Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ahobilam Singavelkundram

Thirumangai Azhvaar in his Periya Thirumozhi refers to this place as Singavel Kundram and says it is almost impossible to visit because of the rocky terrain


Located about 110kms North West of Cuddapah amidst the dense Nalla Malai Forest of the Achalachaaya Meru mountain range is the Singavelkundram Divya Desam in Ahobilam, one of the 16 prominent Swayam Vyaktha Kshetrams. Reference to Ahobilam is found in 10 chapters (over a 1000slokas) in the Brahmanda Purana.

Divya Desam- Upper Ahobilam

It is the Ahobila Narasimha cave temple in Upper Ahobilam (about 8kms from Lower Ahobilam) at the foot of Garudathri at about 3000feet above sea level that Thirumangai Azhvaar visited and sung praise referring to this location in his verses as Singavel Kundram. Ahobila Narasimha is seen in an Ugra Posture with Prahalada standing opposite to him. Narasimha came and stayed here as a hunter and being away from Goddess Lakshmi, married Senjuga Thaayar, who was born and brought up here. Hence, at the Upper Ahobila Narasimha temple, one finds a separate sannidhi for Senjuga Thaayar.

The Utsava deity of Ahobila Narasimha Divya Desam is seen at the Lakshmi Narasimha Prahalada Varadan temple at Lower Ahobilam.

Bhavanasini River flowed here so Narasimha could clean his hands after the Hiranya samharam.

Narasimha Avataara Sthalam


While Ayodhya is the Avataara Kshetram of Rama and Mathura is the Avataara Kshetram of Krishna, Ahobilam is the place of incarnation and the Avataara Kshetram of Narasimha. This is the shortest of his Avatharams and unlike other avatharams, this one was taken for the sake of one person (Prahalada) answering his sincere prayers.

The name
This place is popularly referred to as Ahobilam.Thirumangai Azhvaar in his Periya Thirumozhi refers to this place as Singavel Kundram. As there are nine Narasimhas here, this place is also referred to as Nava Narasimha Kshetram. As Garuda undertook penance at the mountain here, this is called Garudachalam.

After seeing Narasimha tear apart Hiranyakashipu, the Devas are believed to have exclaimed ‘Aaha’ ‘Balam’ (supreme strength of the Lord). Hence this place came to be known as Aho-Balam.

As this is a cave temple, the place also came to be referred as ‘Aho’ ‘Bilam’(cave).

Nine Forms of Narasimha


Narasimha is said to exist in one of the nine forms- Ugra, Veera, Jwala, Sarvamukham, Nrisimha, Bisanam, Bhadram, Mrityu and as Vishnu (Lakshmi Narasimha). At any of the Narasimha temples, one would see the Lord in one of these forms. It is only here at Singavel Kundram that one is able to see him in all the nine forms in a single location. (more on each of these nava Narasimhas in a seperate story)

The Story
Vishnu took the form of Narasimha (half man-half lion) in this mountainous terrain to kill Asura Hiranyakashipu. The pillar – Ugra Stambha- out of which Vishnu came out in his Narasimha Avataar is seen at the top of the Nalla Malai forest, about 7kms above the Upper Ahobila Divya Desam.

It is one of the most exhilarating experiences to make the trip across rocks and water falls to reach the top of this mountain. While it is not an easy task, especially as there is no straight path or steps (unlike a Sholingur), a sincere devotee whose thoughts center around the Lord will be able to make it to the top of this mountain in about 2hours from Ahobila Narasimha temple.

The difficulty of visiting Singavel Kundram can be seen from this verse of Thirumangai where he says that it is almost impossible to reach this temple as this is a rocky terrain with constant forest fires and the presence of bow wielding hunters.
முனைத்த சீற்றம் வின்சுடப்போய் மூவுலகும் பிறவும்
அனைத்தும் அஞ்ச ஆள் அரி ஆய் இருந்த
அம்மானது இடம்

கனைத்த தீயும் கல்லும் அல்லா
வில் உடைய வேடரும் ஆய்

தினைத்தனையும் செல்ல ஒண்ணாச்
சிங்கவேழ் குன்றமே
- Thirumangai Periya Thirumozhi-1014

Red Blood of Lord Narasimha


2kms below the Ugra Stambha and 5kms above Ahobila Narasimha Divya Desam is the Jwala Narasimha temple, the exact place where Narasimha tore open Hiranyakashipu. This temple is in a very scenic location, mountains on all sides, with the water fall just about 50yards away. To this day, one can see the red blood below the rock signifying the Hiranya Samharam.

At the Jwala Narasimha Sannidhi, one finds Lord Narasimha in the middle in a fiery sitting posture here with 8hands. With a couple of hands, he is seen tearing open Hiranyakashipu and with another two, he is seen holding the Conch and Chakra. The left leg is seen in a folded posture and the right leg hanging on the ground. Prahalada is seen at the feet of the Lord in a praying posture.

On the right, one finds Narasimha engaged in the battle with Hiranya.

Garuda's Penance
With Lord Vishnu taking a sudden trip to this place to fight Hiranyakashipu, he decided to come on his own leaving behind Garuda at Vaikuntam. Hence, Garuda who normally plays the role of the Lord’s vehicle had to miss the Narasimha Avatar. Unhappy with this, Garuda undertook severe penance in this mountain. Answering his prayers, Lord appeared here as Jwala Narasimha and provided Darshan to Garuda. As per the wishes of Garuda, this Kshetram has been referred to as Garuda Kshetram and the mountain is called Garuda Chalam or Garudathri.

In Kritha Yugam, Lord Shiva performed pooja here and praised Narasimha as the Supreme Being uttering the Mantra Raja Mrutha Stotram. In Tretha Yugam, in search of Sita, Rama visited this place and worshipped Ahobila Narasimha singing praise on the Lord in 5 verses - Narasimha Pancha Mrutha Stotram.

In Dwapara Yugam, the Pandavas reached Ahobila kshetram and invoked the blessings of Narasimha. In Kali Yugam, Srinivasa of Tirupathi presented ‘Thaligai’ to Lord Narasimha of Ahobilam prior to tying the knot on Padmavathi Thaayar.

Adi Sankara who was attacked by evil forces here at Ahobilam praised Narasimha through the Karavalamba Stotram for protecting him. He also installed a Siva Lingam at the Ahobila Narasimha temple.


Visiting three temples

In an earlier story on Narasimha temples around Villupuram, one had seen as to how it was sacred to visit Singiri, Poovarasan Kuppam and Parikkal in a single day.
(http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2009/08/poovarasan-kuppam-narasimha-temple.html)

Legend has it that Adhiseshan’s presence is spread across this entire region with his head resting in Tirupathi, his body here at Ahobilam and the tail at Srisailam.
The belief is that it is sacred to visit these three temples in one go.


Inscriptions-festivals 220days a year


There are several inscriptions inside both the Lower and Upper Ahobilam temples.


14th Century inscription records the construction of the steps at the Upper Ahobilam (Divya Desam) temple.

A 15th century inscription reveals the gifting of the village (Kaluvacheru- Komaragiripuram) by Karama Reddi for the conduct of the daily rituals and worship at the Divya Desam.

A mid 16th century inscription reveals the contributions made by Vijayanagar kings. Kakatiya kings also contributed to the improvement of the temple and the mandapas. Inscriptions relating to the 16th century provide insights into the building of mandapam, Garuda Stambha and festivals on 220 days in the year relating to the Lower Ahobilam temple.

Another interesting inscription refers to ‘Thaligai’ to be presented to the Lord twice a day- once at noon and the other in the evening at the Lower Ahobilam temple.
Krishna Deva Raya, who sought the blessings of Ahobila Narasimha before going for a battle, came back after having won the battle and installed the Vijaya Stambha in front of the temple here.

Ramanuja and Vedanta Desigar are believed to have visited this temple.

Azhvaar Praise
Thirumangai Azhvaar begins the first of his 10verses on Singalvel Kundram by praising Narasimha's physical strength and his special appearance in a half man-half lion posture and tearing Asura Hiranya’s chest while the world looked awe struck at his power and ability to destroy the Asura.

அம் கண் ஞாலம் அஞ்ச அங்கு ஓர் ஆள்
அரி ஆய் அவுணன்
பொங்க ஆகம் வள் உகிரால் போழ்ந்த
புனிதன் இடம்

பைங்கண் ஆனைக் கொம்பு கொண்டு
பத்திமையால் அடிக்கீழ்ச்
செங்கண் ஆளி இட்டு இறைஞ்சும்
சிங்கவேழ் குன்றமே


Ahobila Mutt
In the late 14th Century, the Lord is said to have initiated Adivan Sadagoopan to launch the mutt here at Ahobilam to propagate the Vishista Dwaitha philosophy. This is home to the 600+ years old Ahobila Mutt. In the last two decades, the Nava Narasimha temples have seen significant renovation thanks to the efforts of the Mutt. Out of the Nava Narasimha Utsava idols, the Utsava deity of Malola Narasimha temple is the abhisheka idol of the Ahobila Mutt Jeer. It was also the 44th Jeer of Ahobila Mutt who was responsible for the construction of the Rajagopuram at Srirangam.


Festivals
Currently, there are festivals on 180days of the year. Kalyana Utsavam, Swati Homam and Specific Prarthana Abhishekams are particularly sacred here.

Vaikasi - 10day Narasimha Jayanthi
Aippasi 10day Pavitrotsavam – 4days Lower Ahobilam, 6days Upper Ahobilam
Thai- Maasi - 45day procession to 33villages around Ahobilam
Panguni - 12day Brahmotsavam
Chitrai - Week long utsavam for Pavana Narasimha

Every month, on the Swathi Nakshatram, there is a special Abhishekam for all the nine Narasimhas

Quick Facts
Moolavar : Ahobila Narasimha, East Facing Sitting Posture with Prahalada standing opp the Lord
Thaayar : Amruthavalli, Shenjaga Lakshmi
Utsavar : Narasimha (9 different idols)
Azhvaar : Thirumangai Azhvaar (10 Paasurams in Periya Thirumozhi)-1008-17

Priest : K.Venugopal (Ramesh) –Chief Archagar @ 94418 02368 or 08519 252097
Ahobila Narasimha Divya Desam- M. Veeraraghava Archagar @ 96032 27118
Time : Upper Ahobilam – Ahobila Narasimha temple 7am-1pm and 2pm-7pm
Lower Ahobilam – Prahalada Varadan temple 630am-1pm and 3pm-8pm
Other Narasimha temples - 10am-5pm(1pm-2pm rest)

Where to stay
Ahobila Mutt has a nice guest house at Lower Ahobilam in front of the Prahalada Varadan temple.

For room booking, contact Badri Narayanan-Manager @ 94905 15284

Vegetarian Food
There is vegetarian food outside the Ahobilam guest house as well as a Udupi hotel.
Temple Thaligai is another option

How to reach

By Train
Chennai Egmore-Cuddapah (Kacheguda Exp -5pm dep) or Chennai Central-Cuddapah(Bombay mail 1045pm dep). Bus every 30minutes from Cuddapah to Allagadda (84kms- takes 2hours) on the Nandiyal-Kurnool-Hyderabad route. From Arlagadda, one can take another bus to Lower Ahobilam (24kms) - Buses every one hour and takes 30-45minutes. A taxi from Cuddapah station to Ahobilam will cost Rs.1500/- (one way)

Bus
Three direct buses every evening from Chennai Koyembedu bus stand to Allagadda (10hours) via Tirupati-Cuddapah (Kadapa) and return buses from Allagada at 630pm,8pm and 845pm back to Chennai.(Rs.260 per head)

Lower Ahobilam to Upper Ahobilam
A share auto will charge Rs.10per head from Lower to Upper Ahobilam (one can visit Karanja temple on the way).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gopurapatti Adhi Nayaka Perumal Temple

Tharpanam for 12000 Vaishnavites is performed here on No Moon day in Aadi in memory of their sacrifice fighting the Islamic Invasion at Srirangam in the 14th Century
Renovation took place on 27th August after 512years



Located 20kms North West of Trichy near Manasanallur between two rivers Peruvalavan and Kamba (these have gone into extinction and are currently seen in the form of a small canal) is the Adhi Nayaka Perumal temple in Gopurapatti, where the Moolavar is seen in a Bala Sayana Posture with a Measuring Instrument.

After a gap of over 500years, the Samprokshanam of the temple took place last month. Only a couple of years ago, this temple was in a completely dilapidated condition. Prior to this, renovation was undertaken by Hoysala King Veera Vallalan in the 14th Century and the last one by a Lankan King in the late 15th Century. Hence, this temple can be said to be at least 700years old.




The Story

In the 14th Century, Srirangam was ravaged by the Islamic invasion. During this period, lasting close to 50years some of the residents fled the place but many others stayed on to fight the invaders. Over 10000 Vaishnavites gave up their lives fighting to protect Srirangam from these invaders. In memory of them, every year, during the No Moon day in the Tamil Calendar month of Aadi, Tharpanam takes place on the banks of the Peruvalavan River in Gopurapatti.

It was a km from here at the Sundara Raja Perumal Koil in Azhagiya Manavalam that Namperumal, the Utsava deity of Srirangam, was safeguarded during those years and was taken back to the Srirangam temple at the end of the battle against the invaders. (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2009/09/sundara-raja-perumal-koil-in-azhagiya.html)

Measuring Instrument
There was a lot of land belonging to the Srirangam temple in the area around Azhagiya Manavalam and Gopurapatti. It was here at the Adhi Nayaka temple that the farmers congregated to measure the rice they would present every month to the Srirangam temple. Hence, the Lord here is seen with a measuring tool.



Quick Facts
Moolavar : Adhi Nayaka Perumal Bala Sayanam
Goddess : Adhi Nayaki (Separate Sannidhi)
Temple Time: 9am-1pm and 4pm-8pm
Priest : Murali Bhattar @ 94431 83939

How to reach Gopurapatti
Take the Thuraiyur Mofussil bus from Chatiram Bus Stand. Get down at Manasanallur. Mini Bus every 30minutes to Gopurapatti from Manasanallur (5kms) via Azhagiya Manavalam.

Auto from Manasanallur to Gopurapatti will cost Rs.100/-

(A version of this story featured in The Hindu dated 22nd October 2010)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thiruneermalai Thirumangai Paasuram

Four in One says Thirumangai Azhvaar

அன்று ஆயர் குலக் கொடியோடு அணி மா மலர்
மங்கையொடு அன்பு அளாவி, அவுணர்க்கு

என்றானும் இரக்கம் இலாதவனுக்கு
உறையும் இடம் ஆவது, இரும் பொழில் சூழ்
நன்று ஆய புனல் நறையூர்
திருவாலி, குடந்தை, தடம் திகழ் கோவல்நகர்

நின்றான், இருந்தான், கிடந்தான், நடந்தாற்கு
இடம் மா மலை ஆவது, நீர்மலையே-


Thirumangai Azhvaar Periya Thirumozhi

In this verse, Thirumangai refers to Lord Kannan as the spouse of Nappinai ( the cowherd lady)and Lakshmi (the Lotus Goddess) who was merciless in killing the asuras to protect the world at large.

Giving Thiruneermalai a special status, Thirumangai compares it with Naraiyur, Thiruvali, Thiru Kudanthai and Thiru Kovilur and reveals that one can see the Lord of all these four temples at Thiruneermalai.

In his reference to Thiru Naraiyur, Thirumangai refers to the standing Lord residing amidst groves in the well watered town. He refers to Kudanthai as the Lord in a sleeping posture, to Thiruvali, where the Lord is seen sitting and to Thiru Kovilur as the one in a standing posture.

In conclusion Thirumangai says that on the hills of Thiruneermalai, one can find him in all these four postures and hence it is sacred to visit this place.

Vadarangam Ranganatha

Ranganatha seen in a Bala Sayanam Posture
A unique feature is that Coloroon runs North-South at this place
Prarthana Sthalam for Husband-Wife reunion



Located 12kms West of Seerkazhi on the Eastern banks of Coloroon is the Ranganatha temple in Vada Rangam. Similar to Srirangam, this temple is located between two rivers – Coloroon and Rajan River. Also, there is a saivite temple in the same location (similar to Thiruvanai Koil)

The temple was originally located right on the Coloroon banks but floods in 1924 washed away a major portion of the temple.

Hence, a new temple was constructed about 200yards off the place where the original temple was located. One now finds a Rama Sannidhi at the original location of the Ranganatha temple.

A special feature of the location of this temple is that Coloroon runs in the North- South direction (one usually finds Coloroon in the East-West direction).

The story

This temple dates back several centuries as can be seen from the historical stories relating to this temple.

Asura Vikraman had become unstoppable after obtaining the powers to kill all Devas. Answering the prayers of the Devas, Lord Vishnu is believed to have come here and defeated him much to the delight of the Devas. As per the instruction of Vishnu, the Devas bathed at the Theertham here. Hence, this is said to be very sacred.

Cauvery got liberated from Agastya’s curse and re-united with her husband Samudra Raja at this place. Hence, this is said to be a prarthana Sthalam for re-union of husband-wife.

Another story goes that a Saurashtra king was liberated from a serious ailment after bathing in the sacred theertham here. Pleased with this, he donated land for Chariot Festival to be conducted in Vaikasi.

Legend has it Sage Vashista directed Vishwakarma to visit this place and design the temple architecture.

Festivals
10day Brahmotsavam in Vaikasi
Maasi Utsavam
Vaikunta Ekadesi
Rama Navami


Quick Facts
Moolavar : Ranganatha in a Bala Sayanam Posture
Thaayar : Ranganayaki East Facing
Priest : Soundara Narayana Bhattar @ 97878 13235
Temple Time : 7am-12noon and 5pm-8pm



How to reach
From Seerkazhi, cross the railway line (Seerkazhi Station), new bye pass road and drive 12kms West to reach this temple.

Buses every ½ hour between Seerkazhi and Vadarangam (Bus No.A8)
(First bus at 5am)

Auto from Seerkazhi and back will cost about Rs.250/-.