Saturday, April 27, 2019

Thiru Kodikkaval Brahmotsavam Rishabha Vahanam

Following the renovation of the temple earlier this decade, devotees have come together to revive the Brahmotsavam after a century
Lord Thiru Kotteeswarara and Ambal Thiru Bhuvanasundari provide darshan around the streets of Thiru Kodikkaval on a Rishabha Vahanam
In centuries gone by, several festivals were celebrated in a grand manner including the Brahmotsavam, the Maha Utsavam in Maasi and Vasanthotsavam in Vaikasi at the Thirunavukarasar and Thiru Gnana Sambandhar praised Thiru Kotteeswarar temple in Thiru Kodikaaval, one whose legend relates to Lord Saneeswarar’s penance and to the visit of Yama Dharma Raja and Chitragupta. As part of the Brahmotsavam, Thiru Kotteeswarar on Yama Vahana and Ambal Thiri Bhuvanasundari on Yamini Vahana used to come out on a grand procession. Unfortunately, for over a century, Brahmotsavam had come to a halt and there had been no other big festivals at this temple. With the renovation of the temple in 2014 (, a few of the historical festivals that were popular at this temple in centuries gone by are being revived, most notably the Brahmotsavam this year.

Last Friday (April 19), on the occasion of Chitra Pournami and on the concluding day of the 10 day Brahmotsavam, Lord Thiru Kotteeswarar along with Ambal Thiru Bhuvanasundari provided darshan to devotees on separate Rishabha Vahanams, an event that has taken place after a hundred years much to the delight of the residents of Thiru Kodikkaval, all of whom were witnessing a Brahmotsavam for the first time in their lives, though many of the now senior citizens in this ancient temple town had heard enlightening stories of the grand celebration of the festival from their grandfathers.

As an indication of the conduct of the Chariot Festival, there still exists a ‘Theradi’ at the far Eastern end of the Mada Street. Subramanya Gurukal, of Kanjanur, who supported Dhandapani Gurukal in the 2nd half of the previous century at Thiru Kodikkaval had seen the presence of the centuries old chariot. However, with the passing of time, this lay in a dilapidated condition with parts being taken off from the chariot until it was finally done away with.
Revival by a devotee after 100 years
Through the efforts of 75 year old N Ganesan, the great grandson of renowned Violinist Thiru Kodikkaval Krishna Iyer, the Brahmotsavam has been revived this year. However, the finances are still not strong enough to rebuild all the vahanams.  Hence this year, the temple has outsourced all the vahanams from the Kanjanur temple. The plan is to rebuild almost all the vahanams in time for the Brahmotsavam next year.

Ganesan, who had his school education here in Thiru Kodikkaval, remembers the agraharam “There were 150 traditional families in the long and vibrant agraharam till the 1950s. The agraharam was full of Ganapadigals and Sastris. Thiru Kodikkaval and the surrounding villages were filled with renowned musicians.”

Even today, the Thiru Kotteeswarar temple has in its possession over 100 acres of land. However, income from these lands have long dried up, forcing devotees such as Ganesan to look at external funding to revive and conduct the traditional utsavams. Bringing together a number of the original inhabitants of Thiru Kodikkaval, Ganesan organised funds that ran up to almost Rs. 10 Lakhs for the 10 day Brahmotsavam.

Delightful sight of the Lord on the Rishabha Vahanam
Early on Friday morning, Thyagaraja Gurukal, along with his team of youngsters who supported him through the Brahmotsavam, went about decorating the Lord and Ambal ahead of the Rishabha Vahanam procession. By 6am, the two deities were seen glittering with jewels and necklaces and beautiful flower garlands specifically made for the occasion.
The long concluding day of the Brahmotsavam began with an abhishekam of the Lord and Ambal. Shortly after 8am, Lord Nataraja and Sivakami went on a procession to the Theradi marking the completion of the 10 day Yaagam. By 10am, the villagers had gathered in a good number at the temple ahead of the Rishabha Vahanam procession, an event that they were witnessing for the first time at this temple.

The entire temple town was dotted with large white kolams. Just after 11am, soon after the vedic chants and recital of the verses of praise of the Saint Poets on the Lord of Thiru Kodikkaval, Ambal Thiru Bhuvanasundari and Lord Thiru Kotteeswarar , mounted on two separate Rishabha Vahanams, began a two hour procession around the four big streets of Thiru Kodikkaval that wore the traditional festive look for the first time in a century. 

Following the procession and marking the conclusion of the festival, Theerthavari was conducted at the sacred tank.  In the evening, the flag was brought down signifying the completion of the Brahmotsavam.

Just a day earlier, huge number of devotees from all the surrounding villages had gathered to pull the Chariot that had been assembled as a one off exercise for just the Brahmotsavam. As part of the Kalyana Utsavam, earlier in the week, there was a sumptuous Anna Dhanam organised inside the temple on the lines of the one described in the inscriptions at the temple around a 1000 years ago.

All of the devotees and the traditional residents of Thiru Kodikkaval are hoping this to be the beginning of the long term revival of all the historical utsavams at this temple and to have vahanams and chariot of their own in the not so distant future.

Temple Legend

The story goes that Saneeswarar undertook penance here invoking the blessings of Lord Thiru Kotteeswarar. Since his vision caused sadness to people, he shut his eyes in disgust not wanting to cause any more trouble. Thiru Kotteeswarar appeared before Saneeswarar and preached the doctrine of truth suggesting to him that it was actually he who helped people realise the sins they had committed and that it was his contribution to their well being for only after he set his eyes on the wrong doers did they take corrective steps to cleanse the sins. Being a student who was preached by Thiru Kotteeswarar, Saneeswarar is seen here in a ‘Baala’ (small) Posture.

Yama, Chitragupta and Thiru Kodikkaaval temple
Unable to accept the unjust killing of Markandeya Rishi and wanting to repent, Yama was born as a cow with Chitragupta as a calf. On Sivarathri, the Devas requested Thiru Kotteeswarar to direct Yama Dharma Raja to accept his post so justice could be brought back to the world. 
Yama and Chitragupta took bath in the sacred theertham and were liberated from their own sins. They assumed their original forms, went back to play their assigned roles and thus brought back sanity into this world. In memory of this episode, there is a separate sannidhi for both Yama Dharma Raja and Chitragupta inside the temple.

Thiru Kodikka temple is one of the five ‘Kka’ Kshetrams, others being Thiru Kolakka, Thiru Nellikka, Thiru Kurukka and Thiru Aanaikka.

Praised by Appar and Sambanthar
Saivite Saint Poets Thirunavukkarasar and Thiru Gnana Sambanthar have praised Lord Kotteeswarar. While Appar refers to the fact that where ever he goes, he finds Lord Shiva as the one whom he saw residing at Thiru Kodikkaaval, Thiru Gnana Sambandar suggests that any day is a good day to visit Kodikkaval to have darshan and seek the blessings of Thiru Kotteeswarar.

Revival of Historical Utsavams
10day Brahmotsavam with the Theerthavari on Chitra Pournami
Navarathri Utsavam for Ambal
6day Kantha Shasti Utsavam
Theerthavari in Cauvery on the 4 Sundays of Karthigai
Pancha Moorthy Procession and Theerthavari on Maasi Ammavasai
An annual trip of Kanjanur Lord to Thiru Kodikkaval immediately after Maasi Magam

Inscription Insights
Ancient inscriptions provide interesting insights into the functioning of the temple, the deities inside the temple, the direction to the temple, the name of this place, the blowing of conches during pooja time and the reconstruction and renovation efforts.
Inscriptions refer to Tulabara Ceremonies performed at this temple. An inscription refers to the gift of land for blowing 2 conches in the temple. The temple was reconstructed by Sembian Mahadevi converting the then existing brick structure into a granite structure. During the Chozha rule, there was an agreement to pay taxes on land endowed to the Thiru Kodikkaval temple with the objective of feeding devotees visiting the temple. A gift of land was made to the temple for supply of 5pots of water daily from the Cauvery for the sacred bath of the deity. There was also a gift of land for the Nandavanam and a gifting of gold for the construction of Madivalagam.  Inscriptions also refer to gifting of gold and paddy for lighting perpetual lamp.

How to reach
Thiru Kodikkaaval is 7kms North East of Aduthurai and 2kms North of Thiruvalankadu on the Northern Banks of Cauvery.

( A Version of this story featured yesterday in The Hindu Friday Review)