Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Shri Agashtheeswarar sametha Anandavalli temple at Panjetty near Ponneri

I have wanted to visit this temple for a long time having heard of the wonderful sculptures. Today morning on “Aadi masa pooram” the  birthday of ambal, I was able to visit it. The temple is associated with Agasthiyar and his disciple pulasthiyar who have both spent a long time here. The history of the temple says it was last built by the Hoysalas and rashtrakutas.
How to reach:
On the Chennai Kolkatta highway at about 30 kms from Chennai after crossing the Karanodai bridge and toll booth you will come to the Thatchur four roads. Take a U turn here and backtrack for a kilometer towards Chennai. You will see the temple board IMG_0145 on the left and take the left cutting. In 500 metres you will see a cement road on the left with neat directions turn into it and  the 5 tiered Rajagopuram will beckon you!! This rajagopuram has such minute exquisite sculptures of both Vaishnavism and Shaivism puranas. There are so many special sculptures so I shall describe it later .
Legends and stories:
The temple has both Vaishnava and Shaiva legends hence a symbol of oneness of God.
Brahma was asked by the rishis like Vashishta. Gauthama and Kanva where to do yagas and he rolled a darba  grass ring which came to rest here where the yagas could be done so five yagas (Pancha Ishti ) we conducted here
The Rajagopuram displays penances in Kretha yuga by Parvathi among the panchagni, Brahma in threata yuga, Arjuna in the Dwaparayuga and Agastya in the Kali yuga. IMG_0139 IMG_0140
The Rajagopuram entrance is in the south and you will see the temple with the Ambal sannidhi in front. The Rajagiopuram is facing the ambal sannidhi and thus the main importance of the temple is Anandavalli amman
The inner praharam is situated in such a way that from the centre we can see both The Sivan and amman at one time.
The Shivan sannidhi is on the left with a Swayumbhu Sivalingam facing east.There is also a small manonmani ambal inside consecrated by Agasthyar and the concept of Shiva sakthi is very evident here.
The Ambal sannidhi houses the amman who is about 3 feet tall on a pedestal. There are significant features here. She has her left foot forward with her eyes open and her third eye visible in anger against the asuras who were disrupting the pancha ishiti (Five Yagas) of Agasthya and the devas . Her anger was pacified by Agasthyar installing a Durga Yanthram in a platform in front of her, containing the ‘Sapthasree manthram of Devi Mahathmeeyam that includes 700 mantras representing Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswathi and Kaliyanthra in front of her which is replicated in the Rajagopuram roofIMG_0128
The Koshta vigrahas are Ganesha, Dakshina murthy , Brahma and Durgai.IMG_0134 IMG_0135
The outer praharam has separate sannidhi for Siddhi Vinayaka Ganapathy,  IMG_0070 Murugan in the prayoga posture with kamandala and rudraksha in his hand after he disposed brahma of thisIMG_0072 function (Click here to see my blog on near by Andar kuppam Murugan temple for the story)
The Sthala vruksham is the Vilvam and there is a huge Banyan tree also inside.IMG_0075
in the Eastern side on the North There is a separate sannidhi for the ishta lingam who was worshipped by Pulasthiyar . Devotees believe that prayers to this lingam will help overcome legal problems and regain lost official position.Next to this is the bhairavar sannidhiIMG_0082
The Ishta lingam
The maha kala bhairavar sannidhi
Next to this is the Dwjasthambam and Nandi IMG_0080 IMG_0077
the huge pond agasthya theertham which sadly now id dry and in need of rejuvenation. The priest Shri. Babu Gurukkal requested me to ask for help in reconstructing the pond. This pond is supposedly created by Agasthya . IMG_0083 IMG_0081
Next to the  kolam gate is the Suryan sannidhi, the Agasthiyar sannidhi. Followed by the Navagraha sannidhi on a lotus.IMG_0069
The Raja gopuram merits a long time. I shall try to show a few pictures but it is only a fraction of what is seen there. The Wall facing ambal has ashta Dikhbalakas on one side and Navagrahas on the other side . There are many small frescoes of dasavatharam, the various occasions like mohini feeding the devas and rahu ketu being created, marriage of Shiva, Yaga by Brahma and Vishnu , Kannappa nayanar Samudhra manthan, krishna and poothana, Krishna and Govardhana giri, Krishna and gopikas, the list is endless. Please visit once to see for yourself
Hanuman and seetha in ashoka vanam
IMG_0130 IMG_0088 IMG_0089  IMG_0092 IMG_0097  IMG_0099 IMG_0101  Krishna and putana see how shrivelled she is after krishna sucked her life force away!!IMG_0108   IMG_0117

Gajasura vadham by Shiva IMG_0126
Contact :Babu Gurukkal:9841317500. You can see him helpfully explaining all the salient sculptures to us. He is very keen to start cleaning and re building the Agasthya theertham. Readers please do contact him and contribute your mite

Temple open between 5 AM to 1PM and 4-8 PM on festival days it is open whole day
IMG_0138 IMG_0136 IMG_0137

I was contacted by mailby one Shri Anandkumar who wanted me to include the names of the other kurukkals , here are the details he kindly suplied
Mohan Gurukkal    9444146752
Ganesh Gurukkal    9841344867
Kandan Gurukkal    9962570445
Anand Gurukkal      9789892925

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sri Margabandheeshwarar temple at Virinjipuram near Vellore

Today I was blessed to visit this 1000 year old temple on the Chennai Bangalore highway near Vellore. It has been sung about by Appayya Dikshithar, Thirumoolar, Pattinathar,  Arunagiri nadhar and many others. It is the birth place of Shri Appayya dikshitar a renowned scholar of the 16 century( Click here to know more about this great scholar)
How to Reach:
On the Chennai Bangalore Highway after you cross Vellore after about 14 kms you will see a service road leading to Sethuvalai take this road and turn right under the highway . This road leads to Virinjipuram in 1 km and the temple is just off the road on the left..The majestic  7 tiered and 110 feet tall Raja Gopuram beckons youIMG_0001
The temple is famous for its compound wall(Madhilazhagu) which is exquisite in having minute stone carvings all around which is no mean feat!!IMG_0060 IMG_0062IMG_0061
Legends and facts connected to the temple:
Brahma wasborn as a human being Siva sharma in this town as he had falsely stated he had seen the top  of Shiva in the lingothbhava form at Tiruvannamalai. (That is why he does not have many temples dedicated to him). At a young age Shiva sharma' s father, the priest died and Siva Sharma as a boy had to shoulder the responsibility of doing the daily poojas. He first had his upanayanam the thread ceremony by Vishnu here at the selva vinayagar sannidhi in the first praharam and came to the sanctum. Since the lord was too tall for the small child to do abhishekam the merciful lord bent to show the child his head in a north east direction (EEshana)this act where Shiva showed brahma his head released Brahma from his curse. The place is famous for young Brahmins to have their thread ceremony in the months of November Dec( Last sunday of Karthika masa) .
Virinji is another name for Brahma hence the place is called Virinjipuram

A merchant Dhanapalan who was a carrying pepper  was looted by dacoits here.On Dhanapalan’s prayer the lord accompanied him as a soldier on horseback and helped retrieve the pepper and also travelled with him for protection on the way hence  he is called Margha=way Bandhu=Friend (Abath sahayaka and Vazhi thunai katrunathar in tamil).
Appayya dikshidhar was once poisoned by enemiesand set upon him some black magic. Dikshidhar prayed here to be relieved of these menaces and was saved here. Hence it is a place where protection against black magic is assured by the lord He composed the Marga bandhu stothram which is displayed in a flex board in the temple.
Sri Adishankara consecreted the pond called Simha theertham here after bheejakshara mantra prathishtai  here. It is believed that a bath in the Palar river followed by Brahma theertham  and later simha theertham in the temple precinct with prayer to Lord Shiva ensures good progeny
Simhatheertham in the outer praharamIMG_0041
Brahma theertham
The temple was originally built by Cholas, Pallavas and later by the Hoysalas hence it is full of exquisite stone sculptures.
The Sun rays fall on the shivalingam directly in the sanctum in the month of Panguni (March to April).

Entrance is via the eastern facing main Raja gopuramIMG_0002

The Selva vinayagar behind the nandi and dwaja sthambam in the entrance to the second praharam IMG_0005IMG_0006
The Kala bhairavar sannidhi is seen behind the nandi in the outer praharam

The outer praharam has the Simha theertham and Brahma theertham already alluded to Next to the Brahma theertham is the mani kal (Time Stone) which tells the time with a shadow . I was there at 9 AM and this was the shadow seen then . IMG_0053
There are many splendid multi pillared halls in the outer praharam which are truly stunning for the array of sculptures and are very bewitching. It will take a whole day to appreciate each hall and there are 3-4 halls I could count!!IMG_0042 IMG_0043 IMG_0044 IMG_0045 IMG_0048 IMG_0052

The middle praharam houses the Selva vinayagar, Bhikshandavar,  Murugan and  Bhairavar sannidhis and also the Maragadhambikai sannidhi in the north side

Swarna vinayagar seen below
Entrance to the main sannidhi and inner praharam

Bhikshandar sannidhi in the second praharam look at the wonderful art work

Murugan sannidhi

Entrance to Amman sannidhi

The sthala vruksham palm tree in the second praharam
The inner praharam houses the Majestic  resplendent Shiva lingam tall and you can get really close to the main Shiva lingamIMG_0023
The acoustics are so well engineered here that the deep resonant archanai by the kurukkal had a resounding vibration and it was electrifying in the morning same was felt in the ambal sannidhi too.
The Kosta vigrahas are Ganapathy,Dakshinamurthy, Vaasudeva perumal in the back with Brahma
and durgai.
 IMG_0015 IMG_0016

The Gajaprushti vimanam is easily seen hereIMG_0019 IMG_0020 IMG_0021 IMG_0022

There are also statues of the 63 Nayanmars and also the sapthakannikasIMG_0017

A rare sight Lakshmi saraswathy and SundareshwararIMG_0018

The ambal sannidhi is a self contained structure with its own dwaja sthambam and Balipeetam IMG_0038 IMG_0037
The Maragadhambikai is about 3 feet tall very dainty and we can get very close to the idol during archanai. The resounding voice of the kurukkal  with the "OHM" of the pooja namas echoing from behind and the ambience was  really a divine experience.There is a tunnel which the priest said runs up to the Jalakanteshwara temple in the Vellore fort about 15 kms away . Only about 5 kms have been explored so far. . After receiving kumkum in the sannidhi I slipped into the mouth of the covered tunnel and that is when the kurukal enlightened me about the existence of this tunnel which was used by royalty and the shilpis who would run around protecting the main vigrahas by transporting jewels and vigrahas during alien invasions!!
The margabandhu shlokam composed by Appayya dikshithar
IMG_0008                      The address and telephone number of the temple is displayed in this board below


The temple timings

The temple legends and history  as displayed in the temple