Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mahabalipuram & Thirukazhukundram

In 2008 all the 3 trips were very exciting. In 2009 my travels started with spiritual tours. In the past 3 months in 2009 I went to Thirupathi, Thirukazhukundram, Thanjavur, Kumbakonam and Mayavaram.

This post I am going to tell my experiences on my trip to Thirukazhukundram. This place also known as Eagle City in english has a very old high spiritual history.

Thiru Kazhugukundram is its actual name. The sthala puram(Legendary stories about this place and has evidence till date) is as told below.

There are many legends about Thirukazhukundram. According to one Hindu legend, eight Brahmaputras/rishis of the Hindu pantheon prayed to Lord Siva in order to achieve Sarupya Mukti (wherein a departed soul acquires the form of the Lord). But when Lord Shiva appeared before them to grant the boon, they changed their minds and asked for Sayujya mukti (which means oneness with the Lord or merging with the Supreme Brahman). Enraged by their deceit, Lord Shiva cursed them to be born as eagles. When they begged forgiveness, Lord Shiva gave them some liberation from the curse. They were to be born as holy eagles, two in each yugam (an epoch of the Hindu calendar) and attain Sayujya mukti by worshiping him sincerely. Thus it is believed that out of the eight Brahmaputras Sandan, Prasandan, Sampathi, Jatayu, Samburuthan, Maguthan have already attained their wish by being born as eagles and worshipping the Lord.

It is believed that ,the remaining two Brahmaputras/Rishis Boosha and Vithatha, are the two eagles that have been visiting Thirukazhukundram daily since time immemorial, in order to worship Shiva and obtain salvation from His curse. It is said that after a bath in the Ganges in the morning, they come here at noon for food, reach Rameswaram in the evening for darshan and return to Chidambaram for the night.

The town is also known as Pakshi theertham because of these eagle visits. It has also been known as Uruthrakodi, Nandipuri, Indrapuri, Narayanapuri, Brahmapuri, Dinakarapuri, Muniganapuri in the past.

Each name has its own legend. From this history we can understand how old this temple is and how its name has been changing from time to time.

There are 3 Sivan temples in this Thirukazhukundram town. First temple is Vedagiriswarar on hill top. According to tradition, the four Vedas, Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana, are seen here in the shape of four boulders, placed one above the other, with Lord Siva as Vedagiriswarar, emerging from the head of the fourth Veda, Atharvana. Hence the place gets the name Vedagiri, where the presiding deity on the hilltop is Vedagiriswarar.

Above image shows VedaGiriswarar temple From foot of the hill.

The hill covering an area of 265 acres is 500 feet high and the hilltop can be reached by ascending 562 well-laid stone slabs. On the way there are small mandapams, for pilgrims to rest. The steps and the walls on the sides have been built from donations. For the infirm and the aged, dholis carried by two persons are available at nominal charges.

Before ascending the steps, the devotees worship Siddharti Vinayaka and Ayyappa at the foot of the hill. The central shrine of the temple where the presiding deity Vedagiriswarar is seen is built of three large boulders, constituting the three walls for the sanctum. Vedagiriswarar is a swayambu lingam.

Vedagiriswarar was worshipped by Indra, Thillothama (a dancer in Indra's court), Garuda (mount of Vishnu), Ashtavasus and many Rudras. He has been praised in the songs and verses of the four great Tamil saints — Appar, Sambandar, Sundaramurthi and Manickavasagar. The inner walls of the sanctum contain many images, all hewn out of the rock surrounding the presiding deity. In the enclosure around the sanctum, are the shrines of Goddess Sokkanayaki and Vinayaka (in a dancing pose).

After a darshan of Vedagiriswarar, devotees eagerly await the arrival of the eagles just before noon. They wait in large numbers at a shed specially erected for the purpose. After cleaning a particular spot on the adjacent boulder, the temple priest sits down, with the food (sakkarai pongal). Two eagles, after circling around temple top, come near the priest walking. They eat the balls of rice and after cleaning their beaks in the water kept in a small vessel nearby, take off, circle around the tower again and fly off. This has been going on for centuries now. The scene is sculpted on one of the walls in front of Goddess Tirupurasundari, in the lower temple.

After descending a few steps on the other side, a monolithic cave-temple is seen. This mandapam is full of rare sculptures and belongs to the Mamalla period (A.D. 610-640). There are two verandahs in the cave, each being supported by four massive pillars.

In the lower one, there are two life-size statues, decorated with ornaments. In the upper verandah, there is a huge lingam with figures of Brahma and Vishnu on either side. The peculiarity is that the whole mandapam with sculptures is hewn out of a single rock. Hence this cave is known as Orukkal Mandapam.

On the eastern side, at the foot of the hill, there is a small shrine Nalvar Koil, from where the four Tamil saints — Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Manickavasagar — had darshan of Vedagiriswarar. The Consort of Vedagiriswarar is not seen on the hilltop. She is enshrined in the temple of Bakthavatsaleswarar at the centre of the town.

The temple has four gopurams (towers), the tallest with nine tiers (on the southern side) and the other three with seven tiers.

In the prakaram of the temple, the tank, Nandi Thirtham, is located. It has a huge Nandi (mount of Siva), facing Vedagiriswarar on the hilltop. The absence of a Nandi before the presiding deity on the hilltop is a unique feature.

The Nandi once undertook penance on the Earth. Pleased, Siva appeared before him and told him to ask for a boon. The Nandi desired that the place and the tank be named after him and asked that those taking a dip in the tank and worshipping Vedagiriswarar be absolved of their sins. His prayer was granted and hence the place is also known as Nandipuram and the tank, Nandi Thirtham.

The mahamandapam that fringes the inner gopuram (Rishi Gopuram) contains a fine sculptural representation of Agora Veerabhadra (Siva in ferocious form), a colossal figure seven feet high. A similar image can be seen at the Meenakshi temple in Madurai.


Bhaktawastsaleswarar Temple

The prakaram around the sanctum of the secomd temple Bakthavatsaleswarar (the presiding deity of the 2nd temple which is down not on the hill) has many images. The shape of the vimanam of the temple is peculiar, resembling the Buddhist viharas in the North, since the spherical top portion is cut in front. It was here that Lord Siva appeared before the Tamil saint Manickavasagar, in the form of Dakshinamurthi, and initiated him into the secrets of the holy Panchaksharam. The plantain tree is the sthala vriksham of the temple.

Goddess Tirupurasundari has a special shrine. Around the sanctum engraved on marble slabs fixed on the walls, are verses from the "Abhirami Andhathi.

Sangu Thirtham.

Not far away, but opposite to this temple is the sacred tank Sangu Thirtham. It is an extensive tank of 1,000 square yards area, with wide steps on all sides. It is believed that Saint Markandeya, came down here after visiting Benares. He wished to have a bath in the sacred tank and perform abhishekam to the Siva lingam here but he found no vessel to take the water. Just then a conch suddenly emerged from the tank, with a humming sound, and Markandeya performed the abhishekam. It is said that even now once in 12 years, a conch emerges from this water, which the temple authorities collect with all honours and preserve in the temple.

There is a collection of about 1,000 conches in this temple, with which, abhishekam is performed to Lord Vedagiriswarar on the last Monday in the Tamil month of Karthigai. The conch last appeared in the tank in 1986.

According to the sthalapuranam, Lord Siva Himself has declared that this tank is the holiest of all, and as per His command, all the sacred waters in India meet here once in 12 years when Guru (Jupiter) enters Kanya rasi. The event is conducted as a festival — Sangu Thirtha Pushkara Mela — when there is a huge gathering from all parts of the country — this being the second biggest bathing festival in the South, next to the Maha Makham.

It is believed that the hill has innumerable medicinal herbs and plants and therefore the cool breeze is said to cure ailments.

The third temple is Rudrakoteeswarar. This is also a very ancient swaymbu lingam. Its sthala puram is as below. MANY KNOW the hill temple of Vedagiriswarar in Pakshitheertham, more popularly known as Thirukazhu(gu)kundram, but not all would be aware that an equally important and even more ancient temple of Rudrakoteeswarar exists at the foot of the hills, apart from the Bhaktavatsalar temple there.

It is said to be 1,700 years old, the Lord in the temple is known as Rudrakoteeswarar. According to legend, the celestial beings who could not bear the torture of the demons, prayed to Lord Siva, who made one crore Rudras emerge from His body to destroy the demons. The Rudras, after finishing the task assigned to them, worshipped the Lord and got merged in His heart.

An ancient poem, inscribed in the inner wall of the temple says, while Kasi (Benares), Thiruvarur, Chidambaram, Thiruvannamalai, Kanchi, Kalahasti and Madurai formed the body of Lord Siva the Koteeswarar Temple at Rudrakoti or Rudrankoil is His heart. According to Saiva Siddhanta, Rudra is the presiding deity of one of the five elements of Nature — Fire. Rudra is referred to in the Vedas, not as a sectarian deity, but as the Supreme Lord, who guides the Universe from one level of perfection to the higher one. Sri Rudram, which forms part of the Upanishads, speaks of the glory of Rudra and says that the Lord is always pleased with obeisance and it offers salutations to Him many times. Praying to Rudrakoteeswarar at this temple continuously during 16 Pradoshams, would rid one of ailments of the heart, hypertension, diabetes and also problems caused by planetary changes. The Vedas also speak about the presence of 11 Rudras and their consorts, 11 Rudranis. Of the 108 Sakthi Peetams, the 24th is considered to be Rudrakoti's Sakthi. Devi Bhagavatham says that She adorns the Rudrani Peetam. It is believed that praying to Her at the temple on nine full moon days helps a devotee unite in wedlock, lead a happy family life and be free from all afflictions.

The Rudrakoteeswarar Temple, where the name of the Goddess is Rudrani, (also known as Abhirami Nayaki) has a five-tier Rajagopuram. The tower was in a dilapidated condition, but due to the effort of devotees, four tiers, besides the Kalkaram, have been renovated. The flooring around the prakaram outside the sanctum sanctorum has been newly laid. The superstructure above the Nandimandapam has been rebuilt.

The shrine of the Goddess is situated on the left side and She looks southwards through an opening on the temple wall towards the Kali Temple at Vattaparai (circular rock), situated at some distance. The temple also has shrines for Dakshinamurthi, Vinayaka and Subramania with His consorts, the Thevaram trio — Appar, Sundarar and Gnanasambandar — and also Manickavasagar. While in the Siva temples the image of Lingodhbavar is found on the western side of the sanctum sanctorum, here one can find the image of Mahavishnu with Varada Hastham. The Lingam is a swayambu — not sculpted by anyone.

It was Feb 7th 2009 I visited this place. It was Sani pradosham along with punarpoosam natchathiram(star) in which I was born. For everybody the day in which their birth star comes is a good day for them to visit temples. A very auspicious day for me to visit these temples and get Lord Shiva's blessings. So after reading all about this place I was very determined to use this opportunity. I planned the day like this. ThiruKazhukundram is 17Km to the west of mahabalipuram. It can be reached via tambaram too. PTC bus no. 108 from tambaram goes to tirukalukunram. The pradosham time is from 4 to 6.30 so its mandatory i should visit the temple at that time. I started from my home by 11.30 AM reached mahabalipuram by 12.45 PM. Mahabalipuram was really entertaining that too with my new camera it gave a nice feast for my photography interest. So i whiled away in mahabalipuram for some time seeing all beautiful sculptures. It was around 3.30 when i waited for the bus to tirukalukunram. Reached there exactly by 4.30 PM. First I visited Rudrakoteeswarar down hill. Participated in the mass worship in the temple. It was really splendid the way the people in these places organize this mass worship. The chantings and events that took place in the temple was really so nice. After a fulfilled worship. I wanted to visit the Vedagiriswarar at top of the hill too. But it was already 6 PM. People were returning back and the temple's main entrance was closed. I felt very bad that after coming this long i am going to miss the darshan of the main deity there. But I didn't want to leave that way so i started climbing the hill with a blind confidence. There were not much lighting and I was all alone while climbing the hill. It was really thrilling once in while one to two will come in the opposite side. So i followed the path from where these people come down. Luckily i reached the back entrance of the temple. Had a nice darshan of the Arthajama abhishekam and felt very happy that i was able to see both the temples. This was my first time experience as a lonely traveler exploring the spiritual and historic places nearby. That day was a fulfilled day in my life. Om Nama Shivaya.




5 comments:

  1. Extraordinary piece of information.Nicely written and the pix are really wonderful. Kudos to u r camera . However you could have written more about your journey everything said it is really good and enjoyable to read .Continue blogging

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice reading....I will be visiting Mahabalipuram this month.

    -Maneesh.
    Admirableindia.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. would love to know more about thirukazhukundram, specially about the eedi pooja by devandran i have heard its happened 1930 once,
    anybody knows when its going to happen again

    ReplyDelete
  4. about Thirukalukundram Temple History click

    http://www.thirukalukundram.in

    ReplyDelete
  5. about Thirukalukundram Temple History click

    http://www.thirukalukundram.in

    ReplyDelete