Mystical Moments – Eve Of Mahakumbabishekam

Arapaleeswarar temple in Kolli Hills,TN,India,on the eve of mahakumbabishekam
Arapaleeswarar temple in Kolli Hills,TN,India,on the eve of mahakumbabishekam

Life throws surprises our way when we least expect it. Even as I was writing the post on Arapaleeswarar temple, entirely by chance I came to know that the Mahakumbabishekam was to be performed on 7th May 2017. On the rare occasions in the past when I could visit this temple it was being renovated. On completion, a special and rare ritual called Mahakumbabishekam would be performed. This event was rare because it would be done only once in twelve years. The present kumbabishekam is being  done fifteen years after the last ceremony.

The Vedic rituals preceding the Mahakumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar Temple had commenced in April. It had been some months since I went to this temple and had no idea that so much was going on. On the evening of 6th May, I had an opportunity for a quick visit to the temple. It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime.

The late evening drive to Kolli hills, the visit to the Arapaleeswarar temple where a major event was to take place in a few short hours, the visit to the colorful and vast yagasalai, the heavenly dinner consisting of piping hot sweet kesari, upma, spicy tomato vegetable rice with chutney and sambar at the annadhanam venue, walking through the streets around the temple with brightly lit festival shops, seeing sadhus and renunciants everywhere, watching families of local people arrive with little children and old people carrying shawls and water bottles ready to keep the overnight vigil at the temple and yagasalai until the early hours, the star- studded sky, the cold mountain air, the white smoke from the yagasalai rising up amidst the surrounding forests, the chanting of veda mantras and the sivachariyar explaining what was going on, why it was so important and the subtle benefits bestowed on all who were gathered there on this magical night…all these happenings have a dream like quality when I think of it now.

The words faith and devotion had a new meaning for me that night. It was love for Lord Shiva, a love of the purest kind with no expectations whatsoever. It was the thread that connected everyone who gathered at this sacred place in anticipation of an event of a lifetime.In conclusion, this is the message that was reiterated at the ceremony:

Idhu Siddargal Bhoomi. Idhu Siddargal vazhi padum Kovil: This is the land of siddars.This is a temple where the siddars worship lord Siva.

Photos of Arapaleeswarar temple and from the yagasalai on the eve of Mahakumbabishekam. The pictures from the yaga sala show that the place was covered in smoke from the many yaga kundam.

Arapaleeswarar Temple at night,Kolli hills, Tn,India
Arapaleeswarar Temple at night,Kolli hills, Tn,India
Fairy lights and scaffolding for the Kumbabishekam in the Arapaleeswarar temple , kolli Hills,TN,India
Fairy lights and scaffolding for the Kumbabishekam in the Arapaleeswarar temple , kolli Hills,TN,India
A little girl dressed up for the occasion stands at the top of a flight of steps leading to the Panchanadhi river on the eve of Kumbabishekam
A little girl dressed up for the occasion stands at the top of a flight of steps leading to the Panchanadhi river on the eve of Kumbabishekam in Kolli hills
A board at the annadhana venue of the Arapaleeswarar temple explains the importance of the sthalam and asks visitors not to hurt the feelings of pilgrims by consuming alcohol and non vegetarian food.
A board at the annadhana venue of the Arapaleeswarar temple explains the importance of the sthalam and asks visitors not to hurt the feelings of pilgrims by consuming alcohol and non vegetarian food.
Sthala Varalaaru- history of the temple on a board in the Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli hills,TN India
Sthala Varalaaru- history of the temple painted on a board in the Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli hills,TN India
Light Art- A divine portrait of Siva and Parvati using fairy lights near the Arapaleeswarar templein the Kolli hills,TN,India
Light Art- A divine portrait of Siva and Parvati using fairy lights near the Arapaleeswarar templein the Kolli hills,TN,India The reflection on the car beneath adds to the beauty of the picture
Scene at the yagashala on the eve of Kumbabishekam Of Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli Hills
A yaga at the yagashala on the eve of Kumbabishekam Of Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli Hills
Bronze images of nayanmars at the yagasala at the Kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple
Bronze images of nayanmars at the yagasala at the Kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple
Colorful Temple scenes, Tn India
Sacred herbs are grown around the perimeter of the Yagasala. Beautiful drawings of rishis and siddars are seen on the many pedestals. The drwing in the picture is of Sage Patanjali who wrote the Yogasutras
A scene at the yagasala on the eve of Kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple in the kolli hills
A scene at the yagasala on the eve of Kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple in the kolli hills
Vedic rituals being performed for the kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli malai
Vedic rituals being performed for the kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli malai
A group of old ladies relax amidst the crowds as they wait at the yagasala of the Arapaleeswarar temple,before the Kumbabishekam
A group of old ladies relax amidst the crowds as they wait at the yagasala of the Arapaleeswarar temple, before the Kumbabishekam
A gathering of Sadhus at the yagasala on the eve of Kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple in the kolli hills, TN,India
A gathering of Sadhus at the yagasala on the eve of Kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple in the kolli hills, TN,India
Beautiful colors of the yagasala during the kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli hills
Beautiful colors of the yagasala during the kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple,Kolli hills
Visitors at the yagasala settle down for the night, hours before the kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple in the Kolli hills
Visitors at the yagasala settle down for the night, hours before the kumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar temple in the Kolli hills

Note: A kumbabishekam is essentially the reconsecration of a Hindu temple performed once every twelve years. It involves complex vedic rituals performed over a period of days and includes yagas that benefit the society as a whole. As a part of the procedures, the temple is restored and renovated. It is celebrated as a festival in South India, especially in the State of Tamil Nadu.

External Links:

http://siddhargallife.blogspot.in/2017/05/kollimalai-kumbabishekam-kollimalai.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkwj0adg2fY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwhkhY-nzrc

 

 

 

 

 

Kolli Malai Arapaleeswarar Temple

Arapaleeswarar temple kolli malai

Arapaleeswarar temple is an ancient Siva temple on the banks of the Aiyaru or Panchanadhi river in the village of Periya koviloor in Valapur nadu of the Kolli hills. Since ancient times it has been an important pilgrimage site of Tamil Nadu. The temple was built during the reign of King Kulothunga Cholan 1400 years ago, but its history dates back to a much earlier period more than 2000 years ago.

periya kovilur
The village of Periya kovilur in the Kolli Hills

History of the Temple

Long ago, a part of the Kolli hills was known by the name Araipalli or Arapalli. Arapalli literally means residense/house of dharma. Lord Siva who was worshipped in this region of Arapalli was called Arapally Iswarar or Arapaleeswarar, The Lord of the house of dharma.The Sanskrit name is Dharma Gosheeswarar. He was also known as Araipally Mahadevan and Araipally Udayar. The name of Parvati is Aram valarthanayagi also called as Thayammai.

It is said that the place where the temple is built was once farmland. When the land was ploughed the plough hit something and blood gushed out. The people dug around the spot to find a suyambu sivalingam and began to worship it. The scar made by the plough can be seen on the lingam even today.

Arapaleeswarar was worshipped by Valvil Ori, the Mazhavar king who ruled the Kolli hills  It is believed that a secret path exists from the Arapaleeswarar temple to the Kailasanathar temple in Rasipuram which was also a part of the kingdom of Ori.

After Valvil Ori, the kingdom came under the Chera and Chola kings.

Vaippu Sthalam

The temple is a Thevara vaippu sthalam. The 7thcentury Thevaram hymns of Tirunavukarasar and Tirugnanasambandar speak of this temple. In the hymns Appar speaks of this sthalam as Kolli kulir araipalli and as kallal kamazh Kolli araipalli. Tirugnanasambandar refers to Araipalli in his Tiruthala kovai pathigam.

The Temple

DSC01851

A medium sized temple it is built in very beautiful natural surroundings of the Kolli hills. Hills and valleys stretch into the distance all around. There is no gopuram at the entrance. The top of the outer madhil (high surrounding wall) has the images of siddars at intervals.

InscriptionsInscriptions

The outer stone walls of the garba-graham (sanctum santorum) are covered with inscriptions detailing various grants and endowments. Sembian Mahadevi, the dowager queen of Sivagnana Kandaraditya Chola devar and great-aunt of King Rajaraja Chola has visited the Arapaleeswarar temple.She rebuilt and restored many temples in the Chola kingdom and was actively involved in the maintenance of Siva temples. In the Arapaleeswarar temple there is an inscription that speaks of 100 “kalanju” gold donated by her. It is also said that she donated many jewels to the temple. Interestingly Sembian Mahadevi was a Mazhava princess, the daughter of Mazhavarayar.

Land grants were made by other Chola kings.

That they have made the arduous journey when the region was virtually inaccessible speaks a lot about the greatness of this temple.

Nandi

Nandi the divine bull of lord Siva is seen seated in front of the kodi maram (flag staff) and bali peetam and facing the Lingam inside the garpagriha in all Siva temples. In the Arapaleeswarar temple the image of Nandi has only three legs. The right hind leg is mutilated and the culprits are two men whose images are seen facing the temple, across the road outside the main entrance.

The Story of Nandi

The story is told that Nandi, the divine bull grazed on the farmland belonging to the two men, who, not knowing that that it was Nandi devar, tried to drive it away. But the bull continued to wreak havoc in their fields. Enraged, they chased the bull with a sword. To save itself the bull entered the Arapaleeswarar temple and sought refuge in lord Siva even as one of the men flung his sword on the bull from outside the temple. The right hind leg was severed and Nandi has remained there ever since with a missing leg while the men have remained outside.

Nandi

Arapaleeswarar temple

These two men have stood outside the temple doors of lord Siva in the kolli hills for ages .The wrong they did was to harm another living creature.

Arapaleeswarar

The lingam of Arapaleeswarar in the garbagriha is medium sized. Standing before it, time becomes irrelevant. The present could easily be a moment in time thousands of years ago. Nothing seems to matter anymore as the peace and grace of God surround you. Words do not fully describe the feeling. It must be experienced by devotees at least once in this lifetime.

Vinayagar, Arapaleeswarar, Thayammai and Murugan can be worshipped together from the same spot inside the temple.

Arapaleeswarar temple kollimalai

Sri Chakra

Probably not seen elsewhere in India is the very rare and beautifully carved Sri Chakra on the stone ceiling outside the shrine of Aramvalartha nayagi. There are intricate sculptures of Ashta Lakshmis all around it. Prayers offered to Thayammai or meditating while sitting directly beneath the Sri chakra are said to give powerful benefits.

Murugan
Shrine of subramanyar

The first shrine in the outer courtyard is that of Subramanya as Aarumuga peruman. The idol is extremely beautiful with intricate carvings. Valli and Deivanai stand on either side.Saint Arunagirinadhar who lived in the 15th century has sung a Thiruppugazh hymn on Kolli malai Murugan. There are separate shrines on the pradakshina path for Vinayaka, Kasi Visvanadhar, Kasi Visalakshi, Mahalakshmi,Saraswati, Durga, Chandikeswarar, and Aram Valarthanayagi and nava graha.

The shrines of Murugan and Ambigai are built in a way that they are facing each other. It is as if the divine mother is gazing fondly on her beloved son.

Theertham

Aiyaru kolli hills

panchanadhi
Aiyaru or Panchanadhi river in Kolli hills

The theertham of Arapaleeswarar temple is the Panchanadhi aka Aiyaru river.As the name indicates it is five rivers flowing as one. A hundred steps lead down to the river. Where they end is a beautiful Vinayaga shrine.

vinayagar

The Panchanadhi does not dry up even in summer when the water flow is less. It forms small water falls on its way. One small waterfall is near the temple. Further on its course it plunges into a gorge from a height of 300 feet to form the spectacular Agaya Gangai falls, a major tourist attraction in the Kolli hills. The base of the falls can be reached by climbing down 1025 steps. The steps begin near the Arapaleeswarar temple.

A temple where Fishes are sacred

The fishes in the Aiyaru river are sacred. They are believed to be the manifestations of Lord Siva. A story is told about this tradition.

The story of the sacred fishes

Once, some devotees caught fish in the Aiyaru, cut them up and made a curry on the banks of the river. While the curry was boiling they went up to the Arapaleeswarar temple to have darshan. On returning from the temple they were stunned to see the cut fish jump whole and alive from the boiling curry into the river. The miracle was a subtle message that lord Siva lived in all forms of life in the mountain. So no one catches fish in the Aiyaru river.Based on this story,it is said that the name Arapaleeswarar is derived from Arutha meenai poruthiya Iswarar,meaning -Lord Siva who joined together the cut fish. The people believe that it is Arapaleeswarar who resides as the fish in the river. Pilgrims and devotees feed the fishes when they visit the temple.

Unusual Rituals

There is an old and unusual ritual at this temple related to the fish in the Aiyaru. The indigenous people believe that it is lord Siva who has taken the form of the fishes in the river. They make a vow to offer a tiny mookuthi nose-ring to the fish when prayers are answered. On fulfillment of vows, a large fish in the river is caught, a tiny mookuthi is fixed on the snout and released  back into the river. An indigenous fruitseller explained it like this:” Let’s say I go to buy a farmland. I pray to Arapaleeswarar, ‘If the deal goes in my favour I vow to give a gold or silver nose-ring to you’. After a satisfactory farm deal, I put a tiny mookuthi on the snout of a fish in the Aiyaru. It is the offering I promised to Arapaleeswarar who has helped me clinch the deal”. This ritual is not followed so much now as it was in the old days.

Mahakumbabishekkam

The Mahakumbabishekam of Arapaleeswarar Temple took place last week on May 7, 2017.I could not go to see the actual kumbabishekam but I was fortunate to visit the night before.

But that is the subject of another post on the temple on the eve of MahaKumbabishekam!

The Thevaram hymns of Appar and Sambandar which refer to this Siva temple are given below:

தில்லைசிற் றம்பலமும் செம்பொன் பள்ளி

தேனன்குடி சீராப்பள்ளி தெங்கூர்

கொல்லி குளிர் அறைப்பள்ளி கோவல்

வீரட்டம் கோகரணம் கோடி காவும்

முல்லைப் பறவம் முருகன் பூண்டி

முழையூர் பழையாறை சக்திமுற்றங்

கல்லல் திகழ்சீரார் காளத்தியும்

கயிலாய நாதனையே காணலாமே

 

பொருப்பள்ளி வரைவில்லாப் புரம்மூன்று

எய்து புலந்தழியச் சலந்தரனைப் பிளந்தான்

பொற்சக் கரப்பள்ளி திருக்காட்டுப்பள்ளி கள்ளார்

கமழ்கொல்லி அறைப்பள்ளி கலவஞ்சாரற்

சீராப்பள்ளி சிவப்பள்ளி செம்பொன் பள்ளி

கெழுநனி பள்ளி தவப் பள்ளி சீரார்

பரப்பள்ளி என்றென்று பகர்வோர் எல்லாம்

பரலோகத்து இனிதாகப் பாலிப் பாரே.

                    -திருநாவுக்கரசர்

 

அறைப்பள்ளி அகத்தியான் பள்ளி

வெள்ளைப் பொடி பூசி ஆறணிவான் அமர்

காட்டுப்பள்ளி சிறப்பள்ளி சீராப்பள்ளி

செம்பொன் பள்ளி திருநனி பள்ளி

சீர்மகேந்திரத்துப் பிறப்பில்லவன் பள்ளி

வெள்ளைச் சடையான் விரும்பும் இடைப்பள்ளி

வண் சக்கரம் மால் உறைப்பால் அடிபோற்றக்

கொடுத்த பள்ளி உணராய் மட நெஞ்சமே

உன்னி நின்றே.

                = திருஞானசம்பந்தர்

                   திருத்தலக் கோவை பதிகம்

External link: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/renunciate-chola-king-found-his-resting-place-in-kolli-hills/article18413321.ece

 

 

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
rock-cut-stepspalaniappar-temple-1
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

Sri Rama Temple at Pagoda Point

Sri Rama temple,Pagoda point

Sri Rama Temple, Stone Cairns and a View-point

Up in the hills, temples are sturdy landmarks in the lush surroundings, quite often built in chosen locations.

Sri Rama temple at Pagoda Point in Thalai cholai village is just such a place.

Pagoda point, Yercaud
Sri Rama Temple, Pagoda Point 
Sri rama temple -Pagoda point
Sri Rama and Sita, Pagoda point

 

Hanuman at Sri rama temple -Pagoda point
Hanuman

At four in the afternoon, it is cold up here. The temple is open, the oil lamps are lit but there is no priest. The idols of Rama and Sita are beautiful. There is a small idol of Hanuman in front facing the sanctum. The outer structure is modern and very clean.

The woman in the shop next to the temple says the temple is quite old, no one knows how old. It is one of many Rama temples in the Shevaroy hills. Her kula-deivam on her father’s side is Sri Rama she says, waving a hand in the direction of the temple.

Stone Cairns

Pagoda point is a view-point in the hills, a short distance from Yercaud Lake. Named after the stone cairns that are found here which are built in the shape of a pyramid or a pagoda, it is sometimes mispronounced as pakoda point! It is these stone cairns and the view-point that are the main tourist attractions. These cairns are 5 to 7 feet high. The lady shop-keeper says they are used to light the ceremonial lamps during the festival in the month of Karthigai.“Karthigai Maasam vaanga. Romba nalla irrukum,” she invites in Tamil, meaning, ‘You should come here in the month of Karthigai(for the festival). It is very nice then’. Her husband is also the caretaker of the temple. “We come here around 12 noon,” she says, “There are crowds of tourists on week-ends and holidays. On other days we just sit here”, she smiles.

Pagoda point,Yercaud
One of the stone cairns near the temple

 

A stone cairn, Pagoda point, Yercaud
Stone cairn,Pagoda point
Pagoda point, Yercaud (3)
View from Pagoda point, Yercaud

The view-point overlooks the valley. Wispy clouds float across the valley at eye-level! Fog surrounds you and moves away minutes later! Down below you can see a tribal village and another temple. It is a lovely place for a visit.

View from Pagoda point, yercaud
Clear view of the valley,Pagoda point
Clouds descend over the valley
This photo showing mist descending on the valley,was taken about 30 minutes after the first photo

The pictures below show how the fog brought road-visibility to near zero on our way back from the temple.Signpost in the fog

schoolboy in the mist
Fog is thicker. You can see a school boy making his way home.

Thick fog obscures the signpost

Thick fog obscures the signpost

Location

Pagoda point is roughly 4 km from Yercaud Lake in Thalai cholai village.

 

ARDHANAREESWARA

Ardhanareeswarar
           Ardhanareeswara

 

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.

Ardhanareeswarar temple, Thiruchengode
Ardhanareeswarar temple, Thiruchengode
Selva Vinayagar
Selva Vinayagar

THIRUCHENGODE

Location

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.

A view of the hill road
A view of the hill road

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 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.

ANTIQUITY

  • 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.

TEMPLE OF ARDHANAREESWARA

There are three major shrines for

  • Ardhanareeswara
  • Sengottu Velar
  • Adhikesava Perumal

Ardhanareeswarar   Maadhoru Baagan   Ammayappan   UmaiOru Baagan   Mangai Pangan

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, 

Swamyin Jadamagudam

Valadhu paagam Iswaran

Idathu paagam Ambal

Ambalin thiru mangalyam

Swamy- Ambalin paadaravindham

Meaning:

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.

BRINGI RISHI

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.

SENGOTU VELAVAR

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 Kodi maram or  flagstaff in front of the Sengottu Velar shrine
Kodi maram or flagstaff in front of the Sengottu Velar shrine

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 temple of Adi Kesava Perumal
The temple of 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.

NAGESWARAR

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

Early morning sunlight falls on a Shiva lingam and illuminates the kumkum and turmeric covered image of Adi Seshan
Early morning sunlight falls on a Shiva lingam and illuminates the kumkum and turmeric covered image of Adi Seshan
The mandapam  of the Ardhanareeswarar temple
The mandapam of the Ardhanareeswarar temple
The view of the west prakaram
The view of the west prakaram
South Gopuram
South Gopuram
Therku  Gopuram, the southern entrance
Therku Gopuram, the southern entrance
View of the Rajagopuram and Moolavar vimanam
View of the Rajagopuram and Moolavar vimanam
Nandi
Nandi
Guests look on at a wedding in the temple
Guests look on at a wedding in the temple

 

Nava Dwaram or nine openings. Lord Ardhanareeswara can be viewed through this nava dwara and it is considered auspicious to do so.
Nava Dwaram or nine openings.
Lord Ardhanareeswara can be viewed through this nava dwara and it is considered auspicious to do so.

 

A Board informs visitors about temple and puja timings
A Board informs visitors about temple and puja timings
Steps leading down to the sanctum from the Rajagopuram
Steps leading down to the sanctum from the Rajagopuram
A wedding party waits for the wedding photographer to take a picture.
A wedding party waits for the photographer to take a picture.

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 Sthala vruksham - illupai maram part of which was broken down in a gale.
The Sthala vruksham – illupai maram part of which was broken down in a gale.

 MANDAPAMS

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.

The ornate mandapam rich with sculptures. Notice the stone chain links hanging from the ceiling
The ornate mandapam rich with sculptures. Notice the stone chain links hanging from the ceiling
Urdhuva Thandava Murthy
Urdhuva Thandava Murthy
A lady with a baby holding a wicker basket. Can you believe it is made of stone?!
A lady with a baby holding a wicker basket. Can you believe it is made of stone?!
A closer view shows the infant in a type of sling being held in one hand while the wicker basket is slung from the other hand
A closer view shows the infant in a type of sling being held in one hand while the wicker basket is slung from the other hand
An older child stands near the mother with the baby and basket. He is eating  fruit or some other snack. The attention to detail in this sculpture is truly amazing.
An older child stands near the mother with the baby and basket. He is eating fruit or some other snack.
The attention to detail in this sculpture is truly amazing.
Ornate work on the ceiling. Notice the delicate parrot images touching the central flower with their beaks, the intricate carved panels of gods and godesses, and the stone chains hanging from this masterpiece
Ornate work on the ceiling. Notice the delicate parrot images touching the central flower with their beaks, the intricate carved panels of gods and goddesses, and the stone chains hanging from this masterpiece

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.

TIMINGS

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.

 

 

TRIP to M.M. HILLS

M.M. Hills is a favorite holiday destination. It is a long drive, plus a temple visit and some pleasant hours spent in the cool environs of the hills all put together –  a  three-in-one, so to speak!

M.M. Hills is short for Malai Mahadheshwara hills.

On Dec. 29, 2015, we set out for M.M.Hills after lunch and returned home by 8 p.m.the same day.

ROUTE

The route from Salem in Tamil-Nadu was via Omalur, Mecheri, Mettur, Palar to M.M. Hills, roughly a distance of 99 kms.

WHERE IT IS

It is located in Kollegal taluk of Chamrajnagara district in the state of Karnataka. The lush hills are a part of the Eastern ghats in Southern India.

The road from Salem up to Mettur is across level plains. In Mettur  you cross the  river Cauvery and pass by the famous Stanley Reservoir also called as Mettur Dam, a popular tourist destination and picnic spot.From here the road slowly winds upward. Up to Kolathur, you can see the blue expanse of the river Cauvery in the distance as the road runs almost parallel to, albeit some distance away, from the river. It is a beautiful sight to watch.

Fields and villages give way to shrub and forest. There is a check – post after you cross the river Palar, a tributary of the Cauvery. A large arch with the image of Lord Shiva says ‘Welcome to Karnataka’.

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Check post at the Karnataka border

At the check post, you are expected to sign in a book and the make and number of your vehicle and the number of passengers are noted down by the forest department officials. A board by the roadside says, ‘Welcome to Malai Mahadheshwara Widlife Sanctuary’.

M.M. Hills (29)
Bridge across the Palar river-view from the check post

M.M. Hills 2 (2)

From here the road is a hill road through dense forests. The views of hills and valleys are stunning.

The road through the forests
The road through the forests
Homeward bound bullocks
Home – ward bound bullocks

M.M. Hills (1)

M.M. Hills (3)

After 16 kms. from the checkpost we have arrived at our destination. The small village in the hills is called Male Mahadeshwara Betta.It is 3000 feet above sea level amidst thick forests.

SRI MAHADESHWARA SWAMY TEMPLE
SRI MAHADESHWARA SWAMY TEMPLE

It is a very popular pilgrim centre with an ancient Shiva temple, small but powerful. Besides pilgrims, this place attracts nature lovers.

HISTORY

Lord Mahadheshwara is believed to be the incarnation of  Lord Shiva.Folklore says he came here about 600 years ago to perform penance. He went from place to place on a tiger – Huli Vahana – and performed a number of miracles around the betta to save the people. It is believed he is still doing penance in the temple’s garpa gudi in the form of a Shiva linga.

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A procession of utsava murthis on Rishaba vahana and Huli (puli) vahanas

ABOUT THE TEMPLE

SRI MAHADESHWARA TEMPLE
SRI MAHADESHWARA TEMPLE

There are two shrines in the temple. The first one has the idol of Sri Mahadeshwara astride a tiger, the idol of Sri Basaveshwara and Sri Mahadeshwara’s paadam in front. In the other shrine facing it is the self manifest Shiva linga.

Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva
Images on the temple tower tell the story of Sri Mahadeshwara
Images on the temple tower tell the story of Sri Mahadeshwara Swamy

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Rows of shops sell all kinds of trinkets,sweets and other touristy knicknacks.

Rows of shops selling all kind of knicknacks
Rows of shops selling all kind of knicknacks

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IMPORTANT DAYS

On new moon and full moon days  lakhs of pilgrims from the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka visit the temple. Diwali and Maha Shiv rathri are important festivals.

TIMINGS

The temple is open from 5.30 a.m. to 8.30 p.m.

Click here for contact details, sevas and accomodation

click here for more details

TamilNadu State Transport Corporation buses and Karnataka State Transport buses ply regularly to the temple.