Close to the village of Belukurichi, famous for its ancient temple and weekly market, is Kalkurichi, a picturesque village near the Kolli hills.
The Karpoora natheswarar temple is the small ancient Siva temple located in this peaceful village. There are neat farmlands all around. The village road passes by the temple and it faces the beautiful Kolli Malai hills.
The importance of the temple lies mainly in the fact that this was one of the temples patronized by legendary King Valvil Ori of the Kolli hills, who ruled from Kolli malai around the 2nd century A.D. The temple we see today was built much later.
The history of the temple is based on oral tradition. In the absence of Sthala purana or other historical records, oral tradition and local beliefs are valuable and reliable sources of information because they have been handed down from generation to generation in the families which have always lived there.
A small temple with one pradakshina path enclosed by an outer wall, there is nothing pretentious about it.The open mandapa in front is a concrete structure and has a Nandi facing the sanctum and goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswathi on either side of the entrance where normally Dwarabalakas are seen. This placement of the goddesses is rather unique to this temple.The archagar Sendhilkumar remembers that many years ago,the temple used to have a Nandi mandapa and a mandapa over the idols of goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati. These were so dilapidated that the pillared structures were replaced with a large concrete roof. He had come from Koovaimali Palaniappar temple to open the temple for us.
Inside the sanctum sanctorum in the light of the oil lamp Lord Karpooranatheswara has a powerful presence that can be felt when one stands before the Sivalingam. The shrine of goddess Karunai Kadaatchi is a small shrine to the right of the Karpooranatheswarar shrine. The entrance to this shrine is through the enclosed mahamandapam which is common to both shrines. When Deeparadhanai is performed, in the light of the ghee lamp, one can see the beautiful eyes of the goddess, eyes that are filled with compassion, true to her name. The word karunai means compassion and Karunai Kadatchi means one whose glance is full of compassion.
The pradhakshina paadhai or circumambulatory path has smaller shrines that are typical of a Siva temple.
The vimana or roofs of these shrines have beautiful architecture. The Ganapathi shrine has its own small open mandapam.
Behind the Ganapathi shrine is a small shrine for Mahavishnu. Almost an alcove in the corner on the far left, it has idols of Vishnu holding a conch and chakra and Sridevi and Bhudevi on either side. There is even a tiny Garudalwar inside. The villagers have installed a Hanuman idol facing the alcove and like to worship the deity as Ramachandra murthy, a name for Lord Rama!
The goshtam are shrines in alcoves in the outer wall of the main shrine and have some unusual deities. There is Narthana Ganapathy (a form of Ganesha in dancing posture), Lingothbavar ,Dakshinamurthi and goddess Durga and a small shrine for Chandikeswarar. There is a separate shrine for lord Sani near the Kala bhairavar shrine.
The Murugan shrine is more elaborate with a bigger open pillared mandapa and a peacock idol, the peacock being the vahana of Karthikeya.
The Navagraha shrine is an ancient one while the Arubathumoovar shrine is new.
There is a Kal Vettu in the temple. It is a vertical granite slab 3 ft high with inscriptions in Grantha script, according to the archagar. Epigraphists have visited the temple but could not decipher the writing mostly because it is covered in lime and mortar. This is one for the experts. When the lime has been removed what interesting information is recorded remains to be seen.
The temple has been renovated by the local villagers and is well maintained. Pradosham and Ashtami pujas are held regularly.
The archagar Sendhil Kumar in charge of this temple is also in charge of the famous Koovaimalai Palaniappar temple near BeluKurichi a few kilometres from here. He opens the KalKurichi temple once every day for puja.
Both the temples can be visited together and the archagar is happy to open the Kalkurichi temple for visitors if they desire to see it. Besides, the archagar’s house is on Koovaimalai and you can call on him and ask him to take you to Kalkurichi temple which is what we did.
Namakkal is a well known pilgrimage town. People come here from all over to visit the famous Hanuman temple.It is also called as Anjaneyar Koil.
The temple is more than 1500 years old and it is unique in many ways.
The idol of Hanuman is 18 feet tall and carved out of a single rock.
There is no roof over the idol.Come rain or shine, Hanuman stands worshiping Lord Narasimha some 250 feet away in the cave temple, across the ages, the very picture of piety.
Hanuman in this Viswaroopa stands tall and majestic, a japa-maala in his folded hands.
Here, Time stands still.
For example, it was not until 1996 that the mandapam and surrounding buildings were built.
Untill then, there was just this large and lovely idol of the greatest Bhakta of God and four stone pillars to make a mantapam without a roof, for the statue of Hanuman rises above the pillars. He stands on a large beautifully carved lotus flower peedam.
A story is told of how Lord Narasimha told Hanuman that he may come to Namakkal and remain here after his duties to Sri Rama were done. Accordingly, it is said, at the very end of the Ramayana story, when Lord Rama and his entourage including Sugreeva ascended to Sri Vaikuntam , Hanuman with Sri Rama’s permission chose to stay back. He came to Namakkal Kshetra and was immersed in worship of Lord Narasimha.
Hanuman was a great scholar, well versed in the Vedas, a skilled musician and shrewd diplomat. In Kishkinda he was King Sugreeva’s minister. After Sri Rama’s return to Ayodhya, Hanuman chose to stay on in Ayodhya in the service of Rama.
Hanuman has many names, Maruthi, Anjaneya, Vayuputra and so on.
Sage Valmiki named the fifth book of the Ramayana, the Sundara Kandam, after Hanuman.Hanuman is the only character in the epic to have a book named after him. Why? Because he is Sundaran, which means one who is beautiful. It was the name given to Him by his mother Anjanai. It is this name that Sage Valmiki chose over others and it is a name that suits him best!
The Sundara kandam begins with Hanuman’s flight to Sri Lanka where he searches for and meets Sita. It ends with his return to India bringing the message of Sita to Rama .The Sundara Kandam is important because Hanuman brought hope and promise to an unhappy Sita who was on the brink of committing suicide. And the news that Sita was alive was enough to motivate Rama and the vaanaras to build a bridge that spanned the ocean to reach Lanka and rescue Sita.
Even today Sundara Kandam readings are an important practice in Hinduism. The readings whether by individuals or by groups are called as paarayanaand give benefits to the readers.
In India, we love to decorate our gods and Namakkal Hanuman is no exception!!
The Alangarams of Hanuman are many and varied, according to the desires of the Bhaktas and the art and ingenuity of the priests. There is the special Thanga- kavasam, (Thangam is the Tamil word for gold) when the whole idol is covered in gold sheets moulded to the form of the statue, and the silver or velli kavasam. Photos of this alangaram are available on the internet.
Besides these, there are the various kaapu –
=Santana kaapu using sandal paste, Vennai kaapu using butter and so on.
I have even seen Hanuman wearing a sherwani – North Indian style, complete with turban and pointed ornamental shoes!! Mind you, all this was made of butter, craft paper and lengths of zari, and silk cloth!
The crowds wait patiently, sometimes for more than 2 hours, just to see these alangarams, which are mostly sponsored by individual devotees.
Much as Hanuman looks beautiful in the alangarams, it is during the Abhishekam that the true beauty of His form can be seen and admired.
You can see the big eyes, the ornaments called kundalam worn in the ears, the startling life like nostrils, the folded hands with a japa-mala, the ornaments worn on the fore-arms, the holy thread across the chest, the dress worn at the waist and the thandai worn on ankles. You can even see a small dagger at the waist.
If possible try to plan your visit around 11 a.m. in the morning which is the approximate time of the daily abhishekam.
The priests anoint the idol with oil followed by the ritual pouring of milk, sandal, turmeric, curd, honey. Sometimes when a small basket of pomegranate pearls are showered on Him it looks as though rubies are showered on Him! Simply beautiful!
A visit to Namakkal Kshetram is not complete without visiting a temple located behind the Narasimhaswamy temple.While the Narasihaswamy temple and Namakkal Anjaneyar temple are the most popular The Ranganathar temple is a cave temple on the eastern face of the Naamgiri rock.The temple is about midway up the rock and you have to climb 100 steps to reach it.
Two pillared mantapams lead to the main cave shrine.
To reach it you have to climb another 10 steps. These steps and the scaffolding at the top completely obscure the original stone steps leading to the sanctum.
There are three doors to the sanctum in the manner of the Padmanabha Swamy temple in Tiruvananthapuram. Only the central door is opened daily for devotees to enter the artha mandapam. However, on VaikuntaEkadasi, the central door is closed. On this day, bhaktas enter the sanctum through the first door and leave after having darshan through the third door.
Lord Vishnu here is inKaarkotaka sayanam. Usually in Vishnu temples where lord Vishnu is depicted in Sayana kolam ( reclining form) we find that he is reclining on the serpent god Aadhisesha. This is the only temple where He can be seen reclining on the serpent Kaarkotakaaccepting the request of the serpent king.
During the Deeparadhanai, the Battar will point out to you the five faces of the serpent king Karkotaka. Each face is that of a roaring lion or Yali, and not the usual face of a snake. He will tell you that the very breath of the snake king was highly poisonous. The Lord granted the prayer of this highly venomous serpent king which was that He should recline on him in this Kshetra.He will also point out two large Asuras standing near the foot of the Lord, one of them holding a bundle in his hand and tell you a charming tale of the Asuras whose names are Madhuand Kaidapa .
THE STORY OF MADHU -KAIDAPA
They came here to steal the jewels of the Lord. Thinking that the Lord was asleep, they steal all the jewels. Just as they are about to leave with the bundle of jewels they accidentally touch the foot of the Lord and are immediately absolved of all sins. As realization of the true nature of the Divine hits them they pray for and are granted the privilege of being in the service of the Lord. The lesson to be learned is that the smallest contact with the Divine is enough to awaken souls to the greater Truth which is the Lord and in the process , the sins of generations are washed away.
There is a lovely carving of Ulagalandha Permalin a stone panel to the left of the artha mandapam and a unique carving of Sankara Narayanato the right. Another carving shows Bala Narasimhar.
When you climb down from the shrine you can see a carving of the divine architect, Visvakarma who is thought to have built these cave temples.
The Bhattar shows us the stone roof of the cave outside the sanctum which is carved to resemble a roof made of bamboo poles. Truly awe- inspiring!
The name of Thaayar is Ranganayaki. There is a separate shrine for her outside the main temple.She is as beautiful as Naamagiri Thaayaar.
At this altitude it is surprising to see a small pond next to the temple. The priest says it is only the rain water that has collected there. It is full of fish and a few snakes.
The temple is on the other side of Namakkal hill and it can be easily seen when you go around the holy hill.
Namakkal is a beautiful town in Tamil Nadu and headquarters of Namakkal district. An important stop on NH 7 and on all routes leading to South Tamil Nadu, it is also a pilgrimage centre, well known for the famous Namakkal Anjaneyar temple.
This ancient town is built around a massive monolithic rock called as Naamagirifrom which the town gets its name. The rock is 65 metres high and more than a kilometre in circumference. Namakkal Fort on top of this rock was built by Ramachandra Nayak in the 16th century. It is believed that Tippu Sultan hid himself in the fort for a brief period of time to escape from the British. Later the British captured the fort.
In this massive rock, two cave temples were built in the 7th century.
The Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy cave temple at the foot of the Naamagiri rock on the west, and
The Ranganatha Swamy cave temple, built about midway up the rock on the east.
HISTORY OF THE CAVE TEMPLES
They were built by King Gunaseelan of the Adhiyamaan dynasty in the 7th century CE. Although the cave temples resemble the architectural style of the Pallava dynasty and the lesser known Pandya rock-cut temples, they belong to the period of the Adiyamaan dynasty which was one of the ancient ruling families of Tamil Nadu. They are known to us from Tamil Sangam literature dating to the early centuries of this era. One of the most famous kings of this dynasty was Adiyamaan Nedumaan Anji, patron of the famed Tamil poetess Avvaiyar.
The Adiyamaans ruled from Thagadur, which is present day Dharmapuri and their domain was northern Kongu, which included the present Salem district.
LAKSHMI NARASIMHA SWAMY TEMPLE
A charming story is told of how the rock called Naamagiricame into being.
Prahalada the son of King Hiranyakasibu had absolute faith in god. He believed that Parabrahma exists and exists everywhere. His father did not believe in God and challenged him to prove the existence of Parabrahma. Prahalada’s reply was that God exists in all creation, even in an atom. His father asks him if God is in the pillar nearby. Prahalada replies that God is not only in the pillar but also in the words uttered by Hiranyakasipu and also in the sound of those words. Enraged Hiranyakasipu strikes the pillar with his mace to break it, Lord Vishnu takes the form of Narasimha, the angry half man and half lion and comes out of the pillar and kills Hiranyakasipu. He took this avatara in ugra (angered) form to prove that absolute faith should not be failed. The rest of the avatars were taken after due deliberation but the Narasimha avatar took place in a kshana (micro-second) and even before Sri Devi came to know of it. Prahalada prays to the Ugra Narasimha to calm down and the Lord acquiesced.
Goddess Lakshmi did not get to see this avatar as it happened and prayed to the Lord asking to see it. Lord Vishnu told her to go to the place which is present day Namakkal and that in time she would get to witness the avatar there. So the Goddess began a long tapas (penance) on the bank of the Kamalalayam tank as she waited for the sacred darshan.
Time rolled on. The events of the Ramayana were taking place. The battle between Lord Rama and the demon king Ravana was being fought. Lakshmana faints on the battlefield and is revived with the herbs from the Sanjivi hill brought from the Himalayas by Hanuman. The hill is returned to its rightful place. Hanuman bathes in the River Kantaki in the Himalayas in which he finds a Salagramam. A Salagramam is a fossil stone found in the River Gantaki in the Himalayas and it represents Sri Hari in pujas.
On the way back to Lanka, Hanuman stopped at the Kamalalayam tank to bathe before his evening sandya-vandanam. Seeing Goddess Lakshmi meditating on its bank he gave her the Salagrama to keep until he finished his rituals as it was important that the stone was not placed on the ground. The stone grew heavy in Her hand and She placed it on the ground. Meanwhile Hanuman returned after his prayers. As they watched, the Salagrama grew in size until it became an enormous rock. It is believed that on the face of the Salagrama, Lakshmi and Hanuman witnessed the Narasimha Avatar and that Salagrama stands today as the Naamagiri in Namakkal town. To prove the tale the shrine of Naamagiri Thaayar faces Narasimha Swamy as does the idol of Namakkal Hanuman.
Another tale tells of how Narasimha’s fury could not be controlled and it was only after seeing Thaayar that He calmed down.
This is the myth of Naamagiri.
At first glance this temple does not look like a cave temple at all. It looks imposing against the backdrop of the Naamagiri rock. The worship protocol here is that you must worship first at the Naamagiri Thaayar shrine, go on to the Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy sannadhi and finally to the Anjaneya temple across the road.
Goddess Mahalakshmi is worshipped as Naamagiri Thaayaar. She is extremely beautiful. The large evocative eyes and the smile on her face can make you feel that she is listening intently to your requests. It is not uncommon to find people who have come here to leave many a pressing life problem to Naamagiri Thaayaar. She is divine mother, friend and guide to the people of Naamakkal and all those who worship Her.
The Mathematics genius Srinivasa Ramanujan whose family goddess was Naamagiri Thaayar found guidance from the goddess throughout his life. He has said that the goddess whispered mathematic formulae in his ear which he then verified and committed to writing. He was the first Indian Mathematics Fellow at Cambridge University. In an age when it was heresy for Brahmins to cross the oceans to go to foreign lands, Goddess Naamagiri appeared in a dream to Ramanujan’s very orthodox mother telling her to send her son to Cambridge. Ramanujan went to the Naamagiri temple prior to his departure seeking permission to go. It is said that he stayed for three days in the temple precincts and prayed to the goddess, sitting in the four pillared mandapam in front of the Naamagiri thaayar shrine. The goddess gave her permission in a dream.
His mentor at Cambridge G.W.Hardy, later wrote of Ramanujan’s theorems and formulae, “A single look at them written down by a mathematician of the highest class. They must be true, because, if they were not true, no one would have had the imagination to invent them.”
Even on his death bed he scribbled down revolutionary mathematical formulae – gifts he said from this Hindu Goddess. He spent his final year furiously writing out pages and pages of theorems as if a storm of number concepts swept through his brain. Many remain beyond today’s best math minds.
A flight of steps leads to the prakaram which is on three sides of the temple against the imposing backdrop of the Naamagiri rock.
You climb a few more steps to the cave temple above.It is spacious with a high ceiling carved out of the rock, almost like a cathedral.
The presiding deity Lord Narasimha is huge. He sits with his left leg placed on the right thigh. The right foot is placed on the floor of the cave. He holds a conch in his left upper hand. There is a Prayoga Chakra in the right upper hand. The lower left hand is placed on his knee while the right hand shows a mudra.
Behind him on the wall of the cave are carvings of deities. During the deeparaadhanai the priest will explain that this is a Kudavarai koil,and Lord Narasimha is in ugra kolam after Hiranya samhaaram. He is also called as Yoga Narasimhar as He sits in meditation to control His anger. Behind him, the sages sanaka and Sanatana are seen whispering the happenings of the world in the ears of Narasimha Swamy.On either side of the sages Surya and Chandra fan the Lord with a Chamaram to cool his anger.On the far left Brahma and on the far right Shiva look on in awe at this wonderful avatar of Vishnu as Nara-simha.He will show you the red hue of the rock on Narasimha Swamy’s right palm and the sharp finger nails.The red hue shows the bloodstains from slaying of Hiranyakasipu.. The priest will tell you that as Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu are depicted equally within the single shrine, it is known as a Trimurthy sthalam and that there is no separate temple for Shiva at Namakkal.
The artha mandapam walls have large panels of with exquisite stone sculpures. The pane to the left of Narasimha Swamy shows the Varaha avatar with Bhu devi and the panel to the right shows the hiranya Samharam. Another panel shows a rare sculpture of Vaikunta Narayana with Surya, Chandra, Siva, Brahma, Markandeya and Bhu devi.
The cave wall on the opposite side shows a beautiful sculpture of Vamana Murthy getting dhanam from King Mahabali and MahaVishnu as Trivirama measuring the earth and sky. Sukracharya is punished by Garuda for disturbing the dhanam as Jambavan looks on.
Outside the cave temple, is a shrine for Garudawar.
A flight of steps descend to the three-sided prakaram below. There are many shrines here.