Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Trip to Ancient temples in Thirukoyilur District

On Kaanum Pongal day I went on a day's trip to Thirukoyilur District and it was worth a visit.  Some of the temples I visited were very ancient dated back to 2nd and 3rd century.  Every temple has got its own story both mythical and historical.  I would like to share some of my experiences  and the information about those temples with you... and again let me tell you it is worth visiting these places.

"  It was Raju Mama who was telling me for some days that we should visit Thiruvennnai Nallur Sivan temple and Gnananandar Thapovanam, also a common friend Mr. Rao suggested that I should visit the Brindavanam of Ragoothamar in Thirukoyilur.  In the mean while, Sowmya told me she made a trip to Thapovanam with her parents on New year day and she talked at length about her experience in Thapovanam.  All these made me to make a trip myself.

We ( Raju Mama and his wife, I and Shanthi, and my sister Chinni ) started on 17th Morning around 5.30... We decided to head for Thiruvennainallur first.....  We reached Arasur ( 8 kms after 3rd Toll gate on NH45 ) and  took a right turn to Thiruvennainallur which is 14 kms from Villupuram...We reached Thiruvennainallur at around 8.30am.  It is a very small town and the roads and houses built around the temple ( Sri Krupapureeswarar Temple ).  The temple "gurukkal" and few locals gave us the details and history of the temple, which you may find below.

.....Sri Krupapureeswarar Temple – Thiruvennainallur

The Presiding deity is Lord Shiva ( Krupapureeswarar ) and Ambal is Mangalaambigai.  The Sthala Vruksham is Bamboo ( Moongil ) The gurukal told us it is a SUYAMBU LINGAM. The Rishis of Tharukavana became very proud of their strength of penance and performed a yaga to kill Lord Shiva himself but could not, as they were absorbed by the Lord.  Realizing their guilt, they shed their pride and performed penance on Lord Shiva asking his pardon.  As the Lord granted pardon ( Arul ), this place is also called Arulthurai.  As he granted them Krupa ( pardon ) the Lord came to be knows as Krupapureeswarar. The Lord was in the form of fire during their penance period and existed as Swayambu.

 The Ganesha also is Suyambu here called Pollapillaiyaar....At the age of 5, sage Meykandathevar was initiated by this Vinayaka only.  It is also told that dumb children will regain speech if they offer prayers to this Pollapillaiyar.

No Shiva devotee can afford to miss a visit and worship of Krupapureeswarar in this temple. The temple is very calm and quite and one can feel the vibration inside the temple.

Thiruvennai nallur is closely related with the history of Sundaramoorthy Nayanar.  Sundarar was in his wedding attaire to marry the daughter of Sadangavi Sivachariya.  Lord Shiva of the temple intervened in the guise of an old man and claimed Sundarar as his slave and produced documentary evidence signed by his father to substantiate his claim. Sundarar stoutly refused the claim and called the old man a Lunatic.  Unmindful of this the old man dragged Sundarar to the temple and simply disappeared.  Realizing that the old man was none other than the Lord himself, Sundarar shed tears.  The Lord asked him to sing on him and also suggested that he could use the word "Piththa" ( lunatic ) for a start which he used while refuting his claim.  That was the first famous hymn of Sundarar on Lord biginning with the line " Pitha Pirai Soodi " reverently chanted by the devotees.  After entering the temple on the right side, north ,a mantapam could be seen, where the Lord and Sundarar argued and the panchayat took place.  Also the sandals which the Lord wore while coming to claim Sundarar is also still kept in the temple...  inside the Moolasthaanam.

The goddess Mangalaambigai appears with four hands in the standing posture and instead of Nandi, a Lion is  installed before the Ambal as this is the place where she shed her anger after killing the Demon Mahishasura and having a dip in the river.  The goddess appears with sanganidhi, padhumanidhi and Srichakra.  Also the Gurukkal told us that to reduce Ambal's anger, a fort was built with Vennai ( butter ) around the temple and hence the place is called "Thiruvennainallur".

This is the place where Lord Muruga gave Darshan on his peacock to Saint Arunagiri Nathar.  Also it is told that Arjunan, Indran and Mahavishnu worshipped Shiva here only.

It is also told that great philanthropist Sadayappa Vallal also lived here who encouraged Poet Kambar to write the immortal epic Ramayana.


Krupapureeswar & Mangalaambigai
Sri Krupapureeswarar Temple – Thiruvennainallur
.Sandals worn by Lord when he argued with Sundarar ( kept in the temple)
Sri Krupapureeswarar Temple – Thiruvennainallur

The temple was not crowded fact only around 10 people were inside... and they were very helpful and eager to explain the details... As we wanted to visit many temples in the same belt, we were asking for details and also looking for some local guide who can help us... as a god-send,,,an old man of around 65 years offered to help us by coming with us the whole day.  He was very helpful and polite and was knowing all the roads including the small lanes and interior / artillery roads... OK... now we will move on the Thirukoyilur and visit further temples........

The road  to Thirukoyilur from Thiruvennainallur was not good and we had to dirve slowly only.  We reached  Ulagalandha perumaal temple around 11am.  

This temple is one among the 108 Divya Desams of Mahavishnu. It is mentioned that this temple was built originally by brick and mortar by Paranthaka Chola (I) in 10th century...and it was patronized by Raja Raja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola, who rebuilt it in Granite in 11th Century.df042.jpg (53228 bytes)

As the name indicates, the prime diety, is a Viswaroopa of Vamana avathar, Thiruvikramaswamy  with his one leg resting on Mahabali .  You can see Brahma doing puja to his other leg which is measuring the heavens.  This diety has been sung by 4 azhwars ( Poigai Azhwar, Peyazhwar, Boothathazhwar and Thirumangai Azhwar ).  It is also told that this is the first Divya Desam and first verses of Naalaayira Divya Prabhantham originated from here. Legend has it that the three Alwars (Poigaialwar, Bhutattalwar and Peyalwar) took shelter in the hermitage of Mrikandu munivar, in cramped quarters on a stormy night  when  they  felt the overwhelming presence of a fourth person, who was none other than Perumaal, upon whom they composed a hundred verses in praise. This is where the first verses of the Alwars came into being.

The Thayaar here is called Pushvalli Thaayar ( Poonkoval Nachiyaar ).  There is one sannidhi for Vishnu Durgai just within the main sannidhi of perumaal... and they told us This Durgai is safeguarding the temple as well as the town. There are shrines to Lakshminarayanar, Lakshminarasimhar, Andal, Udayavar, Senai Mudaliyar, Manavala Mamuni, Chakrattalwar,  Varadarajar and Venugopalar here. There is also a Ramar temple behind the Taayar shrine

We could finish seeing this temple within 30- mins though it will take more than 2 hours to see each and every detail of this big temple. Since we wanted to cover as many temples as possible we were ready for our next destination.   Being a perumal temple I thought some prasadam will be on the offer as  we did not eat from the morning, I was very eager to have some thing.  But Perumaal has decided otherwise.

Then across the river we wanted to first go to Ragoothamar Brindavanam,,, but last minute decided to go over to Thapovanam first which is on the same road running along the river.  We realized it was a wise decision  as within 20 mins of our entry in to Thapovanam they closed the main doors ..I think it was Gnananandar himself who guided us. 

gna.jpg (22182 bytes)

Thapovanam is a very quite and calm place, where the samaadhi of Guru Gnananandar is there.  A beautiful shrine is built along with a prayer hall. There are small separate sannidhis for various other deities like Shiva, Ganapathy, Venugopalaswamy etc..all tastefully decorated. for those who want to stay there , they have plenty of rooms with all facilities in the opposite side of the road.It is provided free of cost and food is also available for free at a particular time.  As I said earlier, we reached the place on time and it seemed to us like Gnananandar has invited us to join the after noon Arathi... We could see devotees singing arathi songs and here we got tasty curd rice and panchamirudham as prasadam.  As we were all hungry from the morning, it was like amrutham for us.  We spent some time in the Thapovanam and we had to leave as they were closing the shirine for afternoon.  I was told they will reopen by 4 pm only.   The 10 commandments of Guru was on the display which I thought of sharing with you here.

Ten Commandments of : SATGURU GNANANANDAR

Be active;but Not impatient
Be patient;but Not indolent
Be economic;but Not stingy
Be loving ;but Not slavish
Be merciful ;but Wakeful; do not be deceived
Give liberally;but Do not become a pauper
Be a hero;but Not a (Nero) villain
Seek the good ;but Do not hate others
Live in the family;but Be not infatuated with lust
Be unattached ;but Do not run to the forest 

Energized with curd rice, we moved on further to Ragoothamar Virndhavana.

The story behind this Virndhavana as told by the devotees......

Ragoothama theerthar  is ranked as one of the greatest celebrities of Sri Madhwa Siddhanta because of his five " Bhava Bodhas " which are the commentaries on the works of Sri Acharya. His guru Sri Raghuvarya Theertha of Uttaradhi Mutt consented to receive the ' bhiksha ' from a couple without children on the condition that the first born should be handed over to the Mutt on birth. He also sent them a gold plate just before delivery so that the new born might be delivered in it. After the delivery the child was taken to the Mutt where he was cleansed with abhisheka water of Sri Moola Rama. At the age of seven the boy was ordained into the holy order and given the name Raghothama Theertha.
After the death of his guru, Swamyji had a dream one day in which Sri Moola Rama in the guise of Sri Raghuvarya Theertha inscribed the ' beejakshara ' on his tongue and instructed him to start teaching his disciples straightaway. Instantaneously all Vedic texts and Philosophical truths flowed in torrents from the mouth of the young Raghothama Theertha; and then onwards he became the Acharya.
He wrote five commentaries and each is called "Bhava Bodha".
They are :

1) Geetha Bhashya
2) Nyaya Vivarana
3) Vishnu Thathwa Nirnaya
4) Brihadaaranyaka
5) Thathvaprakaashika

He spent his entire life in meditation, penance, puja and preaching the doctrines of Sri Madhwacharya. He was a great devotee of God. People believe that  He still  lives in the brindavana at Thirukoilur and answers the prayers of his devotees who have full faith in him. His aradhana falls on Vaikunta Ekadhasi on which day he shed his mortal coil.

According to the statement of elderly scholars, the structure of the Virndhavana was then as follows.
East and west side of the Virndhavana- the image of Shri Guru Raja.
South side of the vrindhavana the image of the mother of Sri Guru Raja and the deserted north side.
The VIRNDHAVANA is covered by a tamarind tree on the north, an amla tree on the east Dakshina pinakini river in the south and an Aswatha (holy fig tree ) on the West.
Then the gate of the VIRNDHAVANA is facing towards west and the image of Shri GURU RAJA was facing towards Sri MUKYA PRANA. It is rare to see even now that the idol of Sri MUKYA PRANA and the facial picture of the mother of Sri GURURAJA are in the same direction facing towards Shri. Thiruvikrama Swamy temple situated in Tirukoilur Town.
One day when the mother of Sri Gururaja was watching the Poojas performed by his son, she suddenly noticed in astonishment that the respective presiding Deities of the idols for which Pooja was performed, come in person and accept the prasadham offered by Shri. GURURAJA. The holy mother realised the spiritual power of her son and pleaded to him that it is her wish that she be given a place in his VRINDHAVANA. so that she can bless whoever comes to VIRNDHAVANA to have a Dharshan of her son. Sri. GURURAJA who had a great respect for his mother, conceded the request of his mother and ordered to carve an image of his mother on the southem side of his VIRINDHAVANA.
According to saastras, a Sanyasi (SAINT) should not make saluation to his erstwhile father but can do so to his erstwhile mother, Bearing this in mind, Sri Gururaja ordered to carve an image of his mother 7 feet above the basement of VRINDHAVANA, so, that the fine drops of holy water poured at the time of abisheka to Vridhavana rinse the image of his mother and other idols to be put up at the time of ABISHEKA and be showered on him ever. It can be witnessed even today.
Even today we can see the same Dakshina Pinakini river, the tamarind : amla and holy fig trees on the same direction. But the only change is the amla and fig trees have been planted afresh in their original places. Senior citizens say that the branches of the tamarind tree are burnt as and when they begin to cover the VRINDHAVANA. The wet shyati (Saffron coloured cloth) put to cover the VRINDHAVANA is being removed as soon as the pooja is over, otherwise the cloth catches fire. The reason for this is a c cording to elders, that Sri. GURURAJA desired and told to his successor that no cloth should cover his Vrindhavana and no decoration should be made as he has to be in the Vrindhavana bearing the heat, the cold and the rain and undergo penance.
The bow of the LORD SIVA is known as "PINAKA". The river DHakshina pinakini was said to have been created by Lord Siva by his pinaka bow on the south side and hence the name "DHAKSHINA PINAKINI" exists.
There is a big hole in the tamarind tree situated here. Sick children having mental diseases are put downwards in this hole three times and it is evident that they are cured by the blessing of "SRI RAGHOOTHMA THEERTHA"

The day we went,, there were 1000s of devotees thronging the Vrindhavan and we were told later that the previous night there was an aradhana performed and more than 20000 devotees were there...

As described above, I could see the tamarind tree next to the Vrindhavan  and I could see that the tamarind tree is burnt on the portions where it is trying to cover the Vrindhavan....

We made three pradakshanams and offered prayer at the Vrindhavan....

Here we missed Mr. Rao, ( he only suggested us to visit Vrindhavan for long time ) who was also there in the same premises,, which we came to know only the next day... Had we met Mr. Rao in Vrindhavan, we would have been offered with a big feast... However, I got the Panchamirtham the next day from Mr. Rao... Mr. Rao told me he offered special prayers for me and assured me that some thing good will happen very soon... :)

It was around 12.30pm and we wanted to see Parikkal Lakshmi Narasimhar also before 1 pm and decided to skip food and proceeded directly.

However on the way out we were told that there two famous Shiva temples, both very old with history behind them.  We first proceeded to "Athulyanathar temple" in Arankanda Nallur, which is acutally built on a rock.

The temple is located at about 3 km from Thirukkovilur towards Villupuram. The temple is situated in a beautiful location on a hillock adjacent to the South Pennai river and is visible from a distance across the river. There are two entrances, one through the main road and the other through the river which is very scenic.  We were told that building of this temple was started around 2nd Century and was continued to be built for 285 years by various kings of Chola and Pandya kingdoms.

* One of the 275 Shiva temples glorified by the Thevara hymns


* Ramanar has meditated in this temple when he was a young boy. It is said that he was directed to go to tiruvannamalai by the Lord himself here.
* It is believed that the Pandavas visited Arankandanallur and that the temple tank close to the cave in which they stayed was created with Bhima’s mace. There are two sunais (water streams) on the hillock which are said to have been used by Pandavas and Draupadi.

* There is an imprint of Thirugnana Sambandar’s feet here. Sambandar is said to have miraculously moved a huge rock that had been placed to block the shrine. Thirugnana Sambandhar worshipped Thiruvannamalai from this hillock top.
* Worshipped by Prasanda rishi

The Temple: The 160 feet high Gopuram in this shrine (dating back to the 7th century) with three prakarams Rich in inscriptions, it received Royal patronage from local chieftains, the later Cholas and the later Pandyas. This is the south most rock-cut cave temple of Pallavas, with the solitary exception of Tiruchirapalli. Thiruvannamalai is visible from this hill. There is an idol of Ramanar as a young boy in a meditative posture and the temple is visited by many Ramana Maharsishi followers.

The Presiding deity is Athulyanathar ( ஒப்பில்லா ஈஸ்வரன் ) and Ambal is "Soundarya kanakambigai ( அழகு பொன்னம்மை ).  As the name indicates, Ambal is so beautiful here and was decorated very well on that day.

Our next stop was Veerattanaeswarar temple.  This temple is situated in Thirukoyilur town closer to the bus stand... This temple also was dated back to 5 th Century... We were told that Lord Shiva here has taken Bhairava avathar ( பைரவர் தோன்றிய இடம் ) to kill Andhagaasuran.  The story is written on the board kept in the temple.  The Ambal here is called "Sivanandha valli"  who is also so beautiful as Soundarya kanakambigai.  Also the Gurukal showed us the Durgai here with eyes look like real with black and white colour.

I was so happy that I got the Bhairava Moola Manthra upadesam from my Guru Raju Mama in Ambaal sannidhi... Actually I was very eagerly looking for this manthra for long, and I was very glad to get it in the Bhairava Sthal itself.

Also in this temple only Avvaiyaar sang her song "Vinayagar Agaval" on Pillaiyar who took her to Kailash ahead of others.

Since it was Kaanum Pongal Day, we were told that all the big temples will be kept open through out the day.  So we took a chance to finish visiting Parikkal also before lunch.

Some of our friends told us that it is good to see 3 Narasimhars on the same day.  Parikkal is .  called South Ahobilam ( தென் அஹோபிலம் ) .  We were told that Narashimha avtar took place in Ahobilam in Andhra Pradesh... After this, as per the request of the saints and rishis, who wanted to see the Narasimha, he appeared in 8 places with Goddess Lakshmi in Tamilnadu... Parikal is one among them.  The other 7 places are Andhili in Vilupuram, Poovarasan Kuppam near Panruti, Singaperumal Koil, Singirigudi, Sindhalawadi, Namakkal and Sholingur.

Out of these 8 temples, Parikal, Poovarasan kuppam, and Andhili are close to each other and we thought we will cover all three on same day.  However, by the time we reached Parikal it was beyond 2pm, and the temple was closed and Perumal was taking rest after Lunch.  So we dicided to move on to Poovarasan Kuppam instead of waiting for the temple to reopen at 4 pm.  We had to cross the NH45 (GST Road ) and via Vilupuram we reached Panruti ( 35 kms from Parikal ).  There we were discussing how to cover three Narasimha temples... Also we were told that Andhili temple was under Balalayam ( only the Urchava Murthy is on display as the temple was getting ready for Kumbabishekam ),, we decided to skip that place.  We were so hungry and decided to have lunch at Panruti. We had not so good Dosa and Curd rice at Hotel NARASIMHA VILAS..  I was jokingly telling every one that we should count this Narasimhar also to make it 3 in a row on same day.  After lunch we proceeded to Poovarasan Kuppam temple through village roads.. Poovarasan Kuppam is around 15 Kms from Panruti and the road was bad again.  However we could reach before the 4 pm, the schedule time for the temple to reopen after Lunch.  

Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy Temple in Poovarasankuppam is about 1200 years old. After Hiranya vadha Lord Narasimha whose rage didn’t subside was roaming all over the earth. On the Northern shore of the river South Pennai in South India also known as Dakhshin Pinnakini, the "Saptha Rishi' or Seven rishis prayed to the Lord to have his darshan. The spot were the Lord gave the darshan is called Poovarasankuppam. However, the intensity of the Lord was so much that the rishis couldn’t bear it. They prayed him to cool down and requested his darshan along with his consort Amirthavalli thayar who gracefully obliged. Here the Lord appeared with the Thayar on his lap.

While she partially faces the lord as if in a conversation with him, forwarding the bakthas prayers, she also bestows her blessings with her glance at the bhaktas who visit her temple. This act of the Goddess Lakshmi brought a soothing and tranquil effect on the Lord. To this day, it is only at this temple in the whole world does the Lord Lakshmi Narasimhar appear in such a pose.

Every thing was good in the temple except that many devotees and the temple workers ( except the Gurukkal ) seemed to have consumed liquor and the smell was so overwhelming that one had to close their nostrils.  We were upset with this, as even the temple employees were like this... Since the temple is governed by the State Government, some times, even the temples are like government offices only... We cursed the people and the system and proceeded to Parikal from there which is around 45 kms from Poovarasan Kuppam.

On the way back we dropped our guide ( Mr. Ramalingam ) at Arasur.  He was chatting with us while on the tour and we understood that he is a big land lord having more than 25 Acres of land.  But he looked very simple and polite.  We thanked him for his help without which we could not have covered all the temples before evening..  We reached Parikal from Arasur within 15 mins.

Parikkal Narasimha Temple is an ancient temple located at Parikkalvillage, 23 km from Viluppuram. The place is situated between two rivers, Thenpennai and Garuda. The Lord is also found with His left hand around the Goddess. 

Sthala Puranam: According to a legend, 
Lord Vishnu destroyed a demon known as Parakalasuran here to save his devotees and hence the place came to be known as Parikkal

About the Temple:
Unlike in most of the Narasimha temples, the Utsavar idol here is also that of Narasimha in standing posture with Sridevi and Bhoodevi on either side. There is also a small idol of Lakshminarasimha in the sanctum sanctorum besides that of Sudarsana.
There is a separate shrine for the Goddess, Kanagavalli Thayar, on the right side of the temple, and Her Utsava idol is inside the main sanctum sanctorum. To the northwest is the shrine of Anjaneya, where two idols of Bhakta Anjaneya and Veera Anjaneya are worshipped. A pilgrim can offer obeisance to Anjaneya at the entrance while the idols of Vinayaka and the Nagars are found in the main Prakaram. After praying at the shrine of Garuda, he can worship the presiding deity, Lakshmi Narasimha with His Consort, seated on His left lap. Said to be a Swayambu Murthi, the idol, according to some scholars, was installed by Vyasaraja.

The Anjaneya idol, found inside the sanctum sanctorum, was also installed by him and it is one of the 732 idols installed by the saint all over the south.

The shrine is thronged by those who are afflicted by Navagraha Dosha and they light ghee and oil lamps. They spread before the idols the nine kinds of grains (Navadanyam) and write their pleas on them seeking relief and His blessings. In the northern Prakaram there is a shrine for Lord Varadaraja of Kancheepuram.

There is an ancient "Deepasthampam" in front of the temple, which faces east. .

We came out of Parikal temple around 6.30pm and started immediately for Chennai.  We rang up our respective houses to inform about our successful tour.  There were not many good hotels on the way back on the NH45 Bye-pass except one near Dindivanam Hotel Aryas..  However, it was so crowded that we had to come back without food, as the waiting time seemed to be too long.  We continued our drive on NH45 and decided to have dinner at Tambaram around 9 pm.. However, after Chinglepet, the traffic suddenly got into slow motion and we were driving bumper to bumper and inching towards chennai..  It took us more than 2 hours from Chinglepet to Tambaram.  We were so tired and hungry by that time and jumped into a nearest available hotel in Tambaram and ate whatever was available at that time.  We reached home safely around midnight.  We were told that our local AMMA was going with her Radha Gaja Thuraka Padhadhigal on that road to Thiruporur and made our life difficult.

Some Tips from my side

Dont refer to the maps given in the internet.. They are misguiding.  If you are going from Chennai, take NH45 and after the 3rd Toll Gate, drive for another 8 kms to reach Arasur.  From there take a right turn to reach Thiruvennai nallur first..  After that take a direct route to Thirukoyilur via Periya Savalai.  You have to come back all the way to hit NH45 again and drive further 15 kms and take a right turn for Parikal.  It is easy to identify this road as there is a big Hanuman Idol on the left side on the NH45 itself.    

Our exprience tells us that if you have to cover as many temples as possible on the same day, ( We traveled around 540 kms) then, better pack your food and water, to save time and also hotels are not good.

Barring two things ( Drunken employees and devotees in Poovarasan Kuppam and heavy traffic due to a political meeting ) our trip was excellent and we really enjoyed it.

Write to me if you need any more details.



  1. super:) excellent description about all the temples uncle!! as yu said all these places are worthy watching from my experience too!!:) Guess yu can add this to ur fb profile so tat many people wud get benefited:)

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