Kumbakonam and Nava Grahadi Kshetras nearby

Kumbhakonam is some 40 km from Tanjore and275 km from Chennai and it literally denotes the Kona of Kumbha or the nozzle corner of the giant jar or container named Universe whithin which the seeds of Charaachara Srishti or Creation of all Living Beings are enveloped and preserved by Brahma the Supreme Creator, at the time of Pralaya the Great Dissolution with aview to resume Creation thereafter! This Mystic City of Dakshina Bharat is aptly called the City of Temples and is bound by two Rivers viz. Cauvery and Arasalar, celebrating Maha Magha once in twelve years in the Maha Magha Sarovara right in the heart of the City.Kumbheshwara Temple is stated to be the foremost one in the City with a high rise gopura and large area around with Kumbheshwara Linga as the center piece of the shape of a Kumbha or a Pot and within this Main Tmple itself is enclosed another Mandir of Devi Parvati with the name of Mangalambika, while the Murtis of Ganesha, Subrahmanya and other Shiva Parivara are also in the Parikrama or Pradakshina. Nageswara Temple is situated even on the way from Maha Maha Sarovara to Kumbheswara Temple where again is the Shiva Linga named Nageshawara besides a separate Devi Parvati Mandir. There is a prominent Mandir of Surya Narayana who is an adent devotee of Lord Shiva and it is stated that on certain days in a year the Sun Rays direcrly fall on the Nageshwara Linga. Another significant Temple in the City of Kumbhakonam is that of Rama Swami some distance away from Kumbheswara Temple where as stated the Mutris that appeared in a water pond of a nearby village called Daraasuram were installed. This Temple is known for the artistic excellence of wall paintings depicting from the birth of Shri Rama till Sita Rama Kalyana. Sharangapani Temple with Chaturbhuja Seshashaayi Narayana with Sri Devi- Bhudevi ar his feet as the Main Temple and also an independent Lakshmi Mandir are the attractions apart from a Chariot drawn by an elephant as an indication that Sharangapani Bhagavan landed from Vaikuntha down to the Temple. The episode behind this stated as follows: Bhrigu Maharshi visited Vaikuntha once but Vishnu was engrossed with Lakshmi Devi and feigned that Bhrigu arrived as Bhrigu felt hurt and banged his feet on Vishnu’s chest thev abode of Lakshmi; despite the fact that Lakshmi would be annoyed with the incident, Vishnu apologised to Bhrigu what it was his mistake that he did not receive Bhrigu properly; Lakshmi felt that this was an insult to her and came down to Bhu Loka assuming the form of a Rishi Kanya. Vishnu could not bear Lakshmi’s absence and landed by a chariot to Bhu Loka from Vaikuntha. Then the wedding of Rishi Kanya with Vishnu as Saarangapaani got consummated! Thus the separate Mandirs at this Temple too! Veda Narayana Temple near Kumbhakonam recalls the definition of Kumbha in the Inroductory part of the Script above on Kmbhakonam: Brahma performed Yagna at the beginning of Srishti and VedaNaryana Bhagavan appeared and blessed Brahma to intiate Creation after the Pralaya since he preserved the seeds of all Beings in the Kumbha befor the Pralaya. Within Kumbhakonam City itself, there are quite a few other Temples of significance such as Kashi Vishwanatha and Vishaklaakshi Temple opposite Maha Maaha Tank; Chakrapani Temple and Varaha Perumal Temple near Ramaswami Temple and so on.

Nava Graha Temples near Kumbhakonam: Japaa kusuma sankaasham Kaashyapeyam mahaa dyutim Tamorim, sarva paapaghnam pranatosmi Divaakaram/ This is how one prays to Surya Narayana at one’s first darshan of Sun early morning as Divakara the Day long Deity and the proud son of Kashyapa Muni who shines day long with the brightness of the hues of Japakusuma flowers demolishing darkness and all kinds of sins.  Surya Narayana Koyil which is near Kumbhakonam by 18 km is famed for the Sun-worshipping Chola Kings in 10th century built with stone as Surya depicted in a seven horse drawn flying chariot faced west, along with other shrines of Kasi Vishwanatha, Devi Visalakshi, Brihaspati and Kol Tirtha Vinayaka in the vicinity demanding nine Pradakshinas of the complex. It is stated that before paying respects at the Suryanarayana Kovil, one is required to pay homage at Tirumangalakkudi Shiva sthalam near Mayladutturai at Pranateshwara and Mangala Nayaki as Devi Parvati was rid of a curse to become a parrot and got re-wedded as Mangala on Makara Sankranti day and hence the Place known asMangala Kshetra celebrating festival there. Makara Saptami / Ratha Saptami in Maagha Month- coinciding with Tamil Thai month-is an important festival at the Suryanarayana Koil.

Tingalur Chandra/ Kailasa natha Temple some 18 km away from Kumbhakonam, where the main Idol Shiva as Kaisasha natha but is basically dedicated to Chanda Deva. Dadhi shankha tushaaraabham ksheeraarnava samudbhavam, Namaami Sashinam Somam Shambhor makuta bhushanam/ Materialised from the Ocean of Milk and adorned as Maha Deva’s shining headgear ornament, Chandra Deva is hereby venerated; indeed Chandra is the Lord of Heath and Medicines as also of Peace and Tranquility. There is a separate Shrine of the Lord Chandra at the Kalasha natha Temple. The legend of this Chandra Kshetra reveals that a Nayanar was a great devotee of Appaar viz. Parama Shiva and one day he decided to worship at his residence with piety and pomp by calling his friends, associates and neighbours at an appropriate function. Unfortunately, the son of the Nayanar was bitten by a poisonous snake during the puja. The Nayanar family was shattered at the misfortune but instead of blaming Appan for the misfotune, intensified his prayers undaunted even while the son was almost dying.Appar directed Chandra the God of Medicines and Good Health to cure the child and reverse his condition of sinking due to the effect of poison. The ever grateful Nayanar broke into tearful prayers and in the company of the co-devotees sang praises of Chandra Deva and the Adi Deva Appar and celebrated the devotional function.

Vaitheeswara Koil of Angaraka: Dharani garbhasambhutam Vidyurkanti sama prabham, Kumaram Shakti hastam tam Mangalam pranamaamyaham/ Being the son of Bhu Devi Mangala Deva is of the flashy brightness of a Lightning and he too like Lord Subrahmanya the embodiment of Power and Courage ever worthy of worship. The Temple of Lord Vaideeswaran the Supreme Deity of Healing and of Medical Treatment as the key to Arogya or Health is situated some 27 km of Chidambaram and 52km from Kumbhakonam. Built by Kulottnuga Chola of 11th century, Vaideeshwaran Temple encompasses large precincts with a 5tier Gopuram with its principal Sanctum dedicated to Vaideeshwara Linga and a metal image of Muttukumara Subramanya, besides those of Nataraja, Soma Skanda, Angaraka as also stone sculptures of Durga, Dakshina murti, Surya, Jatayu, Vedas and Sampatti. Temples of Taila Nayaki standing with medical oils to cure diseases and another of Dhanvantari and Angaraka are in Place, besides a Vriksha Sthala with medicinal properties in the vicinity.Nadi Jyotisha written in Tamil Script is practised in Vaideeswaran extensively and near the Temple. Brahmotsavas during January- February, Kartigai Festival during November and Kanti Shashtis at Muttukumara Temple are big draws besides on Tuesdays.

Swetaarayaneshwara-Brahma Vidya Devi Temple at Tiruvengadu , some 10 km from Sirkali and 60 km from Kumbhakonam is essentially a Budha Temple: Priyangu kalikaa Shyamam rupenaa pratimam Budham, Soumyam Soumya gunopetam tam Budham pranamaamyaham/To you the ever lovable and pleasing faced Budha Deva with placid and cool temperament, as the blessed son of Chandra Deva, our warm Salutations! Agora Murti the placid and tranquil manifestation of the usually angry antithesis of the Tamasika Swarupa of Maha Deva; like Budha among the Nava Grahas, Maha Deva assumes a form of High Learning and Unparalleled Maturity. Yet, even of smooth and sauve temperament, He like Budha Graha, deals with the evil with coolness and unmistaken precision. This was how like of Aghora qualities eliminated Padmasura who unnecessarily clashed with Rishis and the virtuous Brahmanas and interfered with their yagnas and acts of virtue as puffed up by egoism and selfishness. The Chariot Festival at this Aghora Shiva Temple, is a natural phenomenon of the determintation of Maha Deva to punish the evil but with the composed temperament typical of Budha, notwithstanding the fact that Agora a Swarupa of Veerabhadra still sustains maturity with a purpose!

Alangudi Guru Sthalam: Devanaamcha Risheenamcha Gurum kanchana sannibham,Buddhi bhutam Trilokesham tam namaami Brihaspatim/ ( I salute Brihaspati the Grand Guide and Mentor to Devas and Rishis who is like the molten gold with which to create Celestial Ornaments of Virtue and Existence; he is the One who leads to Knowledge and Mental Sharpness with which to lead to Supreme Realisation). Well within a distance of 18 km. the Apat Sahayeswara Temple of Parama Shiva who was the ‘Garala Kantha’ or the Singular Devourer of Deadly Poisonous Flames called ‘Haalaahala’ that engulfed the Universe and saved the very Existence or Creation as Deva Danavas ventured to materialise Amrit! Indeed He is the Saviour of Dangers and Obstacles in human life! Besides the Temple of Apat kaala Sahaaya or the Unique Refuge Point to Devotees, Alangudi Guru Sthala is also the Abode of Dakshina Murti the Unparalleled Advisor of Virtue and Righteousness viz. Brihaspati. Indeed the Illustrious Nayanars or Shaivite Poet Saints were never tired of the glories of Maha Deva.

Shukra as Agnishwaraar Temple at Kanjanor some 20 km. from Kumbhakonam is popular since Shukra is identified as Parama Shiva himself in the Linga Swarupa which is omnipresent and all-pervading: Himakunda tushaaraabham daityaanaam paramam gurum, Sarva shastra pravaktaaram Bhargavam pranamaamyaham/ Built by late Chola Kings and renovated by Krishna deva Raya of Vijayanagar Empire, this famed Shukra Temple is stated as Shukra within Maha Deva. Maha Deva represents both the virtuous and vicious aspects of Srishti and seeks to balance shades of darkness and brightness alike. Universe as created by the Supreme is indeed a mix of Satwa-Rajasika-Tamo Gunas and if there were a Deva Guru, there ought to be a representation of a Shukra too as the Danava-Daithya-Rakshasa Guru and between the two, transgression of limits neither way is permitted; after all in the scheme of events complete perfection is not possible and to err is human but the playful Almighty ensures that the frontiers of Good and and Bad are ably guarded with built- in checks and balances! The legendary belief of Agnishwarar Temple at Kanjanor is that Shiva obliged Parashara Muni the father of Veda Vyasa with a performance of Cosmic Dance at this Temple, bringing amply out about this aspect of Srishti to balance the impulses of life!

Shaneshwara Temple at Tirunallar is 55 km away from Kumbhakonam called Darbhaaranyam in the past or the Forest of Darbhas or kusha grass, utilised in all Sacred Acts or Deva- Pitru Karyas. Darbhaaranyeshwara Linga is the Prime Dety worshipped at thus Temple which is essentially of Shaneshwara or Shiva as Shani Deva. Neelaanjana samaabhaasam Ravi putram Yamaagrajam Chaayaa Martaandasambhutam tam namaami Shanaishacharam/ (My salutations to you Shani Devata! You are of the spendour of blue saffires and as the illustrious son of Surya Deva and elder brother of Lord Yama Dharma Raja; you are also the son of Chhaya Devi, the alter form of Sanjana Devi).[ Sanjana Devi the daughter of Vishwakarma was unable to withstand the oppressive heat and radiance of Surya Deva and could see him excepting wobbly and unsteady eyes. Their union gave birh to Vaivaswata Manu and Yama Dharma Raja. But the annoyed Surya cursed Sanjana that she would give birth to a female as a river whose course was uneven and unsteady.Then Sanjana created a Chhaya Sanjana (her shadow), briefed her and left for his father and since the latter too was upset, assumed the form of a mare to perform Tapasya to reducethe severity of Surya. Then meanwhile Shanaischara was born to Chhaya Devi. Surya on knowing the truth assumed the form of a horse and their mating led to the birth of Revanta. Later on the Sanjana-Chhaya combine gave Surya the blessing of the birth of Ashwini Kumars, the physicians of Devas].The Shaneeshwara Temple at Tirunallar mainly displays the Dharbhaaranyeshwara stated to have been made of Darbhas and is essentially embodied as Shaneshwara. Worship and Abhishekas to Darbheshwara are learnt to represent those of Shaneshwara as Maha Deva represents the aspects of Lord Shaneshwara as well. Both  theTemples of this and that of the neigbouring Tiruvallur’s Temple- as built in 7th century by Chola Kings- highlight two principal aspects of retribution-reward of Shanaischara and of Sangita-Natya of Fine Arts represented by at Nataraja do signify indeed the two features of Maha Deva!

Rahu Sthala or Tiru Nageswaram is the Sacred and widely acclaimed Abode of Rahu Graha as embodied in the Maha Naga Natha Linga is hardly 6 km away from Kumbhakonam right on the banks of Kaveri River prayed to as folllows:Artha kaayam Maha Veeram Chandraditya vimardanam Simhika garbha sambhutam tam Rahum pranamaamyaham/ (Rahu Deva! You possess half divine and half serpent physical form. You are the son of Simhika Devi the daughter of Hiranya kashipu; a valiant and resourceful champion of Ksheera Sagara Mathana leading to the emergence of Amrita and the punisher of Surya and Chandra even! My sincere salutations to you!) This Rahu Sthala is also called earlier as Sanbagaranya or the wild forest of Senbaga Trees infested by poisonous serpents. This is thus the habitat of Naganatha Linga and Devi Parvati as Giri Gujambal to whose Swarupas that Indra performed deepTapasya to, to absolve a curse by Maharshi Gautami since he tricked and molested Ahalya the latter’s wife. Tiru Nageshwara is also distinguished as the hallowed Place where the illustious Maha Sarpas like Adi Sesha, Karkotaka and Takshaka lined up for Tapasya to Maha Deva and secured their blessings. The Temple complex is a master piece of typical Cholan Architenture stated to have been built in 10th Century with excellent campus of four gates, with the Main Naga natha Linga, and separate shrines for Piramani Parvati, Giri Gujamba Parvati, Rahu Deva with his spouses, Vinayaka with Ganesha Yantra as per inscription, and of course Nandi before Naga natha. The Rituals are regular six times daily and highly crowded daily Rahu Abhishakas as per respective Rahu Kala Prathamas; holiday Rahu Kaala Abhishekas are extraordinary. A fantastic feature of the Rahu kaala Abhishakas is the clearly visible sight of white milk turning blue and crowds crave to see the same! The easy and traditional way of learning one-and half duration of daily Rahu Kaala is on the basis of the following viz. Mother Saw Father Wearing The Two Socks to count 7.30 to 9 Am, 9-10 .30 Am, 10.30 to noon, 12 to 1.30 pm, 1.30 pm-3 pm, 3 pm- 4. 30 pm and 4.30-6 pm.

             Ketu Sthala: is 57 km from Kumbhakonam and just 2 km from Pompuhar at Keela perumalpaalam as the Temple of Naganatha Swami and Soundarya Nayaki ie. Shiva and Parvati Swarupas. Palasha pushpa sankasham taarakagraha mastakam, Roudram Roudratmakam ghoram tam Ketum pranamaamyaham/ Iti Vyasa mukod geetam yah pathetsu samaahitam Divaavaa yadivaa ratrou avighna shantir bhavishyati/ (Our salutations to you Ketu Deva! You are of the brighteness of Palasa flowers placed on your hood which is at the top of Stars and Grahas. You are indeed frightening, breathtaking and spiteful. Do kindly pardon my shortcomings and be forgiving! If one recites the entire Navagraha Stotra from Surya Deva onward to all the Nava Grahas sincerely as Scripted by Veda Vyasa himself day and night then there would never be obstacles in daily life but would get fulfillment of wishes and contentment). At this Temple, ‘vidhi poorvaka snanas’in the Naaga Tirtha woud indeed bestow happiness and peace of mind with the blessings of Naga natha and Soundarya Naayaki well settled in this Temple.

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham

Kamakoti.org presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at raovdn@yahoo.co.in