Maasi is the month (Feb-March) when the days are turning warmer after the pleasant cold weather of Margazhi and Thai. In temples all over Tamil Nadu, Maasi Magam is a special day when the deities are given a holy ritualistic bath.In the temple of Lord Ardhanareeswara on Tiruchengode hill, this ritual is called the Maha-abhishekam, the ultimate abhishekam.
On Saturday, 11th March, 2017, our group of six members joined hundreds of participants of the maasi magam vizha as they congregated in the ancient Badrakali amman temple in Tiruchengode town. It is customary to begin the procession after prayers are offered to goddess Badrakali. The participants then walked along the very narrow and winding lanes of this historic town to the main ther veethi.
At seven in the morning it was a scene of ethereal beauty as saffron clad devotees walked in silence, all bearing decorated pots of offerings of their choice for the abishekam. Folk dancers representing Siva and Parvati led the way. At the main ther veedhi, the procession stopped briefly for a dance recital accompanied by music, and beautifully rendered by the folk dancers. As police-men made way for early morning traffic the procession moved slowly along the four ther veethis (chariot streets).
The participants then went to the malai kovi (hill temple) of lord Ardhanareeswara for the maha-abhishekam.
After darshan of Lord Ardhanareeswara, everyone waited for the abishekam to begin. This was no ordinary abishekam and the offering-pots contained a wide, interesting variety of sacred things. At the auspicious time the abishekam was first performed in the main sanctums of Senkotuvelavar(Murugan) and Ardhanareeswara. The beautiful utsava deities of Ardhanareeswara and Sengotuvelar were brought to the maha mandapam and placed on the central stone platform so that the rituals could be clearly viewed from all sides.The Maha abishekam commenced after the abishekam in the main shrines were completed.
A unique sight and an experience to cherish!
An awesome 1500 pots of milk, endless pots of vibhuti,honey,sandal-paste,,grapes,choppedbananas,sugarcanejuice,riceflour,panchamitham,turmeric,kalkandu(sugarcandy),panangarkandu-candy made from palm-sugar and pomegranatepearls were poured on the deities. Most of the offerings were collected and given back to the devotees as prasadam.
Faith And Blessing
Everyone present that day must have felt as I did, a divine peace and blessing fill the heart as the abishekam progressed. Seeing the abishekam was a purification of hearts and minds and this cleansing deep inside gave strength of a divine kind, the courage to face the world with all its imperfections and trials. The divine blessing is a balm, a gentle reminder that on this hard journey of life God makes his presence felt in many, many ways.
Pictures from the Masi Abishekam
Read more posts on Maasi Magam and Ardhanareeshwarar Temple by clicking on the links below
In anticipation of this year’s Maasi Magamfestival, Tiruchengode town and Sri Ardhanareeswarar templewear a festive look, this being the most important festival of this temple town. Hundreds of devotees take a vow of austerities by wearing the holy maala for a prescribed number of days. Life becomes focused on only one thing and that is Lord Ardhanareeshwara, the divine Father and Mother of the universe.
For me, it is always a pleasure to visit the temple and taking the vow is just another excuse to visit Ardhanareeswara, Ammaiyappan.
This year, our small group went to the temple to commence the viraddam by wearing the maala blessed and given by the Sivachariya in front of lord Ardhanareeswara. It was a subh muhurtham day with dozens of marriages taking place in every available corner of the maha mandapam in the temple. Ardhanareeswara temple is the temple for marriages because unity of husband and wife is what lord Ardhanareeshwara is all about. Mango leaf thorans were strung everywhere between the ornate pillars and many homa kundams for the many marriages.
On every visit to the temple,there is always a surprise, some new sculpture to marvel at, that previously went unnoticed by me. The temple is too full of of detailed sculptures of all sizes to be covered on a single day and this time it was a carving of lord Ganesha on the rock near the shrine of Aadhi Seshan below the Raja gopuram.
Carvings of two serpents can be seen on either side of Ganesha on the rock. as befits another name of this ancient Tiruchengode hill, which is Naagachala. No wonder that serpent carvings are seen everywhere on the hill either as Aadhi Seshan or as Naagars.
Spending time in the beautiful temple after darshan, it was amusing to watch the goings on! Slowly the big mandapam emptied as wedding groups left. The temple staff started cleaning up and a bunch of monkeys joined in! They were everywhere, even high up on the temple pillars, on the railings, the floor, a couple of baby monkeys were sitting on the Maha Nandi! People were offering fruits and tidbits which they took absolutely unafraid.
An important reminder :
This year’s Maasi Magam is celebrated on Saturday,11th March, 2017.
Below are pictures taken inside the temple on this visit:
At six in the evening on full moon day in the Tamil Month of Karthigai, little oil lamps start to glow at every doorstep and all around the homes and in all temples throughout Tamil Nadu. It is the most divine and beautiful of sights. From the most humble dwellings to the palatial homes, lamps are lit as one even as the Maha Deepam is lit on the hill of Arunachala in Thiruvannamalai sharply at six p.m on the day of ThiruKarthigai.
The festival of Karthigai Deepam is celebrated when the full moon coincides with the rising of the six star constellation of Krithigai. The Tamil month of Karthigai is named after this constellation.
It is traditional to buy new earthen lamps every year. The photos below are of an old lady selling lamps in front of her home from whom I bought some lamps this morning. The lamp sellers from next door are her relatives and smiles light up all their faces as a joke is shared!
It is six in the evening and I have just lit lamps outside my home as have my neighbours. Sadly, my point and shoot sony camera is not good for night time pictures.
Dear readers, are there any other traditions observed during this festival? If so please share your views by posting a comment.
Thevaaram hymns are the first seven volumes of Saiva Tirumurai, Tamil devotional poetry on Lord Siva. They were composed by the first three among the Nayanmars, the Tamil Saivite saints,
about 1200 years ago, from the 7th century to the 9th century AD. Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar, as they are generally called, form the Tevara Moovar or Tevaram trio.
Independently they undertook long pilgrimages, visiting Siva temples, often accompanied by a group of devotees. At each of the temples they visited they composed and sang hymns glorifying Siva. These hymns were handed down by word of mouth and contain a wealth of information on the places (sthalam) where the temples were located and the glory of Siva in these sthalams and the benefits to be gained from recitals of the hymns. (Sthalam is the Tamil word for a holy place, or a place of pilgrimage.) Appar went a step further and set about cleaning of the temples he visited along with fellow devotees. Such service is called as Uzhavara pani.
Each hymn is called a Pathigam in Tamil and comprises a set of 10 verses or more.
Each hymn is set to a specific Pann, the Tamil equivalent of Ragas, and is unique to Tamil musical tradition. Singing of these hymns at worship services in Sivan temples by the Oduvars is an age old tradition which began when in the 10th to 11th century AD the hymns were compiled, codified and set to music by Nambiandar Nambi at the behest of King Raja Raja Cholan, though it is traditionally acknowledged that Lord Siva himself set the tune. They are exceptionally sweet and melodious to listen to and in Tamil Nadu we are familiar with the traditional rendition of these songs in temples everyday by the Oduvars. They are considered equal to the Sanskrit mantras and as powerful.
Paadal Petra Sthalam
Paadal petra sthalams (பாடல் பெற்ற ஸ்தலம்) are 275 Sivan temples which bear one or more pathigams composed on them.
249 other temples are referred to in the Tevaram. These temples do not bear a pathigam and are called as Tevara Vaippu Sthalam(தேவார வைப்பு ஸ்தலம்). Considering the historical fact that only a part of the Tevaram hymns were recovered in the 10th century by King Raja Raja Cholan, the rest having been destroyed by termites, it is possible that the Vaippu sthalams(வைப்பு ஸ்தலம்) might have had pathigams too which were among those that were destroyed.
We shall never know as these are some of the best kept secrets of history.
Tholur Choleeswarar Temple
The Choleeswara temple at Tholur near Namakkal is a Tevara Vaippu Sthalam.
The temple is mentioned in the pathigams of Tirunavukkarasar (Appar), in the 6th Tirumurai (ஆறாம் திருமுறை)
6.70 க்ஷேத்திரக்கோவை – திருத்தாண்டகம்
( ஆறாம் திருமுறை)
705 கொடுங் கோளூர் அஞ்சைக்களம் செங்குன்றூர்
கொங்கணம் குன்றியூர் குரக்குக் காவும்
நெடுங்களம் நன்னிலம் நெல்லிக் காவும்
நின்றியூர் நீடூர் நியம நல்லூர்
இடும்பாவனம் எழுமூர் ஏழூர் தோழூர்
எறும்பியூர் ஏராரும் ஏமகூடம்
கடம்பை இளங்கோயில் தன்னினுள்ளும்
கயிலாய நாதனையே காணலாமே. 6.70.5
6.71 திருஅடைவு – திருத்தாண்டகம்
715 பிறையூரும் சடைமுடி எம்பெருமான் ஆருர்
பெரும்பற்றப் புலியூரும் பேராவூரும்
நறையூரும் நல்லூரும் நல்லாற்றூரும்
நாலூரும் சேற்றூரும் நாரையூரும்
உறையூரும் ஓத்தூரும் ஊற்றத்தூரும்
அளப்பூர் ஒமாம்புலியூர் ஒற்றியூரும்
துறையூரும் துவையூரும் தோழூர் தானும்
துடையூரும் தொழ இடர்கள் தொடரா அன்றே 6.71.4
Visit to the temple
For a long time I have wanted to visit this temple so close to Namakkal. The only detail available on the internet was that it was a Vaippu sthalam near Namakkal. Google maps wasn’t very helpful. So we set out early one morning in July to search for this temple by the best way possible- asking people about it! At Namakkal we stopped for breakfast at hotel Adyar Ananda bhavan. I asked for the route to Tholur Sivan temple. The hotel staff were not sure but promised to ask around. By the time we finished breakfast the lady supervisor gave me the details-
“Take the Namakkal-Mohanur road. At a place called Aniyapuram turn right to travel for 4 kms to reach Tholur. The temple is right on the main road.”
Delighted, I thanked her and we set out once more on the Namakkal- Mohanur road. Aniyapuram turned out to be a fairly large village 9 kms from Namakkal. A right turn here and driving along a scenic village road for 4 kms, soon we came to Tholur.
On the right was a board that said Arulmigu Sri Visalakshi udanurai Sri Choleewarar Aalayam, Tholur. But there was no temple, only a large grassy vacant plot, enclosed by an ancient stone wall. In the distance was a small stone Nandi in front of a one room asbestos roofed structure which was locked. Beyond lay a vast heap of weathered ancient pink and yellow stone slabs, numbered in red.
I was unprepared for this- no temple where there should have been one. The family who lived in the farmhouse next door very kindly fetched the gurukkal (priest) who opened the temporary shrine so that we might worship.
Inside were the Sivalingam and the temple deities in Palalayam on a cement platform. That first glance of Choleeswarar cannot be described in words, it was overwhelming. The Sivalingam is medium sized but the powerful prescence of the Lord is very palpable.
Next to Choleeswarar is the idol of Ambigai Visalakshi. The beautiful goddess stands smiling. Her image and the tiruvaasi are carved of a single granite stone, a unique feature in this temple.
Next to her is the image of Chandikeswarar. The idol of Ganapathi is on left of Choleeswarar.
All the idols are in palalayam until consecration after the temple is restored. An oil-lamp burns steadily in this little shrine. Nandi and the bali peetam are kept outside.
Palanisami Gurukkal does archanai and gives prasad of vibhuthi and kumkum. Afterwards we sit down before Choleeswarar as he explains about the temple which is more than 1200 years old and about the fact that Tirunavukkarasar has spoken of the Iraivan of this stalam in the hymns composed by him, probably when he visited one of the 7 Kongu Naatu Paadal Petra stalams. He tells us about the stone inscription on a pillar within the temple that speaks of a grant of cotton and oil to the temple. It is a fact, he says, that difficulties of any magnitude are wiped away by the grace of Choleeswara when we pray to him. Prayers to Ambal and performing kalyana utsava facilitate marriages for unmarried girls. It is also a temple for relief from the planetary afflictions of Ragu and Kethu.
Thiru Palanisami Gurukkal is the parambarai archakar of this temple. His father and his grandfather before him have been the archakars here. He recalls the days when he single-handedly cleaned the temple and conducted nityapuja every day. Today his son who has studied in a veda padasala is also involved in the care of the temple.
The 1200 years old temple was dilapidated and roughly a year ago, the archaeological department inspected it and gave a report.Following this the temple was dismantled about six months ago. It is now awaiting reconstruction and renovation using the original ancient stone slabs of the old temple.
Excerpts from the report given on the Choleeswarar temple by the Archaeological Survey of India:
The Siva temple known as Arulmigu Choleeswarar temple…….is situated in a small village called Tholur, 4 kms off Aniyapuram in the Namakkal – Mohanur road.
The east facing temple consists of a garbagriha, an ardha mandapa, antarala and a mukha mandapa and a separate south facing amman shrine. Sub-shrines for Ganesha and Chandikesa are seen.
Lord Siva of this temple has been sung by Appar in one of his hymns.
While analyzing the architectural features of the temple, the specific designs in architectural members and the style, evidently proves that it should have been constructed by a local chieftain of that region.
The only available stone inscription of 16th century Tamil characters is on one of the pillar in the ardha mandapa. This records the grant of oil and cotton to the temple to light lamps.
Present condition of the temple
It is a living temple. The temple has a dry masonry compound with an entrance on the southern side.
Near the entrance in the prakara Naga stones are installed in a raised mud platform.
At the eastern side is a small four pillared Nandi mandapa and behind that is the stone deepastampa.
The stucco figures in the upper structure on the vimana are damaged.
Identifying the figures is difficult by now.
The outer wall veneering stones of the main shrine are disturbed and dislocated all around due to the strong solid roots of trees grown on the terrace.
The temple must be given proper conservation care immediately. It needs attention from the foundation up to the super structure.
The foundation should be checked as the walls are out of plumb and cracked in many places. Reconstruction is inevitable.
Very few stones are seen damaged and broken. The temple can be reset with most of the old stones which are in good condition. The reusing of old stones will help in preserving the ancient value of the temple.
It is recommended to avoid much of cement and to make use of combination of mortar, lime mortar and lime paste etc. while reconstructing the temple as it is our traditional method.
Our temples (in any form) are not only just places of worship but also have a strong binding with our tradition, heritage and culture and these places have remained as places of learning for many centuries. It is our responsibility to carry forward these to the next generation as our elders and ancestors did. This temple which was constructed by our ancestors has stood all these years as a symbol of our heritage, tradition and culture. Every individual should realize and co-operate in safe guarding this priceless contribution of our ancestors.
There is one kala puja everyday between 6am and 10 am. And the temple lamp is lit every evening. Special pujas are performed on Pradosham and other auspicious days. On request abhishegam is performed for swamy and ambigai.
With Ishwara’s grace, hopefully the work on the temple should start soon.
Tholur is 4km from Aniyapuram on the Namakkal- Mohanur road.