Friday, January 14, 2011

After roaming around Mahabalipuram for almost 8 hours, i was damn tired and  desperately wanted an end to the day’s trip. However, there was one place still left to visit and that is the one i am writing about. I hired an auto rickshaw and moved to this place which is at a distance 15 kilometres from Mahabalipuram.

I reaDSC00095ched the place and what i see.. A hill with almost 300 steps to the top on which, a very famous temple is situated. I was tired, but adamant. I started off ascending. Thirukazhukundram is an ancient town in Kanchipuram district of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is famous for its Hindu temple, Vedagiriswarar temple, popularly known as Kazhugu koil (Eagle temple). The word Thirukazhukundram comes from the Tamil words Thiru (Respectful), Kazhugu (Eagle), Kundram (mount). The town is also known as Pakshi theertham. It has also been known as Uruthrakodi, Nandipuri, Indrapuri, Narayanapuri, Brahmapuri, Dinakarapuri, Muniganapuri in the past. The main attraction here is the large temple located atop thDSC00102e mountain which houses the deity of Vedagiriswarar. There is a temple at the foothills which is dedicated to Thirupurasundari Amman.

There is a very interesting legend here. It is said that eight rishis of the Hindu pantheon were cursed by Lord Shiva to be reborn as eagles. The worshippers begged forgiveness and Lord Shiva showed them some mercy. They were to be reborn as holy eagles, two in each yugam (an epoch of the Hindu calendar) and attain Sayujya mukti by worshipping Lord Siva sincerely. Locals believe that out of  the eight rishis, six have already attained their wish by being born as eagles and worshipping the Lord. The remaining two are said to be the two eagles that have visited Thirukazhukundram daily since time immemorial, in order to worship Shiva and obtain salvation from the curse. It is said that after a bath in the Ganges in the morning, they come to the site at DSC00107noon for food, reach Rameswaram in the evening for darshan and return to Chidambaram for the night.

I spoke to the priest and he mentioned that both the eagles died at this very same location and attained Mukti. Also it is said that the eagles moved around with the devotees and never harmed any. They just ate what the devotees offered and flew away. We can have an entre view of the surroundings once we reach to the top. Also we can see the entire complex and the 4 gopurams of the Amman temple  below.

The temple is old but the outer construction is new and painted. The pillars and the sculptures inside date the temple to the 14th DSC00122century AD. Black stone is used entirely inside the temple and the pillars shine in the electric bulbs. Hundreds of devotees throng the temple everyday from all places in Tamil Nadu to offer prayers to the Linga form of Lord Shiva. I attended the evening Aarti of the Lord and came down to the Amman Temple.

There are four inscriptions on the strong room of the Vedagiriswarar Temple. That part of the wall where these inscriptions are found, is disfigured by a number of mason's marks, which are noticed in the footnotes to the texts. These marks consist, in most cases, of Tamil numerals, engraved probably before attempting to pull down the wall with a view to repair the temple. The DSC00108 numerals would indicate the order in which the stones had to be arranged while rebuilding the wall. This custom of marking is still prevalent in Southern India. An example would be the Ekambareshwara Temple at Kanchipuram. At this place the numerals are not cut with the chisel as at Thirukazhukundram, but painted on the stones with tar or chunnam. The alphabet and language of the four subjoined inscriptions is Tamil; but a number of words of Sanskrit origin are written either wholly or partially in Grantha characters.

DSC00144 There is a big mantapa to the left of the temple. Its an old construction and the most beautiful thing is the ceiling of it, where old paintings still awe the visitors. The temple chariot is placed inside this mantapa and even the pillars of this are carved with various forms of gods and goddesses. The construction of the mantapa clearly mark the temple to be one that was commissioned by the Vijayanagara kings.

I then moved inside the temple. The inside of the temple is amazing. Unfortunately, i was not allowed to take any photographs inside as i was carrying my Video Camera. The temple has a long mukha mantapa which leads to an antarala. There are sculptures of warriors on horses on both sides of the mukha mantapa which gives an extra ordinary look to the temple. TDSC00119he garbha griha is big with the Amman shining bright in the lamps as well as electric bulbs.

There is a fresh water pond beside the Amman temple. A conch pops out of this  pond every twelve years and this has been happening ever since the temple has been constructed. All these conchs are stored inside a small room in the Amman temple complex and the visitors are offered to see them for a small fee. It is really amazing to even think that a conch pops out of fresh water.

It was almost 8 in the night by the time i had a darshan of Amman. I went back to my hotel in Mahabalipuram for a nice hot bath, had nice dinner with chilled beer and signed off for the day. I started off early next morning to my next destination, Kanchipuram.

References: Wikipedia and Epigraphia Indica Vol. 3


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