Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Visits to temples of Kumbakonam and Thiruvelliaynkudi

I visited Oppiliyappan temple along with family and wife to pay respects to our ancestral god for a great wedding without any untoward incident. A tight travel schedule from hyderabad through chennai to Kumbakonam and then all the way back within a span of three days was made a little convenient by a well maintained air-conditioned Qualis.

I have been to Oppiliyappan temple half-a-dozen times earlier. But the visit this time was refreshing since the temple was recently renovated and the murals repainted. The temple elephant has grown up into a dignified adult from a playful adolescent he was during my earlier visit.

A short note about Oppiliyappan. It is one among the 108 vishnu's divyadesams (temples sung by at least one of the 12 aazhvars). This particular temple was sung by nam aazhvar, poigai aazhvar, paei azhwar and tirumangai azhvar. Oppiliyappan is considered Tirupathi Lord venkateshwara's elder brother and is also called Lord Srinivasa.

He marries rishi Markandeya's daughter, a reincarnation of Bhoodevi (mother earth) in this place when she was still young. So young and naive that she cooks for Lord Oppiliyappan without salt So, all the prasadams distributed to devotees here have no salt till date.

In the sanctum sanctorum he appears in a standing with rishi Markandeya seated to his left and Bhoodevi seated to his right. In one of his right hands palm is written "maam ekam saranam vraja"

After the visit, my mom suggested that we go to a nearby place called Tiruvelliayngudi, about 10 km from Kumbakonam. It was a very small village with serpentine, narrow yet relatively well-laid roads. It was as typical a village as any other in Tamil Nadu, with lush green paddy fields with fresh water gushing out of electric pumps, and with tall coconut trees bordering them. I had visited the temple in the evenings, contrary to the burning afternoon, have enjoyed the village atmosphere more fully.

The temple was ancient, and evidently very rarely visited by devotees travelling from outside the village. But was not yet in a dilapidated condition. But for a temple that is forgotten to the outside world in these modern times, it has a lot of historical and mythological significance.

The stories has that Lord Vishnu married Maragadhavalli Thayar in this place and transferred his conch and chakra to Garuda for doing so. As a result, in this place it is the Garuda who has the conch and chakra instead of the Vishnu - the only such temple in the whole world. The Lord appears in the sanctum sanctorum as blue-skinned Lord Rama, in a sleeping posture. There are only three temples among the 108 divya desams in which Lord Rama appears in a sleeping posture in different colours. The other ones are in other lesser known village temple called Tiruppullani (Dharba sayana Ramar) and in in Aadanur (Valvil Ramar).

The temple tree is Sevvazhai, a plantain that yield red coloured banana (what is English for that?). The outer wall of the sanctum sanctorum is lined with this tree and it is said that any tree growing in this particular place doesn't survive when transferred else where.

This temple is also considered a very good place of worship for those with any sort of eye-related ailment. As the story goes, Shukran was once blind and after offering prayers unsuccessfully in various temples, he gained his eye sight only after offering prayers here. For this reason, this is a shukra stalam. Further, the sanctum sanctorum has a lamp that is kept lit for 24 hours a day. This temple becomes one among the 108 divya desam because it was sung by Tirumangai Aazhvar.

I recommend this temple not only for the devout, but also for the the mythological inclined.

1 comment:

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