Saturday, September 13, 2008

From Chennai till Kumbakonam - Temples A Glance

Following my sister’s vacation in INDIA, we decided to go for a temple tour up to kumbhakonam. We started off to Pondicherry and before we could enter Pondicherry via thindivanam route, panchavati arrives.

August 29 2008

1. Panchavati – Panchamuga Anjeneyar Temple

Panchamugha Anjeneyar is the main deity in this temple. As we enter the temple, on the right hand side the GOD of Good luck and Fortune welcomes us, after praying to Lord Ganesha we started our first temple visit.
We entered a big mandapam and the huge screen was covering the Anjeneyar. There were beautiful sculptors on the walls very close to the ceiling on both sides of the mandap. There was a huge vessel that was kept in front of the anjeneyar which read ‘DIVINE FLOATING STONE’ , so I tried to focus in to the vessel, I found a stone slightly greenish in color, floating and a few flowers floating in the water along with the stone. It was brought from ‘Rameshwaram’ and it weighed around 8kgs and used by Lord Rama’s ‘Vaanar Sena’ to build the bridge to Lanka.I was gawking at the stone and pondering Anjeneyar’s faith in Lord Rama. Though there may be scientific reasons for the floating stone, one had to think about anjeneyar uttering the word ‘Rama’ and throwing the stone in water and the stone floated, such should be the devotion/Faith in the Lord. ‘Seeing is Believing’ – I said to myself and the curtain was open and I saw the giant Anjeneyar around 36 feet with five different faces and a huge stair case running on both sides of the anjeneyar , a priest was lighting lamps from the ground along the sides of the anjeneyar. At the feet, the ‘Urchava Murthy’ of Panchamugha Anjeneyar and ‘Ramar Paadam’ was kept inside a box which had a mirror on the closing side and reflected the ‘Ramar Paadam’. Freshly cooked ‘Prasadam’ was carried in a big vessel and the priests covered their nose and mouth with a cloth and brought the prasadam. After it was offered to the Lord, we also received our share ‘Curd Rice and Vada’ , it was very hot and we couldn’t hold it in our hands as we gulped the curd rice and started our journey to pondy.

2. Manakkula Vinayagar

This temple lies adjacent to Mother’s Ashram and its been a practice for us to Visit the temple and the Mother’s shrine. ‘Manakkula Vinayagar ‘ the name has different meanings and people carry beliefs like one gets married if one visit’s to the temple and one’s earnest deepest desires in the heart gets fulfilled when one prays at this temple, the temple is maintained very neatly and the elephant outside the temple blesses each person who offers a one rupee coin to him. There was lots of Lotus flowers, pink and white sold outside the temple and the vinayagar’s is adorned with flowers and the lord glitters as he showers his blessings on us.

3. Mother Ashram - Annai
After worshipping Lord Ganesha we went to the Mother Ashramam, no flowers allowed and we came around the Samadhi, prayed and enjoyed the silence in the ashramam. My sister wanted to buy some books, so we entered a spiritual shop and I picked a good book on Mudra’s and she picked ‘Jonathan the Sea Gull’. We finished our breakfast at Adyar Anandha Bhavan and started off to Vaitheswaran Koil.

4. Keezhperumpallam – Kethu Sthalam
We offered our prayers to Kethu Bhaghavan, we lighted the deepam along with the ‘Kollu’ and circumambulated the temple and read about Kethu and the origin of this temple.


History:
Kethu, one of the 9 celestial bodies worshipped Shiva. Rahu and Ketu are associated with the legend of the churning of the milky ocean. When the amirtham emerged, Lord Vishnu in the guise of Mohini was distributing the amirtham only to the devas. He was worried that the evil deeds of the asuras will increase multifold if they consumed amirtham. Realizing this, one of the asuras with the help of the asura guru Sukrachariyar, took the form of a deva and consumed the nectar. Suryan and Chandran who noticed this, complained to Lord Narayana. In anger, Lord Narayana hit the asura on the head with the spoon in his hand. The head was cut off and fell on the ground. But because the asura had consumed amirtham, his head and body continued to live. The head portion of the asura attached itself to a snake body to become Rahu Bhagavan. The body portion that was thrown away fell in Pothigai mountain region. This was found and preserved by a Brahmin. The head of a snake got attached to the asura body to become Kethu. The sthalam of Kethu is Keezhperumpallam, which is located 6 kms from Thiruvengaadu, enroute to Poompuhar. His wife is Chitralekha. The presiding deities are Naaganaadaswamy and his consort Ambal. He faces the North-West direction. The Adi Devatha is Chitraguptan and the Prathyathi Devatha is Brahma.

5. Thirukadavur

The Main deities of Thirukadavur are Amrithagateshwarar (Lord Shiva) and Abirami Amman or Abiramavalli. Amrithaghateshwarar is said to be the manifestation of the celestial nectar that was obtained by the Devas when the heavenly ocean, Paarkadal was churned. Hence His name Amrithaghateshwarar.
History:
There are two stories that mark the significance of the temple Thirukadavur. Sage Mrikandu and his wife grieved about being childless and hence prayed to Lord Shiva for an issue.
The merciful Lord appeared in their dream and asked them to choose between a wise child with a short span of life and dunce who will live long. The sage chose for a wise child and thus Markandeya who was to live only for sixteen years was born. As foretold by the Lord, Markandeya grew up to be wise and virtuous. He developed a natural devotion towards Lord Shiva and engaged himself in the worship of the Lord. Days went by and the sixteenth year of his birth approached to the grief of his parents.
On his sixteenth birthday as Markandeya sat worshipping the Lord in the form of a Shivalinga, Yama, the Lord of death appeared and summoned him to go with him. Markandeya requested Yama to wait until the completion of his pooja. Thus they both entered into an argument with Yama growing furious and Markandeya replying calmly that he would not budge until his worship is done. Yama however grew irritated and threw the noose around Markandeya's neck. Markandeya sought the refuge of the Lord by hugging the Shivalinga when the noose rested on his neck together with the Shivalinga!The Shivalinga burst open and a tempestuous Lord wild with rage emerged out of the Linga and kicked Yama hard on his chest and sunk His Thrishul (Spear) into his body! He thus vanquished the Lord of death, bringing death to the very fact of 'death' itself. He then blessed Markandeya with a long life on account of his sincere worship and steadfast faith. However on the imploring of the Devas and other heavenly beings, Shiva retrieved the Lord of death as the earth could not behold the mounting pressure due to the lack of death. Hence here Shiva is hailed as 'Kaalasamhaara Murthy' (The Lord who had vanquished death).


‘Abhirami Andhadhi’ was written by Abhirama pattar in praise of Goddess Abhirami.
Abirama Battar was a Brahmin and a pundit engaged in the vocation of guiding people with the description of days, favorable and unfavorable times for commencing important events etc with the help of an almanac. A very virtuous person who was always lost in the thoughts of Mother Abirami, his speckless devotion attracted the envy of some. They thus to cause trouble for Battar, gave false informations to the then ruling king Saraboji. The king hence asked Battar the description of the day as to whether it was a full moon day or a no moon day. Battar whose mind was lost with Abirami came up with the wrong answer that it was a full-moon day which actually was a no moon day. The king in his fury commanded to slay Battar for coming up with the wrong answer. Hence Battar sat on a suspended platform supported by hundred ropes under which a huge pyre was raised. His only hope was Mother Abirami and his devotion took shape of hundred songs. At the completion of each stanza he cut a rope to end his life at the end of the hundredth song. Mother Abirami's heart melted for his devotion and she delayed not a moment to throw one of her earrings towards the sky that shone as the moon on a no moon day thereby saving the life of her ardent devotee.

Abirami Andhadhi is a wonderful composition written in the Andhadhi pattern with the commencing of each para with the ending word of the previous para. It is still sung and chanted in devotion in many Tamil homes.


The Priest explained this story of Markhandeya and then opened a sliding golden plated a horizontal slider at the foot of the Lord Nataraja where the trishul piercing the Lord Yama could be seen, and then he closed the slider again and one can see the Lord Shiva only. We could see many homa kundams all around the temple, many families were performing ‘Ayush Homam’ and ‘Mrithyun Jay Homam’ and 60th, 70th, 80th wedding anniversary celebrations was being performed. My parents were glad since that day was their wedding anniversary and we could visit the temple.

We hadn’t had our lunch and felt hungry, by the time we found a restaurant it was around 3.30, we managed to get some poori and felt at ease.

6. Thiruvenkadu – Bhudan Temple
It is said that the oldest part of the temple is more than 3000 years old and it’s a very big temple and it’s dedicated to Budhan or Mercury. Legend says that Lord Bhudan was born as a transvestite and he prayed to Lord Shiva and seeked his mercy for he was born like this, Lord Shiva blessed him and he was relieved from this.
Budhan is said to bestow wisdom and intellect. Budha or Mercury is considered as the greatest among the wise. This Devata bestows wisdom and wealth on his devotees. He is ruled by Lord Maha Vishnu. This place is similar to Kasi with all the Snana Ghats. One can do all the karmas here that are supposed to be done in kasi. We can find a separate sanctum sanctorum for bhudan. Bhudan holds the portfolio of Education and Arts and it is the next popular place students prefer to go after Tuition centers.
History:
Thiruvenkadu and nearby locations were under the clutches of an asura by name Marutwasura who was troubling the Rishis and the people, who sought divine interference from Lord Shiva who sent his Nandi, the Bull - his vahana - who fought with the demon and threw him in the sea before returning victoriously. However, the demon Marutwasura did not stop with that and undertook severer penance, invoking Lord Shiva, the merciful who could not but appear before him though he had a very bad reputation and as a result of the penance, the demon obtained His trident - sula - from Him.
Obtaining much superior power, Marutwasura returned with all vengeance and intensified his attack on innocent people and sages. Once again the Lord was requested by the poor devotees for protection and once again He sent Nandi to fight him. However since the demon was equipped with the trident of the Lord, the mighty war weapon of his Master, he could not fight Marutwasura and was attacked by the demon very badly, causing grievous wounds on his sturdy frame.
Nandi had to retreat from the field and report back to the Lord, pleading inability to face the demon who wielded the Lord’s weapon, against which he had no power. The Lord, opened His third eye which discharged intense fire that consumed the demon who became one with the jyoti of the third eye.
The sages submitted their desire to the Lord, wishing Him to turn the jyoti into a form and reside there in the shrine. The Lord accordingly assumed the form of Aghoramurti, a manifestation of His wild and angry form, in action. The idol of Aghoramurti installed in Thiruvenkadu is considered to be a rare specimen of the rich sculpting skills of our ancient land.
The idol of Nandi installed bears nine scars on its body and is seated at the entrance of Devi’s shrine, with face turned towards the Lord’s shrine and ears cocked towards that of Devi. This is considered to be a rather peculiar posture, signifying the readiness of the celestial Bull to receive orders from the Divine Couple.
Swetaketu’s story is very similar to that of Markandeya. Swetaketu, it was predicted, would die at the age of eight. He installed a Lingam in Thiruvenkadu and worshipped the Lord, seeking His protection from Yama. At the end of his eighth year, the Lord of Death appeared before Swetaketu to end his life. The Lord came forth from the Lingam and punished Yama who dared to take the life of His devotee, under His protection. The name Swetaranya is associated with Swetaketu, the devotee who was saved by the Lord.
It is said that the Lord performed seven of His dances - Tandavam - known as Ananda, Sandhya, Samhara, Tripuranta, Urdhva, Bhujanga and Lalita, before Swetaketu, at his request. The deity of the Lord has five faces - Easanam, Tatpurusham, Aghoram, Vamadevam and Sadyojatam, a manifestation that is not commonly seen in all Shiva temples.
The temple is situated in a sprawling area of 2,45,520 sq. ft. surrounded by five prakarams known as pancha prakarams. Apart from the presiding deity, the Lord is consecrated in His forms as Aghoramurthi and Nataraja. The Nataraja image bears the seven instruments and weapons - Vetalam, Khadgam, Udukku, Mani, Kedayam, Kapalam and Trisulam. Devi in Her divine form of Bhadra Kali has a separate shrine. There are two shrines of Ashta Lakshmi, four in each. The Navagrahas are installed in a row, which is very unusual in any temple.
7. Vaitheeswaran Koil – Mars
‘Angarakan’ has a special separate place in this shrine. ‘Vaitheeanatha Swamy’, Lord Shiva along with Goddess ‘Thaiyal Nayaki’ bestows good health to people who offer their prayers here. Its believed that if one baths in the sacred ‘Theertham’ where a drop of amirtha has been mixed in the temple tank is said to cure close to around 4000 diseases and people who offer ‘Salt’ and ‘Pepper’ to the Goddess ‘Thailyal Nayaki’ is bestowed with good health.
History:
Eighteen thirthas inclusive of disease curing Siddhamirtha thirtha is also here.The Temple tank is said to be free from frogs and snakes because of the curse of a sage Sadhanandha and has therapeutic properties which can induce healing specially all skin related ailments.In this temple, the (navagraha) Nine planets by virtue of losing their powers remain in a straight line.
Lord Rama cremated Jatayu here. This tank is inside the temple. The holy ashes of Jatayu pit, present inside the temple and the Marundhu urundai sold in the temple are believed to have special powers to cure all kinds of diseases. We were there for the pooja at the Lord Muruga’s shrine, Lord Muruga rules Mars and all pooja’s are done to Lord Muruga here. He is the Lord of Marital character and symbolizes ‘Red’ in color. We could watch the ‘Arthajama pooja’ the final worship service being offered to Lord Muruga and prayed for good life.

August 30th 2008

8. Thirupambaram – Rahu and Kethu Temple

A small village with one way roads and fields on both sides, curved paths leads one to this temple. Legend says there has been no human loss by snake bite in this place. We reached the place to find a big crowd already assembled their in ‘Rahu Kalam’ time, we offered our prayers to Lord Shiva ‘Naganathar’ where we could see a picture hung on the temple wall inside , the picture where a snake’s skin around 7ft in length curled around the Shiva lingam. Milk Abhishekham is being performed on Rahu in this temple along with the parikara pooja during the rahu kalam period, where the abhishegam for the three deities Naganathar and Goddess Parvathi and then Rahu bhagavan is being performed.

History:
Once, Saint Sushila cursed Sri Rahu Bagavan - Sun’s Ascend Node, one of the nine-orbiting planets.
To absolve his curse, Rahu worshipped Lord Siva in Kumbakonam Kilkottam in the first quarter of the night - First Jamam and Senbakaranyam in the Second quarter, and Thirupamburam in the Third quarter, and Nagaikaronam in the Fourth quarter and at last at Usha time came to this holy Senbaka forest and prayed to him to absolve his curse. So, we can see Sri Rahu Bhagavan with his two consorts in his marriage posture in the Southwest corner of this temple.

9. Thirumanajcheri – Temple for Marriage

The Lord Shiva holds his wife Goddess Parvati’s hands with shiva’s right hand on top of the goddess left hand and believed to be very powerful in blessing people for marriage.

One needs to be careful if they need to perform the pooja in here, the vendors outside the temple tend to sell off the necessary articles for the pooja for 75+ rupees and once you are close to the temple, one can find the notice outside temple where they instruct you to buy the pooja articles inside the temple for 35 rupees only.


History:
Sri Umamangai Devi Prayed to Lord Siva at Kailash Himalayas to remarry her in the earth. Lord Siva granted the boon to remarry her in the forthcoming Brahma Karpam . Since she was granted longer duration to fulfill her wish Uma mangai Devi was little indifferent to the lord Siva.

Lord Siva was unhappy with Sri Uma mangai Devi and cursed her to live as a cow in earth. She repented on her action and to absolve of her curse, goddess prayed to Lord Siva. Lord Siva controlled his anger and blessed her by changing Tirumagal, Kalaimagal & Indirani as cows and to accompany Sri Umamangai Devi in the earth. Pleased by the milk showered on his body by Sri Uma mangai Devi as cow Lord Siva married her at Thirumananjeri.


10. Thiruvilangadu – Sukran Koil
When we reached Sukran Koil, it was pouring heavily and all temples are closed between 1 and 4pm,hence we waited patiently but we had other temples to cover hence we went inside the temple after the rain had stopped and prayed and started to Suryan koil.
The presiding deity Agneeswarar is the embodiment of Sukran. Sukrachariar was the Guru of asuras. He had got the blessings from Lord Siva after severe penances. In the Vamana Avataram of Lord Vishnu, Vamana sought three foot steps of land from Mahabali, an asura king. Realising Vamana to be no mere mortal, Sukrachariyar assumed the form of a bee and tried to block the flow of water from the kamandalam. Vamana picking up a pavithram blinds Sukracharya in one eye while trying to unclog the hole in the kamandalam.
Sukracharyar has the prowess to bring the dead to living by virtue of his knowledge of Amirtha Sanjeevini Mantra. Using this mantra, in the asura war against the devas, he revived the slain asuras. This helped the asura army swell. The devas prayed to Lord Siva for help, who swallowed up Sukracharya in a fit of rage. After residing in Lord Siva’s stomach in a siddha state, he emerged from Lord Siva's stomach.
History:
The sthalam of Sukra Bhagavan is Kanjanur, which is located 3kms from Suryanar koil, enroute to Mayavaram. His wives are Subakirthi, Sundari and Sringini. The presiding deities are Agneeswarar and his consort Iswari. He is the Lord of Rishabha and Thula Rasi and faces East direction. The Adi Devatha is Indra's physician.
11. Suryanar Koil
The temple was about to open as we entered the shrine and we stood in the queue, we worshipped the Lord Surya along with his consorts Usha and Prathyusha and Lord Bhudan was positioned exactly opposite to the Lord Suryan. We came around the temple and headed towards Thirunageswaram.
History:
Kalava Munivar had foreseen his future and realized that he would suffer from leprosy. He prayed to the Navagrahas, who being pleased with his devotion absolved him of the disease. Brahma Deva on realizing that the Navagrahas were granting boons, instead of aspecting a person as per his/her good and bad deeds, condemned them to suffer from leprosy and banished them to earth.

The Navagrahas realizing their mistake, pleaded for mercy. Brahma advised them to seek the blessings of Lord Siva and his consort Uma Devi residing at Thirumangalakudi, after bathing in the holy river, Cauvery. He advised them to consume only curd rice laid on Velerukku leaf. Lord Siva, pleased with their devotion absolved them of their sins and decried that there will be nine sannadhis for the navagrahas in the Suryanar temple (this is the only temple where all the navagrahas are present with separate sannadhis) and those who pray here will get relief from their problems.


The Suryanar temple is located 12kms from Kumbakonam enroute to Mayavaram. Surya's wives are Usha, Prathyusha. The presiding deities are Puranavaradheeswarar and his consort Mangalanayaki. Surya is the Lord of Simma Rasi and occupies the central place amongst the navagrahas. The adidevatha is Agni, prathyutha Devatha - Rudran. His colour is red and his vahana is a chariot drawn by seven horses. Suryanaar Koyil was built by the Chola kings. Inscriptions from the period of Krishna Deva Raya, speaking of endowments made to this temple are also seen here.


The Suryanar temple faces west. The presiding deity here is Suryanarayana in a chariot like vimaanam, representing the sun's chariot. There are also shrines to Kasi Viswanathar, Visalakshi and Brihaspati (Guru) in the sanctum. Shrines to the other celestial bodies are located outside of the sanctum. The sanctum and the ardhamandapam are built of stone, while the rest of the shrines are brick structures. The Kol Theertha Vinayakar shrine is considered to be of importance here. An elaborate worship protocol involving circumambulating the entire temple nine times is prescribed for devotees visiting the temple. Protocol requires that one visits the Shivastalam before visiting Suryanaar Koyil.

12. Thirunageswaram - Raghu Sthalam
We reached Thirunageswaram around 5pm and the pooja was to start at 6pm. We purchased our pooja tickets and headed toward a queue. We were made to sit in front of the Lord Rahu and Milk ablutions were made to the Rahu. We could see the Milk turning to blue as the priest was performing the milk abhisekham for the Lord Rahu.
History:
The king of the nagas, Rahu prayed to Lord Siva and hence this place got the name Thirunageswaram. Here Rahu Bhagavan has manifested with both his consorts. At this sthala, the color of milk changes from white to blue during Abhishekam. On 16.2.86, a snake had shed off its outer skin on Rahu Bhagavan, which is preserved and worshipped to date.
Suryan, Vinayagar, Gautamar, Nalan, Parasarar, Pandavas, Vasishtar, Indran, Brahma, Bageerathan, Chandrasenan, Adiseshan, Kakkan Karkodagan, Sounagar, Nargunan have prayed and benefited at this sthala. King Sambumali who had incurred the wrath of sage Kaalangiri, attained moksha after bathing in the temple tank and praying to the Lord and Ambal of this temple.
The devas and asuras churned the Paarkadal to obtain amirtham that would free them from death, keeping them alive for ever. When the amirtham emerged, Lord Vishnu in the guise of Mohini was distributing the amirtham only to the devas. He was worried that the evil deeds of the asuras will increase multifold if they consumed amirtham. Realising this, one of the asuras with the help of the asura guru Sukrachariyar, took the form of a deva and consumed the nectar. Suryan and Chandran who noticed this, complained to Lord Narayana. In anger, Lord Narayana hit the asura on the head with the spoon in his hand. The head was cut off and fell on the ground. But because the asura had consumed amirtham, his head and body continued to live. The body of a snake got attached to the head to become Rahu Bhagavan. Rahu prayed to Lord Vishnu (Narayana) and got the position of a Sayagraham. Rahu takes his revenge on Suryan and Chandran, whenever he gets a chance by devouring them. This is commonly called as eclipse.

13. Uppiliyappan koil – Kumbakonam
We reached Uppiliyappan Koil, one of the 108 divyathesams around 7.30 and offered our prayers to the Lord and garlanded the lord with the Thulasi Mala and sought his blessings. As we came out of the temple, there was a huge Ad inside the temple for a hotel run by the chief dharmakartha of the temple, dad had called the hotel Raya’s and we booked a room to rest for the night.
History:
This place is described as "Vaikundam" and "Akaasa Nagar" in Sanskrit literature. The naattaaru that runs here is considered as the "virajaa" river.
The sthalapuraanam of this temple is discussed in bramhaanda puraaNam; the details are offered by none other Brahma himself, when he was asked by his son, Sri Naraathar.
Once Thiruth Thuzhaay (thulasi) did penance and asked of the Lord, "You are bearing Lakshmi alone in your chest; I request your special blessing and attention for me also". The Lord said "Lakshmi occupied my chest after severe penance and now she is about to incarnate on the banks of river Cauvery in bhoologam with the name of bhoomi Devi. You may appear there prior to her as a thulasi plant and she will incarnate in your lap (i.e. under your shadow). "I will accept Lakshmi some days later" and since you were the support or "aathaaram" for her incarnation you will be rewarded as being very special to me in this temple; more than Lakshmi. One can attain the blessings of Lakshmi Devi only after severe penance. But one who worships me with your ithaz (leaves), will get the effect of doing "Aswametha yaagam". And those who dwell in your vanam as their place of living will surely attain moksham. You will always be the garland that is presented to my chest. I will accept the thulasi maalai first andwill marry Lakshmi only after that".
On hearing this thulasi appeared in ThiruviNNagaram. This is confirmed by the 53rd paasuram of Sri Nammazhwaar in thiru viruththam.
Mrikandu Maharishi's son Sri Maarkandeyaa worshipped the Lord and desired that Lakshmi should appear as his daughter and the Lord should become his Son-in-Law. When he was doing theerththaadanam and shethra yaaththirai, after reaching ThiruvinNagaram, he felt that this was the right place for getting his desire fulfilled. Maarkandeyaa then started a severe penance for 1000 years seeking Lakshmi Devi’s blessings.
After the thousand years of penance, Lakshmi appeared as a baby under the already incarnated thulasi chedi (thulasi plant). Sri Maarkandeya felt the presence of Lakshmi as the incarnation of the baby and realized that one part of his desire had been fulfilled. He took possession of the baby and brought her up.
When this young girl reached the adolescent age or paruvam, one day (panguni month sravana nakshathram) the Lord, appeared as an old man and asked for the hand of maarkandeya's daughter. Maarkandeya replied "You are very ripe and old, my daughter is very young and she does not even know how to cook with proper salt (lavanam) contents. You may get angry and curse her if she cannot cook properly. This is not fair. You are bodily old but mentally very aware. You must forgive me and bless me but this will not work out.”
To which the old man replied, "If your daughter must cook without salt, then I will still take it as my best food, but I will not leave from here without marrying her."
Without knowing what to do, maarkandeyaa sought the help of the ever protecting Lord Vishnu.
It was then that he realized, using his thapobalam, that the old man was none other than Lord Vishnu Himself.
When he opened his eyes the Lord appeared in front of him with changu and chakram as in SriVaikundam (He is seen in the same form even now in this temple) and maarkandeya asked for forgiveness. Sri Maarkandeya then offered his daughter's hand in marriage and performed the kannikaathaanam of his daughter (Lakshmi) to the Lord Himself.
Since the Lord had said "I will accept the food that is not salted as my best and most desired food", this temple neyvethiyam is always done without salt in any food. No one should ever take anything that contains salt into this temple and the puraanaas indicate that such persons who knowingly do so will suffer in the bottom most hell.
The name oppiliappan is as result of this puraanam. However, nammaazhwaar called him "than Oppaar illappan", that is He is the one who has no comparison (i.e. there is neither an equivalent nor superior to this Lord - mikaiyum oppum illaathavan).
There is also a story behind the tank in this temple. Once a King had consummated (punarchchi) with a daughter of a saint and hence the saint cursed him to become a bird. The King lived as a bird and one night when there was a storm and the branch of the tree the bird was sleeping on broke and fell into the water of this tank. The bird which got dipped by this accident in the tank regained its original form as the King and since then this is known as the only theerththam that one can do theerth thaadanam even in the night. (In general "theerthadanam” in the night is not recommended by our scriptures). Since this tank has such a healing power in the day as well as night, it is called "ahOraathra pushkarani".
14. Prathiyangara Devi
We decided to call it a day after visiting the Prathiyangara Devi temple, the temple was crowded being a Full Moon day and Red chilly packets were sold outside the temple and a Yagna was performed in the by midday, its is believed that even when plenty of Red chilies were dropped in to the fire, it did not even bring a sneeze to people around the Yagna, such was the powerful Devi she was that the fire consumes all the spicy aroma that can make noses burn. We had a good darshan to the fiercely looking yet very graceful Devi and prayed for well being.
About the Goddess:
Goddess Sri Prathyangara also known as Sri Atharvana Bhadrakali. She is also referred to as Aparajitha - the invincible. She is believed to have emerged from the fire emanating from the third eye of Lord Sri Veera Sarabeswarar. It was Goddess Sri Prathyangara who aided in subsiding the anger of Lord Narasimha. She is lion-faced and is seated on a lion. Her four hands bear a noose in the form of a snake, trident, hand-drum and bowl (kabala pathram). She wears a garland of skulls. In this Kali Yuga, where evil is manifest in varied forms, Goddess Sri Prathyangara is regarded as the saviour of mankind, alleviating the sufferings of humanity. She possesses the power to offset the influences of black magic. Though fearsome in appearance, she is the very embodiment of benevolence and grace to her devotees.



Aug 31 2008 - Sunday
15. Mahamagam temple tank
First thing in the morning we went to ‘Kasi Viswanathar Temple’ and we worshipped Lord Shiva and his Consort Goddess parvathi. One can see the entire 9 river Goddesses in a row inside the temple on the left side as we enter the temple. Then we finished our breakfast in ‘Anandha Bhavan’ and headed to Guru Temple at Alangudi.
The Kasi Viswanathar Temple in the temple town of Kumbhakonam is associated with the Mahamagam festival which occurs once every 12 years; when 9 of the saters of the revered rivers in India are believed to assemble in the Mahamagam tank. This temple is considered to be the 28th in the series of Tevara Stalams in the Chola kingdom located south of the river Cauvery.
Legends: Rama and Lakshmana are said to have worshipped Shiva here during their search for Sita, and acquired Rudramsam, to enable them to fight Ravana. Legend has it that the nine sacred rivers of India, prayed to Shiva at Banares (Viswanathar)to be absolved of the sins washed away by bathers, and were directed to bathe in the Mahamagam tank and worship Aadi Kumbheswarar. Viswanathar of Kaasi is believed to have manifested himself here at Kumbhakonam at Kudandaikkaronam.
16. Alangudi - Guru Temple
We reached Guru temple around 9 am in the morning and we worshiped the ‘Vinayagar’ first and headed to light the oil lamps and came around the temple around 12 times by offering our prayers to the Lord Guru Bhagavan. We quenched our thirst by having ‘Pannir Soda’ a sweet soda water we get here in around kumbhakonam.
History:
The Devas when churning the parkadal (sea of milk) for nectar, were hindered by the poisonous fumes from the snake Vasuki and prayed to Lord Siva for deliverance. Lord Siva consumed the deadly poison (Ala Visham), thus giving rise to the name Alangudi to this sthalam and the Lord came to be called as Aabathsagayar. Lord Ganesa subdued Gajamuhasuran who gave the Devas a horrid time and he thus he is worshipped in this sthalam as 'Kalangaamal kaatha Vinayagar'. Ambal undertook severe penance and married Lord Siva and hence this place is hailed as Thirumana Mangalam. This sthalam is the Parivara sthalam for Madhyarjuna Mahalinga Peruman. This is the fourth amongst the Panchavarunya Sthalas. Vishwamithrar, Thirumal, Brahma, Lakshmi, Garuda, Ashta Thikku Balagas, Ayyanar, Veera Badrar, Mukunda Chakravarthy, Suvasanan, Sundarar have worshipped at this sthala . Lord Siva as a ferryman (boatman) was helped Sundaramurthy Swamigal to cross the river (Vettaru) which was in spate, to reach this sthalam . The boat capsized hitting a rock, on the way. Lord Siva seated on his Rishaba Vahana helped him reach the sthala safely. Sundarar received his Gnana upadesam after his darshanam of Dakshinamurthy at this sthalam.

17. Patteswaram Durgai - Patteswaram
To reach this place a small village road only connects you to the magnificent old Patteswaram Durgai temple, from a small road you head to a long pathway and you raise your head to find a tall gopuram and you shackled by its beauty. This is the temple my mother had been longing to go and worship the Durgai, she is considered as a removal of suffering and blesses her devotes with her grace by fulfilling their wishes. My Mom quickly ran like a child and bought flowers, coconut etc and rushed to the Durga despite her knee pain which she couldn’t bear it, her devotion was so strong that it can make her run towards the goddess.
We worshipped the Lord Shiva first and then we lighted Oil lamps at Durga’s feet and started our journey to kumbhakonam. The presence of Nandi slightly away from the Lord Shiva’s shrine is very significant in this temple, when Nandi obeyed lord Shiva’s orders and moved away so that an ardent devotee can have a darshan of Lord.

History:
The black granite stone image of Goddess Durga is imposing and awe-inspiring. The face looks so benign that the head of the devotee is reverently bowed down at the very sight of the image as we do to our mother at home.The Goddess is so powerful that since her arrival at this temple, the original temple has lost its prominence and people throng for blessings from her only. The people of the locality and devotees from experience it far and near that a desire cherished in the mind while in her presence is fulfilled on return or soon after. It has been the common experience of the devotees when they worship in this temple, after frustration in various attempts to get their daughters suitably married, that their desires have been fulfilled immediately after worshipping in the Durga temple.The charming mother is standing on a lion with the head of a buffalo and the demon Mahishasura remains lurking in disguise in the buffalo's side. She holds Sankha and Chakra in her hands. She holds a parrot in her left hand and the mane of the lion in the right. The Mother has eight hands holding different customary weapons for different occasions. It is also believed that Srirama instituted the Ram lingam here to get away with the Chaya Dosha after killing Ravana. Rama thus got redemption from Chaya Dosha. The temple has other deities worshipped like Ganapathy, Shanmukha, Durga and Bhairava. The Chola kings were great devotees of Goddess Durga. It is said that when the Chola kingdom was declining, they installed the Durga image here and it is said to be very powerful here. It is said that the Goddess here is so powerful that the prominence of the original temple has diminished because of this.
18. Adi Kumbeshwar koil
We entered the temple with a Rose Garland in darkness, there was a power cut and we had to see the lord only in the Oil lamps lit inside and beside the lord. It was a wonderful sight one’s eyes can capture beyond, I simply relished the Lord Shiva , he is my favo and I prayed to my hearts content watching the lord in front of my eyes. We then went to the Mangalambikai shrine, which is revered as a Shakti Peetham (Mantra Peetham) and offered our prayers there.
(The below is extracted from Temple Net)
Legends: During the great deluge, it is believed that Shiva caused the Amritakalasam (the pot holding the divine nectar) to stall here. This shrine is said to have been established built and consecrated by Brahma.
The Temple: This temple covering an area of about 4 acres in the heart of the temple town of Kumbhakonam. The Rajagopuram rises to a height of 128 feet and is endowed with several images of great beauty. Four prakarams line this temple and are lined with local shops that it is hard to visualize the spread of the temple by looking at its entrance.
The huge Mahamagam tank is surrounded by 16 picturesque mandapams, dating back to the 16th century.
The Kalyana Mandapam hall in the temple, is the seat of the Tirukkalyana Utsavam. The Navaratri mandapam bears carvings of the 12 zodiac signs and the 27 asterisms. This temple also houses two nadaswarams made of stone. Many images in this temple deserve mention, especially those of Kiratamurthy and Subramanyar.
Kumbeswarar is represented as a Shivalingam fashioned out of earth - (said to have been made by Shiva in the guise of a hunter - Kiratamurthy). Shiva is also known as Amudha Kumbhesar and Amudheesar. The Kumbariya Vinayakar shrine is situated near the tank, while Aadi Vinayakar is worshipped in the temple.
Moorka Nayanaar is one of the 63 Nayanars associated with this temple.
19. Sarangapani Koil
Sarangapani Temple is one of the Divyathesams. We rushed to the temple since we had less time left and the temples close by midday, and worshipped Maha Vishnu there, and we rushed to see the Ramar Temple.
About the Temple:
The Sarangapani temple is of great religious significance, considered to be second only to the SriRangam temple. The Vaideeka Vimanam of this temple is considered to be an offshoot of the Sreerangam Pranava vimanam, and a replica of the vimanam presented to Vibhishana of Sri Lanka by Rama. It is conceived of, as a chariot with wheels drawn by horses and elephants, in a scale grander than that of the Melakkadambur temple built by Kulottunga I (early 12th century).
This vimanam has two gateways (as in Tiruvellarai), the northern gate, or the Uttarayana vaasal, open on Makara Sankaranti, and the Dakshinayana Vaayil, opened on Aadi perukku, the 18th day of the Tamil month of Aadi.
Tirumazhisai Alwar spent his last years and attained salvation here. Nammalwar has also sung of this temple. It is at this temple that the Vaishnavite savant Nada Muni was inspired to compile the works of the Alwars, upon listening to the Tamil hymn 'Aaravamude' composed by Nammalwar.
Later Cholas built the superstructure of the 11 tiered gopuram, and the tower was actually completed by the Vijayanagar rulers. The tower is about 140 feet in height. There are sculptures depicting the Bharata Natya karanas, as enunciated in the Natya Sastram - on the first tier of the Gopuram, in contrast to other temples (such as Chidambaram) where they are seen on walls.
20. Ramar Koil – Ramasamy koil
We concluded our tour by worshipping Ramar. we saw Lord Hanuman on the left side kneeling down in front of Rama and sita and Lakshmana. One could also see Bhartha also in this temple, we were offered thulasi and ‘Sugar candies’.
History:
Ramasamy Temple Achutha Nayaka of Thanjavur constructed the Ramasamy temple during 16th century. This temple is Located on the southeastern portion of "Porthamarai Kulam" and southern side of "Uchipillaiyar Kovil" junction. This temple consists of one Gopuram, One Maha Mandapam and Karuvarai.
NB: The History is extracted from various information gathered from the Internet and not my own version and writing.

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