Till a few months back I was thinking of North Chennai (Ponneri/ Gummidipoondi region) only as a polluted and under developed area (compared to South Chennai) but now I realize that this is true only to about 15 kms from Parrys. Beyond that, it is the most beautiful region of the Chennai surroundings with plenty of greeneries, lakes and ‘not-so-crowded ancient and sacred temples’. Initially I knew only the Kalahasthi temple in this region and on hearing about Thirukkallil and Siruvarpuri, first I visited them along with Periyapalayam. Then on coming to know about Devadanam, I went to Devadanam and Andarkuppam. Then I made my 3rd visit to Suruttapalli and Pancheshti. Now I just made my 4th a trip to Ariyathurai, Pancheshti (again), Chinnakavanam and Perumpedu. I am sure, even now this is only the tip of the iceberg.
This is the region of focus for Agasthiar – he had installed a whopping 108 temples just between the Kuchasthalai and Brahma Aranya rivers (but only a few exist now); this is the area of Lava-Kucha, twin sons of Lord Rama, where they had been trained at Valmiki Ashram here. Koyampedu, Villivakkam, Vadamadhurai, Siruvarpuri, Pancheshti, Puduvaayal, Thirukkallil and Chinna kavanam are some of the Agasthiar’s temples that exist today. Chinna kavanam Nootretteswar is the 108th temple in this series. In most temples, the main deity will be called Agastheeswarar and the Goddess will be called Anandhavalli. Since this region is a very sacred and blessed one, there are many lakes around and the water resource is aplenty supplying to the entire Chennai.
Pancha Brahma Sthalams:
The Brahma Aranya river, considered to be created by Lord Brahma, flows in North Chennai and merges with sea at Pazhaverkadu. Many sages have meditated at the banks of this river and created many temples. Out of these, in five places they have contained all their meditative powers into Shivalingams and built temples. They are called Pancha Brahma Sthalams, representing the five faces of Lord Shiva and they are:
- Ramagiri alias Thiru Arikarai in Andhra near Suruttapalli/ Nagalapuram representing Ishana face of Lord Shiva
- Pallikondeswaram alias Suruttapalli representing Tatpurusha face
- Vamadhevapuram alias Arani near Periyapalayam (not North Arcot) representing Vamadheva face.
- Varamoorthy Kshethram alias Ariyathurai representing Sadhyojatha face.
- South Gokaranam alias Chinthamaneeswaram – Kattur near Minjur, the place where Brahma Aranya river merges with sea representing Aghora face of Lord Shiva.
All these temples are many thousand years old and since they have been created by Sages, the base of the lingam (avudayar) will be in square shape.
Visit to Sri Maragathavalli Sametha Sri Varamoortheeswarar Temple at Ariyathurai
Location: Kavarapettai near Ponneri, Chennai
Main deity: Varamoortheeswarar facing east
Goddess: Maragathavalli facing south
Other main shrines: Kala Bairavar
Sthala vruksham: Arasa tree
Contact: Shanmuga Kurukkal/ Saravana Kurukkal (House next to the temple itself)
Sri Varamoortheeswarar temple,
Keezh Muthalamped (post),
This temple is situated near Kavarapettai in the Kolkatta Highways enroute to Gummidipoondi at exactly 36 kms from the Padi junction. In the Kolkatta Highways, after Thachur cross road (to Ponneri), before the RMK Engineering College, opposite a Petrol Bunk and exactly opposite Durga Devi Polytechnic you have to take a turn to the left (towards west). You go straight for 2.6 Kms and then take a left turn again just after a brick kiln on the right side. Go further for another 500 meters you will reach the temple.
This is where exactly you have to take the left turn at the Kolkatta Highways
Exactly opposite to this you have to take the left turn
There are many brick kilns on the way and this one is just opposite the temple.
This temple is one of the Pancha Brahma Sthalams and represents the Sadhyojatha (firing, bright, lightning) face of Lord Shiva. It is believed that the main deity was installed by Sage Romar (or Romasar) and later Sage Mukunthar worshipped here for 100 years. The legend of the temple dates back to the Ramayana period and connected to Sages Romar and Mukunthan. The main deity is called Varamoortheeswarar since He blesses the devotees with boons.
The south facing temple has been renovated beautifully and the Kumbabhisheham took place very recently. A clean and beautiful temple tank in front adds beauty to the temple.
The temple has a significance of having 32 koshtams (shrines on the outer praharam of the sanctum sanctorum) though deities are present only in some of them. This is called Uthama Patcha Prathishtai and only around 15 temples in Tamilnadu are in this manner. In other temples, one can see only Pancha (five) Koshtams for Vinayahar, Dakshinamoorthy, Lingothbavar, Brahma or Vishnu and Durgai.
The temple has been located in a beautiful atmosphere. Just outside the temple, by the side of it, two huge Peepul trees (arasa maram) are present at the banks of River Brahma Aranya with pleasing greenery all around. Here, it is believed that Lord Krishna had stood as an Ashwatha Vriksham (Peepul tree) for 1000 years.
At the bank of the river is present a pit from where water, believed to be from River Ganges, is flowing out perennially all though the year, though in small quantity. Due to this, the place is considered more sacred than Kasi and there is a proverbial saying “Kasiya vida veesai athigam”, meaning that the quantity ‘Veesai’ here is more than that of Kasi. There is also a folk song ‘Ariyathurai gangai moozhga palan kanden’, meaning ‘I got benefited by taking a dip at the Ariyathurai Gangai’. Kanchi Maha Periyavar had come here in 1965 and bathed in this. However such a sacred place has not yet been protected properly and unfortunately local people have made the way to it, a shamble.
Since Lord Shiva appeared here as a Kala Bairavar to Sage Mukunthan, there is a separate shrine for Kala Bairavar along with the front ardha mandapam. The original Swayambu Bairavar and the later installed Bairavar idol are present side by side. The artha mandapam is a very tiny one and only about 5 feet high but it is worth taking the pain to go inside and have a very close dharshan of the Swayambu Bairavar. Also, you can request the Gurukkal for a Deepa aradhanai so that you can have a clear dharshan.
There is no navagraham shrine since the temple is about 6000 years old. The Navagraha worship came into practice only in the last 1000 years. Snakes, Lizards, frogs and fishes have been inscribed in the ceiling top of the sanctum sanctorum representing that this is a Parihara kshetram for Sarpa dhosham and Naga dhosham
Sri Kalyana Sundareswarar:
- The river Brahma Aranya was believed to have been created by Lord Brahma. Once when he churned the arani wood (arani means fire) to create fire to start the Yagna for Sage Romasar, fire came out initially but on churning further, water came out of it and fllown as a river. Since this was created by Lord Brahma from the arani wood, this is called Brahma Aranya river.
- Once Lord Krishna brought a Parijatha flower tree from devaloham to give flowers to his consorts Sathyabama and Rukmani. Before plugging out the tree, He got permission from Indhrani but forgot to ask permission from the tree itself. So the tree gave a curse to Lord Krishna to stand as a tree on earth and Krishna stood as a tree here for 1000 years. After the curse period the tree became a Ashwatha Vriksham (Arasa Maram).
- At the behest of Lord Brahma, Sage Romasar penanced under this tree for 100 years and finally when Lord Shiva appeared before him, the Sage requested him to be present in this place for ever and bless everyone. So did Lord Shiva.
- Later, Sage Mukunthan also penanced under the same tree for some years and then set off to go to Kasi. At that time, a holy voice was heard saying that Ganga water will flow here itself for him. When Ganga water came out from a pit here, Sage Mukunthan took bath in it and Lord Shiva appeared before him as a Kala Bairavar and asked for his wish. Sage Mukunthan requested Him that the Ganga water which had started flowing for the sake of him should flow perenially and He should protect from the fear of death all those who worship Him here. So did Lord shiva.
- The beautiful temple tank in front of the temple has a legend of an intense devotion of a devadasi as follows:
Once a landlord approached the devadasi for pleasure and she, an ardent devotee of Ariyathurai Lord Shiva, asked him to construct a temple tank and conduct theppotsavam (festival of floating temple car) in return. Due to her beauty and attraction, the land lord agreed immediately, created the tank and arranged for the theppotsavam. On the concluding day of the theppotsavam, the landlord entered the house of the devadasi happily to enjoy her but only to find her dead having dvoted her life to Lord Shiva already. Such was the intense devotion of her.
- Once on a Pradhosham day, a monkey was chased by a hunter and it came here, came around the Ashwatha Vruksham, took a dip in the water and witnessed the Pradhosham along with the people. Due to this, it got salvation and took birth as King Raja Kunjara Cholan at Kancheepuram. Then he got the memories of his past life, realised the importance of the temple and renovated it. So Pradhosham is considered very sacred here.
- Indhran fought with demon Vridrasuran and when he threw the demon’s body pieces, some fell on Agasthiar and so he cursed Indhran to be a Brahmaharthi. Then Indhran stayed here, worshipped Lord Shiva to get his curse cleared off. It is believed that Indhran continues to come here on a specific day every year.
- Once King Chithrasenan was without child and Goddess Maragatha valli was born to him as a child. When the King arranged swayam varam for her, Lord Shiva brought Her in horse here. The King’s army chased them but Nandhi stopped the army. Then Lord Shiva appeared with his consort in marriage pose to the King and informed him that the Goddess hereself was born to him since he was childless.
- Goddess shrine came up only in the middle period and the legend being as follows: Pazhaverkadu nearby was a harbour in the past and a diamond merchant chettiar’s ships sank in the sea. When he was sleeping in a nearby village in a sad mood, God came up in his dream and informed him that the ships have been pushed ashore safely. He also told that an Ambal idol is lying in a nearby pond called Poothakulam between Peruvayal and Eliyampedu. The Chettiar then constructed the Ambal shrine.
Note: The Legend descroptions are based on the works of Sri Poovai Kalyana Sundara Mudhaliyar from the hereditary of Vayalar Nayanar one of the 63 Nayanmaras and as decribed by the Temple priest.
- By worshipping the Kaala Bairavar here, one can live without the fear of death and also with extended life since Lord Shiva appeared as Kaala Bairavar. Also, the Kaala Bairavar protects people from the evil effects of others
- Marriage prayers are answered since Lord Shiva appeared with his consort in marriage pose to King Chithrasenan.
- Pradhosham is considered very sacred sine a monkey got salvation after witnessing Pradhosham here.
- Since Indhran’s Brahmaharthi dhosham got cleared off, this is considered a Dhosha Parihara sthalam to clear off dhoshams like Pithru dhosham, Naga dhosham and Past birth dhoshams
- Due to the flow of Ganga water, the place is considered more sacred than Kasi
- Goddess is present with her left leg in front meaning that she is going out to fight enemies. So by worshipping her, she will make our obstacles vanish.
- The legend of the temple dates back to the Ramayana period due to its connection to Sage Romasar and Lord Krishna.
- The name of the place Ariya thurai (ariya meaning rare and thurai meaning river bank) comes from the fact that this river bank has many special significances like
- Lord Krishna had stood here as a tree for thousand years
- Sage Romasar penanced here for many years
- The place is considered more sacred than Kasi since water, believed to be from River Ganges, is flowing out from a pit perennially all through the year, though in small quantity.
- Lord Shiva appeared as a Kaala Bairavar to Sage Mukunthan
- River Brahma Aranya, created by churning the Arani wood by Lord Brahma flows by the side of the temple
- Both the Varamoortheeswarar and Goddess Maragathavalli idols are made of Green granite stone.
- A swayambu bairavar made of sand and a later installed Bairavar idol are present side by side in a separate shrine
- The temple has been constructed with 32 Koshtams on the outer wall of the sanctum sanctorum as per Uthama Patcha Prathishtai
Sculptures connected with the Legend:
The complete photo set is available here
Date of Visit: 8th Dec 2007 and 9th Feb 2014