Tanjavur, Trichi/ Srirangam, Jambukeshwara, Swami Malai, Palani and Tiruttani

From Kumbhakonam to Tanjavur is 15km on the banks of Kaveri is the abode of Brihadeeshwara Temple built in a Fort. Chola King Raja Rajeshwar dreamt once that Maha Deva instructed him to bring a huge Brihadeeshwara Linga be brought from Narmada River and accordingly this Sand Linga was brought and got installed. But then the King wondered as to where a matching Vigrah of large size of Nandi be fetched from and Maha Deva again provided a hint about the Place distant by 250 km therefrom. This massive Nandi cut from solid stone is 13 feet high, 16 feet long and six feet of thickness, brought immense problem of transport! Opposite to the Nandi is the Huge Linga installed within 200 feet high Shikhara or tower on top of which was placed a Golden Kalasha which was a major task to lift atop as the kalasha was kept on a stone slab weighing 2200 maunds! Indeed there was no aid of cranes or other kinds of mechanical equipmen during those times and what was more there was no supply of mountain rock in the distant vicinity! Till date, thousands of architects and engineers overseas to witness these marvels of heavy stone work difficult even now!To the South -West of the Brihadeeshwara Linga is a Ganeswara Idol and on the western side is a beautiful Subrahmanya Mandir while at the North East isa Chandi Mandir. Towards the north of the  high pedestal of Nandi is a Parvati Mandir while a pradakshina of the Maha Linga one would encounter a row of Shiva Lingas placed.Tanjavur is known for Paintings and a Saraswati Pustakaalaya or Library houses more than 25,000 collection of manuscripts of books in various languages which is statedto be exceptional in Bharat. The legendary background of Tanjavur was that this original name was Parashara Kshetra but a Demon named Tanja and many of his co -demons harassed Maharshis and the Public and a fierce battle with Devas broke out and Bhagavan Vishnu appeared on the sky as a morale booster to Devas and as the dmons were all decimated, Tanja requested Vishnu as a dying wish that his name be immortalised with the Territory and as approved  the name of Tanjapura sustained ! Trichinapalli/ Shrirangam:Like Nashik and Panchavati Godavari divides the Places, Kaveri divides Trichinapalli and Shrirangam by 5 km. The legend of this twin city states that Rananasura’s brothers Trishira and his brothers Khara-Dushaka ruled this Place as great Shiva Bhaktas and Lord Shri Rama killed them all ‘en route’ Sri Lanka in search of Devi Sita. There is a huge stone-built Nandi of 235 ft height overlooking the twin city which is popular as Dakshin Kailas. Trichinapalli’s Main Mandir of Ganesha on a foot hill is the major attraction. A dilapidated SahasraMandapa, partly destroyed in an explosion in 1882 AD, is on hill approachable by 86 steps with Shiva and Parvati Mandiras. The Shiva Temple is famed as ‘Taa Maanavar’ as Parama Bhakta old man on travel along with his young pregnant daughter ripe for delivery faced the river Kaveri in spate having to halt overnight and intensely prayed to Maha Deva who appeared as an old woman and nursed the daughter through out the night as in the early hours of the next day delivered a boy. Hence the name of Taa maanvar or the Saving God as a Mother Shriranagam:Descending from the Ganesha Temple on foot hills, across the bridge of Kaveri, one enters the way towards the renowned Shriranga Temple -Town occupying one of the largest areas in Bharat with  several enclosures containing roads and shops; in the fourth enclosure itself is a Mandapa called Sahasra Stambha with literally 960 pillars. In the fifth enclosure is a Garuda Mandapa with a large sized Gududa Deva Idol as also Chandra Pushkarini where devotees take their bath; a Kalpa Vrisha, a Lakshmi Mandir, and Kamba Mandap where the immortal Tamil Poet Kamba who sang Kamba Ramayana to devoted audiences.Crossing the sixth enclosure and within the seventh enclosure to the Southern side is the golden ‘shikhira’and inside the large hall is the much awaited sanctum of Bhagavan Shri Ranga, behind which are arranged Deva Murtis of Lakshmana, Vibhishana, Hanuma etc. Ranga natha is in the posture of lying on the bed of Adisesha and has four arms in bright blue colour and is under the several hoods of Adi Sesha; in front of Bhagavan are the seated Murtis of Devi Lakshmi and Vibheeshana, as also of the idols of Shri Devi and Bhudevi. A magnificent festival is celebrated from Pousha Prtatipada to Ekadashi called Vakuntha Ekadashi and crossing the Vaikuntha dwara on Ekadash is deemed as a golden opportunity to the bhaktas.

Jambukeshwara :Of the Pancha Bhuta Lingas of Maha Deva viz. Chidambara, Tirivunnamalai, Ekambareshwara, Kalahasti is Jambukeshwara representing ‘Aapas’or water. Almost near Shrirangam, Jambukeshwara Linga facing a Mandapa of four hundred pillars, besides which is the ‘Teppaakula Sarovara, amid which another Mandapa is there and at the Festival of Vaikuntha Ekadashi, the Utsava Viraha of Lord Shri Ranga is taken out and seated at this Jaa Madhya Mandapa. Jambukeshwara Linga within the fifth enclosure of the Temple isnsalled under incessant flow of water often streaming outside the Sanctum and one could then sight only the top portion of the Jala Linga. Behind the Sanctum there is a very aged Jamun Tree and hence the Prefix Title of ‘Jambu’to Ishwara Linga. It is stated that Adi- Shankaraacharya perfomed Puja-Aaraathana to the Tree and in recen years Maha Swami of Kanchi Mutt who stayed at the Temple and on finding that this ancient tree was dried up badly, recited continuous Rudra Parayana for days and nights and ensured that the totally dried up tree gradually with small leaves and buds! Outside the Main Temple there is a Mandapa where several Murtis are kept as of Nataraja, Sumdrahmanya, Dakshina Murti. There s a separate Temple of Subrahmanya too. Around the Main Temple there are also quite a few Mandapas like of Shulana, Shata stambha, Sahasra Stambha, Navaratri, Vasanta, Dhwaja stambha, Soma Skanda, Nataraja, Tri Murti, etc. Outside the Temple is a Jagadamba Mandira in which the Devi’s name is Akhilandeshwari and right before it is a Ganesha Mandir. As the looks of Amba Devi were originally were so powerful and fierce earlier, Adi Shankaracharya during his visit here sought to lessen the looks of her by installing a Shri Yantra and install Ganesha Idol too.About the old Jamun tree at the temple, there was a legend of an elephant and a spider both of which were silent devotees of the Jambu Linga; every morning the elephant showered water on the Linga with its trunk and overnight the spider used to weave a web around the Linga Swarupa as its decoration around it. The enraged elephant tried to kill the spider but the latter entered the trunk and bit it so badly that the elephant died too. The ever merciful Jambukeshwara bestowed kailasa prapti to both the ardent devotees as both the affected parties were justfied in their own ways! This story is scripted in Tamil on a pillar near tree! Swami Malai: One of significant six Subrahmanya Kshetras worthy of visit in Dakshina Bharat viz. Tiruttani, Palani,Tiruchendur, Tiruppuramkunnam and Palamudircholai is Swami Malai-literally meaning God’s Hill- some 30 km near Kumbhakonam at an elevation of 82 ft. totally dedicated to Swami Nathan, called locally as ‘Tagapan Swami’ or Father God! The legendary background was that the Lord taught the true meaning of OM or Pranava to Maha Deva himself! As Brahma Deva failed to interpret the word adequately to Kumara Swami, he chided him; when Maha Deva asked Kumara to explain in a convincing manner, he analysed the depth of the meaning he did so even as the father learnt it intently as though a Teacher to a Vidyarthi! The Swami Malai Temple performs ‘shat kaala dainika puja’ or six worships a day round the year, besides celebrates many festivals like Krittikai every month, Rathotsava in April , Vishakha in May, Navaratris in May, Kanda Shashthi in October, Kartikai Utsav in November, Taipuccham in January and so on. The Golden Chariot utilised for all the festivals are made of 7 kg of gold and 85 kg of silver-copper alloy with sparkling illumination. There is a SwetaVinayaka Temple made of white foam of Sea representing Ksheera sagara that created Amrit! Palani: Some 38 km from Trichy and 100 km near Coimbatore is another Subrahmaya Kshetra of the reputed Six as mentioned above, the Abode of Dandayudhapani.There are two mythological references to this Temple; one is that since this Palani Hill was of the ‘amsha’ or of relationship with the highest mountain of the Universe viz. Meru, Sage Narada provoked Vindhyachala that the latter was, after all, not talller than Meru; this hurt Vidhya and tried to grow even taller as one side of the Universe was bright but the other side remained dark for ever since Sun became unreachable to the side at all. Parama Shiva asked Agastya Muni who was a resident of Kashi to teach a lesson to Vindhya; the Muni reached Vindhya who as a reverene to the Muni bent down and the Muni asked Vindhya never to stand. Agastya then moved to Dakshina Bharat to stay at Palani Hills for long before moving down further down to other Southern parts of Bharat. Another explanation about Palani Hills was that Sage Narada visited Kailasa to pay respects to Shiva and Parvati and gifted a Fruit of Jnana or Knowledge; he requested to conduct a test between Ganesha and Kartikeya viz. pradakshina or circumambulation of the Universe. Kartikeya instantly flew by his Peacock Vehicle while Ganesha performed a pradakshina and was rewarded with the Fruit. Kumara on return got furious and made Palani his abode as an ascetic assuming danda or a staff and ‘koupeena’ or loin cloth. Subsequently the parents Shiva and Parvati reached Palani to cajole the Dadaayudhapani saying: Gnaana paam nee Appa! Or ‘Indeed you are the personification of the fruit of Knoweledge yourself, darling son!’ There are daily worships including Kaala and Kaala Shanti Pujas- Alankaras-Aariti-Deepa- Swarna Raratha/ Golden Chariot Darshana. Festivals like Thai-Poosam/ Purnima, Tirtha Kavadi Yatras, Diamond Vel or Shula ( javelin) yatras, Pankhuni Uttiram, Vaishakhas, Soora samhara etc. all drawaing very large crowds, especially due to the rope way facility up the hill, although many climb by steps owing to vows with or without foot wear or by Kavadis slung on shoulders! Tiruttani: Yet another among the six Subrahmanya Tirthas is of Murugan Temple at Tiruttani, near by the border of Andhra Pradesh and distant by 84 km from Chennai up a hill of 250 ft elevation connected by good hill motorable road. Besides the Sanctum of Muruga, there are Temples of Mkahashasura Mardini, Veera Anjaneya, Arumuga Swami, Narasimha Swami, Mangaleshwara Shiva and so on. Beides Trikala Pujas and Deepa-aradhanas, festivals as observed at other Subrahmanya Tirthas as at Swami Malai are celebrated, especially Kanda Shashti, Nava Ratras, Krittikas and Vishakhas as also Shiva Ratri penances.

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