Visit to Temples around Pondicherry
We had been to Pondicherry for the Dharshan day in Sri Aurobindo Ashram on 24th Nov for the Siddhi day or The Day of Victory. We completed a peaceful dharshan and meditation in the ashram and then started off to visit some new temples around. I plan to cover my experiences as a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother in a separate Blog.
1. Sri Prithyangara Devi temple
Our first visit was to the Viswaroopa Sri Prithyangara Devi temple in the Pondicherry-Tindivanam route at about 5 kms from Pondicherry at a place called Morattandi. About 2-3 kms after the JIPMER hospital, you have to take a right turn and go further in village road for about 2 km. There are autos available at this junction also. The sudai sculpture of Prithyangara Devi is about 40 feet high and is visible from a km itself. Under this sudai sculpture is present the main temple. The temple entrance is completely covered up with sudai sculptures on both sides and you have to enter the temple through a narrow gate after getting the ticket for, I think Rs 3. First of all, I didn’t like this concept itself – covering the temple entrance completely and admitting people only with an entrance ticket like an exhibition. Anyway, after entering we were pleased to see a beautiful Sri Prithyangara devi deity. I was surprised that a scaring deity has been sculptured so beautifully. The sculpturer might have enjoyed doing every bit of it, otherwise it would not have come so beautifully. There were many other shrines like Guberar, a beautiful shiva lingam etc.,. but the temple in its current form looks as an exhibitive commercial place for me. Photos were not allowed and you have to pay for taking photos!!.
2. Navagraha Temple
The next was the Navagraha temple, a km from the Prithyangara devi temple, in a 2 acre farm land. Surrounded by 108 trees for different years, navagrahas, stars etc., this is still being built but has become popular already. All the deities here also are very huge.
At the entrance, Vinayahar with his consorts welcome us. The main deity Saniswara Bhagwan is about 27 feet tall and each Navagraha idol is 15 feet tall. There was also a huge Vinayahar (under construction), a Vasthu Bhagwan, Lord Shiva as Kalyana Sundareswarar.
3. Irumbai Shiva Temple
Location: Irumbai Maakaalam near Pondicherry .
Ambal: Kuyilmozhi Ammai
Other Shrines: Lord Subramanyar
This very ancient Shiva temple is one of the 275 Thevara Padal Petra Sthalangals and is located at Irumbai village in the vicinity of Auroville International Township. Just after a km from Morattandi enroute to Tindivanam, there is a road going to right (east) to Auroville. Take this road and at one point you will encounter a T junction in front of a village temple. Here take left to Auroville Information Centre/ Matrimandhir and you will encounter another T junction where the road at the right goes to Auroville Information Centre and Matrimandhir. Here you have to go straight further for about 3-4 kms to reach the Irumbai village. At the village, there is a X crossing and you have to take the left road for another 1 km to reach the temple.
Just before reaching the temple, you will be passing through a beautiful path with coconut trees on both sides. The temple is in a nice and serene atmosphere with giant banyan trees, many coconut trees and the temple tank in front.
The temple is being renovated beautifully with nice flooring and beautiful paintings. As we entered the temple, a big, vibrant and stunningly beautiful painting of the Lord Shiva in dancing pose (temple legend) welcomed us. The style of the paintings is very different and I learnt that a team from Kerala is doing the job with some expensive paint materials. It is very much visible in the rich look of the paintings indeed. I am not sure which style of painting they are – Kerala or Tanjore?.
The inner walls of the praharam (It’s a small temple and there is only one praharam) is being beautified with some cement sculptures depicting the temple history. They are painted black currently and it’s half way. I understood they are going to be painted in Golden colour and I can imagine how beautiful it would be.
The Kumbabhisheham is being planned in Jan 2008 (Tamil month of Thai) and I’m sure the temple is going to become popular with its new painitings once it is completed.
The speciality of the temple being that the main deity Maakaaleswarar in the form of a Shiva lingam is broken in pieces and tied together with a copper string (more information in Legend below). Lord Subramanyar shrine is of significance here but it was closed due to the renovation.
We were in Pondicherry during 1984-2000 and my daughter’s dance Arangetram was first planned in this temple in 2000 but due to the transporting difficulties, we had conducted it in Pondicherry town itself. Even when the temple was in a dilapidated condition during that time, I have seen the Aurovillians decorating the temple with oil deepams and Rangoli everywhere giving a grand look during the festivals. Now, in the current atmosphere it should be even more beautiful and one would love to have his/her cultural programs here.
The temple is particularly associated with the legend of Kaduveli Siddhar, a famous yogi who lived in the area some four to five hundred years ago. According to the legend, Kaduveli Siddha was performing harsh penance sitting under a peepal tree in yogic pose for days. The heat of his body was so intense that the rain gods suffered, no rains came and the people were exposed to hardship and drought. The situation was so bad that it finally came to the ears of the King, who ruled from Edyanchavadi village. No one dared to disturb Kaduveli in his penance as he chanted the mantra of Eswara, and soon an anthill started to rise up around him. Finally a temple dancer, named Valli, devoted to the Lord Shiva, decided to do her best to get the attention of the yogi, and to rescue the King and his people from the adverse effects of his tapasya (penance). She observed that occasionally the Siddha would, with his eyes shut, put out his hands to catch and consume the falling, withered peepal leaves. So she prepared some thinly fried appalam (pappad), and started placing them in the yogi’s outstretched hands, as he tried to catch the falling leaves. Soon he started eating the appalams and getting his taste back. Slowly he grew fatter until finally the anthill broke and he was once more exposed to the rays of the sun. Finally he opened his eyes. Valli was extremely happy and was able to take him back to her house where she kept him happy, dancing for him and learning songs for him. Meanwhile the God of Rain was relieved from the torture he felt from the heat of the yogi’s tapasya, the rain fell in plenty, and the people were happy once again.
In order to celebrate this event the King ordered a big Puja to be held at Irumbai temple, which was to be followed by a classical performance by Valli in which she would act out the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva, in the form of Nataraja. During the performance, however, one of her anklets fell off, and she started to lose her balance and rhythm. Kaduveli, who saw the Lord Shiva in Valli, picked up the anklet and put it back on her feet. This exposed him to the ridicule of the King and court for having touched the feet of a dancing girl, and he was heckled and jeered. Furious, he invoked the Lord Shiva to come out of his temple and prove his innocence by causing a rain of stone. Immediately the lingam in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple exploded, and wherever its fragments fell became desert. No greenery will grow around these spots, including a crater at a distance of three kilometres from the village, still to this day known as “Kaduveli”.
The King was suddenly frightened and begged the pardon of the Siddha, bowing down to him with all his entourage and pleading with him to quench the effects of his anger and curse. This appeased Kaduveli, who, repenting of his anger, said that what was done was done, but that in the future, people from far-off lands would come and make the desert land green and fertile again.
Today, there are villagers who feel that the Aurovilians are the people from far-off lands mentioned by the Siddha and that the curse is now beginning to leave them.
This story was put together by several Aurovilians, based on a tape-recorded conversation with the temple brahmin at Irumbai.
- One of the 275 Thevara Padal Petra Sthalams
- Once in dilapidated condition, now being renovated with beautiful and rich paintings. When completed it should be one of the most beautiful temples.
- The shiva lingam in broken form and tied together with a copper string
- Beautiful surrounding
Note: There is one more padal petra sthalam ‘Arasili’ nearby which we are yet to visit.