Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cheran Maha Devi Ramaswamy Temple Renovation

Lighting the Darkness
The ancient over 1000year old Ramaswamy temple at Cheran Maha Devi that had been in a completely dilapidated condition (read the story written in Sept 2011 http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2011/09/cheran-maha-devi-ramaswamy-temple.html) has received a fresh lease of life with the recent Samprokshanam in mid January. There had been no renovation in the last 100 years at this temple.

(It is quite a dramatic change from the the state of the idols and the vimana as seen in 2001 in the story link above. It is particularly significant because this is one of the few temples in the country with the Ashtanga Vimana similar to the ones at Thiru Koshtiyur, Parameswara Vinnagaram (Kanchipuram) and Koodal Azhagar Divya Desam. And the Ashtanga Vimana has been save for yet another generation).

A 5km Underground Tunnel
 In the past, there was a 5km long secret underground tunnel from Tier 1 of the Ramaswamy temple that led one to the Perumal temple at Karisulnda Mangalam on the banks of Tamaraibarani, North of Pathamadai. Though this route has remained shut, one can still find the entrance to the tunnel from Tier 1 of the Ramaswamy temple. During the rule of Raja Raja I, the temple was referred to as Nigaril Chola Vinnagar Azhwar temple and the deity as Raghava Chakravarti. This place was referred to as Cheran Maha Devi Chaturvedi Mangalam with the hilly terrain of Papanasam being the short cut from Cheran Maha Devi to Trivandrum. 

Description of the Lord in earlier centuries
In centuries gone by, the Lord was described as ‘top tier’ Azhwar idol (Thiru Parkadalnathan in a Sayana posture atop Adhisesha), the ‘mid tier’ Azhwar idol (Veetriruntha Perumal) and ‘lower tier’ Azhwar idol (Aadhi Narayanan standing posture).
The temple that had celebrated festivals in a grand manner had been in the dark of late, literally with no oil even to light lamps and bats being the main occupants, quite a contrast from earlier periods. 

Lighting the Lamp in the 11th Century
An 11th Century AD inscription records a specific praise for Vaikanasas for taking care of the lamps as they would of their own body. So committed were they that they pledged themselves to maintain a perpetual lamp at the temple. And they were to be levied a penalty of double the quantity of ghee if they failed in their duty. Also, there was a deposit made in the hands of the Vaikanasas for burning a half lamp during the rule of Rajendra I. There were several more gifts for lighting the lamp clearly indicating that the daily burning of lamps was well taken care of.  

Not just the lamps, the overall security of the temple too was provided for. There was a gift of pieces of land in the 11th Century AD by the Merchant Guild for maintenance of a watchman (Thiru Meiykaappu) at the temple. The gifting by the Merchant Guild is also an indication that the business and economy at this place was robust at that point of time.

Rose Water for the Lord
Deposits were also made for conducting worship of the God during festivals. In the early 13th Century AD, during the rule of Kulasekhara I, a gift of money was made for providing rose water to the God for the famous Chitrai Festival.

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 temple. A 10day Oonjal Utsavam in Aipasi, Garuda Sevai on the last Saturday in Puratasi, the Big Festival (Brahmotsavam) in Chitrai with Garuda Sevai on the 5th day, Chariot Festival (indicating the temple had a Chariot) on the 10th day and Theerthavari on the 11th day were very popular. There was also a 10 day festival for Anjaneya and a Theppotsavam in Margazhi.  

The temple had however lost its grandeur in recent decades with the Vimana in a dilapidated state surrounded all around by shrubs and bushes. The outer walls were in poor condition and even the mooligai painting on the Moolavar idol in each of the three tiers had withered. There was no oil to light lamps and the Lord was left to guard himself without even a Vastram. And most of the festivals including the Brahmotsavam were off.

New Facelift
The temple that had been in such a forlorn state has received a big facelift recently. The entire temple complex has had a fresh coat of paint. It is refreshing to find each of the Moolavar idols anointed with a bright colourful Mooligai painting. The lamps are glowing bright in all the Sannidhis bringing back a great feeling of devotion and positive vibration inside the temple.

While earlier the entrance to the 1st and 2nd Tier was through the maha mandapa from the inside, a new external stair case has been laid for the devotees to visit the top tiers from the outer prakara. The outer walls too are sporting a new look. All the ancient inscriptions have been left intact. Other additions include a new lighting system for the temple, new flooring and a security gate leading up to the sanctum.

It is hoped that Garuda Sevai (Garuda Vahana has been painted new and looks in good shape) in Puratasi, Rama Navami, Theppotsavam in Margazhi and the grand Chitrai Brahomotsavam will once again be celebrated in a grand manner.
The temple is open from 8am-1030am and 530pm-8pm. Contact Bhattar @ 90435 48173

( A part of this story featured in The Hindu Friday Review on 11 March)

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