears a festive look as it gets ready to host the biggest festival of the year.

Every year in this temple town the festival unites people from places both near and far away. Observing the vratha is a thread that binds and connects all who take the vow towards Lord Ardhanareesawara. Some observe austerities for a mandala consisting of forty-eight days starting in December. Some wear the holy mala for a half mandala of twenty-four days and some for a shorter period of twelve days. The vratha basically helps to focus the mind on Ardhanareeswara and to purify the mind and body by fasting.

During these forty eight days there are various activities like special katalai puja, bhajans, annadhana that are organized both in the malai- kovil (hill temple) and also at the ancient Kailasanathar Siva temple in the heart of Tiruchengode town.

17th February was the day for wearing the mala for the last twelve days of the mandala.

The temple of Ardhanareeswara is fascinating even though I have visited it many times.

The sculptures are always a delight to see and admire. Sometimes I also see unusual people in the temple who are not our usual urban city-dwellers.Even the people who work at the temple have a blessed simplicity to them that is hard to explain. And sometimes the thought comes to  my mind that these people are so very blessed to be living a life so close to a divine presence.

The much awaited Maasi Magam is on 1st March, 2018.

Tiruchengode temple (2)This row of sculpted pillars is the first thing you see when you enter the temple from the north-facing Rajagopuram. A row of warriors on rearing horses..the symmetry in stone is marvelous.

Tiruchengode temple (3)

And under the horses are sculptures depicting the perpetual battle between man and beast…it is a constant battle of might and will power. It is a tribute to the sirpi(சிற்பி,Tamil for sculptor), who brought these sculptures to life with his ulli (உளி/chisel).

The pillared hall near the main shrines has many exceptional sculptures. In this sculpture you can see a man stroking his moustache- his posture, the details of his garb, jewelry, hairstyle of the age, and the expression on his face are intriguing.

temple sculptures

A closer look at the above sculpture

temple sculptures (2)This year there were a lot of young calves up in the hill temple. They were so tame that they came up to visitors and accepted snacks from them!

This man was cleaning the outside of the goshala. They also serve who do the smallest tasks.

Ardhanareeswara temple (2)Sivan-adiyaar(சிவனடியார்) is the word we use when we speak of those who have devoted their lives to lord Siva. They are considered to be in the service of lord Siva. I saw this Sivan-adiyaar standing quietly near the Adhiseshan shrine in the temple. He did not speak to anyone and was standing there for a long time silently looking at the idols and Sivalingam.

Tiruchengode temple

ARDHANAREESWARA

Ardhanareeswarar
           Ardhanareeswara

 

To Her whose dance marks the Creation of the world,

To Him whose dance indicates the total destruction of everything in this world,

To Her who is the World Mother,

To Him who is the Father of the Universe,

To Gowri and Siva may our prostrations be.

 

Prapancha srushti yun mukha lasya kayai,

Samastha samharaka Thandavaya,

Jagath Jananyai Jagadeka pithre,

Namah Shivayai cha namah shivaya.

                      –  a verse from the Ardhanareeswara stotram of AdiShankara and its meaning by Swami Sivananda                  

In the temples for Lord Shiva the Lingam is worshipped as representing Shiva. There are some temples that differ from this general rule. One is the famous temple of Nataraja in Chidambaram, where the main deity is Nataraja, the cosmic dancer. Another is the hill temple of Ardhanareeswara in Tiruchengode in Tamil Nadu where Shiva is worshipped in the rare form of Ardhanareeswara, half Shiva and half Parvati.

Ardha – half

Naari – woman, Parvati

Ishwara – Shiva

As far as I know, this is the only temple solely dedicated to Lord Ardhanareeswara. Over the years I have been fortunate to visit this temple many times and it is one of my favourite and best loved temples.

Ardhanareeswarar temple, Thiruchengode
Ardhanareeswarar temple, Thiruchengode
Selva Vinayagar
Selva Vinayagar

THIRUCHENGODE

Location

It is 47 km from Salem, 22 km from Erode, 37 km from Namakkal, and 129 km from Coimbatore.

Thiruchengode is the name of the hill and the town of the same name. It is in present day Namakkal district of Tamil Nadu.

In the days of yore, the name of the town was Kodi Mada Chenkunroor.

Chengodu means red coloured hill. True to its name the rock of the hill is red or pink interspersed with patches of black and you can see this when you drive up the hill road.

The hill temple is built at a height of 650 feet above mean sea level. It can be reached by a motorable road.

Another way to reach the temple is by climbing 1206 stone steps. If you choose to climb the steps there are many mandapams on the way where pilgrims can rest. In the past these steps were the only way to reach the temple.

A view of the hill road
A view of the hill road

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 LEGEND OF THE HILL

The story goes that a battle of strength took place between Aadhi Seshan and Vayu. Aadhi Seshan wound his coils tightly around Mt. Meru and Vayu deva did his best to blow him away and succeeded. It is said that three peaks of Meru were blown away along with a bleeding Aadhi Seshan and the place where one of these peaks fell was Tiruchengodu. The blood spilled by Aadhi Seshan colored the hill red and hence the name Chengodu. There is a beautiful shrine to Aadhi Seshan in the prakaram of the temple.

Alluding to this story, Tiruchengode hill is also called as Nagachala and Nagamalai. There are large images of beautifully coiled hooded snakes in various parts of the hill.

ANTIQUITY

  • This ancient hill temple is more than 2000 years old.
  • The Tamil epic Silapathikaram was written by Ilangovadigal in the Sangam period, (early 1st millennium CE), and this temple is mentioned in it. It is believed that Kannagi, the lady protagonist of this wonderful epic ascended to heaven in the pushpaka vimana from the top of this hill.
  • It is one of the 275 Devara paadal petra sthalams and the 4th among the 7 Kongu naatu sthalams.
  • The Devaram hymn of Sambandar named Thiruneelakanda Pathigam was sung by him in Tiruchengode.
  •  The story behind the hymn is that Sambandar came to Tiruchengode to worship Ardhanareeswara and stayed here for some time. A mysterious fever raged among the pilgrims who accompanied him and also the townspeople. This hymn was sung by Sambandar beseeching Lord Shiva to cure them and the ailment vanished. To this day this hymn is recited to help in reducing fevers.
  • Saint Arunagirinathar has sung Thirupugazh hymns in praise of Sengottu Velar which is the name of Lord Murugan in this temple.
  • There are stone inscriptions said to date back to the times of     Paranthaka Cholan, Gangai konda Cholan,Vijayanagara and Mysore kings and the Nayaks.
  • A British officer named Davis repaired some parts of the temple. His image is on a pillar near the Mukkootu Vinayagar shrine.

TEMPLE OF ARDHANAREESWARA

There are three major shrines for

  • Ardhanareeswara
  • Sengottu Velar
  • Adhikesava Perumal

Ardhanareeswarar   Maadhoru Baagan   Ammayappan   UmaiOru Baagan   Mangai Pangan

These are the names of Lord Ardhanaareswara in this temple.

The main deity is an imposing 7 ft. tall idol which depicts half Shiva and half Parvati, Shiva on the right half is clothed in white veshti or dhoties and the left half depicting Parvati is dressed in a silk saree. During deeparathanai the priest will show you by the light of the arti the important aspects of this unique idol. You can here the intonation,

Valadhu pakkam dhandayudham, 

Swamyin Jadamagudam

Valadhu paagam Iswaran

Idathu paagam Ambal

Ambalin thiru mangalyam

Swamy- Ambalin paadaravindham

Meaning:

Dandayutham of Shiva on the right half

Jadaa Magudam of Shiva

Ambal on the left (with her left hand on her hip)

The holy thirumangalyam of Ambal on her chest

The holy feet of Shiva and Parvati, the darshan of which purifies one of all sins.

It is a darshan that makes one’s hair stand on end, a darshan that is equal to none!

Beneath the feet of Arthanareeswara is a perennial spring of water. It is called as Deva theertham. Water from this spring is given as prasad to all devotees.

The name of Ambal is Baagam Piriyaal.

The benevolence that flows from this timeless form is palpable. I feel this grace anew every single time I visit.

There is a Maragadha lingam (jade lingam) that is kept in front of Ardhanareeswara at the time of the main daily pujas.

 Concept of Ardhanareeswara

Ardhanareeswara is one of the 64 manifestations of Shiva.

The form of Ardhanareeswara is one of the union of Shiva and Shakti, of the equality of man and woman. It depicts the truth behind all of Creation.

The transcendental Supreme Being is Shiva.The manifested aspect of the Supreme is Shakti.

Shiva is Nirguna brahman. Shakti is the primordial Energy in Nature that makes any activity possible.

On their own, the powers of Sivam and Shakti are limited.

Together, all things are possible.

Even scientifically, we find that there are male and female chromosomes in every human being. Only one extra chromosome decides whether the child is male or female. Similarly there are masculine and feminine aspects in all things in nature even in inert objects. This universal truth was realized by the sages of India many thousands of years ago.

BRINGI RISHI

The story of Bringi rishi is closely associated with this temple. There is an image of Bringi rishi in the sanctum sanctorum.

 Bringi rishi is generally depicted as the sage with three legs.  He was an ardent worshipper of Shiva to the exclusion of all other deities including Parvati. Even during his daily worship, he would circumambulate only Shiva ignoring Parvati. The divine couple took the form of Ardhanareeswara and stood unified to make him understand that both were inseparable. The egoistic sage took the form of a bee and tried to pierce the body of Shiva so that he could go round only Shiva. In the human body the static force of Shiva rules the bones and skin while the dynamic energy of Shakti rules the blood and sinew. Parvati withdrew her energy from Bringi’s body, and he became a mere skeleton, unable to stand. Shiva pacified Parvati and gave Bringi an extra leg to stand. The sage understood that divine grace Shiva and energy Shakti were not contradictory but complementary to each other.

SENGOTU VELAVAR

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 Kodi maram or  flagstaff in front of the Sengottu Velar shrine
Kodi maram or flagstaff in front of the Sengottu Velar shrine

Lord Subramanya is called Sengotu velavar in this hill temple, and his beautiful image holding a vel (spear) is made of ven pashanam. People name their children after him and Sengottuvelan is a common name in Tiruchengode and Erode districts.

ADI KESAVA PERUMAL

The temple of Adi Kesava Perumal
The temple of Adi Kesava Perumal

The shrine of Adi Kesava Perumal is almost a separate Vaishnava temple within the complex complete with separate kodi maram and sthala vruksham, the punnai maram. Battars perform puja to Adi Kesava Perumal and Sri devi, Bhu devi according to Vaishnava tradition.

It is said that Parvati received instructions on observing Kedara Gowri vrattam from Adi Kesava Perumal, as a result of which she was united in Shiva as Ardhanareeswara.

NAGESWARAR

There is a separate shrine for Nageshwarar.

In the small inner prakaram are the images of Dakshinamurthy, Kedara gowri, durga devi and Naari Ganapathy. Lingothbavar is on the wall behind the main shrine. 

 In the outer prakaram there are shrines to Lord Nataraja,  Sahasralingam, Adi seshan, Bairavar, Sapta madhar, nayanmars niruthi ganapathy, panchalingam and manonmani to name a few.

Here are some pictures of this ancient temple

Early morning sunlight falls on a Shiva lingam and illuminates the kumkum and turmeric covered image of Adi Seshan
Early morning sunlight falls on a Shiva lingam and illuminates the kumkum and turmeric covered image of Adi Seshan
The mandapam  of the Ardhanareeswarar temple
The mandapam of the Ardhanareeswarar temple
The view of the west prakaram
The view of the west prakaram
South Gopuram
South Gopuram
Therku  Gopuram, the southern entrance
Therku Gopuram, the southern entrance
View of the Rajagopuram and Moolavar vimanam
View of the Rajagopuram and Moolavar vimanam
Nandi
Nandi
Guests look on at a wedding in the temple
Guests look on at a wedding in the temple

 

Nava Dwaram or nine openings. Lord Ardhanareeswara can be viewed through this nava dwara and it is considered auspicious to do so.
Nava Dwaram or nine openings.
Lord Ardhanareeswara can be viewed through this nava dwara and it is considered auspicious to do so.

 

A Board informs visitors about temple and puja timings
A Board informs visitors about temple and puja timings
Steps leading down to the sanctum from the Rajagopuram
Steps leading down to the sanctum from the Rajagopuram
A wedding party waits for the wedding photographer to take a picture.
A wedding party waits for the photographer to take a picture.

TEMPLE OF WONDERS

This hill temple is a temple of many wonders.

  • Ardhanaareeswara faces west, which is not so common in Shiva temples.
  • The spring at the feet of Ardhanareeswara at 650 msl is truly remarkable.
  • The imposing idol of Ardhanareeswara is not sculpted from granite.
  • It is made of ven pashanam, a complex amalgamation of many substances known only to the rishi- alchemists.
  • There is no history that tells us about who made this idol.  It is thought to be a Uli Padaa Uruvam.

Uli – Tamil for chisel

Padaa –not touched (by)

Uruvam – form

  • There are three shrines and each one has a separate kodimaram or flagstaff.
  • There are two sthala vrukshams or holy trees.
  • One is the gigantic illuppai maram, beneath which is a small shrine to Kasi Viswanathar and Visalakshi.
  • The other is the punnai maram of the temple of Adi Kesava perumal. Women tie tiny cradles to its branches to be granted the boon of children.
The Sthala vruksham - illupai maram part of which was broken down in a gale.
The Sthala vruksham – illupai maram part of which was broken down in a gale.

 MANDAPAMS

The skill of the artists and sculptors of Tamil Nadu is truly amazing as is seen in panchaloga idols, in the motifs of silk and cotton fabric, in the iconography and stucco forms in the towering gopurams across Tamil Nadu.

But to bring these images and motifs to life in stone is something that is near impossible if not extremely difficult!

Such magic exists in the mandapams (halls) in front of the shrines of Ardhanareeswara, Sengotuvelar and Nageshwarar. Every stone pillar, wall and ceiling is richly covered with minute to large sculptures, panels and patterns that mesmerize and cast their spell on you. Delicate stone parrots cling to the ceiling as do lotus buds and flowers. Segments of chains hang down- the wonder lies in the fact that these are made of stone and this is apparent only when you look closely.

The ornate mandapam rich with sculptures. Notice the stone chain links hanging from the ceiling
The ornate mandapam rich with sculptures. Notice the stone chain links hanging from the ceiling
Urdhuva Thandava Murthy
Urdhuva Thandava Murthy
A lady with a baby holding a wicker basket. Can you believe it is made of stone?!
A lady with a baby holding a wicker basket. Can you believe it is made of stone?!
A closer view shows the infant in a type of sling being held in one hand while the wicker basket is slung from the other hand
A closer view shows the infant in a type of sling being held in one hand while the wicker basket is slung from the other hand
An older child stands near the mother with the baby and basket. He is eating  fruit or some other snack. The attention to detail in this sculpture is truly amazing.
An older child stands near the mother with the baby and basket. He is eating fruit or some other snack.
The attention to detail in this sculpture is truly amazing.
Ornate work on the ceiling. Notice the delicate parrot images touching the central flower with their beaks, the intricate carved panels of gods and godesses, and the stone chains hanging from this masterpiece
Ornate work on the ceiling. Notice the delicate parrot images touching the central flower with their beaks, the intricate carved panels of gods and goddesses, and the stone chains hanging from this masterpiece

It is a delight to look at these exquisite creations in granite. Do take the time to look at them when you visit. They are everywhere – on the pillars, panels near the ceiling, the ceiling itself, the myriad alcoves and on the outer walls.

TIMINGS

The temple is open continuously from 6 a.m.to 7.30 p.m.

Please note that the hill road is closed to motorists after 6.30 p.m.

 

The nearest railway station is Erode (23km), Namakkal (37), and Salem (46).

The nearest airport is at Coimbatore (120 km), and Tirichirapalli (120).

By road, it is well connected from Salem, Erode, and Namakkal.