In precincts serene and green
Chancing to enter the Marundeswarar temple, at Thiruvanmiyur, PRADEEP CHAKRAVARTHY is fascinated by its clean environs and the quiet that prevails there despite the presence of scores of devotees ...
Carvings that are particularly beautiful... Pic. by N. Balaji.
THIRUVANMIYUR TRAFFIC jams at least those on the East Coast Road seem to have their silver lining! Stuck in a particularly long one I was able to manoeuvre my car and park beside the wall of the Marundeswarar temple in Thiruvanmiyur. I had passed the temple many times knowing of its age but had never been inside. The shrine itself faces west though there are entrances with vimanams built in the 1970s on the east and western sides. What strikes one is the greenery and the quietness despite the throng of devotees. Circling the temple I sat for a while to admire the Vanni tree, sthalavriksha, that shelters the many Naga stones liberally coated with turmeric. The tree itself has twisted itself and looks like it is competing with the snakes in the spread of their hoods!
On way to the Thripurasundari Amman shrine, one is forced to pause and admire the pillars particularly those with warriors on prancing horses. More fascinating is the Yantra with the Shodasha devis on the ceilings. The shrine is simple and well maintained and particularly beautiful is the carving of a few yalis on the pillars. The main walls are covered with Chola inscriptions. (The recitation of Abhirami Andadhi by a lady enhanced the atmosphere as I wended my way in.)
Passing through a pillared hall with bas reliefs and modern paintings explaining the sthala puranam I reached the shrine of Thyagaraja Swami. It was simple but handsomely proportioned, free from the clutter and somehow very serene.
The tank at Marundeswarar temple has now received a face-lift. Pic. by K. Gajendran.
The adjoining Murugan shrine finds a mention in Saint Arunagirinathar's verses. The pillared mandapam at the shrine of the presiding deity that runs along the four walls has niches for the Nayanmars, scores of lingams, some supposedly worshipped by the Gods and great sages, others probably offerings of pilgrims, and bronzes.
Nataraja has his own sannidhi here. The icon is large and very beautiful. That day, draped in white silk vastram He shimmered beautifully in the light. Despite the number of devotees, the place is quiet. The sound of the priests chanting the Vedas to the light coloured, slightly slanting main lingam comes across loud and clear. The puja is done according to the Kamika Agamam, said Vijay Gurukkal who is one among the five families all natives of Thiruvanmiyur who serve in the temple. The temple has been atttracting a large number of devotees since the 1970s, he was happy to state. "You must attend the annual festival in Panguni (March-April)," he said. Legend has it that the Lord is called Marundiswarar or Aushadeeswarar, names by which Sage Agastya extolled the deity after the Lord cured him of an illness. The Sun and moon are constantly in worship here and therefore there is no shrine for the Navagrahas. The colour of the Lingam is attributed by some accounts to Kamadhenu showering her milk to get rid of a curse. Others attribute it to the Devas who installed the Lingam. Legend speaks of the Lord revealing himself to Valmiki, hence the name Valmiki-ur (Valmiki's settlement). Valmiki himself is worshipped in the small temple that is in the middle of the East Coast Road. Pradosham is of special significance here. Krithigai, Pournami and Sashti are observed with great fervour. The greenery seems to be only a vestige of what was there in the past. The padhigams of Sambandar in the second and third Thirumurais and of Thirunavukkarasar in the fifth Thirumurai frequently refer to the lush setting. Navukkarasar speaks of how the Lord is ever ready to help those who prepare themselves to receive Him. He concludes by saying, "With a finger He quashed Ravana under the Kailasam.
But call him with love and eagerness, Our lord in Vanmiyur will appear before us in an instant."(10)
Sambandar in one padhigam speaks of the town having many Madhavi flowers, groves where the sound of bees rival that of the waves, sturdy temple walls and streets wide enough for the temple chariot. In the second Thirumurai he says, The roaring waves that lash Vanmiyur's shore, Leave behind gleaming conches and shells But it remembers to take the writhing fish back.
My lord who resides close to the he waves, tell me, Why did you give half of yourself to the mountain king's daughter? (1) He goes on to praise the residents of the place and promises the singer of these verses the right to rule heaven. The temple has also received royal patronage. The inscriptions from the Chola times speak of gifts of goats, land, gold to conduct worship, supply of flowers and lamps, from Rajaraja and Rajendra and also spell out details of taxes to be paid by the temple to the nearest administrative body. The town is recorded as a part of Koturnadu. The Thiruvanmiyur of the sages' times would have been a lot greener, but ours , well ensnared in the a little away from the concrete tentacles of Chennai, doesn't seem to be much different from its ancient version!
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