THE TEMPLES OF SINGALANDHAPURAM

Close to Rasipuram in Namakkal district of Tamil Nadu is the village of Singalandhapuram, one of many beautiful villages beneath the Kolli hills. The people here are mostly engaged in weaving and farming.

The village is believed to be named after Chola Emperor Rajaraja who ruled between 985 and 1015 C.E. Singalandhagan was a honorific title given to Rajaraja after his subjugation of the northern part of Sri Lanka.

Thiruveswarar Temple – A temple in the land of Valvil Ori

The Thiruveswarar temple is the Siva temple in this village. It is easy to locate as the Rasipuram – Sendhamangalam- Namakkal road passes beside the temple.

Thiruveswarar koil Singalandhapuram (6)

The temple is ancient and is believed to have existed during the Sangam Age 2000 years ago. It is one of the six temples in the region where legendary King Valvil Ori worshipped Lord Siva. A granite statue of the king is seen in front of the mandapam of Nandi emperumaan (Nandi).There is another stone plaque next to it that depicts King Ori and his queen. A similar plaque is seen in the Palaniappar temple in Belukkurichi, a few kilometres from here.

The Temple

thiruveswarar sglpm

The temple has a high madhil or outer wall and there is no entrance gopuram tower. The entrance is a simple building with a tiled roof and a thinnai much like the entrance to traditional village homes seen in Tamilnadu.

Thiruveswarar koil Singalandhapuram (3)
A thinnai is an important part of the architecture of Tamilnadu houses and is an open raised verandah with pillars on either side of the entrance. It reflects the slow pace of life in the villages and has multiple uses. Among others it is a place for a meeting, a place to rest for the weary traveller, a place where you could just sit and watch the world go by.

Inside the temple there is a vast spacious open courtyard with the main shrine in the centre and smaller shrines built around the courtyard. Surya and Chandra are seen on either side inside the entrance. The Surya idol is ancient.

Thiruveswarar koil Singalandhapuram (12)

Past the Deepasthamban and Balipeetam is the small, charming Nandi Mandapam with a beautiful nandi. Across the courtyard is the temple of Thiruveswarar. The name of the lord Siva is Veerataanam Udaya Naayanaar which is the name inscribed in the kal vettu – stone inscription on the outer prakaram of the Sivan sannidhi. The present name of Thiruveswarar is probably derived from it.

Thiruveswarar koil Singalandhapuram (13)

Thiruveswarar koil Singalandhapuram (11)

Thiruveswarar koil Singalandhapuram TN

Thiruveswarar koil Singalandhapuram (8)

The shrine of goddess Pankajavalli Thaayar is a separate temple next to the shrine of Thiruveswarar. A small nandi is seen in front of the goddess.

Thiruveswarar koil Singalandhapuram (9)1

Tiruveswarar koil

Adjacent to the shrine of Pankajavalli Thaayar is the shrine of lord Murugan as Subramanyaswami. He is depicted seated on a peacock with Valli and Deivanai standing on either side. Both the Pankajavalli Thaayar shrine and the Murugan shrine share a common mandapam. The construction of this mandapam is recorded in the epigraphic details of the inscription seen on the outer wall of Thiruveswarar shrine.

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The temple of Bhadrakali

To the left of the Nandi mandapam, in the temple courtyard cum circumambulatory path, the first shrine is a separate temple of goddess Bhadrakali. A temple for Bhadrakali within a Siva temple is very unusual and therefore unique. It has an exceptionally beautiful idol of goddess Bhadrakali. The goddess faces due north and is believed to be extremely powerful.

Thiruveswarar koil Singalandhapuram (7)

The people of Naadar community in the village have a separate temple for Bhadrakali amman a short distance from the Thiruveswarar temple. The rituals for Bhadrakali worship include Kundam and thee midhi rituals as well as sacrificial rites. These rituals are unique to Bhadrakali and Mariamman temples and differ from the rituals followed in Siva temples. Therefore, during festivals the people of the village come to the Tiruveswarar temple, offer prayers at the Bhadrakali shrine and having obtained the blessings of the goddess, observe the rituals in the other temple.

Other Shrines

Thiruveswarar koil Singalandhapuram (5)

The other shrines are ones that are usually seen in Siva temples.

The Ayyappan shrine is a relatively new addition along with the Arubathu moovar sannidhi. The shrine of Veerabadrar, is again an ancient structure and has a beautifully carved idol of the deity.There is a Vinayaka shrine which is a raised open mandapam. Dakshinamurthy, Lingothbavar and Durgai are seen in alcoves in the goshtam- outer wall of Thiruveswarar shrine. There is a small shrine for Chandikeswarar, and individual shrines for Jyeshta devi and Kalabairavar.

Rare Features of the temple

  • The Murugan shrine faces due south which is very rarely seen in temples. Villagers say that this is a powerful deity. It is a popular venue for marriages in the village. Most importantly villagers vouch for the fact that weddings conducted before this Murugan never end in divorce. There may be minor differences of opinion between married couples but these are always resolved. Most families here prefer to have marriage ceremonies solemnized in the Thiruveswarar temple and book a mandapam (wedding hall) for the marriage reception afterwards.
  • The north facing Bhadrakali shrine is also something that is rarely seen in Siva temples.

Inscription

There is one stone inscription in the prakaram, on the outer wall of Thiruveswarar sannidhi.

Thiruveswarar koil Singalandhapuram (4)

Visit to the temple

Our visit to the temple was on a Friday evening in May. It was raining intermittently with the onset of an early south-west monsoon. An unexpected abhishekam for goddess Pankajavalli was under way. A middle aged woman and her son had asked for the abhishekam as a vaendudhal (request to the goddess) for divine grace to secure a good job for the son. The evening abhishekam happened because the archagar had been engaged for other ceremonies in the village that morning, it being a shuba muhurtham day (auspicious day), which turned out to our advantage. After the abhishekam and puja we had darshan in the Thiruveswarar shrine.

The temple has the ambience and beauty of very old places of worship and the people of the village have taken pride in maintaining its antiquity. It is a very popular temple for marriages.The pradosha puja in this temple is attended by a large number of people from nearby villages. At this time food is prepared for hundreds pf people and  served on plantain leaves. 

Timings

The temple is open from 5.30 to 7.30 a.m. in the morning and from 5 to 7.30 or 8 p.m. in the evening. The archagar’s house is next to the temple and outstation visitors may contact him over phone.

Contact details:

Archagar Singalandhapuram Maadhu

Mobile no: 94883 20080

KarpooraNarayana Perumal kovil Singalandhapuram

Sri Karpoora Narayana Perumal Temple, Singalandhapuram

At the Thiruveswarar temple we learnt from the archagar that there was a Perumal (Vishnu) temple close to the Siva temple and that both temples were constructed in the same time period.

We visited the temple on a Saturday as the aged Bhattar kept the temple open only on Saturdays and on Tiruvonam days when the village folk would be sure to visit. It was an arrangement that was convenient for both considering the fact that the Bhattar lived a good 5 kms away.

The temple is close to the Thiruveswarar temple further up the highway. But houses obscure the view from the road and it’s easy to miss the small lane that leads to the temple.

KarpooraNarayana Perumal kovil Singalandhapuram (4)

The temple looks impressive from the outside with a big ground in front with a massive peepal tree and a neem tree and beneath them the ubiquitous Arasamarathu Pillayar, as old as the temple itself. If these holy vrikshas could speak, the tales of a thousand of years would be told, as they stand silent witnesses to happenings over eons.

KarpooraNarayana Perumal kovil Singalandhapuram

This is the temple of Sridevi Bhudevi samedha Karpoora Narayana Perumal. Like the Tiruveswarar temple it is an ancient temple believed to be 2000 yrs old. There is a garuda sthambam with a small mandapam before the temple gopuram (gateway tower).A madhil encloses the temple on all sides. On entering we find that a large part of the temple is modern construction taken up with the blessings of His Holiness, Srirangam Jeer Swamigal. The deities  in the garbagriha, Sridevi,Bhudevi and Karpoora Narayana Perumal are very beautiful. There are inscriptions in Tamil-Brahmi on the base of the outer walls of the Garbagriham. The Bhattar says that it refers to a Chola king with the title of Thirubhuvana Chakravarthi. Perumal faces south which is something that is rare in Vishnu temples. The power of Karpoora Narayanan is tremendous and all prayers are answered. 

A modern concrete hall has taken the place of the mahamandapa. The dwara-palakas and idols of Anjaneya and Vishvaksena are kept here.

Karpura Narayana Perumal Singalandhapuram nkl

KarpooraNarayana Perumal kovil Singalandhapuram (1)

KarpooraNarayana Perumal kovil Singalandhapuram (6)

KarpooraNarayana Perumal kovil Singalandhapuram (2)Inscriptions

KarpooraNarayana Perumal kovil Singalandhapuram (7)

The Saturaday puja in this small village temple was something to remember. There was a small gathering of people from the village who waited while the Bhattar made preparations for the neivedyam and pooja. There was a recital of Divya Prabhandam and Thirupaavai by two young women and a priest. The girls strung together strings of jasmine and thulasi after the recital. The heartfelt puja was very nice. The Bhattar stood in front of the garba griha and handed out the prasadam of sarkarai pongal as the gathering formed a line and received the prasad from him in small paper cups. The piping hot sweet pongal was the tastiest prasad I have ever had.

The temple is open on Saturdays from 7 am until noon.

Contact details

Archagar Gunaseela Iyengar

Mobile no: 94429 66983

Singalandhapuram is a large village in Rasipuram taluk of Namakkal district It is 8.5 kms from  Rasipuram on SH 95 (Rasipuram- Sendhamangalam- Namakkal – Mohanur road)  and 5 kms from Belukkurichi.

Note: Singalandhapuram is also the name of another village in Thuraiyur near Tiruchi and this village too is believed to be named after Rajaraja Chola.

 

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Glimpses of A Temple Festival In Rasipuram

November 16 , 2017

A Time for Faith and Togetherness

In Rasipuram, Nityasumangali Mariamman temple is located in the heart of the old town. The annual festival takes place in the Tamil month of Aippasi (Oct-Nov) and is celebrated for a period of two weeks. To the townspeople, Nityasumangali Mariamman is one of their own, a beloved daughter of each family and her festival is a time of re-union and family get-togethers.

I have been to this temple a few times but never during the festival and it is a really lovely temple where you can spend some time enjoying the peace and quiet.

Festival times are auspicious times and on Friday, November 10, during the ongoing festival I went with some friends in the evening to offer prayers at the temple. Rasipuram is usually a quiet place, partly urban, partly rural with a seamless blending of ancient and modern but now it was as if the whole town had come alive.

There was something  going on everywhere and needless to say it was fun! Festival crowds, the fair grounds, festival shops, people dancing to the cadence of drum beats, it was all so lively!

Click here to read a previous article on Mariamman festival

Unusual practices can be seen in temples at times like this. In one part of the temple near the Dhyana Ganapathy shrine stood a pujari holding a whip made of coir rope in his hand. People stood in line and as each person stepped up he received some lashings from the whip (very gently, of course and probably as a symbolic punishment for sins), and then the pujari placed the whip on the person’s head and blessed him! I got a whip blessing too!

At the Murugan shrine,a boy pujari sat with a bunch of mayil peeli (pea-cock feathers) in his hand and blessed people after they worshipped Murugan by touching their heads with the long feathers.

In the open courtyard of the temple was the agni kundam which had been the scene of a most important temple ritual the previous day. This was the thee-mithi or fire- walking ritual in which hundreds had participated holding a thee- chatti, (a pot with fire in it) in one hand.

On the evening of my visit, the agni kundam was a bed of ashes and visitors bent down to take the holy ash from the pit and apply it on their foreheads.

Glimpses from the festival:

Nityasumangali Mariamman Temple- Rasipuram
Nityasumangali Mariamman Temple- Rasipuram
Nityasumangali Mariamman Temple- Rasipuram (2)
Festival crowds
Agni kundam, Rasipuram Temple
The agni kundam , where the fire-walking ritual called thee-mithi takes place.
Prayers at the extinguished agni kundam, Nityasumangal mariamman temple, Rasipuram
At the Agni kundam people bend down to touch the holy ground in reverence and to put their hands over a burning camphor that has been lit
Bangle seller
A bangle seller slips on glass bangles on the hand of her customer inside the temple. It is considered auspicious by women to wear glass bangles

Rasipuram Nityasumangali mariamman temple

 

 

 

Kolli Hills – Pristine and Pure

KOLLI HILLS

Kolli Hills is a beautiful mountain range located in Namakkal district of Tamil Nadu in South India. Its altitude ranges from 1000 to 1300 meters above mean sea level and enjoys a pleasant, healthful climate round the year. The hills are spread over an area of 440 sq. kilometers. When viewed from National Highway 44 on the Rasipuram-Namakkal stretch, it appears as a flat-topped mountain range.

Remote, untouched by commercialization and retaining its historical charm Kolli Malai as it is called locally seems frozen in time.

History

  • Kolli Malai is said to be the exquisite Madhuvanam (the forest of honey) zealously maintained by vaanara king Sugreeva that is mentioned in the Sundara kandam of the Ramayana. The Madhuvanam was a protected grove where there was plenty of honey. Even today, this is a land of tropical fruits, honey and medicinal herbs just as it would have been in the Ramayana period.
  • It was a land favoured by siddars, the ancient medicine men of Tamil Nadu.

Kolli hills in the songs of the bards

In a distant past dating more than 2000 years ago, there lived wandering bards who travelled across ancient Tamil Nadu and were much respected by kings. They had the freedom to visit any kingdom and write songs on all they saw and observed. Tamil Sangam literature hence comes across as a treatise of gross truth told in a style that is at once blunt and poetical. The Kolli hills have been eulogized and glorified by many of these poets. It has a rich history as the kingdom of Mazhavar and Chera kings, It was a coveted kingdom and wars were fought and kings died trying to defend the kingdom.

Kolli hills are mentioned in these books of sangam literature:

  1. Purananooru
  2. Agananooru
  3. Natrinai
  4. Kurunthogai
  5. Pathitrupathu

Beautiful And Magical                  

Named after Kolli Paavai, the maiden goddess who guards these hills, Kolli hills still casts its spell on visitors. Much of the area is relatively unexplored and inaccessible, Myths abound and stories are told that are bizarre and spooky. Yes, it is true that a Kolli hills has a reputation. It is the favored destination of astrologers and practitioners of witchcraft and tantric practices. Scattered over the hills are small shrines where the priests will promise to remove all obstacles in your life and solve all your problems for a fee!

But there is much in the Kolli hills that is sacred and beautiful. The people who live here are tribals and are called as Malayalees – people of the mountains. They are a hard-working self- sufficient community with a unique culture that is their own. Aadi Padhinettu in July is the most important festival in the Kolli hills when people from the 16 naadus and from other places come together for week long celebrations.

A Holiday in Kolli Hills

Kolli hills is the place to go for a quiet peaceful holiday sans crowds of tourists.

On visiting the hills you realize that you have just stepped into an amazing world and first visits are always memorable. This is hill country like no other. Thick forests are interspersed with pastoral landscapes, and cosy mountain villages. The altitude and the rivers Aiyaru and Varattaru flowing across the hills, massive jackfruit trees everywhere you go, terraced fields, yes, Kolli hills is beautiful.

How to reach

Kolli hills is accessible from Salem (64 kms) and from Namakkal(24 kms) both major cities on National Highway 44(NH44). Buses ply from Salem, Namakkal and Rasipuram to important villages in the Kolli hills. It is a better idea to rent a car because many of the places to visit in the hills are not on the regular bus routes.

The drive to the hills is lovely, the roads are good. If you are travelling from Salem it is a  11/2 hour drive through a very scenic route.

Route from Salem

Take the NH 44 from Salem. Near Rasipuram, turn left onto the Rasipuram bye-pass which will take you to State Highway SH 95. Turn right on to SH 95 and drive through beautiful farming villages along the Kolli range. Turn left once more at Kaalappa-naickenpatti to go to the kolli foothills village of Karavalli. The 28 kms Ghat Road begins at Karavalli. and the most amazing drive up the mountains with  stunning views and 70 sharp hair-pin bends, a real challenge for drivers and biking enthusiasts. Enjoy the paintings of the Sendhamangalam Highways department along the way depicting stories of famous kings of ancient Tamil Nadu.

A hair pin bend in Kolli hills
A hair-pin bend in the Kolli Hills

Kolli Hills

Solakadu is your first stop and also one of the highest points in the hills. Stop for a steaming cup of the locally grown Arapalli coffee. The tribal shandy is right by the roadside and is a must visit place for buying exotic fruits and spices and other mountain produce. Just opposite the shandy, within the premises of the Highways Bungalow is a viewpoint with breathtaking views.

At Solakadu you can choose the places you want to visit from the prominently placed signpost. There are a lot of places to visit in the Kolli hills.

A word of caution – Once you exit Solakadu, there are very few signposts along the way so ask the locals for directions when in doubt to avoid going around in circles! Many roads seem the same on the hills and can get quite confusing.

Where to stay

There are very few resorts in the Kolli hills. The oldest is the Nallathambi resort. You can book cottages of the Kolli malai Panchayat in advance. These are located in Semmedu. Another place to stay is the youth hostel near the Arapaleeswarar temple.Alternately, you can stay in Salem or Namakkal and visit the hills.

Bring packed meals and snacks when you come because there are very few good hotels or eateries. If you plan to stay longer than a day the best thing would be to ask the locals to prepare food for you.

RASIPURAM KAILASANATHAR TEMPLE

Rajagopuram of Kailasanathar temple,Rasipuram

RASIPURAM

Rasipuram is a small ancient town with narrow streets and many small but very old temples. Its historical name was Rajapuram.

It is famous for the ghee that is made here called Rasipuram Nei. It has a rich and wholesome flavor.

The silk sarees that are woven here are beautiful. They are known as Rasipuram Pattu and the silk weaving tradition of this small town goes back many hundreds of years when the silk cloth made here was sent to neighboring countries.

Today in addition to the above, it is well known for the many educational institutions around it.

 Its proximity to the Kolli hills makes it an important stop enroute to the hills.

And it was part of the Kingdom of Valvil Ori.

The featured image is the stone sculpture of King Valvil Ori in the temple.

LEGEND

According to legend the existence of the temple spans four yugas. A granite slab within the temple gives us details of the legend of the temple and of Rasipuram town.

In the Krudha Yugam the town was called Indrapuram. The name of Lord Siva was Neelakandamoorthy worshipped by Indra, king of the gods.

In the Tretha Yugam, the town was called Devapuram. Siva was called Chandrasekarar and he was worshipped by the nine planet gods.

In the Dwapara Yugam, the town was called Vichitrapuram. The lord took the name of Sitteswarar and he was worshipped by siddas and rishis.

In the Kali Yugam, the town was called SriRajapuram and Lord Siva’s name was Kailasanathar worshipped by a hunter and people of the Aadhi Saivar community.

Legend of the Rasipram Kailasanathar Temple
Legend of the Rasipram Kailasanathar Temple

HISTORY

Like many old towns its history dating back to the 1st or 2nd century CE starts with the temple of Lord Kailasanathar.

King Valvil Ori ruled from Kolli malai. He was a kind and generous king loved by his people. A great warrior, he excelled in archery and the story of his killing an elephant, a tiger, a deer, a wild boar and a monitor lizard with a single arrow was told and retold in lands far and wide. His kingdom included the areas of Rasipuram and Sendhamangalam.

Valvil Ori was a great devotee of Lord Siva.

One day, while hunting he was on the trail of a Venn Panri or white pig which led him a long way deep within the forests near Rasipuram. He saw it enter a clump of bushes and shot his arrow into the bushes. Parting the bushes to claim his prize, Ori was startled to see a large Sivalingam hidden in the vegetation. Worse, he saw blood trickling down from the lingam where his arrow had hit it. He realized that it was Lord Siva who had appeared as the Venn Panri. Falling to the ground he prayed to Lord Siva to forgive him. Lord Siva appeared before the king and said that he should build a temple where he found the Lingam. King Ori built a temple for Siva. The sanctum sanctorum or Karuvarai which we see today is believed to be built by Valvil Ori. Later other kings added to and extended the temple.

Click here for an earlier post on King Valvil Ori

THE TEMPLE

 

kailasanathat-templerasipuram

mahanandi

A narrow street leads to the Iswaran koil as all Siva temples are called by the local people.

Entrance to the temple is through the Rajagopuram which faces west. The beautiful Nandi Mandam with exquisite carvings has a large Nandi. Another mandapam which covers the inner prakaram leads to the artha mandapam and sanctum. The name of Lord Siva is Kailasanathar. The Sivalingam faces west which is special and only found rarely. The Swayambhu lingam is fairly large and bears the mark of a scar where it was hit by King Ori’s arrow. This scar can be seen when abhishegam is performed. The sanctum believed to be built by Valvil Ori is very old. The artha mandapam in front of the sanctum is full of the most beautiful stone carvings.

kailasanathar-photo-courtesy-dinamalar-com
Kailasanathar  Photo couresy – Dinamalar.com

An ancient doorway to the right leads to an inner prakara and another door ahead opens on the outer prakara. In this inner prakara on both sides of the door from the arthamandapam are two unique shrines. One has a rare embossed sculpture of Vikata chakra Vinayagar carved from a single stone and who has a rudraksha mala in one hand. The shrine to the right of the doorway has the idol of Lord Veerabadra with a Nandi in front.

Vinayakar,Kailasanathar Kovil, Rasipuram
Vinayakar,Kailasanathar Kovil, Rasipuram
Veerabadrar, Kailasanathar Koil, Rasipuram
Veerabadrar, Kailasanathar Koil, Rasipuram

The name of the Mother goddess is Aram Valartha Nayagi. She faces East and is very beautiful. There is a Mahameru before her. My visit to the temple was on the day after Adi Pooram which is sacred to Parvati, and so was blessed with a darshan of Ambal dressed in all her finery…truly a sight to behold. I was able to take a picture of Ambigai in this alangaram. You can see Ambal wearing two garlands made entirely of glass bangles of all colors. Beautiful,isn’t it ?!

Aram Valartha Nayagi, Rasipuram
Aram Valartha Nayagi, Rasipuram

There are two shrines for Lord Murugan. He stands alone as Dhandayudhapani in the first shrine. In the second shrine we see him as Karthigeya seated on a peacock with Valli and Deivanai standing on either side. Saint Arunagirinathar has sung a Tirupugazh hymn on the Murugan of this temple.

The first shrine on the pradakshina path in the outer prakaram starts with the shrine of Lord Kasi Viswanathar with Visalakshi and ends with the shrine of lord Ramanathaswamy with Parvatha vardhini. It reminds us of the beautiful Kasi-Rameshwaram tradition. The pradakshinam itself is truly beautiful with many old and lovely shrines. The sthala vriksham are Nelli and Vilvam trees. There are separate shrines for Sani bhagavan, Kala Bairavar, Pancha lingams, Gajalakshmi, Saraswati, Aiyappan, 63 Nayanmars and four Santhanacharyas.

Chariot shaped alcove on a temple wall, Kailasanathar koil,Rasipuram
Chariot shaped alcove on a temple wall, Kailasanathar koil,Rasipuram
Lord Krishna playing the flute, embossed image on temple wall Kailasanathar temple, Rasipuram
Lord Krishna playing the flute, embossed image on temple wall Kailasanathar temple, Rasipuram
Nayanmars, Rasipuram temple
Nayanmars, Rasipuram temple
Santhanacharyas Kailasanathar temple, Rasipuram
Santhanacharyas Kailasanathar temple, Rasipuram

The Dakshinamurthi shrine is different, almost a small temple by itself. The temple has a utsavar or procession deity of Lord Dakshinamurthy with his four rishi disciples. On the first Thursday of each month, He comes to the shrine of the main Dakshinamurthy. Yellow threads placed in puja are offered as prasad to devotees.dakshinamurthy-shrine

There is a shrine for Naagar, the serpent deity.

Naagar, Kailasanathar koil,Rasipuram
Naagar, Kailasanathar koil,Rasipuram

VALVIL ORI

A rare and unique feature of this temple is the life size stone sculpture of King Valvil Ori under a Vanni tree, in the outer prakara near the Rajagopuram.

It is the Featured image of this post. It depicts King Ori, tall and majestic with a sword at his hip. Hands folded he is shown deep in prayer to his beloved Siva.

Aadi Perukku is an important festival in the Kolli hills and on this day special abhishekam is performed for this king with puja.

In many old temples, we find granite sculptures of the kings, queens or holy men who built the temple or were associated with it, which is how we come to know about them besides the temple inscriptions in Vattezhuthu, which is the ancient written form of the Tamil language.

Another myth of this temple is that there is a secret underground passage from the Kailasanathar temple that leads to the Arapaleeswarar temple in Kolli Malai.

Do visit this lovely temple!

TIMINGS

The temple is open from 6 am to 12 noon and from 4.30 pm to 8.30 pm.

LOCATION

Rasipuram is 33 kms from Salem in Tamil Nadu, and 27 kms from Namakkal.

 

 

 

 

A Summer Festival in Pudhupatti

Summer is well and truly here! Soaring temperatures are touching 40 degree Celsius, somewhat unusual in April.

We were invited by friends to a gala village event in the village of Pudhupatti near Namagiripettai in Rasipuram taluk, Namakkal district.

A lovely farming village, Pudhupatti also called R. Pudhupatti, has a very popular temple for the goddess Mariamman. 

DSC01752
Some respite from the sun

Pandigai is a common Tamil name for festival  and today’s festivities centered on the temple chariot.

Village Deities of Tamil Nadu

The magnificent temples of Tamil Nadu are mostly Siva and Vishnu temples. There is another category of gods and goddesses whose temples are predominant in the villages. These are the village deities called as Grama Devata and their temples may be seen in every Tamil Nadu village and town. The Grama Devata is periodically worshiped and propitiated. Village people fear the wrath of these deities but generally they are benevolent divine beings.

The villages are essentially farming communities and so the Tamil Nadu countryside is dotted with shrines to these gods.

The village deities are the guardians, the healers and the ever present help that every little village and town has. They have a major role to play in the day to day life of the people and protect them from the countless ills, afflictions and pains of everyday village life.

When calamity overtakes the village, when pestilence or famine or cattle disease makes its appearance, it is to the village deity that the whole body of villagers turn to for protection   –     Right Reverend Henry Whitehead in The Village Gods of South India.

These gods are called as Ayyanar, Muniappan, Mariamman,  Angalamman, Pidari, Karuppana swamy, Periasami and so on.

Mariamma is the commonest of them all. Her function is to bring rain and ward off and cure small pox, chicken pox, measles and rashes.

Thuluka Soodamani Amman temple in Pudhupatti

DSC01754

The temple of Thuluka soodamani amman in Pudhupatti is one such village temple for Mariamman.

The mid-day journey to Pudhupatti in the scorching sun wasn’t so pleasant even in an air- conditioned car. But once we neared the temple it was a different matter altogether. No one seemed to care about the hot summer sun, and the air of celebration was catching! Folks were dressed in their best, the endless festival shops sold everything under the sun  – literally!

The whole place was action packed, with the temple as the center of all the festivities. In the courtyard of the temple women were busy with a ritual called Pongal Vaikiradhu which involved cooking the sweet rice dish named pongal in  earthen or metal pots on an impromptu stove made of three large stones and some kindling or firewood. The cooked pongal was offered to the goddess on banana leaf lined brass plates and taken as prasad. By the roadside a family gave glasses of koozh, a rice and ragi(finger millet) porridge to all. There were free buttermilk stalls with big pots of cold buttermilk. A makeshift shelter was the venue of Annadaanam where people could eat tasty meals absolutely free.There were stalls where you could have tattoos made for Rs. 15.

The Temple

The temple itself was crowded but we had a good darshan of goddess Mariamman. As I said, her name is Thuluka Soodamani amman. Long ago, the armies of the Nawab are thought to have camped in this region and the goddess blessed the Muslim commander and his men.Hence the unusual name.

A view of the temple
A view of the temple

The temple is famous for cures relating to skin ailments and vision problems. Therefore people with skin and eye maladies come from afar to offer prayers to the goddess.

Outside the temple  the Ther (chariot) was all decked up and ready to go. As usual the villagers joined together and pulled the beautiful Ther.

TEMPLE CHARIOT OF THULUKA SOODAMANI AMMAN IN PUDHUPATTI
TEMPLE CHARIOT OF THULUKA SOODAMANI AMMAN IN PUDHUPATTI
Pulling the Ther
Pulling the Ther

FAITH

Behind the ther, I saw something very unusual.

Angapradakshanam
Angapradakshanam

Men and women, wearing garlands of flowers indicative of their vows and holding bunches of neem leaves sat in two rows  on the paved street in the hot sun. People brought pots of water which they poured on them, the drenching with cool water being necessary to offset the effects of the noonday sun. When the ther with the idol of Mariamman started to move, they lay on the ground and rolled along behind the ther with hands folded in supplication above their heads.

This ritual is called as Angapradakshanam and it is done for answered prayers, usually within the precincts of the temple around the main shrine.

For the first time I saw it being done on a hot paved street and following the ther.

Such devotion is a humbling experience and I felt respect and admiration for all the men, women and children who kept their vows that day. It was a personal interaction between each of the participants and the mother goddess.

Taking part in these rituals involves a period of fasting prior to the festival. It usually means a single meal a day at noon or in the evening and strict abstinence from meat, taking liquor or smoking. It is a purification that conditions the body to the rigorous process of Angapradakshinam.

 Rituals like these have been followed by the villagers traditionally and vary from village to village and from temple to temple. For instance, in Pudhupatti village, our friends said that it was the custom that no palagaram (Tamil for sweetmeats) that required deep frying in oil may be made for the duration of the Pandigai (festival) which usually lasted for two weeks.

Photos of the festival.

Welcome drenching with cold water
Welcome drenching with cold water

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This Matriarch is happy to give water in a brass pot to the devoted.
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Young participants. Its the summer holidays anyway!

WHERE IT IS

The temple is 5 km from Namagiripettai near Rasipuram.

The distance from Salem is 43 km ,roughly an hour’s drive.

The route from Salem is Salem- Rasipuram – Namagiripettai- R. Pudhupatti.

 

Is there a festival in your village or town? If so,do share your views.

 

 

 

 

A Temple for Safe Journeys

METTALA  ANJANEYAR  TEMPLE

As you travel on the Attur- Rasipuram road in Namakkal district, after Namagiripettai, you pass by a charming temple to Lord Anjaneya.

This is the famous Mettala Anjaneyar temple.

It is set in sylvan surroundings,  against a backdrop of thickly forested hills that reach down to the road.

Mettala Anjaneyar
Mettala Anjaneyar

Mettala is the name of a pass between these hills and a village of the same name.

The temple is along the lines of a cave or rock-cut temple (more like a cavern).

The image of Hanuman  carved on the rock is small. On the rocky ceiling above  are carved images of the fish icon that identifies all temples built by the Pandya kings whose emblem was the fish.

Anjaneyar temple,Mettala
Anjaneyar temple,Mettala

The priest explains that the temple is more than a 1000 years old.

It is the only Anjaneyar temple where the Thee-midhi ritual (walking over live coals) is carried out every year in which hundreds of people participate.

Befittingly, there are a large number of monkeys all over the place. It is very amusing to watch them! They accept food or fruit or puffed rice from visitors.

A view from the road
A view from the road

This lovely temple is highly popular among motorists and truckers who unfailingly stop here to offer prayers.

Amazing is the fact that the temple is kept open throughout the day and night so that drivers of vehicles that ply on this route can obtain the blessings of Hanuman for a safe journey.

Equally surprising are the innumerable foot-high figurines of monkeys and Anjaneyars that line the back of this rocky temple!

The drive through this segment of the Attur-Rasipuram road is very enjoyable with forests hugging the road interspersed with villages and more hilly forest.

The temple is 8km. from Rasipuram and 6km.from Namagiripettai.