IN TAMILNADU, INDIA
THIRUVANNAMALAI : Tiruvannamalai the home of Annamalayaar or Arunachaleswarar
(Shiva worshipped as a Shiva Lingam) and Unnamulaiyaal (Apitakuchambaal
- Parvati), is one of the largest temples in India. It occupies
a special place in the Saivite realm and is regarded as one
of the Pancha Bhoota Stalams (one of the five grand temples
associated with the five basic elements) –
associated with the elementFire, the other four being
Tiruvanaikkaval (Water), Chidambaram (Space), Kanchipuram
(Earth) and Sri Kalahasti (Wind) respectively. Shiva
is said to have manifested himself in the form of
a massive column of fire, whose crown and feet, Bhramma
and Vishnu attempted in vain to reach. A celebration
of this manifestation is seen today in the age old
traditions observed in the Shivaratri and the Kartikai
Deepam Utsavams held here.
: This is a vast temple complex with 3 different
Shiva Shrines. The Bhramapureeswarar shrine is housed in the
lower level. The second level houses Periyanakar with Periyanayaki
on a 'Thoni' & hence the name Thoniappar. Sattainathar/Vatukanathar
is also housed here. From the steps leading to the Toniappar
and the Vatukanathar shrine, one can grasp the entire layout
of this vast temple and its towers & mandapams. There
are 22 Theerthams associated with this shrine. Three different
forms of Shiva are worshipped here, the Shivalingam (Bhrammapureeswarar),
a collossal image of Uma Maheswarar (Toniappar) at the upper
level, and Bhairavar (Sattanathar) again at the upper level.
The temple has 3 vast courtyards
with high walls of enclosure. There are two sets of 7 tiered
gopurams in the outer walls of the enclosure. The original
shrine during the period of the Nayanmars included the shrine
of Bhrammapureeswarar, on the southern bund of the temple
tank; the Toniappar shrine on a mound west of the central
shrine, and the Sattanathar shrine in the second floor reached
from the southern prakaram of the Toniappar shrine by a flight
of steps. The enlargement of the original temple happened
during the period of Kulottunga I, Vikrama Chola, Kulottunga
II and III (as in Chidambaram - 11th through the 13th centuries).
OPPILIAPPAN KOIL : This is one of the important Vaishnavite
temples in Tamilnadu. The deity is known by various names
such as Oppiliappan, Uppiliappan, Thiruvinnagarappan, Venkatachalapathy,
Location: The temple is situated about 5 km from Kumbakonam by road.
There are frequent bus services from Kumbakonam to this temple.
The Temple : The presiding deity in this temple is facing east in a standing
pose while His consort Boomidevi is sitting next to Him facing
north. Markandeya sits in a pose facing Boomidevi as if giving
her in marriage to the Lord. There is no separate shrine for
the Goddess and the Lord never leaves His sanctum without
being accompanied by Boomidevi. The special feature in this
temple is that salt is never used in the food offered in worship.
The name Uppiliappan is connected with this practice.
Legend : Sage Mirikandu had a son by the name of Markandeya. The astrologers
predicted on his birth that he would die young. When Markandeya
heard that he would not survive beyond the age of 16 he started
a penance to save him from death. Pleased with his penance
Lord Shiva gave him the boon of immortality. After receiving
this boon he undertook a pilgrimage to all the holy places
in the country. When he arrived at a place full of 'Thulasi'
plants he decided to stay there. He started another penance
praying that he should have Boomidevi as his daughter and
Lord Vishnu as his son-in-law. The penance continued for a
long time and one day a child appeared under a 'Thulasi' tree
where Markandeya was praying. When Markandeya enquired from
the child who her parents were, the child replied that she
did not know anybody except him. Markandeya was pleased with
that answer and took her to his house and brought her up as
The child grew up in Markandeya's
household and eventually attained the age of marriage. Markandeya
became worried about finding a suitable husband for her. Lord
Vishnu who had sent Boomidevi to be Markandeya's child now
wanted to take her back. He also wanted to play a trick on
Markandeya. He transformed Himself into an old Brahmin of
no means and went to the hermitage of Markandeya where Boomidevi
was growing up and requested hospitality. Markandeya was only
happy to receive this old man and gave him food and a place
to rest. Later Markandeya enquired from the visitor as to
the reason for his visit. The old man said that he heard that
Markandeya was looking for a husband for his daughter and
as he had no one to look after him in his old age, he had
come to ask him for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Markandeya was shocked to
hear this preposterous request as he could in no way give
his daughter in marriage to this old man. He told the old
man that his daughter was not suitable for him as she was
too young to look after him. At this the old man replied that
he had already seen his daughter and he had made up his mind
to marry her. If his request was not granted he would give
up his life then and there.
Markandeya became distressed
at this reply and was raking his brain to come up with some
excuse to change the old man's mind. He gave the old man all
sorts of excuses and finally said that his daughter did not
know how to cook and that she did not even know how much salt
to be added in cooking. The old man said that he was happy
to eat food without salt and that he wanted to marry his daughter.
Markandeya was at the end
of his wits and closed his eyes and prayed to Lord Vishnu
to get him out of this predicament. When he opened his eyes
the old man had disappeared and in his place there stood Lord
Vishnu in all his glory.
Lord Vishnu told him, "You
said that your daughter was too young to know how to cook
and she did not know how much salt to add to her cooking.
From today I am happy to eat food cooked without salt if you
would give your daughter in marriage to me". Markandeya
was only too pleased to give his daughter in marriage to his
Lord. From that day the food offered to Lord Vishnu is free
of salt. This is the reason the deity is known among many
other names, as Uppiliappan (uppu+ ill+appan) which in Tamil
means 'the One who detests salt'.
PAZHAMUTHIRCHOLAI : This shrine is very sacred to
devotees of Lord Subramanya and is one of the six famous abodes
of Lord Subramanya, collectively known as Aarupadai veedu.
The term Azhahar and Azhahan denote both Lord Vishnu and Lord
Murugan (another name for Lord Subramanya). The shrine at
Pazhamuthir Cholai is small compared to other famous temples
and the building is of recent origin but the temple predates
it by hundreds of years. The area in which the temple is situated
is surrounded by groves of trees and the river Silambar runs
nearby giving an ambience of calmness and solitude.
Legends: Once Avvaiyar, the grand old lady of Tamil literature and
an ardent devotee of Lord Subramanya, was on her way to Madurai.
She was tired and thirsty having walked for several miles
and she longed for some food and rest. She then saw a young
shepherd boy sitting on the branch of a 'Naaval' tree (a tall
tree bearing berry-like edible fruits). On seeing that the
tree was in fruit she asked the boy to pluck some fruits for
her. The boy then asked the old lady whether she wanted 'hot'
fruits or 'cold' fruits. The old lady was perplexed by this
question. However, in order to find out what the boy meant
by hot fruit she replied that she wanted 'hot' fruit. The
boy then shook the branch of the tree on which he was perched
and some ripe fruits fell on the ground. Avvaiyar picked them
up and finding that some grains of sand were stuck on the
fruits blew on them to get rid of the sand. Seeing this the
boy playfully asked whether the fruits were too hot to eat
and advised her to blow a little harder. Avvaiyar was full
of remorse when she realised that this illiterate shepherd
boy had fooled her by his play on words. Then the boy transformed
himself into his true form as Lord Subramanya and stood in
front of Avvaiyar in all his glory. Avvaiyar then realised
who had come to play with her. The questions then asked by
Lord Subramanya in this encounter with Avvaiyar and the answers
given by her in verse, form part of the rich folklore of the
Tamils. Translating those verses, though would be revealing
and interesting, is beyond the scope of this page.
SAMAYAPURAM : Samayapuram is an important place of
pilgrimage to the devotees of Goddess Sakthi. It is one of
the few popular temples dedicated to Goddess Sakthi and she
is worshipped here as Mariamman.
Location : Samayapuram temple is situated on the main Chennai-Thiruchi
road about 15 km from Thiruchi. The nearest railway station
is in Thiruchi.
The Temple : Comparatively the temple is of recent origin and was established
about 300 years ago. Now an enormous number of devotees visit
this temple especially on festival days.
Legend : It is believed that that this deity was once installed at
the Sri Rangan temple near Thiruchi. As the chief priest felt
that he was suffering from some malevolent effect from the
Goddess, he asked the workers at the temple to remove the
idol from the temple. The workers carried the idol northwards
and put it down in a place called Kannanoor and left it there.
Some passersby who saw this idol left unattended in the middle
of the village informed the local villagers who named the
idol Kannaoor Mariamman and established a shrine there.
It was during this period
that the Vijeyanagara kings came down South waging war. During
their foray down South they camped at Kannanoor and adopted
the local deity Mariamman as their own and made a vow that
if they were successful in their campaign to conquer the South
they would build a temple at the site of the shrine. As a
fulfillment of their vow, they built a shrine for the Goddess
and the king appointed a priest from the temple at Thiruvanaikka
to perform the daily 'pooja' and brought this temple under
their management. At present a separate board of trustees
is in charge of the temple.
Festivals : There are four main festivals conducted in this temple in
the Tamil months of 'Thai', 'Masi', 'Chithirai' and 'Vaikasi'.
The festival conducted in the month of 'Masi' (February/March)
is called 'Poochorithal' (inundating with flowers). There
is a legend that is associated with this festival. There was
an 'Asura' called Mahishasuran who had received special boons
from Lord Shiva through his penance and meditation.. He used
this power to harass the 'Devas' and other celestial beings.
So the 'Devas' approached Goddess Parvathy and prayed to Her
to save them from this menace. So Goddess Parvathy reincarnated
as Goddess Durga and killed the 'Asura'. She was at this stage
an embodiment of anger and a force of destruction. After destroying
the Asura she arrived in the jungle near Samayapuram on the
bank of the river Kaveri and found this place suitable to
calm her anger. Here she took the name of 'Kowmari', took
a reddish hue, wrapped herself in a yellow cloth, and covered
herself with flowers, undertook a fast and conducted penance
in order to regain her original form. As a result she became
very kind and benevolent and is worshipped as Goddess Mariamman