Sunday, April 8, 2012

Appandanathar Digambar Jain temple Thirunarankondrai Village

Today I also visited this peaceful hill temple an old relic of the once flourishing Jainism in Tamilnadu which declined due to the advent of Adisankara who preached advaitha and popularised hinduism one again which eclipsed  jainism at that time .
How to reach:
From NH45 from chennai after crossing Vizhupuram after about 10 kms you will see the righ road to tiruvennainallur, turn here and in 20 kms you willcross tiruvannainallur.proceed straight and ask for piliar kuppam. The Jain temple is about 3 kms from here there are prominent signboards directing you .
I was always intrigued by the presence of so many jains in Tamil nadu and a perusal of history showed me why.I chanced upon a write up on this temple by Shri Gariyali IAS about this temple and jainism in TN which I reproduce verbatim
An Officer's Diary
Chander Kanta Gariyali IAS

Jainism was very popular in Tamil Nadu at one time
and flourished simultaneously along with Buddhism in South India.
Both these  religions declined in South India from medieval
times mainly due to  two reasons. Firstly, due to the advent of Sankara
on the religious  landscape of India and his preaching of Advaita
(which was the main  strength of these religions) and secondly due to the
Chola kings  converting to Shaivism in a big way, specially,
after Raja Raja  Chola. Subsequently, many Jain shrines were
converted to Hindu  shrines. Some were abandoned due to the decline in
the number of  devotees. However, some shrines, stone beds, stone
carvings and  images, which were on the hilltops, have survived.
In my travels  through Tamil Nadu I have found evidence of Jain
shrines, caves and  viharas (hostels for monks) in several places like
Karur and  Chittanavasal, Poompuhar, etc. The famous Shivaite
temple of  Darasuram at the outskirts of Kumbakonam is also
supposed to have  been converted from an original Jain temple.

During the year 1983-84 when I was the Collector of
South Arcot  District I was pleasantly surprised to find an
ancient Jain site in  the village of Thirunarankondrai. At one time this
village was one  of the famous Jain pilgrim centres in India. Its
present location is  ten miles northwest of Ulundurpet. When you come to
the village you  see a picturesque hillock in the western side of the
village. At the  height of about sixty feet, on the top, you see two
boulders, which  have been converted to resemble a cave temple. A
flight of steps  leads to the top of the hill. On one of the boulders
is a carved  image, about four feet high, of Jain Thirthankara
Paraswanathar. Sri  Paraswanathar is the twenty-third Thiruthankara of
the twenty-four  Jain Thirthankarars (munnis). The twenty-fourth and
the last  thirthankar are the best known of them all, Shri
Mahavir Swami.

As the story goes, Shri Paraswanathar is called
'Appar' as well  as 'Appandainathar' here. According to the local
legend, Paraswanathar saved his devotees in the form of
father and the mother - hence he is known here as Appandainathar,
i.e., Lord as Appar (father) and Andai (mother). Most of these
stories have arisen with respect to Jain shrines after they were
rediscovered and readopted by local populations who are generally
respectful to all idols found underground or on hills. In the
Thirunarankondrai image, Lord Paraswanathar is standing upright. An
out-stretched hood of a serpent covers his head like a canopy. The image is
unclothed. A small tower has been built on top of the boulder,
while there is an inscription on the other rock. Another image of Jain
Thirathankar Vrishbha stands at the foot of the steps leading to
the top of the hillock. According to the legend this image has been
brought from Pavandur village, situated, nine miles southeast of
Thirukoilur, which indicates the existence of a Jain shrine in
Pavandur in the early times. On the southwest side of the temple
there is a natural pond (sunai) with an underground spring where water
is available throughout the year. The daily Abishekam
(ritualistic bathing and cleaning) of the statues is done by the water taken
from this pond. The village also has a big water tank called
Kundavai Peria Eri that was built for the village by Kundavai Pirattiar, the
sister of the great Raja Raja Cholan for the benefit of Jain monks, scholars and
devotees.

Apart from the statue of Paraswanathar there are
some more valuable idols, (perhaps collected from other Jain shrines in
the neighbourhood like Pavandur gone into disuse), which
are kept on the northern side of Sri. Paraswanathar. Important among
these is the idol of Thirthankar Chandranathar. The local
tradition says that the images were discovered by chance by a man of Vedar
(healer) community. He seems to have gone up the hill in
search of herbs and medicinal plants and stumbled on the Jain images. It
is only after the rediscovery of the idols in this manner that the
local king built a temple at this spot. Some Jain manuscripts
also confirm this description. Evidence shows that Thirunarankondrai
was a great centre of Jain learning at one time and the monks
and scholars from all over India visited the place. It is also stated
that the Tamil version of Ramayana written by sage Kambar was
presented and authenticated by Jain scholars initially in this
place. The important features of this temple are elaborated in
a Jain work called the 'Appandanathar Ula' written by 'Anantha
Viyasar' a well- known Jain scholar of South India.
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( The tower is balanced on two huge rocks apparently built by Ilayapiratti Kundavai  the daughter of Raja raja Chola !!

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The door on the right takes us to the main sanctum where there is a relief sculpture of Shri Parshwanathar with a Snake  hood covering him..The whole temple has been burrowed out from the rocks a rock cut temple .DSC_4841
(saraswathyshrine at the entrance)
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View of the hill top mandapam