Bhavani, a quiet town situated between the Kaveri and Bhavani rivers, is known for the beautiful hand-woven cotton carpets or floor linens called as Jamakkalam. However its main claim to fame is the ancient temple of Sri Sangameswarar and Vedhanayagi Ambal and the confluence at Kooduthurai – pilgrim destinations for more than two thousand years.
The towering Rajagopuram of Sangameswarar temple is a familiar landmark for commuters on the Salem-Coimbatore National highway NH 544, while crossing the Kavery river bridge at Bhavani near Erode in Tamilnadu. The entire temple complex built at the Kooduthurai confluence looks like an island between the Bhavani and Kaveri rivers.
MYTHS AND LEGENDS
THE STORY OF KUBERA
Kubera was the king of the Yakshas and ruler of Alakapuri, a place believed to lie close to Mt. Kailas in the Himalayas. He was the son of Sage Vaishrava and his half-brother was Ravana, king of Lanka and the Asuras. In Hindu as well as in Jain and Buddhist mythology, Yakshas were the deities of water bodies and treasurers of wealth. Kubera was also the deity of the northern direction.
An ardent devotee of Lord Siva, Kubera had a divine aircraft in which he visited temples of Siva. Once when he was flying over a particular place on the banks of the Kaveri, he saw yogis, rishis and gandharvas (divine beings) engaged in intense meditation (tapas) and spiritual practices. He also saw an Ilandhai tree on the river bank and nearby a tiger, deer, cow, elephant, lion, mouse and a snake were drinking water peacefully from the river with no enmity whatsoever. Kubera sensed the spiritual ambience of the place and wished to experience it himself. He heard a voice from the sky say that this was the place where the Vedas had originated and that he was to worship the Sivalingam beneath the Ilandhai tree. Kubera did so and was blessed with a darshan of Lord Siva.
We can still see the Ilandhai tree ( Ziziphus mauritiana). It is also known as Badari tree.This is the Sthala Vriksham of the Sangameswara temple and still bears fruit. Extremely old and gnarled it is a sight to behold! A few steps lead to the raised platform around the massive tree. Here is the ancient Lingam worshipped by Kubera and called Kubera lingam. Nearby is a colorful stucco depiction of the sthala purana.
THE STORY OF SAGE PARAASARA AND THE POT OF AMRIT
The churning of the ocean by the Devas and the Asuras ended with the pot containing ambrosia rising out of the ocean. Mahavishnu made sure that only Devas drank of the nectar of immortality by distracting the Asuras in the guise of the ravishing Mohini. He wanted the remaining nectar to be given to the great rishis and sages. Therefore he gave the pot containing the remaining amirtham to Garuda, the celestial kite, and asked him to take it to the great Sage Paraasara for safe-keeping. At that time the ashrama(hermitage) of Rishi Paraasara was on the banks of the Kaveri near its confluence with Bhavani. Receiving the pot of amrit, Sage Paraasara buried it at the confluence for safe-keeping. For a long time it remained hidden under the waters.
The army of Asuras not to be outdone, went in search of the pot containing the remaining nectar. After searching in many places they finally arrived at Bhavani Koodal. There were four chieftains of the Asura army who were the sons of Lavanasura. Their names were Dhandakasura, Veerasura,Vanjagasura and Vagrasura. They took up strategic positions on four sides of Koodal.
The hill named Vedhagiri lies to the north of Bhavani. Vakrasura camped here with his army. Dhandakasura and his army were positioned at Mangalagiri, the hill that lies to the south of the confluence. Vanjakasura and Veerasura took up position on the east and west respectively.
Sage Paraasara prayed for help to goddess Vedhanayagi from whose divine form came forth four powerful Sakthi goddesses who were divine manifestations of goddess Durga.
Ekaveerai destroyed Dhandakasura. She became the guardian deity of the eastern side of the city, at the behest of Goddess Vedhanayagi. Jayanthi killed Veerasura and became the guardian deity on the south. Next Vanjakasura was defeated by Mardhini who was made the guardian deity on the west. Lastly Sandakadhini vanquished Vakrasura and became the guardian deity on the north of the city.
Sage Paraasara then dug out the buried pot of Amirtham. A river sprang up and its waters merged with the waters of the Bhavani and Kaveri. It was called Amudha or Amirdha nadhi and the place came to be known as Triveni Sangamam, the confluence of three rivers.
The Amirtha Kalasa after being buried for so long resembled a Sivalingam. Paraasara consecrated the lingam near the confluence. This came to be known as the Amirthalingam. We shall read more about this lingam later.
REFERENCES TO BHAVANI IN ANCIENT TAMIL LITERATURE
There are references to Bhavani in Pathitruppathu, a classical anthology of poems belonging to Sangam literature which extolls the greatness of ancient Chera dynasty during the first two centuries of the Common Era.
In Sangam Era, the river Bhavani was called as Vaani. Because the Vaani joined the Kaveri here, the place was called as Vaani Koodal. Today we know it as Bhavani Koodal.
In ancient times the temple town also had the name Nanna. Nanna (நண்ணா) is an ancient Tamil word that can roughly be translated as unapproachable. It was believed that no evil could befall or come near anyone in this holy place and therefore it was called Nanna and Nannavoor and the Lord of Nannavur was Thiru Nanna Udayar.
With the passage of time Thiru Nanna came to be known as Thiru Nanaa (திருநணா).
Around the 7th century A.D. Saint Thiru Gnana Sambandhar visited the temple of Sangameswarar and rendered a Thevaram hymn on Lord Siva of Thirunanaa. In it, he says that for those who ask, the Lord of Thirunanaa destroys their bad karma thus paving the way to salvation – kaettar vinai kedukkum thiru nanaave (கேட்டார் வினை கெடுக்கும் திரு நணாவே!)
Thirunanaa is the name which is still used when referring to this Thevara Paadal Petra sthalam.
The Periyapuranam is an epic poem written in the 12th century by Sekkizhar (சேக்கிழார்) during the rule of Kulottunga Chola(1133-1150). It is a recorded history on the life histories of the 63 Nayanmar saints. In it, Sekkizhar says that Thirugnana Sambandhar came to Thiruchengode to worship Lord Ardhanareeswara. From there, he came to Thirunanaa and worshipped Thiru Nanaa Udayar (Sangameswarar) and returned to Thiruchengode.
Brahma Kaivartha Purana, one of the later puranas also talks Bhavani. Bhavani Koodal Puranam was written 200 years ago based on this Sanskrit text.
In the 14th century Saint Arunagirinathar composed a Thirupugazh hymn in praise Lord Murugan in Bhavani.
The temple is built on a sprawling 4 acres of land.
The architecture of such a huge temple complex is an amalgamation of architectural styles.
The temple has been renovated over a large period in time by Chola, Pandya and other kings who ruled over the Kongu region in Tamilnadu. It appears that many parts of the original structures were dismantled and rebuilt. This explains why we see so many temple pillars stacked at places round the temple complex.
Some parts of the built up area in the Sangameswarar temple are fairly recent. However, it is said that the garbagriha (sanctum sanctorum) of Sangameswarar is the oldest and untouched part of the temple.
The exemplary architecture and sculptures in Vedhanayagi Amman and AdiKesava Perumal temples belong to the 17th century. Marvels in granite, they were created under the patronage of Gatti Mudali Kings.
Gatti Mudalis were kings who ruled parts of Tamil nadu from the 13th century to the 17th century, mainly the region called Kongu Nadu which included Salem, Tiruchengode, Sankagiri and Tharamangalam. They ruled from Amarakundhi near Tharamangalam and the Tharamangalam Kailasanathar temple still stands as a shining example of their unsurpassed skill in building temples with intricate and delicate stone sculptures.
A more recent construction is the magnificent Rajagopuram with elaborate stucco sculptures and relief.
The five-tier Rajagopuram faces north because Kubera, the deity of the northern direction worshipped Lord Siva here.
The major shrines in the temple complex are the shrines of
Aadhi Kesava Perumal and Soundharavalli Thaayar.
Besides these there are a number of smaller separate shrines for
The shrines on the river banks include those of Amirthalingeswarar, Gayatri lingeswarar, and Sahasralingeswarar.
All the shrines face the Kaveri River and due east.
The sanctum sanctorum of Lord Sangameswarar is believed to be the oldest part of the temple. Standing before the Suyambulingam (a self- manifest lingam), the grace of Siva is all-pervading and a sense of timelessness envelopes one. It is believed that the grace of Lord Sangameswara liberates one from the birth – death cycle.
In the circumambulatory path around the garbagriha, the idol of Dakshinamurthy is one of great beauty with its amazing stone work.
The temple of goddess Vedhanayagi is adjacent to the temple of Sangameswarar. The idol of the goddess is beautiful with a smile on the lovely face. Around the sanctum is an enclosure for circumambulation with beautiful paintings of goddesses in famous temples of Tamilnadu. There is an exquisite idol of Siddhi Ganapathy in a wall niche and a small shrine for Chandikeswarai.
The small chamber leading off the Mahamandapa houses the ivory cradle that was given by the British Collector William Garrow in 1804. This chamber is the Sayana Arai and the significance of the gift is written on granite plaques in Tamil and English on both sides of the door.
There is a story associated with the gift made by Collector Garrow.
The East India Company annexed Coimbatore to the Madras presidency in 1799, after the defeat of Tipu Sultan in the Anglo-Mysore wars. William Garrow was the Collector of Coimbatore from July 6 1802 to January 20, 1815. A bungalow adjoining the Sangameswara temple was the residence cum office of the Collector. This is the present-day Traveller’s bungalow of the Highways Department.
The Collector was very popular with the people. One rainy night he was woken up by a little girl who urgently beckoned him to come out of the building. As the Collector went out after the little girl, the roof collapsed. The little girl had disappeared.
The next morning the temple priest told him that it was goddess Vedhanayagi who had saved his life. The temple authorities drilled three rectangular holes in the temple ramparts facing the Vedhanayagi shrine to enable him to have darshan of the goddess. In the light of the oil-lamps, the Collector saw the beautiful form of the goddess and confirmed that it was the little girl who had come to him in the middle of the night and saved his life.
As a mark of his respect he presented a cradle made of ivory to the temple on January 11, 1804, with his official signature engraved on it. This is kept intact in the sayana alayam and the three holes through which the Collector worshipped are seen still in the compound wall of the temple. This is the greatness of the goddess Vedhanayagi Ambal.
The Mandapa at the front of the shrine is a treasure house of exquisite sculptures – ornate pillars with mounted warriors on horses, intricately carved panels on the ceiling, latticework in stone, images of kings and queens. A stone inscription on the ceiling says that Chinnammai, the queen of King Immudi Gatti Mudhali, had the mandapa built in the year 1645.
Between the Sangameswarar and Vedhanayagi shrines is the shrine of Subramanyar.
This arrangement of shrines of Siva, Karthikeya and Parvati is known as Somaskanda.
Saint Arunagirinathar composed a Thirupugazh hymn on this Murugan. The words of the hymn are seen on a stone plaque in the front mandapa of the Murugan shrine.
கலை மேவும் ஞானப் பிரகாசக்
கடலாடி ஆசைக் கடலேறி
பல மாய வாயிற் பிறழாதே
பதிஞான வாழ்வைத் தருவாயே!
மலைமேவு மாயக் குறமாதின்
மனமேவு வாலக் குமரேசா
திருவாணி கூடற் பெருமாளே.
Kalai mevum gnaana prakaasa
kadalaadi aasai kadalaeri
Pala maaya vaayitr pirazhaadhe
pathi gnaana vaazhvai tharuvaaye!
Malai mevu maaya kuramaadhin
mana mevu vaala Kumaresa
Silai veda sevatr kodiyone
Thiruvaani koodal Perumaale.
ADI KESAVA PERUMAL and SOUNDARAVALLI THAYAR
The Adhi Kesava Perumal temple was originally in Kalingarayan pudur and in a dilapidated condition. Puliyur Gounder built a temple close to the Vedhanayagi shrine and installed the deities in it. He also built the shrine of Lakshmi Narasimhar. The Ranga mandapam has 24 pillars noted for sculptural work in the Tharamangalam style. On the northern side of the Ranga mandapam is a separate shrine for Venugopalaswamy with consorts Rukmini and Sathyabama. This shrine was built by the Wodeyar Kings of Mysore.
Among the smaller shrines the shrine of Jurahareswar is a unique shrine and one of the very few shrines dedicated to this unusual form of Lord Siva.
JvarabhagnaMurthy or Jvarahareswara is one of the 64 forms (manifestations) of Siva. In this form the Lord is depicted as having three faces, one body, three hands and three legs and in a dancing – (thandava) posture.
A beautiful explanation of this manifestation of Siva is written on a board near the shrine. Translated from Tamil it reads like this:
The SivaMahapurana says that Sri Jvarahareswarar is one of the 64 manifestations of Lord Siva. This form is associated with medicine and it was taken by the Lord for the benefit of mankind.It depicts the lord with three faces, three hands, three legs and holds Agni(fire) in his hand.
Siddha system of Medicine says that three types of nadi(pulse) are present in the human body. They are vaadha nadi, pitha nadi and Sileshma nadi. Illness occurs whenever there is an imbalance of vadham, pitham and kapam( wind, bile and phlegm) in the body. The iconography of Jvarahareswara represents the three nadis which are pivotal in siddha diagnosis of ailments. Fevers, skin diseases, and even psychological illnesses are cured by prayers to Jvarahareswarar and by offering Milagu Sadham, Milagu Rasam and Araikeerai Kootu (Pepper rice, Pepper rasam and Araikeerai kootu, a dish made with amaranth greens and lentils).Of course, the main ingredient is Faith!
Know more about the effects of vata, pitta and kapam in the body here.
Sanskrit prayer for Jurahareswara
Raktha netraaya dhimahi
Thanno Jurahara Prachodhayaadh!
This shrine is near the confluence. Installed by Sage Paraasara, the legend of Amirthalingam is linked with the history of Bhavani Kooduthurai.
The speciality of this lingam is that it can be lifted from the Aavudai, the seat on which the lingam is placed. It is a custom at this shrine for childless couples to carry the lingam around the sanctum with prayers and due austerities as guided by the priest.
Rishi Viswamithra installed a Sivalingam on the banks of the Kaveri and worshipped it by chanting the Gayathri Mantra 72,000 times. This lingam is called the Gayathri Lingam.
This shrine is under renovation.The mandapa adjoining it is known as Gayatri mandapam. The Kaveri river bank near this mandapam has rocky outcrops, possibly the remnants of the hill known as Padumagiri, which used to be another name for Bhavani. One such outcrop has rock carvings on it.
Sahasram means thousand. This lingam has a 1000 small lingams carved on it. It is believed that Ravana king of Lanka worshipped this Lingam. Those who suffer from Ragu –Ketu Dosha in the birth chart find relief by praying in this shrine.
- This sthala also has the name Padhuma Giri and it is located between four hills:
Naga giri – Thiruchengode
Vedha giri – Ooratchi kottai malai
Mangala giri, and
- Bhavani – The goddess, the river and the town all have the same name.
- This is a Thevara paadal petra sthalam. Of the 274 Thevara Paadal petra sthalams temples, Bhavani Sangameswarar temple is the 207th and the 3rd among the 7 Kongu naatu Thevara sthalams.
- The Kshetra has both Siva and Vishnu temples in the same grounds.
- An unusual feature is that Nandhi is seen outside, facing the towering Rajagopuram. The reason for this is that here the Rajagopuram itself is worshipped as a symbolic Sivalingam.
- It is believed that there are innumerable Sivalingams under the ground and therefore the whole of Bhavani kshetram is very holy. Local people believe that there are 1008 Sivalingams underfoot, a Sivalingam for every square foot of holy ground.
- This is a parikara kshetram for many problems in people’s life right from birth until death which manifest as doshas or affilictions in the birth chart. Infertility and childlessness, Ragu dosha, Maandhi dosha,Naaga dosha are some of the doshas for which remedial poojas are performed here.
- It is said that when dead bodies are cremated here the skulls do not explode.
- Bhavani is also called as Bhaskara kshetram because Surya, the Sun god worshipped here. An annual event that unfailingly takes place is when the sun’s rays fall on the deities of Sangameshwara, Vedhanayagi and Subramanya on the third day following Ratha sapthami in the Tamil month of Maasi. This is venerated as Surya puja, the puja offered by the sun god every year.
- There is an enormous Peepal tree near the Amirthalingeswarar shrine and under it is installed a big Siva Lingam called as Koteeswarar.
Early in the morning you can see an old lady perform Abhishekam and puja to this lingam. Her name is Rajeswari Amma and she has been doing this seva for the past thirty years.
Bhavani is 16 kms from Erode, the nearest railhead.
Distance from Salem is 63.5 kms.
By road it is situated on NH 544 which is the Salem – Coimbatore National Highway. (Old No -NH 47)
5.30 am to 1 pm in the morning
4pm to 9 pm in the evening.
Sri Sangameswarar Temple,
Bhavani – 638 301
Temple Ph.No: (04256) 230192
Plan your visit
Visitors to Sangameswarar temple require a minimum of 2 hours for visiting all the shrines. Most visitors to Kooduthurai also come to the temple to have darshan of Sangameswarar. There can be queues at such times and also during festival days. A number of festivals are celebrated around the year. The temple is clean and well maintained.
Kooduthurai and Sangameswarar temple are best seen at a leisurely pace in order to fully appreciate the beauty of the temple architecture and its marvelous sculptures. You need more time if a dip at the confluence is on your agenda. This is definitely a very peaceful place where you can sit and meditate near the river bank, feel the wind blowing from the river, or just watch the world go by. With its beautiful location between the rivers you can have a picnic under the trees in the park outside which is maintained by the temple. Take care not to litter the ghats and the rivers.
Erode has excellent hotels to suit all budgets where you can stay.
Also read related post Kooduthurai- The confluence of Kaveri, Bhavani and Amudha rivers.