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.
Close to Rasipuram in Namakkal district of Tamil Nadu is the village of Singalandhapuram, one of many beautiful villages beneath the Kolli hills. The people here are mostly engaged in weaving and farming.
The village is believed to be named after Chola Emperor Rajaraja who ruled between 985 and 1015 C.E. Singalandhagan was a honorific title given to Rajaraja after his subjugation of the northern part of Sri Lanka.
Thiruveswarar Temple – A temple in the land of Valvil Ori
The Thiruveswarar temple is the Siva temple in this village. It is easy to locate as the Rasipuram – Sendhamangalam- Namakkal road passes beside the temple.
The temple is ancient and is believed to have existed during the Sangam Age 2000 years ago. It is one of the six temples in the region where legendary King Valvil Ori worshipped Lord Siva. A granite statue of the king is seen in front of the mandapam of Nandi emperumaan (Nandi).There is another stone plaque next to it that depicts King Ori and his queen. A similar plaque is seen in the Palaniappar temple in Belukkurichi, a few kilometres from here.
The temple has a high madhil or outer wall and there is no entrance gopuram tower. The entrance is a simple building with a tiled roof and a thinnai much like the entrance to traditional village homes seen in Tamilnadu.
Inside the temple there is a vast spacious open courtyard with the main shrine in the centre and smaller shrines built around the courtyard. Surya and Chandra are seen on either side inside the entrance. The Surya idol is ancient.
Past the Deepasthamban and Balipeetam is the small, charming Nandi Mandapam with a beautiful nandi. Across the courtyard is the temple of Thiruveswarar. The name of the lord Siva is Veerataanam Udaya Naayanaarwhich is the name inscribed in the kal vettu – stone inscription on the outer prakaram of the Sivan sannidhi. The present name of Thiruveswarar is probably derived from it.
The shrine of goddess Pankajavalli Thaayaris a separate temple next to the shrine of Thiruveswarar. A small nandi is seen in front of the goddess.
Adjacent to the shrine of Pankajavalli Thaayar is the shrine of lord Murugan as Subramanyaswami.He is depicted seated on a peacock with Valli and Deivanai standing on either side. Both the Pankajavalli Thaayar shrine and the Murugan shrine share a common mandapam. The construction of this mandapam is recorded in the epigraphic details of the inscription seen on the outer wall of Thiruveswarar shrine.
The temple of Bhadrakali
To the left of the Nandi mandapam, in the temple courtyard cum circumambulatory path, the first shrine is a separate temple of goddess Bhadrakali. A temple for Bhadrakali within a Siva temple is very unusual and therefore unique. It has an exceptionally beautiful idol of goddess Bhadrakali. The goddess faces due north and is believed to be extremely powerful.
The people of Naadar community in the village have a separate temple for Bhadrakali amman a short distance from the Thiruveswarar temple. The rituals for Bhadrakali worship include Kundam and thee midhi rituals as well as sacrificial rites. These rituals are unique to Bhadrakali and Mariamman temples and differ from the rituals followed in Siva temples. Therefore, during festivals the people of the village come to the Tiruveswarar temple, offer prayers at the Bhadrakali shrine and having obtained the blessings of the goddess, observe the rituals in the other temple.
The other shrines are ones that are usually seen in Siva temples.
The Ayyappan shrine is a relatively new addition along with the Arubathu moovar sannidhi. The shrine of Veerabadrar, is again an ancient structure and has a beautifully carved idol of the deity.There is a Vinayaka shrine which is a raised open mandapam. Dakshinamurthy, Lingothbavar and Durgai are seen in alcoves in the goshtam- outer wall of Thiruveswarar shrine. There is a small shrine for Chandikeswarar, and individual shrines for Jyeshta devi and Kalabairavar.
Rare Features of the temple
The Murugan shrine faces due south which is very rarely seen in temples. Villagers say that this is a powerful deity. It is a popular venue for marriages in the village. Most importantly villagers vouch for the fact that weddings conducted before this Murugan never end in divorce. There may be minor differences of opinion between married couples but these are always resolved. Most families here prefer to have marriage ceremonies solemnized in the Thiruveswarar temple and book a mandapam (wedding hall) for the marriage reception afterwards.
The north facing Bhadrakali shrine is also something that is rarely seen in Siva temples.
There is one stone inscription in the prakaram, on the outer wall of Thiruveswarar sannidhi.
Visit to the temple
Our visit to the temple was on a Friday evening in May. It was raining intermittently with the onset of an early south-west monsoon. An unexpected abhishekam for goddess Pankajavalli was under way. A middle aged woman and her son had asked for the abhishekam as a vaendudhal (request to the goddess) for divine grace to secure a good job for the son. The evening abhishekam happened because the archagar had been engaged for other ceremonies in the village that morning, it being a shuba muhurtham day (auspicious day), which turned out to our advantage. After the abhishekam and puja we had darshan in the Thiruveswarar shrine.
The temple has the ambience and beauty of very old places of worship and the people of the village have taken pride in maintaining its antiquity. It is a very popular temple for marriages.The pradosha puja in this temple is attended by a large number of people from nearby villages. At this time food is prepared for hundreds pf people and served on plantain leaves.
The temple is open from 5.30 to 7.30 a.m. in the morning and from 5 to 7.30 or 8 p.m. in the evening. The archagar’s house is next to the temple and outstation visitors may contact him over phone.
Archagar Singalandhapuram Maadhu
Mobile no: 94883 20080
Sri Karpoora Narayana Perumal Temple, Singalandhapuram
At the Thiruveswarar temple we learnt from the archagar that there was a Perumal (Vishnu) temple close to the Siva temple and that both temples were constructed in the same time period.
We visited the temple on a Saturday as the aged Bhattar kept the temple open only on Saturdays and on Tiruvonam days when the village folk would be sure to visit. It was an arrangement that was convenient for both considering the fact that the Bhattar lived a good 5 kms away.
The temple is close to the Thiruveswarar temple further up the highway. But houses obscure the view from the road and it’s easy to miss the small lane that leads to the temple.
The temple looks impressive from the outside with a big ground in front with a massive peepal tree and a neem tree and beneath them the ubiquitous Arasamarathu Pillayar, as old as the temple itself. If these holy vrikshas could speak, the tales of a thousand of years would be told, as they stand silent witnesses to happenings over eons.
This is the temple of Sridevi Bhudevi samedha Karpoora Narayana Perumal. Like the Tiruveswarar temple it is an ancient temple believed to be 2000 yrs old. There is a garuda sthambam with a small mandapam before the temple gopuram (gateway tower).A madhil encloses the temple on all sides. On entering we find that a large part of the temple is modern construction taken up with the blessings of His Holiness, Srirangam Jeer Swamigal. The deities in the garbagriha, Sridevi,Bhudevi and Karpoora Narayana Perumal are very beautiful. There are inscriptions in Tamil-Brahmi on the base of the outer walls of the Garbagriham. The Bhattar says that it refers to a Chola king with the title of Thirubhuvana Chakravarthi. Perumal faces south which is something that is rare in Vishnu temples. The power of Karpoora Narayanan is tremendous and all prayers are answered.
A modern concrete hall has taken the place of the mahamandapa. The dwara-palakas and idols of Anjaneya and Vishvaksena are kept here.
The Saturaday puja in this small village temple was something to remember. There was a small gathering of people from the village who waited while the Bhattar made preparations for the neivedyam and pooja. There was a recital of Divya Prabhandam and Thirupaavai by two young women and a priest. The girls strung together strings of jasmine and thulasi after the recital. The heartfelt puja was very nice. The Bhattar stood in front of the garba griha and handed out the prasadam of sarkarai pongal as the gathering formed a line and received the prasad from him in small paper cups. The piping hot sweet pongal was the tastiest prasad I have ever had.
The temple is open on Saturdays from 7 am until noon.
Archagar Gunaseela Iyengar
Mobile no: 94429 66983
Singalandhapuram is a large village in Rasipuram taluk of Namakkal district It is 8.5 kms from Rasipuram on SH 95 (Rasipuram- Sendhamangalam- Namakkal – Mohanur road) and 5 kms from Belukkurichi.
Note: Singalandhapuram is also the name of another village in Thuraiyur near Tiruchi and this village too is believed to be named after Rajaraja Chola.
At 8.30 a.m. on this December morning mist covers the countryside as we drive through NH 44. We are travelling to Seerapalli, a village near Rasipuram in Namakkal district, where there is an ancient Siva temple that is believed to be more than a 1000 years old. The route as always beautiful, takes us through the ancient town of Rasipuram and on to SH 79 which is the Rasipuram – Attur –Erode road.
Ten kilometers from Rasipuram and we have arrived. There are no name-boards and I ask for directions to the Sevvantheeswarar temple. It turns out that that the temple is quite close to the main road, down a small village street, and it is open!
A typical village temple built in a large open area. The village almost ends near the temple and beyond it vast green fields stretch into the distance. It looks lovely.
Until recently there used to be an ancient mud and stone outer wall which was almost crumbling down. It has been taken down and work has been started on a new outer wall. With no outer entrance we walk past the Suryan and Chandran shrines on either side , past a small bali peedam, and a tall weathered wood post which was the kodi maram (flagstaff) in more prosperous times. There is a small nandi mandapam. Beyond this five steps lead up to the main temple which consists of a spacious pillared mahamandapam, artha mandapam and garbagraham of Sevvantheeswarar. A little shrine of goddess Sugandha Kundalambigai leads off the mahamandapam. The vimanam of both shrines are very old.
An aged priest does deeparadhana and gives vibhuti and kumkum as prasad. Then he says quietly, “Valvil Ori vazhi patta koil”.Translating from Tamil it means that King Valvil Ori worshipped lord Siva in this temple.
The region of the Kolli hills, its foothills, Rasipuram and its surrounding regions up to Athanur were once part of the kingdom of King Valvil Ori who ruled from Kolli hills around the 2nd century AD.in the Sangam era.
The temple is believed to be built by kuru nila mannargal, the kings who ruled over small regions in Tamilnadu.
In a distant past the place where the temple now exists used to be a forest of thorny sangu-mul plants. People rarely came here except for cow-herds who brought their cows to graze. One day a cow-herd noticed a cow shed all its milk in a particular spot. This happened every day and the cow-herd told the villagers about the cow’s strange behavior. The villagers set forth to clear the area of thorny bushes as they searched for the reason behind the cow’s unusual behavior. Someone’s axe or sickle hit something hard and blood spurted all over the place. The frightened people discovered a suyambu lingam in the undergrowth, named it as Sevvantheeswarar because it was red with blood and started worshipping it.
Another story goes that once a man was travelling with his pregnant wife in the region when his wife went into labour. The couple cried out for help. Lord Siva appeared as a woman and helped to deliver the child and from then Sevvantheeswarar was also called as Mathru Bhoodheshwarar.
Similarities with Thayumanavar temple, Trichirapalli
Mathrubhoodeshwarar is also the name of Lord Siva in the famous Thayumanavar temple in rock-fort(malai-kottai), Trichy.
Incidentally, Thayumanavar was also called as Sevvanthinathar because sage Saaramamunivar worshipped Him with Sevvanthi flowers.
In both temples, ambal has the name of Sughandha Kundhalambigai in Sanskrit and Matuvar kuzhal ammai in Tamil.
Even the name Seerappalli is reminiscent of Sirapalli, the ancient name of Tiruchirapalli.
A special feature of the temple is that the idols of Arubathu-moovar, the sixty three saints of the Saivite tradition and also of Naalvar,the holy four of Thevaram hymns – are ancient ones.They can be seen in a long mandapam with a thatched roof to the left of the main shrine.Further along the circum-ambulatory path are the shrines of Niruthi Vinayakar and separate shrines for Panchalingam representing the five elements.
The shrine of Kalyana Subramanyar is old with its own vimanam, outer mandapam and a tiny mandapam for the peacock.Kalyana Subramanyar is seated as Aarumugam on a peacock with Valli and Devasena on either side.In the small inner mandapam of this shrine there is another idol. This is an idol of Palaniappar , holding a spear in one hand and wearing his hair in a kondai(knot) on his head.This idol looks very similar to the image of Palaniappar in Belukurichi temple in Pallipatti in the Kolli foothills which is about 12 kms from Seerappalli.The idol of Palaniappar was the one which was originally in the sanctum, but was later replaced with the idol of Kalyana Subramanyar.
There is a shrine for Sri Durgai in the outer wall of the main sanctum and separate shrines for Chandikeswarar, Kaalabhairavar Suryan, Chandran and for Sani bhagavan.
More pics from the temple
The temple has vast agricultural lands belonging to it which indicates that it received the patronage of kings who donated lands for the upkeep of the temple. The temple is traditionally managed by the people of gounder community who also till the temple lands.It is also under the care of the Aranilaya thurai of the Tamilnadu government.
A story is told about how the Sevvantheeswarar temple and the vast lands belonging to it came to be administered by the gounder community.In any village the agraharam was and still is the area where the brahmins lived. Once, when caste discrimination was being rigidly followed, a cow unfortunately died in the agraharam and the austere brahmins had to seek the help of the gounders who were a farming community, to remove the carcass. The gounders agreed to help on the condition that the Sevvantheeswarar temple be handed over to them.The agraharam residents agreed as they had no choice and relinquished their rights over the temple. Having lost their right over the temple they then handed over the temple lands also. With the passage of time they left the village. The present gurukkal comes from a family that has cared for the temple for the past ninety years and says that only one family from the agraharam families who left the village long ago visit the temple occasionally.
Renovation work has been started in the temple. Besides a new outer wall, the old well has been dug and made bigger. Many parts of the temple are to be rebuilt. All who would like to take part in this momentous work in any manner are welcome to do so.
Address and contact number of gurukkal of Sevvantheeswarar temple:
K.S. Sivaraja Gurukkal
Seerapalli P.O,Rasipuram Tk.
Phone no: 89732 75242
A subject for discussion
Although there is no conclusive proof there is a possibility that this temple might be a thevara vaippu sthalam that is mentioned in the Kshetra Kovai hymn of Thirugnana sambandhar. The related stanza of thevaram is given below.
திருஞானசம்பந்த சுவாமிகள் அருளிச்செய்த பொது தேவாரத் திருப்பதிகம் (இரண்டாம் திருமுறை 39வது திருப்பதிகம்)
(இரண்டாம் திருமுறை 39வது திருப்பதிகம்) 2.039 பொது – திருக்ஷேத்திரக்கோவை அறப்பள்ளி அகத்தியான் பள்ளி வெள்ளைப் பொடிபூசி யாறணி வானமர் காட்டுப்பள்ளி சிறப்பள்ளி சிராப்பள்ளி செம்பொன்பள்ளி திருநனி பள்ளிசீர் மகேந் திரத்துப் பிறப்பில் லவன்பள்ளி வெள்ளச் சடையான் விரும்பும் மிடைப்பள்ளி வண்சக்கரம்மால் உறைப்பாலடி போற்றக் கொடுத்த பள்ளி உணராய்மடநெஞ்ச மேயுன்னி நின்றே. 2.39.4
Arapalli agathiyan palli vellai
Podipoosi yaarani vaanamar kaatupalli
Thirunani palliseer magendirathu
Pirappil lavanpalli vella sadaiyan
Virumbum midaipalli vannchakkaram mal
Uraippaladi potra kodutha palli
Unnaraai madanenjame unni ninrae.
If you know more about this please share your views in the comments section.
Palaniappar temple on Koovai malai, a hillock in the foothills of Kolli Malai, in Pallipatti 3kms from Belukurichi near Rasipuram,in Tamil Nadu stands out against the beautiful green backdrop of Kolli hills.
The name Belukurichi is derived from the ancient Tamil words Velavan Kurinji.
Velavan, another name for Murugan is the patron deity of Kurinji which is one of the five different landscapes categorized by the ancient Tamil people. Kurinji is the mountainous and hilly regions of the land. It is inhabited by Veddar, Kuravar and Kanavar tribes who are hunters.
Koovai malai is also called Koogai Malai. Koogai is the ancient Tamil word for the Owl. The Kolli hills as viewed from this hillock does look like a giant bird with outspread wings.
The people of the Kolli hills were hunters in those ancient times and they worshipped Murugan as one of their own, a hunter like themselves.
In the popular legend of Murugan’s courtship of Valli and their subsequent marriage Murugan goes to meet Valli in the guise of a handsome young hunter, Valli being the daughter of Nambirajan, chief of the Kuravar tribe which is also a hill tribe. It is this form of Murugan as the handsome hunter that we worship in the Palaniappar temple.It is said that Murugan set out from here to Valli malai where Valli lived.
The temple is believed to have existed since more than 3000 years ago.
Saint Bhogar who lived 3000 years ago is believed to have visited this temple after which he went to Palani and created the idol of Palani Murugan.
Thus the name Palaniappar means Palanikku appar,’the one who came before Palani’.
The Tamil poetess – saint Avvaiyar is said to have worshipped here.
King Valvil Ori worshipped Palaniappar here before visiting three other temples in the region. While talking about the history of the temple, the archakar thiru. Sendilkumar said, “Come, I will show you the statue of Valvil Ori with his queen”, and led the way to a block of granite at the entrance to the temple with carvings of Valvil Ori with his queen. Valvil Ori is shown holding a bow in one hand.
Whenever I visited temples in the regions ruled by Valvil Ori in Sangam AgeTamilagam I found that people still spoke proudly of this king who was celebrated as one of the kadai ezhu vallalgal.The power of folklore that kept alive the name of a famous king of 2000 years ago is amazing!
FOOTPATH TO KOLLI HILLS
It is significant that the images of the king and queen face the ancient footpath/bridlepath down the mountains.
Coming down from the mountains on this ancient path which is 10 feet wide, the temple is the first stop in the foothills.
This path is still used by the Palangudi indigenous people of Kolli Malai.When we visited, the archagar’s wife, pointing up the hills asked me if I could see a man going up the mountain path. Looking where she pointed I could indeed see a moving white speck way up the mountain! It was a man on his way up and further up there was another climber! I asked her how long it took to reach the top. “It may take more than two to four hours for us,” she said, “but for them (the hill people) it is a climb of 30 minutes or 45 minutes at the most”. The Pazhangudi people use this path to bring mountain produce such as honey, spices, jackfruit, pineapple and so on to the Belukurichi sandhai ( weekly market), mostly as thalai sumai, meaning they carried their goods on their heads! A sturdy people they are too! The Belukurichi sandhai is very famous and is held on all Saturdays.
A forest ranger who joined in the conversation said that from Belukurichi village the distance to the temple is 3 kms. And the distance from the temple via the footpath to Othakadai village in the hills was 3.30 kms. Since the new Nariangadu- mullukurichi road was opened in the kolli hills, some of the hill people now chose to use this road after climbing down part way down the hills.
This footpath is also used by trekkers.
Palaniappar temple is the only Murugan temple in the world where Murugan is worshipped in the form of a Veddan or hunter in the sanctum sanctorum.
The way to the temple is up the flight of steps leading from the base of the hillock. This way is now closed for renovation. There is a stone- built mandapam at the foot of the hill that was probably used for resting and for utsavams and festivals. Behind this mandapam the old temple car is kept.
A short distance up the steps is the Yaanai Paali(யானை பாலி),a perennial spring on the hill. There is a colorful life- size image of an elephant and the entrance to the sunai (spring) is between the feet of the elephant! The archagar said that the spring used to be called as Pillaiyaar Paali. Later when the elephant entrance was built it came to be known as Yaanai Paali. The spring never dries up even in summer and the waters have healing, medicinal properties that are used to treat skin ailments.
Further up the hill there is another spring. I asked the archagar about it and he answered, “That spring is for the Aadu, maadu, paravaigal ( the cattle,goats and birds) that come up here to drink from the spring and the yaanai paali is for the use of humans”. An amazing but lovely tradition that taught peaceful co-existence with all living creatures!
A good motorable road goes around the hill right up to the back entrance of the temple, which in the olden days was the front entrance. The other entrances came much later.
A short flight of white washed granite steps lead to the temple. A spacious courtyard/prakaram leads to the Deepastampam and there are some more steps to the pillared maha mandapam.
Lord Palaniappar in the garba graha is one of the most beautiful deities. Facing west, about 3 1/2 feet tall, Murugan is in Veduvan kolam and a handsome young hunter he is! His hair is piled in a knot on the right side of his head in a hairstyle called as kondai. We can see a string of konrai (golden shower) flowers worn around the kondai. On the holy forehead can be seen the vibhuti (sacred ash) pattai and kumkum in the middle, symbols of Siva and Parvati. Malas or strings of beads, perhaps rudraakshas grace the chest.There are amulets on the arms.The Vastra worn from the waist has strings of Vilva ( bael) leaves adorning it. We can see a pichua kathi(பிச்சுவா கத்தி), a small dagger worn at the waist as well as the dagger case! In his left hand Palaniappar holds a plump rooster(சேவல்) while in his right hand He holds a long Eeti (ஈட்டி)or lance.Ornaments called thandai(தண்டை) adorn the ankles while footwear calledpaadha kuradu(பாதகுறடு) are worn on the beautiful holy feet. All these details are etched in stone, on this beautiful idol. The beautiful face and the divine smile are enchanting.
On the ceiling of the Artha Mandapam an engraving of two serpents swallowing the Sun and Moon can be seen.
The temple faces west, and on a good day the Tiruchengode Hillcan be seen from the Maha mandapam.
There are small shrines for Vinayaka, Koogalingeswarar and Kumari Nayagi ambal. There is a separate shrine for Vishnu, with lord Krishna with his flute on one side and Aadhi Seshan on the other. All these are later shrines consecrated in the last century. Koogalingeswarar and ambal were consecrated by the archagar’s maternal grandfather.
Pournami pooja at midnight on full moon nights is a famous ritual of this temple attended by large crowds of people. The first pournami pooja was started on 28. 3. 1983 on a Monday in the month of Panguni of Thundhubi varusham (year) when the archagar’s maternal uncle served as temple priest. That same year, Sri Kripanandha Vaariaar, popularly called as Vaariaar Swamigal, visited and held a Sotrpozhivu or religious discourse at this temple.
Saint Arunagirinadhar composed two Tirupugazh hymns on lord Muruga of Kolli Malai. In the second hymn starting with the words Thollai tharu.., he says that Murugan went to court Valli who was guarding the millet field and that he took a gift of leaves as was the custom in those days.
In the line,’Koydhu thazhaye kondu sellum mazhava’, Murugan is called as Mazhava, or member of the mazhavar tribe.History records the fact that the Mazhavar kings ruled the Kolli and surrounding areas for many centuries. Valvil Ori was also a Mazhavar king.
கல்லுருகவே யின்கண் அல்லல்படுகோ வம்பு
கல்வருக வேநின்று குழலூதுங்
கையன் மிசையேறும்பன் நொய்யசடையோ னெந்தை
கைதொழமெய் ஞானஞ்சொல் கதிர்வேலா
கொல்லைமிசை வாழ்கின்ற வள்ளிபுனமே சென்று
கொய்து தழையேகொண்டு செல்லும் மழவா கந்த
கொல்லிமலை மேநின்ற பெருமாளே
Song 607 – Thollaimudhal (kollimalai)
kalluruga veyinkan allalpadu go am pu
galvaruga venindru kuzhaloodhum
kaiyanmisai yerumban noyyasadai yonnendhai
Kaithozha mei nyaanam sol kadhirvela
kollaimisai vaazhginra valli puname sendru
kollaikollu maaran kai alaraale
koydhu thazhye kondu sellum mazhava..kandha
kollimalai menindra perumale
These lines allude to the legend of Murugan meeting Valli as a young hunter and it is believed that they refer to Vedduva Murugan in this temple.
WINDS OF CHANGE
Renovation work is being done. The temple will wear a new look when it is completed. The peaceful isolation may become a thing of the past. When the breeze blows from the mountain in the evenings bringing the healing fragrance of the hundreds of herbs which Kolli malai is famous for, there is apprehension that all this may be lost to change. But the grace of Palaniappar will be bestowed on all who seek him.
The temple is open continuously from 7 a.m to 5.30 p.m.
Since it is 3 kms from the village there are no crowds except on special days like the full moon day and weekends. There are no houses or even shops near the temple. Offerings for pooja like flower garlands, coconuts, bananas, betel leaves and areca-nut can be bought in Belukurichi.
The temple in idyllic surroundings is the perfect place for a picnic or to spend some quiet time away from it the bustle of the city.
Koovai malai is in Pallipatti, part of Bail nadu in Kolli Hills Taluk.
Located in Reserve forest area of the kolli range, the temple can be reached by road from Belukurichi, a fairly large village right below the kolli hills, 13.6 km from Rasipuram and 13.8 km from Sendhamangalam.
Belukurichi is accessible from Salem, Rasipuram or Namakkal which have good hotels. The temple is an hour’s drive from Salem.
Rasipuram is a small ancient town with narrow streets and many small but very old temples. Its historical name was Rajapuram.
It is famous for the ghee that is made here called Rasipuram Nei. It has a rich and wholesome flavor.
The silk sarees that are woven here are beautiful. They are known as Rasipuram Pattuand the silk weaving tradition of this small town goes back many hundreds of years when the silk cloth made here was sent to neighboring countries.
Today in addition to the above, it is well known for the many educational institutions around it.
Its proximity to the Kolli hills makes it an important stop enroute to the hills.
And it was part of the Kingdom of Valvil Ori.
The featured image is the stone sculpture of King Valvil Ori in the temple.
According to legend the existence of the temple spans four yugas. A granite slab within the temple gives us details of the legend of the temple and of Rasipuram town.
In the Krudha Yugam the town was called Indrapuram. The name of Lord Siva was Neelakandamoorthy worshipped by Indra, king of the gods.
In the Tretha Yugam, the town was called Devapuram. Siva was called Chandrasekarar and he was worshipped by the nine planet gods.
In the Dwapara Yugam, the town was called Vichitrapuram. The lord took the name of Sitteswarar and he was worshipped by siddas and rishis.
In the Kali Yugam, the town was called SriRajapuram and Lord Siva’s name was Kailasanathar worshipped by a hunter and people of the Aadhi Saivar community.
Like many old towns its history dating back to the 1st or 2nd century CE starts with the temple of Lord Kailasanathar.
King Valvil Ori ruled from Kolli malai. He was a kind and generous king loved by his people. A great warrior, he excelled in archery and the story of his killing an elephant, a tiger, a deer, a wild boar and a monitor lizard with a single arrow was told and retold in lands far and wide. His kingdom included the areas of Rasipuram and Sendhamangalam.
Valvil Ori was a great devotee of Lord Siva.
One day, while hunting he was on the trail of a Venn Panri or white pig which led him a long way deep within the forests near Rasipuram. He saw it enter a clump of bushes and shot his arrow into the bushes. Parting the bushes to claim his prize, Ori was startled to see a large Sivalingam hidden in the vegetation. Worse, he saw blood trickling down from the lingam where his arrow had hit it. He realized that it was Lord Siva who had appeared as the Venn Panri. Falling to the ground he prayed to Lord Siva to forgive him. Lord Siva appeared before the king and said that he should build a temple where he found the Lingam. King Ori built a temple for Siva. The sanctum sanctorum or Karuvarai which we see today is believed to be built by Valvil Ori.Later other kings added to and extended the temple.
A narrow street leads to the Iswaran koil as all Siva temples are called by the local people.
Entrance to the temple is through the Rajagopuram which faces west. The beautiful Nandi Mandam with exquisite carvings has a large Nandi. Another mandapam which covers the inner prakaram leads to the artha mandapam and sanctum. The name of Lord Siva is Kailasanathar. The Sivalingam faces west which is special and only found rarely. The Swayambhu lingam is fairly large and bears the mark of a scar where it was hit by King Ori’s arrow. This scar can be seen when abhishegam is performed. The sanctum believed to be built by Valvil Ori is very old. The artha mandapam in front of the sanctum is full of the most beautiful stone carvings.
An ancient doorway to the right leads to an inner prakara and another door ahead opens on the outer prakara. In this inner prakara on both sides of the door from the arthamandapam are two unique shrines. One has a rare embossed sculpture of Vikata chakra Vinayagar carved from a single stone and who has a rudraksha mala in one hand. The shrine to the right of the doorway has the idol of Lord Veerabadra with a Nandi in front.
The name of the Mother goddess is Aram Valartha Nayagi. She faces East and is very beautiful. There is a Mahameru before her. My visit to the temple was on the day after Adi Pooram which is sacred to Parvati, and so was blessed with a darshan of Ambal dressed in all her finery…truly a sight to behold. I was able to take a picture of Ambigai in this alangaram. You can see Ambal wearing two garlands made entirely of glass bangles of all colors. Beautiful,isn’t it ?!
There are two shrines for Lord Murugan. He stands alone as Dhandayudhapani in the first shrine. In the second shrine we see him as Karthigeya seated on a peacock with Valli and Deivanai standing on either side. Saint Arunagirinathar has sung a Tirupugazh hymn on the Murugan of this temple.
The first shrine on the pradakshina path in the outer prakaram starts with the shrine of Lord Kasi Viswanathar with Visalakshi and ends with the shrine of lord Ramanathaswamy with Parvatha vardhini. It reminds us of the beautiful Kasi-Rameshwaram tradition. The pradakshinam itself is truly beautiful with many old and lovely shrines. The sthala vriksham are Nelli and Vilvam trees. There are separate shrines for Sani bhagavan, Kala Bairavar, Pancha lingams, Gajalakshmi, Saraswati, Aiyappan, 63 Nayanmars and four Santhanacharyas.
The Dakshinamurthi shrine is different, almost a small temple by itself. The temple has a utsavar or procession deity of Lord Dakshinamurthy with his four rishi disciples. On the first Thursday of each month, He comes to the shrine of the main Dakshinamurthy. Yellow threads placed in puja are offered as prasad to devotees.
There is a shrine for Naagar, the serpent deity.
A rare and unique feature of this temple is the life size stone sculpture of King Valvil Ori under a Vanni tree, in the outer prakara near the Rajagopuram.
It is the Featured image of this post. It depicts King Ori, tall and majestic with a sword at his hip. Hands folded he is shown deep in prayer to his beloved Siva.
Aadi Perukku is an important festival in the Kolli hills and on this day special abhishekam is performed for this king with puja.
In many old temples, we find granite sculptures of the kings, queens or holy men who built the temple or were associated with it, which is how we come to know about them besides the temple inscriptions in Vattezhuthu, which is the ancient written form of the Tamil language.
Another myth of this temple is that there is a secret underground passage from the Kailasanathar temple that leads to the Arapaleeswarar temple in Kolli Malai.
Do visit this lovely temple!
The temple is open from 6 am to 12 noon and from 4.30 pm to 8.30 pm.
Rasipuram is 33 kms from Salem in Tamil Nadu, and 27 kms from Namakkal.
Summer is well and truly here! Soaring temperatures are touching 40 degree Celsius, somewhat unusual in April.
We were invited by friends to a gala village event in the village of Pudhupatti near Namagiripettai in Rasipuram taluk, Namakkal district.
A lovely farming village, Pudhupatti also called R. Pudhupatti,has a very populartemple for the goddessMariamman.
Pandigai is a common Tamil name for festival and today’s festivities centered on the temple chariot.
Village Deities of Tamil Nadu
The magnificent temples of Tamil Nadu are mostly Siva and Vishnu temples. There is another category of gods and goddesses whose temples are predominant in the villages. These are the village deities called asGrama Devata and their temples may be seen in every Tamil Nadu village and town. The Grama Devata is periodically worshiped and propitiated. Village people fear the wrath of these deities but generally they are benevolent divine beings.
The villages are essentially farming communities and so the Tamil Nadu countryside is dotted with shrines to these gods.
The village deities are the guardians, the healers and the ever present help that every little village and town has. They have a major role to play in the day to day life of the people and protect them from the countless ills, afflictions and pains of everyday village life.
When calamity overtakes the village, when pestilence or famine or cattle disease makes its appearance, it is to the village deity that the whole body of villagers turn to for protection – Right Reverend Henry Whitehead in The Village Gods of South India.
These gods are called as Ayyanar, Muniappan, Mariamman, Angalamman, Pidari, Karuppana swamy, Periasami and so on.
Mariamma is the commonest of them all. Her function is to bring rain and ward off and cure small pox, chicken pox, measles and rashes.
Thuluka Soodamani Amman temple in Pudhupatti
The temple of Thuluka soodamani amman in Pudhupatti is one such village temple for Mariamman.
The mid-day journey to Pudhupatti in the scorching sun wasn’t so pleasant even in an air- conditioned car. But once we neared the temple it was a different matter altogether. No one seemed to care about the hot summer sun, and the air of celebration was catching! Folks were dressed in their best, the endless festival shops sold everything under the sun – literally!
The whole place was action packed, with the temple as the center of all the festivities. In the courtyard of the temple women were busy with a ritual called Pongal Vaikiradhu which involved cooking the sweet rice dish named pongal in earthen or metal pots on an impromptu stove made of three large stones and some kindling or firewood. The cooked pongal was offered to the goddess on banana leaf lined brass plates and taken as prasad. By the roadside a family gave glasses of koozh, a rice and ragi(finger millet) porridge to all. There were free buttermilk stalls with big pots of cold buttermilk. A makeshift shelter was the venue of Annadaanam where people could eat tasty meals absolutely free.There were stalls where you could have tattoos made for Rs. 15.
The temple itself was crowded but we had a good darshan of goddess Mariamman. As I said, her name is Thuluka Soodamani amman. Long ago, the armies of the Nawab are thought to have camped in this region and the goddess blessed the Muslim commander and his men.Hence the unusual name.
The temple is famous for cures relating to skin ailments and vision problems. Therefore people with skin and eye maladies come from afar to offer prayers to the goddess.
Outside the temple the Ther (chariot) was all decked up and ready to go. As usual the villagers joined together and pulled the beautiful Ther.
Behind the ther, I saw something very unusual.
Men and women, wearing garlands of flowers indicative of their vows and holding bunches of neem leaves sat in two rows on the paved street in the hot sun. People brought pots of water which they poured on them, the drenching with cool water being necessary to offset the effects of the noonday sun. When the ther with the idol of Mariamman started to move, they lay on the ground and rolled along behind the ther with hands folded in supplication above their heads.
This ritual is called as Angapradakshanam and it is done for answered prayers, usually within the precincts of the temple around the main shrine.
For the first time I saw it being done on a hot paved street and following the ther.
Such devotion is a humbling experience and I felt respect and admiration for all the men, women and children who kept their vows that day. It was a personal interaction between each of the participants and the mother goddess.
Taking part in these rituals involves a period of fasting prior to the festival. It usually means a single meal a day at noon or in the evening and strict abstinence from meat, taking liquor or smoking. It is a purification that conditions the body to the rigorous process of Angapradakshinam.
Rituals like these have been followed by the villagers traditionally and vary from village to village and from temple to temple. For instance, in Pudhupatti village, our friends said that it was the custom that no palagaram (Tamil for sweetmeats) that required deep frying in oil may be made for the duration of the Pandigai (festival) which usually lasted for two weeks.
Photos of the festival.
WHERE IT IS
The temple is 5 km from Namagiripettai near Rasipuram.
The distance from Salem is 43 km ,roughly an hour’s drive.
The route from Salem is Salem- Rasipuram – Namagiripettai- R. Pudhupatti.
Is there a festival in your village or town? If so,do share your views.