CHARIOT FESTIVAL IN PANDAMANGALAM

THER THIRUVIZHA

The temple chariot festival is an annual event in temple towns in Tamil Nadu.It is also celebrated in some famous temples in the other South Indian states. The Tamil name for the festival is Ther Thiruvizha. Ther is the Tamil word for chariot and Thiruvizha refers to the festival or fair. It is a part of temple ritual.

Professor Paul Younger in his book, Playing Host to Deity,writes that,‘The annual festivals that are central to the south Indian religious tradition are among the largest religious gatherings found anywhere in the world’.

The chariots are made of special wood, engraved with images of deities, scenes of Indian Epics and other ornate works and are used to carry the idols called urchavar which are representations of the temple deities.

The place where the chariots are kept for the greater part of the year is called as Ther Adi or Ther Nilai. A few weeks before the festival the Ther is spruced up.A temporary structure resembling a temple is put up on the  ornate wooden base. It is then decorated tastefully with Thoranam of mango leaves, flowers, banana trees, and brightly colored embroidered cloth.The ropes or chains used to pull the chariot are called as Ther vadam.

The festival lasts for ten days but the day on which the chariot is drawn is the most important and attracts hundreds of worshipers.

THER THIRUVIZHA IN PANDAMANGALAM

In Pandamangalam in Namakkal District, the chariot festival is traditionally celebrated on the day of Ashwini Nakshatram in the Tamil month of Thai. This year it coincided with the last day of Thai Pongal or Sankaranthi.

DSC01272

 

 

DSC01276
All eyes on the Ther as it turns a corner

DSC01286

The villagers have invited their family and friends to join in the celebrations. After the ritual puja, the richly decorated chariot is drawn along the four main streets around the temple. The deities of the temple, Prasanna Venkataramana Swamy and Alarmel Mangai Thaayar represented by their panchaloga idols ride in the chariot along with a host of preists and the Naadhaswaram goshti or temple musicians.

Water is sprinkled on the streets through which the ther will come.Every doorstep is decorated with beautiful kolams. Women place huge pots of buttermilk on tables by the roadside and offer glasses of it to anyone who would like a drink.

The players of traditional vaathiyams (musical instruments) go in front.Behind them the  folk musicians beat a steady credence on the  Thaarai and Thammpattai (musical instruments used in folk music) as the young men join in a folk dance watched and cheered by the reveling crowds.

Behind comes the massive Ther drawn by the people. All are welcome to pull the chains.

The significance of the Ther festival is that once every year, God comes out of the temple to give darshan to worshippers. When this happens, everyone is equal before Him- there is no distinction of rich or poor, high caste or low, man or woman. The festival is for those who at other times of the year are not allowed inside the temple, for those who were away, for the old and the infirm and also for those who were too lazy to go!!

STOPPING AND TURNING THE THER

Pulling the chariot is only one part of the operations. Behind, a team of village youth are engaged in carrying and operating a system of  wooden manual levers that you can only see during such festivals.

The Ther is two or three storeys tall. Along with the deities, there is a whole team of priests and temple musicians on board. It stops many times so that people can give offerings for puja. When the Ther needs to halt, heavy triangular blocks of wood shaped like a wedge are placed in front of the wheels. These act as brakes in front. At the street corners the Ther needs to turn. Long heavy wedged blocks of wood and ropes are used to do this. Little by little, the Ther turns the corner, the wheels guided and carefully controlled by the team of young men who also volunteer to carry the heavy wooden blocks, so heavy that merely lifting them is a feat in itself.

DSC01289
A view of the Ther from behind

 

DSC01309
One of the heavy wood blocks used to turn the chariot

 

DSC01310

 

 

DSC01316

SCENES FROM THE THIRUVIZHA

DSC01318

DSC01324

DSC01329
A small Ther of Hanuman goes in front pulled by the boys

DSC01326  1

Temple rituals such as Ther Thiruvizha were aimed at unifying society. No difficult mantras were required, no training in the Vedas. People from all walks of life participated even as they do now. The four castes or varnas were united in a common cause – that of successfully pulling the holy chariot around the four veedhis (streets) which is no mean feat.

Hours later,the journey along the four veedhis is complete.As the sun goes down, the crowds applaud as one , as slowly and carefully the Ther is guided into the resting place called as Ther Nilai. Nilai is Tamil for – to be stationary ,or not in movement. Everyone is happy that a tough task was done well.

DSC01353
Dusk falls as the Ther approaches the resting place

DSC01360

 

Tomorrow it is back to mundane, everyday life.

But with a difference – the memories of this year’s Ther festival linger….. and the soul is refreshed and rejuvenated.

 

 

 

 

 

PANDAMANGALAM-In The Footsteps Of The Pandavas

PRASANNA VENKATARAMANA SWAMI TEMPLE, PANDAMANGALAM

The Tamil month of Purataasi is devoted to the worship of Lord Vishnu. Saturdays in this month are days of fasting and worship. The Tamil word for Saturdays is Sani-Kizhamai, and the third Saturday in Purataasi is believed to be the holiest. Visits to Perumal ( Vishnu) temples are important and a part of the worship in this sacred month.

Tucked away in a lovely Tamil-nadu village,surrounded by sugarcane fields,a canal flowing on one side is a beautiful temple to Lord Vishnu.The picturesque village is Pandamangalam in Namakkal district of Tamil-nadu and the Vishnu temple is the Prasanna Venkataramana Swami Temple.

PANDAMANGALAM

As the name suggests,the village  dates back to the Mahabaratha period in history. The Shiva, Vishnu and Mariamman temples are all situated close together. On the day of my visit, a few days after Vinayaka Chaturthi, The Vinayakar in Pandamangalam was getting ready to be taken for immersion in a water body. A few pics.of Ganesha outside the temple.

Pandamangalam 1
Vinayaka Chathurthi in Pandamangalam
Pandamangalam 2
Ganesha getting ready

It is believed that during the Vanavaasam (years in exile) of the Pandavas ,they came to Pandamangalam. They built an Ashram and lived here for some time.

Prasanna Venkataramana Swami appeared to them, and the Pandavas worshipped the Lord and received His blessings. He is the Lord we see today. The village was named after the Pandavas,and Pandavar mangalam became Pandamangalam with the passage of time. During their stay in Pandamangalam they were saved from an evil spirit,  Vedalam,  by Lord Krishna whose temple is near the Varaha Theertham.

Aview from the entrance.Pandamangalam
A view from the entrance.Pandamangalam

Hundreds of years later it was part of the Pandya Kingdom and was known as Pandiyamangalam. The Pandya Queen suffered from a skin disease. The King and Queen prayed to Prasanna Venkataramana Swami. Again the Lord appeared to them and cured the Queen of her ailment.

The third instance when the Lord was Pratyaksham (appeared before the people) happened in a more recent time-frame, when this region was under the  rule of the Kings of Mysore. Once the Raja of Mysore suffered from an incurable stomach-ache. He was advised to come to Pandamangalam and pray to Venkataramana Swami who cured people of all illness. The Raja worshipped God as instructed by the priests and took the prasad of holy tulsi (holy basil) leaves as medicine. He was completely cured of his stomach pain. Returning to Mysore, he told the queen of the miraculous cure. Both the Raja and the Queen came to Pandamangalam and renovated the temple.

So we find that the temple has been extended from the main shrine or garpa griham of the Mahabaratha period to the other shrines and inner and outer corridors built by the Pandya Kings and later by the Raja of  Mysore. Of course the Bhoo Varahar temple and the Varaha theertham are even older.

RAJA VAIKAAL

For hundreds of years, the region around Pandamangalam has been famous for betel-leaf cultivation. Even today, the betel-leaves (vetrilai) grown in Pandamangalam and surrounding areas are among the best. To this day, it is the busy hub of a thriving trade in green betel leaves which are plucked from the vines, packed in layers in dried banana leaves and sent to markets all over Tamil-nadu. In fact, it is one of the first scenes that greet your eyes on the way to the temple.

Once there was a severe draught and the betel vines dried up. The Raja of Mysore had a canal dug that brought water from the lake at Jeddarpalayam, 10kms from here, and irrigated hundreds of acres of land. It is called Raja Vaaikal after the Raja of Mysore. It brings water to the fields throughout the year. For ten days in February – March the water flow is blocked for maintenance of the canal. There is a bridge across the canal that leads to the temple.

Raja Vaaikal Pandamangalam.
Raja Vaaikal Pandamangalam.

Raja Vaikaal Pandamangalam

Pandamangalam 7
The bridge across the canal

The Temple

The temple is built in such a way that Prasanna Venkataramana Swami is clearly visible from the entrance. We have to climb down some steps to enter the temple.

The first worship is to Kshetra Balagar who is the Kaaval Deivam or guardian deity of the Gopura Vaasal (entrance through the Gopuram or temple tower). Behind this is the Dwajastambam or flag post (Kodi Maram in Tamil) and the Bali peetam.

In the inner corridor, the sannadhi( shrine)  of Prasanna Venkataramana Swami occupies centre stage.

Prasanna Venkataramana Swamy-Pandamangalam
Prasanna Venkataramana Swamy-Pandamangalam

The Battar (Priest) tells us about the temple and the Lord.

  • This temple is a Varaha Kshetram.
  • It is a Prarthana Sthalam. Prarthana means prayer. This is a temple where the Lord answers our prayers without fail. The prayers may be for getting a job, cure for illness or any other reasonable prayer. The Lord grants them all.
  • There is no mangalasaasanam for this temple.
  • Usually the idols of Venkataramana Swami in temples are quite big(Aajaanubaagu) but in this temple, He is in Kuzhandai Roopam,(meaning -like a small child) and hence very adorable, making us want to visit Him again and yet again just to gaze on the beauty of the small Perumal with Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi.

Back again in the inner corridor,there are sannidhis to Dhanvantri, Chakarathalwar, Thayar, Andal and Lakshmi Hayagreevar. The name of Thayar is Alarmel Mangai Thayar .There are idols of Narasimhar, Venugopalan with SathyaBama and Rukmini and Lakshmi Narasimhar.The sheer beauty of the idols steals your heart.Another surprise is the Navagraha shrine in this Vishnu temple.

Venugopalaswamy-Pandamangalam
Venugopalaswamy-Pandamangalam

Venugopalaswamy-Pandamangalam.1

The paadam of Perumal
The paadam of Perumal

Dhanvantri and Hayagreeva are recent installations of a couple of hundred years. All the rest date back to an ancient time.

Alwargal Pandamangalam

Temple Corridor Pandamangalam

VARAHA THEERTHAM

Varaha theertham 1
Varaha theertham

The priest very kindly sent a local devotee to show us the Varaha Theertham. The outer corridor leads to an ancient door set in the temple wall (mathil). Through this door and the Varaha Theetham lies just beyond.  The Theertham is a sight to behold!Small elephant sculptures grace the steps of this ancient temple pond.

Here is the  small temple to Bhoo Varaha Swami which is older even than the Venkataramana Swami sannadhi. There is another shrine to Sri Krishna.

Bhu Varahar temple
Bhu Varahar temple
Bhoo Varaha Swami,Pandamangalam
Bhoo Varaha Swami, Pandamangalam
Sri Krishna
Sri Krishna

Varaha theertham at duskThe temple is under the Tamilnadu Government. It is beautifully maintained by a trust comprising of local people.

Temple cars Pandamangalam

Additional Facts

Three kaala pujas are performed everyday.

In this temple the Brahmotsavam starts on the day of Thai Aswathy nakshatra in honour of the Raja whose birth star was Thai Aswathy.

WHERE IT IS LOCATED

Pandamangalam  temple is  29 Kms. from Namakkal via NH 7

Distance from Salem is 84 Kms.

Distance from Karur is 27 Kms. via NH 7

Timings:

7.00a.m.to 12.00 p.m.

5.00 p.m to 8.00 p.m.

Address:

Prasanna Venkataramana Swami Tirukoil,

Pandamangalam, P.Velur, Namakkal District, Tamil-nadu,South India