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Where Bhima killed Keechaka

G. SATHYAMURTHY

LEGEND Central to Keeranur is the Vageeswara temple, at least 800 to 1,000 years old.

Drive two kilometres down the road that forks left of the Dharapuram-Palani Road and you reach Keeranur, believed to be the place where Bhima killed Keechaka. Take a casual glance and you'll see the traditional concept of an oor-vaikkal-koil in place — human acknowledgement of divine faith in Nature's serenity.

According to S. R. Krishnaswamy, a chronicler, central to the place is the Vageeswara (Siva) temple, at least 800 to 1,000 years old. Half a kilometre east is the Kandiamman temple, dating back to about 800 years, and to the west, past the canal, is an idol of Durga, Kandiamman's elder sister.

Folklore has it that the childless Durga visited Kandiamman, who had given birth to seven children. Fearful of her barren elder sister's jealousy, Kandiamman covered her newborns with baskets.

Understanding her behaviour, an angry Durga crossed the stream past the Siva temple, not stopping even when he tried to pacify her, and sat atop a mound in an inclined posture, seething in anger. After this, the locals submitted to the `ugra deivam,' Durga. Siva's Lingam is `swayambhu' with a timeless countenance. Legend has it that Keechaka (of Mahabharata) ruled here and worshipped the Lord. Thus the place came to be called Keechaganur. Evidence for this lies three feet beneath the ground, says Sivachariar, adding, "Arunagirinathar has sung about Keeranur in his famed Thiruppugazh." Dr. B. S. Baliga's `Madras District Gazetteers — Coimbatore' also mentions "Kiranur (sic) is believed to have been the place where Keechaka was killed by Bhima."

Inscriptions

The outer mantapa is made of stone with inscriptions which indicate that the temple could have been raised in the 10th century A.D. when Kongu Cholas ruled. The centuries-old deity has eight hands, her seven children placed on her sides. Upstream, after crossing the banyan tree on which children swing over the canal of the river Palar-Perunthaliyar that waters the lush agricultural fields, one can see the forlorn four-feet-tall idol of Durga.

Nearby, a Muslim family (Gani) with landed property, so known for its devotion to the Formless Lord that their farm was called `Siru Mecca' (mini-Mecca), lives in tranquil poise. And local Hindu temples and the elegant minarets of the mosque are standing testimony to the composite culture that Keeranur has seen over the years.

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