Captivating deities at Chettipunnyam
Devanathaswami temple in Chettipunnyam has separate shrines for Lord Rama, Nammazhwar, Ramanuja, Desikar, Hayagriva and Goddess Hemabjavalli. During festivals the holy spot draws devotees from far and near, writes T. A. SRINIVASAN.
Yoga Hayagriva...a rare form.
RAMA, THE hero of the Ramayana, is described by Sri Vedanta Desikar in his "Raghuvira Gadhyam" as a Mahaveera in various ways Dharma Veera, Dhana Veera, Daya Veera, Yuddha Veera and Saranya Veera.
The Lord, in this incarnation, was the most charming personality, according to another Sanskrit work, "Ramasoundaryam". Anyone who wants to know about the appealing appearance of Rama should see His idols in the more famous Vaduvur and Thillaivilagam temples and the lesser-known Chettipunnyam village, three km west of Singaperumalkoil, near Chengalpattu.
It is difficult to take one's eyes off the images at this temple, not only those of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and Anjaneya, but also those of Lord Devanathan, Goddess Hemabjavalli, Yoga Hayagriva, Lord Varadaraja and Andal. Though known as Devanathaswami Temple, it originally had only the Moolavar and Utsavar images of Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram. The temple's history dates back to 400 years though it could have existed even before that. The village got the name of Chettipunnyam as Chettiar weavers and dyers lived there in large numbers and they used to dry the dyed yarn and cloth in the nearby hill.
It was in 1848 that the idols of Hayagriva and Devanathan, which were worshipped in underground chambers at Thiruvahindrapuram, one of the 108 holy places near Cuddalore, were brought by Dewan Rangachar to this village to be safeguarded during alien invasion. Though not mentioned in the Azhwar's hymns, the idols, as they were brought from Thiruvahindrapuram, are considered no less holy. The Hayagriva idol, though small in size, is said to have been the personal deity of either Ramanujacharya or Appullar, according to V. R. Pichumani, a long-time resident of the place as well as Singaperumalkoil.
Lord Devanathan's Utsavar idol with the Prayoga Chakra in His right hand is as charming and beautiful as the idol of Aayanar (Lord Thrivikrama) at Thirukoilur, 34 km west of Villupuram, second of the holy spots in "Nadu Naadu." The journey of the idols from Thiruvahindrapuram to Chettipunnyam took nearly 56 days as those in the wayside villages stopped the journey to offer their obeisance.
The images with Prayoga Chakra are considered to be rare, the only one coming to this writer's mind being that of Sri Paramaswami, Moolavar at Thirumalirunjolaimalai (Azhagarkoil), near Madurai.
Lord Rama with Sita, Lakshmana and Anjaneya...replicable images of Vaduvur idols.
Hayagriva is the Supreme God of Learning, according to Vaishnavite scriptures. It is said that a demon took away all the Vedas from the Lord of Creation, Brahma. Lord Narayana, taking the form of Hayagriva, killed the demon, recovered the Vedas and gave them back to Brahma. Sri Vedanta Desikar meditated on the Lord at Oushathadri (Thiruvahindrapuram) and was blessed with all knowledge. He prays to the Lord in his Hayagriva Stotram , the first lyrical work of the great Acharya. The idol of Hayagriva worshipped by him is in the Parakala Math at Mysore.
Hayagriva images are generally found along with Goddess Lakshmi. But the idol at Chettipunnyam temple, though small in size, is that of Yoga Hayagriva, which is said to be a rarity.
The idols of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and Anjaneya, which are almost replicas of those at Vaduvur, were in the palace of King Serfoji at Thanjavur, and were entrusted by the royal family to Mudumbai Ramaswami Iyengar, who hailed from Chettipunnyam. He took the idols to Vandalur and when he had to go to Bangalore, he brought the idols to his native village and kept them in the temple there where they are worshipped even now.
It may be mentioned that the other beautiful images of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Anjaneya at Vaduvur were also unearthed at Thalainayar during the rule of Serfoji. He later enshrined them in the temple at Vaduvur. `Sita Kalyanamu,' a work in Telugu and Sanskrit, composed in praise of Lord Rama at Chettipunnyam by Shahji Maharaj of the Serfoji dynasty is said to be preserved in the Saraswathi Mahal Library at Thanjavur.
The temple, though small, has separate shrines for Goddess Hemabjavalli, Nammazhwar, Ramanuja and Desikar. Festivals are conducted for Lord Devanatha during Vaikasi Makam, the day when He was first brought to the temple. Paarivettai on a Sunday in the month of Thai, Adhyayana Utsavam, Adi Pooram, Panguni Uthiram, Sri Ramanavami and Sathumurai for Nammazhwar, Ramanuja and Desikar are the other festivals held here. Hayagriva Jayanthi, celebrated on Avani Thiruvonam day, draws thousands of devotees from far and near.
The temple rituals are conducted according to the Vaikanasa Agama. The priests, who accompanied the Lord from Thiruvahindrapuram when He was brought here, stayed on and their descendants conduct the poojas now.
The temple is under the control of the HR and CE Department. It owns landed property donated by philanthropists and a house gifted by the Mudumbai Ramaswamy Iyengar family, who brought the idols of Rama, Sita and others from the Serfoji palace at Thanjavur.
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