Sometime during the 16th century CE Salem and its surrounding areas which include Namakkal, Dharmapuri, and Attur, came under the rule of Madurai Nayakar kings. The kingdom of the Madurai Nayakar kings consisted of 72 smaller administrative regions called palayams headed by local chieftains who were called Palayakarars.Salem under the Madurai Nayakars rule came under thePalayakarars known as Gatti Mudali and Nayaks. Besides collecting taxes, they ably administered the regions they ruled, maintained armies, built forts and built or extended temples. The temples they built and those that were extended by them are architectural gems, showcasing their keen interest in art and architecture.
NAYAK TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE
Nayak temple architecture had a distinct style. It was characterized by enormous multi-storied gateway towers called gopuram, richly decorated with brightly painted stucco figures of gods, goddesses demons and animals both real and mythical, and pillared mandapas. The large courtyards surrounding the central shrine of these temples were designed to accommodate the crowds who would gather to view temple rituals and processions of gods. The temple grounds were enclosed by high fort like outer walls called madhil – always useful in case of invasion from rival chiefs and invaders.
Lakshmi Narayanan temple in Sendhamangalam, 11kms from Namakkal in Tamil Nadu, is one such impressive structure. Sendhamangalam today is a sleepy village taluk in the Nainamalai foothills. It is also very near the Kolli hills in Namakkal district. But centuries ago it was an important admintrative centre of the Nayakar kings.
The temple of Lakshmi Narayana Perumal is extremely old. According to the local people no one really knows how old it is, but it has been there since ‘paattan,mupaattan kaalam’.This colloquial Tamil phrase is used often in rural Tamilnadu and is a charming way to state that something has been there or was done since time immemorial. Pattan is tamil for grandfather and mupaatan denotes their fathers – three generations removed before them.
The antiquity of the temple is supported by another important fact. Two kilometres from Sendhamangalam is the famous Nainamalai hill with the temple of Varadharaja Perumal at the very top. The hill itself is 2600 feet high with ancient stone steps going all the way to the top. There are more than 3000 steps and climbing them is no mean feat. Believed to have existed since four yugas – which time period spans millions of years, the temple was built during the Pallava period. To this day, it is an important pilgrimage destination and kula deivam (family deity) temple and thousands make the difficult ascent to the top every year, particularly in the sacred Tamil month of Purataasi.
The two temples are intrinsically connected. In the ancient mandapam leading to the sanctum sanctorum of Lakshmi Narayana Perumal are kept the idols of Nainamalai Varadharaja Perumal,Sridevi and Bhudevi. All those who are not able to visit the hill temple and the old and infirm can worship here. There is also a sealed and locked doorway which is believed to be the entrance to a secret passage way that goes all the way up to the Nainamalai temple. Mysterious and intriguing, isn’t it? The passage way was probably used as an escape route by local kings in times of war. Similar secret pathways are also believed to have existed in the Rasipuram Kailasanathar temple and the Kaala Bhairavar temple in Dharmapuri.
LAKSHMI NARAYANAN TEMPLE
In a tranquil rural setting, the towering multi-storeyed Rajagopuram and high surrounding walls of Lakshmi Narayanan temple are so unexpected that they take one by surprise. This could easily have been a temple in Kumbakonam where such huge gopurams are the norm. On entering, the massive doorway opens on a spacious open courtyard. The large pillared mandapam has ornately carved pillars showing mounted warriors in combat and mythical incidents.
Here we find a larger than life statue of King Govindappa Naicker on a stone pedestal. The statue depicts an authoritative king. The upward slant of the face, the hair knotted on top in a style known as a kondai that was typical of the age, an outstretched hand with a forefinger pointing in a commanding manner, the folds of the clothes and impressive jewelry all combine to create a regal and slightly fearsome personality.
This outer mandapam also has idols of other gods and a shrine for navagrahas.
A narrow passage leads to the sanctum through an inner mandapam.
In the sanctum the 6 feet high idol of a seated Lakshmi Narayanan with Thayaar on his lap is exquisitely beautiful. It is in the inner mandapam that the idols of Nainamalai Varadaraja Perumal with Sridevi and Bhudevi are kept. So we get to worship the deities of both temples here.
The Thaayar sannidhi is a small separate temple next to the main temple. Perundevi thaayar is as beautiful as her name suggests and a picture of compassion and grace.
A WALK AROUND THE TEMPLE
It is a temple to be seen and admired at a leisurely pace because it is full of surprises. My visit was a hurried one and I hope I can visit again to admire and be awed all over again.
The temple is near the Sendhamangalam bus station.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
Valadhu paagam Iswaran
Idathu paagam Ambal
Ambalin thiru mangalyam
Swamy- Ambalin paadaravindham
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
Stone Inscriptions found in these temples refer to Namakkal as “Thiru Aaraikal”.They speak of two cave temples called as Adiya navaya Visnugrha which is the Narasimha temple and Adiyendra Visnugrha, the Ranganathswamy temple.
They are temples of great architectural beauty coupled with genius! It is truly amazing that the Lakshmi Narasiha Swamy temple is built in such a way that Lord Hanuman in the Namakkal Hanuman temple in the next street can be clearly seen from the the peedam below the Garudalwar sannidhi.!
This small peedam in the inner prakaram has a small gopuram. There is a small opening in the gopuram and another one in the back wall of the Garudalwar shrine.
The wonder of this darshan is that the gaze of Hanuman standing some 250 feet away is fixed on the paadham (foot) of Lord Narasimha. These openings are strategically placed so the gaze of Hanuman is not obstructed. Talk about architectural genius!
The inner prakaram looks more like a spacious courtyard with small shrines all around. There are sannidhis for Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana, a Udayavar (Ramanujar) sannidhi, Nammalwar sannidhi, one for Sri Krishna, Bama and Rukmini and a Desikar sannidhi.
When I was taking photographs here a devotee led me to the big wooden doors that opened into this prakaram and pointed out myriad carvings on wood panels on the doors depicting scenes from The Ramayana and Dasavathara.
How often have I passed through these ancient wooden temple doors without noticing the treasures it contained! I realized what it is “to see with unseeing eyes”.
A few pics of these exquisite wood carvings.
This panel shows Sita giving bhiksha – alms to Ravana who has taken the form of an ascetic.
The one next to it shows Rama slaying the Maya maan or pon maan –golden deer.
Hanuman and Sita in the Asokavanam
This panel on another door shows Rama breaking the Siva Dhanus at Sita’s Swayamvaram. Sage Visvamitra stands behind Rama.
I think this one shows Ahalya emerging from the stone as the curse leaves her when Rama’s foot touches the stone. Again Sage Viswamitra looks on.
Outside in the outer prakaram is a sannidhi for Lord Laskhmi Narayana and the madapalli or temple kitchen.
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.
Any place that is steeped in history I find immensely attractive.The older it is the better! There is just such a place near Salem- a place visited by Sri Rama, which was once the Ashram of a famous Rishi, a place that is a treasure-trove of some of the most exquisite granite sculptures – all this so close to home..surely nothing could be better!
This special place is Ayodhyapattinam near Salem. Pattinam means city in Tamil. So the name Ayodhyapattinam translates as The City of Ayodhya.
Ayodhya is an ancient city in the state of Uttar Pradesh in North India.It was the capital of the kingdom of Kosala ruled by the famous Ishvaku Kings of the Surya Dynasty of whom Lord Rama was the most celebrated king.It was here that Shri Rama was born as the eldest son of King Dasaratha. Sage Valmiki’s Sanskrit epic Ramayana begins in Ayodhya with the birth of Rama and ends with His Coronation in this ancient city. The Brahmanda Purana and the Bhagavatha Purana extoll it as the most important among the six holy cities of the Hindus (Mokshapuri),a pilgrimage to which is capable of giving Moksha or Nirvana.
Why is a village in Tamil Nadu named after Ayodhya, the ancient capital of the Kosala Desam ?Because, here we see the Coronation scene of Shri Rama and Sita Devi attended by Sugreeva, Baratha, Lakshmana, Vibhishana and Hanuman, all within a single sanctum.
The temple of Kothanda Rama Swamy was originally the Ashram of Sage Bharathwaja, a famous Rishi. After Ravana was vanquished in Sri Lanka and Sita was rescued, Shri Rama and Sita returned to Ayodhya in the Pushpaka Vimana, a celestial aircraft. They were accompanied by Lakshmana, Hanuman, Sugreeva, Vibhishana among others.En route, at the request of Rishi Bharathwaja, Sri Rama stayed at his Ashram for a day with his entourage. The exalted Rishi and Vibhishana expressed their desire to see the Coronation scene of Sri Rama. To their delight Rama obliged them by enacting the Coronation that was to take place in Ayodhya.
Sage Bharathwaja built a temple for Sri Rama at the place where Rama stayed. For thousands of years, it remained in the forests near Salem. After the 16th century the first human settlement was formed around the temple during the Nayak rule in Madurai.
Villagers are said to have approached the local chieftain Masi Nayak, who on instructions from King Tirumalai Nayak, built the temple.
In this temple we find the rare form of Sri Rama and Sita seated on a throne.It is known as Pattabhisheka Kolam. Pattabhishekam is the sacred anointing, ritual bath and crowning of the King and is the Indian equivalent of a Coronation. Sri Rama’s right hand is in Chin Mudra and he sits with his left foot placed on his right thigh in kingly fashion. Sita is seated beside him. Sugreeva, Vibhishana, Baratha, and Hanuman watch with folded hands.
Sri Rama’s Pattabhishekam is important because,
It marked the end of the atrocities of the Demons or Rakshasas and of Ravana, the Demon king in particular.
It marked the triumph of Good over evil.
It heralded the beginning of a glorious era in history known as the Rama Rajyam which became the ultimate ideal in good governance.
Worshipping the Pattabhisheka Kolam of Sri Rama is thought to be the penultimate solution for all problems in life.
This form of Lord Rama is not seen in many places.That is the reason why this temple in Ayodhyapattinam is important.
TREATISE IN STONE – THE MAHA MANDAPAM
The temple’s Maha Mandapam has 28 ornate pillars with exquisite life- like sculptures.It is truly amazing that each pillar is sculpted out of a single slab of granite.
My Photos do not do justice to this wonderful gallery of temple pillar art.
It is believed that worship at this temple in Ayodhyapattinam is equal to visiting Ayodhya in North India.
Where it is located
Ayodhyapattinam is 11 Kms. from Salem on the Salem – Harur road
SRI ADI KESAVA PERUMAL TEMPLE, TIRUVATTARஅருள்பெறுவார் அடியார் தம் அடியனேற்கு ஆழியான்
அருள் தருவான் அமைகின்றான் அது நமது விதிவகையே
இருள்தருமா ஞாலத்துள் இனிபிறவி யான் வேண்டேன்
மருளொளி நீ மடநெஞ்சே வாட்டாற்றான் அடி வணங்கே.
வாட்டாற்றா னடிவணங்கி மாஞாலப் பிறப் பறுப்பான்
கேட்டாயே மடநெஞ்சே கேசவனெம் பெருமானை
பாட்டாய பலபாடி பழ வினைகள் பற்றறுத்து
நாட்டாரோ டியல் வொழிந்து நாரணனை நண்ணினமே.
The above pasurams are part of the 11 pasurams sung by Nammalvar in praise of Adi-KesavaPerumal in Tiruvattar.The drive from Kanyakumari to Tiruvattar is along green paddy fields, coconut groves, rubber plantations, streams, rivers, fishermen fishing in their catamarans in the backwaters. The beauty of Kanyakumari district takes your breath away. Tiruvattar is a village 46 km. from Kanyakumari.
Alternately, Driving along NH 7 and then NH 47 on the Kanyakumari-Trivandrum highway take a detour and turn right on to the Colachel-Tiruvattar road at a place called Azaghiyamandapam. Tiruvattar is at a distance of 7 km. from here.
The temple of Sri Adi Kesava Perumal in Tiruvattar is in a picturesque setting, rich with dense vegetation. The Paraliyaru flows around the temple on three sides which gives the place its name-Tiru vattaru. The temple is on an elevation. The main entrance faces west. We climb a flight of 18 steps to enter the temple. Inside there are huge corridors (Prakarams). The pillars here are rich with sculptures. At the base of each pillar there are images of maidens carrying lamps. They are called Deepa lakshmi and there are 224 in all. No two are the same!
Inside the main shrine, the platform in front of Garba Graha and where the deity rests are both carved out of a single stone and hence called as Othakkal Mantapam. This Mantapam is rich in sculptures and mural paintings.
Ghee and oil lamps light up the inner Garba Graha. We are taken unawares in that first glimpse of the Lord. For a moment we are spell bound- the reclining image of the Lord is huge! We worship the Lord through three openings, the lord’s feet , then the lord’s right hand which is in Chin mudra and lastly His face, so serene and beautiful. Through the central opening we also see the Thayars, Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi seated near the Lord, and the Utsava murthy. An image of Maharishi Hathaneya is seen near the head of the Lord. There is a Shiva lingam near the feet (paadam) of the Lord.
On the wall behind there are deities carved within circles. The priest explains that they are the deities of the Panchayuda (five weapons) of Lord Vishnu.There is no Brahma or lotus on the nabi of Perumal. It is believed that those who worship Adi Kesava Perumal will have no future births.
On leaving the main Shrine we worship next at a small temple to Tiruvampadi Sri Krishna built in the 12thcentury.
There are references to Tiruvattaru in ancient Sangam literature called Puranaanooru that dates back to more than 2000 years. In it a Sangam poet named Maangudi Kizhar (மாங்குடிகிழார்) writes about a kuru nila mannan (king)named Vattaatru Ezhiniyaadhan (வட்டாற்றுஎழினியாதன்).
There are stone inscriptions from the reign of Kulothunga Chola I.
Nammalvar has sung paasurams in praise of the Lord.
The Sthalapuranam of this temple is written in Malayalam and Sanskrit.
Once when Brahma conducted a yagna, he mispronounced some mantras, as a result of which, a demon arose from the yagna flames. His name was Kesan. Since he was evil, Adi Kesava Perumal confined him within the massive coils of Adi Seshan and the Lord lay down on top to prevent his escape.Kesan was a Shivabhaktan.So a Sivalingam was placed near the feet of Adi Kesava Perumal in order to control him.Still, Kesan tried to come out of the coils, so the Lord placed a Rudraksha in each of the demon’s 12 hands. They turned into 12 temples to Lord Shiva. These are the 12 Shiva temples around Tiruvattaru that are worshipped during the famous Shivalaya Ottam.
What is unique about this temple
This is one of the oldest Vaishnava temples in South India.
Vaishnava Saint Nammalvar has sung 11 Pasurams about Adi Kesava Perumal- (Pasuram 3722-3732).
This is the 76th Divyadesam of the 108 tirupathis and 2nd among the Malai naatu shrines.
The temple is a jewel in temple Architecture.
The moola vigraha is a massive 22 feet in length.It is made up of 16008 salagramas using a method known as Kadu Sarkara Yogam that is unique to Kerala. This is an extremely complicated process and very different from sculpting. Therefore there is no abhishekam for the moolavar.
Adi Kesava Perumal is considered to be the ‘Annan’ (elder brother) of Anantapadmanabhaswamy. Devotees on a pilgrimage are advised to worship Adi Kesavava Perumal before worshipping Padmanabhaswamy.
The Othakal Mandapam measuring 18 x 18 x 1 feet is an architectural marvel.
Importance of the temple to the Tiruvithangode (Travancore) kingdom
Present day Kanyakumari District was part of the Tiruvithangode Travancore kingdom. Up to the reign of King Marthanda Varma, the kings of Travancore ruled from Padmanabhapuram (15 km.from Tiruvattar). King Marthanda Varma was a staunch devotee of Adi Kesava Perumal and worshipped at the temple before all the major war campaigns undertaken by him. It was Dharma Raja, the nephew and successor of Marthanda Varma who shifted the capital to Tiruvananthapuram. In view of the above facts we are better able to understand the intriguing association of Padmanabhaamy temple with the temple of Adi Kesava Perumal.
Tiruvananthapuram temple is an exact replica of Tiruvattar temple. The images of Adi Kesava Perumal and Padmanabhaswamy are installed in such a way that they face each other. Adi Kesava Perumal faces west while Padmanabhaswamy faces east
Poojas are according to the procedures followed in Kerala temples.
Paal Payasam, Aval and Appam are delicious prasadams at this temple.
There are 12 Shiva temples around Tiruvattar. They are the temples at Munchirai, Thikkurichi, Thirparappu, Tirunandikkarai, Ponmanai, Pannippakam, Kalkulam, Melangodu, Tiruvidaikodu, Tiruvithankodu, Tirupanrikkodu, and Nattalam.On Mahasivarathri day starting from Munchirai, devotees from Kerala and Tamil-nadu run to all the above temples, chanting ‘Gopala, Govinda’ and reach Nattalam by nightfall. The ritual ends in worship at the Adi Kesava Perumal temple in Tiruvattar. The marathon of pilgrims on Mahasivarathri uttering the names of Lord Vishnu substantiates the truth that Siva and Vishnu are but two manifestations of the one Supreme Being.
There is a small temple for Lord Lakshminarasimha near the river and opposite to the Adi Kesava Perumal temple. Inside this temple there are Panchaloga images of Narasimha swamy, Lord Subramanya and Sri Annapoorani kept together on the same peetam.
Morning: 5a.m. to 12p.m.
Evening: 5p.m. to 8 p.m.
Note: As renovation work is under way in the Adi Kesava Perumal temple, the temple closes earlier in the mornings on weekdays. On Sundays there are lots of visitors to the temple and the renovation workers are on holiday. So the temple is open until 12 p.m.