Friday, February 26, 2021

Karunaswamy Koil Karunthittaikudi Thanjavur

A Shivanadiyar revives a historical underground water tunnel through a public interest initiative in Thanjavur
Water now flows directly from Vadavuru into the temple tank at Vashishteswarar temple raising possibility of the revival of a historical Theppotsavam in Chitrai every year
Sivanadiyar Sellaperumal, Thanjavur

Located between two rivers Vennaru in the North and Veera Chozha Vadavaru in the South is the Vashisteswarar temple in Karuthittai Kudi. Currently this is referred to as Karunaswamy temple. Chozha period inscriptions refer to this temple as Karu Thittai Kudi. Parantaka II inscriptions indicate that the temple pre dates the Big Temple in Thanjavur. He renovated the temple during his rule.  Later Nayaks and Marathas improved upon and developed the temple. Sage Vashishta did pooja here invoking the blessings of the Lord. A special feature at the temple is the idols of Vashishta and his wife Arundhati.  Till a few decades ago, this temple too was part of the Saptha Sthanam festival of Thanjavur. 
10 day Brahmotsavam is celebrated in a grand manner in Vaikasi while 10day Pooram festival for Ambal is celebrated in Aadi. The temple is building a Kannadi Pallakku to be part of the utsavam processions. On the 3rd, 4th and 5th days of Panguni, the Sun’s rays fall directly on Vashishteswarar.

Appar's reference to Karunthittai Kudi
Appar in his third verse in Thiru Thandagam refer to Karun Thittai Kudi.
நற்குடிமேல் விடையுயர்ந்த நம்பன் செம்பங் 
குடிநல்லக் குடி நளி நாட்டியத்தான் குடி 
கற்குடி தென் களக்குடி  செங் காட்டங்குடி 
கருந்திட்டை குடி  கடைய குடி காணுங்கால் 
விற்குடிவேள் விக்குடி நல் வேட்ட குடி வேதிகுடி 
மானிகுடி விடை வாய்க்குடி 
புற்குடிமா குடித்தேவன் குடி நீலக்குடி 
புதுக்குடியும்  போற்றவிடம் போகுமன்றே

Historical Tunnel out of action 
A historical tunnel that led water from Vadavaru, a tributary of Cauvery, to the huge tank at the Vashishteswarar Karunaswamy Temple in Karuthittakudi in the Northern part of Thanjavur had become completely blocked on account of two reasons – construction of an underground drainage system just under  two decades ago in Thanjavur and the piling up of huge amounts of debris through the entire half a km stretch from Vadavuru to the temple tank. This resulted, initially, in minimal water getting into the tank and then over a period of time no water flowed into the tank. 

Tank in Dilapidated State
By 2019, the tank was seen with big bushes across the entire width of the tank. B Pasupathi Gurukal, whose forefathers have been serving at the temple for centuries as archakas told this writer that his grandfather had told him in his younger days that once upon a time, till a century ago, there was a Chitrai Theppotsavam conducted at the temple. For almost two decades, there had not been a drop of water at the tank such was its dilapidated state. The deterioration was so fast that in recent times the residents especially those in the new generation were not even aware of the existence of the centuries old underground tunnel that once brought water from Cauvery’s tributary directly into the temple tank. 

45 year old E. R Sellaperumal, a Sivan Adiyar and a selfless service worker in Thanjavur, is a living example of what true devotional endeavours can achieve. He had taken up and completed a water tank work at Azhagiya Kulam a few years ago. He recalls the work undertaken there “Till a few decades ago, the tank was brimming with water. I used to play along with other boys my age during my childhood in the 1970s/80s but Azhagiya Kulam had become like a dump yard and had become filled with wastes. I brought together school children as a service initiative to remove the bushes inside the tank that allowed rain water into the tank.”
 Sellaperumal's son entered the tunnel and dirtied his feet

Thanjavur School Teacher spots Sellaperumal
Impressed with this successful restoration work, Swaminathan, a school teacher in Thanjavur, approached Sellaperumal in late 2019 and asked if he could try and solve another challenging mystery, one where many before him had failed. Several attempts had been made but no one including the Thanjavur Corporation could work out the tunnel between the Karunaswamy temple and Vadavaru. Multiple attempts had failed in the last few years. The Thanjavur Corporation had built a new underground drainage system right above the water tunnel from Vadavaru to the temple tank. For long, this had proved to be an impediment to the revival exercise and a reason for the multiple attempts to fail earlier. In 2019, there was not a ray of hope that anyone could revive this least of all an individual Sivan Adiyar.

There was not a drop of water in the tank. Thuruthi trees had grown large and wide inside the tank. The tank East of the Karunaswamy temple was inhabited by venomous snakes. On December 31, 2019, Chellaperumal started work with a bunch of volunteers to physically support him on the ground inside the tank. For 20 days, they worked morning and evening. By Thai of 2020, they had all become excited in this revival process and there was a self belief that they could achieve this together.

A Huge Snake raises its hood in front of him
He recalls the initial period of this restoration exercise “Within the first few days of starting our work, there was a huge snake just a few feet away while I was engaged in the cutting of the trees inside the tank The first positive vibration of God’s blessing came right then. It raised its hood in front of me and I could have gone that very moment. But it slowly made its way into the corner of the tank. I saw that as a great blessing and a go ahead from Karunaswamy for my work." 
        Long Snake at the tank near this writer and Sellaperumal this week

May be a coincidence, as this writer stood next to him this week near the now brimming tank, he pointed to another long snake passing by the edge of the tank. He was unfazed as he had by now got used to large snakes moving around the tank.

Identifying the route of the tunnel
It was to be a monumental task as he was going to soon find out. In the various attempts over the previous decade, no one had been successful in even identifying the route of the tunnel. Construction in recent years/decades had meant there were new houses, shops and many other buildings along the route. For starters, he had to find the route of the tunnel from the river to the tank. 
In his efforts to identify the route, he found divine help once again. There was a historical Malai Vembu tree South East of the temple. When he dug a 7.5 feet pit right next to the tree, much to his delight he found the starting point of the tunnel. A few 100 meters away to the South was another tree and when he dug a pit there, there was the continuation of the tunnel. He went about digging around 20 pits along the path to trace the tunnel to Vadavaru. Much to his disbelief he found those links exactly near those historical trees and in locations where there were no new constructions. By now, he was convinced that Lord Vashishteswarar was firmly behind him.

In the period of work, he found great strength and support from another Sivanadiyar Saravanan and Senthil Kumar, who worked on the ground with him through a large part of this very complex exercise.

Debris inside the Tunnel
The distance from the river bank to the temple tank was around half a km. Having identified the tunnel, the task now was to find the state of the tunnel. The biggest shock of this exercise came when he looked into the tunnel. He found the entire stretch filled with filth. That by itself was not much of a shock. Over a long period of close to two decades, drainage water had mixed with the debris inside the tunnel resulting in thick mounds of mud along the entire stretch from Vadavaru to the temple tank. Sellaperumal found that not a piece of mud could be moved even with modern technological equipments like JCB. It was several years of waste collection that had turned unbreakable inside the tunnel. Inside the tunnel, the mixing of the sewage water with the debris was a dangerous health hazard. Unmindful of this, Sellaperumal and the set of volunteers went about their work with minimal fuss. It was the most unforgettable moment of his life.
       Crude Innovative Tools

Construction worker Rajini- A Pillar of Strength
In the initial days, many equipments that he sourced were broken trying to remove the thick layer of debris. It was the size and weight hitherto unseen by anyone in Thanjavur in modern times. Chellaperumal with a huge team of service personnel used truly innovative technologies that may well have been in vogue a 1000 years ago to drill into the tunnel to bring out the debris.Construction worker, Rajini, was a pillar of strength for Sellaperumal throughout the period of the project and was the one who was actively involved on the ground in this complex exercise.
Skating Shoes as a tool to remove debris!!!
It may seem odd and out of place near a temple in Thanjavur but Chellaperumal put skating shoes to great use in this exercise and this innovation turned out to be transformational. The skating shoe was attached to a long rod with a flat plate at the end. Using this, the team inserted the long rod inside the tunnel with the skating shoe enabling the ease of movement of the rod. This way they managed to collect the debris. But this was a long drawn process. Sellaperumal points to his right hand and the damage this exercise of removing the thick debris has caused. 
 Engineer Jyothi Prakash and Construction Worker Rajini

The national lockdown announced in late March last year was a setback. Their enthusiasm was dented. They waited patiently in the initial phase of total lockdown before coming back in full force once again. While the identification of the tunnel route took months, the removal of debris ban locked inside the half km tunnel took even longer - upto six months. In the challenging phase of the lockdown and the subsequent partial lifting thereafter, it was Engineer Jyothi Prakash who extended manpower support and organised food. Sellaperumal is particularly grateful to Jyothi Prakash for this service "2020 was not an easy year. There were so many external challenges. In that period, it was Jyothi Prakash who helped us with adequate people to carry out this work. With most of them working full time in the tunnel, it was he who organised food for a large part of this period."

Sellaperumal was stunned at the quality of the tunnel construction “What we found inside the tunnel was historical construction whose hallmark was strong limestone foundation. It has survived several centuries.”

Finally, after a year of starting work, Sellaperumal and his team of selfless service volunteers from across Thanjavur completed the entire work – from removing the bushes and trees at the tank, to identifying the tunnel, from removing the debris through an innovative method to inserting PVC Pipes at appropriate places along the path of the tunnel. From tall and thick bushes in December 2019, the once completely dry tank is now brimming with water. One day may be the Theppotsavam too would be back at the Karunaswamy temple.
                 Thanjavur Prince Babaji Bhonsle

Palace's Support
During the period, the Prince of Thanjavur, Babaji Rajah Bhonsle(, who administers the Vashishteswarar Karunaswamy temple, conducted several meetings at the Palace and onsite. He also approached the IIT Madras for support in this initiative. The Prince says that the Collector of Thanjavur encouraged this restoration exercise, was fully supportive and believed that the tunnel could be revived. The Corporation Commissioner’s support in providing all the necessary permissions including the digging of exploratory pits at several locations along the way is unparalleled. The  Commissioner has said that this tank was included in Smart City project and that a lot of development is likely to happen, going forward.” 
                    Pathway to tunnel

Srikumar, a devotee from Coimbatore who last year contributed significantly to the consecration of the Big Temple festivities(, was of great financial help on this one as well including providing the PVC pipes that have been used in a couple of locations along the length of the tunnel. 

Last month on the completion of this mammoth exercise, the Prince honoured all the volunteers and donors including officials of the Thanjavur Corporation who supported this project. 

This revival of the centuries old half kilometer tunnel connecting the Vadavaru and the Karunaswamy Temple tank is a great lesson in public projects. If selfless service personnel come together towards a public cause, even the seemingly impossible tasks can be achieved. And Sivan Adiyaar Sellaperumal is a shining example of how devotees should focus on devotional endeavors without any thoughts on financial returns and media publicity.

Sellaperumal and his wife run a canteen service in Thanjavur but when this opportunity to serve Lord Vashishteswarar came up, he focused his fullest attention on this project and drove it with single minded devotion while his wife ran the canteen almost all alone by herself. While he was paid once in a while for his service by donors and the like, it was a miniscule amount to what this kind of work would have entailed.
S Ramanathan seen with Rice Mill owner Govindarajan and Sellaperumal

This story leaves the final word with 70 year old S Ramanathan, a former staffer of PSU BHEL at multiple locations and now working closely with the Prince of Thanjavur on temple restorations. He tracked this project closely and says nothing can compensate the efforts of Sellaperumal “Even if you offer a crore of rupees to Sellaperumal, it will not be commensurate with the selfless service he has rendered during a year of Corona and made this seemingly impossible task a reality.” 
         Hereditary Priest Pasupathi Gurukal

The temple is open from 7am-11am and 5pm-8pm. Contact Pasupathi Gurukal@ 8220728579

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Seshamani Bhattar Erettai Tirupathi passes away

From wading through the high tides at Tamaraibarani to be welcomed by Snakes and Bats at Erettai Tirupathi, Seshamani Bhattar was one who served with devotional fearlessness in the dark days of the 1970s and 80

No money to pay sons’ school fees, No money to buy new dresses for the sons for Deepavali, and yet his mind did not waver away from the Lords of Three Divya Desams

Decades ago, YG Mahendran’s amma helped reconstruct a dilapidated house and bought him a cycle to go to Erettai Tirupathi from Thiru Kolur 
The priest, who withstood personal threats to his life in the 1970s and 80s and performed service of the most devotional kind at Erettai Tirupathi passed away recently at his home in Thiru Kolur aged 69.

Well over 40 years ago, G Seshamani Bhattar then in his 20s, took charge of the archaka service at the twin temples of Erettai Tirupathi Divya Desam, the Lords of which Nam Azhvaar saw as his father and mother. While he had been serving, on and off at the temple even as a teenager, it was his father in law, Venkatakrishnan, who had been performing pooja at Erettai Tirupathi since the 1940s at a low two digit salary, who roped him in for a life time service. Like his father in law earlier, Seshamani Bhattar too performed archaka service in the twin temples of Tholai Villi Mangalam at a miniscule salary that never crossed Rs. 70 per month for much of his first two decades.  In those decades, with no income at the temple, even this salary would be handed to him at infrequent intervals.

சிந்தையாலும் சொல்லாலும் செய்கையினாலும் 
தேவ பிரானையே 
தந்தை தாய் என் று அடைந்த 
வன் குருகூர் அவர் சடகோபன் சொல் 

முந்தை ஆயிரத்துள் இவை 
தொலை வில்லி மங்கலத்தை சொன்ன
செந்தமிழ் பத்தும் வல்லார் 
அடிமை செய்வார் திருமாலுக்கே 

A Dark Era
Through that dark period (literally) in the 70s and 80s, there was no electricity in the entire Erettai Tirupathi region. While historically many Divya Desams and ancient temples have been described as being in the middle of a forest or being surrounded by huge forest like groves, Seshamani Bhattar was an actual witness to it. The Erettai Tirupathi region was a dense forest inhabited by poisonous snakes. Also, the dark Sannidhi inside the temple proved a perfect abode for hundreds of bats. Seshamani Bhattar would enter the temple every morning to the fizzing noise of the serpents and the flapping of the wings of the bats.

In the early part of the 20th century, there had been a few Brahmin families in the agraharam but they too had to be evacuated following several floods the most severe of which struck in the first quarter.
There was not even a mud road to the twin temple from any of the Nava tirupathi temples. And there were no bridges as well to reach the temple crossing the Tamaraibarani River. The only option to reach the temple was to wade through the chest high water at the river, and then through the dense thicket to the temple.
                 Erettai Tirupathi in the early 1990s

After he managed to reach the temple, the plight of Seshamani Bhattar was quite miserable. With no power facilities, it was largely pitch dark in and around the sannidhis. The temple complex itself was in a dilapidated state. There was hardly the required quantity of ghee to light the lamp on a regular basis. Worse still, his wait for that odd devotee almost always proved a futile one. 25 paise thattu kaasu per week was a luxury in that first decade of his service.

One Bhattar- Three Divya Desams every day
For two decades from the 1970s, Seshamani Bhattar arrived at the twin temples every morning at 11am after performing pooja at Thiru Kolur Divya Desam. He would perform aradhana here at the twin temples and leave by 4pm so as to be in time at Thiru Kolur for the evening pooja there. This was a daily routine for him. Decades earlier, his father in law used to engage bullock cart once in a while to move around but once Seshamani Bhattar joined Erettai Tirupathi his only mode of transport was the long 6 km walk across the Tamaraibarani from Thiru Kolur. 

In those decades, no one dared to perform service at these two temples. It was the devotional mindset of Seshamani Bhattar that alone ensured that pooja was not stopped anytime at the twin Divya Desams.

வைத்த  மா நிதியாம் மதுசூதனையே அலற்றி
கொத்தலர்  பொழில் சூழ்.... 

அவன் சேர்  திரு கோலூற்கே 
சித்தம் வைத்துரைபார் நிகழ் பொன் உலகாழ்வாரே

His son the 40 year old Balaji Bhattar, who is now in charge of Thiru Kolur Vaitha Maa Nidhi Divya Desam, recounts the financial challenges from his childhood days in the 1980s “There was no money to pay my school fees. The income from the temple was no sufficient for us to buy new clothes even for Deepavali. With no salary and thattu kaasu, even daily sustenance was a challenge. But it did not deter him from selfless service at three Divya Desams for two decades. To him, serving at these three temples came above everything else.”
True devotion to the Lord kept him going and he considered it a great blessing to perform every day service at three Divya Desams. During that dark phase of life, while priests from many ancient temples sought other financial opportunities such as Samprokshanams and other vedic events, Seshamani Bhattar rarely went outside of these temples in search of additional sources of income. He was completely committed to the Lords of Erettai Tirupathi and Thiru Kolur.
திருந்து  வேதமும் வேள்வியும்
திரு மா மகளிரும் தாம் மலிந்து 
இருந்து வாழ் பொருநல் வடகரை 
வண் தொலை வில்லி மங்கலம் 

And then things turned for the worse in the early 1990s. Ravaged by floods in Tamaraibarani, the temple had reached a state of total dilapidation. Water levels reached Knee deep inside the Moolavar Sannidhi. It seemed to be a helpless state for the Bhattar with nowhere to turn to. 

While on one side there was very little financial security with a low two digit monthly salary, on the other there was always the threat of physical attack by animals including the real possibility of snake bites. Encountering Snakes inside the temple was a regular feature for both Venkatakrishnan Bhattar as well as Seshamani Bhattar. His wife stood by him all through his life and was a pillar of strength during the decades of the financial stress. Soon after he passed away, she too followed him to Vaikuntam. 
Large shrubs had come up on the Vimana and the inner walls. The prakara was covered with huge bushes and no devotee could go around the sannidhi in either of the temples. The only time the temple really lit up was on Maasi Anusham when Nam Azhvaar made his way across the Tamarai Barani for a day long stay here. That brought in groups of devotees from Azhvaar Tirunagari and around.

Temple on the Verge of Collapse - Seshamani remains strong
Following the floods in the early 1990s, the twin temples seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Unmindful of the risk to his health, he waded through the water to light lamp at the twin temples.  Decades long resident of Azhvaar Tirunagari, Octogenarian Appu Sadagopachari had told this writer a few years ago on the state of the temple in the decades prior to Venu Srinivasan taking up the restoration work “The roof could have fallen off any time at Erettai Tirupathi. There were pillars hanging around. Water had seeped in right to the sanctum.”
Seshamani Bhattar had tears rolling down his cheeks when he narrated a few years ago to this writer the struggles in that phase of life “The temple structure itself seemed to be going down as a result of the floods and there was a real threat of one of the Divya Desams being lost to the Vaishnavite world.  The entire temple complex was stuck with dirty water and filth.’

Mrs YGP buys him a cycle and helps reconstruct his house
When floods struck Tamaraibarani, Seshamani Bhattar would take the long over 10 kms route through the Sri Vaikuntam bridge. Balaji Bhattar recalls one of such trips from his childhood days “Cine Personality YG Mahendra’s amma was on a trip to Nava Tirupathi Divya Desams. When she saw my appa walking all the way from Thiru Kolur to Erettai Tirupathi, she came home to meet him at Thiru Kolur. She was shocked  on seeing the house in a dilapidated condition. Immediately, she helped with the construction of a brick house from the ‘Koorai’ that it was. She also purchased a cycle so my appa could ride to the Divya Desam. We still live in that same house and my appa used that cycle till the very end, over three decades after it was presented to him.”
On such days, Balaji Bhattar recalls his father taking food from home to for neivedyam for the two Lords in Erettai Tirupathi. 

It was after TVS Motor’s Venu Srinivasan’s transformational restoration exercise in the mid 1990s that the annual Brahmotsavam including all the Vahana processions was revived at the twin temples of Aravinda Losana and Devapiran.

Seshamani Bhattar who performed daily pooja in these three temples for over two decades at a salary of less than Rs. 100 per month was assigned the Devapiran Sannidhi as an exclusive temple with a monthly Sambhavanai from Venu Srinivasan that was several multiples of what he had received over the previous two decades. The Bhattar’s monthly income touched four digits for the first time in 1998.            
Seshamani Bhattar continued to serve at the Devapiran temple almost till the very end including during the COVID period in 2020. He told this writer in a conversation before his death that he was pleased to have both his sons ( Raghu and Balaji Bhattar) sticking to temple kainkaryam despite the financial plight of his father and grandfather over the 2nd half of the 20th century. The monthly Sambavanai presented by Venu Srinivasan and the increased ‘Thattu Kasu’ had provided great financial security to the sons of Seshamani Bhattar.

For the devoted Seshamani Bhattar, it was finally happy times to be seeing human faces around him through the day from the previously lonely life at the temple spent alongside reptiles and mammals!!

While he had to encounter decades of financial challenges, his life was largely fulfilling serving at the feet of three Divya Desam Lords, an opportunity unlikely to have been available to many priests in the country. And he lived all his life in the memory of that service to these Lords. Never once did he complain about the financial challenges and his mind was always focused on his duty of serving the Lord at Erettai Tirupathi and Thiru Kolur.

Truly an exceptional Divya Desam Bhattar.

(Seshamani Bhattar passed away on January 2, 2021 of Kidney failure and wheezing related ailment at the age of 69. Shortly after, his wife too passed away)

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Thiru Purambiyam Satchinathar Temple

Revival next year of the Maasi Brahmotsavam after five decades
A young Visionary Priest is dreaming big in this remote temple town on the outskirts of Kumbakonam and bringing the temple back to its historical glory
The Lord is believed to provide solutions from Legal Hurdles – Perform a Pooja on a Tuesday
Not so long ago, the four Saint Poets praised Satchinathar temple in Thiru Purambiyam, a location where a historical battle had been fought, was not in great shape. As with many historical temples in TN, there was a shortage of service personnel including archakas and paricharakaras. The Maasi Brahmotsavam had come to a halt. It was then that the Madurai Atheenam, that administers the temple, identified a young man, Rajasekara Gurukal, who was serving at another popular temple, Patteeswaram (, not too far from here. But he seemed to be well settled there and was initially reluctant to move. But with persuasion from the authorities, he finally relented and made the move to the Satchinathar temple, about 2kms north of Innambur ( In the eight years that he has been at the temple, he has begun the process of the transformation of the temple to its historical glory reviving utsavams, getting the devotees back into in the temple and building a team of service personnel.

The work load for archakas in remote temples is heavy and hence not many in the new generation are interested in this service but not so Rajasekaran Gurukal. Madapalli personnel in most remote temples are in short supply. With the cooks in demand elsewhere, few are ready to offer their services in temples that offer a low salary. For long, there were no public transport services to this historical temple. Even now, it is infrequent. The size of the temple would shake even an enthusiastic archaka for maintenance is a big challenge. 

Every morning, he rides over ten kms from the Mutt Street in Kumbakonam to the temple on his two wheeler and returns after the pooja at noon. He then returns again in the evening for the pooja. Thus he rides over 40kms each day to perform service at the temple. He also doubles up as a cook each day.
      Appar on Thiru Purambiyam

Historical Names
The huge Satchnathar temple in Thiru Purambiyam that measures 1 lakh sq ft in size is 10kms West of Kumbakonam on the banks of Manniyaru.  Historically this was referred to as Kalyana Maa Nagar, Punnaaga Vanam, Aathi Thechuram. At the eastern entrance is an 81 feet high five tier Raja Gopuram. In ancient times, Swami was referred to as Purambiya Mudayara Nayanar, Purambiya Mudayara Mahadevar and Pattaalekar Thambiraanaar. 
The Lord as Witness in Madurai - Satchinathar
A businessman from Poompuhar married a woman from Madurai and settled there. When he heard the news of his sister’s death, he returned to his home town. On his way back, he came along with his niece. At this temple, she was bitten by a snake. Invoking the blessings of the Lord here, she was brought to life and he married her at this temple.

When they returned to Madurai, his first wife went to the King’s court. When they were asked for proof of the wedding, the niece invoked the blessings of the Lord of Thirupurambiyam. The Lord, Vanni Maram and the well, the only three present there that day presented themselves and confirmed the wedding. Hence the Lord came to be known as Satchinathar. 

Tuesday has now become a popular day at the temple with the devotees coming in to invoke the blessings of the Lord to sort their legal problems. Bring the lord who acted as a witness, every Tuesday he performs special pooja for devotees caught in a legal tangle. 
             Sundarar Purambiyam

Revival of Murasu
The beating of the big drum (Murasu) was a big feature at the temple for Artha Jaama pooja. The beating of the drum was heard at Kollidam and the devotees would rush to the temple for darshan. In a devotional development, he has revived this after 50 years. He is hoping to building a strong young team that will take this service into the next few decades. 

Brahmotsavam after Five Decades
The chariot that had been in a dilapidated condition is being currently repaired as are a few of the vahanas. By the time we are into the same period next year, it is likely he would have revived the Maasi Brahmotsavam that has been off for almost five decades. 

Chozha Period Contributions
Following his transformational victory in the battle of Purambiyam, Aditya Chozha built this as a Granite structure from the previous brick construction. In memory of this, this location was named as Aaditheswaram.

Sembiyan Mahadevi, who contributed to the development of many temples including Konerirajapuram(, donated a silver kalasam for thirumanjanam invoking the Lord for the well being of her son Uthama Chozha. During the period of Aditya Karaikalan, lands were donated for the creation and maintenance of a nandavanam.
One of the Chief Ministers of Raja Raja Chozha directed the daily pooja for Ashta Parivara idols and allocated funds for this. During his rule, a separate sannidhi was built for Ambal. Kulotunga I contributed to the Panguni Utsavam. Vikrama Chozha allocated lands for the celebration of festivals for the Saint Poets For amavasya thirumanjanam, lands were granted during the rule of Kulothunga III. 

Vijayanagara King granted several lands for the conduct of the utsavams at this temple including a grand one in Maasi.

An interesting directive
Centuries old inscription points to an interesting direction from the time. Those residing in the inner street had to delivery 20 coconuts to the temple for every tree they owned in their house. 

Originally Ambal Kuraivilaa Azhagi was East facing. At a later point of time, Nagoor Chettiar constructed a South facing Sannidhi. In memory of this, there is a sculpture of the Chettiar with folded hands. 

Devotional Service in a Remote Location
Rajasekara Gurukal is a Commerce Graduate and could easily have gone the corporate way like so many others from his generation but right from a young age, he has dedicated himself to performing service at temples having begun helping his uncles from the age of seven. He sees touching the Lord and performing pooja every day in a Saint Poets praised temple as a blessing that came its way on its own and considers it his duty to revive the festivals and bring the temple back to its historical glory.

He learnt the agamas and the secrets of alankaram from his uncle and cousins. He does not have financial desires and his entire focus is on getting the Satchinathar Temple in Thiru Purambiyam into a self sufficient mode where utsavams can be run on its own through devotee support for the next several decades.  He expects a grand revival of the Brahmostsavam in Maasi of 2022 by when he hopes to have the Chariot and all the vahanas in great shape. He is currently laying a strong foundation at the temple sowing the seed that hopefully will sprout for another 100 years. 

All by himself, single handedly, he lights the lamps in all the Sannidhis in the morning, performs abhisekam, cooks at the madapalli and talks to the devotee network to lure them back into the temple for the utsavams. He is devotionally excited all the time and is grateful to the Lord for assigning him the task of managing such a huge temple and is constantly thinking of improving the temple and reviving all the festivals. 

In remote temple locations, there still are a few priests who make a big difference in the world of selfless service to the Lord and Rajasekara Gurukal is one such. Not so long ago there was a big agraharam in this temple town. May be one day he will be able to convince the descendants of the original inhabitants to come back and revive the vibrant agraharam in  the same way he is reviving historical activities at the temple.

The temple is open from 7am-12noon and 4.30pm-8pm. Contact Rajasekara Gurukal @ 98946 52238.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Narasimmapuram Azhagiya Singar Pancha Brindavanam

In a remote location near Pullam Bhoothangudi within a single complex is the Brindavanam of five heads of the Ahobilam Mutt
The Brindavanam and the Lakshmi Narasimhan Temple had been in dilapidated condition for several decades and was renovated under the leadership of the 45th Jeer
Just over 200 years ago, the 25th Jeer of Ahobila Mutt, HH Srinivasa Yatheendra Maha Desikan made a trip to the then vibrant Thiru Mangai Azhvaar praised Valvil Rama temple at Pullam Bhoothangudi. To seek his blessings, the Prince of Thanjavur Serfoji visited Pullam Bhoothangudi. Soon after, he handed several villages around Pullam Bhoothangudi Divya Desam in donation to the Mutt. Over time, this location a couple of kms North East of Pullam Bhoothangudi came to be named as Narasimmapuram. It is here that one finds a beautiful Brindavanam of five Heads of the Ahobilam Mutt.

All those centuries ago, Thiru Mangai Azhvaar praised Pullam Bhoothangudi as a well laid out city with huge Mansions and Mandapams (much in contrast to what it is now), Pullam Bhoothangudi was home to scores of Vedic Seers who in their chants through the day spread the message of forgiveness and patience as part of one’s lives. The temple was surrounded with beautiful red lotuses that seemed to bloom all through the year in the water tanks, where one also found bees drinking nectar and humming sweet tunes. He makes a specific reference to Punnai Trees that sprinkled golden turmeric like pollen. Water, he says, gushed from the Cauvery with gems being washed ashore on to the banks in Pullam Bhoothangudi ( 
                                        25th Jeer (1776-1811)

The first Brindavanam was for the 25th Jeer who secured these lands for the Mutt in the late 18th Century from Serfoji. Soon after he passed away, in 1811, the first of the Brindavanams came up in Narasimmapuram. Over the next century, Brindavanam for the 26th, 30th, 37th and 38th Jeers of the Mutt was also built within this beautiful complex. Half a km South of the Brindavanam is a small temple for Lakshmi Narasimhan also on the piece of land handed to the Mutt by the Thanjavur Prince( 

However, with the infrastructure development in the 20th century skewed towards certain locations, this entire region including the Divya Desams of Pullam Bhoothangudi and Athanur turned ‘remote’ in the new scheme of things. And for several decades, the two Divya Desams as well as the temple and the Brindavanam in Narasimmapuram remained in dilapidated condition.
                        26th and 30th Jeer ( 1811-28/1837-42)

While the devotional wave saw improvements in the two Divya Desams (another renovation exercise is currently on at Athanur Aandalukku Aiyan Divya Desam with the Samprokshanam expected shortly), the Brindavanam and the Lakshmi Narasimhan temple in Narasimmapuram continued to remain deserted and unattended. Broken walls and big bushes were seen inside the two complexes.

The revival in Narasimmapuram
It was during the period of the 45th Jeer HH Narayana Maha Desikan that a complete renovation exercise was initiated at the Brindavanam and the Lakshmi Narasimha temple and consecration performed earlier last decade.
                          37th / 38th Jeers at the Brindavanam
Three years ago, the Mutt in a formal directive handed over the maintenance and organizing of festivals at Narasimmapuram to the trustees of the Brindavanam. The 46th Jeer of the Mutt instructed that the Trustees of the Narasimmapuram Brindavanam Trust, who are related to the 38th Head of the Mutt, Srinivasa Satakopa Yatheendra Maha Desikan (Mutt’s head - 1905-09) to maintain the two properties. 
Currently Kannappan, a resident of Sannidhi Street in Pullam Bhoothangudi for the last 25years and the trustee of the temple, has been rendering service all alone performing daily aradhana at both the Brindavanam and the Lakshmi Narasimhan temple. 

For centuries, his forefathers had taken care of the Athanur Divya Desam ( Given the challenging financial conditions of the time, his father who had been managing the temple services all by himself handed over the temple to the Mutt in the 1950s. 

Both at the Lakshmi Narasimha temple and the Pancha Brindavanam, Kannappan meticulously lights lamps every morning and performs aradhana. He also presents Thaligai at the Lakshmi Narasimhan temple.

The Brindavanam of the 19th Head of the Mutt is also in this region, very near the Pullam Bhoothangudi Divya Desam.

Kannappan can be reached on: 99446 30182
The story on the Brindavanam of the 40th Jeer of the Mutt at Thuvariman (

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Sarangapani Koil Naana Bhattar

Financial Constraints led him to let go an Engineering Degree opportunity in the 1990s, and with that the possibility of a corporate job overseas
Financially much less lucrative, but the satisfaction and happiness of serving Sarangapani and Komalavalli Thayar at Thiru Kudanthai for the last 18 years is unmatched- Naana Bhattar
S Narayanan’s forefathers had performed archaka kainkaryam at the Sarangapani Koil in Thiru Kudanthai ( As with temples across Tamil Nadu, things turned for the worse in the 70s and 80s. Service Personnel had begun moving away from Kumbakonam to bigger cities and devotees too found their way out of the ancient temple town seeking greener pastures elsewhere. The devotional wave was still at least a decade away when the teenaged Narayanan completed his Class XII exam. There was not much Thattu Kaasu in those days and with increased cost of living, the priests had begun to feel the pinch. As has been the traditional within the family of priests, one of the sons continues with the temple service while another goes out into the corporate world. His elder stopped academics after Class X and began his service at the temple. Narayanan, a student of Town High School, Kumbakonam,  was a bright student at School and secured well over 1000 marks (out of 1200) and was handed a BE computer science seat at the Shanmugha College. He attended the interview and much to his delight was offered a seat on merit. There were less than 50 Engineering colleges in the state at that time and he felt good to be joining a number of his school class mates at the college. It seemed at that time that the elder brother would be at the Sarangapani Koil while the younger one would find his way into the corporate world and probably somewhere overseas.

Joining the 1990s TN Engineering Wave!!
The 1990s also saw the first wave of a large number of Engineering students from Tamil Nadu make the trip to the US for their first jobs. Engineers were the flavour the day that decade and Narayanan too wanted to be part of this wave and visualized working in the US as an Engineer from Kumbakonam. When things were looking up for him academically, he found a problem typical of a middle class house hold, especially the priests of Divya Desams. His parents did not have sufficient savings out of the income from the temple service to fund his Engineering education (it was around Rs. 20000 annually) and hence much to his disappointment, he could not graduate as a Computer Science Engineer. Instead he did B. Sc in a local college in Kumbakonam. Alongside his studies, he began performing support services at the Sarangapani Divya Desam from the 1990s. Before he turned 20, his appa passed away that meant a further dent into the finances.

He pursued a Post Graduate Diploma after his graduation and hoped for a job in a local firm but his mind slowly moved away from the corporate thought and he stood transformed from wanting to be an engineer working in the US to a priest following in the footsteps of his forefathers.

Overseas Dreams shattered, remains in Kumbakonam
He put behind his dreams of going overseas as an engineer and learnt the agamas for a few years from a Vedic Pundit in Kumbakonam. He officially joined the temple in 2003 after his wedding (as per the tradition at the temple, priests can present the entire service only after the marriage) though he had begun supporting his elder brother, Sudarashan Bhattar even earlier but with restrictions. With the 13 days service on offer each month across Sarangapani, Ramaswamy and Chakrapani temples, he has now been serving at these temples as ‘Naana Bhattar’ for the last 18 years.  
Reminiscing with his school mates
During Covid, after the temples closed for devotee darshan for several months last year, Naana Bhattar reconnected on social media with his classmates from school and found that a majority of his mates were overseas in high paying corporate jobs. If he had been able to pay the annual fees in the 1990s, he too may have been in a similar corporate job in the US. Instead he has been serving at the Divya Desam in Thiru Kudanthai without a salary (they perform service as hereditary descendants) depending solely on Thattu Kaasu during the 13day service to make ends meet.  

Interestingly, it is Naana Bhattar that they (his classmates now stationed overseas) reach out to when they encounter a problem in their lives for him to perform an archanai for Sarangapani and Komalavalli Thayar. And they look up to him to provide them with comforting words and solace that the Lord of Thiru Kudanthai will take care of the devotees' problems. When they land in India for a holiday, they are always at the Sarangapani Koil to both see their old school mate as well as invoking the blessings of Perumal and Thayar through his archanai.
Once in a while, the thought crosses his mind, especially when he is in conversation with his old mates in the US and elsewhere overseas, on what might have been had he joined the Engineering course.

But soon he reminds himself that very few in the world can touch Sarangapani Perumal at Thiru Kudanthai Divya Desam, one praised by seven azhvaars and that he has been blessed as one designated to do that service at this historical temple. No amount of corporate compensation and glory can match the happiness of serving Sarangapani and Komalavalli Thayar.
While it is tempting to look at the other side and the financial glory of his batchmates and the settled look,financially, of their families, only a select few in the country get the opportunity to serve at Divya Desams. Money is required to pay the house rent and the bills that crop up every month. To that extent, some amount of financial security is required. With the big devotional wave that has been hitting the TN temples over the last decade, the priests of Divya Desam are beginning to have a reasonably strong run financially, of late. Finally, though, it is the exclusivity of the devotional experience and being with God all through the day that makes the difference. And that experience has an umatched feel about it for Divya Desam Bhattars such as Naana.