Sometime during the 16th century CE Salem and its surrounding areas which include Namakkal, Dharmapuri, and Attur, came under the rule of Madurai Nayakar kings. The kingdom of the Madurai Nayakar kings consisted of 72 smaller administrative regions called palayams headed by local chieftains who were called Palayakarars.Salem under the Madurai Nayakars rule came under thePalayakarars known as Gatti Mudali and Nayaks. Besides collecting taxes, they ably administered the regions they ruled, maintained armies, built forts and built or extended temples. The temples they built and those that were extended by them are architectural gems, showcasing their keen interest in art and architecture.
NAYAK TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE
Nayak temple architecture had a distinct style. It was characterized by enormous multi-storied gateway towers called gopuram, richly decorated with brightly painted stucco figures of gods, goddesses demons and animals both real and mythical, and pillared mandapas. The large courtyards surrounding the central shrine of these temples were designed to accommodate the crowds who would gather to view temple rituals and processions of gods. The temple grounds were enclosed by high fort like outer walls called madhil – always useful in case of invasion from rival chiefs and invaders.
LAKSHMI NARAYANAN TEMPLE
Lakshmi Narayanan temple in Sendhamangalam, 11kms from Namakkal in Tamil Nadu, is one such impressive structure.
Sendhamangalam today is a sleepy village taluk in the Nainamalai foothills in Namakkal district and very near the Kolli hills. But it was an major town in ancient Tamilagam and in the 17th century, an important administrative center of the Nayakar kings.
The temple of Lakshmi Narayana Perumal was built in the 17th century by king Govindappa Nayakkar. According to the local people it has been there since ‘paattan,mupaattan kaalam’,a colloquial Tamil phrase is used often in rural Tamilnadu and is a charming way to state that something has been there or was done for along time. Pattan is tamil for grandfather and mupaatan denotes their fathers – three generations removed before them.
In a tranquil rural setting, the towering multi-storeyed Rajagopuram and high surrounding walls of Lakshmi Narayanan temple are so unexpected that they take you by surprise. This could easily have been a temple in Kumbakonam where such huge gopurams are the norm. On entering, the massive doorway opens on a spacious open courtyard. The large pillared mandapam has ornately carved pillars showing mounted warriors in combat and mythical incidents.
Here we find a larger than life statue of King Govindappa Naicker on a stone pedestal. The statue depicts an authoritative king. The upward slant of the face, the hair knotted on top in a style known as a kondai that was typical of the age, an outstretched hand with a forefinger pointing in a commanding manner, the folds of the clothes and impressive jewelry all combine to create a regal and slightly fearsome personality.
This outer mandapam also has idols of other gods and a shrine for navagrahas.
A narrow passage leads to the sanctum through an inner mandapam.
In the sanctum the 6 feet high idol of a seated Lakshmi Narayanan with Thayaar on his lap is extremely beautiful.
Nainamalai is the hill that lies two kilometres from Sendhamangalam where the famous hill temple of Varadharaja Perumal is at the very top of the 2600 feet high hill. Believed to have existed since four yugas – which time period spans millions of years, the present temple was built during the Pallava period.Until recently ancient stone steps going all the way to the top were the only way to reach the temple.There are more than 3000 steps and climbing them is no mean feat. To this day, it is an important pilgrimage destination and kula deivam (family deity) temple and thousands make the difficult ascent to the top every year, particularly in the sacred Tamil month of Purataasi.
The two temples are intrinsically connected. In the mandapam leading to the sanctum sanctorum of Lakshmi Narayana Perumal are kept the idols of Nainamalai Varadharaja Perumal,Sridevi and Bhudevi. All those who are not able to visit the hill temple and the old and infirm can worship here. There is also a sealed and locked doorway which is believed to be the entrance to a secret passage way that goes all the way up to the Nainamalai temple. Mysterious and intriguing, isn’t it? The passage way was probably used as an escape route by local kings in times of war. Similar secret pathways are also believed to have existed in the Rasipuram Kailasanathar temple and the Kaala Bhairavar temple in Dharmapuri.
The Thaayar sannidhi is a small separate temple next to the main temple. Perundevi thaayar is as beautiful as her name suggests and a picture of compassion and grace.
A WALK AROUND THE TEMPLE
It is a temple to be seen and admired at a leisurely pace because it is full of surprises. My visit was a hurried one and I hope I can visit again to admire and be awed all over again.
The temple is next to the Sendhamangalam bus station.
Distance from Namakkal – 11 kms.
Distance from Rasipuram – 26 kms
Distance from Salem – 53 kms
Updated on 2nd August 2018
The temple is being renovated for kumbabhishekam after a gap of 32 years.
To Her whose dance marks the Creation of the world,
To Him whose dance indicates the total destruction of everything in this world,
To Her who is the World Mother,
To Him who is the Father of the Universe,
To Gowri and Siva may our prostrations be.
Prapancha srushti yun mukha lasya kayai,
Samastha samharaka Thandavaya,
Jagath Jananyai Jagadeka pithre,
Namah Shivayai cha namah shivaya.
– a verse from the Ardhanareeswara stotram of AdiShankara and its meaning by Swami Sivananda
In the temples for Lord Shiva the Lingam is worshipped as representing Shiva. There are some temples that differ from this general rule. One is the famous temple of Nataraja in Chidambaram, where the main deity is Nataraja, the cosmic dancer. Another is the hill temple of Ardhanareeswara in Tiruchengode in Tamil Nadu where Shiva is worshipped in the rare form of Ardhanareeswara, half Shiva and half Parvati.
Ardha – half
Naari – woman, Parvati
Ishwara – Shiva
As far as I know, this is the only temple solely dedicated to Lord Ardhanareeswara. Over the years I have been fortunate to visit this temple many times and it is one of my favourite and best loved temples.
It is 47 km from Salem, 22 km from Erode, 37 km from Namakkal, and 129 km from Coimbatore.
Thiruchengode is the name of the hill and the town of the same name. It is in present day Namakkal district of Tamil Nadu.
In the days of yore, the name of the town was Kodi Mada Chenkunroor.
Chengodu means red coloured hill. True to its name the rock of the hill is red or pink interspersed with patches of black and you can see this when you drive up the hill road.
The hill temple is built at a height of 650 feet above mean sea level. It can be reached by a motorable road.
Another way to reach the temple is by climbing 1206 stone steps. If you choose to climb the steps there are many mandapams on the way where pilgrims can rest. In the past these steps were the only way to reach the temple.
LEGEND OF THE HILL
The story goes that a battle of strength took place between Aadhi Seshan and Vayu. Aadhi Seshan wound his coils tightly around Mt. Meru and Vayu deva did his best to blow him away and succeeded. It is said that three peaks of Meru were blown away along with a bleeding Aadhi Seshan and the place where one of these peaks fell was Tiruchengodu. The blood spilled by Aadhi Seshan colored the hill red and hence the name Chengodu. There is a beautiful shrine to Aadhi Seshan in the prakaram of the temple.
Alluding to this story, Tiruchengode hill is also called as Nagachala and Nagamalai. There are large images of beautifully coiled hooded snakes in various parts of the hill.
This ancient hill temple is more than 2000 years old.
The Tamil epic Silapathikaram was written by Ilangovadigal in the Sangam period, (early 1st millennium CE), and this temple is mentioned in it. It is believed that Kannagi, the lady protagonist of this wonderful epic ascended to heaven in the pushpaka vimana from the top of this hill.
It is one of the 275 Devara paadal petra sthalams and the 4th among the 7 Kongu naatu sthalams.
The Devaram hymn of Sambandar named Thiruneelakanda Pathigam was sung by him in Tiruchengode.
The story behind the hymn is that Sambandar came to Tiruchengode to worship Ardhanareeswara and stayed here for some time. A mysterious fever raged among the pilgrims who accompanied him and also the townspeople. This hymn was sung by Sambandar beseeching Lord Shiva to cure them and the ailment vanished. To this day this hymn is recited to help in reducing fevers.
Saint Arunagirinathar has sung Thirupugazh hymns in praise of Sengottu Velar which is the name of Lord Murugan in this temple.
There are stone inscriptions said to date back to the times of Paranthaka Cholan, Gangai konda Cholan,Vijayanagara and Mysore kings and the Nayaks.
A British officer named Davis repaired some parts of the temple. His image is on a pillar near the Mukkootu Vinayagar shrine.
These are the names of Lord Ardhanaareswara in this temple.
The main deity is an imposing 7 ft. tall idol which depicts half Shiva and half Parvati, Shiva on the right half is clothed in white veshti or dhoties and the left half depicting Parvati is dressed in a silk saree. During deeparathanai the priest will show you by the light of the arti the important aspects of this unique idol. You can here the intonation,
Valadhu pakkam dhandayudham,
Valadhu paagam Iswaran
Idathu paagam Ambal
Ambalin thiru mangalyam
Swamy- Ambalin paadaravindham
Dandayutham of Shiva on the right half
Jadaa Magudam of Shiva
Ambal on the left (with her left hand on her hip)
The holy thirumangalyam of Ambal on her chest
The holy feet of Shiva and Parvati, the darshan of which purifies one of all sins.
It is a darshan that makes one’s hair stand on end, a darshan that is equal to none!
Beneath the feet of Arthanareeswara is a perennial spring of water. It is called as Deva theertham. Water from this spring is given as prasad to all devotees.
The name of Ambal is Baagam Piriyaal.
The benevolence that flows from this timeless form is palpable. I feel this grace anew every single time I visit.
There is a Maragadha lingam (jade lingam) that is kept in front of Ardhanareeswara at the time of the main daily pujas.
Concept of Ardhanareeswara
Ardhanareeswara is one of the 64 manifestations of Shiva.
The form of Ardhanareeswara is one of the union of Shiva and Shakti, of the equality of man and woman. It depicts the truth behind all of Creation.
The transcendental Supreme Being is Shiva.The manifested aspect of the Supreme is Shakti.
Shiva is Nirguna brahman. Shakti is the primordial Energy in Nature that makes any activity possible.
On their own, the powers of Sivam and Shakti are limited.
Together, all things are possible.
Even scientifically, we find that there are male and female chromosomes in every human being. Only one extra chromosome decides whether the child is male or female. Similarly there are masculine and feminine aspects in all things in nature even in inert objects. This universal truth was realized by the sages of India many thousands of years ago.
The story of Bringi rishi is closely associated with this temple. There is an image of Bringi rishi in the sanctum sanctorum.
Bringi rishi is generally depicted as the sage with three legs. He was an ardent worshipper of Shiva to the exclusion of all other deities including Parvati. Even during his daily worship, he would circumambulate only Shiva ignoring Parvati. The divine couple took the form of Ardhanareeswara and stood unified to make him understand that both were inseparable. The egoistic sage took the form of a bee and tried to pierce the body of Shiva so that he could go round only Shiva. In the human body the static force of Shiva rules the bones and skin while the dynamic energy of Shakti rules the blood and sinew. Parvati withdrew her energy from Bringi’s body, and he became a mere skeleton, unable to stand. Shiva pacified Parvati and gave Bringi an extra leg to stand. The sage understood that divine grace Shiva and energy Shakti were not contradictory but complementary to each other.
Lord Subramanya is called Sengotu velavar in this hill temple, and his beautiful image holding a vel (spear) is made of ven pashanam. People name their children after him and Sengottuvelan is a common name in Tiruchengode and Erode districts.
ADI KESAVA PERUMAL
The shrine of Adi Kesava Perumal is almost a separate Vaishnava temple within the complex complete with separate kodi maram and sthala vruksham, the punnai maram. Battars perform puja to Adi Kesava Perumal and Sri devi, Bhu devi according to Vaishnava tradition.
It is said that Parvati received instructions on observing Kedara Gowri vrattam from Adi Kesava Perumal, as a result of which she was united in Shiva as Ardhanareeswara.
There is a separate shrine for Nageshwarar.
In the small inner prakaram are the images of Dakshinamurthy, Kedara gowri, durga devi and Naari Ganapathy. Lingothbavar is on the wall behind the main shrine.
In the outer prakaram there are shrines to Lord Nataraja, Sahasralingam, Adi seshan, Bairavar, Sapta madhar, nayanmars niruthi ganapathy, panchalingam and manonmani to name a few.
Here are some pictures of this ancient temple
TEMPLE OF WONDERS
This hill temple is a temple of many wonders.
Ardhanaareeswara faces west, which is not so common in Shiva temples.
The spring at the feet of Ardhanareeswara at 650 msl is truly remarkable.
The imposing idol of Ardhanareeswara is not sculpted from granite.
It is made of ven pashanam, a complex amalgamation of many substances known only to the rishi- alchemists.
There is no history that tells us about who made this idol. It is thought to be a Uli Padaa Uruvam.
Uli – Tamil for chisel
Padaa –not touched (by)
Uruvam – form
There are three shrines and each one has a separate kodimaram or flagstaff.
There are two sthala vrukshams or holy trees.
One is the gigantic illuppai maram, beneath which is a small shrine to Kasi Viswanathar and Visalakshi.
The other is the punnai maram of the temple of Adi Kesava perumal. Women tie tiny cradles to its branches to be granted the boon of children.
The skill of the artists and sculptors of Tamil Nadu is truly amazing as is seen in panchaloga idols, in the motifs of silk and cotton fabric, in the iconography and stucco forms in the towering gopurams across Tamil Nadu.
But to bring these images and motifs to life in stone is something that is near impossible if not extremely difficult!
Such magic exists in the mandapams (halls) in front of the shrines of Ardhanareeswara, Sengotuvelar and Nageshwarar. Every stone pillar, wall and ceiling is richly covered with minute to large sculptures, panels and patterns that mesmerize and cast their spell on you. Delicate stone parrots cling to the ceiling as do lotus buds and flowers. Segments of chains hang down- the wonder lies in the fact that these are made of stone and this is apparent only when you look closely.
It is a delight to look at these exquisite creations in granite. Do take the time to look at them when you visit. They are everywhere – on the pillars, panels near the ceiling, the ceiling itself, the myriad alcoves and on the outer walls.
The temple is open continuously from 6 a.m.to 7.30 p.m.
Please note that the hill road is closed to motorists after 6.30 p.m.
The nearest railway station is Erode (23km), Namakkal (37), and Salem (46).
The nearest airport is at Coimbatore (120 km), and Tirichirapalli (120).
By road, it is well connected from Salem, Erode, and Namakkal.
The Palace in Padmanabhapuram can best be described as a poem in wood.Incidentally, it is the world’s largest palace in wood. The intricate carvings and woodwork are according to the Thachu Sastra which translates to The Science of Carpentry, which is unique to Kerala.
Gleaming Corridors and Polished Floors
The King’s bedroom
This wooden cot was a gift made by the Dutch to the Maharaja and was made from the wood of 64 different types of medicinal plants and trees.
The Queen’s dressing room
King Marthanda Varma built the Navarathri Mandapam in 1744 A.D. Built of a solid rock, the building is 66 feet long and 27 feet wide.Famed for the unparalleled architecture and exquisite carvings , the building speaks of the rich cultural and artistic tradition of Kerala. It was here that various cultural programmes were conducted during the Navarathri festival. The dance floor was polished to mirror like perfection so much so that it is known as Kannadi thara or Mirror Floor.
A word about the flooring in this and many other parts of the palace: It was laid using a unique combination of egg-whites, Jaggery. lime, burnt Coco-nut shells, charcoal and river sand and polished until it shone like a mirror.
This building was constructed for accommodation of visiting foreign tourists and dignitaries.
SRI ADI KESAVA PERUMAL TEMPLE, TIRUVATTARஅருள்பெறுவார் அடியார் தம் அடியனேற்கு ஆழியான்
அருள் தருவான் அமைகின்றான் அது நமது விதிவகையே
இருள்தருமா ஞாலத்துள் இனிபிறவி யான் வேண்டேன்
மருளொளி நீ மடநெஞ்சே வாட்டாற்றான் அடி வணங்கே.
வாட்டாற்றா னடிவணங்கி மாஞாலப் பிறப் பறுப்பான்
கேட்டாயே மடநெஞ்சே கேசவனெம் பெருமானை
பாட்டாய பலபாடி பழ வினைகள் பற்றறுத்து
நாட்டாரோ டியல் வொழிந்து நாரணனை நண்ணினமே.
The above pasurams are part of the 11 pasurams sung by Nammalvar in praise of Adi-KesavaPerumal in Tiruvattar.The drive from Kanyakumari to Tiruvattar is along green paddy fields, coconut groves, rubber plantations, streams, rivers, fishermen fishing in their catamarans in the backwaters. The beauty of Kanyakumari district takes your breath away. Tiruvattar is a village 46 km. from Kanyakumari.
Alternately, Driving along NH 7 and then NH 47 on the Kanyakumari-Trivandrum highway take a detour and turn right on to the Colachel-Tiruvattar road at a place called Azaghiyamandapam. Tiruvattar is at a distance of 7 km. from here.
The temple of Sri Adi Kesava Perumal in Tiruvattar is in a picturesque setting, rich with dense vegetation. The Paraliyaru flows around the temple on three sides which gives the place its name-Tiru vattaru. The temple is on an elevation. The main entrance faces west. We climb a flight of 18 steps to enter the temple. Inside there are huge corridors (Prakarams). The pillars here are rich with sculptures. At the base of each pillar there are images of maidens carrying lamps. They are called Deepa lakshmi and there are 224 in all. No two are the same!
Inside the main shrine, the platform in front of Garba Graha and where the deity rests are both carved out of a single stone and hence called as Othakkal Mantapam. This Mantapam is rich in sculptures and mural paintings.
Ghee and oil lamps light up the inner Garba Graha. We are taken unawares in that first glimpse of the Lord. For a moment we are spell bound- the reclining image of the Lord is huge! We worship the Lord through three openings, the lord’s feet , then the lord’s right hand which is in Chin mudra and lastly His face, so serene and beautiful. Through the central opening we also see the Thayars, Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi seated near the Lord, and the Utsava murthy. An image of Maharishi Hathaneya is seen near the head of the Lord. There is a Shiva lingam near the feet (paadam) of the Lord.
On the wall behind there are deities carved within circles. The priest explains that they are the deities of the Panchayuda (five weapons) of Lord Vishnu.There is no Brahma or lotus on the nabi of Perumal. It is believed that those who worship Adi Kesava Perumal will have no future births.
On leaving the main Shrine we worship next at a small temple to Tiruvampadi Sri Krishna built in the 12thcentury.
There are references to Tiruvattaru in ancient Sangam literature called Puranaanooru that dates back to more than 2000 years. In it a Sangam poet named Maangudi Kizhar (மாங்குடிகிழார்) writes about a kuru nila mannan (king)named Vattaatru Ezhiniyaadhan (வட்டாற்றுஎழினியாதன்).
There are stone inscriptions from the reign of Kulothunga Chola I.
Nammalvar has sung paasurams in praise of the Lord.
The Sthalapuranam of this temple is written in Malayalam and Sanskrit.
Once when Brahma conducted a yagna, he mispronounced some mantras, as a result of which, a demon arose from the yagna flames. His name was Kesan. Since he was evil, Adi Kesava Perumal confined him within the massive coils of Adi Seshan and the Lord lay down on top to prevent his escape.Kesan was a Shivabhaktan.So a Sivalingam was placed near the feet of Adi Kesava Perumal in order to control him.Still, Kesan tried to come out of the coils, so the Lord placed a Rudraksha in each of the demon’s 12 hands. They turned into 12 temples to Lord Shiva. These are the 12 Shiva temples around Tiruvattaru that are worshipped during the famous Shivalaya Ottam.
What is unique about this temple
This is one of the oldest Vaishnava temples in South India.
Vaishnava Saint Nammalvar has sung 11 Pasurams about Adi Kesava Perumal- (Pasuram 3722-3732).
This is the 76th Divyadesam of the 108 tirupathis and 2nd among the Malai naatu shrines.
The temple is a jewel in temple Architecture.
The moola vigraha is a massive 22 feet in length.It is made up of 16008 salagramas using a method known as Kadu Sarkara Yogam that is unique to Kerala. This is an extremely complicated process and very different from sculpting. Therefore there is no abhishekam for the moolavar.
Adi Kesava Perumal is considered to be the ‘Annan’ (elder brother) of Anantapadmanabhaswamy. Devotees on a pilgrimage are advised to worship Adi Kesavava Perumal before worshipping Padmanabhaswamy.
The Othakal Mandapam measuring 18 x 18 x 1 feet is an architectural marvel.
Importance of the temple to the Tiruvithangode (Travancore) kingdom
Present day Kanyakumari District was part of the Tiruvithangode Travancore kingdom. Up to the reign of King Marthanda Varma, the kings of Travancore ruled from Padmanabhapuram (15 km.from Tiruvattar). King Marthanda Varma was a staunch devotee of Adi Kesava Perumal and worshipped at the temple before all the major war campaigns undertaken by him. It was Dharma Raja, the nephew and successor of Marthanda Varma who shifted the capital to Tiruvananthapuram. In view of the above facts we are better able to understand the intriguing association of Padmanabhaamy temple with the temple of Adi Kesava Perumal.
Tiruvananthapuram temple is an exact replica of Tiruvattar temple. The images of Adi Kesava Perumal and Padmanabhaswamy are installed in such a way that they face each other. Adi Kesava Perumal faces west while Padmanabhaswamy faces east
Poojas are according to the procedures followed in Kerala temples.
Paal Payasam, Aval and Appam are delicious prasadams at this temple.
There are 12 Shiva temples around Tiruvattar. They are the temples at Munchirai, Thikkurichi, Thirparappu, Tirunandikkarai, Ponmanai, Pannippakam, Kalkulam, Melangodu, Tiruvidaikodu, Tiruvithankodu, Tirupanrikkodu, and Nattalam.On Mahasivarathri day starting from Munchirai, devotees from Kerala and Tamil-nadu run to all the above temples, chanting ‘Gopala, Govinda’ and reach Nattalam by nightfall. The ritual ends in worship at the Adi Kesava Perumal temple in Tiruvattar. The marathon of pilgrims on Mahasivarathri uttering the names of Lord Vishnu substantiates the truth that Siva and Vishnu are but two manifestations of the one Supreme Being.
There is a small temple for Lord Lakshminarasimha near the river and opposite to the Adi Kesava Perumal temple. Inside this temple there are Panchaloga images of Narasimha swamy, Lord Subramanya and Sri Annapoorani kept together on the same peetam.
Morning: 5a.m. to 12p.m.
Evening: 5p.m. to 8 p.m.
Note: As renovation work is under way in the Adi Kesava Perumal temple, the temple closes earlier in the mornings on weekdays. On Sundays there are lots of visitors to the temple and the renovation workers are on holiday. So the temple is open until 12 p.m.