Enchanting images of Sri Rama
The main entrance to the Punnainallur temple with the Rajagopuram in the background.
THE ADVENT of Panguni heralds festivals in all the temples of Tamil Nadu beginning with Panguni Uthiram followed by Sri Rama Navami and other festivals. The birth of Sri Rama is celebrated with special grandeur in Thanjavur district, the cradle of music, with all the temples hosting cultural programmes music, dance and Kathakalakshepam. One can come across countless number of temples exclusively dedicated to Lord Rama, the complete incarnation of Lord Narayana. In other temples, at least a small shrine dedicated to Him. But the most heartening feature is whether Rama is the presiding deity or not, His idols as well as those of His Consort, Sita, brothers Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna as well as "Siriya Thiruvadi", Anjaneya, are of bewitching beauty, Vaduvur and Thillaivilagam or instance. To this category belong the two Rama temples in Puthagraharam (Puthu Agraharam) near Thiruvaiyaru and Punnainallur, famous for its Mariamman temple, near Thanjavur.
Though these two temples do not find a mention in the Azhwars' hymns, they are held in great veneration as the former is situated just three km from the Brindavanam (samadhi) of a great Rama Bhakta, Saint Thyagaraja, and the latter is seven km east of Thanjaimamanikkoil, one of the 108 Divyadesas.
Pics. by M. N. Srinivasan.
The Utsavar idols at the Punnainallur temple.
Both the Moolavar and Utsavar idols in Pudagraharam, whose original name was Panchanatha Mohanambalpuram, named after Mohanambal, queen of the Maratha king, are quite charming. (In fact the queen, who was greatly attracted by the idol of Pattabhirama in the temple situated north of the Ayyarappan Temple at Thiruvaiyaru, built a new temple for Him in the village named after her.) The Moolavar and Utsavar idols of Sri Pattabirama, His brothers, Goddess Sita and Anjaneya have been installed in the temple as described by Sage Valmiki in the Dhyana Sloka of his Ramayana, beginning with the words "Vaame Bhoomi Sudha Purasthu Hanuman... " Sri Pattabhirama, who is found in sitting posture, keeps His left hand on His thigh, while His right hand strikes the Gnanamuthirai pose (symbol of Divine Knowledge). Anjaneya, ensconced between the feet of the Lord, is seen in what is known as "Dasya Bhavam". To the left of the Lord is Sita holding a lotus in Her right hand, the left in the "Aiswarya Dhana Hastham" position. To Her left is Shatrughna fanning the Divine Couple with a samaram. To the right of the Lord are Lakshmana and Bharata, the former holding the Dhanus and the latter an umbrella.
There is a separate Anjaneya idol to the left of all holding a veena, obviously singing "Rama Ganam". The Utsava idols, which are equally exquisite, are replicas of the Moolavar idols except that Anjaneya holds the Ramayana manuscript in his left hand and the "Jabamala" (rosary) in his. The tails arches over his head.
Saint Thyagaraja, who was said to have visited the temple frequently, was believed to have sung all the kirtanas in praise of the Lord having in mind the idols in the temple. Sri Muthuswamy Dikshithar, who visited the temple, composed "Maamava Pattabhirama" in praise of the Lord here.
The Moolavar idols at the shrine of Pudagraharam temple.
A temple of great antiquity and value, it was in a very bad shape till recently. The priest, Sri Ramabhadrachariar, who is looking after the temple in his ripe old age, has had many parts repaired with public donations and conducted the Maha-samprokshanam some years ago. It is a pity that while much stress is laid on the proper maintenance of ancient temples, this one has to fend for itself. Without a permanent source of income, even the daily pujas are being conducted with contributions from the public.
Another great temple of Lord Rama built by the Maratha kings is the one in Punnainallur, just east of the famous Mariamman temple. Said to be nearly 300 years old, the temple was built by Pratapsinh, a Marathi ruler of Thanjavur. With a fine five-tier Rajagopuram, the temple's Dwajasthambam is covered with copper plate, having inscriptions of details regarding the improvement works carried out during the reign of Kamakshiamba Bai Saheb. Before her another queen, Yamunambal, gifted 130 acres in four villages, Ottakudi, Rishiyur, Kottaiyur and Mahimala for the upkeep of the temple. In the Mahamandapam one can see the fomous Thanjavur paintings of Rama Pattabishekam, Garudazhwar and Anjaneya. In the Artha Mandapam are the images of Dwarapalakas and Vishvaksenar.
Anjaneya with the Ramayana manuscript in His left hand and the rosary in the right... at Pudagraharam
The Moolavar idols are of Salagrama. The Utsavar idols, which are fine samples of art, with Rama and Lakshman holding bows and arrows in their left and right hands and Sita and Anjaneya standing to Rama's right, will gladden the heart of the connoisseur. The Vimanam is said to be a rare one Soundarya Vimanam. The Sthala Vriksham is the Punnai tree under which the Sri Rama Paduka have been engraved.
On the southern side of the sanctum sanctorum are the shrines of Vinayaka, armed with the Sudarsana and the Panchajanya, said to be a rare form, and Mahasudarsana with 16 hands carrying different weapons in them. On the backside is found the image of Yoga Narasimha.
Hanuman depicted in `Dasya Bhavam'... at the Pudagraharam temple.
There are also separate shrines for Nammazhwar, Thirumangai Mannan, Ramanuja and Desika. There is a separate shrine for Anjaneya where he is worshipped as Jayaveera Hanuman, facing the south.
Sri Lakshmi Hayagreeva's shrine is found at the entrance of the temple in the Ratha Mandapam. The holy water source is known as Ksheera Pushkarani. The main festival is conducted for nine days in the Panguni month concluding with the car festival on the Rama Navami day. On the fourth day, the Lord is taken in a procession, mounted on Garuda Vahana. The temple, where rituals are held according to the Vaikhanasa Agama, was renovated 20 years ago. It is well maintained by the family of the Maratha kings of Thanjavur.
T. A. SRINIVASAN
Send this article to Friends by