SERVARAYA PERUMAL-GOD OF THE SHEVAROYS

6th May, 2016

SERVARAYAN TEMPLE, YERCAUD

The god of the Servarayan ranges and of the 67 odd villages in these hills, Servaraya Perumal is the guardian of the Shevaroys, and his temple is no grand monument filled with amazing sculptures. I would call it a temple of surprises and wonders, as old as these ancient hills themselves, probably dating back 2000 years or more.

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A view of the Servarayan temple, Manjakuttai, Yercaud

The steep mountain road to the highest point of the Shevaroys makes for a very enjoyable drive. The temple is on a flat hilltop.

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Sunset over the Servarayan temple, Yercaud

A modern outer façade leads to the entrance of the cave. Here you have to stoop to enter and bend down for a few feet into the cave. The cave is wider inside and you can stand up straight. This is where you see the idols of Servaraya Perumal and KaveriAmman on a rocky platform

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TEMPLE OF SURPRISES

You wouldn’t expect a cave temple at this height– 5,326 feet above sea level (1,623 metres ASL)!

The goddess is Kaveri Amman. Yes, you’re right – the goddess of river Kaveri is worshipped at this highest point of the Shevaroy hills!

The idols of Servaraya Perumal and Kaveri amman are small -11/2  feet tall but adorable!

Servaraya Perumal holds the conch and discus in his hands while goddess Kaveri holds a lotus flower in her hand.

The roof above the deities is moist and drops of water fall at intervals on the idols. This flow of water dries up during the dry summer months.

In the dark recess behind the god and goddess the cave goes on. Visitors are not permitted to go beyond this point. A story is told by the local tribal people that the cave goes all the way to Thalakaveri in the state of Karnataka, which is the origin of the Kaveri river. No one knows for sure, but it is a tale that has been told for generations. Surely there must be a reason why there is a temple for goddess Kaveri at these heights but it is a reason that has been lost to us, lost in the mists of time.

There is a great tree at the entrance, its vast trunk covered with small bags of prayer offerings.

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Faith and Promise

 

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Steps leading from the temple to the hilltop above

There are just a few houses some distance away from the temple.

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A house on the hill top

Across the road, there is a wishing well where you throw pebbles and make a wish.

Breathe in the exhilarating, pure, cold mountain air. The vast flat hilltop above the temple is a great place to relax, to have a picnic with your family, or just enjoy the spectacular 360 degrees views and the play of clouds in a sky that is so close that you feel you can almost touch it!

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From this high vantage point you get a breathtaking view of the hills that stretch in rows upon overlapping rows into the distance. You can also see bauxite mines on the hills.

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The sky on fire? Sunset on the hills.

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The festival in May is an important one for the tribal people called as Malayaalees -the people of the hills, when they gather here in their hundreds.

LOCATION

 7 kms from Yercaud lake. You can go by car or take a taxi. Alternately you can hire an auto near the boathouse to take you to the temple.

TIMINGS

The temple is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 

NAMAKKAL TEMPLES -A LEGACY OF THE ADIYAMAAN DYNASTY – III

SRI RANGANATHAR TEMPLE, NAMAKKAL

 

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The Ranganathar temple is a cave temple on the eastern face of the Naamgiri rock. The temple is about midway up the rock and you have to climb 100 steps to reach it.

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Two pillared mantapams lead to the main cave shrine.

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Steps lead to the sanctum which has three doors

To reach it you have to climb another 10 steps. These steps and the scaffolding at the top completely obscure the original stone steps leading to the sanctum.

There are three doors to the sanctum in the manner of the Padmanabha Swamy temple in Tiruvananthapuram. Only the central door is opened daily for devotees to enter the artha mandapam. However, on Vaikunta Ekadasi, the central door is closed. On this day, bhaktas enter the sanctum through the first door and leave after having darshan through the third door.

Lord Vishnu here is in Karkotaka sayanam unlike the anantha sayanam seen in most temples. During the Deeparadhanai, the Battar will point out to you the five faces of the serpent king Karkotaka. Each face is that of a roaring lion or Yali, and not the usual face of a snake. He will tell you that the very breath of the snake king was highly poisonous. The Lord granted the prayer of this highly venomous serpent king which was that He should recline on him in this Kshetra. He will also point out two large Asuras standing near the foot of the Lord, one of them holding a bundle in his hand and tell you a charming tale of the Asuras whose names are Madhu and Kaidapa .

THE STORY OF MADHU -KAIDAPA

They came here to steal the jewels of the Lord. Thinking that the Lord was asleep, they steal all the jewels. Just as they are about to leave with the bundle of jewels they accidentally touch the foot of the Lord and are immediately absolved of all sins. As realization of the true nature of the Divine hits them they pray for and are granted the privilege of being in the service of the Lord. The lesson to be learned is that the smallest contact with the Divine is enough to awaken souls to the greater Truth which is the Lord and in the process , the sins of generations are washed away.

There is a lovely carving of  Ulagalandha Permal in a stone panel to the left of the artha mandapam and a unique carving of Sankara Narayana to the right. Another carving shows Bala Narasimhar.

When you climb down from the shrine you can see a carving of the divine architect, Visvakarma who is thought to have built these cave temples.

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Visvakarma -The Divine Architect

The Battar shows us the stone roof of the cave outside the sanctum which is carved to resemble a roof made of bamboo poles. Truly awe- inspiring!

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Roof carvings sculpted to look like a roof made of Moongil or Bamboo

The name of Thaayar is Ranganayaki. There is a separate shrine for her outside the main temple.She is as beautiful as Naamagiri Thaayaar.

At this altitude it is surprising to see a small pond next to the temple. The priest says it is only the rain water that has collected there. It is full of fish and a few snakes.DSC00955

 

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In The Sevice of the Lord

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TEMPLE TIMINGS

8.30 A.M to 12 NOON

5.30 P.M. TO 7.30P.M.

NAMAKKAL TEMPLES -A LEGACY OF THE ADIYAMAAN DYNASTY – II

LAKSHMI  NARASIMHA SWAMI TEMPLE, NAMAKKAL

INSCRIPTIONS

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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.!

The Hanuman temple can be seen at the far end
The Hanuman temple can be seen at the far end

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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 opening in the small gopuram and another on the wall behind
The opening in the small gopuram and another on the wall behind

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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.

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Ramanujar
Ramanujar

 

Nammalwar
Nammalwar

 

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Sri Krishna,Rukmini and Sathyabama

 

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desikar

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.

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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.

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This panel shows Sita giving bhiksha – alms to Ravana who has taken the form of an ascetic.

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The one next to it shows Rama slaying the Maya maan or pon maan –golden deer.

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Hanuman and Sita in the Asokavanam

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This panel on another door shows Rama breaking the Siva Dhanus at Sita’s Swayamvaram. Sage Visvamitra stands behind Rama.

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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.

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Outside  in the outer prakaram is a sannidhi for Lord Laskhmi Narayana and  the madapalli or temple kitchen.

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NAMAKKAL TEMPLES -A LEGACY OF THE ADIYAMAAN DYNASTY – I

CAVE TEMPLES OF NAMAKKAL

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.

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NAAMAGIRI ROCK, NAMAKKAL, TAMIL NADU

This ancient town is built around a massive monolithic rock called as Naamagiri from 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

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LAKSHMI NARASIMHA SWAMY TEMPLE, NAMAKKAL, TAMIL NADU

LEGEND

(Sthala Purana)

A charming story is told of how the rock called Naamagiri came 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.

KAMALALAYAM TANK, NAMAKKAL, TN
KAMALALAYAM TANK, NAMAKKAL, TN

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.

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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.

THE TEMPLE

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Entrance to the temple

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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.

NAAMAGIRI THAAYAAR

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Naamagiri Thaayaar, Namakkal, Tamil Nadu

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.

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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.”

http://www.facenfacts.com/NewsDetails/34018/google-doodle-celebrates-indias-known-mathematician-srinivasa-ramanujans-125th-birth-day.htm

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.

http://www.imsc.res.in/~rao/ramanujan/newnow/namagiriindex.htm

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LAKSHMI NARASIMHA SWAMY

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Way to Cave Temple

A flight of steps leads to the prakaram which is on three sides of the temple against the imposing backdrop of the Naamagiri rock.

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A FLORAL MOTIF
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A TORTOISE ENGRAVING

 

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.

 

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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.

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HH 46th Srimath Azhagiyasingar, Srivan Sathakopa Sri Ranganatha Yathindra Maha Desikan before the panel showing Sri Vaikunda Narayanan on his visit to the temple on Oct. 5 2015  Pic. courtesy-http://anudinam.org/

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.

More on this temple in my next post.

 

 

 

 

PANDAMANGALAM-In The Footsteps Of The Pandavas

PRASANNA VENKATARAMANA SWAMI TEMPLE, PANDAMANGALAM

The Tamil month of Purataasi is devoted to the worship of Lord Vishnu. Saturdays in this month are days of fasting and worship. The Tamil word for Saturdays is Sani-Kizhamai, and the third Saturday in Purataasi is believed to be the holiest. Visits to Perumal ( Vishnu) temples are important and a part of the worship in this sacred month.

Tucked away in a lovely Tamil-nadu village,surrounded by sugarcane fields,a canal flowing on one side is a beautiful temple to Lord Vishnu.The picturesque village is Pandamangalam in Namakkal district of Tamil-nadu and the Vishnu temple is the Prasanna Venkataramana Swami Temple.

PANDAMANGALAM

As the name suggests,the village  dates back to the Mahabaratha period in history. The Shiva, Vishnu and Mariamman temples are all situated close together. On the day of my visit, a few days after Vinayaka Chaturthi, The Vinayakar in Pandamangalam was getting ready to be taken for immersion in a water body. A few pics.of Ganesha outside the temple.

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Vinayaka Chathurthi in Pandamangalam
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Ganesha getting ready

It is believed that during the Vanavaasam (years in exile) of the Pandavas ,they came to Pandamangalam. They built an Ashram and lived here for some time.

Prasanna Venkataramana Swami appeared to them, and the Pandavas worshipped the Lord and received His blessings. He is the Lord we see today. The village was named after the Pandavas,and Pandavar mangalam became Pandamangalam with the passage of time. During their stay in Pandamangalam they were saved from an evil spirit,  Vedalam,  by Lord Krishna whose temple is near the Varaha Theertham.

Aview from the entrance.Pandamangalam
A view from the entrance.Pandamangalam

Hundreds of years later it was part of the Pandya Kingdom and was known as Pandiyamangalam. The Pandya Queen suffered from a skin disease. The King and Queen prayed to Prasanna Venkataramana Swami. Again the Lord appeared to them and cured the Queen of her ailment.

The third instance when the Lord was Pratyaksham (appeared before the people) happened in a more recent time-frame, when this region was under the  rule of the Kings of Mysore. Once the Raja of Mysore suffered from an incurable stomach-ache. He was advised to come to Pandamangalam and pray to Venkataramana Swami who cured people of all illness. The Raja worshipped God as instructed by the priests and took the prasad of holy tulsi (holy basil) leaves as medicine. He was completely cured of his stomach pain. Returning to Mysore, he told the queen of the miraculous cure. Both the Raja and the Queen came to Pandamangalam and renovated the temple.

So we find that the temple has been extended from the main shrine or garpa griham of the Mahabaratha period to the other shrines and inner and outer corridors built by the Pandya Kings and later by the Raja of  Mysore. Of course the Bhoo Varahar temple and the Varaha theertham are even older.

RAJA VAIKAAL

For hundreds of years, the region around Pandamangalam has been famous for betel-leaf cultivation. Even today, the betel-leaves (vetrilai) grown in Pandamangalam and surrounding areas are among the best. To this day, it is the busy hub of a thriving trade in green betel leaves which are plucked from the vines, packed in layers in dried banana leaves and sent to markets all over Tamil-nadu. In fact, it is one of the first scenes that greet your eyes on the way to the temple.

Once there was a severe draught and the betel vines dried up. The Raja of Mysore had a canal dug that brought water from the lake at Jeddarpalayam, 10kms from here, and irrigated hundreds of acres of land. It is called Raja Vaaikal after the Raja of Mysore. It brings water to the fields throughout the year. For ten days in February – March the water flow is blocked for maintenance of the canal. There is a bridge across the canal that leads to the temple.

Raja Vaaikal Pandamangalam.
Raja Vaaikal Pandamangalam.

Raja Vaikaal Pandamangalam

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The bridge across the canal

The Temple

The temple is built in such a way that Prasanna Venkataramana Swami is clearly visible from the entrance. We have to climb down some steps to enter the temple.

The first worship is to Kshetra Balagar who is the Kaaval Deivam or guardian deity of the Gopura Vaasal (entrance through the Gopuram or temple tower). Behind this is the Dwajastambam or flag post (Kodi Maram in Tamil) and the Bali peetam.

In the inner corridor, the sannadhi( shrine)  of Prasanna Venkataramana Swami occupies centre stage.

Prasanna Venkataramana Swamy-Pandamangalam
Prasanna Venkataramana Swamy-Pandamangalam

The Battar (Priest) tells us about the temple and the Lord.

  • This temple is a Varaha Kshetram.
  • It is a Prarthana Sthalam. Prarthana means prayer. This is a temple where the Lord answers our prayers without fail. The prayers may be for getting a job, cure for illness or any other reasonable prayer. The Lord grants them all.
  • There is no mangalasaasanam for this temple.
  • Usually the idols of Venkataramana Swami in temples are quite big(Aajaanubaagu) but in this temple, He is in Kuzhandai Roopam,(meaning -like a small child) and hence very adorable, making us want to visit Him again and yet again just to gaze on the beauty of the small Perumal with Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi.

Back again in the inner corridor,there are sannidhis to Dhanvantri, Chakarathalwar, Thayar, Andal and Lakshmi Hayagreevar. The name of Thayar is Alarmel Mangai Thayar .There are idols of Narasimhar, Venugopalan with SathyaBama and Rukmini and Lakshmi Narasimhar.The sheer beauty of the idols steals your heart.Another surprise is the Navagraha shrine in this Vishnu temple.

Venugopalaswamy-Pandamangalam
Venugopalaswamy-Pandamangalam

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The paadam of Perumal
The paadam of Perumal

Dhanvantri and Hayagreeva are recent installations of a couple of hundred years. All the rest date back to an ancient time.

Alwargal Pandamangalam

Temple Corridor Pandamangalam

VARAHA THEERTHAM

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Varaha theertham

The priest very kindly sent a local devotee to show us the Varaha Theertham. The outer corridor leads to an ancient door set in the temple wall (mathil). Through this door and the Varaha Theetham lies just beyond.  The Theertham is a sight to behold!Small elephant sculptures grace the steps of this ancient temple pond.

Here is the  small temple to Bhoo Varaha Swami which is older even than the Venkataramana Swami sannadhi. There is another shrine to Sri Krishna.

Bhu Varahar temple
Bhu Varahar temple
Bhoo Varaha Swami,Pandamangalam
Bhoo Varaha Swami, Pandamangalam
Sri Krishna
Sri Krishna

Varaha theertham at duskThe temple is under the Tamilnadu Government. It is beautifully maintained by a trust comprising of local people.

Temple cars Pandamangalam

Additional Facts

Three kaala pujas are performed everyday.

In this temple the Brahmotsavam starts on the day of Thai Aswathy nakshatra in honour of the Raja whose birth star was Thai Aswathy.

WHERE IT IS LOCATED

Pandamangalam  temple is  29 Kms. from Namakkal via NH 7

Distance from Salem is 84 Kms.

Distance from Karur is 27 Kms. via NH 7

Timings:

7.00a.m.to 12.00 p.m.

5.00 p.m to 8.00 p.m.

Address:

Prasanna Venkataramana Swami Tirukoil,

Pandamangalam, P.Velur, Namakkal District, Tamil-nadu,South India

SRIVILLIPUTHUR TEMPLE

SRI ANDAL TEMPLE,  SRIVILLIPUTHUR

The Kumbabhishekam of the Srivilliputhur Vadabadra Sayanar temple was performed recently.I had the good fortune to visit the  temple, that too in the month of Adi, the Tamil month in which Andal was born!

Srivilliputhur is a small town near the Western ghats in Virudhunagar District in Tamilnadu. But everything about it that is small ends here!

  •  It is the birthplace of two of the greatest Alwars of the Vaishnava tradition-       Perialwar and his foster daughter Andal .
  •  The official emblem of the Government of Tamilnadu is the magnificent temple tower of the Vadabadrasayee Perumal at Srivilliputhur.

I was delighted to see a herd of cattle on the road as we approached Srivilliputhur! Cattle and cows are celebrated by Andal in her Tiruppavai,an immortal collection of  hymns on Sri Krishna, the gopis and life in Ayarpadi (Brindavan).

The Andal Temple or Nachiyar koil as it is also called consists of twin temples:

  1. Sri Vadabadrasayee Temple
  2. Andal Temple.

In addition to this is the famous Tiruppora Mantapam where Andal was born and  Periyalwar temple.

ANDAL TEMPLE

We went first to Andal koil as it is called here. In the sanctum sanctorum we have darshan of Andal, Rangamannar and Garudalwar. Their Panchaloga idols grace the mandapam in front.The Battar explains that this is the Mana Kolam of Andal Nachiyar meaning the idols depicted the wedding of Andal with Rangamannar. Here, Garudan stands with the wedding couple, unlike in other Vishnu temples where you usually find Garudan outside the sanctum sanctorum facing the Lord.The reason was that, Garudan brought Rangamannar from Srirangam to the marriage venue very fast(adhi seekramai), so Andal honoured him by giving him a place on the peetam next to them! Moreover, in this temple, there is no separate sannidi for Andal!

Together, Andal, Rangamannar and Periya thiruvadi Garudalwar are seen as  Pranava roopam. It is also known as Pranavakara darsanam. Rangamannar in the middle represents agaram, Andal represents ugaram and Garudan represents makaram.The three together i.e.Aa+Uu+Ma form the holy word Om.In Srirangam, Lord Ranganathar   holds a conch and discus in his hands, In Srivilliputhur,  he holds a dhandam-royal staff held by kings and is called as Rangamannar.

Prayers are made to Thayar Andal and are believed to be heard and granted.

A green parrot rests on Andal’s shoulder.This parrot is special in that it is freshly made by hand everyday using leaves and herbs. 

It is believed that  Andal temple is the place where Periyalwar lived and that Periyalwar built the temple on his return from Srirangam after Andal was united with the Lord.It was renovated by the later Pandya kings. The fish emblem of the Pandya dynasty can be seen in the ceiling and mantapams.The Nayakkar kings of Madurai and the Vijayanagara kings made large donations to Sri Andal temple.

TEMPLE OF LORD VADABADRASAYEE

The temple is also called as Vada Perum Koil and Periya Perumal Koil.

This is the Divyadesam temple.

The temple of Lord Vadabadrasayee is a two- storeyed Maadakoil,with a large prakaram full of beautiful paintings and sculptures.  A shrine for Lord Lakshmi Narasimha is on the ground floor. The idol is large and brightly painted.

A large flight of wide stone steps lead to the floor above. A mantapam leads to the sannidhi of Lord Vadbadrasayee. Lord Vadabadrasayee reclines on Adisesha beneath a banyan tree-Vadabadram. Sridevi and Bhudevi and sages Narada and Markandeya,  Garudan, Surya and Sanathkumaras are present with the Lord. The Lord’s image is a large and very colorful sudhai sirpam –made of brick and mortar, hence daily tirumanjananam (sacred bath ) is not performed.

This was the Lord whom Periyalwar and Andal worshipped with such fervor.This was the Lord who asked to be decked only with the garland of flowers worn by Gothai, who henceforth was called as Soodi Kodutha Sudarkodi and as Andal meaning she who won over the Lord.This was the Lord whom Periyawar adored so much that he devoted his entire life to his service.

Not surprising, for words cannot describe the beauty of Lord Vadabadrasayee. It draws one like a magnet.

a-painting-on-the-wall-behind-the-narasimar-sannidi-in-the-vada-perumkoil
a painting on the wall behind the narasimar sannidi in the Vada perumkoil

 

Vimanam of the two storeyed Vada Perum koil
Vimanam of the two storeyed Vada Perum koil

Also on the first floor is a large rectangular hall with ornate woodwork on the walls. It is called Gopala Vilasam and it was built 200 years ago using wood panels from the temple car which was damaged. The intricate carvings on the wood panels  depict scenes from the Ramayana and other puranas and scenes from the life of Andal. It is here that the Arayar sevai is performed during the Pagal pathu utsavam.

Gopalavilasam
Inside the Gopala Vilasam

Tiruppora mandapam

Outside, the path leads to the famous Tiruppora mandapam which is in a garden. It was here that Andal was found as a small child beneath Tulasi plant by Periyalwar. We worship Andal here as a young child. It is believed that Andal played in this garden. It is also believed that this mantapam was built by Periyalwar and the idol installed after his return from Srirangam where he handed over Andal in marriage to Rangamannar.

ANTIQUITY

  • It is more than 2000 years old. It is believed to have existed even before Periyalwar’s time which is tentatively thought to be the 6th century or 9th century A.D.
  • The two temples contain over 60 inscriptions in “vattezhuthu”, in the Gopuram, Dwajastambam, and walls of the central shrines and mantapams.In the inscriptions, Srivilliputhur is  referred to as Malli Valanadu and Andal is referred to as Soodi Kodutha Nachiyar.

HISTORY OF SRIVILLIPUTHUR

The region around Srivilliputhur was once a forest called Shenbagaranyam-forest of Shenbaga trees. Lord Vishnu appeared in a dream to King Villi. As instructed by the Lord he found the idol of Lord Vadabadrsayee under a banyan tree in the forest. He cleared the forest, built the magnificent Vada Perum Koil and built a city around the temple.It was named after him as Villiputhur and the region was called as Malli Vala Naadu after his mother Queen Malli. It was called

 Puthur -because there were many ant-hills (putru-in Tamil) here

Villiputhur-because it was built by King Villi

Srivilliputhur because Andal (Sri) was born here.

PERIYALWAR

Periyawar was born as Vishnu chittar, the fifth son of Mukunda Battar and Padmavalli who lived in Srivilliputhur and were engaged in the service of Lord Vadabadrasayee. He had a formal education in the Gurukulam where he mastered the Vedas and became a great scholar.

Vishnu Chittar was a great devotee of Sri Krishna. In the Krishnavatara, Lord Krishna grew up in Brindavan and later came to Mathura with his brother Balarama to slay his evil uncle Kamsa and free his parents who languished in prison. In Mathura, he went to the man who made garlands for Kamsa and asked for a garland of flowers. The Garland maker bowed before Sri Krishna and put a beautiful garland on him saying, “Many yogis and saints wait to have your darshan. Yet you chose to come to the the humble dwelling of this ordinary man. I am blessed.”

Vishnu Chittar was impressed by the above story  of Krishna and decided that making garlands for the Lord would be his vocation too. He sold the ancestral properties and bought some land near the Vada Perunkoil. He created a beautiful Nandavanam (garden) in it. Fragrant flowers of all kinds blossomed in it. In the darkness before dawn, before the bees could find the flowers, he gathered the flowers,made them into a beautiful garland and offered it to Lord Vadbadrasayee.

The Pandya king who ruled Madurai during this period was King Vallabadevan. He invited all the learned men of various faiths for a philosophical debate.

On instructions from Lord Vadabadrasayee, Periyalwar travelled with devotees to Madurai, where he was given a warm welcome by king Vallabadevan. He won the debate and proved that the only  path to moksha was by service to the Almighty. King Vallabadevan gave him enormous wealth as the prize and honoured him by taking him in a procession around the city of Madurai seated on the royal elephant. It is said that Lord Vishnu with the Thayars came to watch His bhakta being honoured . Periyalwar, on seeing the Lord, sang the Pallandu, the first 12 verses of Naalayira Divya Prabandham. It begins like this, “Long live for many years, long live for many years, for hundreds of thousands of years!” to God. This is an important prayer in SriVaishnava tradition.The Naalayira Divyaprabandham are called Tamil Vedam as they bring to us the essence of the Vedas and can be easily understood by the common man.

On his return to Srivilliputhur, Periyalwar renovated the temple of Lord Vadabadrasayee, and built the Rajagopuram which we see today with the help of King Valabadevan.

The magnificent Rajagopuram is 192 feet high with eleven tiers  and is one of the tallest in Tamilnadu.  It is the official emblem of the Government of Tamilnadu.

Incriptions and Carvings on the ceiling of the mantapam of Perialwar temple
Incriptions and Carvings on the ceiling of the mantapam of Perialwar temple

THE STORY OF ANDAL

Andal is said to be the incarnation of Goddess Earth or Bhudevi.She was sent down here to Earth to reveal the delight of divine love. She was born in Srivilliputhur, in Virudhunagar district of Tamilnadu.

Andal was found as a five year old  child  beneath the Tulsi plants (Holy Basil) by Perialwar in his Nandavanam (Temple garden).He took her to Lord Vadabadrasayee who directed him to name the child as Godhai which means- Godhaa” [ Go means Bhoomi ; dhaa- given ; Given by Bhoomidevi and raise her as his own daughter.

Periyalwar  saw Godhai as Lord Vadabadrasayee’s gift to him since he had no children of his own. He took her home and brought her up with love. Periyalwar tutored her in the Vedas and instilled in her devotion for the Almighty. As he made garlands for the Lord, the little girl sat near him and listened to him describe incidents from the life of Lord Krishna in Brindavan. She was a child prodigy and scholar in her own right and her love and devotion for Sri Krishna grew. She decided that she wanted to marry him.

THIRUPAAVAI

Andal was told that the gopis of Brindavan observed a vow called Paavai Nonbu in order to attain the Lord. So, she gathered her friends together and assuming she and her friends were the gopis and Srivilliputhur was Brindavan, the Vadaperumkoil was the palace of Nandagopar and Lord Vadabadrasayee was Lord Krishna, she too observed the Paavai nonbu. and sang the 30 hymns of the Thiruppavai. Andal was only five years old!

andal
A painting of Andal-  http://fineartamerica.com/featured/andalkrishnaa-parimala-devi-namasivayam.html

One day,she saw her father make a garland forLord  Vadabadrasayee. In his absence she wore the Garland and looked at herself in the mirror and wondered if she looked beautiful wearing the garland and if she was a fitting bride for the Lord! She then replaced the garland in the Kudalai (cane basket used for keeping flowers). Perialwar, unaware of this offered the garland to Lord Vadbadrasayee. This went on for some time. One day, Perialwar found a strand of hair in the garland and threw it away. He made a fresh garland for the Lord. That night in a dream, Lord Vadabadrasayee spoke to him thus, “The garland with the hair was worn by your daughter Gothai. Henceforth, offer the garland to Me only after it is worn by Gothai, I take pleasure in wearing the garlands worn by her.

From then onwards Gothai was called as Andal and as Soodi  Kodutha Nachiyar. To this day in Srivilliputhur, the garland worn by Sri Andal in the evening is taken the next morning to be worn by Lord Vadabadrasayee.

At the right age Periyawar started searching for a suitable bridegroom for his daughter. Andal however told him that she would marry only the Lord. She then asked him to describe the Divyadesam Perumals to her. She decided that she would marry Lord Ranganathar of Sri Rangam.

Then Periyalwar had a dream in which Ranganathar directed him to bring Andal to Srirangam decked in bridal attire.The temple officials in Srirangam  had a similar dream.

Andal was taken to Srirangam in her fourteenth year in a palanquin sent by the temple officials in Srirangam. Periyalwar and the people of Srivilliputhur accompanied her There she merged with the Lord in the sanctum.

What is unique about these temples

  • The temple of Lord Vadabadrasayee is a Divyadesam temple.
  • Srivilliputhur is a Varaha Kshetram as Lord Vishnu in his Varaha Avataram rested here briefly when this region was a dense forest called  Shenbagaranyam.
  • The Alwars Periyalwar and Andal who is the only woman among the Alwars were born in Srivilliputhur.
  • Villiputhoorar who wrote the Villibaratham in Tamil based on the Mahabharatam of Sage Vyasa was also born here.
  • Periyawar sang the 12 Paasurams of Thiru Pallaandu and 461 Paasurams of Periyalwar Thirumozhi
  • Andal sang the 30 paasurams of Thirupaavai and 143 paasurams of Naachiyar Thirumozhi.
  • It is interesting to know that a garland worn by Andal is sent to Tirupathi one day before the Bramotsavam begins in Tirumalai and offered to Lord Venkateswara.
  • Kallazhagar of Madurai is also presented with a garland worn by Andal on Chithirai Festival day.

Andal  in her NachiyarTirumozhi has sung an important Pasuram on Tirumaliruncholi Perumal starting as “ Naaru Narum Pozhil Maaliruncholai Nambikki Naan Nooru Thada Vennai Vaay Nerndhu Paravi yaithen; Nooru Thada Niraindha AkkaraAdisil Sonnen ; Eru Thiru Udayan Indru Vandhu Ivai Kolungalo “. This wish of hers was later fulfilled by Acharyan Ramanujar. Hence , She is said to have invited Ramanujar , when he came to SriRangam temple as “ Kovil Annan Vaareer “ ! And in her Vaazhi Tirunamam we say thus :, “ PerumPoodoor Mamunikki Pin Aanal Vazhiye “ !

Getting ready for Adi Pooram The temple chariot at srivilliputhur
Getting ready for Adi Pooram The temple chariot at srivilliputhur
Street view and temple car Srivilliputhur
Street view and temple car Srivilliputhur

LOCATION:

Srivilliputhur is 75 km.from Madurai and 70 km. from Tirunelvelli.

Restaurant:

Hotel Kathiravan  is  a good place to eat.

TEMPLE TIMINGS:

7A.M. to 1P.M.

4 P.M. to 9P.M.