Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sabai trip 2017 - Part II

view of Mahamaham Tank from the hotel

The second day dawned with a wake-up call by the hotel at 5 am as we were to leave early for Srivanchiyam to attend the Sathabhishekam. As usual the ladies and kids got ready quickly despite the teenagers wearing saris and half saris with their respective mothers' help.

 All assembled at the entrance by 6:30 am and we reached the mandapam by 7:30 am. 

After a heavy and tasty breakfast, we sat at the function for 30 minutes before walking to the temple which was across the road. 

What a calm place! The best thing about these ancient temples is that they are less commercial and we can connect to the Supreme without distractions. But this time it was our own group making some noise pulling each other's legs when we entered the temple and walked towards Gupta Gangai. The sacred Ganges is said to flow hidden in the Pushkarni and hence it is called Gupta Gangai. The Kulam hardly had any water and we washed our feet and sprinkled the water on our heads, with the piped water below the steps of the kulam. We did not miss taking group photos in the scenic area with coconut trees around. 

After praying to the Gangai karai Vinayakar and another Vinayakar in front of the sanctum entrance we went to the sannidhi of Yamadharmaraja and Chitragupta.

Legend has it that the benevolent Lord Shiva granted a separate sannidhi for Yamadharmaraja when Lord Yama wished that he is worshipped by humans as generally we are so afraid of Lord Yama that we do not even wish to see Him in our dreams!  So he is first visited here before one has darshan of Lord Shiva and Ambal. 

It was abhishekam time for Yamadharamraja and accountant Chitragupta when we reached the sannidhi and the place was packed with people. In spite of it, we could get a clear view of the Lord and could pray to Him for longevity before we went into the sanctum to worship Vanchinaadhar. The kurukkal was getting ready to perform abhishekam to the Lingam which is usually done only after abhishekam for Lord Yama. We could see a good deeparathanai and heard the Kurukkal's speedy narration about the temple which was not too clear.

We went around the sanctum to Ambal sannidhi. We prayed again to the Goddess for longevity of spouse and as we were wondering if we should do a more leisure round about the temple as we could only glance through the other sannidhis, we were called from the mandapam to attend the Go puja. Once at the mandapam, after the Go puja, some people went to visit another temple.

Rajini and I stayed back waiting for an opportunity to get back to the temple. We had our own reasons—she felt so connected to Vanchinaadhar and wanted to recite Shivapuranam and I wanted to have a relaxed round to gather details about the temple. The moment we had a chance, we escaped to the temple. Rajini settled in the outer prakaram to recite the slokam and I started right from outside. Having had only a glimpse of my favourite Lord in the earlier round, I stood and prayed to Balamurugan who is on the right side of the sanctum as we enter. 

In the sanctum this time, again the kurukkal was narrating about the temple. This time he was clearer.
·         The timeless Lord had changed direction during Pralayam and hence pujas are conducted on the other side also during certain times
·         Mahavishnu prayed to Lord Vanchinaadhar to beget Mahalakshmi with Love - Hence the name Srivanchiyam - Sri - Mahalakshmi, Vanchai - love and affection
·         Abhishekams are first performed to Lord Yama and only after that to Lord Vanchinaadhar
·         Lord Yama is the vehicle of Lord Shiva here
·         Rahu and Ketu are depicted in a single idol here and hence it is Rahu-Ketu parihara stalam

I continued my perambulation of the inner praharam and had darshan of Saha Uma Skandamurthy, Koshta murthies - Dakshinamurthy, Lingorbhavar, Brahma, Durgai and Shandikeswarar nearby.

Next was the sannidhi of powerful Mahishasuramardhini, and then the dancing Lord Nataraja with Sivakamasundari. Opposite to Mahishasuramardhini was Yoga Bhairavar, Suriyan, Chandran and Rahu-Ketu in one idol. What a beautiful sculpture!

I noticed a Vennai vinayakar on the Lord's right side at beginning of the outer prakaram which was missed by us earlier. This small Ganesha was smeared with butter all over. People nearby mentioned that this butter prasadam was a cure for stomach ailments. I had a bit and took some in a paper for the others at the mandapam. The outer prakaram has the idols of 63 nayanmars, Meenakshi Sundareswarar, Subramania swamy with Valli and Deivanai, Theyulingam, Kailasanathar and Dharmambal on right corner behind the main sanctum and a Sani Bhagavan. A board said that it is effective to pray to this Lord Saturn on Saturdays of Aani (June 16- July 15). We seemed to have missed it just by a day! Anyway, each and every thing in this world happens only because of Him! Avanindri oru Anuvum asayadhu. So better appreciate what we get!

The right side of the outer prakaram had Shiva lingams of Thiruvidaimaruthur,   Sayavanam, Thiruvenkadu, Thiruvayaru, Mayiladuthurai followed by Kshethra Lingam with Durgai Amman.

Satisfied with my tour of the temple I went in search of Rajini who was sitting at the sanctum. We were just in time to see the final abhishekam and deeparathanai. I wanted to have the darshan of the Goddess again. The kurukkal here had told us during the earlier darshan that this Goddess Mangalambikai is considered as all the three Goddesses - Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswathi in one! We were really blessed to have darshan of the three Goddesses one after the other on the earlier day and as One on this day!

He went on to say that in the first part of the day, the Goddess is worshipped as Parvathi and after that as Lakshmi and in the evening as Saraswathi. We were really lucky to see her as Parvathi in a blue sari first round and totally different alankaram as Lakshmi in maroon sari this time!

I was really happy with the detailed tour and we went back just in time for abhishekam for Mama and Mami! Next was a delicious lunch followed by taking blessings from the Sathabishekam couple—Yes, we believe in taking blessings only on a full stomach—and then a grand photo session of the Sabhai.

Our next stop was to meet another Sathabhishekam couple, this time it was Balaji's uncle and aunt in Koonthalur. The kids went back to the hotel with one of the guys, Vidyanand fondly called Vidyanand chacha to take care of them and it was the elders who went to Balaji's uncle's place. It was vengala kadaila yanai, literally. The peaceful house was turned into a market place with so many of us making a racket. After taking a look at the typically traditional place with mitham, koodam, thazhvaram etc, we headed to their garden. I am sure even now, people there may not know what had hit them that day, it was like monkeys in a vineyard, one picking keerai, another a shrub, pointing to this plant and that tree.

Finally the narthangai tree turned us all crazy. About 20 narthangais at different ripened stages were on the ground and the tree was full of them. We asked for a few bags and picked and plucked, picked and plucked and it went on for more than 20 minutes. Of course, we took a break for some photo posing near the hay stack! 

Lucky for them, we did not have time to visit their other garden which they said was full of lemon trees. I was fascinated by the orange tree, thrilled to hear that Arisilaru was flowing just beyond their wall. (it is another issue that there is no water in it right now!). But arisilaru reminded me of Ponniyin Selvan mudhalai story!!

Finally with bags full of narthangai, narthangai leaves, vasalai keerai, lemons (plucked by them from the other garden), we attacked the snack and coffee offered. Next was oonjal session. It was thrilling to see the old fashioned oonjal that was hung in the mitham with natural light falling on it. We took turns to play in the swing and were photographed, courtesy the guys!


After some discussion, a dozen of us decided we wanted to see more temples and took off in one tempo traveller. We told the driver Suriyan temple and he took us in time for temple opening in the evening. As we could see Lord Shiva right away, we did not check any boards and just entered. We then realised it was Thirumangalakudi and not the Suryanar temple we were thinking of. We were blessed to see this Lord Prananatheswarar and Goddess Mangalambikai.

The place is called Thirumangalakudi with the temple having five mangalams - Mangala Vinayakar, Mangala theeratham Mangalambikai, Mangala vimanam, Mangala kudi.
A board in the temple detailed the legend stating that Kalama munivar came to know that he is to be affected by leprosy and prayed to the Navagrahas to save him from this disease. The Navagrahas said they were not in a position to do so which angered the Rishi who cursed that the Navagrahas get affected by the same disease. The Navagrahas then prayed to Lord Prananatheswarar to free them from this disease. 

The board further said that the Chola King Kulothunga 1 had ordered beheading of his minister Analvaanar as he had used the tax collected to build temple. Analvaanar's wife prayed to Goddess Mangalambikai for her Mangalyam and the beheaded minister came back to life. The minister's wife further prayed to the Goddess that women who pray for their Mangalyam may please be granted this boon which the kind Goddess does!

Suryanar Koil

When they prayed to Lord Prananatheswarar to relieve them of leprosy, the Navagrahas sat in penance in Suryanar Koil which is about 5 minutes distance from Thirumangalakudi.
I was a bit disappointed by this temple as I found it too commercial. During my earlier visit with my parents and Durai thatha/Rajeswari Chitti many years ago, this temple was so calm, whereas this time we had a guide like guy insisting on showing us the temple as though we were new to Tamil Nadu!

Still, the crowd was less and we had very good darshan starting with Lord Suryan without whom the world cannot survive! He gave darshan along with his consorts Usha devi and Chaya devi. Right in front, facing him was Guru Bhagavan. After darshan here, we exited this sanctum to pray to the other Navagrahas positioned in different directions like how they are seen in other temples but in separate shrines.

By then it was 4 pm and we debated if we should go to Kanjanur (Sukra sthalam) or Kadhiramangalam (Vanadurga temple) or Thirubhuvanam (Sarabeswarar). Majority opted for Thirubhuvanam as Rahu kalam was nearing and Sarabeswarar darshanam during Rahu kalam is special.


What a temple! And what weather! The heat all through the morning had led to a mild drizzle as we entered the temple. We broke into a small run to escape the showers.
We prayed to Lord Vinayaka and climbed the steps to enter the sanctum of Lord Kampahareswarar. The kurukkal explained that praying to this Lord relieves one of nervous problems, to Goddess Dharmasamvardhini for a good life and Sarabeswarar for any black magic issues. We had a good darshan and climbed down from side entrance. By then the drizzle had stopped but the prakaram was damp and cool to walk on. Such a huge prakaram! There were so many things to see that I wished we had a little more time, but alas, we had a train to catch that night to come back to Chennai!

We had darshan of Koshta deivam – Dakshinamurthy, Lingorbhavar. Brahma in the form of Annapakshi above and Mahavishnu in the form of Varaham below were clearly visible with the Adi mudi kaana mudiyatha Jyothi Lord Shiva! I was amazed by the detailing of this sculpture. On the other side was Sandikeswarar and then a huge Durgai with steps leading to her sannidhi. Praying to this Goddess, we proceeded to have darshan of Dharmasamvarthini aka Aram valartha Nayaki!  Seeking her blessings for a good and happy life, by 5 pm very much within the Rahu kalam time we went for darshan of Sarabeswarar.

There was long queue, but we could see the ferocious, winged Simha muka Lord with Prathyankara as one wing and Sulini as another, lifting the angry Narasimha in his claws and taking a flight. Though I had heard about Sarabeswara Murthy and visited the local Sarabeswarar temple in Koyambedu once with my sister Jayashree, I have not seen such a detailed sculpture of this Lord before. Like the Kurukkal in Lord Kampahareswarar sannidhi explained, the sannidhi of Sarabeswarar has 4 Gods in one form – Lord Shiva as Sarabeswarar, Goddess Prathyankara as one wing, Goddess Sulini as another wing and Lord Mahavishnu as Narasimha.

We stood aside taking some snaps while few of us lit some ghee lamps opposite the sannidhi.

Calling it a day, we started back to Kumbakonam with more pictures of the beautifully sculpted temple. We could not resist buying garden fresh snake gourd and some jackfruit.

Adhi Varahaswamy Temple, Kumbakonam

As we neared the hotel, a few were still unhappy about missing Kumbakonam temples and Sowmya was keen on having darshan of Adhi Varahaswamy.

Sowmya, Hema and I got into an auto and asked him to take us to this temple and show us how many ever temples possible on the way, not to go in, but just Gopura darsanam!. Having no sense of direction, I could not resist asking him if we will pass byPachiappa Mudhali theru on the way!  With no chance for that, I had to be content with a glimpse of Ramaswamy temple, Kumbeswarar temple wall, Sarangapani Ther on the way and reached Adhi varaha swamy temple. With a lone sannidhi, Adhi Varaha swamy with Goddess Lakshmi on his lap is said to be the first appeared Lord in this temple town hence the name “Adhi” Varahaswamy. The bhattacharyar also said Kumbakonam is also called Varaha kshethram like Tirupathi. We went around the temple and prostrated in front of the Dwajasthambam. We were also lucky to get some sweet poha as prasadham in two dhonnais.

Returning to hotel in the same auto, it was time to pack, have dinner and leave for the station. Waiting in the station, all of us were dead tired after a fun filled, bhakti filled trip. All of us settled down in the train as soon as we boarded and the only thing we talked for a while was about when the next trip would be! Hope God grants us more such enjoyable trips soon!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sabai trip 2017 - part I

During our yearly trip to Esthelle, it started with a casual talk (at least for us ladies of the gang) about attending Rama’s father in law, Jayaram Mama’s sathabhishekam in July and making a temple trip out of this. Though we ladies did not discuss much about this further, the guys made a meticulous plan as usual and in March when the train ticket booking opened, few including Ranga were given the responsibility of booking tickets. Booking happened smoothly and the guys made some visits to Srivanchiyam and Kumbakonam for the accommodation booking. Soon, it was time to travel and with some last minute cancellations and modifications, the strength for onward journey was 39. All assembled as early as 10:00 pm for train departure at 1130 pm on 14 July, 2017.

We split into three different gangs right from the beginning, the kutties, the ladies and the guys who were the noisiest. Once we all boarded, it was our (ladies) turn to make all the noise, loudly discussing about the temples to be visited. 

pics courtesy Renu

We finally decided that unless we leave by 8:30 am, we may not be able to cover that many temples in the morning session. Jagan promptly challenged us that we will not get ready before 9:30 am. We slept over that and railways seemed to be on Jagan’s side, delaying the train by almost an hour. But the gutsy ladies as always loved the challenge and assembled for breakfast by 8:00 am. 

We were trying to pose for our official photographer Satish when he got a call that his mom was sick and our spirits dampened when Jayashree and Satish had to rush back to Chennai.
Enthusiasm returned when we all got into the tempo travellers to proceed towards the temples.

First visit was to Thirumeeyachur, Lalithambikai temple:

My earlier visit to this temple was with my mother-in-law and Saraswathi Manni way back in 2009. It was so late in the evening then that we could not visit the main shrine but had darshan of only Lalithambikai. This time it was bright and sunny and we could see the temple was beautiful.

We had darshan of Meghanadhaswamy before the kurukkal narrated about the temple.

“When Surya was cursed, as saabhavimochanam, he carried the God and the Goddess around the world on an elephant. He was impatient to get back his powers and asked the Lord about it. Angered by Surya’s impatience, Ambal was about to curse him again. The Lord pacified the Goddess as otherwise the world would become dark again.”

A very beautiful statue of the Lord pacifying the Goddess is sculpted as Goshta Murthy. One can see a serious Goddess from one side and a smiling profile on the other. 

pic courtesy Kalai

The kurukkal also explained that it is a temple within temple with shrine of Lord Sakalabhuvaneswarar and Goddess Minumekalayal (what a beautiful name!).

The sanctum is built in the form of Gaja prishtam (backside of an elephant) as Surya carried the Lord and Goddess on an elephant.

After having darshan of the many lingams, Gajalakshmi and Bhairavar, we came out of the prakaram to see Lalithambikai. What a beauty Lalithambikai is! There was only our group and the kurukkal allowed us to recite Lalitha sahasranamam for almost half an hour there. With a very satisfied darshan and prasadam of a pair of bangles, lemon and kumkum for each of us, we proceeded towards Thilatharpanapuri.


As the name suggests, this place is associated with tharpanam that was performed by none other than Lord Rama! The temple is flanked by veda padashala on either side with young boys clearly reciting slokas.

At the entrance, we had darshan of Adhi Vinayakar. This is the first form of Vinayakar, so he gives us darshan with human face!

We then entered the main shrine. Here too a young kurukkal explained in detail about the temple.

“When Lord Rama tried to do tharpanam for his father Dasharatha, fungus grew on the pindam. He promptly prayed to Lord Shiva who guided him to this Mandhara vanam where he could do tharpanam so that Dasharatha could attain Mukti. The four pindams he made became Shivalingas which can be seen at the temple.”

One can have darshan of Sri Rama sitting in meditative pose along with the four lingams nearby. The Lord who gave mukti to Dasharatha is aptly named Muktiswarar and he is waiting there to give mukti to our ancestors if we pray, which I did promptly!

The beautiful looking ambal also has a lovely name, Swarnavalli. The kurukkal went on to explain that in Thirumeeyachur, Goddess Lalithambikai is blessing the devotees in the form of Durga, in Thilatharpanapuri Goddess Swarnavalli is blessing the devotees in the form of Lakshmi and in Koothanur in the form of Goddess Saraswathi. We were blessed to have darshan of all the three Goddesses on the same day!

Dakshinamurthy in the Goshta deivam was so striking with the Sanagadhi munivar clearly seen in the sculpture!

The Mandharavanam still has some Mandhara trees and in the shade of one of the trees, we could have darshan of another Shivalinga. 

We went on to perambulate around Navagraha and had darshan of Naalvar (Appar, Sundarar, Thirugnanasambhandar and Manikkavachagar) and a very beautiful looking Perumal with Sridevi and Bhoodevi on either side. Please do not miss the leg posture of the Devis!

With satisfied darshan we proceeded to take blessings of Kalvi kadavul Saraswathi.


This temple has a lone sannidhi of Goddess Saraswathi looking beautiful in a white sari with green border, holding the veena. A few boxes of pens were bought and placed at the feet of the Goddess and later distributed to the kids. While perambulating the sannidhi, we could see a small idol of the Goddess with lamps being lit in the front. There were many bundles of white coloured saris kept on one side which must be offerings by the devotees. We could also see a statue of Kambar who was an ardent devotee of the Goddess.

Our morning session of temples completed, we proceeded to the mandapam at Sri Vanchiyam were Rudhra ekadasi had completed and lunch started. We had sumptuous lunch, took the blessings of Mama and Mami and went back to the hotel for siesta. 


After the so called siesta which was actually another chatting session, we left for Thirunageswaram. The kids stayed back at the hotel with the elder ones taking care of the younger lot!

guys ready
pic courtesy Ranga

The massive size of this temple awes me every time I visit!

This time we entered from a different gopuravaayil, had darshan of Vinayakar and Subramaniar and proceeded inside to pray at the main sannidhi of Lord Naganadhaswamy.  Rahu Bhagawan had prayed to Lord Naganadhaswamy to get relieved from his curse and hence this temple is Rahu parihara sthalam.

We perambulated around the inner prakaram and reached Pirayani Amman sannidhi. A beautiful looking Goddess! This time also I heard the kurukkal narrate that on Karthigai full moon day (Karthigai deepam), rays of Moon fall at the feet of the Goddess. As I did during my earlier visit, I wished again that I get an opportunity to have darshan of the Goddess on Karthigai deepam day!  

We just had a glimpse of Navagraha sannidhi and proceeded towards the outer prakaram to have darshan of Rahu Bhagavan with his consorts Nagavalli and Nagakanni. It was a little less crowded as it was not Rahu kalam time. After deeparathanai, we went around the huge outer prakaram. Could not resist taking photos there like my earlier trip with my sisters J

Well outside the prakarams, beyond the dwajasthambam, on our left we could see the corridor leading to the sannidhi of Girigujambikai. Goddess Girgujambikai is flanked by Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswathi on either side. All the three Goddesses are swayambu and no abhishekam is performed here. Only a kaapu is done once a year. We had a good darshan of the Goddesses and moved on to the next temple.

Oppiliappan Temple:

Quite a famous temple and visited by most of us earlier, we entered to offer a small prayer to Garudazhwar, before we made a beeline to see Lord Oppiliappan, who is considered elder to Thirupathi Venkatachalapathy.  The Lord was looking majestic with Markendaya Maharishi on his right and Bhoomidevi Thayar on his left. After a good darshan, we shared with each other the legend of the temple - when the Lord wished to marry the Goddess like any other parent, Markendaya Maharishi  told the Lord that his daughter is too young and any mistakes in cooking may please be pardoned. The magnanimous Lord said that he was ready to eat even salt free food and hence all the neivedyam to this Lord is salt free! We did buy the salt free thattai which was so yummy despite being saltless! On our way out, we could not resist taking a selfie with the temple elephant! J


Not having heard about this place or temple earlier, I thought this is a temple of Mahavishnu!

The name is actually Ivarpadi –meaning 5 different sets of people have prayed to the fearsome Goddess Prathyankara here. They are none other than Lord Krishna with his consorts, Rukmini & Sathyabhama, Agasthya Maharishi, Panchapandavas, Indrajit, son of Ravana and Sugriva.

It was dark by the time we entered the temple. There was a ferocious looking statue of Karuppanna swami on a chariot like structure complete with his weapons and a dog. The next thing I noticed was the writing on the wall stating that the temple is surrounded by mayaanam on all 8 sides and instructing the devotees not to talk anything ill. We walked through the corridor to enter the sannidhi of Goddess Prathyankara. The ceiling in front of the sannidhi was covered with strings of Rudhraksha beautifully. On either side of the garbagriham, we could see Sarabeswarar and many other forms of Goddess Kali plated in copper.

The Goddess herself was looking benevolent. The kurukkal explained that the Goddess was swayambu and hence no abhishekam was performed, but only punugu kaapu for her. It is a miracle that the smoke emanating from the yaagam performed in front of the sanctum with bundles of red chillies is not fiery!

Behind the sannidhi of Goddess Prathayankara is the sannidhi of Lord Agastheeswarar. Here again the ceiling was decked with Rudhraksha bead strings. We had good darshan and deeparathanai. On our right we could see Goddess Dharmasamvardhini blessing us. We prayed to her and went back to our tempo traveller. The man taking care of the mayanam, followed us, forcing us to give him some money which we did mainly out of fearJ

Nachiyar Koil:

We enquired at Ayyavadi about closing time of Nachiyar Koil as we were worried that Vishnu temples close earlier. We were informed that it is open up to 8:30 pm and proceeded there.
Having heard stories of Kal Garudan from childhood this temple is one of my favourites. I have always been fascinated by how the weight of an idol can increase and decrease like that! I once again heard with reverence as the priest narrated that this is the only temple where a stone idol is used in procession. This Garudan is taken out in procession only twice a year, once in Marghazi and the next in Panguni, where he carries his Lord and Goddess. As the Garudan is brought out of his sanctum, four people carry the idol, by the time the procession leaves the main sannidhi of the Lord, eight people have to lift and down the steps it needs 16 people to carry the weight, beyond this, it is 32, then 64 and outside the temple it will be 128 people carrying the Garudan with his Lord and Goddess.

On the way back, the weight reduces gradually that the number of people required becomes 64, 32,16, 8 and then 4. This miracle never fails to fascinate me!

When we visited, they had applied thaila kaapu so we could see only the face and uplifted hands of the Garudan.

After Garuda darshan, we went to the main sanctum. Another fascinating place! Huge idols of Lord Srinivasa Perumal, Goddess Vanjulavalli Thayar, Pradhyumnan, Purushottaman, Anuriddhan near the Lord and Balaraman and Brahma near the Goddess!  The smallest idol is that of the Goddess which is almost 6.5 feet! The other idols must be about 8 feet tall. We stood in awe at the sight of such huge idols so beautifully decorated. During deeparathanai the priest explained how the Goddess is important in this shrine and hence the name Nachiyar Koil. The Lord came in search of the Goddess and married her here and the Garudan helped the Lord find the Goddess. The priest went on to say that from the entrance as you walk in, one can see the Goddess first as she is in the centre. Also in the urchava moorthy idols, the key bunch is with the Goddess showing that she is the boss here J

We walked down the steps to have darshan of Lord Narasimha, Utharadhi mutt Anjaneyar and after pradakshinam, went further down to have darshan of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana on one side and Hanuman reverently standing facing his Lord Rama.  Next to Hanuman sannidhi was the Samadhi of the pair of Garuda pakshi who had attained moksha at the temple.

As we reached the dwajasthambam to prostrate, I realised that this is the only Vishnu temple where we can directly see the Lord from the dwajasthambam!

We called it a day and went back to hotel for dinner and settled down early so that we can get ready for the Sathabishekam and more temple visits next day.