….Continuation from Part 1.
Note: This is a gist of travel information only and I am not repeating here the temple timings, the archagar phone nos, temple legends and other details from the religious aspect since they are already documented in the ”Directory of the temples around Tirunelveli 1 and 2”.
Day 2 :
After a nice sleep, we were recharged and ready for the second day. Our first stop was the Thiruppudai marudhur Shiva temple at around 7 AM. It’s a massive temple on the bank of Tamirabarani river with lots of sub shrines in the inner praharams. The temple with a rich legend behind is one of the three sacred temples that have Marudha tree as the sthala vruksham. The other two being Srisailam and Thiruvidaimarudhur.
Gadana river joins Tamirabarani here and so the beautiful bathing ghat in the backdrop of a canopy of massive banyan trees is considered very sacred. So you can plan a bath here.
The temple Nandavanam itself is a tiny declared Bird sanctuary. The temple and its surrounding are highly popular in Kollywood. This temple entrance should have been popular to you.
The Gurukkals and a Sivanadiyar were very kind and explained the temple very well. They showed us the important places around sincerely. We loved this temple and wish to visit again.
Then we went to the Gajendhra Varadha Perumal temple at Athalanallur nearby. It is a small abhimana sthalam undergoing renovation. I learnt that Chennai Naradha Gana Sabha’s Mr.S.Krishna Swamy is the main caretaker of the temple. There are plenty of sculptures from Ramayana and Vishnu avatars in the main mandapam.
An elderly bhattar, while explaining the Gajendhra moksham to me, had his full heart into it. I knew the Gajendhra moksham story only in its simplest form but I got a completely different and new dimension to it through the bhattar as follows:
In its life battle with the crocodile, the elephant didn’t plead the Perumal to save itself. All it’s worry was that it couldn’t offer the flower it carried in its trunk to the Lord that day. So it asked the Lord to receive the flower before it loses its freshness unmindful of its own life battle with the crocodile. Had it asked for help to save itself, the Lord would have saved it from His place itself but since it asked the Lord to receive the flower and that too before it loses its freshness, the Lord Himself came flying on the back of Garudan in top most hurry. The Gajendhra moksham is symbolic of our true life. We (the elephants) should long to get liberated from the Samsara saharam of life (the crocodile) and it should be our ultimate aim. When the Lord was asked to give moksham to everyone, He told, “It’s not possible to give moksham to everyone. Why should I bother people when they are very happy with their earthly life? When they are fed up and ask me for a moskham, then I will give”. – makes sense, doesn’t it?
After the breakfast at the Ambasamudhram Gowrishankar Hotel, we then went to the nearby Brahmmadesam Shiva temple. It’s a massive and beautiful ancient temple with plenty of sub shrines with stone works in the praharams each looking as a small temple of its own. There are wonderful sculptures in many mandapams but sadly the whole temple is in a very shabby state.
Even the temple significances board has not been maintained properly:
The stone sculptures have been white washed and look pathetic. In my opinion it is one of the main temples which needs an immediate attention from heritage organisations like REACH. It’s a highly popular temple among the serial and movie shooters of different languages.
Then our next stop was the Rajagopala Swamy temple at Mannakoil very near Brahmmadesam. It’s a 3 tier temple with Perumal in 3 different postures of standing, sitting and reclining, being maintained very fresh with rich colourful paintings.
After about 30 minutes drive, then we reached the Sivasailam Shiva temple by about 12 noon. It’s a beautiful temple, very well maintained with lots of deities in the praharam.
The speciality of the temple being the beautiful Nandhi. It is one of the most beautiful Nandhis I have ever seen.
I am told that the Nandhi was created by the celestal sculptor as per the instructions of Vedas and as soon as the sculptor completed work, he used to get up to the surprise of the sculptor. More than once when this has happened, he was worried and the Lord Shiva came into his dream and advised him to make punch on the back of the Nandhi so that he will stay. The Nandhi is supposed to have been created many thousands years back but it looks perfect, beautiful and fresh as if was done with all the latest machinery just a few days back. I still can’t believe it.
The temple entrance is very beautiful with large trees and the nearby bathing ghat is also very beautiful.
The nearby Athiri hills adds beauty to the place and Sivasailam is one of the “not to be missed” temples.
We had an initial plan to go to Thenkasi, Kutralam, Sencottah till the Kerala border but due to the volume of the temples to be seen we cut short at Sivasailam itself and returned back towards Papanasam. We then proceeded towards the Kaaraiyar Sorimuthu Ayyanar temple. It is located on the way from Papanasam to Kaaraiyar dam (Baana Theertham / Roja falls) but much before the dam and falls. With the recent restriction by the Supreme court for the Tiger reserve areas, we were allowed only for the temples and not beyond and that too with a written request only.
On the way, we can have a nice view of Papanasam Thalai dam, Hydro Electric station, Kalyana theertham, Kodi Lingeswarar Temple and Sadhu Krishnaveni Ammal Ashram
The following bridge connects the Sorimuthu Ayyanar temple to the main land and there is an interesting story behind. During 1980s flood the bridge was washed away and so the temple became isolated and inacceible for people. Lord Sangili Boothathar then arranged to rebuild the bridge through the wife of a popular industrialist at Coimbatore.
View as we approach the temple
The temple opens continuously from morning to evening and is located on a rocky terrain full of huge trees with a nice water stream flowing around the temple. The temple is being maintained by Singampatti Zamin.
This is a temple of Sastha (Ayyappan) sitting in a very stylish posture with Poorna and Pushkala as the main deity along with all His parivara Gods.
There are many mysteries being told about the temple. In the Sangili boothathar shrine, people with leg pain / problems hang new chappels being sold at the temple itself. It is told that the chappels in due course of time worn out with dust as if they were used for walking. As they wear out, the leg pain/problem of the people also vanishes. In another shrine, there is a “bell eating tree” which is supposed to eat the metal bells that are being tied there. I have seen atleast one bell which was half inside and half outside the tree.
Lot of animal / bird sacrifices take place and the carcases of them are left just like that and so we have to walk carefully. We can plan for a nice bath here also.
On returning back to Papanasam, we then took the diversion to Kodi Lingeswarar temple and Sadhu Krishnaveni ammal ashram at Kalyana Theertham. We have to pass through the Papanasam Hydro Electricity Station.
On the way, there is a beautiful Vinayagar and Murugan temple.
The vehicles stop at the branch of Agasthiyar falls and Kalyana Theertham here. The space should have been full with 4 wheelers normally but thanks to the Tiger reserve restrictions, we were the lucky lone visitor there.
This is the way to Agasthiyar falls but was closed.
Entry is allowed only for the Kalyana theertham temples and we have to climb about 400 steps.
Finally, the first sight of an amman temple
After a tiring climb up, we were in an awesome location which we never dreamt of.
It is the starting point for Agathiyar falls and the Tamirabarani river, sort of a small lake surrounded by walls of huge rocks with ancient sculptures on them, few small temples and the Sadhu Krishnaveni Ammal ashram.
There are beautiful Pandya sculptures of Shiva marriage dharshan to Sage Agasthiyar, Lord Muruga with consorts, Narasimha, Rama, Krishnar and other deities. Such an isolated place was prominent during the Pandya regime itself is a testimony to that place.
Sadhu Krishnaveni ammal came to this place at the age of 10+ and stayed here until she passed away very recently at the age of 80+ on the very auspicious Chithra Pournami day of 2011. Even during the heavy floods of 1980s when the water was flowing at more than 20 feet above her cave she was going up and up only and refused to leave the place.
It is a place where Siddhars are believed to come at any time and we were told that when the Siddhars arrive, a rain of sandal drops fall. We were also shown the marks of sandal rain on the rocks.
There is a temple of Lord Shiva in the name of Kodi Lingeswarar and His consort.
There was an Agasthiyar temple which was washed away during the 1980s flood and only the base of the temple remains now.
We were the only 4 people when we climbed up and after reaching the top, just 2 more people from Salem joined us. We were then given a cup of hot tea at the Sadhu Krishnaveni ammal ashram by the lone caretaker which is a small 10×5 room with a cave inside. There were monkeys all around and surprisingly they were neither scared of us nor scared us. They sat calmly very close to us at half feet distance is an indication of the sheer peace and calm that prevails over the place.
While climbing down, all of a sudden we noticed it was 4:30 PM and we didn’t have lunch (not even any snacks or biscuits) but were with full energy. We didn’t feel like eating for another few hours also!
We then drove down to Thalaiyar dam at the back of the Papanasam Shiva temple.
Since there is insufficient rain this year, it didn’t look so beautiful as it used to when in full flow. We then visited the Shiva temple which is the first of the Nava Kailasams. The bathing ghat in front of the temple is considered very sacred.
The huge sculpture of Shiva showing His marriage dharshan to Sage Agasthiyar is more than just beautiful.
We then went to the Erichudayar temple at Ambasamudhram to have one of the bad experiences of the tour with a rogue archagar. When we asked about the Legend of the temple, he bluntly refused and behaved badly. Anyway another Gurukkal outside the sanctum was kind enough to explain the significances and the legend of the temple.
The street from the Gowrisankar lodge to the Erichudayar temple till Tamirabarani river is much talked about due to the tall trees and green fields on either side of the road which figured in many movies. It is one of the places which I had planned to spend some time. But it was already late evening and we were tired enough and so we just passed through.
At the end of the tiring day we then visited the Lakshmi Varaha temple at Kallidaikurichi by about 8PM which wore a festive look even at that time. There was a 4 day festival going on with a Nama Sankeerthana bhajan all through the night. Kallidaikurichi is a very vibrant and beautiful place with Tamirabarani and many temples but at the same time very peaceful. It is also called Kalyanakurichi and I understand that the Lakshmi Varaha Perumal temple, the most popular one there, celebrates festivals all through the year. I had seen people waiting outside their house to receive the urchava deities and people sitting in armchairs outside their houses in the streets listening to the upanyasams and bhajans from the temple – a scene which I experienced long time back but now a forgotten one! It looked as one of the best places to retire. I should have taken tons of photos of the temple but due to the fact that we visited at the fag end of a tiring day and also there was a huge crowd at the temple, I didn’t take any photo unfortunately.
The agraharam just opposite the temple had many Appala shops in houses (Kallidaikurichi is almost synonymous with appalam) and there was a heavy purchase by my wife.
With cherished memories of that day, we retired to the lodge after the dinner at Gowrishankar.
To be continued….