Sunday, February 05, 2006

Kumbakonam, Tanjore, Trichy and Srirangam

My parents planned this trip to see some temples down here. They came to Trichy on the 17th Sep and we did visit Kumbakonam and Tanjore on the saturday and Trichy and Srirangam on the Sunday. No, i cud not do this on the Thunderbird and had to be restricted to a taxi.
There were loads of stories associated with these temples and I did a bit of asking-the-priests, reading some 'stala purana' books and good ol' googling to get this on this blog. What follows are the stories assosiated with these temples. You may not really be interseted or associate with this coz u didnt get to see them. Nevertheless, it makes a great reading.
The 'wow' kept repeating on my lips for most of the 2 days, a fascinating experience indeed.
Here goes, in the order of the temples visited:
Swamimalai Temple at Swamimalai near Kumbakonam: The Subramanya shrine is built at an elevation and is accessed through a flight of stairs. It is said that once, as a result of the curse laid on him by Bhrigumuni, Lord Siva forgot the Pranava Mantra. He immediately sent for his son Subrahmanya and asked him if he knew the Mantra. The young Subrahmanya smilingly replied: "Yes, I do "Know. If you are prepared to learn the Mantra in a proper manner, I shall teach you". Thereupon, with folded hands and bowed head, Lord Siva stood before his young Guru (Subrahmanya) with great veneration and learnt the Mantra. As this incident took place in this sacred place it came to be known as Swamimalai and the deity as Swaminatha, indicating that the son was superior to his Father.
Patteswaram, located at a distance of 4 miles from Kumbakonam, is a Siva temple of antiquity with many rare specimens of architecture, probably constructed by the Chola princes the great builders of the past. The peculiar name of the Siva Linga is derived from the legendary worshipper called Patti.
Location: 3 miles from Kumbakonam, a sacred Vaishnavite temple exists known as Uppiliappan or Oppiliappan temple. The deity is known by various names as Uppiliappan, Oppiliappan, etc. The Goddess is known as Bhoomi Devi. Here fortunately we had the privilege to see the deity from very close quarters and got to spend a lot of time in the sactum.
Find some stories associated with this temple here
Sarangapani Temple – Kumbakonam
This ancient and beautiful temple dedicated to Sarangapani - Vishnu is one of the 108 sacred Sree Vaishnavite shrines and its praise has been sung by the Alwar saints. The sanctum is designed to resemble a charriot with wheels, elephants and horses. Initially we were wondering why there were elephant sculptures which held the sanctum up. We then realized that it was in the shape of a sanctum.
The legend connected with the origin of the Sarangapani temple is as follows can be found here.
The temple of Lord Sarangapani is given the third place of importance among the shrines dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the first being the temple of Lord Ranganatha at Srirangam and the second that Lord Venkatachalapathy of Tirupati. The temple of Sarangapani was built by the Nayak kings. Its main gopuram is 146 feet high, measuring 90 feet by 51 feet at the base - an imposing structure of 12 storeys with numerous ornamented figures.
There are two entrances to the shrine (sanctum) of the Lord-one on the southern and the other on the northern side. As the devotees are required to enter the shrine through the entrance on the southern side during the period of Dakshinayana, it is known as the "Entrance of Dakshinayana" and for similar reasons the entrance on the northern side is called "Entrance of Uttarayana."
The Dakshinayana entrance is also known as the "Entrance of Marriage", as Lord Sarangapani came out first through this gate and soon after married Kamalavalli. The legend connected with the two entrances provided to the shrine of the Lord is that once the two Devatas now in charge of the Uttarayana and Dakshinayana entrances prayed to the Lord to attain divine powers and eternal bliss.
Mahamakham Tank
There are many teerthams in Kumbakonam, of which the Mahamakham tank is well known. The tank covers an area of 20 acres and is surrounded on all sides by picturesque mandapams. These is a belief that it contains a number of other Teerthams in the form of wells. Every year in the month of Magha (February-March) a festival is conducted here and the image of Lord Kumbeswara is taken out in a procession.
It is believed that on this auspicious day the tank receives supplies of water from the Ganges and eight other holy rivers and all the deities are said to remain present here on that occasion. This has been surrounded on all sides by 16 beautiful mandapams which are stated to have been built in the year 1542!!! (come on now, ask me how I know this)
Suryanaar Temple
Suryanar Temple at Suryanar Koil near Kumbakonam: This is a one of a kind temple dedicated to the Sun God and it also houses shrines to each of the other eight celestial bodies - the Nava Grahams. Suryanaar Koyil is located in the hamlet of Tirumangalakkudi near Kumbhakonam and Mayiladuturai near Thanjavur. This is a one of a kind temple dedicated to the Sun God. A standalone temple for Surya is more of an exception than a rule.

Suryanaar Koyil was built by the Chola kings. The Suryanar temple faces west. The presiding deity here is Suryanarayana in a chariot like vimaanam, representing the sun's chariot. This temple closes at about 1:30 like many others, you know how to plan in case you visit sometime.
Brihadeswara Temple – Tanjore
My personal favorite this…
Some key highlights of this temple:
1. The Great Vimana built over the sanctum sanctorum is 216 feet high with 14 storeys. The style of construction is peculiar to the South and is akin to Orissan art of construction of temples, like Bhuvaneswar.
2. (In the south, generally, Gopurams or towers at the entrances to the four sides of the outer walls or Prakarams are of great height; the central tower or Vimanam over the sanctum sanctorum is usually over- shadowed by the height of the Gopuram.)
3. But at Tanjore, the main temple rises above the Gopuram as if the sanctum is in a gopuram itself.
4. It is interesting to note that a very large sum was spent to construct scaffolding to carry the central stone of the Vimanam, to the summit (right on top of the 14 storeys), for which an incline four miles long (!!!) on scaffolding had to be made. The huge expenditure and the labor involved can well be imagined.
5. In the sanctum sanctorum stands the Mahalinga like a huge hill, all glowing with lustre. The beauty of the tilak and the purity of the white cloth - on the Linga are unparalleled. There is nothing like this anywhere else in this world. It is unequalled and beyond description. The Avadayar (the lower broad stone) is 54 feet in circumference and 6 feet in height and the Banam. (The upper cylindrical stone) is 231/2 feet in circumference and 9 feet high.
6. Nandi, the great Bull, is placed in a mandapam in the forepart of the temple and its size is striking. It is 12 feet in height, 19 1/2% feet in length and 8 1/4 feet in breadth, weighs 25 tons and is made of one stone. This Nandi is considered to be the second biggest in the whole of India. Tradition says that this Nandi at Tanjore also was imperceptibly growing in size every day. For preventing its further growth a nail was driven on its back. There are paintings on the ceiling; the colours have not changed over the centuries.
Don’t miss the description of this here.
Saraswati Mahal
There was a tanjore store here where we did a bit of shopping, they have a good collection of tanjore paintings for sale here. The museum itself was good. Check out this link for more
Srirangam Temple
We went to Srirangam at about 10am and were greeted with a huge queue for darshan, something which we were spared for all this time. It took us about 2 hours to finish the darshan here.
Check this.
There is a very ancient temple of Lord Siva in Tiruvanaikkaval about half a mile from Srirangam. The temple is built in the midst of a big beautiful grove. The Lord is installed facing towards the West and the Devi (Consort) facing towards the East.
Nice tradition attached to this temple, is available here.
The Maariamman Temple at Samayapuram in the vicinity of Tiruchirappalli, is one of the well visited shrines in Tamilnadu, dedicated to Maariamman, a manifestation of the primeval energy Shakti as the mother Goddess.
Legend has it that Shiva created Kali, out of the poison that he had swallowed, and decreed that he kill Daarukaasuran. Having originated from the Kaalakoota poison, she assumed the name Kaali. Mariamman is believed to be a form of Kaali, and is also known as Mahamaayi or Seethala Gowri… interested??
Rock Fort
The Rock Fort is its pride and, is situated in the heart of the Trichy. It has both a mythological and a historical tradition and attracts thousands of devotees and visitors. This is counted as one of the famous sthalas because of the temple on the Rock dedicated to Vinayaka known as Uchhi Pillaiyar. Its here, in case you want to read on.
Kallanai Dam
The Kallanai , also known as the Grand Anicut, is is an ancient dam in Tamil Nadu state of southern India. The Grand Anicut is the most ancient surviving irrigation work in the Cauvery River Delta. It is attributed to the Chola king Karikalan, and is thought to date back to the 1st or 2nd century. It is considered the oldest water-diversion structure in the world still in use. Check out for more of this historic structure.
Indeed a beautiful place for photographs and for spending some time at the river bank.
We had traveled in all about 400miles in two days doing this… it did send us way back into history many many more miles than that!!


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