Kolli Hills – Pristine and Pure

KOLLI HILLS

Kolli Hills is a beautiful mountain range located in Namakkal district of Tamil Nadu in South India. Its altitude ranges from 1000 to 1300 meters above mean sea level and enjoys a pleasant, healthful climate round the year. The hills are spread over an area of 440 sq. kilometers. When viewed from National Highway 44 on the Rasipuram-Namakkal stretch, it appears as a flat-topped mountain range.

Remote, untouched by commercialization and retaining its historical charm Kolli Malai as it is called locally seems frozen in time.

History

  • Kolli Malai is said to be the exquisite Madhuvanam (the forest of honey) zealously maintained by vaanara king Sugreeva that is mentioned in the Sundara kandam of the Ramayana. The Madhuvanam was a protected grove where there was plenty of honey. Even today, this is a land of tropical fruits, honey and medicinal herbs just as it would have been in the Ramayana period.
  • It was a land favoured by siddars, the ancient medicine men of Tamil Nadu.

Kolli hills in the songs of the bards

In a distant past dating more than 2000 years ago, there lived wandering bards who travelled across ancient Tamil Nadu and were much respected by kings. They had the freedom to visit any kingdom and write songs on all they saw and observed. Tamil Sangam literature hence comes across as a treatise of gross truth told in a style that is at once blunt and poetical. The Kolli hills have been eulogized and glorified by many of these poets. It has a rich history as the kingdom of Mazhavar and Chera kings, It was a coveted kingdom and wars were fought and kings died trying to defend the kingdom.

Kolli hills are mentioned in these books of sangam literature:

  1. Purananooru
  2. Agananooru
  3. Natrinai
  4. Kurunthogai
  5. Pathitrupathu

Beautiful And Magical                  

Named after Kolli Paavai, the maiden goddess who guards these hills, Kolli hills still casts its spell on visitors. Much of the area is relatively unexplored and inaccessible, Myths abound and stories are told that are bizarre and spooky. Yes, it is true that a Kolli hills has a reputation. It is the favored destination of astrologers and practitioners of witchcraft and tantric practices. Scattered over the hills are small shrines where the priests will promise to remove all obstacles in your life and solve all your problems for a fee!

But there is much in the Kolli hills that is sacred and beautiful. The people who live here are tribals and are called as Malayalees – people of the mountains. They are a hard-working self- sufficient community with a unique culture that is their own. Aadi Padhinettu in July is the most important festival in the Kolli hills when people from the 16 naadus and from other places come together for week long celebrations.

A Holiday in Kolli Hills

Kolli hills is the place to go for a quiet peaceful holiday sans crowds of tourists.

On visiting the hills you realize that you have just stepped into an amazing world and first visits are always memorable. This is hill country like no other. Thick forests are interspersed with pastoral landscapes, and cosy mountain villages. The altitude and the rivers Aiyaru and Varattaru flowing across the hills, massive jackfruit trees everywhere you go, terraced fields, yes, Kolli hills is beautiful.

How to reach

Kolli hills is accessible from Salem (64 kms) and from Namakkal(24 kms) both major cities on National Highway 44(NH44). Buses ply from Salem, Namakkal and Rasipuram to important villages in the Kolli hills. It is a better idea to rent a car because many of the places to visit in the hills are not on the regular bus routes.

Hill road - Kolli malai

The drive to the hills is lovely, the roads are good. If you are travelling from Salem it is a  11/2 hour drive through a very scenic route.

Route from Salem

Take the NH 44 from Salem. Near Rasipuram, turn left onto the Rasipuram bye-pass which will take you to State Highway SH 95. Turn right on to SH 95 and drive through beautiful farming villages along the Kolli range. Turn left once more at Kaalappa-naickenpatti to go to the kolli foothills village of Karavalli. The 28 kms Ghat Road begins at Karavalli. and the most amazing drive up the mountains with  stunning views and 70 sharp hair-pin bends, a real challenge for drivers and biking enthusiasts. Enjoy the paintings of the Sendhamangalam Highways department along the way depicting stories of famous kings of ancient Tamil Nadu.

A hair pin bend in Kolli hills
A hair-pin bend in the Kolli Hills

Kolli Hills

Solakadu is your first stop and also one of the highest points in the hills. Stop for a steaming cup of the locally grown Arapalli coffee. The tribal shandy is right by the roadside and is a must visit place for buying exotic fruits and spices and other mountain produce. Just opposite the shandy, within the premises of the Highways Bungalow is a viewpoint with breathtaking views.

At Solakadu you can choose the places you want to visit from the prominently placed signpost. There are a lot of places to visit in the Kolli hills.

A word of caution – Once you exit Solakadu, there are very few signposts along the way so ask the locals for directions when in doubt to avoid going around in circles! Many roads seem the same on the hills and can get quite confusing.

Where to stay

There are very few resorts in the Kolli hills. The oldest is the Nallathambi resort. You can book cottages of the Kolli malai Panchayat in advance. These are located in Semmedu. Another place to stay is the youth hostel near the Arapaleeswarar temple.Alternately, you can stay in Salem or Namakkal and visit the hills.

Bring packed meals and snacks when you come because there are very few good hotels or eateries. If you plan to stay longer than a day the best thing would be to ask the locals to prepare food for you.

PALANIAPPAR TEMPLE-BELUKURICHI

The Palaniappar temple on Koovai malai, a hillock in the foothills of Kolli Malai, near Belukurichi near Rasipuram, in Tamil Nadu stands out against the beautiful green backdrop of Kolli hills.

LEGEND

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.

Glimpse of Palaniappar temple in the kolli foothills
Glimpse of Palaniappar temple in the kolli foothills

ANTIQUITY

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.

HISTORY

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.

King Valvil Ori with his queen, Palaniappar temple
King Valvil Ori with his queen, Palaniappar temple, Belukurichi

As I visited temples in the regions ruled by Valvil Ori in Sangam Age Tamilagam  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.  

Footpath to Othakadai in kollimalai
Footpath from Belukurichi to Othakadai in kollimalai  begins here

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.

THE TEMPLE

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.

Steps leading to Palaniappar temple, Koovaimalai
Steps leading to Palaniappar temple, Koovaimalai
palaniappar-temple-belukurichitn
Palaniappar temple,Koovai malai, Belukurichi
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Rock-cut steps, Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi
Rock-cut steps, Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi
Rock-cut steps, Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi
A natural spring on Koovaimalai in Belukurichi
A mandapam of the Palaniappar temple at the base of hill, in Belukurichi

YAANAI PAALI

yaanai-pali-palaniappar-temple-belukurichi
Yaanai paali, Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi
Yaanai Paali,Palaniappar temple Belukurichi,Tn
Yaanai Paali,Palaniappar temple Belukurichi,Tn

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 natural spring on Koovaimalai in Belukurichi
A natural spring on Koovaimalai in Belukurichi

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.

PALANIAPPAR

palaniappar-belukurichi
PALANIAPPAR, BELUKURICHI

Lord Palaniappar in the garba graha is one of the most beautiful deities. Facing west, about 31/2 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 called paadha kuradu(பாதகுறடு) are worn on the beautiful holy feet. All these details are etched in stone, on this rare and beautiful idol. The beautiful face and the divine smile are enchanting.

Sri Palaniappar, Belukurichi,Tn
Sri Palaniappar, Belukurichi,Tn

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 Hill can be seen from the Maha mandapam.

Carving on temple pillar of lord murugan,Palaniappar temple
Carving on temple pillar of lord murugan,Palaniappar temple
Temple doorway,Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi
Temple doorway,Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi

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.

Sri Vinayakar, Palaniappar temple, Koovaimalai
Sri Vinayakar, Palaniappar temple, Koovaimalai
kumari-nayagi-belukurichi
Kumarinayagi ambal, Palaniappar temple
saneeswarar-sanidhi-belukurichi
Saneeswarar sannidhi, Belukurichi
A rooster in the temple
A rooster in the temple

 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.

Tirupugazh

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 clan  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

   கொள்ளைகொளு மாரன்கையலராலே

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.

Sunset at Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi
Sunset at Palaniappar temple,Belukurichi
Vinayaka shrine on the hill,Belukurichi, Tn
Vinayaka shrine on the hill,Belukurichi, Tn

TIMINGS

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.

LOCATION

Koovai malai is 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.

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Take a right turn here - Belukurichi village
Take a right turn here – Belukurichi village

 CONTACT

R.Sendhilkumar

Sri Palaniappar Aalaya archakar

Koovai malai, Bail nadu

Kollimalai vattam, Namakkal district, Tamil Nadu

Mobile nos:     95244 49931,   96980 18876

RASIPURAM KAILASANATHAR TEMPLE

Rajagopuram of Kailasanathar temple,Rasipuram

RASIPURAM

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 Pattu and 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.

LEGEND

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.

Legend of the Rasipram Kailasanathar Temple
Legend of the Rasipram Kailasanathar Temple

HISTORY

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.

Click here for an earlier post on King Valvil Ori

THE TEMPLE

 

kailasanathat-templerasipuram

mahanandi

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.

kailasanathar-photo-courtesy-dinamalar-com
Kailasanathar  Photo couresy – Dinamalar.com

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.

Vinayakar,Kailasanathar Kovil, Rasipuram
Vinayakar,Kailasanathar Kovil, Rasipuram
Veerabadrar, Kailasanathar Koil, Rasipuram
Veerabadrar, Kailasanathar Koil, Rasipuram

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 ?!

Aram Valartha Nayagi, Rasipuram
Aram Valartha Nayagi, Rasipuram

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.

Chariot shaped alcove on a temple wall, Kailasanathar koil,Rasipuram
Chariot shaped alcove on a temple wall, Kailasanathar koil,Rasipuram
Lord Krishna playing the flute, embossed image on temple wall Kailasanathar temple, Rasipuram
Lord Krishna playing the flute, embossed image on temple wall Kailasanathar temple, Rasipuram
Nayanmars, Rasipuram temple
Nayanmars, Rasipuram temple
Santhanacharyas Kailasanathar temple, Rasipuram
Santhanacharyas Kailasanathar temple, Rasipuram

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.dakshinamurthy-shrine

There is a shrine for Naagar, the serpent deity.

Naagar, Kailasanathar koil,Rasipuram
Naagar, Kailasanathar koil,Rasipuram

VALVIL ORI

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!

TIMINGS

The temple is open from 6 am to 12 noon and from 4.30 pm to 8.30 pm.

LOCATION

Rasipuram is 33 kms from Salem in Tamil Nadu, and 27 kms from Namakkal.

 

 

 

 

THE KINGDOM OF ORI

Valvil Ori

More than two thousand years ago, around the beginning of the current era, ancient Tamil Nadu was called Tamilagam and comprised many small kingdoms ruled by various ruling clans, besides the mighty Chera, Chola and Pandiya empires. These ruling clans were collectively called as Kuru nila mannargal(குறுநில மன்னர்கள்), a Tamil term which translates as- small region kings.

One of these many ruling clans or dynasties was the Mazhavar clan and the most famous of its kings was King Ori. Around 200 A.D he ruled from Kolli malai over the Kolli Malai, Sendhamangalam and Rasipuram regions of Tamil Nadu. The area of his kingdom comprised 18 Naadu or counties.

The name Ori (ஓரி) literally means ‘The Only One’. He was known as Val vil Ori, ( வல்வில் ஓரி)- a title bestowed on him for his exceptional skill in archery -( Val means Powerful and Vil means Bow). An interesting story is told of how a single arrow from the bow of Ori killed an elephant, pierced the open mouth of a roaring tiger, and killed a deer and a wild boar before it impaled a monitor lizard.

Wall fresco of valvil Ori on the hill road, kolli hills
Wall fresco on the road to kolli malai shows King Ori slaying five wild animals with a single arrow

Besides being lauded for his marksmanship. Ori was also hailed as a benevolent monarch whose gifts patronizing the arts, to bards, musicians and dancers were legendary. So great was his kodai- bountiful gifts that he is hailed as one of the seven great vallal kings (கடை ஏழு வள்ளல்கள்) of ancient Tamil Nadu. Vallal (வள்ளல்) is a Tamil word for a person or monarch whose generosity is without bounds.

Sangam Age

King Ori was a monarch of the Kadai Sanga Kaalam– the Third and Last Sangam Age, the period in the history of ancient southern India (known as Tamilagam) from 300 BCE to 300 CE.

Valvil Ori (2)
Valvil Ori

 

History of King Valvil Ori inscribed beneath the statue of the king
History of King Valvil Ori inscribed beneath the statue of the king
Valvil Ori
Valvil Oriyin Perumai- The greatness of Valvil Ori

The Sangam literature written in this period is vast and consists of many books and anthologies. Authored by numerous poets, both men and women, and recorded in palm leaf manuscripts, they are well preserved and are valuable treatises on a vast range of subjects from philosophy to politics.

The Purananooru songs of Sanga Ilakkiyam or Sangam literature are a record of the political history of Sangam Age Tamil Nadu. Each song bears the name of the poet and the name of the king of whom it was sung.

We come to know of King Valvil Ori from the songs of poets Vanparanar and Kazhaithin Yaanaiyaar. These songs are a delight to read.

Given below is a delightful Sangam poem on King Ori by Vanparanar.

The translation by Vaidehi Herbert makes it easy to understand.

Purananooru 152

புறநானூறு 152, பாடியவர்: வன்பரணர், பாடப்பட்டோன்: வல்வில் ஓரி, திணை: பாடாண், துறை: பரிசில் விடை
வேழம் வீழ்த்த விழுத் தொடைப் பகழி
பேழ்வாய் உழுவையைப் பெரும் பிறிது உறீஇப்
புழல் தலை புகர்க் கலை உருட்டி உரல் தலைக்
கேழல் பன்றி வீழ அயலது
ஆழல் புற்றத்து உடும்பில் செற்றும்
வல் வில் வேட்டம் வலம்படுத் திருந்தோன்
புகழ் சால் சிறப்பின் அம்பு மிகத் திளைக்கும்
கொலை வன் யார் கொலோ கொலைவன் மற்று இவன்
விலைவன் போலான் வெறுக்கை நன்கு உடையன்
ஆரம் தாழ்ந்த அம் பகட்டு மார்பின்
சாரல் அருவிப் பய மலைக் கிழவன்
ஓரி கொல்லோ அல்லன் கொல்லோ
பாடுவல் விறலி ஓர் வண்ணம் நீரும்
மண் முழா அமைமின் பண் யாழ் நிறுமின்
கண் விடு தூம்பின் களிற்று உயிர் தொடுமின்
எல்லரி தொடுமின் ஆகுளி தொடுமின்
பதலை ஒருகண் பையென இயக்குமின்
மதலை மாக்கோல் கைவலம் தமின் என்று
இறைவன் ஆகலின் சொல்லுபு குறுகி
மூவேழ் துறையும் ழுறையுளிக் கழிப்பிக்
கோவெனப் பெயரிய காலை ஆங்கு அது
தன் பெயர் ஆகலின் நாணி மற்று யாம்
நாட்டிடன் நாட்டிடன் வருதும் ஈங்கு ஓர்
வேட்டுவர் இல்லை நின் ஒப்போர் என
வேட்டது மொழியவும் விடாஅன் வேட்டத்தில்
தான் உயிர் செகுத்த மான் நிணப் புழுக்கோடு
ஆன் உருக்கு அன்ன வேரியை நல்கித்
தன் மலைப் பிறந்த தாவில் நன் பொன்
பன் மணிக் குவையொடும் விரைஇக் கொண்ம் எனச்
சுரத்து இடை நல்கியோனே விடர்ச் சிமை
ஓங்கு இருங்கொல்லிப் பொருநன்
ஓம்பா ஈகை விறல் வெய்யோனே.

 The translation of the poem by Vaidehi Herbert

 Puranānūru 152, Poet Vanparanar sang for Valvil Ōri, Thinai: Pādān, Thurai: Parisil Vidai
He was widely famed for his skill in killing, the one
who shoots with his strong bow.
His perfectly shot arrow killed a tiger with gaping mouth,
dropped a spotted stag with hollow horns, felled a boar
with head like mortar, and embedded in a monitor lizard in
a nearby deep hole.  Who is the archer who shoots with such
skill?  He does not look like a murderer.   With a pearl
strand on his proud chest, he looks like a man with
great wealth.

Is it Ōri, lord of the richly yielding mountain with
waterfalls on its slopes, or was it someone else?
I said, “Viralis, I will sing, you spread clay on the mulā
drum, pluck the strings of your yāl, play the
trumpet that is open at one end like an elephant’s trunk,
beat the ellari drum, strike the ākuli drum, softly hit the
pathalai drum on its single eye, and place in my hand the
black rod that foretells the future,” and I approached him.
We sang twenty one themes of songs before him in the
manner in which they should be sung, and addressed him
as “King!” for which he was embarrassed since it was his title.
We told him that we go to different countries and have
seen no hunter who can be compared to him.

Without asking us for what we wanted, he gave us boiled fatty
meat of deer that been killed in hunt and toddy that was like
melted cow ghee.  And right there, in that wasteland, he gave
us fine, faultless gold mixed with heaps of sapphires from his
mountain, the lord of majestic Kolli Mountain which has caves
in its summits, who desires victories, and gives without
holding anything back.

This is another poem on the king. It describes the riches given by the king to a group of visiting dancers.

Valvil ori - one of the Kadai Ezhu vallalgal
Gifts given by King Ori

Puranaanooru 153

 புறநானூறு 153, பாடியவர்: வன்பரணர்பாடப்பட்டோன்: வல்வில் ஓரிதிணை: பாடாண்துறை: இயன் மொழி 
மழை அணி குன்றத்துக் கிழவன் நாளும்
இழை அணி யானை இரப்போர்க்கு ஈயும்
சுடர்விடு பசும் பூண் சூர்ப்பு அமை முன் கை
அடு போர் ஆனா ஆதன் ஓரி
மாரி வண் கொடை காணிய நன்றும்
சென்றது மன் எம் கண்ணுளங் கடும்பே
பனி நீர்ப் பூவா மணிமிடை குவளை
வால் நார்த் தொடுத்த கண்ணியும் கலனும்
யானை இனத்தொடு பெற்றனர் நீங்கிப்
பசியார் ஆகல் மாறு கொல் விசி பிணிக்
கூடு கொள் இன் இயம் கறங்க
ஆடலும் ஒல்லார் தம் பாடலும் மறந்தே.

 Translation of the above poem by Vaidehi Herbert

 Puranānūru 153, Poet Vanparanar sang for Valvil Ōri, Thinai: Pādān, Thurai: Iyan Moli
My family of dancers went gladly to see the
rain-like great generosity of Ōri who never
ceases to wage murderous battles, lord of a
mountain decorated by clouds, wearing curved
bracelets that shoot out rays, who gives away
each day, elephants with adornments.

He gave them gold waterlilies that do not
bloom in cold water, inset with sapphires
and hung on silver cords, wealth, and herds
of elephants.
Is it because they are not starving any more
that they don’t dance even when sweet music
instruments are played, and have also
forgotten their music?

 

புறநானூறு 204, பாடியவர்: கழைதின் யானையார்பாடப்பட்டோன்: வல்வில் ஓரிதிணை: பாடாண்துறை: பரிசில்
ஈ என இரத்தல் இழிந்தன்று அதன் எதிர்
ஈயேன் என்றல் அதனினும் இழிந்தன்று
கொள் எனக் கொடுத்தல் உயர்ந்தன்று அதன் எதிர்
கொள்ளேன் என்றல் அதனினும் உயர்ந்தன்று
தெண்ணீர்ப் பரப்பின் இமிழ் திரைப் பெருங்கடல்
உண்ணார் ஆகுப நீர் வேட்டோரே
ஆவும் மாவும் சென்று உணக் கலங்கிச்
சேறோடு பட்ட சிறுமைத்து ஆயினும்
உண்ணீர் மருங்கின் அதர் பல ஆகும்
புள்ளும் பொழுதும் பழித்தல் அல்லதை
உள்ளிச் சென்றோர் பழியலர் அதனால்
புலவேன் வாழியர் ஓரி விசும்பின்
கருவி வானம் போல
வரையாது சுரக்கும் வள்ளியோய் நின்னே.

 Puranānūru 204, Poet Kalaithin Yānaiyār sang to Valvil Ōri, Thinai: Pādān, Thurai: Parisil
It is a dishonor to request, “Give me something.”
On the other hand, it is a greater dishonor to answer,
“I will give nothing.”  To offer someone a gift is
superior.  It is even more superior to not accept it.
People with thirst will not drink the clear water of
the large ocean with roaring waves.  But when a site
has potable water, even if it is not good, mixed with
mud, roiled by cows and horses, there will be many
paths leading to it.

If those in need go to kings and are not given
gifts, times and omens are to be blamed, and not the
kings.   So I do not hate you.   May you live long, Ōri!
You are a generous man who gives gifts without any
limits, like clouds with thunder and lightning in the sky!

In addition to these Purananooru poems,there are accounts of Ori in the Agananooru, Kurunthogai, Nattrinai poems of Sangam literature. 

Ancient Legacy

The rich heritage of Tamil Nadu is unique .No palaces or castles of these kings of long ago stand today but the temples they built have withstood the ravages of time as have the palm leaf manuscripts that document this legacy.

The temples and palm leaf manuscripts are what we have today of a more than 2000 year old legacy.

There is a statue of Valvil Ori in Semmedu in the Kolli hills.

The Govt. of TamilNadu organizes a Valvil Ori festival in August in Kolli malai every year in honour of this famous king. As a part of the festivities archery contests are held for school children!

In subsequent posts we shall visit temples and other places in the fabled Kingdom of Ori.

Please click here to visit Vaidehi’s site on Sangam poetry translation 

Besides translation, the meaning for every word is given. Her work is truly awesome and inspiring.