Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Amazing Sculptures of Thiruvanaikoil

Thiruvanaikoil Tower with SculpturesThiruvanaikoil Tower with Sculptures

Adjacent to Srirangam there is an ancient temple of sculptural marvels called Thiruvanaikoil. This magnificent temple is full of beautiful stone sculptures dating back to 17th century. This temple had been there for thousands of years.

It is around 3 Kms away from the heart of Tiruchirapalli city, Tamilnadu in South India. Thiruvanaikoil and Srirangam are in the banks of river Cauvery. Literally these two places form an island, surrounded by river Cauvery and river Coleroon.

Presiding deities are Lord Shiva called ‘Jambukeswarar’ and Shakthi called ‘Akilandeswari’. As this temple represents water this is also called as 'Appu sthalam' and the Shivalinga here is called as 'Appu Linga'. Even today you can see water oozing out near the Shivalinga idol in the temple.

Temple priest dressed as a lady representing Akilandeswari does the noon pooja, daily to the Jambukeswarar and to the sacred Cow. Devotees throng to the temple to see this ritual and to get the blessings of the Jambukeswarar. We too participated in the pooja.

Sculpture In Thousand Pillar MandapamAlign Center Thousand Pillar Mandapam

The massive outer wall, known as the Vibudi Prakara, stretches over a mile long, and is two feet thick and over 25 feet in height. Legend maintains that the wall was built by Shiva working along with the laborers.

There are so many mandapams and temples in this temple complex. One will find sculptures of rare and exquisite beauty of workmanship in the temple. Devi’s temple had been built of marble stones.

Sculptures In Thiruvanaikaval TherBeautiful Sculptures In Thiruvanaikaval Ther

Several hundred years back the Godess Akilandeswari was fierce and Sri Adi Sankara reduced Devi’s ferocity by transferring the same into Gold earrings. Adi Shankarcharya is known to have made two sets of earrings called Tatankam, a pair of powerful Sri Chakra Yantra studs adorning both the ears of the Goddess, which one can find in the ears of Mother Akhilandeswari.

The Legend of the - 'Thiru Aanai Kaa'


Once Devi Parvati, mocked at Lord Shiva’s penance for betterment of the World. Lord Shiva wanted to condemn her act and directed her to go to the earth from 'Kailayam' and do penance.

Devi Parvathi (Akilandeswari) as per Shiva's wish found 'Jambu' forest (Thiruvanaikoil) to conduct her penance. Devi made a Lingam out of water of river Cauvery under the Jambu tree and commenced her worship. The Lingam is known as 'Appu Lingam' (Water Lingam).

There were two Siva Ganas (Siva’s disciples who live in Kailash) by name 'Malyavan' and 'Pushpadanta'. Though they are Shiva Ganas they always quarrel with each other and fight for one thing or other. On top of all in one fight 'Malyavan' cursed 'Pushpadanta' to become an elephant in earth and the latter cursed the former to become a spider in earth.

Both the elephant and the spider came to Jambukeshwaram and continued their Shiva worship. The elephant collected water from river Cauvery and conducted Abhishekam to the lingam under the Jambu tree daily. The spider constructed his web over the lingam to prevent dry leaves from dropping on it and prevent Sunlight directly felling on Shiva.

When the elephant saw the web and thought that as dust on Lord Shiva and tore them and cleaned the Linga by pouring water. This happened daily. The spider became angry one day and crawled into the trunk of the elephant and bit the elephant to death killing itself. Lord Siva, moved by the deep devotion of the two relieved them from one other curse.

As an elephant worshiped the Lord here, this place came to be known as 'Thiru Aanai Kaa' (Holy Elephant Forest).

In the next birth the Spider was born as the King Ko Chengot Chola and built 70 temples and Thiruvanaikoil is the one among them. Remembering his enmity with the elephant in his previous birth, he built the Lord Shiva 'Sannathi'(Sanctorum) such that not even a small elephant can enter. The entrance on the sanctorum of Lord Shiva is only 4 foot high and 2.5 foot wide.

Closer View of Awesome  Temple Tower with colorful Sculptures Closer View of Awesome Temple Tower with colorful Sculptures

Thiruvanaikoil is also called as 'Jambukeswaram' and the Lord as Jambukeswara, Jambunathan and Jambulingam. The myth behind this is, there was a Sage by name 'Jambu Munivar'. He once got a rare and sacred 'Venn Naaval' fruit and he offered that fruit to Lord Siva. The Lord after eating the fruit spitted the seed.

Jambu Munivar took and swallowed the seed, as it is sacred as the seed came from the Lord’s mouth. Immediately a 'Naaval' tree began to grow in the Saint's head. The Saint prayed to Lord Siva that He should take his abode under that tree. Lord accepted and asked him to continue his penance in the forest on the banks of river Cauvery and said that he will one day come there and abode under that tree.

After many years Devi Akilandeswari worshiped Lord Shiva under that tree during her penance. Thus as he took adobe under the tree on Jambu Munivar he was called as 'Jambukeshwara' and the place is called as 'Jambukeshwaram'. Also thus the 'Venn Naaval' became the 'Sthala Vriksham' (Temple’s sacred tree). The Shiva Lingam is placed under the Venn naaval tree in this temple. Even today you can see that Venn Naaval tree at the temple, which is said to be many hundred years old.

A cook named Kalamegam, an ardent devotee of Siva had an appearance of Divine Mother Akilandeswari and Mother had spat chewed betal leaves into his mouth, which gave him wisdom and he went on to become a very famous Tamil poet named Kavi Kalamegam. We prayed to the mother to give us too some wisdom.

Sculpture of ThiruvanaikaA Sculpture in Thiruvanaikoil Temple

We took some photographs of the awesome sculptures in the temple and returned to the hotel room.
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