At all times of the year, Kooduthurai is a busy place. People arrive continuously from early morning before dawn till dusk. There is a lot of activity going on all around which you would normally only see at holy places like Varanasi and Rameswaram.
Kooduthurai is the confluence of three rivers at Bhavani near Erode in Tamil Nadu, where the rivers Kaveri and Bhavani unite with the invisible River Amudha.
Children dive into the river looking for coins that pilgrims throw into the water.
The largest river of Tamilnadu is River Kaveri.
Known to devout Hindus as Daksina Ganga (“Ganges of the South”), the Kaveri River is celebrated for its scenery and sanctity in Tamil literature, and its entire course is considered holy ground.” -Encyclopaedia Britannica.
River Bhavani is the second largest river in the state. The life giving waters of these two rivers have sustained people who lived along their banks for thousands of years.
In a country where rivers are worshipped, the places where the rivers meet are traditionally believed to be the holiest of places, capable of absolving one of all sins.For this reason, Bhavani Kooduthurai as the confluence is known attracts pilgrims throughout the year. People come here to perform a plethora of ritualistic activities which the scriptures say are best performed on river banks and along seashores and which give the highest benefits when they are done at a confluence of three rivers as seen in Triveni Sangam at Prayag in Allahabad. In the South of India, in Tamilnadu, its equivalent is Bhavani Kooduthurai.
Koodu means to unite in Tamil and Thurai is the padi- thurai, the steps leading down to the river that are called as ghat in North India. Kooduthurai is thus the ghat at the holy confluence.
And what a place it is, spectacular, full of life and utterly magical.
There is a more solemn aspect to this place. Living in Salem ours was a large extended family and whenever there was a death in the family we all went to Bhavani on the day after the cremation to perform the relevant rites and then the ashes known as asthi were immersed in the holy river.
The confluence has always been a place where the soul would find salvation. No wonder the air is charged and tense. Solemn, serious faces are part of the crowds that are always seen here. This place is about the more serious things in life such as death, karma and the inevitability of fate. It is about purifying oneself in the holy waters. Here one is made aware of the thin line that lies between physical death and the transition to another subtle realm. It is both the land of the living and the land of subtle beings. It is the land of gods and the chosen land of rishis, the great teachers and seers. This is not just a meeting place or conflux of rivers; it is also a meeting place of life and the afterlife, a meeting place of sages and devout souls. And always….. the vast waters of the great rivers flow silently on either side – meeting, merging and flowing on, in a continuous never- ending journey.
The most important of the rituals done here are those done as part of the rites performed when a person dies. They are done by the surviving son, daughter or wife with the help of a purohit/priest who guides them through the vedic rituals.
The second important ritual is one that is performed for departed souls and ancestors on yearly anniversaries called as Thidhi .These rituals are also performed on new moon days (Amavasya) and include prayers for the departed loved ones and purifying baths in the river for the family. Eclipses and new moon days in the Tamil months of Thai and Aadi are considered very auspicious for performing these rites and for this reason, on these days huge crowds throng the Kooduthurai as in other sacred places along the rivers and seas in Tamil nadu.
Thirdly, there are rituals that are part of the pujas done at the time of consecration of temples, and during temple festivals. They are called Theertha vari or Theertha kudam eduthal , and refer to the fetching of the sacred waters in brass pots that are carried ceremoniously to the temple .
Then there are people who come to perform rituals to propitiate the nine planet gods, called Nava grahas, to obtain relief from a variety of doshas or afflictions in the birth chart.
Ritualistic bathing in the sacred waters and fetching pots of water from the river are an intrinsic part of these rites.
And finally there are the pilgrims who have come to take a bath in the purifying waters of the confluence before visiting the ancient Siva temple built at the confluence, the magnificent temple of Lord Sangameswarar.
A first glimpse of the confluence is from the Kaveri Bridge. You can see the Rajagopuram of the Sangameswarar temple, the River Bhavani flowing on one side of the temple complex and the River Kaveri on the other, the Kooduthurai ghats leading down to the rivers, coracles near the padi thurai completing the picture.
Kooduthurai and Sangameswarar Temple as seen from the Kaveri bridge. Beyond the temple, a bridge across River Bhavani is seen on the left and another bridge across River Kaveri is seen on the right.
Scenes at Kooduthurai
A coracle ride to the confluence
We took a coracle ride to the Koodal or Sangam. It is a short ride from the ghat and cost Rs.100. The boatman showed us the place where the rivers meet. At the confluence, you can collect the water in cans or bottles to take home with you. The water of River Kaveri is crystal clear and sweet while the water of River Bhavani is comparitively dark and polluted with chemical effulgents from the many dyeing units in this small town. The River Amudha is said to be andhar vauhini and not visible to the eye. However, local people say that when the water level of the rivers goes down one can see the River Amudha bubbling up like a spring from underneath.
Back at Kooduthurai, there is a large open mandapam where people can perform pujas or other rites. Purohits are appointed by the temple authorities. One can see boards warning people to beware of fake priests. There are also warning signs at specific places along the ghat where the river is deep and dangerous with eddies and whirlpools.
There is a small park where people can have a picnic lunch under the shady trees. As there are only small eateries near the temple, it is a good idea to take food, water and snacks with you.
The place is clean and well maintained. Open bins are kept for the clothes that are discarded after some rituals. Changing rooms are available for those pilgrims who bathe in the river.
Where it is located
Bhavani kooduthurai is located in Bhavani , a town that takes its name from the River Bhavani. It is located 15 kms from Erode and 55 kms from Salem. NH 544H passes through Bhavani.
Pictures from Kooduthurai
These pictures were taken over the past few months. Just like the weather… each visit to the confluence was different and unique.
Two of many small shrines near the river.
A rainy day at the confluence and a ceremonial fetching of holy water for a village temple festival
An old lady on her way home at mid- day after selling the food she has prepared near the ghats.
A traditional house is used as a mini mandapam for small events