Friday, September 30, 2011

Rockfort Express

It would be good to stop the 16177 Rockfort Express at Tiruchirapalli Junction and bring it back to its original historical route

With the launch this week of a new train- The Mannai Express to Mannargudi- passing through both Kumbakonam and Thanjavur, it may finally be time to get RockFort Express to its old route – Chennai Egmore –Tiruchirapalli Junction Express.

In the early part of last decade, with the closure of the Chennai Egmore Villupuram Mayavaram- Kumbakonam Main line for the conversion to broad gauge and the subsequent early conversion of the Tiruchirapalli- Kumbakonam 90km route, the Rockfort Express was extended beyond Tiruchirapalli to Kumbakonam.

However, now with the train services having resumed on the Villupuram-Mayiladuthurai section and with at least 3 daily express night trains on this section in addition to weekly specials and the Chozhan day express, it will be good to stop Rockfort express at Tiruchirapalli thus providing several hundreds of additional berths/seats to Trichy bound travellers.

While this issue was raised in the past, no decision was taken. However, with Mannai Express and Tiruchendur Express running on the Mayavaram-Kumbakonam-Thanjavur main line, it will benefit the passengers to get the additional seats to Trichy on the Rockfort Express.

Singiri Kudi Narasimha Temple

Sage Vashista was liberated from his curse at this place
Prahalada had darshan here of Lakshmi Narasimha after having visited Devanathan at Thiru Vahindrapuram

Located 2kms West of Thavalai Kuppam off the Pondicherry-Cuddalore National Highway is the Lakshmi Narasimha temple in Singiri Kudi, Abhishekapakkam where Lord Narasimha is seen in an angry sitting posture facing the West towards the other two Narasimha temples at Poovarasankuppam and Parikkal.

This is the only Narasimha temple in Tamil Nadu where he is seen with 16hands.

Prahalada's darshan at Singiri Kudi
Subsequent to his visiting Thiru Vahindrapuram Divya Desam for a darshan of Lord Devanathan, Prahalada is believed to have come North to Singiri Kudi to invoke the blessings of Ugra Narasimha.

Nimi Chakravarthy, who belonged to the Surya Dynasty, wanted to perform a Yagna invoking Indra and to gain further powers. Vashishta, the preceptor of the Surya Dynasty, was not too keen on this and backed out citing non availability on that day.

Nimi who had made up his mind to perform the Yagna reached out to Kousika Rishi to be present and lead this yagna. After its completion, Vashista returned only to find Nimi asleep.

Angered that Nimi had gone ahead and performed the Yagna despite him announcing his non availability and also with him not coming out to receive the Sage, Vashista pronounced a curse whereby the body and soul were separated.

On waking up, Nimi expressed unhappiness that his Guru had cursed him while he was asleep.

In an interesting twist, the King, who through his various yagnas had gained powers to curse anyone, cursed his own Guru separating his body and soul as well.

Nimi felt that having separated his soul from the physical body he need not revive his life and he expressed the wish that he should have darshan of the Lord through the devotees.

Vashista on the other hand sought the help of Brahmma to liberate him from the curse. As directed by Brahmma, he undertook penance at the Krishnaranya Kshetram of Singiri Kudi. Pleased with his prayers, Lakshmi and Narasimha provided darshan to him here and liberated him from the curse.

The three Narasimha temples of Parikkal (Near Villupuram off the Trichy National Highway), Poovaran Kuppam ( off the Panruti Highway) and Singiri Kudi are in a straight way from West to East. It is said that it is auspicious to visit all the three temples on the same day.

Quick Facts

Moolavar: Ugra Narasimha West Facing Sitting Posture
Goddess : Kanakavalli Thaayar
Priest : Jayakumar Bhattar @ 0413 2618759
Temple Time: 7am-12noon and 430pm-9pm

Chitrai Vaikasi Brahmotsavam
Chariot Festival on Narasimha Jayanthi
Puratasi Saturdays

How to reach
Take the Pondicherry-Cuddalore bus. Get down at Thavalai Kuppam ( 10kms from Pondy)
An auto from here to Singiri Kudi will cost Rs.30-40/-

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mannargudi Train from Chennai Egmore

Mannai Express to kick off tonight

The much awaited daily express train to the temple town of Mannargudi will finally kick off tonight following the laying of the broad guage line on the 14km Needamangalam- Mannargudi section.

Talking to prtraveller, Mr. PV Vaidialingam, DRM, Tiruchirapalli Division said “Train Number 16179 Mannai Express will leave Chennai Egmore at 10pm tonight and will reach Mannargudi at 625am tomorrow morning. Train Number 16180 Mannargudi Chennai Express will leave Mannargudi at 915pm this evening and will reach Chennai Egmore at 555am tomorrow.”

Mannai Express will run on the main line via Villupuram, Mayiladuthurai, Kumbakonam and Thanjavur. The launch of the train to Mannargudi will help devotees to the Rajagopalaswamy temple and the ancient Rama temple in Vaduvur to take a comfortable night train from Chennai. For the last many years, travellers have had to take a rather tedious bus journey to Mannargudi and Vaduvur.

Mr. Vaidialingam also said that with the launch of this new express train to Mannargudi, the departure time of Mangalore Express has been moved to 1015pm
(previously 10pm).

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Appan Venkatachalapathy Temple Cheran Maha Devi

A temple where in Centuries gone by there was a Spring Festival for the Appan Lord and 6 offerings to the Lord on New Moon days  
 Located 1km North of Ramaswamy temple on the Cheran Maha Devi - Kallur- Tirunelveli route is an ancient Chera Period Appan temple in Cheran Maha Devi, one that was recently renovated after having remained closed for almost 50years.

The Story- Milagu Rasam special at this temple
The story goes that a Cheran king, who could not find a solution from the doctor, for his daughter’s stomach pain approached an astrologer who asked him to build a Chatram as well as a Venkatachalapathy temple on the banks of Tamarai Barani. He was also asked to give ‘Milagu Rasam’ to his daughter. To his surprise, his daughter recovered. Hence, Milagu Rasam is special at this temple and this place was referred to as Kanndiyen Chatram. There are about 60 inscriptions at this temple the earliest of which dates back to the 12th Century AD to the rule of Jatavarma Pandya (Kulasekhara I) who in 1200AD on the suggestion of his brother in law Ravivarma ordered that the land of Karungulapparru, an Eastern Hamlet of Cheran Maha Devi Chaturvedi Mangalam, be made completely tax free for daily offerings to the Lord and for the recital of Vedas and Puranas at this temple. 

Monthly requirements of the Lord  
Also, inscription dating back to 1209AD indicates that provision was made for Sandal, Camphor and all other monthly requirements of the Lord. Garland for the Lord Also, during the rule of Sundara Pandya Deva, there was a gift of money by Virasinga Deva for providing Garland of flowers in the Cheran Narayanan Nandavanam in return for some prasadam from the temple. There was also an agreement given by the temple authorities to Pillai Vijayarayan for the 8 Achchu given by him for maintaining the flower garden and supplying garlands to the temple. 
40Kalam of Paddy for Services to the Appan Temple
A 1267AD Inscription during the rule of Vira Pandya II records an agreement deed given to Sriranganatha Bhattar by the Pandarikal Sri Vaishnavas and Nambiman of the Appan temple of Cheran Maha Devi Chaturvedi Mangalam. As per this deed, the latter agreed to measure out 40Kalam of Paddy to the temple for certain services in lieu of interest on a sum of 20 Achchus as they were in arrears to the temple. Maravarma Pandya who reigned Malai Nadu, Chola and Kongu Kingdom, Ilam and Thondai Mandalam registered the remission of all kinds of taxes by assembly of Cheran Maha Devi Chaturvedi Mangalam on certain lands in Idaigal for conducting service called ‘ Kulasekharan Sandhi’ instituted in the Appan temple by Veenaadudaiyan. A 1288AD inscription on the Eastern Wall of the temple records a gift of 2Aanai Achchu for a lamp by pupils of Pinsenra Villi Jeeyar of Mudivalangum Perumal Mutt. The interest on each Achchu was one Ulakku of oil per day. 

Recognising the work of Smith  
In an interesting recognition, Kulasekhara Deva records a gift of an annuity of Paddy and a portion of the ‘deity offered food’ to the Smith Cherai Mangai Silpasari for doing stone work in the Appan temple. New Moon Day and 6offerings for the Lord On the side wall of the temple is a record that states the gift of money for providing 6offerings to the God on New Moon days. 
Feeding Sanyasins and maintaining a Teacher for the Paatshaala 
 On the wall of the South Verandah in the first prakara of the Appan temple contains yet another inscription in Tamil that provides interesting insights about the functioning of the temple in the 13th Century AD. As per the request of Malavaraayan, Sundara Pandya II promised to make a gift of a tax free land at Karungulam, in the Eastern Hamlet of Cheran Maha Devi Chaturvedi Mangalam for benefit of a service instituted in the name of Nakkan Irattai ( Thondai Maanaar) for feeding every day 17 persons including Tridanda Sanyasins and for maintaining a teacher for the Sastras in the mutt called Mudvalangum Perumal Mutt at the temple. 

Spring Festival at Appan temple 
 On the same wall, there is a record of a gift of land by the temple authorities to Azhagiya Manavala Jeeyar, one of the Tridandi Sanyasins who was in charge of the above mutt on the Northern side of the temple for conducting the Spring festival of God every year 

With the Appan temple having been just renovated after several decades, the temple authorities are currently in the process of working out the festival details for the year ahead. With their passion in bringing the temple to wear a new refreshing look, one can expect the temple to also bring back the festivals of centuries gone by that this temple was home to. Interestingly, the renovation has not spoilt any of the inscriptions at the Appan temple and they see to be intact on all sides including the pillars. 
Quick Facts 
Moolavar: Appan Venkatachalapathy East Facing Standing Posture 
Thaayar : Alarmel Mangai and Padmavathi Thaayar
Utsavar : Srinivasan ( currently under lock and key at Ramaswamy temple) 

Priest : Satagopan Bhattar @ 9486621458 (earlierSrinivasan Bhattar @ 89036 69263 / 04634 265268 )
Temple Time: 6am-8am (Saturday and Sunday 6am-11am) - Call Satagopan Bhattar in advance in case one reaches the temple after noon/evening 

How to reach 
Cheran Maha Devi is about 20kms West of Tirunelveli and 10kms East of Ambasamudram. Buses ply every 10minutes from Tirunelveli and Ambai. When in Cheran Maha Devi also visit Ramaswamy Temple which is 1km South of the Appan Venkatachalapathy temple. Mannar Koil Rajagopalaswamy is 15kms from here and Thirukurungudi Divya Desam is about 30kms from Cheran Maha Devi.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thiru Koshtiyur Sowmya Narayana Perumal Divya Desam

Ramanuja learnt the Thiru Mandiram here on his 18th visit from Srirangam
A Divya Desam with a 'Three Tier Ashtanga Vimana'
Avathara Sthalam of Thiru Koshtiyur Nambi

Located 8kms South West of Tirupattur on the Sivaganga Highway is the Sowmya Narayana Divya Desam in Thiru Koshtiyur, a temple that finds a reference in the Brahmanda Purana. Lord Sheerabdhi Nathan, who had come here from Thiru Parkadal on the request of the Devas, is seen in a Bhujanga Sayana Posture at this temple.

This is the place where Ramanuja was initiated the Thiru Mandiram by his Acharya Thiru Koshtiyur Nambi on his 18th trip from Srirangam.

Direction to Thiru Koshtiyur
In centuries gone by, the direction to this place was given as being South of the Cauvery and 40miles East of Azhagar Koil.

Story of Hiranya Kashipu and ThiruKoshtiyurAsura Hiranyakashipu prayed to Brahmma for a boon that he would not be killed by Devas, human race, animals or by weapons. Having secured the boon, he went on a rampage harassing everyone and forcing them to utter ‘Namo Hiranyaya Namaha’.

Worried at his increasing power and anxious at what his next action would be, Devas sought Shiva’s help, who directed them to Brahmma, who further directed them to Vishnu as the only one who could pin down Hiranyakashipu.

The Devas went to Thiru Paarkadal only to be told by Lord Narayana that Hiranya’s powers had spread around the world and they had to go and find a place in the world where His name was still being chanted. They managed to find Kadamba Rishi’s ashram as the one place where Lord Narayana’s name was still being uttered. The Rishi was undertaking severe penance in his quest to have darshan of the Lord as Sheerabdhi Nathan.

The Devas and Tri Murthies went to Kadamba Rishi’s ashram to discuss the plan to kill Hiranya. While everyone remained there, Lord Narayana went back to Thiru Paarkadal where, he asked Sanghu Karna to be born as Hiranyakashipu’s son Prahalada who would utter Namo Narayana all the time, much to his father’s shock.

After Hiranya Samhara, Kadamba Rishi requested Brahmma to give him a model of Lord Narayana killing Hiranya. It was Brahmma who directed Vishwakarma to construct a 3 tier structure at this place- one with Om, another with Namo and the third with Narayana with the Southern side of the tower depicting ‘Lord ‘Narasimha catching Hiranyan’. He asked Maayan to construct the Northern side of the tower depicting ‘Narasimha killing Hiranyan’.

Indra, who had stayed back here till the Hiranya Samhara, presented to Kadamba Rishi the silver plated idols of Sowmya Narayana along with Sri, Bhoo and Neela Devi.

When Pururavan, the son of Budhan (Mercury) flew above Thiru Koshtiyur on his way for a bath in the Ganges, he was brought down to this place through the powers of the Ashtanga Vimana. Having had a darshan of the Thiru Koshtiyur Lord and lured by his presence, Pururavan built the town where people could stay and have darshan of Sheerbadhi Nathan.

'3 Tier Ashtanga Vimana'
This is a Divya Desam with a 'Three tier Ashtanga Vimana', similar to Thiru Koodal in Madurai. At the ground level, there’s a Sannidhi here for Lord Shiva. Above that is a 3 Tier Vimana. On level 1 is Lord Uraga Mellanaiyaan – Sheerabdhi Nathan in a Sleeping Posture. Above him in Tier 2 is Lord Upendra Narayana in a Standing Posture. And on Tier 3 is Paramapada Nathan in a Sitting Posture.

There is a Ramaswamy temple in Cheran Maha Devi, near Ambasamudram, which has a similar three tier Ashtanga Vimana.

On Tier 3, through a small gap one can reach the place from where Ramanuja pronounced the Thiru Mandhiram to the world at large.

Thiru Mandhiram- Ramanuja and Nambi
Ramanuja came to Thiru Koshtiyur to meet Nambi and learn the Thiru Mandhiram. On reaching here, he says ‘I have come to meet you..’ but was turned back on 17 occasions.

On the 18th occasion, Ramanuja started with ‘Adiyen Daasan (your disciple) Ramanuja has come.’ And to his surprise, this time Nambi welcomed him saying ‘Your arrogance is gone. Now we can talk’.

Ramanuja requested his Acharya Nambi to teach him the Thiru (Narayana) Mandhiram. He was initiated the Thiru Mandhiram, subject to one condition that Ramanuja would not share it with anyone else and that if he failed, he would go to hell. Having learnt the Thiru Mandhiram, Ramanuja came up here to the 3rd tier, called out for the people and recited the Thiru Mandhiram to the world at large.

Shocked at this ‘break of promise’, Nambi questioned Ramanuja on his failure to keep up the promise and the consequence of this ‘public’ utterance In a stunning reply, Ramanuja said ‘By sharing the Thiru Mandhiram, I alone (one person only) will go to hell but by having shared it with the world at large, several people will get Moksham.’ And hence, he was ready to go to hell.

Ramanuja as Emberumaanar
Impressed with Ramanuja’s reply, Nambi called him ‘Ne Emperumaal Aanar’ (you have become my Lord). Hence Ramanuja here is called ‘Emberumaanar’. Ramanuja and Nambi have separate Sannidhis at this temple. Outside the Nambi Sannidhi is a board that contains the list of 18 Thiru Mandhiram.

On the third tier, on the Southern side, there is a beautifully sculpted statue of Ramanuja in a sitting posture to mark the ‘ThiruMandhiram’ pronunciation to the world.

Pallandu Verse praising Thiru Koshtiyur Lord
அவ் வழக்கு ஒன்றுமில்லா அணி கோட்டியர்
கோன் அபிமானதுங்கன், செல்வனைப் போல
திருமாலே நானும் உனக்கு பழவடியேன்

நல் வகையால் நமோ நாராயணா வென்று
நாமம் பல பரவி

பல்வகையாலும் பவித்தரனே
உன்னைப் பல்லாண்டு கூறுவனே

In the Thirupallandu verse, Peri Azhvaar says that having seen him here at Thiru Koshtiyur, he too like the faultless Thiru Koshtiyur Nambi will become a faithful Servant of the Lord and that he will forever chant and spread the Om Namo Narayana mantra as well as the several other names of the Lord with the sole aim of relinquishing all other unwanted desires in life.

In addition to Peri Azhvaar, Four other Azhvaars - Thirumangai Azhvaar, Peyazhvaar, Thirumazhisai Azhvaar and Bhoothath Azhvaar have sung praise of the Thiru Koshtiyur Lord in a total of 40 verses.

PeriAzhvaar visualised ‘Aayarpadi’ when he saw Thiru Koshtiyur
வண்ண மாடங்கள் சூழ் திருகோட்டியூர்
கண்ணன் கேசவன் நம்பி பிறந்தினில்

எண்ணெய் சுண்ணம் எதிரெதிர் தூவிடக்
கண்ணன் முற்றம் கலந்து அளறு ஆயிற்றே

When Peri Azhvaar visited Thiru Koshtiyur for the first time, it was Krishna Jayanthi period and the whole place was agog with a festival atmosphere with people singing and dancing around bringing back memories of the young and playful Krishna. Peri Azhvaar visualised Thiru Koshtiyur as ‘Aayarpadi’ and sung praise of this place referring to this as ‘one with big mansions’.

The Name- Removal of all Sins As the Devas came here in Groups (Ghosti) requesting Lord Narayana to kill Asura Hiranyakashipu, this place is called Koshtiyur. The belief is that a visit to this place will remove one’s sins as can be seen from the name – Thiruku (Sin) – Otiyur (removed).

Belief is that visiting Thiru Koshtiyur provides one the fruits of visiting Naimisaranyam Divya Desam, a bath in the Ganges and a visit to Kurukshetra. It is said that a Vaishnavite who does not visit Thiru Koshtiyur will become a monkey in the next birth.

Quick Facts

Moolavar : Uraga Mellanaiyaan East Facing Sleeping Posture
Thaayar : Thiru Maamagal ( also called Nilaamagal and Kulamaamagal)
Utsavar : Sowmya Narayanan
Azhvaar Praise: 5 Azhvaars - Thirumangai Azhvaar, Peyazhvaar, Thirumazhisai Azhvaar, Bhoothathazhvaar and Periyazhvaar

Temple time: 730am –1230pm and 5pm-8pm

Priest: G.S. Madhavan Bhattar @ 94433 41163 / 98654 85886 / 04577 261248, Ramanujam @ 97519 48520

Temple Address: Soumya Narayana Perumal Koil, Thirukoshtiyur 630 210
Also contact: Krishnamurthy ( Guide/Assistant) on reaching there.

How to reach Thiru Koshtiyur is 8Kms South West of Tirupattur, 25kms North of Sivaganga and about 30kms West of Karaikudi. Buses ply every 5-10 minutes between Tiruppatur and Sivaganga

Nearest Railway Station is Sivaganga

Auto will charge anything Rs.80-100 for a one way drop from Tirupattur to Thirukoshtiyur

Place to Stay: Madhavan Bhattar will organise a traditional place to stay at Thiru Koshtiyur

For Cab to go around Divya Desams in the Madurai region, Contact: Manimaran @ 99659 99222/ Vinod @ 96773 23382

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cheran Maha Devi Ramaswamy Temple

A temple with a Three Tier Vimanam like Thiru Koshtiyur and Koodal is in a dilapidated condition and requires immediate attention

Located 1kilometer North of Cheran Maha Devi (Tirunelveli-Tenkasi rail route) bus stand at the foot of the Western Ghats amidst green paddy fields is an ancient at least 1000years old Three Tier Aadhi Narayanan Ramaswamy temple, referred to as the Nigarili Chola Vinnagar Azhvaar temple in 10th Century AD inscriptions and whose deity was referred to as Raghava Chakravarti in a 1020AD Rajendra I period inscription, that currently finds itself in a rather dilapidated condition with bats being the main occupants of the dark prakaras in Tier 1 and 2.

Inscription Insights

There are several inscriptions on the inner and outer walls of the Ramaswamy temple. There are also inscriptions on the way up the steps to Tier 1 of the temple that provide insights into the conduct of the festivals, the daily poojas at the temple, the state of the temple under different rulers and their contribution to the well being of the temple.

Grand Festivals in Centuries gone by

As late as the first half of the last century, there were several festivals conducted in a Grand manner at the Ramaswamy temple. A 10day Unjal Utsavam in Chitrai, Garuda Sevai on the fourth Saturday in Puratasai, a 10th day Chariot Festival (indicating the temple had a Chariot) and a11th day Theerthavari utsavam were among the popular festivals at this temple.

Such was the importance to the festivals at the Ramaswamy temple that there were deposits made for conducting worship of the God on Festival days of Chitrai and there was a gift of money for providing rose water to the God on the Chitrai Festival day (Kulasekhara I -13th Century AD- period inscription).

Theppotsavam in Margazhi was a big event
The Theppotsavam about which we find details in these ancient Chola and Pandya Period inscriptions continues to take place in the Tamil Calendar month of Margazhi. Belief is that Ganga comes here to Porunai river every year on the day of Maa Viyathi Paatham in Margazhi to cleanse her sins. It is said that people from Cheran Maha Devi used to congregate here for a bath at this river on this day.
There are separate rooms on the Southern side for the Vahanas.

Four times a day Pooja- Where is that now?
Even 65years ago, there were poojas performed four times a day as per the Vaikanasa tradition. Now, the temple is open only for a couple of hours in the evening with the opening in the first half dependent on request from devotees on prior intimation.

God was well lit!!!

A 10th Century AD inscription records a specific praise of Vaikanasas for taking care of the lamps at the Ramaswamy temple as they would of their own body, so committed were they that they pledged themselves to maintain a perpetual lamp at the temple ( 1015AD Rajendra I period inscription). The inscription goes on to add that they would have to pay a penalty of twice the ghee for them to continue the lamp service. Deposit of Kasu was also made in the hands of the Vaikanasas for burning a half lamp.

The inscriptions record several gifts to the temple including gift of money for lamp, gift of 25cows for lamp, a gift of 75cows for 3lamps, a gift of money for 2lamps and 4food offerings to Thiru VaykulathAzhvaar and his consort and a gift of cash for lamp for the deity which was to be maintained by the Vaikanasas (1015AD Inscription) clearly indicating that the daily burning of lamps was well taken care of.

Watchman for the Temple

Not just the lamps, the overall security of the Ramaswamy temple too was provided for as can be seen from the 1036AD inscription of Sundara Chola Pandya Deva which refers to a gift of pieces of land by the Merchant Guild for maintenance of a watchman at the temple. One could also assume from the gifting by the Merchant Guild that the business and economy at this place was robust at that point of time.

Loss of Jewels- 12th Century AD Pandya Period event
A Jatavarma Pandya Kulasekhara I inscription of 1195AD narrates an interesting story, that of two priests being held responsible for loss of temple jewels and how they borrowed 3Achchus from the temple and gave a written agreement that they would conduct the same from interest accruing from these 3Achchus.

War time and reference to places around Cheran Maha Devi

A 985AD inscription and similar one in 1000AD in Tamil both on the North Wall relating to Raja Raja I mentions the destruction of fleets at Kandalurch Chalai and Mandalaurch Chalai and conquests of Ganga Padi, Nulamba Padi, Tadigai Padi, Vegai Nadu, Kudagamalai Nadu, Kollam, Kalingam, Ila Mandalam and Cheran Madevi.

Cheran Maha Devi - Location
Cheran Maha Devi is at a very centric location on the Tirunelveli- Ambasamudram- Papanasam route. About 15kms East is Tirunelveli, about 30kms South East is the Nambi Divya Desam at Thiru Kurungudi and about 15kmsWest is Kulasekara Azhvaar Rajagolaswamy temple in Mannar Koil. One can also reach Nagercoil and Kanyakumari from Cheran Maha Devi via Kalakkad and Valliyoor.

The Name

Inscriptions indicate that this place was referred to as Cheran Maha Devi Chaturvedi Mangalam. In those days, the hilly terrain of Papanasam was the short cut from Cheran Maha Devi to Trivandrum. Also, culverts refer to this place as Nigarili Chola Chaturvedi Mangalam. The inscriptions refer to the Ramaswamy temple as. Early 11th Century AD inscriptions state that Cheran Maha Devi was situated in Mulli Nadu.

Three Tier Vimana

Similar to Thirukoshtiyur Sowmya Narayana Divya Desam, Parameswara Vinnagara Divya Desam and Koodal Divya Desam in Madurai, the Ramaswamy temple in Cheran Maha Devi too has a three tier vimana, with Adhi Narayanan in a Standing Posture at the Ground level, Veetrituntha Perumal in a sitting posture in Tier 1 along with Sri and Bhoo Devi and Thiruparkadalnathan in a sleeping posture in Tier 2. Unfortunately, unlike the other too Divya Desam vimanam, this one at Cheran Maha Devi has a worn out look and seems to be asking for immediate attention to bring it to a vibrancy that this temple once had centuries ago.

The three tier vimanam finds a reference in the ancient inscriptions which talks about the ‘top tier’ Azhvaar idol, the ‘mid tier’ Azhvaar idol and ‘lower tier’ Azhvaar idol.

Current Festivals
Puratasi – Garuda Seva
Rama Navami
Krishna Jayanthi
Puratasi Parivettai
Marghazhi Theppotsavam
Vaikunta Ekadesi Procession

Quick Facts
Moolavar: Aadhi Narayanan East Facing Standing Posture along with Sri and Bhoo devi
Tier 1: Veetriruntha Perumal with Sri and Bhoo devi in a Sitting Posture
Tier 2: Thiru Parkadal Lord in Sayana posture atop Adhisesha

Utsava Deity: Rama with Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman
Separate Sannidhi: Veda Narayanan with Bhoo and Neela Devi
Temple Time: 630pm and 8pm ( but the Bhattar will open in the morning if you call and inform in advance)
Priest : Sathyanarayana Bhattar @ 90435 48173
Also contact Kannan @ 90436 73430 for any local assistance

How to reach
The temple is 1km North of Cheran Maha Devi bus stand and railway station
Tirunelveli bound buses (Kallur route) stop at the Rama temple
Currently, rail services on this route stands suspended because of broad gauge conversion.
Train Services likely to resume next year.

Auto from Cheran Maha Devi bus stand will cost Rs.25/-

Also Visit Appan Temple
While at Cheran Maha Devi, also visit Appan Venkatachalapathy temple, which is 1km North of this temple.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thiru Karambanur Uthamar Koil Pasuram

Thiru Mangai Azhvaar refers to the Karambanur Lord as the 'Perfect Lord' thus giving him all the glory in just one word

“Peraanai Kurungudi En Perumanai, Thiruthangal Ooraanai
Karambanur Uthamanai
Muthu Ilangu Kaar Aar Thin Kadal Ezhum
Malai Ezh Il Ulagu Ezhl Undu
Aaraathu Enru Irunthaanaik Kandathu Then Arangathey”- 1399

At many a Divya Desam, Thiru Mangai Azhvaar has showered several verses of praise, referring to the location, describing the Lord, referring to his postures, comparing him with Lords he has seen else where and showering heaps of praise.

However, there are temples where he has made a reference only in passing.Thiru Karambanur Divya Desam near Srirangam is one such temple where he makes only a passing mention. But the lack of verses (quantity) is made up by the quality of reference.

Thiru Mangai Azhvaar showers the Karambanur Lord with the ultimate praise referring to him as Uthamar, the perfect Lord. This is the only Divya Desam Lord that Thiru Mangai has referred to as 'Uthamar'. Hence, with just one word, he has positioned the Karambanur Lord as the Ultimate place to visit for us to see the 'Perfect One'.

Thiru Vahindrapuram Inscriptions

Providing a Sacred Bath for Deva Nathan during a procession on Maasi Magam day
King Vira Narasimha Deva vowed to secure the release of the Chola Emperor from Kapperunjinga
A Gold Necklace was gifted to Vahindrapuram Lord during the rule of Kulotunga III
Thiru Vahindrapuram is a Divya Desam ( history dates back to the Dwapara Yuga when Arjuna is believed to have had darshan of Deiva Nayagan. Inscriptions at the temple relating to the period 11th-13th Century AD on the walls of the prakara of the main shrine of Deiva Nayakan provides insights into the functioning of the temple, the festivals, ornaments of the Lord and the battles in this region.

While inscriptions on the walls of the Vahindrapuram temple record gifts of lands and villages for offerings and worship to the Lord, gifts of sheep and cows for perpetual lamps, gift of ‘Kasu’ for feeding the Vaishnavas at the temple Mutt and for providing offerings to God on the 8th day of the festival, one of the lengthier inscriptions found on the West Wall of the Prakara of the Deiva Nayakan Divya Desam in Thiru Vahindrapuram that dates back to 1232 AD to the rule of Raja Raja Chola III records the process of securing the release of the Chola Emperor from Kapperunjinga.

When King Vira Narasimha Deva heard that Kapperunjinga had captured the Chola Emperor at Sendamangalam, he vowed to vindicate his title as the leader of the Chola Country. Starting from Dorasamudra, he uprooted the Makara Kingdom, while his two generals destroyed Ellers and Kalliyurmulai village.  On their way, they offered their prayers to the Lord at Ponnambalam following which they went on to destroy Tondaima Nallur.

They then camped at Tiruppaadiri Puliyur (today’s Cuddalore) before the Hoysala army marched on to Thiru Vadigai (about 15 kms West of Thiru Vahindrapuram and now popular for Sayana Narasimha temple) destroying that village.  Finally, they reached Sendamangalam forcing Kopperunjinga to release the Chola Emperor. Celebrating the release, the Chola Emperor was accompanied by the army into his dominion.
On the Western Gopura, at the entrance, there is a reference to Tondaiyar Koman Adaiya Valaindapiran and his heroism in battle.

Garden for the temple
There was an order in 12th Century for a flower garden for the temple. In addition, expenses were also provided for, for the subsequent repairs and maintenance of the garden.

Necklace for Deiva Nayagan
An inscription dating to the rule of Kulotunga III refers to a gift of a gold necklace to Deiva Nayagan

The Standing Vishnu 
An inscription dating back a 1000 years refers in simple terms to the Lord of Thiru Vahindrapuram as ‘The Standing Vishnu’.

Sacred Bath for Deva Nathan
Inscriptions also record minute details like taking care of God's bath during his processions on Festive occasions when he leaves the temple premises. Expenses were sanctioned for providing a sacred bath to the Lord. One such inscription in Tamil on the South Wall of the Prakara records an order communicated to the trustees of the temple granting lands and a garden, free of taxes, for expenses of taking God for a sacred bath to the sea near Nissankhamallan Pattinam on the Maasi Magam day.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Railway Time Table July 2011

New Railway Time Table and misleading information

Misleading information once again in the new railway time table almost brought a big fight in a family from Madras. Recently, when a ticket for 4-5 family members was to be booked to Srirangam, one of the family members booked the ticket by the 10pm 6107 Mangalore Express.

When the person brought the ticket home, a fight erupted when another family member found from the time table that the train reaches Srirangam at 3am, a time of the night that was too early to go and disturb their hosts.

Finally, it was decided to cancel the ticket and book by 6177 Rock Fort Express which according to the time table was to reach Srirangam at 4am.

Thankfully on enquiries with more frequent train travellers, the person came to realise that arrival time at Srirangam for both these trains and several others was more on paper and that 6107 Mangalore Express reaches Srirangam at 415am and never at 3am as mentioned in the time table.

Once this was communicated to their family members, they heaped a sigh of relief and decided to travel by 6107Express.

This family was lucky that they were informed ahead of travel about the likely arrival. Many train travellers unaware of the likely arrival wake up on time in line with the timings mentioned in the time table only to realise that the train is still about 75-100kms away from their destination. Having once woken up and switched on the lights, these travellers tend to chat up with other family members/friends putting the ‘sleeping’ passengers at inconvenience.

While the information in the time table is the best possible arrival time for these trains, most of the time ( almost always) the trains reach much later because of the challenges relating to ‘single line’ and long stoppages at odd stations to facilitate ‘crossing’.

Table 7- Chennai- Ariyalur-Srirangam-Trichy Section
A look at table 7 of the new railway time table may leave an infrequent train traveller perplexed. As per this time table below, to cover a distance of 11kms between Srgm and Tpj, Mangalore Express takes over 90minutes, Rockfort takes around 90minutes, Howrah Kanyakumari Exp takes around 90minutes and Howrah Trichy Express takes 150minutes.

Table 8- Chennai- Thanjavur-Trichy Section

In this below table 8 of the new railway time table, Chozhan Exp and Rameswaram Exp take 100minutes to cover 50kms between Thanjavur and Trichy, while Tirupati Madurai Exp takes almost 2 ½ hours to cover this distance of 50kms ( which is a speed of about 20kms per hour)

Table 9- Coimbatore-Trichy- Mayiladuthurai Section
In the below Table 9, Jan Shatabdhi and Mysore Exp take 75minutes to cover a distance of 30kms which again is a speed of just over 20kms per hour.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Kattu Mannar Koil Inscriptions

13th Century inscription records that the product of the growing lands between Kollidam and Vellaru be assigned for repairs to the temple

Kattu Mannar Koil is home to inscriptions that provide insights into its history dating back in time to different periods and rulers.

The earliest inscription dates back to Chozha King Parantaka I who renovated the temple with brick construction. It was also Parantaka I who built the Veera Narayana Lake (now Veeranam) in the 10th Century AD.  Following him, during the time of Kulotunga I, the temple witnessed another renovation with the Granite structure replacing the previous brick construction in line with the materials used during that period.

Name of the Place
Inscriptions also reveal different names for this place as referred by different rulers in different periods of time. In the 12th Century AD, this place was referred to as Veeranarayanapuram and the tank as Veeranarayana Eri. During the Chozha period, this place was referred to as Veera Narayana Vinnagaram,   Krishna Deva Raya referred to the Lord as Azhagiya Mannanar, while during the times of Sundara Pandyan, the name was simply ‘Mannanar’. In other periods of time, this place has also been referred to as Veera Narayana Chaturveda Mangalam and Thuvarapathi Mannan Thiru Koil.

Inscription Insights
The Inscriptions at Kattu Mannar Koil also provide insights into the festivals organised during that period as well the jewels adorned by the Lord as well as allocation of land to meet the expenses for repairs to the temple

A 13th century AD inscription refers to an order to sell certain lands to the temple and the purchase by the temple from this cash of ornaments for the Lord.  During the rule of Jatavarma Sundara Pandya I, a festival was organised every month on Moolam with tax free gifts of cultivable land for providing offerings and conducting this festival. Also, during his rule, there is a record of a similar gift of tax free land for providing offerings and worship to the God.

Repairs to the temple
Interesting, there were provisions made to take care of any repairs to Kattu Mannar Koil temple. A 13th Century inscription records that the product of the growing lands between Kollidam and Vellaru be assigned for repairs to the temple.

As per the inscriptions, the moolavar deity that one sees today dates back to the 13th Century AD to the period of Sadayavarma Sundarapandyan, who ruled between 1250 and 1274. He undertook extensive renovation of the Kattu Mannar Koil giving the temple a lot of what we see today.

Inscriptions in Tamil also indicate significant contributions made by Chozhas, Rayas and Nayak Kings.

Kattu Mannar Koil is 25kms South West of Chidambaram and a similar distance East of Sri Mushnam. The temple is located 8kms East of Meensuruti off the Chennai-Kumbakonam Highway.

Buses every half hour between Chidambaram and Kattu Mannar Koil. One can also reach Kattu Mannar Koil from Vriddachalam, Srimushnum and Jayakondam.

By road from Chennai, one can reach Kattu Mannar Koil by taking the Vikravandi- Panruti-Sethiya Thope route (about 235kms)