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.
Arapaleeswarar temple is an ancient Siva temple on the banks of the Aiyaru or Panchanadhi river in the village of Periya koviloor in Valapur nadu of the Kolli hills. Since ancient times it has been an important pilgrimage site of Tamil Nadu. The temple was built during the reign of King Kulothunga Cholan 1400 years ago, but its history dates back to a much earlier period more than 2000 years ago.
History of the Temple
Long ago, a part of the Kolli hills was known by the name Araipalli or Arapalli. Arapalli literally means residense/house of dharma. Lord Siva who was worshipped in this region of Arapalli was called Arapally Iswarar or Arapaleeswarar, The Lord of the house of dharma.The Sanskrit name is Dharma Gosheeswarar. He was also known as Araipally Mahadevan and Araipally Udayar. The name of Parvati is Aram valarthanayagi also called as Thayammai.
It is said that the place where the temple is built was once farmland. When the land was ploughed the plough hit something and blood gushed out. The people dug around the spot to find a suyambu sivalingam and began to worship it. The scar made by the plough can be seen on the lingam even today.
Arapaleeswarar was worshipped by Valvil Ori, the Mazhavar king who ruled the Kolli hills It is believed that a secret path exists from the Arapaleeswarar temple to the Kailasanathar temple in Rasipuram which was also a part of the kingdom of Ori.
After Valvil Ori, the kingdom came under the Chera and Chola kings.
The temple is a Thevara vaippu sthalam. The 7thcentury Thevaram hymns of Tirunavukarasar and Tirugnanasambandar speak of this temple. In the hymns Appar speaks of this sthalam as Kolli kulir arai palli and as kallal kamazh Kolli arai palli. Tirugnanasambandar refers to Arai palli in his Tiruthala kovai pathigam.
A medium sized temple it is built in very beautiful natural surroundings of the Kolli hills. Hills and valleys stretch into the distance all around. There is no gopuram at the entrance. The top of the outer madhil (high surrounding wall) has the images of siddars at intervals.
The outer stone walls of the garba-graham (sanctum santorum) are covered with inscriptions detailing various grants and endowments. Sembian Mahadevi, the dowager queen of Sivagnana Kandaraditya Chola devar and great-aunt of King Rajaraja Cholahas visited the Arapaleeswarar temple.She rebuilt and restored many temples in the Chola kingdom and was actively involved in the maintenance of Siva temples. In the Arapaleeswarar temple there is an inscription that speaks of 100 “kalanju” gold donated by her. It is also said that she donated many jewels to the temple. Interestingly Sembian Mahadevi was a Mazhava princess, the daughter of Mazhavarayar.
Land grants were made by other Chola kings.
That they have made the arduous journey when the region was virtually inaccessible speaks a lot about the greatness of this temple.
Nandi the divine bull of lord Siva is seen seated in front of the kodi maram (flag staff) and bali peetam and facing the Lingam inside the garpagriha in all Siva temples. In the Arapaleeswarar temple the image of Nandi has only three legs. The right hind leg is mutilated and the culprits are two men whose images are seen facing the temple, across the road outside the main entrance.
The Story of Nandi
The story is told that Nandi, the divine bull grazed on the farmland belonging to the two men, who, not knowing that that it was Nandi devar, tried to drive it away. But the bull continued to wreak havoc in their fields. Enraged, they chased the bull with a sword. To save itself the bull entered the Arapaleeswarar temple and sought refuge in lord Siva even as one of the men flung his sword on the bull from outside the temple. The right hind leg was severed and Nandi has remained there ever since with a missing leg while the men have remained outside.
These two men have stood outside the temple doors of lord Siva in the kolli hills for ages .The wrong they did was to harm another living creature.
The lingam of Arapaleeswarar in the garbagriha is medium sized. Standing before it, time becomes irrelevant. The present could easily be a moment in time thousands of years ago. Nothing seems to matter anymore as the peace and grace of God surround you. Words do not fully describe the feeling. It must be experienced by devotees at least once in this lifetime.
Vinayagar, Arapaleeswarar, Thayammai and Murugan can be worshipped together from the same spot inside the temple.
Probably not seen elsewhere in India is the very rare and beautifully carved Sri Chakraon the stone ceiling outside the shrine of Aramvalartha nayagi.There are intricate sculptures of Ashta Lakshmis all around it. Prayers offered to Thayammai or meditating while sitting directly beneath the Sri chakra are said to give powerful benefits.
The first shrine in the outer courtyard is that of Subramanyaas Aarumuga peruman. The idol is extremely beautiful with intricate carvings. Valli and Deivanai stand on either side.Saint Arunagirinadhar who lived in the 15th century has sung a Thiruppugazh hymn on Kolli malai Murugan. There are separate shrines on the pradakshina path for Vinayaka, Kasi Visvanadhar, Kasi Visalakshi, Mahalakshmi,Saraswati, Durga, Chandikeswarar, and Aram Valarthanayagi and nava graha.
The shrines of Murugan and Ambigai are built in a way that they are facing each other. It is as if the divine mother is gazing fondly on her beloved son.
The theertham of Arapaleeswarar temple is the Panchanadhi aka Aiyaru river.As the name indicates it is five rivers flowing as one. A hundred steps lead down to the river. Where they end is a beautiful Vinayaga shrine.
The Panchanadhi does not dry up even in summer when the water flow is less. It forms small water falls on its way. One small waterfall is near the temple. Further on its course it plunges into a gorge from a height of 300 feet to form the spectacular Agaya Gangai falls, a major tourist attraction in the Kolli hills. The base of the falls can be reached by climbing down 1025 steps. The steps begin near the Arapaleeswarar temple.
A temple where Fishes are sacred
The fishes in the Aiyaru river are sacred. They are believed to be the manifestations of Lord Siva. A story is told about this tradition.
The story of the sacred fishes
Once, some devotees caught fish in the Aiyaru, cut them up and made a curry on the banks of the river. While the curry was boiling they went up to the Arapaleeswarar temple to have darshan. On returning from the temple they were stunned to see the cut fish jump whole and alive from the boiling curry into the river. The miracle was a subtle message that lord Siva lived in all forms of life in the mountain. So no one catches fish in the Aiyaru river.Based on this story,it is said that the name Arapaleeswarar is derived from Arutha meenai poruthiya Iswarar,meaning -Lord Siva who joined together the cut fish. The people believe that it is Arapaleeswarar who resides as the fish in the river. Pilgrims and devotees feed the fishes when they visit the temple.
There is an old and unusual ritual at this temple related to the fish in the Aiyaru. The indigenous people believe that it is lord Siva who has taken the form of the fishes in the river. They make a vow to offer a tiny mookuthi nose-ring to the fish when prayers are answered. On fulfillment of vows, a large fish in the river is caught, a tiny mookuthi is fixed on the snout and released back into the river. An indigenous fruitseller explained it like this:” Let’s say I go to buy a farmland. I pray to Arapaleeswarar, ‘If the deal goes in my favour I vow to give a gold or silver nose-ring to you’. After a satisfactory farm deal, I put a tiny mookuthi on the snout of a fish in the Aiyaru. It is the offering I promised to Arapaleeswarar who has helped me clinch the deal”. This ritual is not followed so much now as it was in the old days.
The Mahakumbabishekamof Arapaleeswarar Templetook place last week on May 7, 2017.I could not go to see the actual kumbabishekam but I was fortunate to visit the night before.
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 Pattuand 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ?!
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.
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.
There is a shrine for Naagar, the serpent deity.
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!
The temple is open from 6 am to 12 noon and from 4.30 pm to 8.30 pm.
Rasipuram is 33 kms from Salem in Tamil Nadu, and 27 kms from Namakkal.
Thevaaram hymns are the first seven volumes of Saiva Tirumurai, Tamil devotional poetry on Lord Siva. They were composed by the first three among the Nayanmars, the Tamil Saivite saints,
about 1200 years ago, from the 7th century to the 9th century AD. Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar, as they are generally called, form the Tevara Moovar or Tevaram trio.
Independently they undertook long pilgrimages, visiting Siva temples, often accompanied by a group of devotees. At each of the temples they visited they composed and sang hymns glorifying Siva. These hymns were handed down by word of mouth and contain a wealth of information on the places (sthalam) where the temples were located and the glory of Siva in these sthalams and the benefits to be gained from recitals of the hymns. (Sthalam is the Tamil word for a holy place, or a place of pilgrimage.) Appar went a step further and set about cleaning of the temples he visited along with fellow devotees. Such service is called as Uzhavara pani.
Each hymn is called a Pathigam in Tamil and comprises a set of 10 verses or more.
Each hymn is set to a specific Pann, the Tamil equivalent of Ragas, and is unique to Tamil musical tradition. Singing of these hymns at worship services in Sivan temples by the Oduvars is an age old tradition which began when in the 10th to 11th century AD the hymns were compiled, codified and set to music by Nambiandar Nambi at the behest of King Raja Raja Cholan, though it is traditionally acknowledged that Lord Siva himself set the tune. They are exceptionally sweet and melodious to listen to and in Tamil Nadu we are familiar with the traditional rendition of these songs in temples everyday by the Oduvars. They are considered equal to the Sanskrit mantras and as powerful.
Paadal Petra Sthalam
Paadal petra sthalams (பாடல் பெற்ற ஸ்தலம்) are 275 Sivan temples which bear one or more pathigams composed on them.
249 other temples are referred to in the Tevaram. These temples do not bear a pathigam and are called as Tevara Vaippu Sthalam(தேவார வைப்பு ஸ்தலம்). Considering the historical fact that only a part of the Tevaram hymns were recovered in the 10th century by King Raja Raja Cholan, the rest having been destroyed by termites, it is possible that the Vaippu sthalams(வைப்பு ஸ்தலம்) might have had pathigams too which were among those that were destroyed.
We shall never know as these are some of the best kept secrets of history.
Tholur Choleeswarar Temple
The Choleeswara temple at Tholur near Namakkal is a Tevara Vaippu Sthalam.
The temple is mentioned in the pathigams of Tirunavukkarasar (Appar), in the 6th Tirumurai (ஆறாம் திருமுறை)
6.70 க்ஷேத்திரக்கோவை – திருத்தாண்டகம்
( ஆறாம் திருமுறை)
705 கொடுங் கோளூர் அஞ்சைக்களம் செங்குன்றூர்
கொங்கணம் குன்றியூர் குரக்குக் காவும்
நெடுங்களம் நன்னிலம் நெல்லிக் காவும்
நின்றியூர் நீடூர் நியம நல்லூர்
இடும்பாவனம் எழுமூர் ஏழூர் தோழூர்
எறும்பியூர் ஏராரும் ஏமகூடம்
கடம்பை இளங்கோயில் தன்னினுள்ளும்
கயிலாய நாதனையே காணலாமே. 6.70.5
6.71 திருஅடைவு – திருத்தாண்டகம்
715 பிறையூரும் சடைமுடி எம்பெருமான் ஆருர்
பெரும்பற்றப் புலியூரும் பேராவூரும்
நறையூரும் நல்லூரும் நல்லாற்றூரும்
நாலூரும் சேற்றூரும் நாரையூரும்
உறையூரும் ஓத்தூரும் ஊற்றத்தூரும்
அளப்பூர் ஒமாம்புலியூர் ஒற்றியூரும்
துறையூரும் துவையூரும் தோழூர் தானும்
துடையூரும் தொழ இடர்கள் தொடரா அன்றே 6.71.4
Visit to the temple
For a long time I have wanted to visit this temple so close to Namakkal. The only detail available on the internet was that it was a Vaippu sthalam near Namakkal. Google maps wasn’t very helpful. So we set out early one morning in July to search for this temple by the best way possible- asking people about it! At Namakkal we stopped for breakfast at hotel Adyar Ananda bhavan. I asked for the route to Tholur Sivan temple. The hotel staff were not sure but promised to ask around. By the time we finished breakfast the lady supervisor gave me the details-
“Take the Namakkal-Mohanur road. At a place called Aniyapuram turn right to travel for 4 kms to reach Tholur. The temple is right on the main road.”
Delighted, I thanked her and we set out once more on the Namakkal- Mohanur road. Aniyapuram turned out to be a fairly large village 9 kms from Namakkal. A right turn here and driving along a scenic village road for 4 kms, soon we came to Tholur.
On the right was a board that said Arulmigu Sri Visalakshi udanurai Sri Choleewarar Aalayam, Tholur. But there was no temple, only a large grassy vacant plot, enclosed by an ancient stone wall. In the distance was a small stone Nandi in front of a one room asbestos roofed structure which was locked. Beyond lay a vast heap of weathered ancient pink and yellow stone slabs, numbered in red.
I was unprepared for this- no temple where there should have been one. The family who lived in the farmhouse next door very kindly fetched the gurukkal (priest) who opened the temporary shrine so that we might worship.
Inside were the Sivalingam and the temple deities in Palalayam on a cement platform. That first glance of Choleeswarar cannot be described in words, it was overwhelming. The Sivalingam is medium sized but the powerful prescence of the Lord is very palpable.
Next to Choleeswarar is the idol of Ambigai Visalakshi. The beautiful goddess stands smiling. Her image and the tiruvaasi are carved of a single granite stone, a unique feature in this temple.
Next to her is the image of Chandikeswarar. The idol of Ganapathi is on left of Choleeswarar.
All the idols are in palalayam until consecration after the temple is restored. An oil-lamp burns steadily in this little shrine. Nandi and the bali peetam are kept outside.
Palanisami Gurukkal does archanai and gives prasad of vibhuthi and kumkum. Afterwards we sit down before Choleeswarar as he explains about the temple which is more than 1200 years old and about the fact that Tirunavukkarasar has spoken of the Iraivan of this stalam in the hymns composed by him, probably when he visited one of the 7 Kongu Naatu Paadal Petra stalams. He tells us about the stone inscription on a pillar within the temple that speaks of a grant of cotton and oil to the temple. It is a fact, he says, that difficulties of any magnitude are wiped away by the grace of Choleeswara when we pray to him. Prayers to Ambal and performing kalyana utsava facilitate marriages for unmarried girls. It is also a temple for relief from the planetary afflictions of Ragu and Kethu.
Thiru Palanisami Gurukkal is the parambarai archakar of this temple. His father and his grandfather before him have been the archakars here. He recalls the days when he single-handedly cleaned the temple and conducted nityapuja every day. Today his son who has studied in a veda padasala is also involved in the care of the temple.
The 1200 years old temple was dilapidated and roughly a year ago, the archaeological department inspected it and gave a report.Following this the temple was dismantled about six months ago. It is now awaiting reconstruction and renovation using the original ancient stone slabs of the old temple.
Excerpts from the report given on the Choleeswarar temple by the Archaeological Survey of India:
The Siva temple known as Arulmigu Choleeswarar temple…….is situated in a small village called Tholur, 4 kms off Aniyapuram in the Namakkal – Mohanur road.
The east facing temple consists of a garbagriha, an ardha mandapa, antarala and a mukha mandapa and a separate south facing amman shrine. Sub-shrines for Ganesha and Chandikesa are seen.
Lord Siva of this temple has been sung by Appar in one of his hymns.
While analyzing the architectural features of the temple, the specific designs in architectural members and the style, evidently proves that it should have been constructed by a local chieftain of that region.
The only available stone inscription of 16th century Tamil characters is on one of the pillar in the ardha mandapa. This records the grant of oil and cotton to the temple to light lamps.
Present condition of the temple
It is a living temple. The temple has a dry masonry compound with an entrance on the southern side.
Near the entrance in the prakara Naga stones are installed in a raised mud platform.
At the eastern side is a small four pillared Nandi mandapa and behind that is the stone deepastampa.
The stucco figures in the upper structure on the vimana are damaged.
Identifying the figures is difficult by now.
The outer wall veneering stones of the main shrine are disturbed and dislocated all around due to the strong solid roots of trees grown on the terrace.
The temple must be given proper conservation care immediately. It needs attention from the foundation up to the super structure.
The foundation should be checked as the walls are out of plumb and cracked in many places. Reconstruction is inevitable.
Very few stones are seen damaged and broken. The temple can be reset with most of the old stones which are in good condition. The reusing of old stones will help in preserving the ancient value of the temple.
It is recommended to avoid much of cement and to make use of combination of mortar, lime mortar and lime paste etc. while reconstructing the temple as it is our traditional method.
Our temples (in any form) are not only just places of worship but also have a strong binding with our tradition, heritage and culture and these places have remained as places of learning for many centuries. It is our responsibility to carry forward these to the next generation as our elders and ancestors did. This temple which was constructed by our ancestors has stood all these years as a symbol of our heritage, tradition and culture. Every individual should realize and co-operate in safe guarding this priceless contribution of our ancestors.
There is one kala puja everyday between 6am and 10 am. And the temple lamp is lit every evening. Special pujas are performed on Pradosham and other auspicious days. On request abhishegam is performed for swamy and ambigai.
With Ishwara’s grace, hopefully the work on the temple should start soon.
Tholur is 4km from Aniyapuram on the Namakkal- Mohanur road.
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.