Raghumayi sametha Pandurangan Temple at Thennangur
Thennangur is located near Vandavasi, 6kms before Vandavasi in the Kanchipuram – Vandavasi route. It can also be reached via Chenglepat and Uthiramerur. In the Chennai-Trichy highway, after Chenglepat and Vijaykanth’s Andal Azhagar College at Mamandur, there is a road towards right to Uthiramerur at Puthahathurai junction. Take that road and pass through Uthiramerur and go beyond till you reach the T junction with Kanchipuram-Vanadavasi road at Manampathy. Take a left there towards Vandavasi and Thennangur is 6 kms before Vandavasi. The temple is visible from the main road itself which is on the right side at about half a km from the main road.
Chennai (Adayar) to Puthagathurai junction on the GST Road: 64 km
Puthahathurai to Manampathy (via Uthiramerur): 35 km
Manampathy to Thennangur: 10 km
Google map location:
We visited Thennangur for the first time about one and a half year ago on the way to Thiruvannamalai. The first thing that struck me was the atmosphere – the beautiful village, the agrahara street, Poori Jagannath style temple, the tall Vimanam with a saffron flag flying on top etc.,. In other words before even entering the temple I got delighted with the atmosphere. When we entered the temple more surprises / delights were in waiting. It is a medium sized temple, with neat praharams, gardens around, a big mandapam etc., and then from the entrance itself we could have a glimpse of the Pandurangan and Raghumayi since the deities are fairly big (10.5 feet and 8.5 feet high respectively). Wow, what a visual treat it was from the distance itself. We passed through the front mandapam which had rich and beautiful fiber optic paintings, claimed to be the first time in India, and then entered the sanctum sanctorum. The main deities were decorated beautifully as Thirupathi Venkatachalapathy and Thayar (this being the alankaram on every Saturday). Then Bhattacharyar explained about the temple in cordless mike! (first time, I was seeing that in a temple), absolute high tech and beauty.
My second trip was when my sister was diagnosed of ‘Strong suspicion of malignancy (cancer)’ which ended up as a wrong diagnosis to our delight, after a week of turmoil. So we made a joyful trip along with my sister’s family to Thennagur to celebrate. My sister had a dream the previous day that Madurai Meenakshi was calling her and she told me that she wants to visit Madurai. When we landed at Thennagur, to our surprise, a board on the road side said, ‘Thennangur is the birth place of Madurai Meenakshi’. It was unbelievable for us. There is a nice temple for Madurai Meenakshi and Sundareswarar with beautiful paintings of their marriage in the ceiling and all the navagrahas are present with their spouses (may be they are attending the Meenakshi – Sundareswarar marriage?). There is also a Lakshmi Narasimhar temple nearby and we had wonderful dharshan of all the temples.
By this time, the Bhattacharyar of the temple had become a family friend and he informed us of a ‘once in a year’ alankaram – the Guruvayurappan alankaram with full of fruits – on Tamil New Year day. Readily, we were there and it was an amazing alankaram again for Pandurangan and Rahumayee. Both deities were decorated only with high class fruits without even a slight defect on any of the thousands of fruits. What a beautiful decoration!!. With my limited linguistic capability, I have no words to explain but simply it was one of the amazing moments of our life.
It is a beautiful sight to watch the long saffron flag flying majestically on top of the tall Vimanam with a golden kalasam in the night. When we were driving down to Chennai late night, it was a wonderful ride all the way discussing about the beauty of the Lord. That night, the alankaram of the Pandurangan was just lingering and I felt very fresh and energetic. It was very late before I could sleep (I later understood my wife and my cousin also felt the same). I used to feel the same way whenever I attend a good Satsang in ‘Art of Living’ or whenever I meet Sri Sri Ravishankar of ‘Art of Living’.
Before I go to my next visit to Thennangur, I would like to tell about my Thirukkovilur visit in between. We had visited Arahandanallur temple, Thirukkovilur Ulgalandha Perumal Temple and Veeratteswarar temple and were proceeding to Thiruvannamalai. We planned to stop by at a village on the way to pay a visit to our servant maid’s house. It was lunch time and we had problem since we were caught in between for lunch. It could be atleast 5 PM in the evening before we reach Thiruvannamalai for a good food. So we were thinking that only snacks are going to make up our Lunch that day. At that time, we were just passing through Sri Gnananandha Thapovan and since there was a festive atmosphere I stopped by to just peep in with a general spiritual interest. I had just seen the photos of Sri Gnananandhar at places like Naradha Gana Sabha and Music Academy and I knew nothing about him at that time. At the entrance itself, a colleague of my ex-company waved and called from a distance ‘Hi Raju’. After a few minutes of chat, he told me to go and have lunch first because even Swami Gnananandha, when he was there, would want the devotees to have food first before meeting him. We were stunned, obviously. He forced us to lunch and again there was a sweet experience there. It was a day of Chithra Pournamai and so people with silk sarees and dhothis were serving a sumptuous lunch with a very personalized and courteous serving as if it was their family wedding. After the food, my friend gave us a very nice introduction to Sri Gnananandha Giri while going around various shrines and I bought a book on him. He is a Bachelor IT guy and I understood he (alone) is coming to Thapovan every Chithra Pournami day since his age of around 15. What a devotion at such an young age. So, all the way it was a very pleasant and surprising experience at the Thapovan and after reading the book on him, I got attracted to him, naturally.
Our next trip to Thennangur was during the Gokulashtami Celebrations and this time, there was an added attachment for me – Sri Gnananandhar – since I had already read the book on him. The temple was built by Swami Haridoss Giri, the prime disciple of Sri Gnananandhar, just through the collections from his Namasankeerthan bhajans. It was the concluding day of the Gokulashtami festival. The day was the Guru siddhi day, the day Haridoss Swamigal went into Jala Samadhi, on his own. So there was a Namasankeerthan bhajan going on in the opposite Guru mandapam and for the first time I was seeing this kind of a bhajan and it was a pleasure to sing along there. The decoration to the Pandurangan was a ‘once in a year’ (on Guru Siddhi day) beautiful Sandhana Kappu. Pandurangan struck us from a distance, at the entrance itself. I understood that the sandal paste was specially coming from Srirangam and it was a sort of rose in colour and not yellow as we usually see in other places. After a nice dharshan, we had a nice lunch as well. Free food is being served everyday for atleast 100 people and each day feed is being sponsored by donors mostly NRIs. I understand the bookings have been made for many years in advance. Also, there is Gnanandha Canteen run by Sri Gnananandha Trust just outside the temple and the morning tiffin is very good and cheap as well.
Well, finally, coming to my current visit on the 9th Feb 2008 for the Maha Samprokshanam (on 10th Feb) function. This is a ‘once in 12 years’ event and the significant difference of Vaishnav procedure to Shaiva procedure being that in a Vaishanav temple, there are very important functions like Maha Thirumanjanam(abhisheham) of the deities the previous day whereas in Shaivam it is on the day of Kumbabhisheham. We had seen Pandurangan and Raghumayi in several different beautiful alankarams before but this time they were standing just with plain cloths waiting for the ‘grand bath’ but it was amazing that they were so beautiful even without any alankaram, as you can see from the photos. There were many abhishehams like milk, curd, sandal, rice flower liquid etc,, but what I liked most was the sprinkling of turmeric powder and rice flower powder. The deities were most beautiful in that. The final abhisheham was the holy water abhisheham. We were told that the deities were being purified to receive the power of the Maha Samprokshanam the next day. After that, an aged bhattacharyar with a pot of holy water climbed the steep Vimanam. Understandably he took his own time with lot of stops in between and finally the holy water was sprinkled on the Kalasams at round 8 PM. We had dinner then, a very high quality tasty food with personalized and courteous serving for the entire mass. It was amazing to keep that quality for such a large crowd. There was Namasankeerthan bhajan with people happily singing and dancing. Both here and in Art of living, I have seen most people with a sense of ‘thanks giving’ towards the divine for all what they have received in life unlike the most other places where people throng with truck load of problems and wishlists and wanting to receive more and more always. When people sing and dance in gratitude, it is beautiful to watch and be part of. We didn’t have the mood at all to leave the place but then we had to reach Chennai and so we were compelled to take leave. Needless to say, it was an immense pleasure all the way, as usual.
The Utsava moorthy is Devaraja Perumal with Sridevi and Boodevi
Well, it didn’t stop there. Just the next day, when I opened my mail box, there was a mail from Art of Living that their next ‘Advanced Meditation Course’ is being conducted at Thennangur Ashram 17-20 Arpril 2008. This is just the 2nd course happening at Thennanugur and obviously I have booked my seat already.
Somehow we are not lucky in visiting Thirupathi. I had visited Thirupathi only twice so far and and my family has visited only once. I visited Thirupathi for the first time when I had to visit Puthur nearby for the bone fracture bandage for my little accident in bike. I then went to Thirupathi with a damn fresh bandage on my hand. Amusingly, when we planned the next trip after 10 years, just the day before the trip, my son fractured his hand at his school and so, this time, he visited the temple with a damn fresh bandage (same right hand as me). I and my son had just one bone fracture incident each in our life time and both ended up exactly in our just two Thirupathi visits!!. So, it is a fact that we are a little scared to plan a Thirupathi trip. But my first visit to Thennangur was an amazing Thirupathi Perumal alankaram (they do this every Saturday) and since then Perumal is calling us every 3 months regularly. “Thennangur is Thirupathi for our family.”
The important holy places in thennangur are
- Pandurangan Raghumayi Temple
- Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple and
- Lakshmi Narayana Temple
Pandurangan Raghumayi Temple
The uniqueness of this temple is reflected in the following. The Garba-Griha, Gopuram (sanctum-sanctorum) on the model of puri jagannath; the Chola type of Rajagopuram in its artistry and the presiding deities from Maharashtra. The tiny idols of Panduranga-Raghumayi manifested to a big-size (viswarupam). The speciality of the temple being the daily alankarams and the mural paintings of the mandapam.
Varieties of adornment:
Panduranga-Ragumayi appears in different adornments everyday. On Saturdays, they are dressed up like Thirupathi Venkatesaperumal, on Thursdays it is Nijapadha Dharisanam, on Fridays it is Velli Kavasa Alangaram, on Sundays it is Rajagopalan alangaram with a Rajasthan type of turban and on other days they are in their own attire.
Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple
The ancient name of the place now called “Thennangur” was Dakshina Halasyam. As this area was once full of forests, this was also known as Shadaranya Kshetra(6 Forests).
Pandya King, desiring to have a child, was exhorted to have a yagna done with the help of Sapta Rishis. It was here, in Shadaranya this yagna was said to have been done and a girl child appeared in this yagna. The king took the child to Madurai, and named her Sri Meenakshi; therefore Dakshina Halasyam is the birth place of Sri Meenakshi. As told by Kanchi Paramacharyar in this episodical background, this temple was built.
Every year the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Kalyanam and othe festivals are performed in this temple.
Lakshmi Narayana Temple
This is an ancient temple renovated by Sri Haridoss Giri Swamigal. It is customary in this temple to have Sita Kalyanam festival, every year conducted by the Bhagavatha bakthas in the Bhajan tradition.
Adi sankara established four Peetams of which Jyotir Matam is one, with Thotakacharya as the main functionary (Thotakacharya was Sankara’s disciple). In this lineage the Fifh Peetathipathi was Sri Sivaratna Giri Swamiji. Sri Gnanananda Giri Swami was his principal disciple viz. Sixth Peetathipathi.
Inside the matam, there is a shrine for Maha Shodasi, who is the presiding deity of Jyothir Mutt like Sri Kamakshi for Kanchi Mutt and Sri Sharadha Devi for Sringeri Mutt. Sri Chakra and Maha Meru, manifestations of Sakthi, are taken for upasana of Ambika all along and for the first time, a rupa or form is manifested of Devi viz Maha Shodasi with all its Anga, Prtyanga Devathas such as Ganapathy, Murugan, Rudra, Varahi, Vaishnavi etc. so that devotees of all faith can have their wishes fulfilled through different arjitha sevas like Homam, Archana etc.
Swami Haridhos Giri – affectionately called Guruji – is the chief disciple of Sri Gnanananda. He entered into Jalasamadhi on his own, on 4.9.1994 at Koteeswar in Alakananda river near Rudraprayag situated in the Himalayas – en route to Badrinath. The Thulasi-Brindavan in the centre of the Matam is in memory of Swami Haridoss Giri. Directly facing Guruji’s Brindavan is the shrine for Sri Gnanananda Swami
Note from Mr. M.K.Subramanian:
On Tamil New Year’s day (the real one and not the fake one of MK), Pandurangan was adorned with 5008 fruits and it is called Pazha Alankaram. A site for the Gods!!. The Pandurangan Vigraham in the Laksmi Narayana Temple can be actually touched by devotees (perhaps the only instance in the South, whereas this is a common feature in the North Indian Temples).
Very nice photographs are here