Monday, 25 June 2012

Travelogue TN: Day 5 - Tiruvennainallur, Thirukkoyilur, Gnaanananda Tapovanam

2nd May Wednesday

First part of our trip was in Thanjavur and the second in Chidambaram.
We proceeded for the third part of our journey by next day morning. On the way we had a glimpse of the outer areas of the massive Neyveli Lignite Corporation and proceeded to Tiruvannamalai.

Our plan was to visit two places before reaching Tiruvannamalai – first Tiruvennainallur and second Tirukkoilur.


We reached Tiruvennainallur around 11.00 and went into the temple. The area was slightly difficult to find as our Saradhis were not clear about the same. The reach to the temple was also through some narrow routes than the main road.

Sunadarar as he was known, was about to have his marriage ceremonies started when the whole function was disrupted by an old brahmin. He claimed that Sundarar cannot enter into a marriage since he is has authority over Sundarar’s life as a master to a slave. Naturally a commotion happened and Sundarar also was extremely scathing in his attack to the oddly looking person who was spreading a beautiful ‘parimalam’ – fragrance inspite of his appearance. Sundarar addressed him as ‘Pittha’ and questioned– “What are you talking about? What proof do you have to come with such an allegation at the time of such an important function in my life which actually changes my life course? Are you mad?”

The old Brahmin said that he was from TiruVennainallur. Because of the ‘Tarkam’ which had happened due to this, everyone was taken to the Naattukoottam (Local panchayat) at the place.

The odd looking Brahmin, with vibhoothi on his body, Rudaksha around his neck and matted locks, showed the people around them and Sundarar a palm leaf where it was written by Sundarar’s grand father that he and his sons will be a slave – ‘adimai’ to this person. Some of the people who had gathered went to Sundarar’s house took another leaf where writings and signature of his grand father was there. The signatures matched!!!!. (Most of the systems in society which we are taught as modern day innovations in the last 2-3 centuries have been so prevalent as a system of life in India so long before…)

With the incredible unfolding of events, the Naattukoottam which had convened at the precincts of the temple of Tiruvennainallur got convinced that there was merit in this unique person’s demand and was finally declared that there was enough evidence for Sundarar to be a slave to him until he releases Sundarar of his slavery.

Thus hearing, the old brahmin asked Sundarar to accompany him and literally pulled him, at times dragging him along the way and the temple. Sundarar was absolutely crest fallen and entered the state of ‘no-thought’ as his experience was so shattering that it changed all that was around him. The moment he was pulled in by his “Master”, he lost all his mental ‘vikshepams’. ‘Mano Vrtti Layam’ happened and he went into the temple after his “Master”.

His “Master” walked straight into the ‘Garbha Grham’ which may have slightly surprised Sundarar to come out of his mental stillness. Sundarar saw him disappearing into the Siva Lingam there and was astonished to see this phenomenon. He tried to look into the sanctum santorum to actually see where his “Master” went and he did see HIM – Lord Siva gave him the darsanam with Parvathi at the place where Siva Lingam was kept. The sight of the Lord himself brought the memory of his previous births and the reason why he was born. His intellect was absolutely clear and Jnaana Amrutha Paanam was fully experienced by him then. Sundarar became a Jnaani at that moment.

Sundarar was asked to sing about his “Sakha”, his “Master”. The Lord also said that he liked the way Sundarar addressed him initially – “Pittha” – ‘Hey Mad Man’. So he suggested starting with the same – And Sundarar Sang –

Pittha Pirai Soodi Perumane Arulala” – This comes as the 7th Tevaram in the Tirumurai.

This was the temple where all this divine ‘leela’ happened. The temple did not have much crowd when we went there and we had a very fulfilling darsanam. The archaka was kind enough to explain the details once again and showed us a very unique artifact in the temple.

Lord Siva, when he pulled in Sundarar to the temple and went inside the sanctum sanctorum, had left his ‘padukam’ outside. The same is kept even now in a sandal paste and inside a glass covering. Seeing the padukams, the very, used by Lord himself, we were overcome with emotion and relived the episode in our minds. How do we explain the ‘Apaara Karuna Mahima’ of The Lord who comes in and deliberately saves the jeevan. – ‘Thaduthu Aal Kondein’ is a very important and relevant term in almost all the Tamil Saints and their Songs. The Lord himself / herself comes and ensures that the ‘I becomes a ‘jeevanmukta’ when the complete surrender – the ‘aatma samarpanam’ happens.

“God, through His grace attracts the souls like a magnet attracting the iron. " – 5th Sutra, Siva Gnaana Bodham – by Mei Kanda Devar

The Archaka at the temple was gracious enough to give a printed version of the ‘varalaar’ – the history of the temple. The book’s title itself is “Thaduthu Aal Konda Varalaar” and was in Tamil. We also saw Devi Sannidhi and then the hall where the Naattukoottam meeting happened in front of the temple itself.

Thus filled with emotions we started off to our next location.


The town has two main temples one of Vishnu and one of Siva. The Vishnu temple is in the form of Thiruvikrama Swamy and Vedavalli Thaayaar (the Vaamana Avatharam also known as Ulakalantha Perumal) and is one of the 108 Divya Deshams. The Siva temple is known as the Veeratteswarar and is the second in the Ashta Veeratta Kshetrams – the places where Lord Siva did the Veera Bhava protection.

We reached around 12 noon and the temple archakas were making some arrangements for the ensuing festivities which were supposed to start the next week or so. The archaka here also was kind enough to explain to us and show some uniqueness of the temple. The temple was the place where Lord Siva killed / destroyed the Andhakara Asura and did the Veera Bhavam. In one of the bronze statues in the side of the main sanctum, this is clearly depicted and the asura is lifted up on the Trishulam. He had to be lifted so that his blood drops were taken in by Devi separately as fresh Andhkara Asuras were being created from these drops. The Asura himself originally came into being when Devi playfully closed Lord’s eyes when they were spending time together.

Archaka also said the following details on the temple –

This was also a Sukra Kshetram as the Asura Guru was given Anugraham by Lord Siva by swallowing him and then releasing him after the samhaara of Andhakaasura, for otherwise,  he would have brought the Asura back to life using Sanjeevani Vidya..

The kshetram was also said as the release place of Dakini, who is a consort in the inner tantric methods. It was said that the place is also famous such that the Saptha Mathrikas, Maha Tripurasundari and all the 64 Bhairavas and the Bhairavis came into their forms here. This was also a place where the Vaastu Purusha was brought into form. One of the temple corner walls on the top has Vaasthu Purusha being sculpted also.

Apart from this, Muruka here, which is on the right hand side when you come out of the main sanctum, has been sung upon by Arunagirinathar and is famous as Shanmukha. Muruka wanted to do tapas due to the killing of demons and Devi Ambika showed the location where her vel fell. The place is also known as Tiru Kai Vel.

The Durga devi who is in the prakaarams have a uniqueness that her eyes glitter when shown the Aarathi. Whether the sculptor was skillful enough or a divine presence manifested there, either way this is a very special significance and certainly prayers to Durga is very famous here.

The south west has Vinaayakar who is an equally if not more famous presence here in the temple. It is said that the great Saint Avvaiyar while doing her worship here at the idol of Ganapathi, looked up and saw Sundara Moorthy Nayanar and Cheraman Perumal in the sky flying towards Kailasam. When she hastened her Pooja, Ganesha asked her – “Avvaiye, why the haste?” When she said the reason, Ganesha asked her to finish her Pooja in the normal way and ensured that she would be taken to Kailasam by himself. True to his anugraham, he showed his Viswaroopam and as ‘periya yaanai’ – big elephant, he lifted her on his trunk and in a ‘nodi’ – smallest fraction of time, she was taken to The Lord’s abode at Kailasam where Nayanar and Perumal had reached. Such is his grace that he is known as Periyaanai Ganapathi. Avvaiyar had composed the famous Vinayakar Agaval on him.

The Ambal is known as Periyanayaki, Sivanandavalli and Brhannayaki also. The Archaka showed us the Devi vigraham and specifically showed her two Karna Abharanams – these were Sri Chakrams!!!

The place is also said to be the Samadhi of Meiporul Nayanar who is one of the 63 Saiva saints. This is also a place of birth of at least two other Nayanaars also.

This was a major temple in the main stream Saiva Sampradayam and we came out after our prayers for our onward journey.

Gnaanananda Swamy Samadhi

I had read about his Samadhi place but however was not sure in which direction it was from Tiruvannamalai. Though all of us were tired and were trying to reach Tiruvannamali for a good lunch and some rest before the start of our next rounds, I was hoping to see any directions to his Samadhi Mandapam.

The place is known as Gnaanananda Tapovanam and is on the same river Banks – Pennar as Tirukkoyilur is. The place is on the route from Tirukkoyilur to Tiruvannamalai. At this place due to a barricade on the road by the police and the crossing of some cows, our vehicle almost had to be stopped and while it slowed down the Aashram was seen on the left side. I was amazed to personally witness this karuna by the Lord where his Samadhi Aashram was seen almost unexpectedly. We carried out with our journey after this temporary halt, mentally doing our pranams at the great sages’ feet at his Samadhi and receiving his blessings.

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