Fine sample of Nagarathar architecture
The Mahakumbabhishekam of the Siva temple in Ramachandrapuram will take place on Sunday, February 20. LAKSHMI VENKATRAMAN writes ...
The Umapatheeswarar temple, Umayalpuram ... raised as the Paramacharya wished it.
THE TEMPLE of Mangalambikasametha Umapatheeswara is situated in Umayalpuram.
The place is named after Umayal Achi, the mother of Muthaiah Chettiar, who built the temple in his native place, the small village of Ramachandrapuram, near Thirumeyyam, about 18 kilometres from Pudukottai.
Their house in Ramachandrapuram, which is part of Kadiyapatti, is a fine example of Nagarathar architecture. Though small in size compared to many Chettinadu houses, it is unique for its beautiful paintings on the ceiling of the large living room, which remain with their original glow even after nearly 80 years.
The Pambaaru (serpent river) running through the village had soil, which was sticky. When the bullock carts had to cross the river, the wheels used to get stuck. Usually the women wearing heavy golden `mangalyams' used to sit in the rear of the cart and the robbers regularly relieved them of their `mangalyams' when the carts stalled in the clay, unable to move.
Muthaiah Chettiar built a bridge across the river to enable the carts to move unhindered. But this did not deter the thieves.
They hid under the bridge and came out to rob the travellers. Therefore, Chettiar wanted to build a `Thanneer Pandal' and a Vinayaka temple near the bridge, as movement of people in the area could discourage the robbers and also with the hope that the Lord would protect the people.
He began building the temple in around 1923.
Statues of Nachiappa Chettiar and Umayal Achi
When the construction was almost complete, the Paramacharya of Kanchi, Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, happened to go past the place. He inspected the site and advised that the spot was suitable for a Siva temple and suggested that all the deities of a Siva temple could be accommodated within the available space (55 ft x 41 ft).
He drew up a plan according to which Lord Umapatheeswara was installed in the place originally intended for Vinayaka. Goddess Mangalambika was to be to his right, facing south with the Vimana within the ceiling of the Pillayar temple.
The Sankaracharya suggested that Lord Dakshinamurthy be installed on the southern side of the wall and Vinayaka in the middle of the northwest corner. The adjoining shrine was to house the Utsava vigrahas (the images carried on procession) of Vinayaka, Umapatheeswara, Mangalambika and Astradeva, popularly called `Mulporukkisami.' Lord Subrahmanya with Valli and Deivanai was to be installed at the northeast corner; on the outside wall of the Siva shrine would be Chandikeswara, in the Easana corner would be placed the Navagrahas, Sun and Moon separately and in front, the Dwajasthamba, Balipeetam and Nandikeswara. Outside the shrine intended for Vinayaka are placed the images of Nalvar or the four major Saivaite saints Thirugnanasambandar, Appar, Sundarar and Manikkavasakar, in the corner another image of Vinayaka, Mahalakshmi in the northwest corner and at the northeast corner Bhairavar.
At the entrance, as one faces the temple, are the small shrines for Sakthivinayaka on the left and Pazhani Andavar on the right. Just inside on the right is a shrine with the rather big standing statutes of Nachiappa Chettiar and his wife Umayal Achi, parents of Muthaiah Chettiar.
Around the main shrine is the Prakaram or the circumambulatory passage surrounded by a wall topped by grills. In front of the temple is a large tin-roofed hall. Initially, pujas were conducted thrice daily, which slowly came down to once a day. There are plans to conduct pujas twice daily, with cooking facilities in the temple itself. This temple is managed entirely by the family of the original builder, currently headed by octogenarian Arunachalam Chettiar, son of Muthaiah Chettiar. Though the temple itself is quite small, the temple tank to its right is quite huge enclosed by grillwork railings.
On February 20, the fourth Kumbabhishekam of the temple would be held for which preparations are under way. A number of Theerthavaris used to be held in the Pambaaru; the one on Thai Poosam day was of special importance. On that day, all five deities from the five temples, Malaikozhundeeswarar temple, Rayavaram temple, Bhoomiswaraswami temple and Balasubrahmanyaswami temple as well as the Umapatheeswara temple, used to assemble and it was a big event for the people around.
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